Wednesday the New Orleans Saints capped off their West Virginia training camp experiment on a high note, with players and coaches heralding the three-week stay at the Greenbrier as a triumphant success.
Head coach Sean Payton predicts the team will return for more pre-seasons than the current contract calls for at the present time.
"It’s written for the next two years, but we’d like to be back here a lot longer than just that," Payton said. "The setup is outstanding with the ability the stay in an enclosed environment. The people here have been great. We started putting down notes as to changes for next year, and it’s less than a page. There isn’t a whole lot."
The team travels back to New Orleans Thursday. Friday night the Who Dat nation gets their first in-person look at this year’s team when the Saints take on the Tennessee Titans inside the Super Dome.
"I can’t wait to be back in the Dome," guard Ben Grubbs said.
Grubbs does not yet know if he’ll play Friday, due to a lower back injury. Wednesday marked the first time Grubbs participated with the first team in a goal line drill in quite some time. He describes his status as day-to-day.
"I was able to get a couple of periods in," Grubbs said. "Everything felt good enough for me to give it a go at practice today. I’m not 100 percent, but I’m working towards that and I’m confident I’ll get there."
Grubbs isn’t the only question mark for Friday’s game: quarterback Drew Brees and cornerback Champ Bailey are also considered day-to-day and may not see the field in the clash with the Titans.
Brees is battling an oblique injury and finally participated in individual passing drills Wednesday, much to the delight of those in West Virginia. Tuesday Bailey practiced for the first time in 2 weeks. Neither player will rush back to action, as the coaching staff is confident in their abilities and more concerned about health going into the regular season that reps in the pre-season.
Reflecting back on the team’s time at the Greenbrier, Grubbs is pleased with what he’s seen.
"I think we accomplished everything we set out to accomplish when we got here," Grubbs said. "The weather has been great. We’ve been able to focus on practicing out here rather than dreading the heat, so I think that the coaches have done a great job of getting us prepared every day to come to work and we’ve been enjoying it. It’s been a wonderful time. I’m going to hate to leave. I’m missing my family though, so I’m looking forward to getting back home. It’s been quite an experience."
Saturday, the Saints return to the practice field, and South Louisiana’s August humidity. That is an experience stiff fresh in Grubbs’ memory from last year, when the Saints spent the entire pre-season in Metairie.
"It’s going to be a transition and I’m not looking forward to it," Grubbs said. "But I understand we’re going to go back and work just like any other year."