NEW ORLEANS Free agency essentially is finished, the NFL Draft is history and voluntary on-field work has begun for the New Orleans Saints in the form of Organized Team Activities and mandatory minicamp in full pads next month.
In other words, the start of training camp is about two months out and fans are getting inundated with “fake news.’’
Not “fake news’’ in The Donald’s trumped-up sense of the expression but “fake news’’ in the sense that one isn’t certain how much credence to give reports issued by team websites, team officials, players and coaches and even the beat reporters who cover teams.
I mean, how much can be gleaned from watching players jog/run around in “jockstraps and helmets’’ in a relatively controlled environment, as the late venerable Jim Finks used to say.
I should know: I spent more than two decades covering the Black and Gold for the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Truth be told, Who Dat Nation and similar fan bases around the NFL want — no, make that “demand’’ — to know everything there is to know about their teams. Good, bad and indifferent. Thus, news outlets, both traditional and new media, are determined to fill the consumers’ endless thirst for information.
▪ We know Saints center Max Unger will be sidelined until mid- to late August while recovering from Lisfranc surgery, according to coach Sean Payton. Meantime, newly signed veteran Josh LeRibeus, guard/center Senio Kelemete and second-year center Jack Allen will fill the void.
My take: Don’t look for face-of-the-franchise quarterback Drew Brees to take too many exhibition snaps from the law firm of LeRibeus, Kelemete and Allen. As long as Max Unger returns healthy and doesn’t resemble Felix Unger (he of “The Odd Couple’’ fame) when he returns, reserves LeRibeus, Kelemete and Allen are keeping the seat warm.
▪ In addition to running back Mark Ingram, wide receiver Willie Snead, fullback John Kuhn and Unger not practicing in Thursday’s OTA observed by the media, defensive tackle Nick Fairley was conspicuously absent.
My take: It’s probably nothing, but my antennae always go up when Fairley isn’t where he’s supposed to be.
▪ Look for the Saints to be patient with third-year pass rusher Hau’oli Kikaha, who continues to work himself back into football shape after missing last season with his third ACL tear. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen is hopeful to have Kikaha healthy by training camp and team him with free-agent defensive end Alex Okafor on the edge.
My take: No matter how much potential, Kikaha better stay healthy because he won’t make the club in the tub.
▪ Allen and Payton are going to throw a lot of linebackers and defensive backs out onto the field in training camp and the preseason with the hope of meeting the challenge of playing winning football on a weekly basis. And that even goes for their first-round draft pick, Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore.
My take: Jim Mora said it best: “Potential means you haven’t done it.’’ Regardless of what you hear and read in the coming weeks, the Saints’ defense is a work in progress and will remain that way until the data says otherwise in the regular season.
And finally, today’s dispatch is not “fake news.’’
It’s merely the truth as I know it.
Brian Allee-Walsh is a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.