Haslett pleased with offseason program
Fans can get their first look at the 2005 Saints this weekend at the team's only full-squad minicamp.
The Saints will have two practices today and another Saturday at the team's training facility in Metairie. The public will be able to attend Friday's afternoon practice from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., and at Saturday's practice, from 10 a.m. to noon. Gates will open an hour before practice begins.
After Saturday, the team will break until training camp opens July 29.
Saints coach Jim Haslett said he has been pleased with his team's participation and performance in the offseason program. He canceled Saturday's scheduled afternoon practice as a reward.
"They've been awesome this year," Haslett said. "The attitude and work ethic is the best it's been since I've been here. They deserve it."
The Saints have been in practice mode for four weeks, going through 13 days of voluntary coaching sessions. Everyone on the team participated, except for starting right cornerback Fakhir Brown, who held out in hopes of a better contract.
Unlike the coaching sessions, this weekend's minicamp is mandatory, so Brown will be fined if he does not attend. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said he does not know if Brown planned to participate. Brown's agent, Ted Marchibroda Jr., did not return calls seeking comment.
This weekend's practices will resemble the Saints' regular-season practice format, Haslett said, and they will serve as a review for the team.
All 13 coaching sessions were used for installation of the entire playbook on offense and defense.
"We installed every single day, almost a season's worth of plans," defensive coordinator Rick Venturi said. "There's probably 45 blitzes. Now, would you use 45 blitzes in a game? No. And do we execute them perfectly yet? No. But when we get to play the Vikings or somebody this year, we would have at least already looked at that blitz.
"My whole thing is you paint the wall. You paint it broadly the first time. You keep painting it, more sticks and more sticks."
Venturi said the coaching sessions probably are the most difficult teaching sessions of the entire year, because of the volume of information and because of the different learning curves of each player.
For example, Venturi said, at the safety position, there's fifth-year Saint Jay Bellamy, first-year free agent Dwight Smith and rookie Josh Bullocks, among others.
This weekend, getting to look at everything for a second time, Venturi said he expects the Saints to pick up the tempo and improve their execution.
Offensive coordinator Mike Sheppard has had more teaching to do since the entire offense is learning new, abbreviated terminology that the coaches installed this winter.
Sheppard said everyone has been adjusting well, and for the past month, coaches have raved about the offense's rhythm and attitude.
"From our standpoint as coaches, these guys have busted their tails," said Sheppard, who was promoted from quarterbacks coach after last season. "I mean, it's been an unusual 13 days from an effort standpoint, focus, all those things you'd hope those players would be. These guys have had a great 13 days."
When asked to name one player who has stood out to him, Sheppard chose fifth-year tailback Deuce McAllister, whom the Saints hope to center their offense around this season.
"Just watching Deuce hit the hole has been pretty good," Sheppard said. "He's playing at a faster pace, I think."
Fans will notice one change on offense this weekend when they see quarterback Aaron Brooks wearing a wristband with a lengthy playlist printed on it. Sheppard radios in a play number to Brooks, and Brooks reads off the play in the huddle. That gets the offense to the line of scrimmage faster.
The Saints have been working with the wristband for a little more than a week but have not yet decided if they will use it during the season.
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Mike Triplett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (504) 826-3381.
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