Saints’ goal-line drill pumps up players, fans

Associated Press file photo by SCOTT ISKOWITZ -- New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma watches from the sideline during a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season in Tampa, Fla. Show caption
Associated Press file photo by SCOTT ISKOWITZ -- New Orleans linebacker Jonathan Vilma watches from the sideline during a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season in Tampa, Fla.

Both New Orleans Saints players and fans raved about a goal-line drill at Wednesday morning’s training camp session, the last practice open to the public this year.

The first-team and second-team offenses scored four touchdowns each during the drill, while their counterparts on defense stopped two running plays apiece.

Drew Brees tossed touchdowns to tight ends Benjamin Watson and Jimmy Graham, and running backs Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas each ran in scores. Quarterback Seneca Wallace, preparing to run the second-team offense against the Oakland Raiders on Friday, hit tight end Michael Higgins and fullback Austin Johnson for touchdowns; and Johnson and running back Khiry Robinson rushed in scores.

Both the stops and scores prompted hearty cheers from the crowd, and players afterward said they enjoyed the intensity of the close-quarters battles.

“Our goal-line scrimmage we just had was one of our best we’ve had in training camp,” Thomas told reporters Wednesday. “We had a few ones that we didn’t get in, but the majority of the time we got in.”

Starting center Brian de la Puente said the drill was a step “in the right direction” for the offense.

“Our goal down there is to get in 100 percent of the time,” he said.

Among the players who missed Wednesday’s practice were inside linebacker Jonathan Vilma, wide receiver Marques Colston, wide receiver Courtney Roby, outside linebacker Junior Galette and backup center Eric Olsen.

When asked about the status of Vilma, who’s been in and out of sessions since Aug. 5, Payton said he did not have an update on him or any of the others who missed practice.

But Pat Yasinkas of ESPN.com is reporting that "Vilma flew to Philadelphia Wednesday to get a second opinion on an unspecified injury, a league source said."

For much more on Saints training camp, check theadvocate.com later today and Thursday’s edition of The Advocate.