Saints trickling into team HQ

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, July 27, 2011

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Backup quarterback Chase Daniel and reserve tight end Tyler Lorenzen grinned while mentioning their “free lunch” as one of the highlights of their first day back at Saints headquarters.

After being locked out for the better part of five months, a period of uncertainty during which a number of younger, less-established players stuck to a tight budget, it was good to feel like a pro again.

“It was awesome,” Daniel said before leaving for the afternoon. “It was like Christmas Eve last night, just waiting to be back around people that you know, that you trust, that you love here.”

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While general manager Mickey Loomis dealt with a slew of roster matters including the club’s 28 free agents and contract negotiations with their six draft picks, about a dozen players trickled into team headquarters on Tuesday, the first day players could visit club facilities since the lockout officially ended a day earlier.

Loomis and coach Sean Payton did not make themselves available for comment, but players could be seen driving in and out of a fenced-off parking lot and a couple stopped to chat.

Daniel and Lorenzen said they met with coaches and trainers, lifted weights, threw the ball around and had lunch in the team cafeteria.

Other players stopping by included safety Malcolm Jenkins, rookie cornerback Johnny Patrick, cornerback Tracy Porter, kicker Garrett Hartley, long-snapper Justin Drescher, and running backs Chris Ivory and Lynell Hamilton.

Porter, Ivory and Hamilton are all in various stages of rehabilitation from surgery procedures in the past year, so the reopening of headquarters gave them a chance to reset their routines with trainers. Hamilton missed all of last season with a right knee injury, while Ivory broke his left foot in the regular season finale and Porter had offseason surgery on his left knee.

The club will start giving physicals Wednesday, when many players who were traveling on Monday were expected to arrive. They are due to report by Thursday, with practice expected to start on Friday.

“It was good to see all the coaches and to see everyone, all the support staff here, they all missed us like crazy,” Daniel said. “You know, we’re like their kids. … It’s good to be back.”

Loomis and Payton will have a lot of work to do this week. NFL teams had a limit of 90 players they could invite to training camp; the Saints had 47 players under contract when the lockout ended.

Free agents who played regular roles with the Saints last season include starting left tackle Jermon Bushrod, starting strong safety Roman Harper, starting center Jonathan Goodwin, starting defensive tackle Remi Ayodele, receiver Lance Moore, tight end David Thomas, safety Darren Sharper, starting linebacker Scott Shanle and starting fullback Heath Evans.