PRESEASON REPORT: Saints trim roster by releasing Jason Smith

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton took another early step in trimming his roster down nearly a week before the first mandatory cut to 75 players Wednesday when tackle Jason Smith was released.

Smith, the second overall pick of the 2009 draft by the St. Louis Rams, was released after three seasons there and was on the New York Jets’ roster as a backup in 2012.

Smith was signed to see if he had what the Rams thought they had when they chose him in 2009, and to create competition with Charles Brown and rookie Terron Armstead for the left tackle spot vacated when Jermon Bushrod signed with the Chicago Bears.

But the 6-foot-5, 310-pound Smith never threatened Brown, who finished the last two seasons on injured reserve, and quickly was demoted from the second team to third team just a few days into camp.

Armstead, one of the Saints’ two third-round draft picks, moved in with the second-team line and will be Brown’s backup going into the regular season.

The Saints’ roster now stands at 80 players with five more cuts due by 3 p.m. Tuesday.

No risk

On the third day of training camp, Payton was asked about the team’s decision to bring Smith in as a free agent.

Earlier in the spring, Payton expressed concern about the position when he said the name plate on the coaching staff’s depth chart at that position was “gray” — meaning they were unsure of what Brown could give them.

Because Smith only received a one-year contract at the minimum salary for a player going into his fifth season ($715,000), they had nothing to lose.

“It’s not an exact science,” Payton said then, noting that players drafted high sometimes struggle and players picked much lower become stars. “We like the opportunity for us to take him (Smith) here and take a peek at him and see how he is doing.”

Graham on Brees

Tight end Jimmy Graham, who’s said several times he doesn’t want to catch a pass from any other quarterback than Drew Brees during his NFL career, apparently isn’t backing down from that statement.

When told Wednesday that the 34-year-old Brees, who’s entering his 13th season, wants to play until he turns 40, Graham said the Saints’ record-setting quarterback has it in him.

“I had a press conference with him myself and asked him how long he was going to be here for,” Graham said, noting that Brees’ decision to retire will influence his thinking. “When (that happens), I’m going to have to retire.

“But he’s definitely got it in him to play until 40 and beyond.”

Sitting it out

After practicing two days in a row, wide receiver Marques Colston did not participate in Wednesday’s workout.

It wasn’t clear if Colston had a setback from the foot injury that has limited his practice time in training camp, or was just being cautious as Payton usually doesn’t talk about injuries after practice.

Also missing during the 30-minute window media can view practice were LBs Jonathan Vilma (knee), Junior Galette (knee), Will Herring (undisclosed) and Chris Chamberlain (undisclosed); G Jahri Evans (undisclosed); and FB Jed Collins (undisclosed).

Getting ready

After having his team run a series of gassers following Tuesday’s practice, Payton was asked if he was putting more emphasis on conditioning than in the past.

He said he’s tried to run players three times a week during training camp and preseason, which he is following again this season.

“What’s getting ready to happen is, these guys that have started off playing 12 snaps, 18 snaps, 30 snaps (in preseason games),” he said. “Very shortly, they’re going to be playing more than that. It’s just really preparing your body to have that staying power to play the whole game (in the regular season).”

Sheldon Mickles