Lewis: Questions linger as Saints prepare to return home

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Questions to be resolved between now and Thursday when the Saints head home:

1. Will Drew Brees play in Friday’s game against Tennessee?

No. 9 was out throwing, joking and signing autographs for fans Sunday, but not practicing — or speaking to the media for that matter. Sean Payton didn’t seem too worried about it, so the signs are favorable.

2. What about Pierre Thomas?

Thomas’ absence from the sidelines Friday was a surprise since he had not missed any practice time. He was on the sidelines Sunday but not practicing. Thomas has missed only one regular-season game in the past three seasons but didn’t play in last year’s two playoff games because of a chest injury.

3. Will there be a Champ Bailey sighting?

Let’s hope so. Hall of Fame careers shouldn’t end with a failure to make it through training camp.

4. Will Mark Ingram be greeted as a fan favorite?

The formerly much-maligned Heisman Trophy winner is finally showing first-round form. Ingram said his eight-carry, 83-yard performance against the Rams is of his “trusting his eyes,” and “no questioning himself” when he does make a mistake. With Ingram, it’s always more like a matter of poor-decision making

5. Obviously 2014 first-round pick Brandin Cooks is an instant success. But the other draft picks all had their problems Friday. Will they get better?

What did you expect? They’re rookies. As Payton pointed out Sunday, most of them are going to make visible mistakes the first time out, and that that’s why you work on them especially now that there is live game film to bring them out.

But things like being flagged three times, as fifth-round pick Ronald Powell was, do not bode well for those battling for roster spots. Payton has kept free agents over draft picks several times.

6. Will there be any more non-injury roster moves while the team is still here?

Sean Payton says he doesn’t anticipate any. Which means there probably will be.

7. Will veteran fullback Greg Jones contend with Eric Lorig for the fullback spot?

Lorig, a free agent signee who spent the past four years at Tampa Bay, had been considered a lock for the job, but he’s hasn’t even been on the sideline in the past week. Payton spoke of Jones, an 11-year veteran signed last week, as more of a placeholder. Lorig shouldn’t linger too long.

8. After putting an emphasis on creating turnovers, the Saints didn’t have any against the Rams. Is that still a problem?

Obviously some turnovers “just happen,” especially fumbles. That being said, the best way to get an “attaboy” from the coaches is to come up with one in practice, as Corey White did when he picked off Ryan Griffin during a two-minute drill segment.

The same is true for the return game Averaging 2.5 yards on punt returns and 18.0 on kickoff returns is not encouraging, especially since more time than usual was spent on special teams last week.

But there was no apparent change in the practice routine Sunday.

9. Is there anything “special” in store for the rookies?

After the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin brouhaha of last year, the NFL has held sensitivity sessions for all teams during training camp time. But surely somebody will wind up taped to a goalpost.

10. After living on Eastern time for three weeks, will the team be jet-lagged?

Not likely. But there will be a weather lag. Or weather shock. The practice-time temperature here Sunday was 62, 30 degrees cooler than it was New Orleans. Getting off the place is going to be like walking in a sauna.

“It’s going to be a big difference,” tight end Josh Hill said. “We’ll handle it though.”