Saints training camp is Christmas in July

Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Training camp has opened for the New Orleans Saints and it’s like Christmas in July for the Who Dat Nation as another season approaches.

There’s no tree, there are no wrapped gifts. The family probably won’t get together and there won’t be caroling. And I’m sure there will be no tryptophan induced sleep from a big turkey dinner either. There will be a big celebration when the regular season kicks off, but for many Who Dat faithful, the opening of New Orleans Saints training camp is like Christmas in July.

While we don’t exchange gifts, every day we get the gift of seeing our boys in Black and Gold gear up for the upcoming season. After the season ended with a whimper on New Year’s Day, Saints fans have been impatiently waiting for the new season to start.

Though we all have ideas on how well the New Orleans Saints will do this year, no one knows much of anything until training camp gets under way and the players can move from no contact in shells to full contact in pads.

The good news/bad news scenario is that training camp is at home this season. The good is the players get to be home every night; even if they hole them up in a hotel, they are in their home city. The fans get to watch them practice and see the evolution of the team.

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And they practice in the heat, so they should have an advantage in conditioning. The bad is the heat — sometimes players cramp up or can’t finish a practice. With no more two-a-days, fewer practices due to the latest collective bargaining agreement and less time on the field, every snap is important.

Heat-related illnesses have got to be kept to a minimum. Also lost is the team-building chemistry of going away and staying all together in a hotel or dorms. That said, I think camp at home this year is a good thing. We need focus and being around a familiar place and setting will put focus on football.

And West Virginia in the mountains with little humidity and highs in the low to mid-80s seems too little like the reality of what they face on the field. Though the schedule is favorable weather-wise — we only face Carolina outdoors in what might be a hot game — it’s always good to prepare in conditions worse than you’ll face in the regular season.

The NFL has definitely changed. Until the 1980s, training camp was where the NFL season began. The players went to camp to get in shape for the season because they didn’t really stay in shape in the offseason.

The money wasn’t what it is today and there was no financial incentive to stay in shape. Now the players work out consistently in the offseason and there are organized team activities along the way to for veteran players to keep sharp, new players to your team get to learn the system and rookies get their first taste of what it’s like to be a professional.

New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints /

New Orleans Saints

For the fans, it’s a renewal. It’s the rejuvenation of spirit and the blissful ignorance of not knowing how good (or bad) your team will be this season. Everyone has the same record and the same opportunity to get to the big game.

This Saints training camp is shrouded in mystery; full of the unknown. What do we know for (nearly) certain? Drew Brees is our quarterback and he will lead an offense with some new weapons.

We know that Kenny Vacarro and Cameron Jordan will be the senior leadership on our defense. We know punter Thomas Morstead will pin people deep regularly. Other than that, this New Orleans Saints team has more question marks than sure answers.

Will Max Unger be ready for the regular season kickoff and will he be 100 percent for the season?

Will we see any of Terron Armstead this season?

How will Ryan Ramczyk fit into this offense? Will the Saints gamble on starting him at left tackle as a rookie?

Can Zach Strief capture glory one more season and be a top lineman?

With a second-year player as your top pass catcher, will the Saints receivers still be as effective?

Can Alvin Kamara be the second coming of Darren Sproles?

Will the light bulb come on for Coby Fleener and he picks up the offense?

How will the loss of Nick Fairley affect this defense?

Before the Fairley injury and the news of IR and imminent release for Dannell Ellerbe, this defense looked promising — is that promise still there?

Can/will we get through a year without another defensive back catastrophe?

Who in the world will be our linebackers?

New long snapper – Will he be ready for prime time?

Wil Lutz – flash in the pan or the beginning of a solid career?

And the big question for the overall season – if we endure another .500 type season or worse, what is the future of the franchise?

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Don’t know any of these answers. Today, we are kids at 6 a.m. Christmas morning, shaking boxes and trying to figure out what’s inside. Hopefully for the Who Dat Nation, something more positive than the last three seasons will be unwrapped for the New Orleans Saints.