As was widely anticipated, neither Saints tight end Jimmy Graham nor rookie receiver/first-round draft choice Brandin Cooks participated in the opening day of the team’s mandatory minicamp on Tuesday.
Cooks is finishing up his junior year at Oregon State. Graham is not yet under contract, because he has not signed a new long-term deal to replace the expired one he got as a rookie in 2010 and was hit with a franchise tag New Orleans gave him earlier in the offseason.
But others who were present at minicamp but did not participate in drills were nose tackle John Jenkins, safety Jairus Byrd, wide receiver Joseph Morgan, wide receiver Andy Tanner, defensive end Moses McCray and outside linebacker Cheta Ozougwu.
All but Tanner, who has spent most of his time on the Saints’ practice squad the past few seasons, had sat out prior voluntary offseason practices open to the media. No reason was given for why Tanner did not take part in drills.
After not participating in previous offseason practices media could access, undrafted rookie wide receiver Steve Hull and third-year defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker worked in drills during the first session of the three-day minicamp.
NFL.com on Tuesday reported that Jenkins had a minor surgery on a pectoral muscle. Saints coach Sean Payton did not comment on the report and only said the team would “play it by ear” with him and others who have been sidelined.
In a conversation with The Advocate last week, Jenkins declined to talk about why he had not been practicing with the team recently but said he would be ready for the season after playing in all of New Orleans’ games in 2013. He worked on a stationary bicycle for a time during practice on Tuesday.
With Jenkins out, veteran nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley is handling the bulk of the load at the position with the first team. Additionally, the Saints on May 27 signed defensive tackle Brandon Deaderick, who’s been in the NFL since 2010.
Byrd underwent a surgery to repair a problematic disk in his back late in May and isn’t expected to participate in drills before training camp. His 22 career interceptions are the most among NFL safeties since he entered the NFL in 2009, and he was the team’s marquee free agent signing this offseason.
Morgan is recovering from a knee injury that caused him to miss the entire 2013 season after he had 379 yards and three touchdowns on just 10 catches in 2012. Last week, he said he considered himself 80 percent back from the injury he sustained last August and believes he’ll be ready for training camp. He worked on the stationary bike alongside Jenkins.
McCray is an undrafted rookie, and outside linebacker Cheta Ozougwu was acquired this offseason.
Before they returned, there was no reason given about why Hull or Walker had been out of practice. Walker was in and out of the lineup last year with knee problems.
Both he and Hull worked alongside and against backups Tuesday.