July 30, 2004

Notes From the Start of Training Camp: Big Sully fails to keep promise, Whitehead on PUP, rookies update, a former Saint, a potential Saint, Haslett's deal

Johnathan Sullivan Shows Up Big

Big in the sense that Sullivan struggled in the first day in the heat. Despite assuring us that Sullivan would be in shape and at an ideal weight after similar struggles in the Saints' June minicamp, Sullivan displayed conditioning problems all the same. It may have something to do with the fact that Sullivan's weight is no where near 315 pounds. WWL870AM and NOPF's Kenny Wilkerson guessed that he was in the neighborhood of 340 pounds.

Sullivan's continuing inability to stay on the field will open up opportunities for young tackles such as Rodney Leisle, Kenderick Allen, Kenny Smith, and Howard Green.

Whitehead Placed on the PUP

Veteran defensive lineman Willie Whitehead, one of three players on the roster who played for a Ditka-era Saints team, has been placed on the physically unable to perform list. He will remain there and not count against the 86-man roster limit until his right knee enables him to practice. Whitehead has been running and will undergo an evaluation of his knee on Monday, the third day of practices. Whitehead will continue to work, but not practice, through the weekend.

Saints Release Two at the Onset of Camp

To make room for the two rookies they signed on Thursday, the Saints released WR Chris Vance and ex-LSU CB Fred Booker. The Saints will have to release another two players when DE Will Smith and WR Devery Henderson sign their rookie contracts.

Hatley Dies at Age 54

Packers executive Mark Hatley died of a heart attack earlier this week alone in his apartment. He was 54. Hatley got his start in the NFL as a scout for the Saints in 1984. The staff of New Orleans Pro Football sends our most sincere condolences to Hatley's family.

Rookie Contracts Update

Second-round pick Courtney Watson's five-year contract can void its final seasons with certain performance incentives. Likewise, second-round pick WR Devery Henderson is expected to sign a deal of similar length while first-round pick Will Smith will get a six-year deal that can (and likely will) void after five years. Smith's signing bonus is expected to be around $5 million.

Smith and Henderson continue to hold out. The Saints made it five years straight that their top draft pick was a training camp holdout.

McKenzie Still On the Trade Market

Green Bay standout cornerback Mike McKenzie, who is (perhaps irrationally) holding out for a better contract, still has permission to seek a trade. But McKenzie, who has three years left on his contract, hasn't found any suitors who are willing to meet the Packers' trade demand of a first round pick and a player.

McKenzie's agent Drew Rosehaus has only found potential suitors in the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints. The Saints went so far as to offer one of their two 2005 second round picks, the only known reasonable offer for McKenzie at this point. Obviously, the Packers didn't accept the contract that would sent McKenzie, a legitimate starter if not a malcontent, to the Saints.

One of the problems is that without McKenzie, the Packers are dangerously thin at the position and will rely heavily on two high-round rookies regardless, (both of which are as yet unsigned). One of the Packers' most veteran options is former Saint malcontent Michael Hawthorne. A second problem is McKenzie's new contract with his new team, which would have to improve significantly on McKenzie's $2.75 million base salary.

Millions of Reason Why Jim Haslett Still Has a Job

Saints owner Tom Benson would have owed head coach Jim Haslett in the range of $9 million up front for firing him after 2003. They had an influence on Benson's decision not fire to Haslett, especially given the bath that Benson took on firing Mike Ditka one year after a contract extension was given. It will cost Benson over $6 million after this season, still probably enough reasons for Haslett to keep his job after more mediocrity in 2004. Regardless of the team's performance, however, the Superdome is selling out and has since 2000.

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