Saints meet with Oregon RB Stewart

The New Orleans Saints face a big decision next week on Deuce McAllister's contract. If the Saints don't pick up the bonus, they may need to select a running back in the NFL Draft to take his place. On Tuesday, Oregon RB Jonathan Stewart met with Saints running backs coach Aaron Kromer and other team officials. Stewart spoke to about his visit.

The New Orleans Saints and Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart met for about two hours at the Saints' practice facility outside of New Orleans, part of a whirlwind week for Stewart.

Stewart spoke to via cell phone from the New Orleans airport as he waited to board a plane for Cincinnati and another visit on Wednesday. Later this week he'll visit the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Tuesday, though was all about the Saints, who have the No. 10 overall pick and could be interested in a running back if they choose not to pay Deuce McAllister the $1 million roster bonus he is due on April 15.

After arriving Monday night from Tampa Bay and a meeting with the NFC South rival Buccaneers, Stewart woke up and went to Metairie around noon. His first stop was to meet with the entire coaching staff, including head coach Sean Payton, along with general manager Mickey Loomis.

"It was a group setting, very relaxed," Stewart said.

After that, Stewart spent the next two hours meeting with running backs coach Aaron Kromer and talking about football while having lunch.

The Saints also checked out Stewart's injured foot. He had surgery on his toe after an exceptional performance at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. While the injury will keep him out of mini-camp in May and June, Stewart said he has no doubt he'll be ready for training camp.

And he's getting the impression that teams don't see the injury as a mark against his draft stock. Most scouts have pegged him as a first-round talent.

"They say it won't hurt my status," Stewart said. "If anything, it could help. I had an injury and got it taken care of instead of letting it go and letting it get worse. That would have hindered me from excelling the way that I want to at training camp."

The Saints have McAllister, Reggie Bush and Aaron Stecker as their top three backs. Two of them — McAllister and Bush — are coming off injuries in 2007. Stewart said he talked with the Saints about their status at the position, but they didn't tip their hand about how much they perceive running back as a need in this draft.

"They have Reggie coming back and he was hurt last year," Stewart said. "Deuce had his injury. So they've had to overcome some adversity at that position last year."

The 5-foot-10, 235-pound back is certainly a similar physical type to McAllister. Stewart is coming off a 1,722-yard rushing season with the Ducks, one that saw him score 11 touchdowns. He also ranked ninth nationally in all-purpose yards with 2,481 yards.

Matthew Postins is the publisher of He is an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association.

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