Saints notebook: Falcons owner upset team didn’t confront Vaccaro

Advocate file photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Atlanta coach Mike Smith, left, yells after quarterback Matt Ryan was shaken up on a late hit by Saints strong safety Kenny Vaccaro in September at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Show caption
Advocate file photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Atlanta coach Mike Smith, left, yells after quarterback Matt Ryan was shaken up on a late hit by Saints strong safety Kenny Vaccaro in September at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“That play really bothered me, sincerely. It bothered me that none of our players, they all complained, but none of them went to the safety on the Saints and did anything.” ARTHUR BLANK, Falcons owner

Falcons owner Arthur Blank fanned the flames of an intense NFC South rivalry Tuesday by saying it bothered him that members of his team barely reacted when Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro was flagged for a hit on Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan in a Week 1 road loss to New Orleans.

Via ESPN, Blank told Atlanta radio station 680 The Fan that none of Ryan’s teammates said anything to Vaccaro about it, and that the Falcons need to be tougher than that.

“That play really bothered me, sincerely,” Blank reportedly said. “It bothered me that none of our players, they all complained, but none of them went to the safety on the Saints and did anything.”

The NFL did something, however — the league fined Vaccaro $7,875 for a late hit many Saints fans believed was a questionable call.

ACL torn in Saints workout

Offensive lineman Brandon Thomas, a senior draft prospect from Clemson, tore an anterior cruciate ligament in a noncontact drill during a private workout last week with the New Orleans Saints, according to reports Tuesday from The National Football Post’s Aaron Wilson and ESPN’s Mike Triplett.

The 6-foot-3, 317-pound Thomas received second-, third- and fourth-round projections from various outlets before his injury, for which he will have surgery. The draft is May 8-10. The Saints worked him out after Charles Brown (who started the season at left tackle for New Orleans in 2013) and shortly before Brian de la Puente (the starting center since 2011) left for other teams in free agency.

Wilson speculated that Thomas could still do well in the draft, though his hurt knee would likely affect his draft stock.

Saints at Towson Pro Day

Multiple representatives of the Saints attended Towson University’s Pro Day in Maryland, CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora reported Monday. The school’s highest profile draft prospect is running back Terrance West, and the program boasts a couple of ties to the Saints: It’s the alma mater of linebackers coach Joe Vitt and former left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who helped New Orleans win Super Bowl XLIV and was a two-time Pro Bowler before leaving for Chicago last year.

West stood out in the positional drills he participated in, La Canfora wrote. That should boost the stock of West, who set Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) records for rushing yards (2,509) and rushing touchdowns (41) to help Towson reach the national title game last year.

CBSSports.com projects West might be taken in the third round of the draft. At the scouting combine in February in Indianapolis, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds, which La Canfora called an impressive time for a player with a 5-foot-9, 225-pound frame.

Stampeders’ local workout

The Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League will host an open workout at East Jefferson High School’s football stadium for 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.

John Murphy, the Stampeders’ assistant general manager, will be in attendance alongside two full-time coaches at East Jefferson’s campus, at 400 Phlox Ave. in Metairie.

“We have found numerous players on our roster from open workouts and have signed a prospect from the New Orleans region every year since 2008,” Murphy, who resides in Metairie, said in an email about the event.

Prospective players can sign up online at www.stampeders.com as well as at the event itself. They can email any questions to the Stampeders’ front office at kcarson@stampeders.com.

The Stampeders have won the Grey Cup, the CFL’s championship trophy, six times. Their last title came in 2008.

Alums include defensive lineman Tom Johnson, who was with the Saints from 2011 to 2013 and left for Minnesota in free agency in March; cornerback Derrius Brooks, signed to New Orleans’ offseason roster on a futures contract in January; and cornerback Brandon Browner, who joined New England in March after three seasons with Seattle, the defending NFL champions.

Johnson was with Calgary from 2009-10. Brooks was there in 2012-13. Browner was there from 2007-10.

Lagniappe

-- Tulane on Tuesday announced that Gayle Benson, a philanthropist and former interior designer who is the wife of Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson, joined the university’s board of administrators. Her appointment comes after she and her husband jointly donated $7.5 million to the construction of Yulman Stadium, Tulane’s new on-campus football stadium that is set to open in the fall.

-- Southern California wide receiver Marqise Lee, who told Pro Football Talk Live last week that he was going to meet with the Saints, visited New Orleans’ facilities Tuesday. Vaccaro informed the public he had spotted Lee via Twitter, writing, “Hopefully we can get him in the draft! Explosive playmaker.”

-- At a luncheon Wednesday, the All-State Sugar Bowl Chapter of the National Football Foundation/College Football Hall of Fame will honor longtime Saints radio announcer Jim Henderson as well as team president Dennis Lauscha for their contributions to New Orleans as well as the sport of football.

Henderson will be presented with the Contribution to Amateur Football Award, and Lauscha (also the president of the Pelicans) will receive the Distinguished American Award at the Hilton Riverside hotel.