The New Orleans Saints began voluntary offseason workouts Monday under unusual circumstances -- circumstances not solely limited to the fallout from their "bounty" scandal.
Unquestioned team leader Drew Brees was noticeably absent, as the franchise-tagged quarterback is stuck in a contract dispute with the team. One Saint, whose success is particularly tied to Brees' presence on the field, said Tuesday that enough is enough: It's time the team signed Brees to a long-term deal.
"I think it's very important," tight end Jimmy Graham told WWL-AM in New Orleans, via SportsRadioInterviews.com. "I can remember last year, during the lockout, other teams, they didn't get together. Drew orchestrated and paid for a lot of the younger guys and even got me a place to stay and said, 'Jimmy, I want you here.' He paid that out of his own pocket for all of us to be here training together, and we saw what that translated into and what that meant as far as us jelling."
Graham quickly became one of Brees' favorite targets last season, catching 99 passes for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns and emerging as one of the league's top tight ends.
"I'm not sure what's going on or all the details, but I just want him back as soon as possible," Graham said.
The Times-Picayune cited a source last week in reporting that Brees was very upset at the prospect of not attending the start of workouts because "he wants to be there for his teammates." A source told NFL.com's Steve Wyche last Friday there hasn't been any movement in contract talks between the sides.
Brees spent Monday in New York at a meeting between the NFL and NFL Players Association in which the Saints' "bounty" scandal was discussed, among other issues.