There were more on-field absences than usual on the ninth and final day of voluntary offseason practices for the Saints on Thursday, headlined by those of running back Pierre Thomas, right guard Jahri Evans and left guard Ben Grubbs.
While he didn’t give specific reasons for the veterans’ not participating, coach Sean Payton said he had talked to all of them; the session was optional; some of them had other commitments; and it was “nothing that was surprising or earth-shattering.”
Others who sat out drills Thursday were safety Jairus Byrd (back issue), nose tackle John Jenkins (pec), wide receiver Joseph Morgan (knee), tight end Josh Hill, outside linebacker Cheta Ozougwu, wide receiver Steve Hull, nose tackle Moses McCray and cornerback A.J. Davis. As was expected, tight end Jimmy Graham (contract dispute) was not present — he’s not technically under a playing deal, so he missed every voluntary practice and a mandatory three-day minicamp this offseason.
Thomas, Evans, Grubbs, Hill and Davis had been participated in every voluntary practice and minicamp session open to the media ahead of Thursday. All others had been out of practice previously.
Meanwhile, rookie receiver Brandin Cooks — the first-round draft choice out of Oregon State — practiced with the full complement of players available to the Saints in front of the media Thursday after missing the minicamp and six prior voluntary practices to finish up his junior year of college. He dazzled observers with his speed in passing, team and punt-return drills.
The Saints are off for the coming weeks and report to preseason training camp at The Greenbier resort in West Virginia on July 24. Practices are scheduled to start July 25.