Daniel to be ready for camp despite thumb injury

METAIRIE — Even though he missed the final practice of the offseason Wednesday because of a hairline fracture to the thumb of his throwing hand, New Orleans Saints backup quarterback Chase Daniel should be ready for the start of training camp next month.

Saints acting coach Joe Vitt said Daniel, a four-year veteran, was injured in Monday’s organized team activity when his thumb accidentally struck a teammate’s helmet on his follow-through during a two-minute drill.

Daniel won’t be able to throw for 2 1/2 weeks, but that isn’t a problem because the Saints’ offseason program comes to a close Thursday with the last of their 10 allotted OTAs — a golf outing for players and coaches.

Vitt said Daniel, who ran the first-team offense in the absence of starter Drew Brees during their OTAs and last week’s full-squad minicamp, won’t have to undergo surgery and should be fully recovered when players report back for training camp on July 26.

Daniel watched Wednesday’s practice wearing a black lightweight splint on his right hand as 2010 seventh-round draft pick Sean Canfield and newcomer Luke McCown divided the snaps during a workout that lasted just more than an hour.

“The way I see it is that it’s more of a sprain than a hairline fracture,” Daniel said. “When we saw the X-rays, there was a little bitty line right there, but literally it feels like a jammed thumb right now.”

Daniel said the swelling has gone down and noted that he wanted to practice, but was told to take it easy after getting more reps than usual this spring because Brees is unsigned and didn’t participate in any offseason work.

ROMEUS OUT FOR SEASON: The Saints suffered another blow Monday when defensive end Greg Romeus, a 2011 seventh-round draft pick who sat out last season while rehabbing from an ACL injury to his right knee, tore the ACL in his left knee in a noncontact drill.

Vitt said Romeus, who hurt his right knee in November 2010 during his senior season at Pitt, will have surgery and be sidelined 6-to-8 months.

A 6-foot-5, 267-pounder, Romeus was having a solid spring and was expected to be in the mix for a roster spot in the scheme run by new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

“This kid has really worked hard,” Vitt said in noting the injury was the team’s biggest setback this spring. “This kid has put in the time, the effort, and he’s got to go through the whole (rehab) process again. But we’re going to be there for him and support him.”

INJURY REPORT: Also not practicing Wednesday were middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma and running back Mark Ingram, who both had knee surgery in the offseason, and are being brought back slowly.

Also sitting out were linebacker Jonathan Casillas (back), defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (hand/wrist) and running back Chris Ivory (hamstring).

Running back Darren Sproles was excused from practice.

Vitt said Vilma, who’s appealing a season-long suspension handed down for his role in the bounty system that the NFL said was run in the Saints locker room, probably won’t be ready for the start of training camp if his suspension is reduced.

Romeus is the only other player that won’t be a go for camp, Vitt said.

JOB WELL DONE: Suspended coach Sean Payton has a tradition of rewarding his players at the end of the spring workouts with a team outing, which this year will be a golf scramble.

“We’re going to see how far some guys can drive a golf ball,” Vitt said. “We do it every year. It’s something Sean (Payton) did. We’ve done paintball and go-kart riding, so we’ll end with a little team scramble.”

Daniel was disappointed he won’t be able to play, but noted that he will be able to participate in the putting contest.

ROSTER MOVES: The Saints made two roster moves Wednesday, claiming rookie wide receiver Derek Moye off waivers from Miami and waiving wideout Malcolm Beyah.

A 6-5, 210-pounder, Moye signed with the Dolphins in May as an undrafted free agent. The former Penn State standout had 144 catches for 2,395 yards and 18 touchdowns in his four-year career with the Nittany Lions.

CAMP WITH PATRIOTS?: Vitt said he received a fax Wednesday from New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick about conducting some joint practices before their preseason game set for Thursday, Aug. 9, in Gillette Stadium.

While Vitt said a decision could come as soon as Thursday, it makes sense to practice with the Patriots. The Saints face the Arizona Cardinals in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio, on Sunday, Aug. 5, and instead of returning home could fly straight over to Foxborough to work with the Pats in advance of their game.

QUOTEBOOK: “Listen, I wake up in the morning and come to work. We’ve been working late here the past four or five weeks. I go home and watch the History Channel, because I don’t watch ESPN anymore, and I go to bed. So I’m not getting much feedback.” — Vitt, on the feedback he’s getting so far from fans as Payton’s temporary replacement.

Daniel misses OTA with hairline fracture of thumb

METAIRIE — Saints backup quarterback Chase Daniel missed the team’s final practice of the offseason Wednesday because of a hairline fracture to the thumb of his throwing hand.

Saints acting coach Joe Vitt said Daniel was injured during Monday’s organized team activity when his thumb struck a teammate’s helmet on his follow-through.

Vitt said Daniel, who has run the first-team offense throughout the offseason in the absence of starting quarterback Drew Brees, will not be able to throw a ball for 2 1/2 weeks.

Surgery is not needed, Vitt said, and Daniel is expected to be fully recovered by the time the team reports for training camp on July 26.

With Daniel out Wednesday, third-stringer Sean Canfield and newcomer Luke McCown split the reps for a practice that lasted just more than an hour.

The Saints had one more OTA available out of their allotted 10 on Thursday, but that will be used for a golf outing as a reward for their work during the spring.

In addition to Daniel, defensive end Greg Romeus, a 2011 seventh-round draft pick who didn’t play last season while rehabbing from an ACL injury to his right knee, tore the ACL in his left knee in a non-contact drill Monday and will be sidelined 6-to-8 eight months.

Also not practicing Wednesday were middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma and running back Mark Ingram, who both had knee surgery in the offseason, as well as linebacker Jonathan Casillas (back), defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (hand/wrist) and running back Chris Ivory (hamstring).

Vitt also said running back Darren Sproles was excused from practice.

Saints sign former Louisiana Tech star Luke McCown

The Saints on Thursday announced the signing of veteran quarterback Luke McCown and rookie running back Joe Banyard following their three-day minicamp.

McCown, a former Louisiana Tech star, signed a one-year contract, while Banyard, who played collegiately at Texas-El Paso, was given a three-year deal after both attended the minicamp on a tryout basis.

McCown, a 6-foot-4, 217-pounder, is entering his ninth NFL season. He has played in 20 career games with nine starts with Cleveland (2004), Tampa Bay (2005-08) and Jacksonville (2009-11).

He has hit on 184 of 316 career pass attempts for 2,035 yards with nine touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

The 5-11, 213-pound Banyard, was signed by Jacksonville after the draft in April. He rushed for 1,490 yards with 14 touchdowns in two seasons at UTEP after transferring from TCU following his sophomore year.

Brees could be closer to new deal? Bounty gate hearing date?

WWL-TV in New Orleans is reporting that Saints quarterback Drew Brees is closing in on a deal that would pay him $20 million annually and could be finished by Friday or Monday.

The Advocate and most major news outlets have yet to confirm the story.

WWL sideline reporter Kristin Garic said the deal is “probably a 5-year-contract that could average right around $20 million over the first two years.”

ESPN also is reporting that an appeal hearing into the Saints bounty gate scandal will be held on June 18.

The four players making the appeal are Jonathan Vilma (suspended the entire season), defensive end Will Smith (suspended four games), former Saints defensive end Anthony Hargrove (suspended eight games) and former Saints linebacker Scott Fujita (suspended three games).

The June 18 date is pending a ruling from arbitrator Shyam Das on the grievance players have filed that claims Goodell cannot discipline players based on the lockout agreement.

Saints’ Hartley ready for the fight of his life


Special to The Advocate

METAIRIE — Saints kicker Garrett Hartley has trimmed down to fighting weight in anticipation of a challenging training camp battle with veteran John Kasay.

With the help of the P90X workout program, Hartley has shed nearly 25 pounds since suffering a season-ending hip flexor injury in August and now weighs a svelte 181.

Hartley is entering the second year of a five-year, $10.3 million contract that includes $3 million in guaranteed money. He is scheduled to earn a base salary of $700,000 this season and annual base salaries of $734,000, $822,000 and $910,000 through the 2015 season.

“We both know that only one guy will be the guy and the other guy will be looking elsewhere for a job,’’ Hartley said during the team’s full-squad minicamp. “There’s no doubt in my mind that as well as both of us are kicking right now, both us will be kicking somewhere next year.’’

Hartley, one of the many heroes of the Super Bowl XLIV season in 2009, said he welcomes the challenge from Kasay.

“I believe that not one person in this locker room got here without competition,’’ Hartley said. “Now having one of the best kickers to have ever played the game and have him in a locker right next to mine can only help me.”

UNDER A MICROSCOPE: Although acting head coach Joe Vitt is the elder statesman of the Saints coaching staff at 57, he believes old dogs can learn new tricks.

When asked to critique his job since being appointed the team’s interim coach in the absence of suspended head coach Sean Payton, Vitt replied:

“I think I got a long way to go. Right now, I’m undefeated, and this will be the last time I am undefeated. But I listen. I still have to do a better job coaching the linebackers.

“I want to do a better job with the tempo of practice. I want to do a better job with the efficiency of practice, what we’re doing in the individual periods, what we’re doing in fundamental periods.”

And it won’t end anytime soon, Vitt said.

“It’s something I will continue to critique every day,” he said. “I will let my coaches critique me, what I can do better. … This is an ongoing process and I want to work every day to get better at it.”

INJURY REPORT: A new injury and an old injury surfaced Wednesday.

Starting right tackle Zach Strief left the morning workout after suffering a sprained ankle and running back Chris Ivory continues to battle a hamstring injury.

“Zach is OK,” Vitt said. “We’re keeping him off it. We got him in a boot just to be precautionary with it.”

Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee), weakside linebacker Jonathan Casillas (back) and running back Mark Ingram (knee) did not practice. All will continue treatment over the weekend and be re-evaluated on Monday heading into the final week of the team’s offseason program.

BROWN OUT: Third-year tackle Charles Brown, the team’s No. 2 pick in 2010 from USC, drew the coach’s ire after being flagged for offsides during the morning session.

He was replaced by rookie tackle Marcel Jones, the team’s seventh-round pick from Nebraska. Brown had been inserted at right tackle with the first unit when Strief went down with an injured ankle.

CBA forces Saints to take things slow, easy


Special to The Advocate

METAIRIE — The new collective bargaining agreement essentially has turned this week’s minicamp — all five mandatory, full squad workouts — into “glorified’’ organized team activities, Saints players and coaches said.

The current CBA, a 10-year agreement that extends through the 2020 season, allows players to spend a maximum of 3 1/2 hours on the field each day of minicamp, with only 2 1/2 of those hours devoted to full-speed activity.

Two-a-day practices have been effectively eliminated, as any second practices are limited to non-helmet walkthroughs. Shells and shoulders pads are not allowed at any time.

“I’ll live with it as long as everybody else is playing by the same rules,” Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt said between workouts Tuesday. “As long as we’re on the same level playing field, then I’m OK with it.”

Several players said they understand the rationale behind the changes because less offseason demands can actually extend players’ careers. But some observers see this as a first step for the league to extend the regular season from 16 games to 18 games.

“Some days you don’t mind (less physical work),” defensive tackle Remi Ayodele said. “Then some days, you really do feel like you need that work. But I see why they did it. You feel a lot healthier the next day, so I’m not against it.”

Saints defensive end Junior Galette shared Ayodele’s sentiment.

“I’m definitely for it because I think it can extend guys’ careers, so that’s good for the game of football,” Galette said. “Guys who normally might play six or seven years now maybe can play longer.”

PERSONNEL MATTERS: Saints officials added veteran free agent cornerback Elbert Mack to their offseason roster, signing him to a one-year contract.

Mack (5-10, 175) has spent the past four seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after making their 53-man roster as an undrafted rookie out of Troy in 2008. He has played in 58 games, made four starts and collected 77 tackles (65 solo), five interceptions, 11 pass defenses and 30 special teams tackles.

Last season, he appeared in 16 games with one start as he saw extensive action in nickel and dime packages for Tampa Bay. He finished with 27 tackles (23 solo), two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, six pass defenses and two special teams stops.

The club also waived defensive tackle Mitch King.

TWO IN FOR TRYOUTS: Quarterback Luke McCown and running back Joe Banyard are participating in the minicamp on a tryout basis.

“For me, I’m just out here to compete and to put my best foot forward,” McCown said. “Hopefully, they like what they see and we’ll go from there. This is a tryout. It’s what it is. They want to take a closer look at what I’m about and what I can do, and we’ll see where it goes from here.”

McCown last played for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011. He played at Louisiana Tech and was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the fourth round of the 2004 NFL draft. He also has played for Tampa Bay (2005-2008) before being picked up by Jacksonville.

He is the younger brother of Chicago Bears quarterback Josh McCown and former Texas A&M quarterback Randy McCown .

INJURY REPORT: Three players did not participate in the morning session: middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee), linebacker Jonathan Casillas (back) and running back Mark Ingram (knee). The afternoon consisted of a 90-minute walkthrough.

Why can’t we be friends? Saints skirmish provides rare matchup

Advocate correspondent Brian Allee-Walsh, a veteran New Orleans Saints reporter, has seen his share of camp fights over the years, but he saw a rare kind of soiree on Wednesday.

When there are fights in camp usually it’s between running backs and receivers against defensive backs and linebackers or offensive linemen versus defensive linemen.

This time it was Saints quarterback Chase Daniels, the defacto starter at the position while Drew Brees holds out, who went toe to toe with new middle linebacker Curtis Lofton after being hit during a play when he wasn’t supposed to be touched. It led to a fight pitting offense versus defense in an effort to protect their guys.

Saints acting coach Joe Vitt wasn’t fazed.

In other news from Wednesday’s practice:

– Two players, starting right tackle Zach Strief (sprained ankle) and running back Chris Ivory (hamstring) suffered injuries during practice.

– Third-year tackle Charles Brown, the team’s No. 2 pick in 2010 from Southern Cal, was replaced by rookie tackle Marcel Jones, the team’s seventh-round pick from Nebraska, after being penalized for offsides during the morning session.

– The fifth and final minicamp workout will be held Thursday from 10:15 a.m. till noon and is open to the public, weather permitting.

Saints ready for full-squad minicamp next week

METAIRIE — After wrapping up their second week of organized team activities on Thursday, the Saints began looking to their full-squad minicamp that begins a three-day run Tuesday.

The Saints have now completed six of their 10 allotted OTAs, but will take a break from them next week to hold a veteran minicamp that consists of two practices each on Tuesday and Wednesday and a single Thursday workout.

Assistant head coach Joe Vitt, who is running the team in the absence of suspended coach Sean Payton, said the Saints have already installed most of their first- and second-down work and have introduced the sub packages that will be used on third down.

“We’ve gotten a lot done in the last six days,” Vitt said. “That being said, we are excited about going into minicamp next week.”

Each minicamp workout at the team’s training facility will be open to the public although practices affected by inclement weather may be moved to the indoor facility and closed to fans.

Practices are scheduled from 10:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. and from 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday with Thursday’s finale scheduled for 10:15 a.m.-noon. Gates will open 45 minutes before each practice begins.

ARM(S) NEEDED: Vitt said the Saints will bring in some quarterbacks for a tryout this weekend with an eye on adding at least one of them for the minicamp.

The Saints have gone through their first six OTAs with Chase Daniel and Sean Canfield taking all the snaps in the absence of Drew Brees, who’s not participating while trying to get a new long-term deal from the team.

“I’m comfortable (with Daniel and Canfield), but we’re going to bring a few guys in,” Vitt said.

One possibility could be four-year veteran Brian Brohm, who attended the Saints’ rookie minicamp on a tryout basis in early May but was not signed.

While Vitt said Daniel and Canfield aren’t arm-weary, it makes sense to bring in another quarterback or two since the team will hold five minicamp practices in 48 hours and another quarterback will help lighten the load.

BREES HAS TALENT?: As he has for the past 1 1/2 months, Vitt said Thursday he believes Brees will get his contract worked out and be with the team this year even though Brees has said he won’t play for the franchise tender of $16.371 million.

Vitt said he had a conversation with Brees recently about some things he knows Brees wants to do for training camp, which begins July 26.

“I feel confident he’ll be here,” Vitt said.

When asked what made him so confident, Vitt said jokingly, “What else is he going to do? He can’t sing or dance.”

EVANS, BUSHROD RETURN: Two of the three members of the Saints’ offensive line that earned Pro Bowl spots last season returned to practice this week.

Right guard Jahri Evans, who is also a two-time All-Pro, and left tackle Jermon Bushrod were back in the lineup. Evans had a clean-out procedure on his left knee in early February, while Bushrod had a shoulder problem.

Running back Mark Ingram and middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who both had arthroscopic knee surgery in the offseason, remain sidelined along with linebacker Jonathan Casillas, who is slowed by a back injury.

HITTING THE LOTTERY: Evans was one of the Saints who were abuzz over Wednesday night’s NBA lottery drawing in which the New Orleans Hornets won the first pick in this year’s draft.

“That was awesome,” said Evans, who endorsed the selection of Kentucky forward Anthony Davis with the top pick. “I am happy for those guys. I’m looking forward to going to some games, those guys putting some wins on the board and having a good season.”

HANGING IT UP: Longtime Saints assistant equipment manager Glennon “Silky” Powell is retiring Friday after 38 seasons with the team.

A New Orleans native, the 65-year-old Powell was hired by the Saints in 1974 and has worked since then under equipment manager Dan Simmons, who was hired a year earlier. The two have worked side by side for 12 head coaches — including four interim coaches.

“I’ve been 1-15 and been through Hurricane Katrina, so it’s been the good, bad and ugly,” said Powell, who also experienced the team’s win in Super Bowl XLIV. “But it’s been a pleasure coming to work every day.”