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John DeShazier: Saints enjoy night practice at Mandeville High School

Posted Aug 21, 2014

More than 6,000 fans turned out

The memories came rushing back faster than Junior Galette can sizzle past an offensive tackle and around the corner to sack a quarterback.

It was Look Back Wednesday for the New Orleans Saints, who ventured away from the practice fields and indoor facility at the team’s headquarters in Metairie to hold an evening practice at Mandeville High.

And the look back was a fond one.

“It was different,” running back Pierre Thomas said. “It reminded me of the old days, underneath the lights. It was good to come out in Mandeville and perform in front of the fans out there. Just to hear the excitement out of them, to see their support and to hear it, it was just amazing. At one time I looked at the crowd and told them it was a lot more fun looking at them than practice.

“It is a good change. Some guys don’t like to practice at night, like to get it out in the morning. I’m a morning guy, too, I like to get up. But it is a nice change. It gives time for people getting off work late, (to) bring their family to one of our practices and get a chance to see us, and what we do out here on this field to get ready for a game.”

What they did was hold practice – shoulder pads, helmets and shorts – in front of 6,617 fans that crammed the bleachers and lined the fence around the practice field on a steamy evening.

“I thought it was a good change of pace coming (to Mandeville),” Coach Sean Payton said. “I thought the tempo was good, the field was in real good condition and obviously, it was well-attended. We were real pleased. I thought our guys handled it well and the turnout was real impressive.

“It changes things up. I think night time, it’s a little cooler. You pull up (on the buses) and guys are in the locker room – and a lot of these young guys aren’t too far removed from being in a high school locker room – so I think it’s really good.

“The atmosphere when we got here was really impressive. You really don’t know that the turnout is going to be, but obviously, it was a real good turnout. I thought it was good for our players.”

Fans, in fact, got a chance to see what could be the Saints’ projected starting secondary on the field for the first time: cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and Champ Bailey and safeties Kenny Vaccaro and Jairus Byrd. Due to injury and rehab, that quartet hadn’t been in the secondary at once during training camp or offseason workouts.

Byrd rewarded them with a one-handed interception, and according to Thomas, Payton said that the Saints offered up one of their better practices.

“I think it went very well,” Thomas said. “I felt like a lot of guys had a lot more energy, they got a chance to rest their bodies during the day.

“I saw a lot of guys getting worked on (by the training staff), such as myself – I got worked on a little bit, to get myself ready for the night. And I felt like we were out here flying around and guys were making plays. You like to see that out of your teammates.”

And it sounded like Wednesday might not be the last time that the Saints will take a practice to a local venue during training camp.

“You just wish you could bring your team to more areas and one of the things (General Manager) Mickey (Loomis) and I talked about was next year, looking at bringing this type of practice to another region, another area,” Payton said.

“You can’t cover them all but there’s so many different fans. I think when you have an evening practice, also, it allows more families to be involved – school’s out, work’s over and it’s a little bit easier to plan around.”

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