Saints’ late practice helps full team take field

Lance Moore figures he has some catching up to do, even if at

times it seemed defenders were having trouble catching up to

him.

Moore was among 28 players practicing with the New Orleans

Saints on Thursday night for the first time since training camp

began a week ago.

”We are a little bit behind, but we will catch up,” Moore

said. ”There’s plenty of time.”

Moore made several catches in his first practice against the

Saints’ first-team defense, including one over-the-shoulder snag of

a long Drew Brees pass down the right sideline. Meanwhile, newly

acquired running back Darren Sproles seemed to have little trouble

turning short catches out of the backfield into long gains in his

Saints practice debut.

”It was just great to have the full squad out here today,”

Brees said. ”We got great work done. It was fun to see guys like

Lance back. … We’ve got some exciting players.”

Other players practicing for the first time in this camp

included two-time Pro Bowl safety Roman Harper, newly acquired

defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin, starting left tackle Jermon

Bushrod, starting guard Carl Nicks, tight end David Thomas,

defensive end Turk McBride and linebacker Scott Shanle.

None of them would have been able to suit up if not for a

schedule change Wednesday evening, when head coach Sean Payton

decided to move practices that had been originally scheduled for

the morning to evenings for the rest of the week.

That allowed Thursday’s practice to start after the NFL’s new

labor agreement had been ratified.

Harper said he was notified he would be able to practice less

than two hours before players took the field.

”I had to go get strapped up and get mentally ready,” Harper

said. ”I started off a little slow, but overall, at the end of the

day, I felt really good.”

The Saints also had to make some cuts to keep their training

camp roster at 90. Five of the players released were rookie free

agents and one was running back Lynell Hamilton, who had been with

the club since 2008 but missed last season because of torn right

knee ligaments.

Payton said cutting Hamilton was a decision he struggled with

and speaks more to the Saints’ depth at the position than

Hamilton’s health.

”That was probably one of the most difficult decisions of

waiving a player that I’ve gone through. He’s done so much to stay

here and get healthy. His work ethic is amazing,” Payton said.

”He’ll have a good shot at possibly signing on with another

team.”

Thursday night’s practice also marked the first time players

competed in full pads. There was no tackling, but some hitting was

unavoidable and Pierre Thomas came up limping after one carry

during which he burst through a cluster of defenders. Thomas, who

missed 10 games last season with a left ankle injury, was favoring

his left leg again, but called it a minor ”tweak” and said he

would be fine.

Franklin, meanwhile, said he expects to be a good fit in New

Orleans even if he does not start. He said he chose New Orleans as

a free agent because he expects to see plenty of playing time and

expects the Saints to contend for a title.

”I’m here with guys who have won a Super Bowl and have all the

talent to do it again,” Franklin said. ”Drew Brees is a great

quarterback, great offense, and the defense is good. I just felt

like I could come here and contribute this year.”

Franklin will be rotating with Sedrick Ellis and another new

lineman, Shaun Rogers.

”With the tandem that we have, all of us bring something to the

table,” Franklin said. ”If we all go out there and go hard, we

can be one of the most dominant defensive lines in this

league.”

There remains one question on the offensive line, however, after

former starting center Jonathan Goodwin signed a free-agent deal

with San Francisco on Wednesday night.

Second-year pro Matt Tenant is now the first-team center,

although that could change if the Saints decide to bring in another

veteran.

Brees said Tennant has done well in camp and has come a long way

since he arrived in New Orleans as a 2010 fifth-round draft pick.

Payton, however, cautioned that it can be challenging for a young

center to get comfortable helping the quarterback call out blocking

assignments at the line of scrimmage.

”In the passing game … there’s a lot of communication that

takes place between Drew (and) the center that’s echoed out to the

guards and tackles,” Payton said.

The Saints will have had only seven practices as a full squad

before they play their first preseason game against San Francisco

on Aug. 12. Payton said his staff will take a methodical approach

to installing their schemes nonetheless, meaning they may have done

very little work on goal-line offense, for example, by the time

they host the 49ers.

”I don’t want to be in a rush to have everything in,” Payton

said. ”The mistake would be if we tried to get everything in

quickly instead of trying to make it right.”

Notes: The five players cut beside Hamilton were: TE Harry

Flaherty, T Mike Smith, T Coy Beilby, QB Ryan Colburn and RB C.J.

Gable. … The Saints also signed former Chicago and Arizona

cornerback Trumaine McBride. … Missing practice because of

injuries were CB Tracy Porter (knee), RB Chris Ivory (foot), DE

Greg Romeus (knee), LT Charles Brown (hamstring), WR Michael

Galatas (knee) and LB Ezra Butler (hamstring).