Just as they did Monday when a spirited short-yardage period highlighted a steamy practice, the Saints ended Tuesday’s workout with a two-minute drill that had a lot riding on it.
Before the first-team offense got the ball 80 yards away from a game-winning touchdown, coach Sean Payton told his team that the side that won wouldn’t have to run conditioning sprints after practice.
After Drew Brees fired a 30-yard pass to tight end Jimmy Graham and eventually moved the ball to the 17, free safety Malcolm Jenkins perfectly read a throw to wide receiver Lance Moore in the flat, broke quickly on the ball and made the interception that ended practice.
“That was big … we had to have it,” defensive end Akiem Hicks said of Jenkins’ takeaway. “The offense had to run and we didn’t, so it was big.”
“There was a lot riding on it,” Jenkins said. “We gave up a big play earlier and it got to the point where somebody needed to make a play. It just happened to be me.
“We had a pressure call on and I knew that Drew was going to get the ball out quick. He kind of threw it where he didn’t want to and I made the play.”
Brees’ long pass over the middle to Graham was a sore subject for the offense, which contended Graham would have pulled away from strong safety Roman Harper if there had been live tackling.
“Well, that is very arguable because I caught a pass and I would not have been tackled,” Graham said. “It would have been a 65-yard touchdown and somehow they blow the whistle like Roman was going to catch me.
“So I would say we won that and they got a second chance. Either way, I would have scored.”
“Malcolm picked off the Drew Brees pass and we won,” inside linebacker Jonathan Vilma said when told that Graham said he should’ve had a touchdown. “Yeah, he said ‘should’ve.’ They didn’t.”
Even though the offense was denied in the end, Payton was pleased with the competitive nature of the drills and the way the defense was able to get off the field.
“I thought the practice was lively,” he said. “Defensively, we made a lot of plays, especially in the third down (work) and obviously in the two-minute. So it was good work for us.”
Thomas, Wilson return
Even though they were limited, running back Pierre Thomas and outside linebacker Martez Wilson returned to the practice field after missing time with injuries.
Thomas, who was sidelined for nearly a week with an undisclosed injury, participated in the walkthrough portion of practice and in 7-on-7 drills, while Wilson, who was out two weeks with a dislocated elbow, also was able to do the walkthrough.
Also, outside linebacker Junior Galette was seen early in practice, but didn’t participate in any drills.
Roby leaves field
The list of injured wide receivers grew Tuesday when Courtney Roby hurt a toe while trying to down a punt inside the 5-yard line and had to be helped to the locker room by two trainers.
Roby joins Marques Colston, Joe Morgan and Chris Givens on the sideline.
Morgan is out for the season with a knee injury, Givens is on injured reserve with a shoulder problem and Andy Tanner also missed practice time with a shoulder injury.
Wednesday’s 8:50 a.m. practice is the final chance for fans to watch the Saints work out this summer.
After Thursday’s practice, which is closed to the public, the Saints will wrap up their three-week training camp.