WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Eat your heart out, Andy Reid.
Sean Payton added another distinction to his NFL coaching moxy Thursday when he completed the team’s CrossFit-style physical, albeit with an admitted share of trouble on the course.
“Listen, I finished,” Payton said to laughs at The Greenbrier Resort, the site of Saints training camp.
“After the first 5 yards of pushing that sled, my goal was to finish. It was tough ... I didn’t want that sled to be sitting there, halfway between the sideline and like five players have to pull it back for the next heat.”
Still, Payton finished. How many NFL coaches could manage such a feat?
Maybe Jason Garrett in Dallas. The Harbaugh brothers (John in Baltimore, Jim in San Francisco), Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh and ... well, not Reid, Kansas City’s slimmer but far-from-trim coach.
“I did this a year ago,” Payton said. “I wanted to get an idea of what it’s like.”
He had plans to complete the course earlier in the week, back in Metairie, but a chest cold kept him away from it.
Not on Thursday.
Byrd to return ‘sooner’
Free safety Jarius Bryd is expected on the field with the Saints “sooner than later,” Payton said Thursday. It also means Bryd, the prized free agent acquisition of the Saints, will likely watch the beginning of training camp from the sideline or at best, limited.
General Manager Mickey Loomis said Byrd will “likely” be available but like Payton, stopped short of giving a direct answer other than that the decision would come later Thursday evening.
While Byrd recovers, fourth-year pro Rafael Bush is expected to step into his starting role.
Picking spots with Bailey
If Payton’s coaching mentor, Hall of Famer Bill Parcells, were here, Payton said he would say this about cornerback Champ Bailey, a future Hall of Famer and offseason acquisition: “With a player like Champ, we don’t need to see it every day, but we need to see it once in awhile.”
Because of this, Payton said he will monitor his usage of Bailey, a 16-year pro, starting with training camp.
Payton said he has a “pretty good vision” for how he can utilize Bailey in the defense.
“That’s been communicated, and I think he’s really excited to do that,” he said.
The next hidden gem
Last year, it was running back Khiry Robinson and defensive end Glenn Foster. The year before, running back Travaris Cadet.
In recent years, outside linebacker Junior Galette (2010), running back Pierre Thomas (2007) and receivers Marques Colston (2006) and Lance Moore (2005).
Who will be the next undrafted free agent to earn a regular-season roster spot with the Saints?
Payton said he expects to get a clearer vision after next Saturday’s scrimmage or the first preseason game Aug. 8 at St. Louis.
“Khari is a good example,” Payton said. “If you would have asked me about I felt about him after the spring, I would have said, ‘It was OK.” But then all of a sudden, the pads went on and he was a different type runner than we expected, and it kind of defined him.”
Robinson finished his rookie season with 54 carries for 224 yards and one score.
Welcome to The Greenbrier
The Saints are checked into their rooms at The Greenbrier, although some are more relaxed than others. Tight end Jimmy Graham was captured on Instagram by teammate Pierre Thomas playfully complaining about the rosy interior of his room.
“How do you feel about your room, Jim?” asked Thomas.
“This is ridiculous,” responded Graham, smiling. “Flowers? Look what I have to stare at all night. That’s so awkward!”
Thomas replied: “Oh, they got you so good!”
Not far away, receiver Andy Tanner and fullback Austin Johnson are evidently sharing a one-bed room. The duo took to Twitter to chronicle their antics.
Payton said rookie offensive tackle Tavon Rooks has sustained a non-football injury described as a sore back, an injury Payton said he expects to be resolved soon... Payton also said receiver Joseph Morgan is fully healthy, coming off his season-ending knee injury from last season’s offseason workouts. Now, the challenge is to transition Morgan back to football “and be smart about that.”