METAIRIE, La. -- At last, an NFL team is showing some genuine interest in 11-time Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks.
"We felt like he was still playing at a high level," Payton said. "He's an intelligent player, instinctive, a guy that's really been a pain for us over the years, so we've got a lot of respect for his ability."
The invitation to Brooks went out just days after his former coach, Jon Gruden, made a visit to Saints training camp in his new role as a Monday Night Football announcer. Payton and Gruden, friends since their days as assistants on the staff of former Philadelphia Eagles coach Ray Rhodes, talked about Brooks.
Gruden's assessment of his former star linebacker "was positive, real positive," Payton said.
If the Saints are to sign Brooks or Smith, they will have to make room on the roster. Payton said the Saints haven't yet decided whether to place Simoneau on injured reserve. The Saints also could waive Simoneau and hope to bring him back later in the season when he has healed, as they did with defensive tackle Hollis Thomas when he had a similar training camp injury in 2008.
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Simoneau spent last season on injured reserve after having back surgery, but he appeared to be making a strong return. During the Saints' scrimmage Saturday, he burst into the backfield on a running play, stripped the ball from the carrier and recovered the fumble himself. Soon after, he left the scrimmage injured.
On Monday, Simoneau was excused from practice for the birth of his child.
"He and his wife welcomed their first daughter last night, so the timing was kind of weird," Saints linebacker Scott Fujita said.
"He's a savvy veteran who's been in this division a long, long time, and he's about as sharp as they get," Fujita said.
Simoneau was expected to have surgery Wednesday. On Tuesday, rookie safety Chip Vaughn was scheduled for arthroscopic surgery to repair a minor tear of the meniscus in his left knee, Payton said.
Vaughn was injured late last week, but trainers were unsure whether it was serious enough to require surgery, so they waited a few days to see how Vaughn felt.
Payton said he'd have a better idea of Vaughn's expected recovery time after the operation.
Copyright 2009 by The Associate Press