Locked out Saints working out together

Drew Brees was back in the heart of a huddle, albeit an unusual

one in an uncertain time.

Gathered around New Orleans’ star quarterback were not just

offensive players, but defenders and specialists. There were

players currently under contract with the Saints and some who are

not.

Brees secured access to Tulane’s facilities and called on

teammates to join him for the workouts. Nearly 40 of them did on

Tuesday, taking cues from one of the few leaders they have while

the NFL lockout prevents them from training on team property or

contacting coaches.

”We would all be working out somewhere anyway, so why not do it

together and why not do it in an organized fashion where it’s very

football-related,” Brees said. ”It’s preparing us to have a

championship season, and I feel like it’s putting us way ahead of

other teams around the league, just by the fact that we’re so

organized.”

Normally, May and June are months for organized offseason

workouts and minicamps, all of which will be canceled if the

lockout lingers into midsummer. So players on a number of teams

around the league have begun to gather in some form.

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez invited teammates to join

him in California for what he’s calling the Jets West Camp. Broncos

safety Brian Dawkins has organized some workouts with about a dozen

teammates in the Denver area. Cleveland quarterback Colt McCoy

hosted some Browns teammates for workouts in Austin, Texas.

More than a dozen Miami Dolphins, including quarterback Chad

Henne and have been working out together regularly on a soccer

field near the team complex. The group includes Chad Henne and

offensive tackle Jake Long.

Falcons linebacker Coy Wire and right tackle Tyson Clabo have

organized workouts that about 30 teammates have attended in

Cumming, Ga.

After Saints players broke their huddle with Brees, they divided

into groups and started conditioning and agility drills. Most wore

shorts and T-shirts. None wore helmets.

Brees said work on formations and plays – even film study – may

come later, depending on how long the lockout lasts, but there will

be ”absolutely no contact.” He added that about three workouts

per week are planned for May and parts of June, mimicking what the

Saints would normally do in the months leading up to training

camp.

Left tackle Jermon Bushrod, fullback Heath Evans and safeties

Roman Harper and Darren Sharper were among those who showed up

despite not having contracts nailed down for next season.

Bushrod said he saw the workouts as an opportunity to ”get back

to where I need to be to be successful, and that’s pretty much how

everybody looks at it, whether your contract situation is a little

hazy or not.”

Still, some key players whose contracts are in limbo, such as

receiver Lance Moore, did not show, but Brees didn’t begrudge their

absences.

”I don’t blame them if they’re not here just because the risk

with all this is we have no injury protection,” Brees said, noting

that if players have a season-ending injury, teams would not have

to put them on injured reserve and continue to pay them as they

otherwise would.

Brees negotiated the use of the Green Wave’s facilities with

Tulane Athletic Director Rick Dickson, who said he was eager to

reciprocate for help the Saints have given the university in the

past.

While Brees is not representing the Saints in an official

capacity, Dickson spoke with general manager Mickey Loomis about

Brees’ plan. Because of the lockout, Loomis was not in a position

to advocate for or against the unofficial workouts. However,

Dickson noted, ”We also know each other well enough that I would

have gotten the sense if this was something he didn’t want to see

happen.”

The Saints have at times offered use of their indoor field to

Tulane. Loomis also made a locker room available to the Green Wave

baseball team after Hurricane Katrina, when the squad had to

practice and play at a minor league stadium next door to Saints

headquarters.

Dickson said Tulane is charging Saints players only ”minimal”

costs for having university personnel, such as strength and

conditioning coaches, help with the workouts.

In addition, Brees’ longtime personal trainer, Todd Durkin,

volunteered to oversee much of the conditioning.

Players also worked out deals with the Tulane Institute of

Sports Medicine to treat injuries, Dickson said.

Brees, who has earned about $50 million in his past five

seasons, plus endorsements, said he is covering a number of the

costs himself, but did not specify an amount.

”It’s worth it,” Brees said, adding that some younger, less

established players would struggle to afford lodging and insurance

costs of about $1,000 per month that are normally covered by teams,

while at the same time going without workout payments they’d

normally receive.

Meanwhile, players took care of a number of mundane tasks

normally performed by team staff, such as retrieving their own

water or sports drinks. Brees walked out of the Tulane locker room

carrying bags of sports drinks and joked that his wife, Brittany,

was the ”team mom.”

Right tackle Jon Stinchcomb said players were grateful to be

working together again and weren’t about to lament any lack of

amenities.

”It just shows that a lot of the extras are fluff,” Stinchcomb

said. ”It’s a little bit of a return to the foundation of what you

need to get work done, but I think this is what this group’s

about.”

AP sports writers Anrie Stapleton and Steven Wine contributed to

this report.