Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
METAIRIE, La. ― Saints tackle Zach Strief didn't re-sign with the Saints so he could be the team's permanent backup at tackle and the constant sixth linemen option.
As he did during the second week of practices, Strief worked on Sunday with the first-team offense at right tackle, supplanting incumbent Jon Stinchcomb, who was with the second team.
After practice, coach Sean Payton confirmed that this isn't just a random move.
'I don't just look at (Strief) as a guy who can come in and play the big tight end position,' Payton said. 'When he has played tackle, he has played well. He is going to get snaps with that first group and I am anxious to see how he does.'
The move isn't totally surprising.
Stinchcomb is coming off a severe injury to his left quadriceps, which he had surgically repaired after it tore on Oct. 24. He played the final 10 weeks injured and didn't play up to his expectations or to the level that earned him a Pro Bowl berth in 2009.
Strief says it was basically assumed when he re-signed with New Orleans that the competition would be open.
'Certainly I've tried to verbalize that I want an opportunity to compete for it,' Strief said.
Payton echoed that thought.
'I think, more than anything, we went into this camp with the idea that we wanted competition,' Payton said
Cornerback Tracy Porter (left knee) returned to practice for the first time all training camp after missing the first 12 sessions on the failed physical list. Meanwhile, receiver Marques Colston was back after missing six practices in a seven-day span that included an off day for the team.
As for running back Joique Bell and cornerback Johnny Patrick, Payton said both have knee sprains. Bell's is a left posterior cruciate ligament sprain while Patrick's is a right medial collateral ligament. Payton said both injuries were less severe than originally believed.
For a complete report, check out the story at WWLTV.com.
At some point, there was going to be an anti-Reggie Bush moment in camp. The only question was when.
We've said all along that running back Darren Sproles is likely an upgrade over Bush.
He's just as quick and a much better between-the-tackles runner.
But Sunday, during punt return drills, we got that moment.
Sproles bobbled and then dropped an end over end punt.
Frustrated, Sproles threw the ball back to the long snapper and prepared to field another punt.
This time, he held onto the ball and darted upfield.
It's what he did after that was anti-Reggie. Sproles dove t to the ground and began doing pushups, something I've never seen before.
Instead of throwing the ball in disgust at the ground or ignoring the fact that he dropped a punt as Bush would have done Sproles punished himself to get better.
Reason No. 243 that Sproles was a great pickup and will do more for the team than the former No. 25.
This and that
*The Saints began installing their 3-4 defense, with linebackers Will Herring, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Jonathan Vilma and Scott Shanle working with the first team. Aubrayo Franklin was working as the nose guard in the unit along with ends Alex Brown (LDE) and Will Smith (RDE).
*The backups in the 3-4: Linebackers Martez Wilson, Dwight Roberson, Nate Bussey and Jonathan Casillas with Shaun Rogers at nose guard.
*It would be a bit abnormal for the team to keep two fullbacks but the Saints also have two worthy choices. Korey Hall was picked up in free agency to play for fullback and special teams, where he's an ace. Jed Collins, meanwhile, has worked with the first-team consistently and Sunday afternoon, was practicing long-snapping after practice.
*If quarterback Drew Brees ever has reason to leave a tight game in the middle of it, the Saints will be alright in a pinch with Chase Daniel. During team period on Sunday, Daniel lofted his best pass of camp and maybe the best pass of camp period to receiver Courtney Roby, who was being tightly covered by cornerback Fabian Washington. The ball came down over Roby's shoulder and into his finger tips as he ran full speed.
*Receiver Robert Meachem had a rough night against San Francisco, dropping one sure catch and missing another one he likely could have caught even though it was tipped. To make up for it, he stayed after practice to run post routes over and over and over and over again so Brees would feel confident in him.
*Despite being injured, I suspect Bell, the running back, has earned a position on the roster. I feel the same way about defensive tackle Tom Johnson, who missed Sunday with a strained left calf. Coach Sean Payton named both of them as standing out.
1st and 10: QB Drew Brees check down to RB Pierre Thomas over the middle
1st and 10: Brees intercepted by FS Malcolm Jenkins. Pass right to Jenkins, who sat in the hole as WR Lance Moore ran his route.
1st and 10: RB Darren Sproles at right tackle
1st and 10: RB Chris Taylor toss sweep right
1st and 10: Brees high through the hands of CB Fabian Washington
Standout plays with the second & third teams
QB Chase Daniel lofts perfect pass to WR Courtney Roby, who catches ball behind Washington
QB Sean Canfield targets the back side shoulder of WR Joseph Morgan, who catches the ball with CB Trumaine McBride in coverage.
1st and 10: Brees to Moore crossing route
1st and 10: Brees to WR Marques Colston left, CB Tracy Porter in coverage
1st and 10: Brees to TE David Thomas. Nice catch in coverage
1st and 10: Brees high to Moore in coverage. Moore makes catch in front of CB Patrick Robinson
The Saints will go at it again Monday, working from 4-6:30 p.m. on the outdoor fields. It's open to the public, weather permitting.