METAIRIE, La. — Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt and Drew Brees have spoken about preparations for training camp, and Vitt said he expects the star quarterback to be back with the team by then.
When asked why he's confident Brees will be back from his contract holdout, Vitt cracked, "what else is he going to do? He can't sing or dance."
New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis has said his top priority is to come up with a contract that satisfies Brees, but that the club has to be careful to avoid rushing into a deal that will affect team significantly for years to come.
The Saints have placed a one-year franchise tag on Brees, which prevents him from negotiating with other clubs. However, Brees, whose last six-year deal expired after last season, is holding out for a new multi-year contract that will make him among the NFL's highest-paid players.
So far, the 33-year-old quarterback has skipped several weeks of voluntary workouts, as well as the first six offseason practices held this week and last. It looks like Brees may also miss minicamp next week and the last set of offseason practices later in June.
The Saints have until July 16th to sign Brees to a new long-term deal. Otherwise, he can play under the one-year franchise tag for about $16.3 million — or sit out the season and get nothing.
Brees has not hinted at sitting out any of the regular season, by which time he would have to report to receive his full season salary under the franchise tag. However, Brees has suggested he might sit out parts or all of training camp, which opens in late July, if no long-term deal is in place by July 16.
Vitt doesn't expect it to come to that.
"He's going to be here," said Vitt, who is acting as head coach during Sean Payton's season-long suspension in connection with the NFL's bounty investigation.
"I don't think anybody thought this was going to be easy," Vitt said. "There's a lot of revolving pieces here that Mickey's got to get fit in with the (salary) cap and get people signed, and so on and so forth, and it's all going to fit into the future. This is going to get done."
Brees is expected to command an annual salary in the range of the $19.2 million per year that Denver gave to Peyton Manning, who is three years older than Brees and sat out last season while recovering from neck surgery.
Brees, meanwhile, passed for a single-season record 5,476 yards in 2011, completing a record 71.2 percent of his passes to go with 46 touchdowns.
GOODELL CONFIDENT BOUNTY HUNTING NO LONGER ISSUE: Commissioner Roger Goodell is confident that bounty hunting will no longer be an issue in the NFL because of the severe penalties handed out in the wake of the New Orleans Saints scandal.
Goodell said the actions taken by the league "speak very loudly."
"I heard that from our clubs, from our personnel," he said during a news conference in Chicago on Thursday. "They recognize it's not part of the game. It doesn't need to be part of the game. And I don't think it's going to be an issue going forward."
The NFL said it found that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams oversaw a bounty program in New Orleans from 2009 to 2011 which paid off-the-books bonuses of $1,500 for "knockouts," or hits which forced a player out of games, and $1,000 for "cart-offs," which left players needing help off the field.
HINES WARD TO WORK AS ANALYST FOR NBC: Former Pittsburgh Steelers star Hines Ward has been hired by NBC Sports to work as an analyst for its NFL and college football coverage.
Ward retired in March after 14 seasons with the Steelers.
NBC announced Thursday that it has come to a multiyear agreement with Ward. The four-time Pro Bowl receiver will be a regular contributor to the NBC's Football Night In America on Sundays and will be part of NBC Sports Network's college football studio show on Saturdays.
Ward also won ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" in 2011.