Rust? What rust?
New Orleans Saints fans who were at least a little concerned that quarterback Drew Brees had lost too much valuable training camp practice with a strained left oblique muscle got a pleasant surprise Saturday night.
Perhaps they should have learned by now to not doubt the eight-time Pro Bowl pick, who led back-to-back 80-yard touchdown drives -- capping both with scoring passes -- to start a 23-17 win against the Indianapolis Colts.
After being sidelined for about 10 days and working on a limited basis for several other practices, Brees was crisp in his preseason debut -- which came just six days after he participated fully in practice for the first time since being injured on Aug. 1.
He completed 9 of 15 passes for 128 yards with touchdown passes to fullback Austin Johnson and wide receiver Marques Colston.
"Great way to start the game." Brees said. "We talked about coming in and playing with great tempo and great balance. We talked about taking our shots where we could. For the most part, when the ones were in there, it was kind of methodical."
While Brees usually plays well into the second quarter of the Saints' third exhibition game, coach Sean Payton saw all he needed to see in those two early drives and brought Luke McCown into the game earlier than anyone expected.
Brees has heard the questions about being rusty in the days leading up to the game and fans were especially restless not knowing what to expect with the regular-season opener just two weeks away.
He converted three of four third-down opportunities, two of them coming on third-and-8. On one, he scrambled up the middle and wisely slid down just beyond the first-down marker that set up their first touchdowns.
"I felt what was real important in those drives, especially the first one, were the third-down conversions," Payton said. "I think we had to convert two or three to keep the drive going and stay out of a long-yardage situation."
After the game, Brees, who noted he still isn't 100 percent, wasn't concerned about running for a first down on third-and-long -- strained oblique or not.
"It's third-and-10, the end zone is right there," he said. "You've got to go get it."
--After waiving three players Monday, the Saints officially reached the league limit of 75 by making eight moves on Tuesday afternoon.
The Saints terminated the contracts of outside linebacker Victor Butler, which was the biggest surprise of the group, and veteran tight end Travis Beckum and cut six others.
Butler was a projected starter after signing a two-year contract with the Saints in free agency in 2013, but he tore his ACL in an OTA practice in June of that year and was sidelined for the entire season.
Butler had high hopes for this season, but he only participated in the first week of training camp and was out the last three weeks -- forcing him to miss all three preseason games -- before returning to work on Monday.
Saints coach Sean Payton, who would not specify earlier what kind of injury Butler had earlier, said Tuesday that it wasn't the knee but an ankle problem.
"The challenge was just the reps and not having the reps needed to evaluate (him)," Payton said. "We had a long talk (Monday) and look, he is frustrated I'm sure ... just because (of) the early injury and then the setback this year in training camp after the rehab.
"It's always difficult especially when a player doesn't really have a chance to put his best foot forward. You go out and you sign a player like him, you have a role you envision and it didn't work out."
--The Saints waived six other players Tuesday, including two players from the six undrafted free agents who made the regular-season roster coming out of training camp in 2013.
Cornerback Rod Sweeting and inside linebacker Kevin Reddick, who turned heads in training camp a year ago and stuck when Payton set the 53-man roster, were the biggest names to go. Both performed mostly on special teams last fall.
Also cut was outside linebacker Rufus Johnson, a sixth-round draft pick in 2013. Quarterback Logan Kilgore, defensive end George Uko and tackle Manase Foketi were also let go.
--As usual, quarterback Drew Brees likely won't play in Thursday night's preseason finale with the Baltimore Ravens.
That will leave backups Luke McCown and Ryan Griffin to complete their battle for the No. 2 spot, a competition that's been ongoing all spring and summer as well as training camp and the first three exhibition games.
McCown won the backup job last season and started the first two preseason games when Brees was sidelined by a strained oblique muscle.
He also went into the game first after Brees left in the opening quarter of last Saturday's 23-17 win against the Indianapolis Colts and played with the ones again although Griffin, a second-year pro, might get an opportunity with the starters Thursday.
"We haven't established (the quarterback rotation) yet," Payton said Tuesday. "I know this though, you're going to see a lot of Ryan (Griffin) and you're going to see Luke (McCown) as well."
--Brees' wife, Brittany, delivered the couple's fourth child on Monday night after he was excused from practice earlier in the day.
Brees announced via Twitter on Tuesday morning that the baby girl, whose name he did not release because it wasn't on the birth certificate yet, arrived at 7:43 p.m. Monday.
"I was there to catch the snap, so to speak," said Brees, who noted the baby girl completes the family after his wife earlier had three boys -- Baylen, Bowen and Callen.
--When the Saints returned to the practice field Monday afternoon for the first time since their 23-17 preseason win against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night, quarterback Drew Brees was missing.
Brees, who made his preseason debut against the Colts after missing the first two games with a strained oblique muscle, was excused from the workout to be with his pregnant wife. Brittany Brees is expecting to deliver the couple's fourth child -- a girl -- any day now.
"I don't have any news, but I think you guys will probably hear," Saints coach Sean Payton said after the practice, "I don't know how you hear, Twitter, but everything's going good and hopefully we hear something (soon)."
--The Saints were obviously down a quarterback for Monday's workout, prompting the 50-year-old Payton, a record-setting quarterback at Division I-AA Eastern Illinois University in the mid-1980s, to limber up his right arm and help out a little.
When asked about being involved in practice more than usual, Payton quipped, "We were one quarterback short. ... When I saw (running back) Pierre (Thomas) throwing, we needed a little intervention."
Payton also played a little defense as well. When asked about that, he said he was playing cornerback, "with safety help."
--The battle for the team's starting center spot may be over.
Former starter Jonathan Goodwin, who rejoined the team this summer after playing the last three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, and second-year pro Tim Lelito, who played guard as an undrafted free agent last season, have been waging a battle for the job throughout training camp.
Both have gotten reps with the ones and twos and both have had a chance to start in the first three preseason games, but Payton wasn't willing to name his starter after Goodwin started Saturday night and got first-team snaps Monday.
"Listen, I think it is premature to say where he (Goodwin) is at, but again, both he and Tim have had a lot of work with the ones and twos," Payton said. "They both provide position flexibility.
"They are two different players in their careers. We will see where that's headed, but we're getting pretty good consistent play (from both), and that is encouraging."
--The Saints will officially put a wrap on training camp Tuesday by squeezing in what amounts to two practices before Thursday night's preseason finale with the Baltimore Ravens.
Payton said the Saints worked against themselves on Monday and will do the same on Tuesday before taking a quick look at the Ravens offense and defense on Wednesday -- which would normally be a walkthrough during the regular season.
Payton noted that the Saints haven't worked on their Week 1 opponent -- the Atlanta Falcons -- yet because they have extra time to prepare for that game.
"It (Monday's practice), was really areas that we feel like we still needed work in based on Saturday night's game, based on the week before, where do we feel we are deficient," he said. "(Tuesday), we will get some red zone work in ... before we shift to Baltimore. Then, at that point, the energy and time will be spent on Atlanta."
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Shayne Graham vs. Derek Dimke for the starting kicking job. Sean Payton indicated Monday that this one will come down to the wire after both have been solid in preseason. Graham has nailed all four of his field-goal attempts and Dimke is 2-of-2. Graham is 4-of-5 on extra points with the miss being one of the experimental 33-yard kicks, while Dimke is perfect on all four of his PATs. Payton said both kickers will get extensive work on Tuesday in what may be a kick-off for the job and that he hopes to see both get plenty of opportunities in Thursday night's exhibition finale to determine the winner.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--OLB Victor Butler, who missed the entire 2013 season with a torn ACL, participated in practice Monday for the first time in about three weeks.
--WR Brandin Cooks participated in Monday's practice after missing some time and Saturday night's preseason game with an illness.
--CB Rod Sweeting was back at work Monday after missing two weeks of work with a right ankle or foot injury.
--WR Kenny Stills, who said he aggravated a quadriceps injury on Saturday night, did not participate in Monday's practice.
--S Rafael Bush was held out of practice Monday with an undisclosed ailment.
--OLB Khairi Fortt, who did not play Saturday night against the Indianapolis Colts with an unknown injury, was held out of Monday's workout.
--S Marcus Ball has missed practice time and the last preseason game with an undisclosed injury.
--WR Andy Tanner, who has been battling an undisclosed injury, was waived-injured Monday.
--T Ty Nsekhe has missed all three preseason games with an unspecified injury and was waived-injured on Monday.
--S Ty Zimmerman was also waived-injured with an unknown injury that caused him to miss practice time and the third exhibition game.
--TE Travis Beckum announced on Twitter that he had been released after being signed recently to add depth at the position.
--FB Erik Lorig has been sidelined since Aug. 2 with an unspecified leg injury and coach Sean Payton said he may not be ready for the season opener.
--S Marcus Ball was held out of Saturday night's game with the Colts because of an undisclosed injury.
--CB Trevin Wade did not play against the Colts because of an undisclosed injury.
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