NEW ORLEANS—Football life at the Saints camp these days has a very different feel.
As organized team activities kicked off this week, head coach Sean Payton was in New Orleans. But, Payton suspended for a year and barred from any contact with the team, introduced current Tulane head coach and former Saints assistant Curtis Johnson at the Jefferson Parish Prayer Breakfast Thursday morning.
And, quarterback Drew Brees, without a contract after being tagged as the team's Franchise Player, is missing from workouts. Chase Daniel is quarterbacking the first unit, and Sean Canfield the second.
In a moment of levity Thursday, tight end David Thomas took a snap at quarterback and tossed a screen pass. Said Thomas,"I think Drew should be a little nervous, we have a new number three quarterback that is looking to move his way up the depth chart. Let's just leave at that."
Thomas then smiled broadly.
Wide receiver Lance Moore spoke in support of Brees, saying he should be the highest paid player in the NFL. Said Moore, "To win a Super Bowl and even more so, to bring a region back, I think the man deserves the world, and when he gets it I will be just as excited as he is."
The Saints are also adjusting to new the defense being installed by coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt said the Saints will still pressure the quarterback, but play more zone defense instead of man to man. Vitt said the Saints must cut down on the number of big plays allowed.
Offensively last year we had 124 big plays,"said Vitt. " That is runs of 10 yards or more, or pass plays of 20 yards, defensively we gave up more than we had , a total of 99."
The Saints have moved Martez Wilson from linebacker to defensive end. And, linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who has sued NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for libel, attends meetings and is according to the club, rehabbing a knee injury.
Vilma is suspended for the 2012 season. Linebacker Curtis Lofton, signed as a free agent from Atlanta, is running with the first unit at Vilma's old middle linebacker.