WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- One of the hot topics early in camp has been the lofty expectations for the New Orleans Saints this year now that they have a top-notch defense to go with their always-stellar offense.

None other than former Saints QB Archie Manning said earlier this month: “I think the Saints’ lineup on paper to start the season is maybe as strong as I’ve ever seen.”

The reactions to bold proclamations like that have been mixed, however.

Some, like general manager Mickey Loomis and cornerback Champ Bailey, are taking a conservative approach. They both said they like what they see right now, but they know there are a lot of variables that go into an NFL season.

[+] EnlargeSean Payton
AP Photo/Matt RourkeSean Payton and Drew Brees have restored high expectations around the Saints for the upcoming season.
“I don’t pay a lot of attention to that because no one said that in 2009 when we won the Super Bowl,” Loomis said. “You still have to come together as a team, you need to have the right chemistry, you have to have the right things happen for your club. There are just so many variables that your roster on paper is just kind of meaningless to us at this point.”

However, others like defensive end Cameron Jordan openly invite such lofty expectations. When asked on the NFL Network earlier this month if the Saints will return to the top of the NFC South this year, Jordan said, “This is the year I get a Super Bowl.”

“If every year you’re not aiming for the Super Bowl, then what are you aiming for?” Jordan said this week. “The point of the football season is to bring home that championship, and honestly that’s what we’re here to do.

“We’re not here to be a good defense, we’re here to be the best defense. We’re all here to be the best that we can be, and so the highest achievement we can get is a Super Bowl.”

Then there are others like coach Sean Payton and guard Jahri Evans, who have married those schools of thought.

Yes, preseason predictions are meaningless. But at the same time, this is the kind of culture the Saints set out to create when Payton and Evans and quarterback Drew Brees and others first arrived in 2006 on the heels of a 3-13 season.

“Honestly, one of the challenges as a head coach every year is managing the outside … I don’t want to use the word noise … but managing the outside,” Payton said. “When things are going well and managing that and being guarded, and when things aren’t going well, managing that and staying focused to not let that derail you.

“Look, this team will be measured not by what people are saying today on talk shows or in the newspapers. It will be measured really at the end of the season. And that is the great thing about the NFL, that you play and you try and win the division, you try to advance to the postseason, you try and go on to win a Super Bowl. And you don’t have to worry about how you stack up maybe in a BCS. …

“But with regards to the beginning of [the high expectations] question, the overall expectation, it is what we wanted, right? It is trying to change a culture to create an environment where you feel like you have a chance to be successful, a chance to win each season. And with that comes Sunday night games, Monday night games, flex schedules, some of those challenges scheduling-wise. But that is part of the deal. If you are playing every game at 1 p.m. except the one Thursday night game the league gives you then you are probably not having a lot of success. They go hand in hand.”
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- Without question, one of the most entertaining parts of New Orleans Saints training camp comes at the end of every practice.

The quarterbacks get together and square off in a series of creative challenges -- sometimes joined by coaches like Sean Payton, Pete Carmichael Jr. and Mike Neu.

Though they’re fun at heart, they’re also intensely competitive. That’s been the case for years with Brees and backups like Luke McCown and Chase Daniel -- even spreading over to charity home run derbys.

For the first few days of camp, the QBs were caught up in their own version of skeet shooting -- inspired by a popular recreational activity near their surroundings at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. They’d take turns throwing plastic drink bottles in the air and yelling, “Pull!” before targeting the moving object.

On Sunday, they got a golf cart involved with moving targets. And this time, the Saints’ web site caught the action on video, with some helpful narration by quarterback Drew Brees.

Brees was having fun in the role of narrator -- but make no mistake, it probably ate at him for the rest of the day that he lost out to second-year backup Ryan Griffin.
Examining the New Orleans Saints' roster:

As I said during my first roster projection, it’s not easy to cut veteran Luke McCown, who has been a great fit in the Saints locker room. And it's still a neck-and-neck battle for the backup job so far. But McCown will have to clearly outshine Griffin in the preseason, since Griffin is younger, has more long-term potential and would allow the Saints the luxury of only keeping two quarterbacks.


No changes here. It's gonna be very difficult for undrafted rookies Timothy Flanders and Derrick Strozier to crack the roster since the Saints are so deep. I'll never say never, though, when it comes to the Saints and undrafted rookie running backs. ... Backup fullback Austin Johnson is also a dark horse possibility.


I still think it will be tough for all six of these guys to make the roster since the Saints typically keep only four receivers active on game days. But they have all shown enough in the past to earn the benefit of doubt for now. Morgan has been competing as a punt and kickoff returner (along with fellow receivers Cooks, Andy Tanner and Charles Hawkins). That's another possible path to the roster. ... Undrafted rookie Brandon Coleman is a possibility to crack the roster in a "redshirt" capacity. He's off to a nice start in camp after struggling in organized team activities and minicamp.


I was very tempted to add undrafted rookie Nic Jacobs to my latest 53-man roster projection since I think the Saints could have room for a fourth tight end (they've kept four often in the past). And Jacobs has turned my head by showing some athleticism to go with his massive 6-5, 269-pound frame. But I haven't seen or heard enough yet to know how the coaches feel about him -- or if he's ahead of fellow undrafted rookie Je'Ron Hamm at this point.


Rooks, a sixth-round draft pick, hasn't practiced yet because of a minor back issue. Obviously he'll have to get back on the field soon to keep from getting passed over. But his potential gives him the edge over several other candidates for those last one or two backup jobs for now. I'll also be keeping an eye on young guys like third-year guard Marcel Jones and undrafted rookie center Matt Armstrong, among others. ... I think the top seven on this list are pretty safe.


Johnson is the biggest question mark on this list, but the second-year pro has shown some versatility to go with his athletic potential after being moved to defensive end this year. Veteran Brandon Deaderick is a more experienced possibility who has shown his own versatility by lining up as the second-string nose tackle while Jenkins is out with an injury.


This is the one change I made from the previous projection -- adding in veteran outside linebacker Keyunta Dawson (and cutting cornerback Rod Sweeting). It will be very difficult for 10 linebackers to make the roster. But Dawson, who impressed the Saints as a backup last year, hasn't done anything to deserve the axe. He has continued to make plays with the second-string defense during camp. ... I also like pass-rusher Kyle Knox as a dark horse. But this is such a crowded group with the return of Butler from injury and the arrival of enticing rookies Fortt and Powell.


I hate to cut Sweeting, who showed potential last year as an undrafted rookie and stuck with the team all year. But he's been buried on the depth chart so far in camp, and the Saints have a lot of depth now with the additions of Bailey and Jean-Baptiste and Robinson coming back strong from a knee injury. Another possibility is Trevin Wade, who joined the Saints last year and has actually lined up ahead of Sweeting so far in the practice rotation.


This is another spot where I was very tempted to add undrafted rookie Pierre Warren, who has made some big plays already during training camp (including a forced fumble and a handful of pass break-ups). Warren has lined up with the second-string unit all summer (next to Sunseri) while Byrd has been out with injury. So obviously the Saints have seen something they like from the Jacksonville State product. ... A ton of people have asked me about former CFL standout Marcus Ball. He remains a possibility, too, and made a nice play on Sunday. But he's been behind Sunseri and Warren in the pecking order so far this summer.


I still like Graham over younger kicker Derek Dimke -- especially after coach Sean Payton spoke highly of Graham on Sunday. Neither one has done anything to win or lose the job yet, though.

Saints Camp Report: Day 3

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New Orleans Saints training camp:
  • The Saints held their first padded practice -- which always has a bit of that Christmas-morning feel for the linemen. Not surprisingly, no one was more exuberant than linebacker Junior Galette, who made several big plays. The first came just two plays into the first 9-on-7 contact drill, when Galette blew up a run play then trash-talked fullback Erik Lorig by yelling, "Block me!" Right tackle Zach Strief then gave Galette a shove as they walked back to the line. But that was the only time any real feistiness broke out.
  • Sunday also marked the debut of my favorite individual drill in camp -- 1-on-1 pass-rush. The drill is designed to favor pass-rushers, so it's often a "win" for the blockers just to hold their man at bay. The guys who stood out most to me were Strief (for holding strong against Cameron Jordan), end Akiem Hicks (for his raw power), linebacker Keyunta Dawson (who beat tackle Bryce Harris twice) and end Glenn Foster. But obviously that's a small sample size. … The battles between Strief-Jordan, Jahri Evans-Hicks and Terron Armstead-Galette were all pretty even.
  • The "old" guys stood out Sunday in a number of the most competitive roster battles: I wrote earlier about how cornerback Champ Bailey made the play of the day. … Quarterback Luke McCown outshined Ryan Griffin. That battle is still wide open, but it was worth pointing out since Griffin has gotten more attention so far. … Kickers Shayne Graham and Derek Dimke both made all their field-goal attempts, but coach Sean Payton gave Graham a vote of confidence by saying he'll be "tough to beat out." … Payton also singled out an intecerption made by backup linebacker Ramon Humber in 7-on-7 drills as "exceptional." … And center Jonathan Goodwin got his first snaps with the first team ahead of Tim Lelito this camp. Then Lelito and McCown fumbled an exchange during team drills.
  • Payton was right. The Saints don't get bad weather. They had beautiful conditions for most of Sunday's practice, squeezing it in before a downpour started. Everyone got drenched, however, during post-practice interviews.
  • Receiver Robert Meachem missed practice after his back locked up Sunday morning, but he shouldn't be out long. Meachem tweeted that he went to the hospital to get checked out but hopes to be back on the field soon. Jairus Byrd, John Jenkins, Kenny Stills and Tavon Rooks remained sidelined. And guard Ben Grubbs sat out for part of practice, but he's been getting a lot of scheduled rest throughout the summer.
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- There was Joe Morgan, signing autographs after Saturday afternoon's practice until he practically had to be kicked off the field. It's the same kind of thing we’re often used to seeing back home in Metairie.

 The New Orleans Saints have a lot of guys who do a great job of reciprocating the love from the fans in many ways, including star quarterback Drew Brees. But Morgan has always stood out as one of the guys who is especially determined to show fans the love -- both in person and on his relentless Twitter feed.

So I asked Morgan on Sunday what motivates him to sign so many autographs, and he talked about his fond memories of chasing down famous NFL players while growing up in Canton, Ohio.

Morgan’s prized autograph? Barry Sanders. Though Deacon Jones wasn’t a bad one, either, Morgan said.

Morgan is also paying it forward to a Saints fan base that has embraced him throughout his turbulent four-year career in New Orleans -- ever since he first made a splash as an undrafted rookie from Walsh during the 2011 preseason.

Morgan spent both 2011 and 2013 on injured reserve with knee injuries. But he’s hoping to earn his way back onto the roster to build on the success he showed during his one healthy season in 2012.

Morgan estimated that he’s about 85-90 percent recovered now from the major knee injury he suffered nearly one year ago today in training camp. He had a torn ACL, plus other unspecified issues that required two surgeries. Morgan sat out all of OTAs and minicamp but is finally back to full participation in training camp.

Morgan has flashed his trademark speed a couple of times in camp so far. He was kicking himself, however, for not being able to reel in a deep bomb from Brees on Sunday during team drills. Morgan broke free behind the defense but couldn’t get to the ball. He said he was rusty because he couldn’t remember the last time he had been overthrown.

In general, he said he felt good while getting an extended amount of reps on Sunday with veteran Robert Meachem out with back tightness.
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- The other day, Champ Bailey was talking about how he’s had to adjust to things like new teammates, coaches and playbook nuances with the New Orleans Saints after spending the past 10 years with the Denver Broncos.

 “But as far as football, football is football,” Bailey said. “You either got it or you don’t. And I think I still got it.”

Bailey certainly demonstrated that on Sunday. The 12-time Pro Bowl cornerback showed off his veteran savvy and nose for the ball while teaming with safety Rafael Bush to make the play of the day during full-team drills.

Bailey stripped the ball away from fullback Erik Lorig after a swing pass. Then Bush made a sensational effort to pop the ball up in the air before it bounced out of bounds. And Bailey snagged it out of the air.

“I kind of take it personal when a guy sticks his hand in my face,” said Bailey, who was pretty animated after forcing the turnover. “He tried to stiff-arm me. I’m not gonna hurt him, I don’t know why he did that. So I just had to make him pay somehow. And the best way is to get the ball from him.”

Bailey, who joined the Saints this offseason at age 36, has looked good all summer while competing for the No. 2 starting cornerback job with Patrick Robinson and Corey White. Bailey still looks plenty fast and fluid and -- most importantly -- said he feels great after a foot injury derailed his 2013 season in Denver.

Obviously Bailey isn’t as fast or fluid as he was in his prime with the Broncos and Washington Redskins. But the Saints didn’t bring him here because of his superior athleticism. They want that veteran savvy and ball skills and instincts that he displayed on Sunday’s play.

As coach Sean Payton said when describing Bailey the other day, they don’t need to see it every day, they just need to see it once in a while.

As for what Bailey himself is looking for this year, well, it’s the same thing he’s been seeking throughout his stellar 16-year career.

“Getting a ring. That’s it,” said Bailey, who signed an incentive-laden two-year deal worth between $3.75 million and $6.75 million. “There’s nothing else keeping me out here. It’s not like they’re paying me a boatload of money around here.”
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Outside linebacker Junior Galette and defensive end Akiem Hicks were two of the most underrated driving forces behind the New Orleans Saints' breakout defense last year.

But neither one of them is complaining about flying under the radar -- for different reasons.

The exuberant Galette has never made any secret about his desire to crack the Pro Bowl, pop up on lists like the NFL Network’s top 100 or even amp up his rating on the Madden video game.

Galette said when he heard that fellow Saints pass rusher Cameron Jordan said his goal was to get one sack per game this year, Galette’s goal became to get two sacks per game.

“It might sound unrealistic, but it pushes me,” Galette said. “If I don’t get two a game, I might end up getting one a game. We just keep pushing each other. That’s what I do. I just set almost unrealistic goals and just land halfway and it’s pretty dominant.”

However, Galette admitted Saturday that it can only help him and Jordan if anyone is still underestimating them after they became the only duo in the NFL with 12 sacks apiece last season.

“If (people aren’t talking about us), then it’s better for us. You’re coming to surprise,” Galette said, though he quickly added: “If they don’t know now, then they will know next year.”

Hicks, meanwhile, was more soft-spoken when asked about his perception and reputation on Saturday.

I am one of many analysts who have been touting Hicks as this year’s Galette-like breakout candidate on New Orleans’ roster. But Hicks said he can’t let himself worry about such lofty praise or expectations.

“That’s just the way it goes. They pick a guy out that they think is going to do good. But as a player, you can’t focus on that because you are never as good as they say you are and you are never as bad as they say you are,” said Hicks, who added that his No. 1 focus heading into his third season is to improve his consistency.

However, when asked how he feels about being described as “underrated,” Hicks said, “It is better than being overrated, right?”

“I’m just ready to work hard,” Hicks said. “That’s just my personality. I just want to do well. I just want to be consistent. I just want to work hard. And I want my teammates to respect me for it.”
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – Rob Ryan might have had his best performance to date as a defensive coordinator last season for the New Orleans Saints, helping to resurrect a unit from 32nd to fourth in the NFL rankings in yards allowed. But it didn’t instantly lead to any head-coaching opportunities.

When asked how he felt about that Saturday, Ryan didn’t deny having any aspirations to one day join his brother Rex and father Buddy as a NFL head coach. But he also said it’s not something he’s consumed with at the moment.

“I’ve been coaching a long time, and I’ve been an assistant for a long time. I’ve never been a head coach,” Ryan said. “When people want to give me that opportunity, that will be great. Until then, I want to whip ass and be a great assistant.”

Ryan’s efforts in that regard certainly have been appreciated in New Orleans, where he quickly became a cult hero last season. Ryan then continued to enhance his reputation as a “man of the people” throughout the offseason by partaking in several local festivities such as Mardi Gras, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the Greek Festival.

When asked if he ever gets tired of his newfound celebrity status in NOLA, Ryan said, “I’d rather be a hero than a goat. Hell, I want to make sure we do the right thing. I love New Orleans, and it just happens to be an awesome city and they seem to appreciate just a good guy.”

Ryan’s endearing larger-than-life personality has certainly helped endear him to the people in his new home. But as Times-Picayune columnist Larry Holder did a great job of pointing out on Saturday, it’s Ryan’s success on the job that has truly made him beloved.

Saints Camp Report: Day 2

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New Orleans Saints training camp:
  • Robinson rising: Cornerback Patrick Robinson had two nifty pass break-ups on back-to-back plays Saturday – another sign that he’s back to playing aggressively with confidence after a tough two-year stretch. Robinson struggled as a full-time starter in 2012, then he missed most of last season with a knee injury. But the former first-round pick clearly is energized by the chance to get back into a prominent role. For now, Champ Bailey has received the most looks as the Saints’ No. 2 cornerback, but Robinson has rotated in at times. “He’s looking great,” defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. “He’s always looked smooth. He’s a unique guy. He’s a tall guy that can bend, and those guys are really rare.”
  • Offense wins: The defensive highlights were few and far between on Saturday, however. Quarterbacks Drew Brees and Ryan Griffin took advantage of some breakdowns in the secondary to complete several deep balls (with Jimmy Graham, Nick Toon and Brandin Cooks among the beneficiaries). “Today wasn’t our best,” Ryan said. “Whooo, that offense was rolling.”
  • Break out the pads: Players on both sides are fired up about Sunday’s practice, which will be the first padded session of the offseason. Typically they don’t tackle all the way to the ground. But they will finally get to do some real hitting. “Oh, definitely (excited), especially for the offensive and defensive linemen,” defensive end Akiem Hicks said. “That is something that we look forward to all year. We get to run around in our pajamas for most of the year, but when the pads come on, you get to hit that guy that was talking a little trash earlier in the year.”
  • Weather concerns? Sunday’s practice could be affected by a projected storm, as there are no indoor facilities at the Saints’ new training camp site. Coach Sean Payton joked, “We don’t get bad weather” – referencing the uncanny way the Saints avoided the rain for years in past camps in Jackson, Miss. But he said the Saints will be flexible if they need to wait out any lightning.
  • White at safety? Cornerback Corey White, who is competing with Bailey and Robinson, spent part of practice as the deep safety in nickel packages while safety Kenny Vaccaro moved up into the slot. It might be a moot point when safety Jairus Byrd returns from injury. But it was another example of Ryan’s creative use of the personnel at his disposal. “He’s another smart guy that’s got a lot of talent, so he can play multiple spots for us,” Ryan said.
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – The play of the day at New Orleans Saints camp Saturday was provided by tight end Jimmy Graham, who outleaped safety Vinnie Sunseri, reeled in a pass with one hand from quarterback Ryan Griffin and took it to the house before dunking over the goal post (which remains legal in training camp!)

Just in case anyone forgot, it was a vintage Graham moment. And we will continue to see plenty more of them now that the Saints have locked him up with a four-year, $40 million contract.

The notion that defenses somehow “figured out” how to stop Graham last year is misplaced.

[+] EnlargeJimmy Graham
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesA couple teams figured out how to stop Jimmy Graham last season, but it's not a plan that many teams can pull off.
Yes, Graham was silenced by the Seattle Seahawks in the Saints’ season-ending playoff loss, thanks to frequent double-teams and some heavy attention from All-Pro safety Earl Thomas. Yes, Graham was silenced by the New England Patriots earlier in the season when they made the rare choice to shadow him with physical Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib.

And yes, Graham and Saints coach Sean Payton, among others, will have to figure out ways to adjust to all the new wrinkles that they continue to see from opposing defenses.

But it’s not like either the Seahawks or the Patriots provided a blueprint that other teams can easily follow.

Both of their plans required some of the best defensive players in the league, and they required the depth to also successfully cover the rest of the Saints’ dynamic offensive weapons.

New England’s successful use of a cornerback against Graham became a hot topic during the offseason debate about whether Graham should be considered a wide receiver or tight end. But there wasn’t another team before or after the New England game that simply decided to put a cornerback on Graham and take him out of the game.

“(New England and Seattle) were two different scenarios,” Payton said. “No. 1, New England put one of their bigger best defensive backs on him. Credit Bill (Belichick). You know, Aqib is bigger than their safeties. So he was able to play effectively. …

“But each week it varies what teams are doing. We see different plans to handle him. Obviously when you sit in on a meeting Tuesday night and you’re beginning to defend a player like him, you’re gonna account for him.”

Graham said he went back and looked at the film of that Patriots game at the time but honestly couldn’t see anything he could have done differently with the way they chose to attack him with a combination of Talib’s man coverage and zone coverage behind him.

“Talking with some of the Patriots this offseason, they had a big game plan. That’s just how it is sometimes,” Graham said. “Sean and Drew [Brees], they’re so good at dissecting the game and figuring things out. When it’s not my night, it’s just not my night. We’ve got so many young receivers on this team, we’ve got (Marques) Colston, (Robert Meachem). Somebody else is going to get a ton of balls, and I know they’re going to be making plays.

“For me, my biggest (focus heading into this season) is really staying healthy. Toward the latter part of the season, it was tough. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m going to rehab every day, even though I don’t have to.”

Since Graham emerged as a threat in 2010, the Saints’ offense has been a pick-your-poison attack. If a defense wants to sell out to try and shut down Graham, the Saints will usually make them pay in other ways.

The Philadelphia Eagles, for instance, made it their clear focus to harass Graham by bumping him at the line of scrimmage and double-teaming him through each level of the defense in their wild-card playoff matchup.

And it sort of worked – Graham caught just three passes for 44 yards. But the Saints made Philly’s defense pay by running 36 times for 185 yards in that game.

The Saints also started running the ball effectively against the Patriots in that Week 6 matchup. But they waited a little too long to adjust their game plan (and Brees made a poor decision at one point to try and force the ball to Graham, throwing an interception).

“Yeah, I think it was just one of those games where offensively we weren’t very effective, especially in the first half, then got some things going in the second half,” Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael said. “Obviously we’ve always been an offense where Drew’s gonna find the open guy. And give credit to New England for what they did. Obviously they did a good job of taking (Graham) away from what we want to try to accomplish.

“But like I said, our offense is not built around any one guy. We’re gonna find the open receiver, and that’s what Drew does such a great job of.”

More often than not, Graham will continue to be that open receiver.

Every team the Saints faced last year probably went into those game-planning meetings with a desire to shut down Graham. But that plan failed for most of them as Graham racked up 86 catches for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns.

The Carolina Panthers, for example, had one of the NFL’s best pass defenses last year. But in two critical December showdowns against Carolina, Graham combined to catch 11 passes for 131 yards and three touchdowns.

Graham has only been back on the Saints’ practice field for two days since signing his new contract. But he already stood out as Brees’ go-to guy again on several passes in team drills and 7-on-7 drills Saturday.

Get used to seeing a lot more of it this year.
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – After a standout rookie season, New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro has continued to impress his coaches in Year 2.

Saints coach Sean Payton didn’t hold back when asked how much growth he’s seen from Vaccaro.

“A ton,” Payton said. “From an Xs and Os [standpoint], he’s really football savvy. He’s really sharp. He has good instincts. He’s powerful. We have seen a big skip from Year 1 to Year 2. And he was playing at an awfully high level when he got injured last year (in Week 16).

“His offseason’s been fantastic. He’s moving around and carrying himself like a veteran.”

Vaccaro returned from his fractured ankle in time to participate in all of the Saints’ OTAs and minicamps this summer. But he said Friday that he feels much better now after five more weeks of recovery heading into training camp.

As defensive coordinator Rob Ryan suggested, that should be on display Sunday when the Saints practice in pads for the first time in camp.

“Tomorrow will be his type of day,” Ryan said. “He loves to play. He’ll be excited and he’ll be running around doing some things. The nice thing with Kenny is that he knows every position. With a guy like that, they’re invaluable to your defense. …

“He’s one of our smarter players and he’s one of our leaders. He’s had great growth. Coming back from that injury is awesome, to get him back out there. He looks great to me.”

Vaccaro, who finished third in Defensive Rookie of the Year voting last season, talked earlier this summer about how his goals are much higher going forward. He also talked bluntly about how he has no plans to change his admittedly "reckless" style despite the ankle injury and two concussions that he suffered last year.
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- When asked about Drew Brees' comments that he feels 25 and wants to play until he’s 45, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton one-upped his quarterback.

“I feel 30 and I want to coach ‘til I’m 80,” Payton cracked.

Payton added, however, that he doesn’t see any signs of aging or slowing down when it comes to Brees.

“I don’t see that in his play, in his preparation. I really don’t,” Payton said. “It is a credit to not only his mental preparation but how he takes care of himself. I’ve said this time and time again, he is a very routine-driven person with regards to exercise, diet. If you just want to get his attention you just say, ‘Hey they have gluten free pancakes today.’ And he would be like, ‘Where?’

“He pays attention to all of that. Look, that means a lot when you talk about years in this league.”

Saints Camp Report: Day 1

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of New Orleans Saints training camp:

  • Cooks delivers: The guy I was most excited to watch Friday didn't disappoint. Rookie receiver Brandin Cooks made the play of the day, leaping up to reel in a deep pass from Drew Brees in front of safety Ty Zimmerman. Teammates were impressed, including Jimmy Graham, who was practicing with Cooks for the first time. Graham said he asked, "Who was that?" before chasing down Cooks to celebrate. Veteran cornerback Champ Bailey said he doesn't want to get ahead of himself but thinks Cooks could be something special. Cooks' best assets are his speed and quickness, but he showed physicality and ball skills as well on the play. However, Cooks gave Brees the credit: "All I had to do was go up and get it," Cooks said.
  • Weather delivers: The only thing players raved about more Friday was the weather. With temperatures in the 60s in the West Virginia mountains, Brees insisted they could have run 200 plays. And linebacker Curtis Lofton estimated it as an "eight-pound difference" from practices in Metairie, Louisiana, where he said he would typically lose 10 pounds each day. Most importantly, both Graham and offensive tackle Zach Strief said they were mentally sharper since they weren't physically zapped. Strief said it was the sharpest first-day practice he ever remembers.
  • Warren's "hat trick": An early contender for one of those undrafted-rookie successes is Jacksonville State safety Pierre Warren. He's had the opportunity to line up with the second-string defense throughout the summer, thanks to starter Jairus Byrd's injury. And he came up with a big play Friday, stripping running back Derrick Strozier, recovering the fumble and returning it for a TD. A coach yelled out, "The first hat trick!"
  • Coleman starts strong: Fellow undrafted rookie, receiver Brandon Coleman, struggled at times during organized team activities and minicamp, but the physically imposing 6-foot-6, 225-pounder started strong during training camp with an impressive catch over cornerback Corey White's head on a deep crossing route. If his production matches his physical skills, he could be something.
  • Position battles: Second-year quarterback Ryan Griffin threw that beautiful strike to Coleman, one of the highlight plays of the day. Griffin was working as the No. 3 quarterback behind veteran Luke McCown, but they'll rotate throughout camp. … In other roster battles, cornerback Bailey, outside linebacker Victor Butler and center Tim Lelito lined up with the first string Friday, but that will likely change on a rotating basis as well.

Mike Triplett discusses how Drew Brees' style of play could lend itself to allowing him to remain in the NFL for another 10 years.

Tim Hasselbeck discusses whether the offseason contract disputes, like the one between TE Jimmy Graham and the New Orleans Saints, can linger and carry over to the field.