Going (Mini) Camping
Doug Miller, NewOrleansSaints.com
May 11, 2007 – 4:01 pm
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It will start with introductions, but will quickly transition from a "meet-and-greet" to the critical matter at hand: football. Professional football---Saints' style
Seven draft picks, 12 undrafted rookie free agents and a host of players invited by the Saints for a three-day rookie and first-year players minicamp will get their first taste of how Head Coach Sean Payton and his coaching staff conduct business this weekend. Payton, above and beyond all else, is looking for three things this weekend: instruction, the ability to transition knowledge from the classroom to the field and the initial phase of the players' overall evaluation.
"I think you look to find football players who can compete," said Payton. "We're looking for players that can make our club and if we're able to get production out of them in their rookie season, all the better."
"I think we try to take an unbiased look at these guys and ask if they fit in," he continued. "Are they tough? Are their work habits what we're looking for? That is what we're about to find out."
Wide receiver Robert Meachem from Tennessee, the Saints' first-round draft choice nearly two weeks ago, will join his fellow rookies when they step onto the Saints' Metairie training grounds beginning Saturday morning. Each player will first undergo physicals and then begin a new chapter in their lives as professional athletes. The offensive players will be handed one of the Saints' playbooks, while the defenders will be introduced to Gary Gibbs' defensive schemes. And nearly all will be introduced to special teams coach John Bonamego and taught the basic principles of his special teams units.
The players will practice five times over the weekend and also have the opportunity to prepare for practices and review performances during film sessions and in meetings. The basic structure of the Saints' philosophy will be introduced to the players and the players will certainly be spending quite a bit of what little free time they have immersed in their playbooks.
Each year, the rookie minicamp serves as a platform for the young players to come in and learn how the team goes about its business. From the most basic matters such as finding out how to get in the building and locating the locker room, weight room, meeting rooms and everything in between to the more complex, such as learning myriad of formations and plays, the rookie camp is a chance for the players to display their skill, and vice versa, for the coaches to see what they have acquired.
The past year's work of scouting is now complete. Thousands of player evaluations have been neatly filed away. It is time for the 2007 season, although still in it's embryonic stage, to begin.
The Saints brass very much aware of their newest players' attributes and areas that need developed. Now the three-day trial is designed to see how the former collegiate standouts respond to the anxiety and apprehension they feel as they begin processing the information that they hope becomes second nature early in training camp if they hope to make the roster.
For most, the weekend is about first impressions, some of which will be accurate, while yet others will see what a dramatic raise the competition from what they are used to. After the rookie minicamp the players will then begin a steep progression: first an indoctrination in the world of professional strength-and-conditioning, then a full-squad minicamp where they will compete against a roster full of players who advanced to last season's NFC Championship game.
Last year Marques Colston struggled at times during the rookie minicamp, but rebounded quickly and progress so quickly during training camp that the former Hofstra product earned a starting spot by the end of training camp. While yet others, such as running back Reggie Bush and guard Jahri Evans, seemingly stepped right in and displayed their talents quickly.
"That transition is longer for some players than others and it's hard to measure that," said Payton. "If you had a way to find out where you could see how each of these players is going to transition into our league, well, you'd really be on to something. That is part of the evaluation process and it's far from an exact science. There are going to be guys that were taken in the first round of the draft, in those first 15-20 picks, that may never make the transition. Those are the things that make this thing interesting and exciting."
In addition to Meachem, the Saint will get their first glimpses of draft picks Usama Young (third round), Andy Alleman (third round), Antonio Pittman (fourth round), Jermon Bushrod (fourth round), David Jones (fifth round) and Marvin Mitchell (seventh round) in their Saints' issued practice gear. Also in attendance will 12 free agents, such as former Pitt quarterback Tyler Palko, and former ultra-productive Notre Dame wide receiver Rhema McKnight.
The Saints will also play host to a group of players invited on a tryout basis. Players who may have spent time on other NFL team's rosters or are seeking to be signed by the Saints.