Saints’ Payton: Playing time up for grabs|[07/24/08]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 24, 2008

JACKSON – For the 79 players who showed up to begin the New Orleans Saints third training camp at Millsaps College Wednesday, it’s all about getting on the field.

“These guys are competing for snaps,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said in his opening camp press conference at Millsaps College’s media center. “Playing time is up for grabs. And they are not only competing to see how many snaps they get with us, but they are also competing with the guys from 31 other teams.”

NFL teams are supposed to have a roster limit of 80 players as training camp begins, but the Saints were one short when free agent cornerback Jerametrius Butler from Buffalo did not report.

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“I think he retired, so that leaves us with 79. The only other two who are not here are (Sedrick) Ellis and (Tracey) Porter,” Payton said.

Ellis, a defensive tackle, is the Saints’ No. 1 draft pick out of Southern California while Porter, a defensive back, is a second round pick out of Indiana.

The newest Saint in former New York Giant tight end Jeremy Shockey, was here. Shockey was acquired in a trade that was completed Monday by Saints general manager Mickey Loomis. Payton was Shockey’s offensive coordinator with the Giants during his rookie season.

“I go by what I know and I’ve worked with him before. He’s guy a that can wear his emotions on his sleeve, but it was pretty unanimious in the people I know with the Giants that he was well-liked in the locker room,” Payton said.

Payton said Shockey reported in good shape but because of his injuries from last season, will take it slow for the first couple of weeks of camp. When healthy, Saints campPractices are scheduled for 8:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m. each day at Millsaps College until Aug. 11. Practices are free and open to the public.Shockey is considered one of the most dangerous receiving weapons in the league. He can line up at both tight end and receiver.

“He’s close to 100 percent. He passed his physical and is excited to play football,” Payton said. “But he’ll still be limited early on.”

Payton said Shockey will be a big benefit to the Saints offense.

“He gives us flexibility. Not only can he catch the ball downfield, he does an outstanding job blocking. He’s not one dimensional. He’s a big target and has strong hands,” Payton said.

With Loomis announcing the contract extension to wide receiver Marques Colston, Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees now has two of the league’s best weapons available.

“I know Drew is excited. This helps us get better. It gives us more competition at that spot and it allows us to get the best 53 guys for 2008,” Payton said.

The return to Millsaps for a third training camp was something Payton was also glad to see.

“The transition is just smoother. We have a good relationship with the folks here at Millsaps. Getting the bottom field ready was a big deal. We were able to run our conditioning drills down there and it was in good shape,” Payton said.

The full field was not available for the 2007 camp and the Saints spent all of their practice time on the upper fields and did some work on Millsaps’ playing surface and at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

“I think last year, we kind of felt that we were light one field and so, we were on that today for the conditioning test. It looks to be in really good shape, so we’re real pleased with it,” Loomis said.

This year’s camp will be a couple of days longer than last year but a good week shorter than in 2006.

“We’re here for three weeks this year which is longer than last year but shorter than ’06. I still like having training camp away from our main facility because I think it eliminates some distractions and we can get the work in. We’ve got competition at wide receiver, on the offensive line, running back, safety, linebacker, tight end and cornerbacks. That’s just about everywhere, isn’t it?” Payton said.

The Saints will begin work today toward their exhibition opener at Arizona on Aug. 7.