Saints receiver Kenny Stills hopes to play in Sunday's game at the Cleveland Browns _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Salnts quarterback Drew Brees joins other injured players in a jogging reps during practice Monday. Also pictured are, from left to right, John Jenkins, Kenny Stills and Ben Grubbs.

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — The fans in attendance were likely disappointed that Drew Brees was missing from his second-consecutive practice.

Some of those on the field, however, did not share in the disappointment.

“That’s a guy who loves to compete, will do anything to make sure he gets that completion,” cornerback Keenan Lewis said. “I’m kind of glad. He’s the best in the league at what he do. When you don’t have the best, it makes it easy on the defense. I’m excited that he’s not there, but I’d love to have him when the season starts.”

For now, Brees missing his second practice with a left oblique strain can be joked about by the defense, and it seems the team is not treating it as a serious situation. After being told that his quarterback has never missed a game with an injury in New Orleans, safety Kenny Vaccaro snapped back, “He’s not going to miss a snap in game.”

Coach Sean Payton supported that notion. When asked about the injury after practice, Payton maintained that Brees is being held out as a precaution.

“When you look at what he does on a daily basis, with regards to torquing his chest and throwing the football, you just got to be smart,” Payton said. “We’ll see, it’s day to day. It’s the type of thing, though, where if try to all of the sudden force it back you re-aggravate it.”

The Saints play their first preseason game Friday night in St. Louis. It is not known if Brees will play in that game.

Brees was in attendance for Monday’s practice and worked out on a side field in shorts and a red non-contact jersey. He apparently suffered the injury during Friday’s practice and was held out of Saturday’s Black and Gold scrimmage.

With him out, Ryan Griffin and Luke McCown have seen an increase in their amount of snaps.

In other injury news, cornerback Champ Bailey made his first appearance at practice after missing the last two. He rode a stationary bike.

Linebacker Victor Butler (uknown). fullback Erik Lorig (unknown), tight end Je’Ron Hamm and offensive lineman Jason Weaver were new absences.

Weaver was held out of action after having a root canal, according to a source.

Hamm missed practice after suffering a stinger, according to a source.

Vaccaro praises Ryan

Those who wonder why Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has not received a chance to be head coach theorize that it is because he keeps his hair long and is overweight.

But those who have had the opportunity to play for him do not see things this way. They want Ryan to remain true to himself, hair and all.

“I don’t think he should change who he is. ... that’s him, man,” safety Kenny Vaccaro said. “He’s a player’s coach. I don’t want him to cut his hair.”

And with the help of Ryan, who has placed an emphasis on three-safety sets, the Saints feel as if they are on the cusp of doing something special this season.

“We got a long ways to go,” Vaccaro said. “We have the potential to be the best secondary in the league, but we got to get their first and prove it.”

The Watsons

Reserve tight end Benjamin Watson has been keeping tabs on his brother, Asa, who is trying to win a roster spot with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent. His progress has been a point of pride with Benjamin Watson, since Asa Watson overcame a serious heart condition that limited his participation at North Carolina State.

“He bears our last name really well, he bears his name very well — not only on the football field, but what he’s doing in that locker room,” Benjamin Waton said. “I know for a fact that he’s making a difference with guys in that locker room, he’s forging relationships, and he’s becoming a spiritual leader.”

Nick Underhill