Saints use volleyballs to help return men _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Saints special teams coordinator Greg McMahon works with running back C.J. Spiller using a volleyball to demonstrate scenarios of balls landing near the sideline or end zone on kickoffs during Friday's practice.

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. —Sean Payton saw a play more than a decade ago that caused him to toss aside the football and pull out a volleyball during Friday’s practice.

There’s a good chance the play happened by accident. But the result stuck with him, and the New Orleans Saints coach now feels its important to prepare his team so the next time it happens on purpose.

In 2003, when Payton was coaching in Dallas, rookie return man Zuriel Smith stepped on the sideline while fielding a kick near the sideline late in the fourth quarter of the game. The Cowboys got the ball at the 40-yard line since the kick was ruled out of bounds, hit a field goal with 11 seconds to force overtime, and ultimately beat the Giants.

“I don’t know if Zuriel knew exactly what he was doing when he did it, but I think it is something you have to emphasize because we see it every year,” Payton said. “We see a returner pick up a ball and go right out of bounds. If a ball is within distance to a sideline and you put your foot on the white first, you can get it at the 40.”

To emphasize this point, Payton rolled a volleyball down the sideline and made his players pick it up with their foot on the sideline. Using a football would make it more difficult to control where it goes.

The hope will be that the Saints remember their afternoon playing with a volleyball during the heat of battle when a kickoff is bouncing near the sideline.

Cooling down

New Orleans is now using the cryochamber as another way to help players recover after practice.

“If you’ve ever just sat in an ice tub, it’s real beneficial, and yet, it can kind of take your breath away,” Payton said. “Another technology is the cryochamber, which is new, a shorter period of time.”

Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis spent some time in the offseason researching the device, and it’s been put into practice for the entire team all summer.

After donning mittens and socks designed to protect fingers and toes, the player has to stand inside the cylinder for three minutes, and his body is enveloped in a freezing air mixture for three minutes.

Payton himself tried it Friday morning in West Virginia.

“It’s not easy, but I would say it’s easier than sitting in the plunge pool,” Payton said. “I got in it this morning. … It’s a long three minutes, but coming out of it, I know how it feels.”

Payton said the New Orleans Pelicans also have a chamber.

“I’m old-school, I like the cold tub,” defensive end Akiem Hicks said. “I’m using it. … You’ve got to use those things that can make you better.”

A few veterans, though, like to stick to the cold tub exclusively.

“I did it back in Metairie, and it’s different,” new running back C.J. Spiller said. “I’m a cold tub. I like getting in the cold tub and feeling my body go numb.”

Galette finds a home

The Junior Galette saga is now over. The former Saints pass rusher agreed to a one-year deal with the Washington Redskins, according to his agent.

Galette, who was released by the Saints prior to camp after signing a four-year, $41 million deal last September, signed with Washington for the league minimum.

Parting shots

Five observations from the practice field:

1Undrafted rookie defensive lineman Bobby Richardson is someone to keep an eye on. Based on usage, he’s clearly caught the eye of the coaching staff and is logging snaps with the second-team defense.

2Josh Hill, who many expect to be a bigger part of the passing offense with Jimmy Graham in Seattle, did not appear to have a single pass thrown his direction during the first two practices.

3Brandon Coleman has caught the eye a few times. He’s shown a good understanding of how to use his body to shield off defenders.

4 Quarterback Garrett Grayson fumbled a snap during a drill with the running backs, but the third-round pick threw a handful of good passes during team drills.

5Stanley Jean-Baptiste had the play of the day, breaking up a pass intended for Nick Toon.

Nick Underhill