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Jonathan Vilma getting healthy for Saints

The New Orleans Saints kicked off the first mandatory minicamp of the NFL offseason Tuesday without their best player. But there were plenty of other nuggets.

1. Surprisingly, linebacker Scott Shanle wasn't with the starting unit in the morning. Chris Chamberlain and David Hawthorne flanked middle linebacker Curtis Lofton in an all-free-agent linebacker group.

Shanle is in a battle with Chamberlain for his starting job. Chamberlain knows Steve Spagnuolo's defense well from their days together with the St. Louis Rams. (UPDATE: Shanle was back with the first unit in the afternoon. It appears he's sharing snaps.)

2. Chase Daniel continues to take snaps as New Orleans' No. 1 quarterback. Interim coach Joe Vitt lauded Daniel's ball placement and ... said the team's center-snap exchange is "phenomenal." We feel like Vitt must have been scraping for compliments if he had to start talking about the center-snap exchange.

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3. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Luke McCown is trying out for the Saints as an extra quarterback.

4. SI.com's Peter King noted that Jonathan Vilma was on the field for a walkthrough before going back inside for rehab on his surgically repaired knee. Vitt said Vilma has made a lot of progress physically in the past two weeks.

5. Vitt's words on defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, a third-round draft pick, are worth remembering for almost all players during summer work: "You can see he's big, he's mobile, he can run, he can change gears, he's got good body control, he's got good balance But listen -- we're going to put the pads on, and that's what's going to define him."

6. Saints offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod is practicing for the first time since undergoing labrum surgery this offseason, according to Mike Triplette of The Times-Picayune.

7. Our friend, Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune, noted that Saints practices were a lot quieter without Gregg Williams, Drew Brees and Sean Payton in attendance. These are strange days with the Saints.

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