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Minicamp report: Saints in search of nickel cornerback

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METAIRIE, La. — Among several others, cornerback is a position that will bear watching when the New Orleans Saints report to training camp at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia in late July.

In the team’s offseason workouts and three-day minicamp this week, Saints head coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan have rotated players — youngsters and experienced alike — at the nickel spot to go with starters Keenan Lewis and Brandon Browner to see who would step up.

The Saints are in the process of trying to find a new nickel cornerback after veteran Patrick Robinson wasn’t re-signed and Corey White was waived after struggling when they received opportunities the last few years.

On Tuesday, former CFL player Delvin Breaux shared first-team reps with veteran Kyle Wilson, who was signed this spring, in the team’s minicamp practice.

Payton said earlier in the offseason he envisioned Breaux playing on the outside, but it was obvious that anyone with any ability will get a chance to help improve the league’s 31st-ranked pass defense.

On Wednesday, rookie Damian Swann, a fifth-round draft pick, received the first-team reps at nickel. Third-round draft pick P.J. Williams, who has gotten snaps with the first team, worked with the second unit and Wilson was with the third-string defense.

–Saints quarterback Ryan Griffin, who is vying with Luke McCown and rookie Garrett Grayson for the team’s backup spot behind Drew Brees, was attacked with a champagne bottle at a New Orleans bar in the early-morning hours of June 7.

Griffin, who did not participate in at least one OTA practice last week, met with the media after Tuesday’s minicamp practice — one day after the news broke of the altercation.

A former Tulane standout, Griffin needed 50 stitches to close a wound to his upper forehead and his nose that he received as a result of the incident at Apres Lounge, a Central Business District bar.

“I just wanted you guys to see my face,” Griffin said after removing his cap to reveal a faint scare on his forehead and nose. “Everything looks fine. My plastic surgeon must have gone to Tulane. They did a great job.”

Griffin was struck with the bottle after bumping into some men at the bar. Justin Reese, Griffin’s lawyer, said his client was an innocent bystander and a victim of assault and battery. They said the incident is still under investigation by the New Orleans Police Department.

“It was an unfortunate situation that happened and I’m trying to get it handled quickly and easily,” Griffin said. “As soon as it happened, I notified the Saints and have been telling them anything and everything that’s happened so far.

“My attorney (Reese) is handling all the legal matters and we are both cooperating fully with law enforcement,” he added. “My main focus right now is football, and doing whatever I can to help this team and get better and get ready for training camp.”

–Saints outside linebacker Junior Galette, who was arrested in January on domestic violence charges that later dropped, said Wednesday he will meet with NFL officials later this month about the incident.

During a media interview after the team’s minicamp practice, Galette apologized to the team’s fans for his off-field issues this year.

Galette also talked about the good news he received last week: that he won’t need surgery to repair a torn left pectoral muscle that he sustained two weeks ago during a weightlifting session. He visited with three doctors, two of whom told him he wouldn’t need an operation.

He said he was pleased that he can rehab the injury, but had no timetable for his return. Saints coach Sean Payton said Tuesday that he’s hopeful that Galette could return sometime during training camp and be ready for the season.

“Everybody’s different. … You can have a torn pec, and you can come back sooner than I am, and we could be doing the same rehab,” Galette said. “Everyone’s different. Hopefully, we’ll shoot for the preseason, but we’ll see.

“Obviously, no athlete ever wants to go under the knife, especially when they don’t really have to. If it’s 50-50, then I’m not going to do it,” he said. “But it’s definitely major for me that I don’t have to go under the knife.”

–Galette, strong safety Kenny Vaccaro, cornerback Delvin Breaux, guard Cyril Lemon and defensive linemen Brodrick Bunkley and Akiem Hicks did not participate in Wednesday’s minicamp practice.

Payton does not comment on injuries during the offseason.


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