**NOTE: Thursday's Saints practice has been moved inside and will be closed to the public.**
Mandeville Packed: The Saints held a night practice at Mandeville High School, and it was a standing room only crowd. The players seemed to enjoy the interaction with the fans on hand and even admitted to having some flash backs to their high school football days. Coach Payton and the players felt like it was one of their better practices since coming back from West Virginia.
Byrd soaring, Champ making progress: Saints S Jairus Byrd returned to full contact in practice yesterday, and today really made some plays. In 7 on 7 drills, Byrd snared a one-handed interception off Drew Brees “There might not be another safety in the league that can do that. He was diving to the ground and grabbed it with one hand,” said the Cajun Cannon Bobby Hebert. Coach Payton said after practice they plan to play Byrd this Saturday night against the Colts. Cornerback Champ Bailey took part in team drills for the first time in nearly three weeks - the reps were limited, but still, an encouraging sign. Keenan Lewis also took part in team drills on a limited number of snaps. Cornerback Patrick Robinson also participated in practice today, but only during individual drills.
Observations: Rookie OT Tavon Rooks might turn out to be another solid find in the late rounds for the Saints. Watching him practice, he just looks smooth and is clearly not in over his head. At times, Rooks every bit like he can be starter in a few years, certainly a backup this season or next. WR Brandin Cooks missed practice again today - that must have been on heck of a stomach virus. Cooks has missed three days from what Payton described as a stomach bug earlier in the week. Payton didn’t address the absence after practice.
Deeper practice squad: The NFL made it official, increasing the number of practice squad players from 8 to 10 starting this season. That’s 64 more jobs for players, that ordinarily wouldn’t have one. The most likely beneficiaries from this increase are defensive lineman and defensive backs. Teams are constantly looking for depth at both position groups. With that said, that gives the Saints the flexibility to carry 5 safeties on the active roster and 1 on the practice squad. Right now, Pierre Warren (Jacksonville State) seems likely to land on the practice squad.