Saints returning to normalcy, but not all the way there

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Sean Payton at 2021 SHOF Golf Classic
(Photo: Parker Waters)

KENNER – Things are getting back to normal for the Saints.

But they aren’t all the way there.

The Saints Hall of Fame golf tournament returned Monday morning at Chateau Golf & Country Club after being canceled last year because of COVID-19 (See photos from the event here).

Before teeing off, executive vice president/general manager Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton stood in front of a Saints banner for a traditional in-person news conference for the first time since pre-COVID days.

But players were not allowed to participate as they usually do because of NFL restrictions, though numerous alumni including Jahri Evans and Roman Harper, who will be inducted into the Saints Hall of Fame during the 2021 season, did participate.

The tournament coincided with the Saints off-season program, as it usually does, but that hasn’t returned to pre-COVID form either.

“Last year was different,” Payton said of the long-distance, virtual off-season program in 2020. “This year they’re back in the building. It’s a little bit like we’re used to and the guys are doing well, the guys are working hard. This rookie class has done a really good job.

“I think it’s moved in a direction where we’re spending a lot more time with them in the weight room, running, conditioning. I’m a fan of that and we’re going to continue that pattern really all the way before the (pre-training camp) break (beginning June 18).”

NFL teams are allowed one mandatory mini-camp to conclude the off-season program, but Payton said the Saints won’t have a traditional mini-camp, which would have featured three days of practices.

“We’re not going to have a formal practice setup,” Payton said. “We’ll stay with the pattern we’re on right now.

“I really want them focusing more on the weights – not just the rookies, all those guys – working on getting their body weights where they’re supposed to be, getting the conditioning level where it’s supposed to be – all those things that can help them when training camp starts (in late July).”

Payton said he’s “not concerned” about nine players skipping the voluntary part of the off-season program. The Saints have 85 players, including six draft choices, on their roster.

“Most of the time our (off-season) emphasis is on strength and conditioning and that’s what we’re doing now,” Loomis said. “It’s good to have the guys in there and we have a good group.”

The Saints would like to add to that group, but Loomis acknowledged that they would have to make one or more moves to create room under the salary cap for any additions.

“It’s tight,” he said.

Loomis wouldn’t comment on specific contract talks, saying “We’ve got some talks in progress with some guys,” but the Saints would like to get long-term deals done with safety Marcus Williams, cornerback Marshon Lattimore and tackle Ryan Ramczyk.

The GM was asked specifically about adding a veteran cornerback after the Saints released starter Janoris Jenkins, though they did draft a corner in third-rounder Paulson Adebo.

“I think it’s like every year – if we find someone that can help us we’re going to take a hard look at it,” Loomis said. “You’ve always got places where you want to improve.

“I like the group (of cornerbacks) that we’ve got, but if we can find a way to improve in that area then we’re going to do it. We feel good about our team in general.”

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Les East

CCS/106.1 FM/Daily Iberian

Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. The New Orleans area native’s blog on SportsNOLA.com was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists. He has since become a valued contributor for CCS. The Jesuit High…

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