Saints coaches begin life without Sean Payton
METAIRIE, La. (AP)
The Saints' revamped coaching staff said Monday that they are going to have to get use to the huge void left by Sean Payton's suspension for his role in the team's bounty system. They also might have to get use to life without Drew Brees.
Interim coach Joe Vitt and the rest of the coaching staff met with reporters Monday following the team's rookie minicamp, during which 64 newcomers practiced five times from Friday to Sunday.
''Since I've been here, as soon as we got off the practice field, Sean and I would go right to a meeting and talk about what we wanted to do differently in the afternoon,'' Vitt said. ''I didn't have that this year. We also would do a lot of communicating on the practice field. What do you think of this? What do you think of that? That was a huge void right from the get-go and something we're going to have to get used to.''
Then there's Brees, who remains unsigned after the Saints put the franchise tag on him in March. The last day he can sign a long-term contract with the team is July 16, and an agreement is unlikely before the team's first full-squad offseason practice next Tuesday.
''They will get this worked out,'' offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael said. ''We can't spend any time worrying about it. We just have to move forward.''
After having no first- or second-round draft pick this year, the Saints did not have a marquee player at the rookie camp. Their top third-round selection, defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, was limited by the new collective bargaining agreement prohibiting pads in offseason workouts.
Hicks is a raw talent who played two years at Sacramento City Junior College and two years in Canada.
''He had had a lot of energy and did not get overwhelmed with the volume (of concepts),'' defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. ''But it's very difficult to get a good feel for a lineman when you don't have pads on.''
The coaches got a better read on fourth-round wide receiver Nick Toon, the son of former New York Jets receiver Al Toon. With the departure of free agent wideout Robert Meachem, Toon has an opportunity to make an impact.
''He knows the business from his dad, and you could tell about his maturity,'' Carmichael said. ''We were able to put him at a couple of different positions. He ran his routes real well and showed great hands. He's a guy we feel real good about after this rookie camp.''
The coaches were happy to get back on the field for the first time since a last-second playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
''I don't know that we've got that taste out of our mouth yet,'' Vitt said. ''It was heartbreaking. We've talked about it a lot, and the offseason conditioning program to this point has been phenomenal.''
NOTES: The Saints waived five players Monday and added four to the roster. Gone are tackle Dan Hoch, guard Nick Howell, linebacker Stephen Johnson, offensive tackle Phil Trautwein and cornerback Josh Victorian. The new players, who all participated in the minicamp, are offensive tackle Hutch Eckerson, cornerback Nick Hixson, guard DeOn'tae Pannell and linebacker Lawrence Wilson.