Saints running back Deuce McAllister hinted last month that he might hold out of training camp if contract negotiations with the team don't progress like he would like this summer, but he has softened that stance.
McAllister, who has one year remaining on the rookie contract he signed in 2001, still would like to have a new contract worked out by the time he and his teammates report to training camp on July 28.
But the two-time Pro Bowl selection isn't talking about holding out. If the deal isn't worked out, he said he plans to cut the negotiations off until after the regular season is completed.
McAllister is scheduled to earn a base salary of $2.3 million this season. He signed a five-year contract in August 2001, but has already voided the final year of the deal through various playing time and performance thresholds.
Saints officials are negotiating with McAllister's agent, Ben Dogra, on a long-term contract extension, and the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that the two sides have already exchanged proposals on seven- and eight-year deals.
But one thing is certain: McAllister doesn't want the contract to be a distraction for him or his teammates.
"We'll get it done," said McAllister, who's rushed for 4,103 yards and 30 TDs in the three seasons since becoming the Saints' featured back. "My main focus is on the season right now. I'll leave the contract up to my agent."
McAllister will likely land a deal that's similar to the one Clinton Portis received from the Washington Redskins a year ago. Portis signed an eight-year, $50.5 million deal with $13 million guaranteed in the first year.
When asked if he wanted "Clinton Portis money," McAllister laughed.
"I want Deuce McAllister money," he said. "We'll see how everything works out. I'm not worried about it."
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€ÂThe Saints thought they failed to land another veteran wide receiver for the second time in the last month when Az-Zahir Hakim chose to sign with the Kansas City Chiefs last week. But on the eve of the July 17 three-day minicamp, Vermeil was stunned to learn that Hakim had second thoughts and would be joining the New Orleans Saints instead.
"Az and his agent felt the best situation for him was not here," Vermeil said. "He and I discussed it. As I said all along, I wanted what is best for him, so it looks like he'll end up in New Orleans.
"Yeah, I'm a little disappointed, but I understand. It's the nature of this game right now. You can't always do everything you want."
The Saints lost out on New England Patriots wide receiver Troy Brown after offering Brown $300,000 more than the $800,000 he got for re-signing with the Patriots. Brown decided to stay put because of family concerns and his familiarity with New England's system ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â not to mention that he has won three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€ÂAlmost three of every four Louisiana voters oppose giving tax dollars to keep the Saints, according to a poll compiled for a state legislator. An annual subsidy of $15 million from the 10-year, $186 million deal the team received in 2001 is due to be paid by the state on July 5.
Florida-based Market Research Insight conducted the statewide telephone poll of 350 voters in late April for Sen. James David Cain. The question: "Do you favor or oppose the use of tax dollars to keep the New Orleans Saints in Louisiana?"
Some 62 percent were strongly opposed to using tax dollars, 7 percent were somewhat opposed, 8 percent were undecided, 9 percent were somewhat in favor and 14 percent strongly were in favor. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
When the undecided voters were taken out, 67 percent strongly opposed using tax dollars to keep the team, 8 percent were somewhat opposed, 10 percent were somewhat in favor and 15 percent were strongly in favor.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He just has charisma. He's got a football character to him. He's confident. He walks around with no fear. There's something about him that really grows on you. I think the players see it right away."ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â€Â Saints defensive coordinator Rick Venturi on what new free safety Dwight Smith brings to the team.
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