|Saints in Jackson for training camp; practice starts Friday|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 25 July 2007 14:31|
When they opened training camp Wednesday, following their remarkable run to the NFC championship game last season, expectations were a lot higher.
Their roster is better, their defense is stronger and their offense is brimming with more toys.
Even the beds are bigger at Millsaps College, where several changes were made to accommodate the Saints.
``Last year we had to double up (the twin beds) to make them big enough,'' running back Deuce McAllister said. ``This year, at least, we get queen-size beds. That's a plus for us. The big guys won't be hanging off or hanging in the middle of the beds because they're not big enough.''
The Saints and officials at the private college in downtown Jackson also have put in new fields and made more space for fans. About 10,000 showed up last year when the Saints were coming off a 3-13 season.
Many more are expected this year. There is a buzz around coach Sean Payton and the Saints following last season's 10-6 season and playoff run that ended one victory short of the Super Bowl.
``The crowds this year will probably be doubled,'' Millsaps spokesman Kevin Maloney said.
Another change will be the appearance of every draft pick as camp opens, the first time that's happened since 2000. Last season Reggie Bush was the final rookie signed after a brief holdout.
This year the Saints signed their top pick, former Tennessee wide receiver Robert Meachem, to a five-year contract worth more than $11 million the day before camp opened.
Meachem was expected to join 85 others in Jackson for the team's first meeting Wednesday night. After another meeting and conditioning tests Thursday, the Saints will begin practices Friday. They open their five-game preseason schedule against the Steelers in the Hall of Fame game on Aug. 5 in Canton, Ohio.
Other new players in camp include several NFL veterans. Among them are cornerback Jason David, who started 43 games for the Colts the last three years; experienced linebackers Brian Simmons (Bengals) and Dhani Jones (Giants); kicker Olindo Mare (Dolphins); and two more pieces for Payton's passing game, tight end Eric Johnson (49ers) and receiver David Patten (Redskins).
Despite the upgrades, Payton will be warning his players against becoming too confident.
``I mentioned this a number of times in our meetings,'' Payton said. ``There's nothing promised to us in the 2007 season as a result of '06.''
McAllister, a Mississippi native who has a strong business presence in Jackson, said the players understand Payton's philosophy and are ready to live up to this season's expectations.
``More than anything, Coach Payton holds everyone accountable,'' McAllister said. ``It doesn't matter if you're a rookie or a six-year veteran. He's not going to accept mistakes. It's one thing to talk about it. It's another thing to do it.''