Kristian's Quick Hits: 'Best Saints team' puts a wrap on the offseason?
Best Saints Team?: We are officially into the summer now! The Saints wrapped up their final organized team activity this week as they look ahead to training camp next month.
"We're not only excited about what took place and happened in the OTAs, we're really, really looking forward to getting to training camp. This might be the most talented football team that we have had since we've been here," Assistant Head Coach Joe Vitt stated. "Now the mandate is going to be to put this thing together and move forward."
That's saying a lot considering the Saints have won 41 games the past three seasons gone to two NFL Championships and won a Super Bowl.
Payton spirit still there: I know Sean Payton is alive and well, but it's almost like you can still feel him at Saints camp. At least his signature is still all over the place. The practices look the same as if he were out there. "I think Sean (Payton) would be very, very proud with this coaching staff. I think Sean would be very, very proud of the job the support staff has done from the trainers to equipment men to the cinematographers. When Sean left here there was one mandate - do your job. And these guys have definitely done their job."
Hard Work: Vitt has been pleased with the offseason workouts. "I think as we talk about the end of our OTA's now, the intent of our players has been outstanding. We've got a lot of stuff done. We've got our first and second down package in with all personnel groupings. We've got the third down package in with all down on distances, which is something that we missed last year due to the lack of OTA's," Vitt explained.
Vitt says the team accomplished a lot during the 6 week off-season program. "We got into the red zone, into the tight red zone where we worked exclusively the past three days. We've got our short yardage packed in, we've got our 22 personnel package in that we use in the middle of the field and today we got to the goal line. When you take a look at everything that we have gotten in during these OTAs, it's been outstanding. The teaching has been great. Our coaches have done an outstanding job at evaluating the personnel that we have on our team, what's their strength, what are their weaknesses. We've got our training camp schedule really finished now, just knowing the players that we have and what we've got to work on. It's been outstanding."
Bad luck: There is bad luck, and there is just downright awful luck. Second year defensive end Greg Romeus has the later. Romeus tore his ACL and MCL ligaments in his knee "running in practice earlier in the week," according to Vitt. The second year man out of Pittsburgh had what amounted to a "red-shirt" rookie season. He was on the non-football injury list the entire year after sustaining a knee injury in college. The Saints selected him in the 7th round despite the injury concern. "This kid has really worked hard. The whole team and the whole coaching staff feels bad for him, but this is part of the game. This kid has put in the time, the effort, and he's got to go through the whole process again. But we're going to be there for him and support him," Vitt said.
Romeus is expected to miss the next 6 to 8 months. New defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo had high praise for him early in the offseason. The injury and looming four game Will Smith suspension leave the Saints dangerously thin at defensive end, a position that is the centerpiece to Spagg's scheme.
Back up to the Back up: It's been Chase Daniel leading the Saints offense in the absence of Drew Brees. Daniel missed the final practice after banging his thumb of his throwing hand on a helmet earlier this week. Daniel talked about the injury after practice, "The way I see it is that it's a lot more of a sprain than a hairline fracture. When we saw the x-rays, there was a little bitty line right there, but literally it feels like a jammed thumb right now. The swelling has come down a lot. It's getting better already, and that's a good thing." Daniel is expected to heal in about 2 weeks and will be ready to come for training camp.
Vilma: The Saints will pretty much be all hands on deck for training camp on July 26th, except for Romeus and middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who's still recovering from offseason knee surgery. Vitt said how soon he will be ready for action is tough to predict. "I think he's made as big of strides in the last three weeks where he's to the point now where he can do some jogging. I think that's all positive, and I know he feels good about where he is. With Vilma, you have to keep the reins on him because if there's a game tomorrow, he wants to play in it. If there's a game in the parking lot, he wants to play in it. We have to be smart with him, but he's made great strides. I'm not sure that I can accurately give you a timetable on him, but he's getting better." Vilma also is waiting on an appeal of his season long suspension for involvement in the team's alleged bounty program.
Tee it up: The Saints will have a team building exercise today on the golf course. They'll play a "scramble" and have a driving contest. Safety Roman Harper said Wednesday that he is confident in his game, "If I hit it down hill and get a good bounce I'm going to be good. I can get it about 315 (yards). Tomorrow's going to be my time to shine, I am looking forward to it."