WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va - Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan likes what he's seen from Tyrunn Walker.
Ryan just wants to see more. As in more often.
It's not that Walker doesn't perform when he's on the field. His issue, his early flaw in his NFL career is staying healthy.
Walker, a native of New Iberia, missed nine games last year due to injury.
"He’s a gamer," Ryan said. "He shows up during the games. He did last year. The big thing is just keeping him healthy.
"He’s battled through some injuries ever since I’ve been here (2013). He has to become more available for us to use him."
Walker, a former undrafted free agent, finished last season with nine tackles and one sack.
Now a third-year pro, Walker has been available during training camp, and through the first game of the preaseason. He had one sack during last Friday's preseason opener at St. Louis, cleaning up a Trevin Wade corner blitz with a sack of Garrett Gilbert.
Walker finished with a team-high six tackles.
"He’s an excellent player, he’s really smart, knows how to play, he knows how to rush," Ryan said. "He’s always made good plays and he’s a smart player. Those are the kind we like."
-- Champ Bailey or Coach Bailey?
The future Hall of Famer, in his first season with the Saints, is often mentioned by teammates young and old as someone that has passed on football knowledge.
"I think when you have someone like that in the room, it helps everybody in the meeting, rookies and other players," Payton said. "When he hasn't been on the field, he has taken on that role."
Even on the field. After all, he has as many Pro Bowl appearances as the Saints defense collected interceptions last season (12).
Meanwhile, Bailey on Monday returned to practice on a limited basis.
"He's progressing well," Payton said. "He's feeling better. It's encouraging."
-- Quarterback Drew Brees (oblique) dressed out in full pads on Monday, but did not practice with the team. Brees threw passes on the sideline with injured receiver Kenny Stills (quad)."
--LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, Brees' former offensive boss with the San Diego Chargers, may have explained why his one-time, Pro Bowl pupil has achieved success for so long.
The answer: Brees and Payton know how to compete and have fun.
"He got a little of that (competitiveness) from (former NFL great) Doug Flutie," Cameron said at LSU's Media Day. "Flutie had a knack for creating crazy challenges, similar to what Brees has earned a reputation for - passing challenges that range from hitting descending water bottles to more complex layouts which closely resemble "Assault," an event on American Gladiators, a popular competition show in the late 1980s through the mid 1990s.
"Flutie made more money walking off the practice field than anybody in the history of the game," Cameron said.
Perhaps Brees' greatest unappreciated trait: The games are open to all. Backups Ryan Griffin and Luke McCown. Even Logan Kilgore, the No. 4 quarterback at training camp.
Even Payton, offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael and quarterbacks coach Mike Neu.
With the Saints, Cameron said, "Drew and Payton both understand how to compete and get everyone involved... If you're not having fun, what in the world are you thinking?"