As expected, neither Brandin Cooks nor Jimmy Graham were present; other quick observations
Aside from safety Jairus Byrd, who had a minor back surgery Thursday, other Saints who didn’t participate in drills at Thursday’s organized team activities included nose tackle John Jenkins, wide receiver Joseph Morgan and defensive lineman Tyrunn Walker.
As expected, neither rookie wide receiver Brandin Cooks, the team’s first-round draft pick, nor All-Pro Jimmy Graham, whose contract situation is unresolved, were at OTAs.
Cooks was scheduled to participate in an NFL rookie marketing gathering this week and is finishing up his junior year at Oregon State. Graham’s Twitter feed showed he was sailing in the Hugo Boss Manhattan Charity Race.
Jenkins didn’t appear to be present. Morgan and Walker stretched at the beginning of practice but were sidelined for subsequent drills.
Morgan missed all of 2013 with a preseason knee injury. Walker sat out some games with knee problems.
Others who weren’t spotted at practice were undrafted rookies Cheta Ozougwu (outside linebacker) and Moses McCray (defensive end). Undrafted rookie receiver Steve Hull was present but didn’t participate in stretching or drills.
Saints coach Sean Payton didn’t speak about any absences other than Byrd’s.
Thursday’s OTA was the team’s third — they started Tuesday. It was the first open to media. Other OTAs will be June 3-5 and June 16-19, and there will be a minicamp June 10-12.
A few other very quick observations:
— One must be careful to not put too much stock into turnovers created during non-contact drills in OTAs, but both safety Rafael Bush and rookie cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste (second-round pick) stripped balls that the defense recovered.
Bush victimized wide receiver Marques Colston. Jean-Baptiste got wide receiver Andy Tanner.
Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan afterward said he had been showing his team highlight film of Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, whose 40 forced fumbles are tied for fourth-most among active players, according to Pro Football Reference.
“Great players can be imitated,” said Ryan, who noted Tillman played at Louisiana-Lafayette in college. Humorously, Ryan began referring to the school by its old name — Southwestern Louisiana Institute — until correcting himself and just saying Tillman was a “Ragin’ Cajun,” the mascot of the university.
In his remarks, Ryan alluded to the fact that the Saints created the NFL’s fourth-fewest turnovers in 2013, when they also gave up the fourth-fewest yards.
— On one snap, Saints cornerback Champ Bailey stretched out overhead for what would’ve been a difficult interception, but he dropped it. A teammate yelled at him, “Champ Bailey two years ago would’ve got that.” Bailey, a 12-time Pro Bowler, turns 36 on June 22, and his age is an easy target.
Bailey later broke up a pass that was intended for wide receiver Kenny Stills.
— Though he began team drills at practice, left guard Ben Grubbs then sat out and observed the action. His spot on the first-string was taken by offensive lineman Senio Kelemete, who was on the Saints’ practice squad last year.
Kelemete lined up to the left of second-year offensive lineman Tim Lelito, who was playing at center with the first team. Lelito started two games at right guard as a rookie in 2013. Otherwise, the rest of the first-team offensive line Thursday — left tackle Terron Armstead (second year) as well as veterans right tackle Zach Strief and right guard Jahri Evans — started games last year.
Kelemete was also playing at center with the backups on Thursday.
— Saints wide receiver Kenny Stills fielded some punts. ... Neither incumbent veteran kicker Shayne Graham nor his challenger, Derek Dimke, booted field goals Thursday.
Check back with The Advocate for much more later.