Even if he’s full-time play-caller, Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael says job will be group effort _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS Saints quarterback Drew Brees chats with offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael during Saturday's scrimmage. Brees did not participate.

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Drew Brees is injured. But fear not, the injury is considered minor and is to his non-throwing arm.

Brees did not take part in Saturday’s scrimmage at The Greenbrier with a strained left oblique suffered during Friday’s practice. Coach Sean Payton said that he was held out as a precaution.

“We didn’t want to put him out the day after,” Payton said. “It’s going to require just a little bit of rest. We’ll see how it is coming back Monday.”

Brees, who was wearing a red non-contact jersey and a pair of shorts, watched the scrimmage from the sidelines. In his absence, Ryan Griffin, Luke McCown and Ryan Kilgore received an increased amount of snaps.

McCown and Griffin are fighting for the top backup spot. After the session ended, many of Griffin’s teammates praised his ability to lead the huddle.

“It’s unusual for us to not be in the huddle with Drew, and yet it felt no different,” offensive lineman Zach Strief said. “The calls were the same. ... We didn’t run into any bad looks, he got us into the right plays, the huddle was nice and clear, the calls were good, the cadences were consistent. There was a lot of consistency. It really felt like we didn’t miss a beat.”

Champ still down

Cornerback Champ Bailey was also missing from the scrimmage and was not spotted on the sidelines. Payton downplayed the injury and said he expects Bailey back within the next few days.

Video emerged Friday of Bailey having his ankle rolled up on during Thursday’s practice. When asked to confirm if the injury was to Bailey’s ankle, Payton refused to comment.

“We’ll see. I don’t think it’s anything serious, and it’s just a matter of making sure he’s healthy,” Payton said. “I do, but I don’t want to put a time on it.”

Ball turns it around

Marcus Ball wasn’t pleased with how spring practices went.

After being imported from the Canadian Football League, Ball did not initially play up to the standards he set for himself and struggled a little bit during organized team activities and minicamp. But he’s since turned it around and is starting to make plays in training camp.

He made his biggest one during Saturday’s Black and Gold scrimmage by intercepting a Luke McCown pass intended for Brandin Cooks and nearly taking it back for a touchdown. He also later recorded a sack.

“I think he’s pretty disappointed with how he came out in OTAs, and since Day 1 in camp he’s been stepping up and becoming one of those guys on the back end who’s stepping up and making plays,” Junior Galette said. “He obviously made the biggest play of the day today with an interception, possibly a touchdown. He’s doing real good and solid for us on the back end.”

Ball faces an uphill battle to make the team. Pierre Warren and Vinnie Sunseri have been receiving snaps with the second-team defense, meaning that he is currently no better than fifth on the depth chart.

However, it is still early in camp, and plays like the ones Ball made Saturday give him a fighting chance to move up the roster.

“He’s instinctive. He’s a player we saw a lot of film on from the CFL,” Payton said. “The one thing I would say based on the film study was his ability to tackle in the open field (is a strength) and he has really good football instincts. The interception he had today was a good example of that. The ball kind of finds him, and it did a lot when we watched the tape.”

The other thing that Ball currently has going for him is that he’s impressed Payton with his play on special teams. For players lower on the roster, that is often the best way to crack the final 53.

“He was very, very productive in the CFL and I think he has a chance to be a real good special teams player,” Payton said.

Nick Underhill