While on the surface, this is technically a "business trip" for me, it's really hard to call any trip to New Orleans an out and out "business trip." I mean, I spent fifteen years in the corporate world, where "business" meant mind-numbing meeting after meeting followed by hotel food and an early wake up call the next morning to catch your flight to the next set of meetings.
In the line of business I now find myself in, "business" means watching NFL teams practice (in the sweltering heat, but still a blast), hanging out with buddies from our station and other stations, literally sitting at a bar doing a radio show with John Granato from 3 to 7 PM, po-boy's at Mother's, gambling at Harrah's, and 4 AM beverages at Chuck's. I'll admit that I'm even enjoying sharing a room with the very enjoyable Raheel Ramzanali! Honestly, this trip is so much fun, even 100 fire ant bites can't kill my good mood!
That's our business trip, and as WWE Hall of Fame announcer Jim Ross would say, business is by God about to pick up! My report from Texans practice Thursday morning...
- Before I get into football, a quick blackjack update -- Raheel and I both donated to Harrah's last night (nothing catastrophic), but the highlight was Raheel making everyone at the table promise that they would do the "ROBOT" dance if they got three blackjacks in a row -- not an easy task if you knew the eclectic mix at the table. Fifteen minutes later, I was ROBOT dancing, fools! (Of course, forty five minutes later I was walking back to the Omni with my tail between my legs and my pockets empty.)
Raheel then upped the ante by promising to strip down to his underwear and run around the casino if he got four blackjacks in a row. We all quickly voted thumbs down on that -- all except our dealer Derek, who was...well, let's just say if Harrah's had a prop bet on "Derek spooning with another man in the last 24 hours, YES/NO" I'd have POUNDED "YES." Derek liked Raheel...a little too much.
- Now, onto practice: You're looking live at the practice facility of the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints (still weird to say, that hasn't worn off) in Metarie, LA, and I'm joined for this practice by John Granato, Raheel Ramzanali, and New Orleans Saints legend and all-around great guy, BOBBY HEBERT!
Hebert does an afternoon talk show on WWL 870 AM in New Orleans (and will be joining us on the air today at 3:30 PM). He was a very cool guy. We talked about his break into radio (started in Atlanta, but then got the gig in New Orleans after local legend Buddy Dee passed away in 2005). Hebert, in as self-deprecating a manner as you'd expect from the "Cajun Cannon," said he's excited to be in a market where his thick Cajun accent actually helps him! Fun to watch an NFL practice with a former NFL quarterback.
- Teams ran almost entirely 11-on-11 drills today in the morning. The first question everyone has -- via text, on Twitter, when they call me -- "Who got into fights?" Well, after a pretty docile Day One, we had a couple flare ups today. No all out fisticuffs, but definitely some scrums that needed intervention from the coaches.
The first one came on a Chris Henry run to the outside where he was upended by Saints safety Chip Vaughn. Keep in mind, while the hitting is spirited, the players are in shoulder pads and helmets with shorts, so there is a code to just where, when, and how forceful you hit. In Henry's eyes, Vaughn crossed that line.
The second one came when Texans offensive lineman Kasey Studdard got into a little tete-a-tete with about six Saints defensive players. This was a funny visual mostly because if you had to pick one Texans player out of a lineup who just looks like he would start swinging as hard as he could on six guys in a bar, Studdard (mountain man beard and all) would be in the top three easily. (Other candidates -- Mike Brisel, Bernard Pollard, Tim Bulman when his head is fully shaved.)
Anyway, it wasn't overly satisfying as far as training camp fights go, but it'll have to do. I asked Andre Johnson after practice if, after a relatively calm first day, the players wonder or sense that there will be chippiness in Day Two. He basically said players are trying to get they're work in and by the way...swinging on guys? "It's too hot for that." Funny answer.
- Arian Foster continues to impress. If he has a regular season as good as his training camp, the Texans have really found something from a guy who, according to his own head coach, was having some maturity issues last season. He's looked like the perfect "one cut" fit in this offense. Jeremiah Johnson also popped a couple nice runs, if you're paying attention to the back end of the running back rotation.
- Joel Dreessen has really had a nice couple days here in New Orleans catching the football. He's carrying himself like a guy who is a starting tight end on an NFL team, even though he probably won't be once Owen Daniels comes back.
- Speaking of which, Owen was spotted on the far field after practice working with members of the Texans coaching staff, working on getting in and out of cuts and testing his repaired knee. He goes to see Dr. James Andrews next Wednesday to get the knee checked and could be cleared to play soon. (Unfortunately, Raheel decided to "Raheel Roll" Owen after practice -- this is where Raheel shows people a picture on his phone of him in a pair of red nuthugger shorts with no shirt on -- it's more disturbing than it sounds. Owen may now be out with torn abdominal muscles from vomiting.)
- Offensive line first team still had Duane Brown and Eric Winston at the tackles (no surprise there), Chris Myers at center (he's been a fixture throughout camp). Today, the guards with the first unit while I was watching were Wade Smith and Mike Briesel, which is a change up from Antoine Caldwell and Kasey Studdard on Wednesday.
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- Almost all of the passes thrown have been underneath type stuff, so it's hard to get a gauge on quarterback play. Dan Orlovsky had a pick six go the other way on a crossing pattern that looked like there may have been a miscommunication (or it was just a bad pass). In the few plays where the teams went downfield, on the Saints side Marques Colston beat Brice McCain for a big gain, and on the Texans side Kevin Walter beat Tracy Porter by a step and a half on a fly route but dropped the ball, which sent the entire media section into a collective "we expected more from a varsity letterman" head shake.
- Fire ant update -- there were actually still a handful of them living in the mud caked on the bottom of my shoe. Found them last night, and had to employ drastic means to kill them. How these little bastards have not taken over the world is beyond me.
More tomorrow, as the Texans have an 11:20 AM practice at the Superdome! Until then, laissez les bon temps roulez!!
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 PM weekdays on the "Sean & John Show" and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.