WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. — Kenny Vaccaro’s running mate at safety has not practiced in training camp yet.
But Vaccaro isn’t worried.
When Jairus Byrd returns to the field — and the rehab work he’s been doing on the field during the Saints’ morning practices suggests it will be soon — Vaccaro expects Byrd to slide seamlessly into a secondary that has performed well in training camp.
“I’m not too concerned,” Vaccaro said. “He’ll come back and be the same old Byrd when he’s healthy.”
Byrd, who had surgery to repair a torn meniscus that ended his season last fall, is still working his way back from the injury.
The veteran safety played in the Saints’ secondary next to Vaccaro all through organized team activities and most of minicamp before an injury knocked him out of practice on the final day.
Vaccaro understands why Byrd hasn’t been back on the field yet.
“You’re always a little bit banged up, but he’s coming off his knee, and whatever the doctors tell him, he’s going to listen,” Vaccaro said. “He’s not going to rush it back.”
New Orleans has been moving first-round pick Andrus Peat all over the formation for the past few days. On Thursday, Peat manned the left tackle position and took some snaps as a sixth offensive lineman in the Saints’ jumbo packages. In Friday’s scrimmage, he set up at left tackle while the Saints sat Terron Armstead, who returned to the field on Sunday. Then, on Sunday, Peat lined up inside at guard, a surprising spot for a player the Saints have always said they consider a tackle.
Placing Peat at guard for a cameo has been the plan all along. If Peat is one of the Saints’ active backup offensive linemen, he’s going to have to swing to other spots in a pinch.
“What we’ve been able to do, based on our personnel, if all of a sudden we’re down in one position, he’s kind of been the guy we want to see play that tackle position,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “We were down a guard today, and we wanted to put him at left guard. The key is to get the right guys out there. I do see him as a tackle, and yet, I think he has the athleticism to play inside. ... Without having planned practice tomorrow, I think there’s a good chance he’ll come back outside to tackle.”
Peat has gotten a ton of snaps, taking nearly 40 in Friday’s scrimmage, more than any other offensive lineman, a workload that contributed to conditioning issues at the end of Friday’s practice.
The rookie’s mental acuity allows him to shift around the formation without much trouble in the playbook.
“The vision when we drafted him was tackle,” Payton said. “Today he took some snaps at left guard, but we’ll keep moving him around. He’s bright, he knows what to do.”
That sound coming from the loudspeakers at the Saints’ practice field wasn’t the sound of a jet engine taking off or a soundtrack for the latest Jurassic Park movie, even though it would be easy to mistake it for those ear-splitting sounds.
Now that the Saints are approaching the first preseason game on Thursday in Baltimore, New Orleans is going to start adding more game-like situations to practice.
“That’s going to happen this week,” Payton said. “Two-minute (drill) is coming this week before we go to Baltimore. Crowd noise, third down. We gave them three periods today of crowd noise, and it’s kind of the world we live in, so we knew we’d be into it this week.”
Rookie MLB Stephone Anthony played with WLB Dannell Ellerbe on the starting defense, relegating veteran MLB David Hawthorne to the second unit. ... LB Anthony Spencer, CB Damian Swann and TEs Josh Hill and Kevin Brock returned to practice. ... WR Willie Snead got his first chance at punt returner on Sunday, trading snaps with rookie Marcus Murphy. ... Payton bet the players that the coaches would run wind sprints after practice if kickers Dustin Hopkins and Zach Hocker both made 59-yard attempts. Hopkins and Hocker came through, sending the coaches to the line to end practice.