METAIRIE — After having a light day Friday and two days off following Thursday’s preseason loss to the New England Patriots, the New Orleans Saints returned to the practice field Monday to begin their final week of training camp.
Predictably, the Saints appeared a bit sluggish in the early stages of the 21/2-hour outdoor practice. But interim coach Joe Vitt said things picked up shortly after that even as the temperature soared into the 90s.
“We were just a little sluggish to start this practice, but we came back a little stronger after that,” Vitt said. “We got into the groove as practice went on.”
The Saints continued their training camp installation with an emphasis on short-yardage and goal-line work.
In two periods of short-yardage drills between the starters, the offense won the first series with the defense taking the second.
The offense converted four of five plays on third-and-1, including three on runs. Drew Brees connected with tight end David Thomas for another first down with the only stop coming when defensive end Will Smith slammed into running back Mark Ingram in the backfield for a 2-yard loss.
Later, on third-and-2, the defense rose up after Brees threw for first downs on two of the first three plays.
However, Brees had two passes tipped at the line — one by defensive end Cameron Jordan — and another pass broken up by linebacker Jonathan Casillas before cornerback Patrick Robinson intercepted a deep pass down the left sideline for wide receiver Marques Colston.
Robinson’s interception against Colston, who appeared to have a step on him as Brees launched the pass, was easily the play of the day.
Robinson, who was practicing fully for the first time since injuring a shoulder on July 29, quickly broke on the pass and snatched it away just as Colston was about to make the reception.
Earlier, in seven-on-seven drills, Brees was also intercepted by free safety Malcolm Jenkins, who had Lance Moore well-covered on a route across the middle. Jenkins tipped the ball with his right hand, then pulled the pass in and ran it in for a touchdown.
Tight end Jimmy Graham, who was hurt when he fell on his back after catching a touchdown pass in Wednesday’s practice against the Patriots, returned to the field Monday.
Graham, however, participated only in pre-practice stretch and individual drills early in the workout.
“He’s a little sore,” Vitt said. “He received treatment over the weekend. If we had to play (a regular-season game) this weekend, he’d play. We’re just being a little cautious with him right now. He’s fine.”
Not practicing Monday were RB Darren Sproles (knee), CB Jabari Greer (hernia surgery), DT Tom Johnson (ankle), WR Nick Toon (foot), DE Turk McBride (ankle), WR Adrian Arrington (knee) and CB Kamaal McIlwain (unspecified).
Vitt said Arrington, who is trying to make the roster as the fourth wide receiver, had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee Monday.
Vitt said Sproles, who was hurt in the loss to the Patriots, will likely miss Friday night’s home exhibition opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Like Graham, Vitt said he would play if it were a regular-season game.
“Obviously, we are going to be careful with him,” he said.
Arrington, Greer, Johnson and McBride will also be out Friday night.
Not so special
Former linebacker Martez Wilson is making a nice transition to defensive end, but he had two key mistakes on special teams against the Patriots.
When asked if he read Wilson the riot act after giving the Patriots two first downs — the first by jumping offside and later when he ran into the punter — special teams coordinator Greg McMahon noted Smith and linebacker Curtis Lofton said it best when they pointed out the penalties kept Brees on the sideline and put Tom Brady back on the field.
“I mean, by the grace of God, it was a preseason game,” McMahon said. “We can’t do that. Then, we do it twice. I mean, we’re talking about winning and losing games.
“He (Wilson) knows he has to play with more discipline, we all do. But yes, absolutely, it was addressed.”