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tiggerpolice 06-13-2005 08:51 AM

Saints cornerback Fakhir Brown, unhappy with his current contract, reported to minicamp Friday after missing 14 sessions. He remains optimistic a new deal can be reached with the team. Brown has to work way up depth chart
Saturday, June 11, 2005
By Jeff Duncan
Staff writer
Cornerback Fakhir Brown ended his contract holdout Friday and reported for the first day of mandatory minicamp workouts.

Brown was present, but he wasn't a participant. The six-year veteran spent most of Friday's two practices as an observer, while teammates Jason Craft and Fred Thomas alternated reps at his starting right cornerback spot.

"I planned on being here all along," said Brown, who skipped all 14 coaching-session practices from May 16 to June 8. "This is mandatory. This is where I want to be, and this is where I want to play. Hopefully, something gets done."

Brown is entering the final year of a two-year, $1.3 million deal he signed in March 2004. He is scheduled to earn a base salary of $540,000 this season, the minimum for veterans with four to six years of experience.

Brown's salary is the lowest of the Saints' top four cornerbacks. Starter Mike McKenzie is scheduled to earn $3.43 million in 2005. Reserves Fred Thomas and Jason Craft will earn $2.15 million and $750,000.

"It's not that I'm unhappy, it's just that I feel like it's time for me to get another deal," Brown said. "Hopefully something will work out. . . . Obviously, if you're a starter, (you) want to be paid like a starter."

Brown said the decision to skip the voluntary coaching sessions was his idea and not agent Ted Marchibroda Jr.'s. Brown, a former Grambling State standout, said he plans to attend training camp, which opens July 29.

"I don't regret anything I did," Brown said. "I wanted a new deal. I talked to (Saints) coach (Jim) Haslett about it. He thinks I need to be here, and I respect that. But I've got to take care of business."

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said repeatedly he would not negotiate with a player that was holding out of team activities. Loomis was not available to the media Friday.

"We haven't even talked about anything," Brown said. "It's kind of up for grabs right now. I'm not really worried about that right now."

When told about Loomis' stance, Brown said, "I didn't even know they said that. I'm just here for the mandatory camp and glad to be back."

Haslett said it was good to see his starting cornerback back on the field.

"I'm glad he's here," Haslett said. "It's good for him and good for his career. He made the right move."

That said, Brown has fallen behind Craft and Thomas for the starting spot opposite McKenzie.

"It's still open," Haslett said. "He knows he has to battle for it. Jason Craft and Fred Thomas have done a nice job. He (Brown) won it fair and square last year and played for us. We'll see how it goes."

Brown, 27, started the final 10 games last season. Along with fellow new starters McKenzie, Colby Bockwoldt and Courtney Watson, Brown was partly responsible for the vast improvement of the defense down the stretch. Brown finished with 54 tackles, two interceptions and 10 pass breakups.

"I know the starting job isn't mine any more," Brown said. "Just because I wasn't here doesn't mean the Saints don't go on. It's a tough decision that I made. I already knew I was going to have to work my way back up

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