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Morstead, Ingram, Ivory, Brees: New Orleans Saints crew all here, almost

mark-ingramIt has been a long off-season with Bounty, Brees contract uncertainties, loss of a few key players and coaches.  

But, the fun has just begun.

Saints GM Mickey Loomis is looking ahead now that Drew Brees has signed, and Thursday signed punter Thomas Morstead to a six-year, $21.9 million extension through 2018.

The deal makes Morstead the third-highest paid punter in the NFL, behind only Oakland's Shane Lechler ($4 million) and San Francisco's Andy Lee. The contract also reflects Morstead's dual value as both an elite punter as well as one of the NFL's top kickoff specialists. No full-time punter allowed fewer than Morstead's 116 return yards last season.


There could be more contract extensions for Saints players. Tight end Jimmy Graham is coming off a huge second season (Pro Bowl, 99 catches), but only is making minimum money. He still has two years left on his rookie contract, and the Saints would be wise to keep him happy and lock him up long term.

Running back Mark Ingram appears to be fully recovered from offseason knee and toe surgery as the Saints opened camp on Thursday. Running back Chris Ivory appears over a hamstring pull.

'I'm running fast and cutting at full speed," said Ingram, who is expected to get the most snaps among the four running backs this season. "I felt great today and took all the reps," said Ingram, which was music to coach Joe Vitt's ears.

Vitt thought Ingram might have to be eased into camp. Ingram took the most snaps among the running backs last season despite missing six games.

 

Brees said he wanted to surprise the defense with a long throw, so he threw deep to receiver Lance Moore, who made the catch of the day. Several young receivers impressed with their receiving skills, too.

Biggest battle for starting job on offense at right tackle is Zach Strief vs. Charles Brown.

A rain storm forced the practice indoors and fans can't see those sessions because us there no seating  for them.

New Orleans.com gives fans an opportunity to submit their questions for their favorite players, Throughout  training camp, the Saints will announce a selected player via the team's Twitter account (@Saints) and fans will be able to reply with questions.

On Thursday, fans were able to submit questions to Moore.

Q: What is it like to be a part of an offense with No. 9, Drew Brees?

A: It's awesome. I say it time and again, but it never gets old. Playing with Drew really makes it easy to just go out there and play ball. You don't have to do anything extra.  You can count on him and rely on him to get you in the right play at the right time and put the ball in the right place.

He's not going to set you up. He is a guy you can really talk to. He is personable and if you talk to him and share that with him and he will talk to you just like are on the same level.

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees

Post-Practice Media Availability

Thursday, July 26, 2012

 

It seemed that the receivers started off with a bang today…

“Yeah. We have had a couple of meetings of install and time to watch film and talk through what would be this first day of install and take a look at some of the things our defense is going to be throwing at us. Camp, I think, is a lot of fun. Especially the opportunity to compete against your own defense for a four to five week period where you really start to know each other really well. You have to game plan extremely well and be in tune with what you are doing to pull one over on the defense. They are thinking the same thing defensively, how can they make something look a little bit different, disguise something, put something in the plan that might throw us for a loop. The fact that we have a new defensive system with Steve Spagnuolo, as much respect that I have for him in the times that we have played against him in our past and knowing the mindset and the scheme that he brings, this is going to be a great camp. An extremely competitive camp. By the end of it, we will have really thrown a lot at each other.”

Did you try to get a scouting report on his defense? At least from Chase Daniel who faced his scheme in mini-camp?

“I did my best to keep up with what was being installed on their side of the ball just so that I wasn’t coming in to camp totally blind. Regardless, in the first few days, there is a lot going on. You are trying to get your legs back under you, throwing the pads back on, timing with receivers and the tempo and the rhythm. All of that stuff. You are trying to make it second nature again. At the same time, you are trying to study your own defense and get keys on what they are doing to help your preparation. There is a lot going on right now. It is only day two. I am excited about the way it started off today.”

Is it true that you were so excited to get out on the field that you raced Jimmy Graham in sprints yesterday?

“I think we all know that if Jimmy and I were to flat out race, he would beat me. In a 300 yard shuttle, it takes a little bit more than speed. It takes a little endurance and a little want-to. He is going to be doing a lot more running in camp than I am. In the back of his mind, I am sure that he was thinking about all of those go-routes and other routes that I am going to be making him run while I am sitting in the pocket. I had a little more in the tank to give yesterday during the conditioning test.”

Does seeing a different defense than you are used to, specifically coach Spagnuolo’s, in camp help you plan against other teams?

“As we go through camp, we are going to see just about everything that we could possibly see from Steve Spagnuolo in regards to what defenses could potentially throw at us. I think he is going to game plan us just like we are game planning him. He is going to try to find every chink in our armor just like we are going to do to them. Along the way, I am certainly going to be picking his brain as to what he is seeing with our offense, how we can improve, is there anything we are giving away, is there anything we are telling by formation or personnel or tendencies. That is how you help one-another. That is a habit that we got into is me talking to the defensive guys, even if it is just the secondary guys, saying ‘you give away that blitz whenever you do this.’ We are competing against each other but in the end we are on the same team. I want them to be able to go out and have as much success as possible just like they want us, on game day, to have as much success as possible.”

Do you look forward to establishing a camp rivalry with Curtis Lofton as the captain of the defense?

“Yeah, I am. Very much. I have heard a lot of great things about him thus far. We have only had a couple of days together now. Everything I see, I really like. His adjustment is coming to a new team with new personnel and a new system that everybody is having to grasp because it is an entirely different defensive coordinator and scheme. I am sure that as we get in to camp and everything gets installed, it will continue to get more and more competitive. I can see his level of focus and level of competitiveness as we went through day one of install here. We are going to have some fun, no doubt about it.”

Talk about Lance Moore’s catch over Malcolm Jenkins at the end of practice.

“Yeah, he made a great play. We can’t help ourselves. We get out here on day one, and especially after you have been some walk-throughs, you are going to want to test them. I told those guys that we were going to throw some balls down that field that maybe we shouldn’t today, but let’s go make some plays. Obviously, Lance made that play. That was a phenomenal catch.”

What did you think of the level of play? Obviously you were rusty out there. Was the offense just clicking as usual?

“Clearly you didn’t watch practice. Every day, it is going to continue to get more precise. As we gain that tempo and that rhythm back. For me, I think it is you are in and out of the huddle, you are seeing things, you are getting things declared correctly in the run game and the pass game, and you are throwing the ball on time. Maybe there are miscommunications early on, especially if you are installing new stuff, maybe there is some new concepts. We always tinker with stuff every offseason. There are some things that we are doing new this year. There are some things that I have been thinking about. It is all coming together. This is day one of practice, not work. I am excited that we came out and had the tempo and the competitiveness that we had today.”

Did you get leaner over the offseason?

“I am lean and mean. I don’t know what to say. I am 208 and as strong as I have been in the years that I have been here. I am as fast as I have been, throwing the ball as well as I have. I feel good.”

How nice is it to have veteran receivers like Marques Colston and Devery Henderson to help coach the young wide receivers?

“Colston, Lance, and Devery have been here going on seven years. We have had that time together in the same system. A lot of the things we do, we know it so well because we have done it for so long. It is second nature. It is muscle memory. I feel like even stepping on this field today, it has been six months since I threw to these guys in live reps and I don’t feel like it has been that long. The adjustment to camp is that you are putting the pads back on and the helmet back on. The tempo and everything is kicking up a notch. Other than that, we build as we go along. We are not playing a game today. We have five preseason games to get to where we want to be. Really, it is all about week one against Washington here at home.”

How do you decide which running backs to keep active on the roster?

“As you know, it seems like every team now needs a stable of running backs. The position is so physical. It seems like there are so many different situations where guys just get plugged in, you can do multiple running back sets and formations, we do with the personnel that we have. Each one of those guys has a place and a role and certain strengths that we want to be able to utilize. From week to week, depending on who is healthy, it is nice to have four because the situation last year was that it seemed that when Mark Ingram was healthy, Chris Ivory was hurt and vice-versa. Thankfully Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles were mainstays the whole season. I think you have to plan for if a guy gets dinged up or depending on the game plan, you activate according to that.”

Was it weird to have a practice without Sean Payton?

“Yeah. It is. That is going to be an adjustment as we go through here. Every little thing like the start of a meeting when you are used to Sean getting up even just to run the schedule. He had a great way of telling a story to teach a lesson. Or draw an analogy in order to teach you something. That is one of his great strengths as a communicator. You miss that. You can’t replace that. I think Joe Vitt is doing a phenomenal job. Joe Vitt has been here since we have been here. We all know him very well. We all know the type of coach he is. We all know his intensity. We know what he expects out of us. I think as we go along here, we will continue to adjust. It is different.”

I noticed you were speaking with Tom Benson at practice today. Did you ever talk one-on-one over the last few months?

“We were actually talking about the Times-Picayune. We want to make sure the Times-Picayune stays seven days a week here. Whenever I see Mr. Benson, or Gayle, on the sidelines or at practice which they are here a lot, they take great interest in what is going on, encouraging guys and talking to a lot of the guys on the team and the coaches, I will come over and we will talk about any number of things. I would say that it is rarely football. We talk about a lot of things. That says a lot about the type of owner we have. He cares about us all as individuals. He cares about our families. They were asking about the boys and I told them that they were coming out today so they stayed a little longer to see the boys and that is the type of family we have here. “

Did any of the guys do anything heart-warming for you? Was anything waiting for you when you got back?

“We do a quarterback competition after every walk-through. The loser or the losers have to do something embarrassing. Yesterday, Chase won and so you had to do a push-up on command anywhere and anytime throughout the course of the day. Actually, you owed him three. So you could be walking into a team meeting and he could say ‘drop down and give me a push-up’ and you have to do a push in the middle of team meeting and everybody is looking at you crazy. It could be as you are sitting in the buffet line for a meal or something like that. That is not heart-warming. It just lets you know that we are in camp and everybody is fair game. I have lost the two QB competitions that we have had so far, so maybe I am a little rusty.”

Do your teammates expect you to pick up the bill now?

“I have had a few people, a couple of guys, said that they expect me to be paying for every meal. I always like to make something competitive and put something on it. The loser buys. If I lose, I would be happy to buy. That is something I had to do yesterday for losing. I got no problem with that.”

 

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Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography.  

 

Website: www.louisianasportstalk.com

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