Winston returns to practice for Saints

Published 11:16 am Tuesday, August 23, 2022

By John DeShazier

New Orleans Saints

Again – and perhaps for the last time – when Dennis Allen intimates a “sooner than later” scenario, bet on the “sooner.”

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After Allen said Sunday that he hoped to get quarterback Jameis Winston into some team action in practice to evaluate where Winston was at, after Winston suffered a foot injury Aug. 8 and had been limited in practice, Winston participated in team drills Monday.

“It was good,” Allen said. “A little rusty, but yet it was good to get him back out there and get him back going again. I think any time we get a guy back from an injury, it’s good to have him back on the field.”

Allen wouldn’t commit to Winston playing in the preseason finale Friday against the Chargers in the Caesars Superdome. If the situation warrants, he said he’d be OK with Winston not playing in the preseason.

“If that’s the way it plays out, then yeah, I’m comfortable with it,” Allen said. “We’ll see how things play out over the next few days.”

MERRITT INCREASE: Receiver Kirk Merritt received more acclimation to the running back position during Monday’s practice, and may get some reps there on Friday night.

“The more roles you can do, the better chance you have of making the football team and the more things that you can do for us, the more valuable you become,” Allen said. “It’s a good opportunity to kind of take a look at him.”

Merritt said he hasn’t really taken a handoff at running back since high school, at Destrehan High.

“Just trying to learn that and keep up with receivers,” he said. “The protection and all that stuff.”

Merritt said he liked the change of pace, and it fits with his stated goal of doing anything to make the team (including kick returns; he had two for 84 yards against Green Bay, including a 59-yarder). Monday was the first time he sat in meetings with the running backs.

“First time in the running back room so I’m going to ask a lot of questions,” he said.

FIND THE BALL: Linebacker Eric Wilson made his presence known in the first two preseason games by getting his hands on the ball and forcing turnovers. Against Houston, his tipped pass led to a Chase Hansen interception and against Green Bay, he caused a fumble that was recovered by the Saints. The forced turnover against the Packers occurred on the drive immediately after the Packers had taken possession following an interception.

“Ball production is huge,” Wilson said. “For our defense and for our room, to be around the ball, get the ball out – I didn’t catch the interception (against Houston) but I tipped the pass – it’s great to be able to produce those for our team.”

WET BLANKET: To say there was a system shock in terms of temperature for the Saints on Monday would be a significant understatement.

Last week was spent in Green Bay, with temperatures topping out in the high 70s to low 80s. Sunday’s practice was inside the Caesars Superdome. Monday’s workout at the Ochsner Sports Performance Center – full pads – was conducted outside with sun, humidity and feels-like temperatures flirting around 100 degrees.

“Louisiana has its flavor, and we practiced in Green Bay all last week,” Wilson said. “And it’s DIFFERENT out here. It’s much different, but it pays off. It conditions us really, really well.”

Linebacker Jon Bostic, who was working out in South Florida before joining the Saints a week ago – the day before the team had joint practices and a preseason game in Green Bay – said the sweltering heat on Monday was no problem.

“I like it,” he said. “Being from the University of Florida, you get a lot of weather like this. If we have tough training camp practices like this day in and day out, anywhere else you go, it’s easy. Make it hard now so…as the season goes we’re in better shape because we’ve been in these practices already. Then when you’ve got to go north or the weather does get better, we can run all day.”

HERE, NOT HERE: Rookie defensive back Alontae Taylor and linebacker Pete Werner did some work on the side Monday, but no practice participation. Among those absent from practice were receiver Michael Thomas, cornerback Marshon Lattimore, right guard Cesar Ruiz, left tackle James Hurst, running back Dwayne Washington and receiver Kevin White.