Saints Open Voluntary Practice Without Marshon Lattimore Or Alvin Kamara

New Orleans Saints head coach Dennis Allen talks to reporters after an NFL rookie minicamp football practice in Metairie, La., Saturday, May 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
New Orleans Saints head coach Dennis Allen talks to reporters after an NFL rookie minicamp football practice in Metairie, La., Saturday, May 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — The absences of cornerback Marshon Lattimore and running back Alvin Kamara from the New Orleans Saints' opening set of voluntary offseason practices had coach Dennis Allen toeing a fine line as he spoke about the two star players.

“Look, I'd always love 100% participation,” Allen said Tuesday. “I'm aware of why everybody that's not here is not here — some of them personal reasons, some of them personal choice.

“When they get here, we're going to welcome them with open arms,” Allen added.

Noting that Lattimore has been the subject of trade speculation “outside our building,” Allen said he recently had a “productive” talk with the club's highest-paid defensive player and — for now — expects him to remain in a Saints uniform this upcoming season.

“I just felt like it was probably time that he and I had a conversation," Allen said. "It was a positive conversation.”

Allen does not, however, expect to see Lattimore at practice before mandatory minicamp opens on June 13.

“I wouldn't say that's been uncommon,” Allen said, noting that Lattimore has skipped voluntary practices in previous seasons.

“I know he's working hard. He's getting himself in the best shape that he can get into,” Allen said.

Lattimore was the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2017, when he had five interceptions. During the past two seasons combined, Lattimore has been limited by injuries to 17 games and has two interceptions during that span.

The AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2017 was Kamara, who is coming off what — by his standards — was a down season. His 694 yards rushing were a career low and his 466 yards receiving were his second fewest in a season.

But he still accounted for more than 1,100 yards and six touchdowns from scrimmage in 13 games.

Kamara, like Lattimore, has skipped voluntary practices during recent seasons. But now the Saints have a new offensive coordinator in Klint Kubiak. His scheme represents more of a departure from the offense that former coach Sean Payton and former coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. — a Payton protege — ran during Kamara's seven previous NFL seasons.

Allen said Kamara’s absence “can present some challenges” at a time when Kubiak is installing new plays.

But Allen also stressed that the team needs to respect the personal considerations influencing players’ decisions on whether to attend voluntary offseason practices.

“He's been able to train and get himself ready on his own and be prepared and be ready to go when it's time to go,” Allen said. "For me as the coach, I got to trust that that's what he's doing.

“Every year, players go through different phases in their life and then they begin to get other things that pull at them one way or the other,” Allen said. “We have to be understanding of that and yet I do think it's important to have our guys here.”

Veteran running back Jamaal Williams also stayed away and second-year running back Kendre Miller took first-team snaps.

Saints quarterback Derek Carr, a 10-year NFL veteran now in his second season with New Orleans, said he's seen the benefits of team-building and learning the new offense during voluntary practices, but steered clear of judging any teammates who stayed away.

“At quarterback, you're going to be at everything. But there's obviously some guys who get ready other ways,” Carr said. “I feel comfortable with whoever's not here, that they're mentally going to be ready, for sure.”

Another prominent absence was more expected — starting right tackle Ryan Ramczyk, who had an offseason knee procedure and might not play at all this upcoming season. Allen said Ramczyk's status could become clearer by training camp.

In the meantime, Allen spoke of trying to fill as many as three spots on the offensive line. Rookie Taliese Fuaga, an Oregon State right tackle who was the club's first-round draft choice this year, is working at left tackle. Trevor Penning, a 2022 first-round draft choice who started five games at left tackle last season before being benched, is now working at right tackle.

“That's kind of the direction that we're looking at right now,” Allen said. “One of the reasons why you look at potentially putting (Penning) over on the right side is ... it's a totally clean slate. It's a different position. It's a different (offensive) coaching staff. It's a different scheme."