Saints notebook: Pierre Warren keeping effort in perspective _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON--New Orleans Saints free safety Pierre Warren (42) returns an interception against against the New England Patriots in the Superdome in New Orleans, La. Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015.

Pierre Warren doesn’t feel like he’s doing his job.

When he steps on the field each practice or game, he goes out there with one goal: Get a turnover. When that doesn’t happen, he doesn’t feel like the day was a success. There’s been too many days like that lately for his liking.

“I always want to have turnover at least every day,” Warren said. “Sometimes it just doesn’t go that way, but it’s still the goal.”

Warren contended for a spot on the roster last training camp and stood out by creating turnovers and making several good plays. He didn’t initially make the roster and spent some time with the Vikings but returned last season after injuries robbed the Saints of depth at safety.

He’s now fighting to keep his job. It currently appears that he’s behind most of the other safeties on the roster. The majority of his snaps have come with the third-team defense.

But he helped his cause during Saturday’s 26-24 loss to the Patriots by intercepting a Jimmy Garoppolo pass and breaking up another pass later in the contest. The performance might have helped Warren’s cause, but he’s aware that he could miss the cut and have to hook on with another team coming out of camp.

“For the most part, you’re already on a team, so you want to make the team that you’re on,” Warren said. “If things don’t go as planned, it’s always good to have 31 other teams.”

If Warren can’t crack the team on defense alone, he’s hoping that his work on special teams, including his role as a personal protector on the punt team, will help him get in.

Injury optimism

The Saints defense is much closer to full strength as New Orleans heads into its mock game week before the third preseason game.

Cornerback Keenan Lewis, safety Kenny Vaccaro and nickel back Delvin Breaux all returned to practice on Sunday, giving the Saints back three-fifths of their expected starting secondary. Veteran corner Brandon Browner has also been seen doing rehab work on the stationary bike, so he could return soon, and Sean Payton told ESPN last week the team is hoping to get back safety Jairus Byrd before the end of the preseason.

Veteran linebackers Dannell Ellerbe, Anthony Spencer and Ramon Humber remain out of action, but Payton said the Saints might get a few more guys back by the time the Houston Texans arrive in New Orleans this weekend.

“With a handful of these guys, some are returning right now, some may within a week,” Payton said. “Obviously, with all of our players, you want them out here so you can get more snaps to evaluate and continue to work through the rehab and treatment schedule.”

Toon on shelf

Saints receiver Nick Toon will be out two to three weeks after suffering a high ankle sprain in the third quarter against the New England Patriots, according to a report by Fox Sports.

Toon has been in a fight for a roster spot among a crowded wide receiver group.

The former fourth-round pick, who finished last season with 17 catches for 215 yards, opened training camp with a perceived edge on the No. 3 receiver role behind Brandin Cooks and Marques Colston, but over the past three weeks, Brandon Coleman has moved into that spot in practice, and Joe Morgan, Josh Morgan, Seantavius Jones and Willie Snead are all factors in the race for the roster.

Parting shots

Five observations from the practice field:

1 Sunday’s practice was light, in large part because the Saints just played Saturday night. New Orleans held practice Sunday because of CBA rules.

2 Cornerback Delvin Breaux picked up where he left off in return from injury. In one-on-one drills, Breaux twice won matchups against WR Marques Colston and broke up every pass thrown his way.

3 With veteran linebackers held out with injuries, undrafted free agent Henry Coley worked with the starters at weakside linebacker.

4 Safety Vinnie Sunseri ended Sunday’s practice by picking off a throw from quarterback Garrett Grayson — the third time he’s intercepted the rookie in camp.

5 The group of punt returners appears to be whittled down to Marcus Murphy, Jalen Saunders and Brandin Cooks. Murphy’s the leader.

-- Joel A. Erickson