METAIRIE - New Orleans Saints fans got a glimpse of what they hope to be a big part of the team’s future Sunday when running back Mark Ingram and linebacker Martez Wilson practiced for the first time.
Ingram, a first-round draft pick, and Wilson, a third-rounder, signed their contracts Saturday and were thrown right into the mix for their first practice.
Ingram worked in a rotation with Pierre Thomas and Lynell Hamilton, while Wilson, a 6-foot-4, 252-pounder, was the starter on the strong side because veteran Scott Shanle can’t practice until Thursday.
Saints coach Sean Payton was impressed by what he saw from Ingram, who hasn’t had the benefit of two minicamps and organized team activities that rookies normally get.
“We were trying to bring him up to speed and get him the snaps he needs,” said Payton. “I thought he did a really good job with the reps he had today, and we’ll continue to build on that.”
A couple of veteran defenders took the liberty of giving Ingram a rude welcome to the NFL during the rookie’s first carry in team drills.
And it wasn’t a carry to remember.
Ingram tried to run to the left on a stretch play before being engulfed by several defenders near the sideline. Thinking the play was whistled dead, Ingram relaxed as defensive end Will Smith held him from behind and middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma punched the ball out.
After having his helmet knocked off the process, Ingram got a few words from Payton about finishing the play as he headed back to the huddle.
“When the play is over, they’re still stripping the ball, so button it up,” Ingram said. “I thought it was over, but they stripped the ball. It’s all good - it didn’t happen any more. So, corrected.”
The Saints agreed to terms Sunday with former Oakland Raiders and Baltimore Ravens cornerback Fabian Washington on a one-year deal.
The Saints are bringing Washington in because cornerback Tracy Porter has not passed his physical yet as he continues to recover from offseason surgery on his left knee. Porter hopes to be ready for the season opener on Sept. 8.
Payton said the Saints wanted to bring in another veteran to help out while Porter’s rehab continues. Washington, a former first-round draft pick who has 58 NFL starts in his first six NFL seasons, filled the bill.
“You want to have as many good players here that can compete,” Payton said. “Tracy is nicked up now. And the season will be quicker upon us than it normally is. It’s being smart when you look at our total numbers.”
The Saints also came to terms with free agent defensive end Turk McBride, a 6-foot-2, 278-pound, five-year veteran who started 12 games during the past two seasons for Detroit.
Sitting out Sunday’s practice were Porter, RB Chris Ivory (foot), T Charles Brown (hamstring), DE Greg Romeus (knee), G Carl Johnson (hamstring), CB Josh Gatlin (thumb/knee) and LB Jerimiha Hunter (Achilles’ tendon).
Payton also said free agent wide receiver Michael Galatas, a Lacombe native, had some hamstring issues during the 2-hour, 30-minute practice.
Payton poked some fun Sunday at the unrestricted free agents who can’t practice until the new collective bargaining agreement is finally ratified by the players on Thursday.
About 90 minutes into the steamy practice, Payton brought his players over and had them take a knee while the newly-signed UFAs stood behind him.
After a little talk, Payton motioned for team caterer Dean Pigéon to come onto the field with a large tray of Shirley Temples that were distributed to the players who weren’t working.
“That was one of the provisions in the new CBA that players weren’t practicing,” Payton said tongue-in-cheek, “so we brought them Shirley Temples. I wanted to make sure we were abiding by all the rules.”
Free safety Malcolm Jenkins intercepted a pass that was tipped in 7-on-7 drills after being chastised by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for just knocking down a pass intended for 6-6 tight end Jimmy Graham. ? Free agent safety Isa Abdul-Quddus made a nice one-handed interception off quarterback Sean Canfield as he ran stride for stride with tight end Harry Flaherty down the middle of the field.