Saints open minicamp practices to fans

The Saints will open to the public each of the five practices that will make up their full-squad minicamp to be held June 5-7 at the team’s training facility in Metairie.

The Saints will practice twice on the first two days of the minicamp at 10:15 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday and then wrap things up with a single workout at 10:15 a.m. Thursday.

Gates to the Saints facility will open 45 minutes before the start of each practice and admission is free.

In the event of inclement weather, the team may move practice indoors with little or no advance warning. Fans attending practice won’t be allowed in the indoor facility if the team is forced to go inside because of bad weather.

The minicamp will wrap up the second-to-last week of the Saints’ nine-week offseason program which began April 16 with strength and conditioning work.

The team’s offseason work also included filmwork and classroom study with position coaches and 10 on-field practice sessions that are known as organized team activities.

MINICAMP SCHEDULE

5800 Airline Drive, Metairie

(all practices free and open to the public)

TUESDAY, JUNE 5

10:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. — Practice

3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. — Practice

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 6

10:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. — Practice

3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. — Practice

THURSDAY, JUNE 7

10:15 a.m.-Noon — Practice

SAINTS SIGN LINEMAN: The Saints added some depth to the offensive line for their remaining OTAs and next week’s minicamp with the signing of Scott Winnewisser, an undrafted free agent from Cal Poly.

The 6-foot-5, 301-pound Winnewisser, who played guard and tackle at Cal Poly, appeared in 38 games with 33 starts after joining the team as a walkon. He was a first-team All-Great West Conference pick last fall.

The Saints currently have 84 signed players on their roster.

McAllister, Benson chosen for Saints Hall of Fame

NEW ORLEANS – To hear former Saints running back Deuce McAllister tell it Friday, it was only fitting that he would be elected to the Saints Hall of Fame along with team owner Tom Benson.

After all, McAllister, who became the club’s all-time rushing leader despite numerous knee injuries that curtailed his promising career, may have never played a down in the Saints’ familiar black and gold uniform if it hadn’t been for Benson.

McAllister and Benson, who purchased the struggling franchise from John Mecom Jr. in 1985, were announced Friday during a noon news conference in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as the newest members of the Saints Hall of Fame as voted on by a Media Selection Committee.

They will be inducted and become the 40th and 41st members of the Hall of Fame during All Saints Weekend festivities set for Sept. 21-23. In addition to the induction banquet, they’ll be recognized when the Saints play the Kansas City Chiefs in the Superdome.

Recently retired WWL-TV sportscaster Jim Henderson, the Saints radio play-by-play voice since 1986, was also voted as the recipient of the Joe Gemelli Fleur de Lis Award for contributions to the franchise.

“I’m going in with individuals I definitely admire,” McAllister said as he glanced over at Benson, who was seated nearby. “Mr. Benson didn’t have to buy the team and keep it here, but he did. This means a lot to me because this is a special group.”

McAllister, a first-round draft pick in 2001, played eight seasons with the Saints from 2001-2008. A Pro Bowl pick in 2002 and ’03, he retired with 6,096 yards and a 4.3 average on 1,429 carries.

The former Ole Miss star, who had a rare combination of speed and power, also scored a club-record 55 touchdowns. He ranks fifth in franchise history with 330 points and is 10th in receptions with 234, which helped make him a unanimous pick by the selection committee.

He is the fifth running back to be elected to the Saints Hall of Fame, joining Dalton Hilliard, George Rogers, Rueben Mayes and Tony Galbreath.

“Words can’t describe this,” McAllister said. “When you speak about being inducted into a hall of fame, it’s not about me. … It’s about a lot of players and the things we accomplished were because of a lot of guys.

“You always dream as a player to be able to say that you contributed as one of the best players of an elite organization,” he said. “I think we can show for the next 15 to 20 years that this is one of the elite teams (of the NFL).”

The Saints took their first steps toward becoming an elite team under Benson, a native New Orleanian.

After buying the franchise from Mecom, which possibly saved it from being moved to Jacksonville, Fla., or another city, Benson quickly turned his hometown team into a winner.

Since Benson took over, the Saints have made the playoffs nine times. They won their first Vince Lombardi Trophy with a 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV on Feb. 7, 2010.

“He’s the most significant person in New Orleans Saints history,” Hall of Fame general manager Ken Trahan said in introducing Benson. “That’s not a stretch of the imagination by any means.”

GM Loomis says he feels ‘for, with’ Brees

NEW ORLEANS – Two days after Drew Brees said it was “extremely frustrating” that there hasn’t been much discussion with club officials about a long-term contract, Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis said he respects his star quarterback’s feelings.

Loomis also said Friday he didn’t take any of Brees’ comments about the slow pace of negotiations, made Wednesday night during an interview with Saints flagship radio station WWL, personally.

“I feel for him … I feel with him,” Loomis said of Brees, who was tagged as the team’s franchise player March 3. “He wants to be here right now. I want him to be here right now, and we want to get that accomplished.”

Loomis, who attended a Saints Hall of Fame news conference to announce that former running back Deuce McAllister and owner Tom Benson will be inducted this fall, cited the complexity of what could be the largest contract in NFL history as being one of the stumbling blocks to getting a deal done.

“It’s important to Drew, but it’s important to our team,” Loomis said. “The magnitude of this contract is going to impact our team for a long period of time, so we’ve got to get it right.

“It’s got to be right for Drew. But it’s got to be right for our team as well.”

After saying April 13 that the two sides were close to agreeing on a new deal, Benson wouldn’t go that far Friday.

But he said Brees, a five-time Pro Bowl selection who’s shattered numerous club and NFL passing records in six seasons with the Saints, will be back.

“There’s money involved, you know, and two people have some difference of opinion,” Benson said. “But it’s going to be worked out. I assure you that Drew Brees will be playing here, OK?”

In his interview with WWL, Brees, who completed a six-year, $60 million contract in 2011, said he was frustrated and disappointed by a lack of communication on the team’s part.

“There’s always a back and forth when it comes to these negotiations,” he said. “But I know we’ve reached out on quite a few occasions. And, at times, I know I’ve been frustrated with the lack of response.

“I would just say there should be a sense of urgency, and yet, it seems like there’s not.”

Loomis acknowledged contract talks can sometimes strain a relationship between a player and a team, but said he and Brees still have a great relationship.

When asked about the holdup on a new deal, however, Loomis said he wouldn’t get into why it hasn’t been completed yet with the first of 10 organized team activities scheduled for Monday.

“It’s not productive to do that,” Loomis said. “I’m not going to get into details about what has happened or what’s going to happen. I’m positive about Drew Brees and optimistic about getting him signed.

“Drew is passionate about being with the Saints, and I respect him a lot for that. I know he wants to be here and he’s frustrated he’s not with the team. If he didn’t care, he wouldn’t say a word, right?”

Brees said earlier this spring that he won’t play for the franchise tender of $16.371 million this year because his career nearly ended when his right shoulder was mangled while playing on a one-year tender with the San Diego Chargers in 2005.

He’s reportedly seeking a deal that will play him $21 million a season, which would surpass Peyton Manning as the highest-paid player in NFL history. Manning signed a deal averaging $19.2 million per season with the Denver Broncos this winter.

“These contracts are personal issues for players; I recognize that,” Loomis said. “I don’t have any hard feelings or anything about it.

“Drew wants to get signed and I respect that.”

When asked how he would characterize the negotiations, Loomis said, “We’re not done yet.”

“That’s how I would characterize it,” he said. “Negotiations are hard sometimes. It’s a common part of our business.”

Saints put a wrap on rookie minicamp

METAIRIE – In what has already been and will be a year of firsts for the Saints, the team’s coaching staff experienced another one over the weekend.

The Saints had their first on-field practice without suspended head coach Sean Payton when they conducted a three-day minicamp for their five draft picks and 18 undrafted free agents and assorted other players — including players who were on their practice squad a year ago.

All told, 64 players participated in the minicamp that was closed in its entirety to the media and public.

The camp actually began Thursday with orientation and the first install of the team’s offensive and defensive playbooks, and continued with two practices each on Friday and Saturday and one on Sunday.

Assistant head coach Joe Vitt said Monday the coaching staff got what it wanted out of the players even though they were limited in what they can do under terms of the new collective bargaining agreement.

“They undergo not only a physical evaluation but a mental evaluation,” Vitt said of the players’ initial experience with the Saints. “Can the player learn? Does he know what to do, and will he do it? Does he do it on a consistent basis?

“I would say overall the whole weekend was great,” he said. “Our players came in here and they really worked hard. They tried to do what was being asked of them. The tempo was good. The attention to detail was outstanding by these young guys.”

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: Among the players the coaches got to see up close for the first time were defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, the team’s top selection in the third round of the April draft, and wide receiver Nick Toon, their fourth-round pick.

Vitt said the early impressions of both were good.

“I thought Toon had a good weekend … I thought he caught the ball well,” Vitt said. “He ran routes very well and ran with the ball well afterwards. I thought Hicks did well. He ran down the ball well, especially on a couple screens. For a big man, you saw his speed and range.”

Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said Hicks, who played his final two college seasons at Regina University in Canada, wasn’t overwhelmed with what he was given despite playing north of the border for two years.

“We didn’t feed the guys a lot of volume, but I would echo what Coach Vitt said where it’s very difficult to get good feel for a lineman when you don’t have any pads on,” Spagnuolo said. “Their game is physical and banging heads on every play. With this particular camp you can’t do that.

“In all the things we could assess, in terms of athletic ability and how he moved around, I thought it was very good.”

TOON IMPRESSES: Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. said Toon, the son of former New York Jets’ star wideout Al Toon, showed his maturity and knowledge of the game.

“We put him in a couple of different positions and the volume was not a challenge to him, even though there wasn’t a whole lot of volume,” said Carmichael. “He could line up at a couple of different spots and ran his routes real well. I thought he showed great hands.

“He was a guy we felt real good about after the rookie camp,” he said.

BROHM GETS LOOK: One of several veterans the Saints had in for a tryout was former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brian Brohm.

While Brohm wasn’t immediately signed, Vitt said they’re still considering him and could bring in a quarterback since Drew Brees isn’t taking part in voluntary workouts while waiting on a long-term contract from the club.

As of Monday, the Saints had only two quarterbacks — Chase Daniel and Sean Canfield — under contract with the start of their organized team activities just a week away.

“We’re still considering signing him,” Vitt said of Brohm. “Once the rookies leave here and this camp is over, the evaluation process doesn’t stop. We’re going to continue to look at some film and continue to evaluate them.

“Knowing what we have on film and the evaluation of (Brohm) right now, there’s a chance. Absolutely.”

BACK TO COACHING: Overall, Vitt said it was nice just to be back on the field coaching again considering the offseason the Saints have had.

While veterans under contract to the team have been participating in their offseason strength and conditioning program since April 16, the same day Payton’s season-long suspension began, they hadn’t been involved in a real practice since before their playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

“Number one, we couldn’t wait to get back on (the field), because that’s what we do,” Vitt said. “We couldn’t wait to get back on the field because of the offseason we had here and really, to coach the group of guys in here that were eager to learn, eager to compete, eager to do what was being asked of them, was even that much more fun.

“It was a good weekend. It really was.”

ROSTER MOVES: The Saints on Monday signed four players who participated in the rookie minicamp on a tryout basis over the weekend and released five others.

The team signed tackle Hutch Eckerson, cornerback Nick Hixson, guard DeOn’tae Pannell and linebacker Lawrence Wilson and waived tackles Dan Hoch and Phil Trautwein, guard Nick Howell, linebacker Stephen Johnson and cornerback Josh Victorian.