ITEM NO. 1: Four players will enter training camp on the NFL “Active – physically unable to perform (PUP)’’ list. Three come as no surprise _ FS Darren Sharper (left knee), WR Robert Meachem (left middle toe) and LB Clint Ingram (left knee). The fourth player is somewhat of a surprise. WR Marques Colston recently underwent microscopic surgery on a troublesome left knee. It’s the same knee that required micro-fracture surgery following the 2008 season. Apparently the knee in question bothered him at the conclusion of the offseason program in mid-June so team officials decided to operate. “We expect all of these guys to be participating in practice full go prior to the first preseason game,’’ Loomis said, referring to the night of Aug. 12 (6:30 p.m.) against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
Inside the lines: Active-PUP means each of the aforementioned players cannot participate in practice per se but each will count against the 80-man training camp roster. When deemed healthy enough to practice, the player will come off the Active-PUP.
ITEM NO. 2: Jimmy Wilkerson, the free agent defensive end from Tampa Bay who underwent major reconstructive knee surgery in January while a member of the Buccaneers, passed his physical and conditioning test and is cleared to begin practicing immediately.
Inside the lines: That’s good news because Wilkerson was expected to still be rehabbing his surgically-repaired left knee. I’ll be interested to see No. 99 up close and personal.
ITEM NO. 3: Negotiations continue between Saints Director of Football Administration Khai Harley and Atlanta-based sports agent Kevin Conner, who represents first-round draft pick, cornerback Patrick Robinson. “I would be surprised if it’s not done before the weekend is out,’’ Loomis said. “Hopefully, sooner than that.’’ Conner told NewOrleans.Com late Thursday that “things are progressing at a very rapid and productive pace. We’re working through one final detail that we hope to resolve very soon.’’
Inside the lines: Deals with first-round draft picks throughout the league have been slow to materialize this year, in part because of the labor issues that are facing the NFL and the threat of a work stoppage in 2011. “This is my 10th or 11th year here,’’ Loomis said, “and I don’t think we’ve signed a first-round pick before the beginning of training camp since I’ve been here. So, this is no surprise. You would think that picking at the end of the round you’d have an easier time of getting the contract done, but that doesn’t seem to be the case this year as it has been in the past. But I’m not alarmed in any way.’’
UPDATE: Robinson agrees to 5-year deal on Thursday.
Sean Payton (AP)ITEM NO. 4: While Sharper continues his rehabilitation, Malcolm Jenkins and Usama Young will share the snaps at free safety with the No. 1 defensive unit as they did all during the offseason.
Inside the lines: I am convinced _ totally and unequivocally _ that Payton and Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams believe the defense will be better this season with Jenkins in the starting lineup. That is why I have placed Sharper on the proverbial bubble. He has to win a job in training camp. In other words, he “won’t make the club in the tub.’’
ITEM NO. 5: Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees is entering the fifth year of a six-year, $60 million contract that he originally signed in March 2006. It had been speculated prior to the Super Bowl that team officials might consider extending Brees a new deal during the offseason. “That hasn’t been a topic that we’ve talked about,’’ Loomis said Thursday. “I don’t really have any expectations at this point.’’
Inside the lines: Brees has two years remaining on his contract. I suspect that the NFL labor issues need to be resolved before Loomis would entertain making Brees among the league’s highest paid players. Translated: That means a minimum of $15 million annually.
ITEM NO. 6: Finally, veteran quarterback Patrick Ramsey is under contract after signing a one-year deal Wednesday. While he doesn’t have the skins on the wall as his predecessor (Mark Brunell), Ramsey is eight years younger with a relatively fresh arm.
Inside the lines: Ramsey possesses a “live’’ arm and has reported in good shape (a svelte sub-230) after working out the past few months under the direction of local fitness/conditioning/nutritional guru Mackie Shilstone, who, incidentally, now enlists NBC sportscaster Bob Costas among his clients. Ramsey beat out free agent quarterback Josh McCown for a roster spot. McCown possessed the better feet, Ramsey the better arm. It will be interesting to see if Payton carries only two QBs on the 53-man roster or a third QB. He has done both during his first four years in New Orleans. First-year QB Chase Daniel and rookie Sean Canfield also are on the 80-man roster.
ITEM NO. 7: Veteran defensive end/speed rusher Bobby McCray is a recent addition to the 80-man roster after having his contract abruptly terminated June 21. He signed a one-year deal last week and, in his words, took “a big hit’’ financially in the process. “No, I didn’t anticipate bringing him back when we terminated his contract,’’ Loomis said. “But some things happened in the course of the last 30 days and I think it made sense for us towards the end.’’ Payton, too, danced around the subject. “At the time (of his release), there were no plans but then as time unfolded there began some dialogue and I think that specific dialogue would be better off just between us,’’ Payton said. “We’re glad he’s back; he’s in good shape; he ran well and had a good offseason.”
Inside the lines: Initial media reports in June focused on a pending $1.25 million roster bonus due McCray on July 1. But my sources indicate that team officials were reluctant to pay him the bonus because some coaches had grown weary of his act and he was habitually late for meetings. And while he did play with lower back problems for much of last season, he picked his moments in which to play. Then, when he re-signed, I thought perhaps Payton and Williams were concerned with Wilkerson’s health going into training camp. But now, Wilkerson has been cleared for practice. In my opinion, McCray needs a good camp to make the 53-man roster.
ITEM NO. 8: The Saints will be practicing on a softer, better cushioned and more player-friendly turf this coming season at their indoor practice facility in Metairie. It is the same turf used for games in the Superdome.
Inside the lines: Players and coaches alike have complained the past few years about the unforgiving turf at their indoor facility. Hard playing surfaces are hard on the joints, particularly the knees which absorb the constant pounding. Owner Tom Benson has made a wise investment.
ITEM NO. 9: Other transactions: The roster stands at 80 after the recent additions ands subtractions. Veteran fullback Jason McKie and defensive tackle Earl Heyman were released to get down to the required number. An additional player will have to be released once Robinson gets under contract.
Inside the lines: McKie’s release indicates that veteran fullback Heath Evans is progressing on, or is ahead, of schedule from his reconstructive knee surgery last season. That is good news, indeed.
ITEM NO. 10: The Saints will hold their Black and Gold “practice’’ on Aug. 7 from 2:50 p.m. to 4:20 p.m. at their training facility in Metairie. It will be held outside and is open to the public, weather permitting.
Inside the lines: Once again, team officials are emphasizing the word “practice’’ because it will not be a live scrimmage. But it will still be a great event for Who Dat Nation.