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Saints like health of team after offseason work - ScoresAndStats.com
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Saints like health of team after offseason work

METAIRIE, La. -- With the offseason program behind them following their three-day minicamp, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton began looking to the start of training camp and one big goal: staying healthy.

Injuries caused the Saints to miss more than 300 games during the 2016 season, which the Saints think had something to do with their 7-9 finish, and changing that was one of the things Payton focused on this spring.

A year ago, the Saints lost second-year defensive end Hau'oli Kikaha before the end of the offseason program to a torn ACL and they went on to finish the season with 16 players on the various reserve lists.

Make that 17 if you count prized rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, who came back at midseason from injured reserve after fracturing his ankle during training camp in mid-August.

While fixing a defense that once again ranked near the bottom of the league was also high up on the to-do list, avoiding the injury bug this season is a must.

"The change that has taken place -- not just here, but league-wide -- is the increased education of nutrition, sleep, strength-training, and understanding stress levels," Payton said of what the Saints have done to trim the injury list. "We're just a little further along than we would have been 10 years ago. I still think that foundation that you start with in Phase One, with the weights and running, is vital.

"Yes, I think you're always trying to stay healthy and it's a teaching period," he said. "I was pleased with a lot of the situations we were able to work. The weather cooperated this week. It looked like we were going to be indoors for a good bit earlier in the week."

Overall, Payton said he was pleased with the offseason work -- especially in handling the install in the organized team activities and the three-day minicamp that was held in the warm and humid conditions of south Louisiana.

"Depending on the day, periodically, a lot of these guys had plus plays and then trying to balance it out with the mistakes they're making and quickly trying to get better," Payton said. "Overall, I thought they handled the installation well.

"There are some things we've got to clean up, most importantly, by the time we get started in the preseason and regular season, what are the things we feel like we can be good at and making sure as a coaching staff that's what we're doing."

Of course, the defense will be under the microscope when the Saints reconvene in the final week of July for training camp -- which will be their second under defensive coordinator Dennis Allen.

"There's some understanding, if you will, of what we're wanting to do scheme-wise," Payton said. "Yet, there are a few things that we are changing. I'd say that his ability to communicate and teach, and his attention to detail are outstanding.

"Overall, I thought they handled it well," he said. "We've still have a lot of work to do, and yet, that's why training camp is coming. Look it's that time of year where you know that in order to teach more of the specifics you need pads to do that."

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