Brian Allee-Walsh

A relative calm settles over Saints on eve of training camp

Saints columnist Brian Allee-Walsh
Saints columnist Brian Allee-Walsh Biloxi

NEW ORLEANS

The silence is almost deafening.

All appears to be quiet on the labor and legal fronts for the New Orleans Saints on the eve of training camp when it comes to ageless future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Drew Brees and aging billionaire owner Tom Benson.

A year ago, there was much ado that Brees had not been able to reach a contract extension and the team might lose No. 9 in free agency at the end of the 2016 season, and Benson was locked in a highly contentious lawsuit with three estranged family members over ownership stakes in the Saints and Pelicans.

Several days before the team’s season opener against Oakland, Brees agreed to a fully guaranteed one year, $24.5 million extension and stated his intention to play out his career in the Big Easy if the team wants him.

In February, Benson reached a confidential settlement with daughter Renee Benson and her two children, Ryan and Rita LeBlanc.

So here we are, days before the team opens training camp at home for the first time since 2013, which happens to be the last time the Saints reached the postseason under coach Sean Payton before posting three consecutive 7-9 legers, and there appears to be peace in Who Dat Nation.

Oh, there are plenty of questions about the Saints going into Thursday’s first practice with regards to personnel, most notably:

▪ Who will replace injured Terron Armstead at left tackle (veteran LT Michael Oher of Carolina became a free agentThursday)?

▪ How will the defensive line perform without veteran tackle Nick Fairley who will miss the entire season after doctors discovered new heart issues?

▪ Will center Max Unger be fully recovered from Lisfranc surgery in time for the regular season opener in primetime at Minnesota on Sept. 11?

But those on-field concerns pale in comparison to what’s happening in the football operations of the Carolina Panthers whose owner abruptly fired his general manager Monday morning and named an interim GM that afternoon.

Dave Gettleman is gone and Marty Hurney, the man Gettleman replaced in 2013, is back in the saddle for the foreseeable future.

So yes, the Saints have issues but they don’t involve Drew Brees and Tom Benson.

How do I know? Because the 38-year-old Brees said he is content to play out the final year of his contract and deal with his future after the season. And Rita Benson LeBlanc recently took out a full page ad in the New Orleans Advocate extending love and birthday wishes to her 90-year-old Paw Paw. She then implored readers: “Please help us pray for the reunification of our family.’’

Can I get an amen?

Brian Allee-Walsh is a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.

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