LONDON — The New Orleans Saints welcomed back top receiver Willie Snead as they started practice in London for this week’s game against Miami in the British capital.
Yet coach Sean Payton said he won’t determine Snead’s role against the Dolphins until after evaluating how the receiver looks following a three week suspension for his drink driving arrest.
“We’ll wait and see how he’s moving around,” Payton said. “It’s been a little bit of time since he had been playing. We’ll see how he handles the work week.”
Snead was the Saints’ second-leading returning receiver last season, with 72 catches for 895 yards and four touchdowns.
After practice, quarterback Drew Brees said Snead “looked good.”
“He has been out for a little bit now. But I think that he is obviously a great element to what our offense can do,” Brees said. “I am sure there will be a package of stuff and we’ll be trying to continue to build on what we’ve gone on the last few weeks. But obviously he can be a big part of that.”
Having traveled across the Atlantic following Sunday’s victory at Carolina, Saints players had Monday and Tuesday off to rest and adjust to a time zone six hours ahead of that in New Orleans.
They returned to practice Wednesday with not only Snead back on the roster, but also veteran fullback John Kuhn and recently acquired veteran defensive lineman Kendall Langford.
Kuhn and Langford were released last week as part of injury-related roster juggling.
Meanwhile, rookie starting cornerback Marshon Lattimore, held out last Sunday at Carolina because of concussion symptoms, returned to practice. Fellow cornerback Sterling Moore also was back from a chest injury that sidelined him last weekend, but he was listed on the club’s injury report as having practiced on a limited basis. Also returning on a limited basis was starting right tackle Zach Strief, who sprained his knee in the season opener at Minnesota on Sept. 11.
New Orleans also moved linebacker Ben Heeney from the practice squad to the active roster, while placing defensive tackle David Parry on injured reserve after he was hurt in Carolina.
The players also have enjoyed their time in London.
The Saints are practicing at training center called Hazelwood, which the home base for the London Irish, and English rugby club. The fields are in the west-London suburb of Sunbury. During their rest days. Some of them did a little sightseeing and shopping.
Defensive end Cam Jordan took what some English soccer fans might find an unorthodox approach to shopping for his children, buying his son a Manchester United uniform and a Manchester City uniform for his daughter.
“They will be rivals and be here together,” Jordan said.
Jordan said he also went to the London Eye and expressed mild disappointment at discovering that the London Bridge is under construction.
While Jordan’s shopping decisions may prove to divide his children’s soccer loyalties, he and Brees have talked about what the team can do during the national anthem before Sunday’s game to express unity.
Last Sunday, Jordan was among about a dozen players who sat during the anthem in protest of racial inequality in America, and in particular, comments made by President Donald Trump that players who do not stand for the anthem should be fired. Brees stood for the anthem on Sunday, when he said he always would do so, but also appreciated why some teammates felt compelled to protest.
“We’re trying to find the best way to handle this, to show unity and yet, show respect for the flag as well,” Brees said. “I’m not sure if it’s going to be something this week, but I’m sure it will be something at some point.”
Jordan, who has relatives who served in the military and has been on a USO tour for the NFL, took issue on Wednesday with the notion that players’ protests were meant to disrespect America and those who’ve fought and died for it.
“We still respect our troops,” Jordan said, adding that the protest “does not deter from the fact that we are Americans; it’s not going to ever deter from the fact that we respect our flag.
“It only gives us more pride to say, ‘This is a day and age where I can show and demonstrate something, and what’s on my mind and what’s on my heart, and prove to the world that this is an important topic to pay attention to,” Jordan added. “The question is how do you go forward and bring unity.”