WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, West Virginia — Conceding that he would need to be eased back into football, Saints coach Sean Payton on Thursday told reporters that wide receiver Joseph Morgan would be “a go” for the start of training camp after he missed the entire 2013 campaign with a torn ACL.
Morgan hurt his knee during a scrimmage last preseason, and it kept him out of voluntary organized team activities (“OTAs”) and minicamp in the spring. He also missed the 2011 campaign with a torn ACL; but in 2012 he had an astounding 379 yards and three touchdowns on just 10 catches, showing his ability to be a fearsome long-ball threat.
Morgan’s expected return for the start of training camp practices Friday at The Greenbrier golf resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, puts him in the fight for a spot at a wide receiver corps that includes veterans Marques Colston and Robert Meachem; second-year man Kenny Stills; and Brandin Cooks, the rookie first-round pick out of Oregon State.
Nonetheless, during the coach’s first media session at The Greenbrier, Payton did make it a point to say the Saints still “have to transition (Morgan) back to football.”
In other injury news, Payton said he was optimistic that safety Jairus Byrd would begin practicing with the Saints “sooner rather than later,” though he didn’t specify when or exactly in what capacity. After joining the team on a massive six-year, $54 million free-agent contract in March, Byrd — whose 22 interceptions are the most among NFL safeties since entering the league in 2009 as a second-round draft pick out of Buffalo — underwent minor back surgery in May and subsequently missed OTAs as well as minicamp.
Payton made similar remarks about second-year nose tackle John Jenkins, who started several games as a rookie in 2013 but missed offseason practices and landed on the physically unable to perform (“PUP”) list earlier in the week. Jenkins is reportedly recovering from minor surgery on a pectoral muscle but could come off the PUP list at any time in the preseason.
Meanwhile, about why rookie left tackle Tavon Rooks (sixth-round pick) ended up on the non-football injury list, Payton said it was a minor back issue that he thought should be resolved soon. Payton in general said he was pleased with the team’s health heading into training camp.
The Saints’ first training camp practice will be a non-padded workout starting at 7:50 a.m. Central time Saturday.