The New Orleans Saints brought down the curtains on their 2014 offseason Thursday, as the team's final round of organized team activities came to an end. Having previously held two three-day OTA sessions along with a mandatory minicamp last week, the Saints have made good use of their offseason program with an eye on another postseason run in 2014.
The Saints will break for the next few weeks, reuniting on July 24 for the start of training camp in West Virginia. With practice having come to an end Thursday afternoon, here are some updates from the team's last week of offseason workouts:
Some of the notable absences on the final day of OTAs included Pierre Thomas, Jahri Evans, Ben Grubbs, Josh Hill and Brandon Deaderick.
Coach Sean Payton seemed unconcerned when queried on the whereabouts of the non-participants, saying there was "nothing earth-shattering" to report in regards to their absences. Payton noted the workouts were voluntary, but also hinted that some of the missing players had previous committments.
Jairus Byrd and Joe Morgan remained out of practice, but will be ready to roll come training camp. John Jenkins also continues to close in on his recovery from minor offseason surgery on a pectoral injury.
As expected, Jimmy Graham remains away from the team as his grievance hearing wrapped up yesterday.
Tuesday was a nice change-of-pace for the Saints' players, as they took part in their annual Paintball competition. Players split into two seperate squads and took to the paintball field in an ironic attempt to build team bonding by firing little balls of paint at one another.
Coach Sean Payton has been known to integrate such activities in his offseason plans. The team has taken time away from training camp to attend water parks in the past, and Payton knows the players appreciate occasionally stepping back from the offseason grind, keeping themselves fresh with a long season ahead of them.
No Saints were injured in battle.
Cooks On Campus
Brandin Cooks, the team's first round draft pick, was present for the final round of OTAs this week. It was Cooks' first time back at the team facility since rookie minicamp in mid-May. Brandin Cooks catches a ball in camp.
Due to league and NCAA rules, Cooks was unable to participate in most offseason workouts while his school, Oregon State, remained in session into mid-June. Payton said Cooks was "doing well," soaking up the large amount of information the team was giving him in an attempt to get him caught up ahead of training camp.
Payton also touched on Cooks' speed and versatility, noting those attributes could see him involved on screens and reverses. It is likely that the Saints' coach will look to involve his new toy on designed plays similar to those drawn up for the likes of Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles in recent seasons.
Speaking to USA Today earlier this week, Quarterback Drew Brees was brimming with confidence when discussing the Saints' chances at success for the upcoming season.
“We have as good a chance as anybody,” Brees said. “We still have a lot of work to do. But ... why not the New Orleans Saints? Tell me why we can’t win the championship.” Drew Brees loves his team's chances in 2014.
Brees also reiterated his desire to carry on playing as long as possible, having recently stated a want to play into his 40s.
“As long as I’m healthy and playing at a high level and having fun, then I’m going to play as long as I can, and there will be plenty of time for other stuff.”
Graham Decision Soon
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport hears that a decision on Jimmy Graham's case should be reached in the next 5-7 days. Graham remains hopeful that arbitratior Stephen Burbank, who has ruled against the Saints in the past, will side with him in his attempt to have his franchise tag switched from tight end to receiver.
Meanwhile, the team is confident that their designation of Graham's position will remain intact. Per the Saints, Graham lines up at tight end, attends position meetings in the tight end room, and even lists himself as a tight end on his twitter page.
It seems an announcement should be made early next week. Whatever the outcome, both sides would still like to agree on a long-term deal, which could ease any immediate salary cap issues that would arise if Graham were to emerge victorious.
The Saints have already factored Graham into their cap structure for the upcoming season at the tight end franchise tag price of just over $7 million. Should Graham win, that price tag will shoot up to over $12 million.
No More Pencils, No More Books
No more teacher's dirty looks. Saints players will report to West Virginia on July 24 for the opening of training camp at the Greenbriar Resort in White Sulphur Springs, WV. Until then, let's hope for a nice, quiet month ahead, the only exception being a positive outcome for both sides in the Jimmy Graham case.