The day anxious New Orleans Saints fans probably thought would never arrive is finally here.
Weary of a bounty scandal — and its nearly five-month fallout — and the protracted contract negotiations between the team and star quarterback Drew Brees, fans can finally sink their teeth into something else: training camp.
The only problem is they’ll have to wait at least two more days to get a glimpse of the Saints, who won’t take the practice field at the team’s Metairie training facility until Thursday afternoon.
But it’s close enough, considering players report Tuesday.
Ninety players, the maximum teams can have in training camp, are expected to check in and be on hand for a team meeting Tuesday night to kick off the 31/2-week camp.
While coach Sean Payton won’t be there because he’s been suspended for the entire 2012 season for misleading NFL investigators looking into a pay-for-performance scheme, Brees will be present after signing a five-year, $100 million contract on July 15.
The Saints, who have been on vacation for the past 51/2 weeks after completing their offseason training program in mid-June, will be put through a series of conditioning tests Wednesday.
Interim coach Joe Vitt will put the Saints through their first practice at 4 p.m. Thursday — the first of 12 workouts scheduled to be open to fans between July 26 and Aug. 16.
However, practices that have to be moved to the indoor facility because of weather issues will be closed to the public.
Open practices are scheduled for July 26-29, July 31-Aug. 3 and Aug. 13-16.
The first two workouts Thursday and Friday must be conducted in soft gear and helmets, according to the new collective bargaining agreement, with the players expected to don full pads for the first time Saturday.
The Saints will have 11/2 weeks to prepare for their exhibition opener on Sunday, Aug. 5, against the Arizona Cardinals in the annual Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.
After that game, the Saints will fly directly to Foxborough, Mass., for joint practices with the New England Patriots, whom they will play Thursday, Aug. 9, in Gillette Stadium. The preseason home opener in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome will be on Friday, Aug. 17, against the Jacksonville Jaguars.