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saintswhodi 07-29-2005 08:44 AM

Everyone in camp except J. Brown

. Brown not in fold, but key vets show
Friday, July 29, 2005
By Mike Triplett
Staff writer
As expected, first-round draft choice Jammal Brown did not report to the Saints' training camp Thursday night, making Brown one of 26 first-rounders holding out for a better contract offer.

But the Saints still must figure they came out ahead on a day when everyone else showed up including tailback Deuce McAllister, who agreed to an eight-year contract just hours before an introductory meeting at the team's practice facility.

Cornerbacks Mike McKenzie and Fakhir Brown were there, too, along with center LeCharles Bentley three players who have been seeking new contracts this summer, allowing the unspoken threat of a training camp holdout to hover like a dark cloud.

The Saints even added a veteran on the eve of their first training camp practice, signing free-agent linebacker Ronald McKinnon, a 10-year veteran, to a one-year deal.

Jammal Brown's holdout is disappointing, but not unexpected.

In what is becoming an annual tradition, the Saints have opened camp without their top draft pick six consecutive years. Historically, the holdouts have lasted between two days and a week.

"Obviously, there's a number of first-round draft picks that aren't signed right now. But it will take care of itself," said Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, who said he is hopeful that Brown could show up as early as today, but he has no indications of when a deal will be completed.

Brown, a 6-foot-6, 313-pound offensive tackle from Oklahoma, was drafted 13th overall. Of the top 20 picks in this year's draft, only No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith has signed a contract.

But Loomis said the Saints are not relying on other deals to get done around the league before they sign Brown, who is penciled in as the team's starting right tackle. Rather, Loomis said, the team will work from its own parameters.

The Saints' senior football administrator, Russ Ball, has been working on Brown's contract with agent Ben Dogra, who also represents McAllister, in addition to three other first-round draft choices still seeking deals.

Brown's teammates are looking forward to his arrival. As a handful of them slowly filtered into the team's hotel Thursday afternoon, veteran offensive guard Kendyl Jacox said the sooner Brown arrives, the more cohesive the offensive line can become.

"Well, we're going to need him here sooner rather than later, if he's going to be at the right tackle position. He has a lot to pick up," Jacox said. "You can't force anybody to go ahead and get their contract done, but you just hope for the best."

Aside from Brown, the Saints will have a fully loaded and healthy squad when they hold their first practice at 3 p.m. today.

The only other player not expected to participate today is fourth-round draft pick Chase Lyman, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the team's first minicamp in May. Lyman also has not signed a contract, but the team is expected to get a deal done later in camp.

The Saints likely will continue discussions with McKenzie and Bentley on new deals, now that McAllister's contract has been completed.

Loomis said last week that there have been ongoing negotiations with McKenzie's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, but there have only been preliminary discussions with Bentley's agent, Peter Schaffer. Loomis said he does not plan to negotiate with Fakhir Brown, who skipped the team's offseason coaching sessions.

McKenzie has two years remaining on his contract, at $3.43 million this year and $4.1 million next year. But the Saints had discussed the possibility of a new contract when he was required in a trade with Green Bay last October.

Bentley is heading into the final season of his four-year contract and is scheduled to earn $455,000. His agent said that Bentley is open to a long-term extension, but he also is willing to explore free agency come March.

Fakhir Brown is entering the final year of a two-year, $1.3 million deal he signed in March 2004.

McKinnon spent his previous nine seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, starting 119 of 141 games at middle linebacker. He will add depth to a young linebacking corps that lost veteran backups Derrick Rodgers and Orlando Ruff this offseason.

SIGN GIVEAWAY: The Saints will hand out complimentary yard signs with the team's 2005 slogan, "FAITH," to fans that attend training camp practices this weekend. Saints season-ticket holders can also pick up the signs from the Superdome box office while supplies last.

Glad to see MM and Fakhir didn't stay out. Just read Hines Ward and Richard Seymour are prepared to sit the year without new deals. And Gravy Jackson is demanding a trade.

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