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SmashMouth 08-08-2010 03:25 PM

Super Bowl champion Saints say smooth camp isn't an accident
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METAIRIE, La. -- The defending champion New Orleans Saints have opened training camp with the look of a team that has it all figured out.

All rookie contracts were signed by the first day of practice. No one is holding out for more money. Everybody reported without any significant, season-threatening injuries. No healthy players have been barred from practice because they couldn't pass a conditioning test.

There have been no fisticuffs. The main off-the-field drama -- Reggie Bush's role in an NCAA report that produced sanctions for USC -- largely played out before camp opened, won't affect the running back's NFL career and doesn't appear to have hurt his local popularity. There hasn't been much drama on the field, either.

Are the Saints trying to be boring?

"We are," quarterback Drew Brees said. "We're just trying to take care of business, let everybody speculate and talk, and come out ready to play Week 1."

The headline-grabbing plot twists of the 2010 NFL preseason seem to be developing anywhere but the Big Easy. There has been New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis' contract holdout. Brett Favre has kept the Minnesota Vikings guessing about their quarterback situation. Washington Redskins defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth struggled more than a week to finally pass his conditioning test.

The Saints haven't had such distractions.

"Most championship teams don't have those issues, especially the ones that are really serious about trying to collect multiple Lombardis," fullback Heath Evans said, referring to the Lombardi Trophy given to Super Bowl champions. "That's kind of what we set our focus on, and I think the guys have followed (coach Sean Payton's) lead and Drew's lead and said, 'Hey, listen, let's cut the nonsense out.'"

At Saints headquarters in suburban New Orleans, one of the primary sources of suspense concerns who will hold for kicker Garrett Hartley on field goals. Pardon the masses of adoring fans packing open practices if they're not holding their breath to see how that ends.

"This is one of those teams where you can probably say you've got 50 guys you know are going to make this team and maybe there's three spots where you're going to have some battles," Evans said.

The Saints have all starters back from last season's offense. Only two starters from the defense -- linebacker Scott Fujita and defensive end Charles Grant -- are elsewhere, and deciding how to fill those spots is perhaps the most compelling storyline of camp. Punter Thomas Morstead is entrenched, as is Hartley at kicker.'s training camp tour
July 27
Cowboys: Romo striving to be elite QB
July 30
Packers: Super Bowl is within reach
Aug. 1
Patriots: Influx of youth gives team new feel
Texans: Hoping to play deep in January
Vikings: Bringing 'now or never' attitude
Aug. 2
Chargers: Going about business minus stars
Saints: Focus is on title run, not hangover
Aug. 3
49ers: Smith needs to play like a No. 1 pick
Giants: Ready to rebound after '09 collapse
Aug. 4
Broncos: There's a fact lost in Tebowmania
Aug. 5
Bills: Gailey instilling the right mindset
Raiders: Change the team can believe in
Aug. 6
Seahawks: Many questions left unanswered
Browns: Holmgren changing team's culture
Aug. 7
Steelers: Still a threat without Roethlisberger
Bears: Returning to a defensive state of mind
During training camp a year ago, Hartley faced a suspension stemming from his positive drug test for Adderall, an amphetamine banned by the NFL. The Saints were forced to sign kicker John Carney to fill in for him.

Now Hartley is a playoff star with no competition. As for Morstead, the only change for him is that he has become one of the candidates to take over for former backup quarterback Mark Brunell as the holder on field goals.

Meanwhile, a good bit of the Saints' roster stability stems from choices made by several restricted free agents who were unhappy with their one-year tender offers but after minimal deliberation went ahead and signed them and kept practicing. Running back Pierre Thomas, wide receiver Lance Moore and strong safety Roman Harper all want more lucrative, multiyear deals, but they're all back and keeping quiet about contract talks.

"We're a special team, and a lot of people are seeing a lot of greatness in us," Thomas said. "Just with the character of these guys, they have the mindset and the determination to be champions, and when you have that as a group, have that as a team, you're more focused. You don't have guys who want to do the holdout. You got guys who want to get better. You got guys who want to step up to a challenge and just try to defend our title."

Of course, preseason games have yet to begin, and Payton wasn't taking the Saints' general good health for granted.

"I think, knock on wood, that we have been healthier than in camps past," the coach said. "We still have three weeks. Overall, I have been pleased with that. Guys have been getting the work."

Notes: The Saints had Sunday off. They're scheduled to travel to Washington, D.C., on Monday to meet President Barack Obama at the White House and to visit wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Medical Center. ... After meeting the president, the Saints will continue north to New England, where they and the Patriots will hold joint practices before they meet in a preseason game Thursday.

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Rugby Saint II 08-08-2010 04:57 PM

Re: Super Bowl champion Saints say smooth camp isn't an accident
Smooth sailing so far. Now on to preseason.

neugey 08-08-2010 07:55 PM

Re: Super Bowl champion Saints say smooth camp isn't an accident
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