June 17, 2004

Mini-Camp wraps up

Saints head coach Jim Haslett has been singing the praises of wide receiver Donte Stallworth for the past couple of weeks.

But, during the two-day mini-camp this week, Haslett’s praises shifted to four-year cornerback Fakhir Brown.

"He's probably made the most drastic improvement on the team from one year to the next," Saints coach Jim Haslett said. "He's got the skills.

Another surprising and welcomed sight to the mini-camp was the play of LeCharles Bentley. Bentley wasn"t expected to participate in the mini-camp because of he had surgery in late December, but did work on a limited basis.

Bentley heads into the season as the team's number one center backed up by recently re-signed veteran Jerry Fontenot. Bentley was the only offensive lineman from the NFC South to be voted to the 2003-4 Pro Bowl, and said it felt good to be back on the field after his offseason rehab. He isn't expected to go full speed until training camp.

KE-YOU GETTA OUTTA HERE: Nebraska alumnus Keyuo Craver missed both Wednesday practices after being banished from practice by coach Jim Haslett.

"I just asked him to leave Tuesday and come back to training camp in better condition and mentally ready to play football," Haslett said. "Without getting into specifics, there were a number of different issues."

Reports out of camp are that Craver's weight was becoming a problem as early as the beginning of this offseason.

Craver fell from a high-round pick to the second day in the 2002 NFL Draft after blowing off his official workout and running poorly when he did run for scouts. In his second pro game, a 2002 Week 2 game against the Packers, Craver had a fumble return for a touchdown and a deflected Brett Favre pass that was intercepted by Darrin Smith. But later in the game he tore his MCL and would be limited for the rest of the season. Craver was a non-factor in 2003 and now looks to be in a competition for a roster spot after working himself into Haslett's doghouse.

TRAINING CAMP COUNTDOWN: The Saints are free until July 29 when training camp 2004 convenes at the Saints' headquarters in Metairie, Louisiana.

15 days later the team plays their first preseason game in the Superdome against the New York Jets. They will celebrate the anniversary of their new indoor practice facility, which was completed shortly before training camp 2003, and which they have been enjoying this offseason when rain hits.

DELHOMME'S BIG PAYDAY: Last offseason, Louisiana native Jake Delhomme turned down a contract offer from his long-time team the Saints - a generous one for a backup quarterback - for starting money with the Carolina Panthers. After signing a two-year, $4 million deal Delhomme led the Panthers to the Superbowl.

Now, as Carolina's minicamp is wrapping up, news has come that Delhomme has landed a huge contract extension: $38 million over five years with a $12 million signing bonus, big money for a big-hearted quarterback from Breaux Bridge.

How big is Delhomme's payday? Assuming the initial figures are correct, Delhomme's deal is bigger than Aaron Brooks' 2002 deal, which was six years, $36 million with a $10.75 million signing bonus. It also is bigger than Tom Brady's 2002 four year deal worth $28 million with a $10 million signing bonus, or Marc Bulger's recent four-year, $17.25 million contract that includes a $9 million signing bonus. Depending on how the contract is loaded, it averages better than Mark Brunell's seven-year, $43 million contract and Jake Plummer's 2003 seven-year, $40 million contract.

At at 29, Delhomme looks to have put down roots in Carolina that will keep him from his horse ranch in Louisiana for many seasons to come.

BIG SULLIVAN: 2003 first round pick report in overweight to this offseason's conditioning program and while he has made significant progress in dropping pounds, he still has a long way to go. Sullivan would like to get under 310 pounds but will receive daily fines if he shows up at training camp over 315. Sullivan was still at least 20 pounds overweight in May and was sluggish in the coaching sessions that led up to the minicamp.

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