'We'll play a lot of players. That won't become the new 'last' one' John DeShazier
The New Orleans Saints, like the other 31 NFL franchises, will have one less preseason game this season.
Traditionally, the third preseason game has been the one in which the starters played the most snaps and most closely replicated regular-season competition and for the Saints, that'll continue to be the case this season.
"We'll approach the third preseason game just like we have in the past," Coach Sean Payton said Tuesday, during his media availability following the first day of the team's three-day minicamp. "We'll play a lot of players. That won't become the new 'last' one, that'll still be the third one."
The last one routinely had been the game in which, mainly, players with long-shot chances to earn a roster spot are featured. However, a solid showing could solidify a practice squad spot or in some cases, garner the attention of another NFL team.
GET-TO-KNOW-YOU SESSIONS: It's been hard to miss social media posts featuring quarterback Jameis Winston having throwing sessions with teammates. That work has been critical for players the last two offseasons, considering the cancelation last year, and absence this year, of OTAs. "I've been able to work out with (receiver) Tre'Quan (Smith) - literally a lot of guys," Winston said. "I've worked out with (tight end) Adam Trautman, (tight end) Nick Vannet, (tight end) Juwan (Johnson), (running back) Ty Montgomery, (receiver) Marquez Calloway, (running back) Tony Jones - a handful of guys. It's always worth it.
"With every experience with anyone, you're going to learn something about them new, every single day. You learn how they move. How can you push them. Should you push them? Do you need to lay off them? Leadership is an ongoing thing and the more that I can understand the men that I'm around, the better that we'll be able to direct them and both get on the right path and be able to have the same goals, and that goal is to win football games."
NEW POSITION: Linebacker Zack Baun has been working at the "Will" linebacker position this offseason, rather than the "Sam," where he spent time as a rookie last year. "Obviously you're on the field a lot more if you're playing 'Will,' with the amount of nickel that teams are playing and that we're playing," Payton said. "He's someone that has picked things up. You came away from the season feeling real positive about what you started to see with a few of those guys, and he's one of them. We feel like we've got added depth there. We drafted a linebacker in Pete (Werner), we've got a number of players that we feel like can help us, and then can help us in the kicking game if they're not in a starting role."
PRESENT AND ACCOUNTED FOR: Payton said the Saints had 100 percent attendance the first day of the mandatory, three-day minicamp. The emphasis is less on on-field work than in the past.
"No. 1, the priority is the weight room and making sure guys are having the chance to get in the best shape that they need to be in," he said. "And then as the schedules progress, we've been able to really try to maximize their time with on-field individual fundamental work, and then also classroom work, kind of removing the team element for now away from it.
"The schedule has worked out well. I know we call this week 'minicamp' and there's certain things that involves, and yet, the schedule hasn't changed too much from what they were doing a week ago, or two weeks ago, or what they're doing this week."