Team Notes: Saints

The Saints and top draft pick Johnathan Sullivan, who is expected to start at defensive tackle this season, remained far apart in negotiations Saturday night. And a long holdout may be on the horizon.

"We've made our final offer, and it's more than fair," Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis said. "He can take it or leave it. Every day that he misses he becomes less valuable to us. He's going to lose his opportunity to be a starter."

The Saints have offered $10 million in bonuses on a six-year deal, but Sullivan, the sixth overall pick in the draft, is believed to be asking for around $11 million in bonus money. Agent Len Rowe has not returned reporters' calls.

"I really don't care if he (Sullivan) holds out," Loomis said. "We are going to do a deal that is right for the Saints and is fair. He has our offer. He is either going to accept it or not. That's his prerogative, but we write the checks."

This is the third consecutive season the Saints have started training camp without their top pick. Receiver Donte Stallworth missed two days of camp last season before agreeing to a six-year, $9.4 million contract. The year before, running back Deuce McAllister held out for eight days before signing a six-year, $6.9 million deal.

-- Defensive tackle Grady Jackson, a former starter who was demoted when he missed most of the team's off-season workouts, reported to camp about three hours late Friday night.

He was on the field for the first practice Saturday, but was limited during the team work on the field. Jackson, who weighed 366 pounds at a minicamp in May, was 344 pounds when he arrived for the first workout.

But trainers wanted to limit his work during the early stages of camp while they determine his physical condition. Jackson said he lost the weight with the help of a nutritionist back at his home in Jackson, Miss.

"He looks good," Saints coach Jim Haslett said. "He's lost a lot of weight, so I'm happy about that."

The coaches have told Jackson, who worked with the second-team defense on Saturday, that he'll have to work his way back up.

"That's no problem," said Jackson, a seven-year veteran who led the Saints' interior linemen last season with 5 1/2 sacks. "I feel like I can work my way back up to the top."

-- The Saints signed former Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Henry Ford to a two-year contract, and he joined his new teammates on the field Sunday. The 10-year veteran provides insurance at the position in case rookie Johnathan Sullivan holds out for an extended period.

Ford, who started 13 games for Tennessee last season, will join a rotation that includes Grady Jackson, Kenny Smith, Martin Chase, Willie Whitehead and Sullivan -- when he signs his contract.

"Henry is a seasoned veteran that is physical and plays with a lot of energy," Haslett said. "He has experience playing both tackle and end, and we look forward to having not only his veteran leadership on this defense but his talent as well."

Ford, a 6-foot-3, 295-pounder, lost his starting job to first-round draft pick Albert Haynesworth and was released in February. He visited Detroit last week and also received interest from Green Bay, Dallas, Buffalo and the New York Giants.

-- The Saints' first training camp practice on July 26 was a steamy one, which wasn't shocking considering it was completed just before 11 a.m. on a late July morning in south Louisiana.

"We only had one problem today on both sides of the ball," quarterback Aaron Brooks said as he tried to cool off after the two-hour workout. "We were facing a 12th man on the field -- the sun."

-- Saturday night's practice in the team's new $10 million indoor practice facility was much more comfortable. The players especially appreciated the soft FieldTurf playing surface, which is the same type of turf used in Detroit's Ford Field and Seattle's Seahawks Stadium.

"Without a doubt, this is nice," 36-year-old center Jerry Fontenot said after the first of five scheduled night workouts in the building. "These old knees get banged up on artificial turf, so this is really nice. It's actually softer than real grass."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I feel like I'll be a starter on this team or any other team, because I feel like I'm the best. Nobody can take that from me. If this is their way of punishing me because of the off-season, then I'm fine with that. I've always overcome adversity in my life. I've just got to come in and prove myself and work my way back up. As long as I get a fair chance and an equal opportunity (to start), I'll be all right." -- DT Grady Jackson on trying to work his way out of the Saints' doghouse.

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