METAIRIE — The Saints’ starting offense and defense are expected to play slightly more than they did a week ago in Friday night’s home preseason opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Interim coach Joe Vitt said Thursday the frontline players for the Saints (1-1) will probably play “a little bit longer than they did last game” against the Jaguars (1-0) in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“There is a natural progression of getting our guys in shape,” Vitt said after Thursday’s practice. “It will be a little bit longer than they did last game.”
Even though the Saints are playing their third preseason game, the coaching staff is treating it like the second since the Hall of Fame Game was considered to be more like a scrimmage.
Drew Brees played two series in a 7-6 loss to the New England Patriots on Aug. 9, while other starters on both sides of the ball stayed in for the rest of the first quarter. That may indicate they could go a little more than a quarter even if Brees doesn’t.
CAMP CLOSES: Thursday afternoon’s walkthrough practice in the indoor facility brought the team’s three-week training camp to a close.
Vitt said the Saints staff accomplished almost everything they wanted to get done on the practice field — especially when the players toiled in full pads Monday through Wednesday in steamy conditions.
“Listen, you always go back and you have a wish list,” Vitt said. “Our guys have worked hard. We got a lot accomplished. We got the situational periods that we wanted to get down.
“I think our conditioning is good. … I would have a hard time believing that anybody in the league worked harder than we did Wednesday morning.”
INJURY REPORT: Not working Thursday, in what amounted to a dress rehearsal for the Jaguars, were RB Darren Sproles (knee), CB Jabari Greer (sports hernia), DT Tom Johnson (ankle), DE Turk McBride (ankle), WR Nick Toon (foot), WR Adrian Arrington (knee) and CB Kamaal McIlwain (groin).
Each of them will miss Friday night’s game.
CB Marquis Johnson and LB Aaron Tevis, who were held out of Wednesday’s workout with knee problems, both returned to practice and could play against the Jaguars.
GRAHAM READY: Vitt said tight end Jimmy Graham, who missed the game with the Patriots when he fell on his back while catching a pass the day before that game, had a good week of practice and will play Friday night.
“Good, the back’s good,” Graham said when asked how he was feeling. “I’m glad to be back on the practice field and I’m excited to play (Friday). I have been in rehab all week, trying to get back for practice and help out the tight ends. It’s good to be back.”
THE OLYMPIAN?: Graham, a former college basketball player, was voted by his teammates as the Saints player who could be the most successful Olympian in a survey conducted by CST sportscaster Mike Nabors the last couple of weeks.
Nabors did a similar poll in 2008 and former linebacker Scott Fujita won. Graham was presented with a medal by Nabors for winning this year with the piece airing on CST’s pregame show starting at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
When asked if he would be good in the hammer throw, he said, “No, not hammer throw. I definitely think volleyball or something. Definitely not basketball.”
NEW ADDITION: The Saints family grew by one Wednesday evening when Brees’ wife, Brittany, gave birth to their third child — another boy.
Brees tweeted Thursday evening that the baby was named Callen Christian, which brings an end to a run on names that start with “B” as the couple’s first two boys are named Baylen and Bowen.
“Mama and baby boy are happy & healthy,” Brees wrote in his tweet.