Saints Morning Briefing: Day 1 of practice

The formalities and pleasantries of the Saints’ arrival in West Virginia on Wednesday are a distant memory. The first practice of the Saints’ 2014 training camp is here, and this is what you need to know as New Orleans seeks that second Lombardi trophy both in franchise history and under coach Sean Payton:

ABOUT YESTERDAY: Saints players spent Thursday undergoing physicals and taking their strength and conditioning tests after officially reporting to camp at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. General Manager Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton then met with the media for the first time this preseason at the Greenbrier. Topics of discussion covered a wide range of matters, but they included the four-year, $40 million contract extension for All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham earlier in the month; as well as how pleased they are with the practice facility and hospitality that greeted them upon their arrival at The Greenbrier.

ON TODAY’S AGENDA: The Saints begin their on-field work with their one non-padded practice of training camp at 7:50 a.m. Central time and then a walkthrough at 3:30 p.m. This marks the first time since the 2013 campaign the Saints will get to work with Graham, who missed this offseason’s organized team activities (“OTAs”) and minicamp while negotiating a contract extension that made him the tight end with the highest annual salary in NFL history.

It could also be the first time the media see safety Jairus Byrd in action with the black and gold after joining the team on a massive six-year, $54 million free-agent contract in March. Byrd, whose 22 interceptions are the most among NFL safeties since entering the league in 2009 as a second-round draft pick out of Buffalo, underwent minor back surgery in May and subsequently missed OTAs as well as minicamp.

Meanwhile, after missing the 2011 and 2013 seasons with torn ACLs, Saints wide receiver Joseph Morgan is “a go” for training camp, though he must be transitioned back into football, Payton said Thursday.

After practice, the players scheduled to meet with reporters are Graham, quarterback Drew Brees, running back Pierre Thomas, right tackle Zach Strief, defensive end Cameron Jordan, inside linebacker Curtis Lofton, safety Kenny Vaccaro and punter Thomas Morstead. Numerous reporters should begin live tweeting their remarks about 11 a.m. Central time, after practice ends.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: One of the few true No. 1 spots up for grabs at any position this training camp is center. Second-year interior lineman Tim Lelito manned that spot with the first string through OTAs and minicamp; but in June the Saints provided him competition in the form of Jonathan Goodwin, reacquired via free agency. Goodwin is some stiff competition — he was a Pro Bowler the year New Orleans won Super Bowl XLIV and during the past three seasons helped San Francisco and its complex running scheme reach three NFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl.

Lelito for the most part did well this offseason, when workouts were non-padded and prohibited live contact. But he looked shaky during a sequence in which the Saints piped in simulated crowd noise, sending one fumbled snap early and another one low.

He’ll have one more non-padded practice without live contact Friday to get acclimated. But then the pads come on Saturday, the live contact is allowed, and his audition to become the Saints’ No. 1 center begins in earnest.

More Stories