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Saints Workouts Different But The Same Without Brees, Payton

Chae Daniel and the New Orleans Saints offense huddles during OTAs on Thursday, May 24, 2012 (Photo: Matt Mendelson/New Orleans Saints) -- CLICK PHOTO FOR COMPLETE GALLERYChae Daniel and the New Orleans Saints offense huddles during OTAs on Thursday, May 24, 2012 (Photo: Matt Mendelson/New Orleans Saints) -- CLICK PHOTO FOR COMPLETE GALLERY

METAIRIE -- New Orleans Saints right guard Jahri Evans provided a strange observation at the completion of Thursday's sun-drenched OTA.

"It's a little foreign,'' Evans replied straight-faced when asked to describe a practice scene in late May that does not include the team's two leading men, coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees.

Foreign? That's putting it mildly.

Try unimaginable, unfathomable, un-freaking-believable!

To think that here it is, fast approaching June 1, barely two months till the start of training camp, and Brees still hasn't signed on the dotted line.

In addition, Payton spent Thursday morning at a local prayer breakfast and not walking the practice field at the team's training facility for the third of 10 scheduled OTAs.

On top of that, news came down online via The New York Times that home delivery of The Times-Picayune is going to be scaled back to three times a week beginning in the fall.

Payton suspended for one season! Brees at odds with team officials over a long-term, megabuck contract! And now The T-P is no longer a daily newspaper as we know it!

Stop the bloody presses.

That said, no one should be surprised that the first three days of OTAs with Chase in Charge apparently went without a hitch for the Black and Gold.

By all accounts, backup quarterback Chase Daniel performed his role admirably as a stand-in for the estranged Brees, whose protracted contract negotiation has the collective stomach of Who Dat Nation tied up in knots.

Before flying off to Dallas for a long Memorial Day weekend, Daniel safely parked the team's Ferrari-like offense at its training facility and handed the keys to acting head coach Joe Vitt.

Seven more OTAs and one minicamp remain before the Saints break for summer vacation in mid-June. The team is scheduled to report for training camp July 26 without Payton ... with or without Brees.

Daniel took the bulk of practice snaps with the first two offensive units and third-string quarterback Sean Canfield pulled his weight as well. To save their arms, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. employed the services of fullback Jed Collins and tight end David Thomas during passing drills.

Vitt said the team might consider signing a third quarterback, perhaps in time for minicamp June 5-7.

"It's going to be different until (Brees) gets here,'' Carmichael said. "But as far as what (Daniel and Canfield) have done, these first three days have been real positive. The ball stayed off the ground. For them, it's about assignments. Are they making the right decisions with the ball? Are they throwing to the right location?

"I would say that all of that has been very positive. Maybe a throw or two that they've missed that we've seen Drew make. But it's all been positive.''

These days, a 24-hour news cycle without controversy has to be considered a step in the right direction for the Saints organization.

Just getting back on the practice field is a breath of fresh air for players and coaches, even without Brees under contract and under center.

Until that happens, the Saints will make do with Daniel, an undrafted fourth-year player from the University of Missouri who has spent the past three seasons in the role of understudy to the Super Bowl XLIV MVP.

"I say I'm the number 1b quarterback right now,'' Daniel said. "Obviously, I know what my role is on this team. Right now, it's to prepare like the starter and take the snaps with the 1s. This is Drew's team and I'm here to fill in and get ready and prepare like a starter, just like I have since 2009 when I started here.''

For an organization that is still seeking answers to bizarre and difficult questions this offseason, Daniel's future role on this team is the least of its worries. At the moment, he's keeping Brees' spot warm until further notice.

End of story.

"These are OTAs,'' Vitt said. "We are not getting ready for a playoff game or a Super Bowl game. Do we miss Drew? Absolutely. Drew is the Offensive Player of the Year in the National Football League. Obviously, we miss him. He is going to be here.

"But we can't let it be a distraction. We can only coach the guys who are here.''

As of Thursday, Daniel and Canfield are "THE guys.''

"Everybody wants (Brees) back here but we also know that nothing happens overnight,'' Evans said. "It's just the nature of the business. Negotiations are like a tennis match -- back and forth, back and forth.

"We know Drew is a pro. He's going to study whether he's here or whether he's not here. He knows what to do to make sure that he's ready to go and he will be ready to go. When that is, we don't know. This is unchartered territory. We don't know. We do know that when he's here, we all better be ready to go.''

Until then, Chase is in charge.



Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma remains sidelined while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. His season-long suspension for his role in the Bounty scandal is on hold pending his appeal. He also has filed a defamation suit against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

"We have this six-hour rule (in the new CBA) that we have to adhere to,'' Vitt said. "We have opted to have him at all of our meetings and all of our install meetings, and then he is out there for the beginning of practice. Now, anywhere from six to eight minutes in to practice, he goes in and finishes his rehab. While he is rehabbing now, we go to our afternoon meetings. He is back in the meetings and sees the film of the whole practice. He has been here the whole day."


Vitt said second-year linebacker Martez Wilson, the first of two third-round draft picks in 2011, is moving to right defensive end perhaps in anticipation of a four-game suspension facing Will Smith to start the regular season. Smith is appealing the suspension. "That's something we are going to look at here,'' Vitt said. "As you follow Spags' (Steve Spagnuolo) defense we have a lot of zone pressures now. It is going to call for a defensive end to drop into coverage. Martez has a pretty good foundation from being here a year ago with coverage and coverage aspects. We have been very encouraged the first week with what he has done. He will be a right end. He does a pretty good job with pattern recognition and we will take a look at that. This is the time to experiment and see what people can do. So far, it has been pretty good.''


"That is his constitutional right. I have said this before; Scott Fujita and Jonathan Vilma are like my sons. I don't know that I have ever been closer to two players in my career. I know their intent every time they take the football field. I know the way they play and the way they prepare. I know their character and pride. That is his right." -- Joe Vitt on Vilma's lawsuit against Goodell.



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