Photograph by Jonathan Bachman
Organized Team Activities (OTAs) are supposed to be voluntary practices, a chance for rookies and free agents to make a good first impression on their coaches. But the Saints have seemingly thrown that aside for most of their OTAs and minicamp - turning in spirited performances on both sides of the ball. The defensive players, of course, are under greater pressure this year because of the new coach with new schemes and a new attitude. But the offense, with all that talent - not to mention the controversy - would be remiss if it tried to take time off.
So it can't be encouraging when Sean Payton calls today's practice - er - OTA, "sloppy". Payton and his assistant coaches said they felt both the offense and defense suffered from a weekend malaise. (Most of the reporters would have blamed the oppressive heat.) Sluggish may have been a more operative word considering the weather and how this practice generally lacked the chatter and "pep" of those ones that have come before.
But one man who definitely didn't take the day off was defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. He was his usually glaring, jawing self, marching up and down the sidelines barking orders and making sure his players had their helmets in hand. If anyone took a break, it wasn't him, as he kept on his players to play "after the whistle" - is there a more fitting metaphor for change for a squad which, last season, appeared to at times not even play to the whistle, let alone after?
But how much can you really gleam from these practices? Even coaches will tell you that, aside from seeing if a player is picking up the playbook, not much. Well, it's all about knowing where to look. Joey Harrington, for instance, is looking as jittery and jumpy as ever. He pulled the ball down several times with the "pass rush" (remember, they weren't wearing pads) and even scrambled once. Not what you want to see from your possible second-string QB. But other than that? The Saints have been implementing their 2-minute drill and, well, we're all waiting for the real season practices to start.