Saints’ goal-line drill makes things interesting in practice

After saying earlier that he might not have his team do live goal-line work until next week, Saints coach Sean Payton called an audible and put in a 12-play segment Wednesday morning that highlighted the next-to-last practice of training camp.

Sensing that the Saints were sluggish at the start of the practice after two crisp workouts, Payton decided to pick up the pace a little bit.

“You want to guard against just running plays and not improving,” said Payton. “It was kind of what we expected. We made it a live drill.

“I just thought we were sluggish at the beginning and I wanted to create some tempo. I thought there was some good on both sides of the ball.”

OFFENSE WINS: While the defense won at the end of Tuesday’s practice when free safety Malcolm Jenkins intercepted Drew Brees to end a two-minute drill, the offense had the better of it in goal line.

The first-team offense went against the first-team defense on six plays from the 1- and 2-yard line before the second team got six plays as well.

The offense wound up scoring on eight of the 12 plays with the first and second teams each chalking up four touchdowns.

“I thought the goal line scrimmage was one of our best we have had here in the past,” said running back Pierre Thomas, who walked in for a 1-yard TD after being stopped one play earlier. “Guys were on their blocks very quick. The offensive line and tight ends did a great job getting to their guys and pushing them back.”

RYAN RILED: The play of the defense in the goal line drill angered defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who was quite vocal with his players on several of the plays.

Safety Jim Leonhard said the players get used to coaches yelling at them during the course of practice.

“It’s a live goal line period,” Leonhard said. “If coaches can’t get fired up for that, they’re never going to get fired up. He was ready to go. We might have to apologize to some of the younger kids here at practice today.”

NICE JOB: Undrafted free agent linebacker Eric Martin did make Ryan happy when he kept running back Travaris Cadet from scoring with a textbook tackle just inches from the goal line.

Cadet looked like he would score easily from the 2 after taking a handoff from Seneca Wallace. But Martin sniffed the play out, came up quickly and hit Cadet straight on — driving him back as his teammates roared.

The first-team defense also stopped Mark Ingram on the first play of the goal-line drill before the offense scored on four or its final five opportunities.

VILMA ABSENT: After practice, Payton said he had no updates on his injured players.

That included inside linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who’s missed six of the past eight practices with an undisclosed injury and was not out at practice Wednesday.

Citing a league source, ESPN.com reported that Vilma flew to Philadelphia to get a second opinion on an unspecified injury.

FANS GET LAST LOOK: The second-to-last practice of training camp was the final opportunity for fans to watch practice.

Several players took time to thank the fans who turned out in the heat and humidity for the past three weeks even though it was cloudy and 78 degrees during Wednesday’s practice.

New tight end Benjamin Watson tweeted: “Many thanks to all you #Saints fans for sweating it out w/ us this training camp. Great to finally meet the #WhoDatNation! C U in the Dome!”