Saints to open 8:50 a.m. Friday practice to the public

The Saints will move their 4 p.m. practice on Friday to 8:50 a.m. and the workout, which was previously scheduled to be closed to the public, will now be open to the public.

Saints’ Thursday practice moved indoors, now closed to public

Saints coach Sean Payton announced that Thursday’s practice will be moved indoors and is now closed to the public.

The practice was scheduled to be open to fans, but Payton wants to give his players a break from the steamy conditions they’ve been working in since the first practice last Friday.

Friday’s workout is also be closed to the public, so the next opportunity for fans to see the Saints work will be in the Black and Gold Scrimmage. The scrmmage will begin at 8:50 a.m. and should until just after 11 a.m., Payton said.

Saints’ Vaccaro drawing attention with aggressive play

Saints first-round draft pick Kenny Vaccaro, an active and willing participant when full pads went on for the first time in training camp Sunday, again turned heads with his aggressive play in Tuesday’s practice.

Vaccaro, a safety, and tight end Jimmy Graham had a brief wrestling match when they simultaneously came down with the ball in 1-on-1 passing drills.

Vaccaro tossed the ball at Graham, who moved toward Vaccaro before safety Malcolm Jenkins stepped in to prevent the incident from escalating.

Vaccaro later got a brief talk from secondary coach Wesley McGriff after a hard tackle by Vaccaro on running back Pierre Thomas when the drill called for defenders to take ball carriers down to the ground softly.

“That’s just the way I am,” Vaccaro said. “That’s my physical nature. I approach every practice like that and I’m not going to stop until somebody says, ‘Hey, relax, and take care of yourself.’”

Vaccaro said he doesn’t plan to dial down his aggressiveness.

“I think every team needs a guy that’s going to be like that, (have) a little craziness, a little edge to him,” he said. “It’s still early in training camp and I want to establish my physical presence early on.”

WILSON SITS OUT: Outside linebacker Martez Wilson was one of eight players who didn’t participate in practice after he injured his left elbow near the end of Monday’s workout.

Saints coach Sean Payton said Wilson dislocated his elbow and is expected to be out 2-to-4 weeks. He joins fellow outside linebacker Victor Butler, who tore his ACL last month in the training room.

The Saints are also a little short-handed at inside linebacker as starters Curtis Lofton rested a sore back and Jonathan Vilma didn’t participate in team drills after suffering a cut on the bridge of his nose Monday.

ROSTER MOVE: The Saints made their first roster move of training camp Tuesday when they waived wide receiver Brent Leonard, a rookie free agent from Louisiana-Monroe, and signed wide receiver Tim Toone.

Toone, a second-year pro, was released last week by the Atlanta Falcons. The former Weber State standout was Mr. Irrelevant when he was the 255th and final pick of the 2010 draft by the Detroit Lions.

INGRAM THINKING BIG: Saints running back Mark Ingram said there’s no reason to believe that Alabama, whom he played for from 2008-10, won’t win a third consecutive BCS national championship this season.

“They should,” he said Tuesday. “They have the quarterback back, they have (T.J.) Yeldon back at running back and they have a lot of good young defenders. So, they have a good chance at it if they work hard and follow what coach (Nick) Saban says.

“It’s all in their hands.”

BLACK AND GOLD SET: Saints officials said Saturday’s Black and Gold Scrimmage will be played from 8:50-11 a.m. at their Metairie training facility. Admission is free and gates will open at 8 a.m.

Saints hurting at linebacker after losing Wilson to elbow injury

Suddenly, the Saints are hurting at linebacker.

Just more than a month after projected strongside linebacker Victor Butler suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in one of the final OTAs, Martez Wilson had to leave Monday’s practice early with a left elbow injury.

After practice, Saints coach Sean Payton said Wilson’s injury didn’t appear to be “real significant.” While it was an early assessment, it seemed to be good news for Wilson, who was injured down field during team drills.

Wilson spent the offseason backing up Butler and is still working with the second team after Junior Galette replaced Butler at the start of camp.

Inside linebacker Curtis Lofton, who appeared to be a little gimpy Sunday, was limited Monday and did not participate in team drills. Ramon Humber and Chris Chamberlain took turns filling his spot.

HAKIM TAKEN OFF: Also, wide receiver Saalim Hakim went down with what Payton said was cramps near the end of a steamy 2 1/2-hour practice.

Hakim was running a pass route over the middle when he fell to the turf and had to be helped by trainers. He was eventually carted to the training room.

Hakim also had heat-related problems on Saturday when the Saints ran a series of gassers across the field for conditioning.

MAKING NOISE: The biggest hit of training camp came when free agent linebacker Eric Martin blew up a screen pass from Ryan Griffin to running back Travaris Cadet during team drills.

Martin came up and timed the play perfectly, walloping Cadet just as he turned around. The hard hit elicited whoops and hollers from teammates on both sides of the ball.

An undrafted free agent from Nebraska, Martin has been playing with the second-team defense in the early stages of training camp.

BIG PLAYS: Wide receiver Preston Parker made a nice twisting, turning catch in 1-on-1 pass drills when he pulled in a throw from Griffin on a deep out-route.

Also, free safety Malcolm Jenkins dove in front of wide receiver Lance Moore to come up with an interception off Drew Brees in team drills.

Blitzing safeties Roman Harper and Rafael Bush both batted passes back into the face of the quarterbacks during team work.

CALENDAR TO DEBUT: The Saintsations will unveil their 2014 swimsuit calendar on Wednesday, Aug. 7 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Royal Sonesta Hotel in New Orleans.

A limited number of tickets priced at $40 per person are available. For more information, contact Shari Appel at (504) 553-2221 or sappel@sonesta.com.

Proceeds will benefit the third annual Spirit Award, a scholarship fund created for high school seniors who wish to pursue dance team or cheerleading at the collegiate level and beyond.

BIRTHDAY WISHES: Saints radio play-by-play announcer and longtime New Orleans sportscaster Jim Henderson was serenaded by fans during practice by singing Happy Birthday to him. Henderson turned 67 on Monday.

Saints pick up intensity with first padded practice of camp

After two days of non-padded training camp practices, the Saints picked up the intensity Sunday when they put on full pads for the first time since last December.

While it often takes some time to knock off the rust, coach Sean Payton liked the tempo and intensity of the 2 1/2-hour workout.

“I thought the early part of the practice was pretty good,” Payton said. “The end tapered off a little bit, but it was good to get the first one in and stay relatively healthy.”

While it’s still rather early in camp, Payton said the goal was to try and create a game-like situation.

“What’s encouraging is you want it to be competitive,” he said. “When you’re having that type of competition in your periods, it benefits both sides of the ball.”

GETTING CHIPPY: With players flying around, things got a little chippy a couple of times.

Rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro sparred briefly after a running play with fullback Austin Johnson even though it was more like a couple of love taps.

During team drills near the end of the practice, Vaccaro threw running back Travaris Cadet to the ground after the play had ended.

“I felt like I needed to set the tone,” said Vaccaro. “We needed to spice some things up and get physical. I like to mess around with guys and make it fun.”

“He’s someone that flies around. … I think he is someone who is very instinctive,” Payton said. “We don’t necessarily want to throw our own players on the ground. We’ll get that cleaned up, but he is an instinctive player and I know he was anxious to be in the pads.”

DOING THE DIRTY WORK: Even though he took the lead in trying to set the tone during practice, Vaccaro ended it with the rookie tradition of carrying the helmets and shoulder pads of veterans to the locker room.

As he trudged off the field after a 2 1/2-hour practice was capped with a series of wind sprints back and forth across the field, he carried the pads of fellow defensive backs Keenan Lewis, Malcolm Jenkins, Roman Harper and Isa Abdul-Quddus.

ARMSTEAD REMEMBERS: Saints tackle Terron Armstead awoke on his 22nd birthday last Tuesday to a text informing him that a former Arkansas-Pine Bluff teammate Lydell Hartford Jr. had been killed in nearby Waggaman.

Hartford, a sophomore-to-be, was accidentally shot by a young friend who was removing bullets from a pistol. According to reports, he squeezed the trigger after the thought the gun was properly unloaded.

Armstead said Hartford was a walk-on who asked him for tips on his training regimen during weightroom workouts last summer in Pine Bluff.

“It’s a saddening and troubling situation,” Armstead said. “He had a hard time getting eligible, but he was persistent and he finally was able to play after six games. He ended up winning the (SWAC) championship with us.”

FAULK VISITS: New Orleans native and former St. Louis Rams running back Marshall Faulk was at Saints’ practice Sunday on assignment for NFL Network.

Faulk said it’s much too early to tell how improved the Saints’ defense will be until it’s attacked in a game and the players respond and see how they tackle, fit the run and make plays. But he said there’s hope with new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

“You should always be excited when you get a new coach after you were last in the league at something,” he said.

Saints’ Graham thinking about football, not contract

Even though he’s going into his contract year, Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is only thinking about one thing: football.

Graham, who’ll likely become the highest-paid tight end in the league either this fall or next spring, was asked about it Saturday for the second day in a row — and again downplayed the huge payday he’ll certainly get.

His next deal will likely surpass the contracts given by the New England Patriots to Rob Gronkowsi (eight years, $55.2 million) and former teammate Aaron Hernandez (five years, $40 million).

Graham said he never thought about holding out of training camp to get an extension on the rookie contract he signed in 2010 after catching 215 passes and 25 touchdowns in his first three seasons.

“To each his own … I’m the type of player that it’s just about football for me,” he said. “I just want to play, simple as that. After the season we had last year and you know now that we’re back, I just want to e a part of it. I’m going to be here and I’m going to play with everything I have.

“I’m a humble kid from very humble beginnings and I feel blessed to be in the situation I am in,” he added. “All I’m going to do is go out here and play football. That’s what I’m best at and I know the rest will just take care of itself.”

PADS GO ON: After two days of non-padded practices, the Saints will put on the full gear for Sunday’s workout.

Most of the Saints are looking forward to it, especially the coaches.

“The first thing is when you have pads on we’re able to get a little one-on-one offensive line, defensive line and pass protection drills, which are things you can’t do without the pads,” coach Sean Payton said. “It becomes a little bit more physical.”

BIG PLAYS: Several plays drew oohs and ahs from the crowd that attended Saturday’s practice after it was nearly moved indoors by a morning shower.

During a 1-on-1 pass drill, first-round draft pick Kenny Vaccaro had tight coverage on Kenny Stills. Vaccaro dove and knocked the ball away, then bounced up to his knees and signaled incomplete as fans cheered.

Later, in a 6-on-8 drill, backup inside linebacker Ramon Humber stripped the ball from tight end Benjamin Watson’s grasp and outside linebacker Baraka Atkins plucked the fumble out of the air.

BREES MAGIC: In team drills, Drew Brees and Graham teamed up for the best play of camp so far. Brees fired a perfect pass over the middle that Graham went up and pulled in with his fingertips despite good coverage from inside linebacker Curtis Lofton.

“I had perfect coverage, that’s just Drew Brees right there,” Lofton said. “He threw that back-shoulder fade and there’s no way of stopping that, especially with Jimmy. He has great hands and is a big, tall guy and he just caught it.

“I asked coach (Joe Vitt) what I could have done better, and he just said, ‘they had a good quarterback.’”

CALENDAR TO DEBUT: The Saintsations will unveil their 2014 swimsuit calendar on Wednesday, Aug. 7 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Royal Sonesta Hotel in New Orleans.

A limited number of tickets, which are priced at $40 per person, are available to the public. For more information, contact Shari Appel at (504) 553-2221 or sappel@sonesta.com.

Proceeds will benefit the third annual Spirit Award, a scholarship fund created for high school seniors who wish to pursue dance team or cheerleading at the collegiate level and beyond.

Saints just need a little help from the defense

Despite a lack of talent, new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan doesn’t have to do much for the Saints to be back on top, writes SI’s Peter King.

You can read it at http://mmqb.si.com/2013/07/27/new-orleans-saints-preview-2013/

Saints open camp with Brown at left tackle

One of the most-asked questions of the Saints’ offseason was finally answered Friday when four-year veteran Charles Brown lined up at left tackle for the first play of team drills of training camp.

The Saints need someone to step in and replace two-time Pro Bowler Jermon Bushrod after he left in free agency and speculation about who it would be — Brown, Jason Smith or rookie Terron Armstead — was a hot topic for more than four months.

Smith worked with the second team and Armstead with the third unit.

While it doesn’t mean anything after just one practice, Brown, who’s finished the past two seasons on injured reserve, said it was important for him to be with the first unit after getting a chance in the June minicamp.

“It is a big deal,” he said. “I’m just trying to keep my mistakes to a minimum, if any at all, and keep learning every day and keep growing.”

HARPER’S RECOVERY: Strong safety Roman Harper, who was put on the physically-unable-to-perform list this week, surprised everyone when he was on the field and working with the first-team defense Friday.

Saints coach Sean Payton said Thursday that Harper had sports hernia surgery and would likely be out a couple of days. But Harper, who had the surgery last month, made a quicker recovery.

“I felt good, and, for the most part, the reps I got moved around pretty good,” Harper said. “It’s coming along at a good pace right now. I’m where I need to be on the schedule.”

OFFENSE STRUGGLES: In the first team drills of camp, the Rob Ryan’s new 3-4 defense clearly held the upper hand during the 19 plays that were run — including the first play when Drew Brees was intercepted by cornerback Keenan Lewis.

Lewis, the Saints’ top acquisition in free agency, ran stride-for-stride down the right sideline with speedy wide receiver Joe Morgan and made the pick as 2,613 fans roared.

Lewis said he figured Brees might take a shot down the field early.

“I’ve watched Drew a lot … he’s a home-run hitter and he likes the home-run play every now and then to get the offense going,” Lewis said. “I kept that in my mind. When you go against one of the best, you’ve got to be thinking that he’s going to take a shot.”

BIG PLAYS: Counting Lewis’ interception, which drew praise from Payton, the defense came up with three takeaways in the first eight plays of team drills and also recorded a sack during the 19-play session.

Brees and running back Pierre Thomas botched a handoff that was recovered by defensive end Cameron Jordan and cornerback A.J. Davis intercepted backup quarterback Luke McCown on the second team’s first play.

EARLY RISERS: Fans started forming a line to get into the practice facility to watch the workout late Thursday night when local resident Reno Tyler showed up around midnight.

But he soon gave up his spot at the front of the line to Anthony Ramirez of Houston. Ramirez, who was celebrating his 19th birthday Friday, was there with his girlfriend and parents with a goal of getting Payton’s autograph.

“I’ve been up since 8 o’clock Thursday morning and I’m still up,” Ramirez said before the gates opened up for 2,613 fans to file through. “I’m ready for my autograph.”

Saints’ Colston starts training camp on PUP list

Wide receiver Marques Colston was added to the physically-unable-to-perform list Thursday, which means the eight-year veteran won’t be on the field for the Saints’ first training camp practice Friday.

Saints coach Sean Payton said Colston has a foot injury, but should return within a week. Rookie wide receiver Kenny Stills, a fifth-round draft pick, should be able to practice soon after being put on PUP with a wrist injury.

Earlier this week, the Saints put strong safety Roman Harper, linebacker Victor Butler and cornerback Patrick Robinson on PUP, which means they can’t practice until they can pass a physical.

Butler tore his ACL in one of the team’s final offseason workouts and Payton said Robinson had arthroscopic knee surgery this spring. Harper is recovering from sports hernia surgery.

Payton expects Harper to be ready soon and he said they’ll monitor Robinson weekly although General Manager Mickey Loomis said it may be late in the preseason before he’s full-go.

STANDING PAT: Payton said he and Loomis looked at the situation with Butler, who was projected to be the starting strongside linebacker, but ultimately decided against bringing someone in for training camp.

“We looked closely at it, and yet, we weren’t going to sign someone just to sign someone,” Payton said. “No one special is going to come flying (through) the doors from here on out.”

Payton said they decided to try and develop some of the young players they have. That includes third-year pro Martez Wilson, who backed up Butler during offseason workouts.

BACK IN THE SADDLE: After serving a season-long bounty-related suspension in 2012, Payton will call offensive plays this season for the first time since breaking his leg in an Oct. 16, 2011 game with the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Payton handed play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. for the rest of that season and Carmichael held the job a year ago while Payton was suspended.

Quarterback Drew Brees was pleased to hear that although he said Carmichael did a “phenomenal job.”

“I had Sean Payton in my ear for 51/2 years,” a smiling Brees said. “I’ve got confidence in whomever is calling the plays, but I’m happy to have Sean’s voice in my ear.”

NO EXTENSION YET: Loomis was asked about contract extension talks with tight end Jimmy Graham, who’s entering the final season of the rookie contract he signed in 2010.

With 215 receptions and 25 touchdowns in his first three seasons, Graham is clearly in line to become the highest-paid tight end in the league.

His next deal will likely surpass the contracts given by the New England Patriots to Rob Gronkowsi (eight years, $55.2 million) and former teammate Aaron Hernandez (five years, $40 million).

“I would rather not get into that, those are things that we haven’t (talked about in the past),” Loomis said. “We have some guys in the last year of their contract that are important players to our team, and have been important players to our team.

“We’ll talk about it, and we have talked about them. … We’re just going to see how this unfolds these next few weeks — and it is possible.”

TESTING, TESTING: The players checked in for camp and had a conditioning test Thursday although Brees said it was more strenuous than in the past and resembled the CrossFit regimen Payton uses.

“It wasn’t just running or your normal conditioning test,” Brees said, noting that he expected to be sore in the morning. “It was a combination of weights and an exercise shuttle, so it was all inclusive. It was like a 10-minute wrestling match.”

Payton said all but two players he did not identify completed the test.

WHAT’S NEXT?: The first practice, which is open to the public, is set for 8:50 a.m. at the team’s training facility at 5800 Airline Drive in Metairie.

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma is in the computer business

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma (Associated Press)

New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma is backing a company with a hi-tech program that helps people socialize in bars.

(Hey, someone has to do it. Right?)

According to a story in the New York Daily News, Vilma is backing a start-up company called “BarEye.”

The story said: “The app, created by Vilma’s business partner, Andrew Bennett, allows you to order and pay for drinks in a bar that you’re in, or send a drink to someone else in a remote location using your smartphone.”

Credit Vilma and his partner for always thinking.

Now, whether the app will be a success….