Saints’ Keenan Lewis back, Jairus Byrd impresses

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis practices Wednesday at Mandeville High. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis practices Wednesday at Mandeville High.

Under the lights of Mandeville High School’s football stadium Wednesday night, signs were relatively good that the Saints could soon have a full complement of cornerbacks as they sort out how the depth chart will look at that position.

Not only did entrenched No. 1 cornerback Keenan Lewis participate in team drills after missing practices Monday and Tuesday with an apparent leg injury he sustained in an exhibition against Tennessee last week, but veteran cornerback Champ Bailey was starting opposite him in team drills for the first time since sustaining an undisclosed injury at the end of July during the first phase of training camp in West Virginia and being sidelined for the team’s two preseason games.

Meanwhile, cornerback Patrick Robinson was in pads after missing practices for about a week. However, at the start of team drills, it was Corey White and not Robinson in the slot. Robinson later did work with the 1s in another drill.

It should be noted that Wednesday’s practice was not in full pads. The players wore helmets, shoulder pads and shorts, and there was no live contact; so it was too early to say for sure whether Lewis, Bailey or Robinson would be available for Saturday’s exhibition game at Indianapolis.

But it was a step in the right direction for a team that wants to determine whether Robinson or Bailey can start opposite Lewis.

Bailey, who is 36 and a 12-time Pro Bowler, joined the Saints in free agency in April. Robinson was a first-round draft pick for the Saints in 2010, missed most of last year with a knee injury and was doing well in camp before he was recently hurt.

Thursday practice closed

Late Wednesday, the Saints announced they would be practicing indoors when the team works out from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m., and would not have a practice that would be open to the public as had been previously scheduled.

Other observations:

1. After returning to full team drills on Tuesday for the first time since having back surgery in May, Saints safety Jairus Byrd got his first interception Wednesday. He picked off quarterback Drew Brees in the end zone in a seven-on-seven red zone passing drill.

Byrd later picked off an overthrown pass by backup QB Luke McCown in a full-team period playing centerfield, much to the delight of a crowd of several thousand at Sidney Theriot Stadium. And he followed that up in a separate drill by breaking up a throw near the goal-line to tight end Jimmy Graham.

2. Among those who had TD grabs in that drill were rookie running back Derrick Strozier on a wheel route from McCown and tight end Travis Beckum, who had two scores in the red zone Tuesday as he lives life on the training-camp bubble.

3. Competing to start at center, Tim Lelito had perhaps his best one-on-one blocking drill of camp. He had two decisive wins over nose tackle John Jenkins, standing up the defender cold on one snap. Lelito has struggled at times in those drills.

4. Brees had nice long connections over the middle with veteran receiver Marques Colston and rookie Brandon Coleman in a full-team period. On that drill, veteran Brandon Deaderick was with the first-string defense at nose tackle, suggesting he will see big minutes at Indianapolis as he tries to latch onto the roster as depth. Deaderick was a free agent signed this offseason.

5. Reserve DB Derrius Brooks at one point laid out for a spectacular one-handed interception of backup QB Logan Kilgore along the sideline. He is on the bubble, and a moment like that can only help his prospects.

6. Full-team, red-zone drill touchdown grabs were caught by receivers Robert Meachem and Nick Toon, both thrown by Brees. Less successful was a throw to tight end Ben Watson, which bounced off his fingertips and was intercepted by safety Rafael Bush. Bush ran it back up the right sideline, and he may not have been stopped before scoring in a game. Bush’s pick marked the fourth interception on am evening in which the defense was decidedly opportunistic.

7. The first loud cheers of the night from the crowd at Theriot stadium went to running backs Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas, who had long rushes up the middle in an early drill. The crowd was easiest the largest to watch the Saints work out this training camp.