It took a little over a week of press conference appearances, and eight official practices, but Sean Payton finally got testy with the media this morning.
The New Orleans Saints Training Camp has been fairly docile, almost serene in fact, during the past week at the picturesque and weather-friendly Greenbrier. Yes, last Sunday the coaches were certainly fired up at several players missing assignments, most notably wide receiver Seantavius Jones. And those deemed at fault were usually given a big earful of coaching 'encouragement.' However, that vitriol was usually limited to the practice field. Not today.
Anyone who's ever been around a Saints press conference on a regular basis, surely knows that Coach Payton has very little tolerance for what he considers stupid questions. And in his mind, any question a reporter may have regarding an injury before the regular season begins, is just that...stupid.
The Saints held their first scrimmage today and Drew Brees looked like....well, Drew Brees. The record setting quarterback led two touchdown drives, completing 8 of 10 pass attempts, including a touchdown to his old reliable friend and 10-year teammate, Marques Colston.
The first drive of the day, which Brees was a blistering 6 for 7 passing, featured a couple nice receptions by veteran tight end Benjamin Watson followed by the Colston touchdown. And other than an incredible grab down the sideline by undrafted rookie hopeful R.J. Harris on Brees' 2nd (& final) drive, the day was pretty much bereft of any 'wow factor' plays.
The real excitement occurred under the tent where the media gathered around Payton for his daily post-practice presser. Three very notable names, C.J. Spiller, Akiem Hicks and Tim Lelito, were all noticeably absent from the scrimmage this morning. And of course, the media, as well as the Who Dat Nation, was extremely interested in where this trio may have been today.
Although NFL teams are required to put out injury reports during the regular season, there is no such obligation to do so in training camp. And the Saints are one of many teams that have a longstanding policy to be very quiet when doling out such information to the public. When asked about Spiller, the head coach was extremely curt in his "NEXT QUESTION" response. The same went for inquiries into Lelito and Hicks as well.
UPDATE: I ran into Tim Lelito last night in the neighboring town of Lewisburg, WV after his meal at the popular dining out spot, Food and Friends. As I was entering the restaurant for dinner, Lelito was leaving with his family. He joked with me that he's been hearing through the grapevine that some media members have him being cut from the team, or at the very least, losing his offensive guard position to Senio Kelemete. I laughed and told him he shouldn't believe everything he reads.
Lelito then pointed down to his heavily bandaged big right toe and said that a player stepped on it the other day, and it swelled up badly. The coaches wanted to take a cautious approach, and did not want to get him back on the field until it was fully healed. Nothing to see here...let's move on. So there, the saga of one of the Saints walking wounded warriors has been solved. Tim Lelito is alive and well and should be back in action by next week at the latest.
'Unspecified reason' and 'undisclosed injury' are the favorite terms used for discussing the kinds of reasons Saints brass use for players missing practice, and today was no different. Although all three were given the the unspecified reason for absence excuse today, it was confirmed that Spiller did suffer an undisclosed minor injury. And now the issue has been solved for Lelito as well As for the drastically improved Hicks, your guess is as good as mine.
And as for the others who didn't participate in today's scrimmage, rookie 3rd round draft pick, cornerback P.J. Williams and return specialist Jalen Saunders both remained absent for the 2nd consecutive day. Also, tight end Josh Hill and promising wide receiver Brandon Coleman were both held out of practice for the 3rd straight day; however, both were present in "shells and shorts."
In addition, projected starters Terron Armstead, Anthony Spencer and Dannell Ellerbe were also held out of the scrimmage, but each were each dressed in full pads on the sideline. And that leads us to the curious case of a Saints safety who fans are still waiting to see if he can live up to his hefty contract.
It seems as if Jairus Byrd has been injured from the moment he was acquired by the Saints as a big free agent prize over a year ago. Last season, Byrd missed most of training camp and preseason, and things are pretty much the same so far this year. Byrd, the 7-year veteran from Oregon, was brought over to be a ballhawking turnover-inducing machine the likes the Saints hadn't seen since Darren Sharper played that same role in New Orleans a few years before.
In 6 seasons as a Buffalo Bill, Byrd either intercepted a pass, forced a fumble or recovered a loose ball 39 different times. In 4 games last year, he notched only one turnover in those categories, a forced fumble in Week One vs the Atlanta Falcons stripping Julio Jones of the ball near the goal line as he was about to score. It's been pretty much nothing for him as a Saint ever since.
It was supposed to be different for Byrd this year, a fresh start and a new beginning. However, the only sightings of him at the Greenbrier Resort have been of Byrd in a hoodie much like the one in the picture above. Well, exactly like the one in the picture, because thatIS him trying to hide his face from the media.
In fact, Byrd has taken to covering his face anytime the media tries to get a picture of him standing on the sidelines or anywhere else in the training camp vicinity for that matter. It's becoming downright strange. But don't even think about asking Coach Payton what might be wrong with Byrd, because you know the answer will inevitably be, "NEXT QUESTION!"