METAIRIE – Nine days after signing the richest contract in NFL history, Saints quarterback Drew Brees was relaxed and ready to go when he reported to training camp Tuesday.
Facing the local media for the first time since he received a five-year, $100 million deal from the team, which includes a league-record $60 million in guaranteed money, Brees said he couldn’t wait to get to work after sitting out the team’s offseason program.
“I’m excited … I’m always excited. I love football. I love to compete,” Brees said of looking forward to the first day of practice Thursday. “The last three offseasons have been weird for different reasons. One was after the Super Bowl (in 2009). Last year was the lockout and then this year.”
This spring was more difficult for the team considering the loss of coach Sean Payton for the season for his role in the pay-for-performance scheme and all the controversy that has surrounded the team.
“I’m excited about the unknown because in a lot of ways, we don’t necessarily know what to expect,” Brees said. “With all this stuff swirling around us, in the end, all we can worry about is what we can control and focus on the process and the result will take care of itself.
“I know the type of guys we have. I know the coaches we have. I’m excited to watch it all come together in training camp as it always does.”
STILL THE SAME: Brees said everything will be business as usual despite the drawn-out process that led to often-contentious negotiations and getting a long-term deal just three days before the July 16 deadline.
“To me it’s business as usual, I’ll be honest,” he said. “You might look at me and think I’m crazy, especially after the way the whole contract process went this entire offseason, the ups and downs and how it was dragged out to the last minute.
“But I could not wait to get back here, to get back to work, to get back to playing football, to get back being around the guys in the locker room, on the field, with the fans and just soaking it all in again and enjoying the moment.”
Brees had a story to tell, he said, that proved everything’s the same after he had agreed to the contract.
“The minute I got off the phone, I changed (son) Bowen’s diaper,” he said. “I then went downstairs and did a load of whites in the washer. And then I went upstairs and put (son) Baylen’s lunch in the refrigerator. … Didn’t jump up and down. Didn’t do anything.”
VILMA SET FOR COURT: The Saints on Tuesday put middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who was suspended by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for the entire season on May 2, on the reserve/suspended list.
Since being banned for his role in the pay-for-performance scheme the NFL said members of the Saints’ defense were involved in from 2009-11, Vilma has been embroiled in a legal battle with Goodell and the league.
Vilma, who had an appeal denied by Goodell, will be in federal court in New Orleans on Thursday to ask for a temporary restraining order to rejoin the team claiming Goodell did not act on his appeal in a timely manner.
Interim coach Joe Vitt and Brees have already filed affidavits in support of Vilma, who cannot get treatment at the team’s training facility for a knee injury that he suffered last fall and has had three surgeries on.
VITT TO TESTIFY: Vitt said he will head downtown Thursday between the team’s first two practice sessions to speak on Vilma’s behalf.
“I know Jonathan Vilma’s intent, I know his work habits, I know his leadership qualities, I know what he means to this team,” Vitt said as he began to get emotional. “He’s always put his teammates and his team first, and I stand behind Jonathan Vilma.”
Vitt, who is suspended for the first six games of the regular season for misleading investigators looking into the bounty scandal, has been Vilma’s position coach since the Saints acquired him from the New York Jets in 2008.
MOVING ON: Saints strong safety Roman Harper said the team has no option but to go on without Vilma, one of the team captains on defense, at least for now.
“I don’t know all the ins and outs of it completely, so it’s been very hard for me to try and keep up,” Harper said. “It seems like it’s something else every day or so. I just know when all the chips fall, it all works out in my man’s favor.
“I’ve got his back 100 percent and whatever I can do to try and help him or anything like that I’m all with him. It’s just been crazy, so up and down, but trust me — I’ve got his back. I was in that (meeting) room, so I know what was going on.”
ROSTER MOVES: While players checked in throughout the day Tuesday, Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis was making a few minor tweaks to the 90-man roster that will take the field Thursday.
In addition to putting Vilma on the reserve/suspended list, the Saints signed veteran tight end Derek Schouman, who has played with the Buffalo Bills and St. Louis Rams, and wide receiver Marques Clark. They also waived undrafted free agent wide receiver wide receiver Kevin Hardy.
HICKS SIDELINED: Vitt said rookie defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, the team’s top draft pick this spring, will miss the first few days of practice with a fractured hand that he suffered during organized team activities in June.
Vitt said Hicks, a third-round draft pick, may start camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list. But he’s expected to be available for practice either Sunday or Monday, Vitt said.
Also, Vitt noted that running back Mark Ingram, who had arthroscopic knee surgery in May, will be monitored closely early in camp.
WHAT’S NEXT?: After a team meeting Tuesday night, the Saints will have more meetings and conditioning tests Wednesday before the first practice on Thursday.
A walkthrough, which is closed to the public and media, will be held in the morning. The second practice, which is open, is scheduled from 4 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.
Fans are reminded that practices moved to the indoor facility because of weather concerns will be closed.