August 4, 2011

Saints make moves as veterans return to practice; Hamilton a tough cut

Representatives of the newly reformed NFLPA voted to ratify the new 10-year CBA on Thursday, officially starting the new league year and allowing veterans with new contracts to practice with their teams for the first time.

The Saints made a blitz of moves on Thursday, releasing OT Mike Smith, OT Coy Beilby, TE Harry Flaherty, RB C.J. Gable, and quarterback Ryan Colburn. The Saints also cut RB Lynell Hamilton, a move Sean Payton described as very difficult.

Hamilton has been with the Saints since arriving in the NFL as an undrafted rookie in 2008, coming off an injury-plagued collegiate career that snuffed out a very promising freshman year. Hamilton, at San Diego State, was named MWC Freshman of the Year in 2003, but missed the 2004 season with major leg injuries. In 2005 he bounced back, led his team in rushing, only to be limited by knee injuries as a junior and senior.

As a Saint, Hamilton's first career carry went for a touchdown in 2009, and he contributed to the team's Super Bowl XLIV run with 35 carries for 125 yards and two scores, including a 10-carry, 48 yard, three catch, 38 yard, one touchdown performance in the season finale.  Hamilton scored his third NFL touchdown against the Cardinals in the divisional round of the playoffs.

But in 2010 Hamilton was lost to a right ACL tear in the early days of training camp, snuffing out a season.  The Saints would go on to lose more than half a dozen runningbacks to injury, Hamilton's early August ACL tear was just a harbinger of bad things to come last season.

"That was probably one of the most difficult decisions of waiving a player that I've gone through," Sean Payton said Thursday after cutting Hamilton. "He's done so much to stay here and get healthy. His work ethic is amazing. He's one of the players we point to as the type of player we're looking for."

The Saints cut Hamilton because in the number game of their loaded runningback depth chart, and the limited number of reps in a training camp without two-a-days. "It was becoming more difficult for him with the depth we have at running back and all of the younger players that are out there," Payton said. "It was a hard decision but it was the one we made. I think the world of him and I think he'll have a good shot at signing on with another team, and if not we'll see where things take us."

By cutting Hamilton early, he'll have a better shot at catching on with another team.

The Saints also signed former Cardinal free agent CB Trumaine McBride, who tweeted that he was headed to New Orleans yesterday.

McBride, 25, who entered the league as a Bear, started nine games for Chicago as a rookie seventh round draft pick in 2007, but hasn't been a full time starter since.  Out of football for most of 2009, he was signed to the Cardinals for the 2010 campaign and played in 14 games, almost exclusively on special teams.

By releasing six players today the Saints have room under the 90-player max roster limit for training camp right now.  Payton suggested in his camp-opening press conference that the Saints would not carry a full 90 all the time, in part because of the limitations of training camp under the new CBA- no two a days really cut down on the number of snaps available to the squad.

Four Saints players have yet to practice because they haven't been able to pass a physical exam: LT Charles Brown (hamstring), RB Chris Ivory (Lisfranc surgery), starting CB Tracy Porter (knee rehab), and seventh round pick DE Greg Romeus (knee).

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