METAIRIE—The New Orleans Saints held their first scrimmage of training camp on Saturday without starting quarterback Drew Brees, who was excused for what the club said was a family matter.
The Saints did not go into further detail about Brees' absence, and head coach Sean Payton said he was unsure whether the quarterback would return for the club's next scheduled set of practices on Monday.
Quarterback Mark Brunell worked mostly with the first-team offense, completing 13-of-19 passes for 134 yards, including a touchdown pass to Marques Colston on a third-and-goal play from the 1-yard line.
The 6-foot-4 Colston led all receivers with seven catches for 63 yards, including a 22-yarder that set up his touchdown.
"I'm smart. Throw to the big guy that can catch," Brunell said. "He's so talented and I really hope he has a very good year, obviously for our team but (also) for him. ... He can catch. He's big. He's smart. He's got everything. He can run. We're very fortunate to have him."
The longest completion for Brunell, who is competing with Joey Harrington to back up Brees, was a 44-yarder to Rod Harper.
The defense produced several highlights as well, including Roman Harper's interception of Joey Harrington, which Harper returned 34 yards. Later, Jason David intercepted Brunell on a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage by defensive end Bobby McCray.
On the first drive of the game, linebacker Mark Simoneau stripped running back Mike Bell just behind the line of scrimmage and recovered the fumble himself. Defensive end Jeff Charleston recovered a fumble on a bad snap.
"You're disappointed offensively, but you took it away defensively and that's a positive," Payton said. "The fumble by Mike Bell was discouraging because it looked like he just didn't have it put away cleanly. But I thought we made some plays on the ball defensively, which was encouraging."
Simoneau later went out with an elbow injury and Payton said it was not clear how serious Simoneau's injury was, adding that the linebacker would have X-rays. Cornerback Tracy Porter was limited by a tight hamstring.
Running back Reggie Bush, who is healthy enough to play but taking intermittent practices off to rest his surgically repaired left knee, did not participate.
Payton also held out wide receivers Adrian Arrington (hamstring) and Lance Moore (shoulder); tight end Dan Campbell (knee); and defensive backs Randall Gay (heel), Darren Sharper (knee) and Chip Vaughn (knee).
Payton said Vaughn, a fourth-round draft choice, has a slight meniscus tear in his left knee.
"It's not real big, but it has caused some swelling and some knee pain and we'll have to examine it further," Payton said.
The scrimmage format included the first-team offense going against the second-team defense, and the second team-offense against the first-team defense, with third-team units mixed in. Players were in full pads but were instructed to resist tackling fully. Referees blew plays dead when defenders grabbed the ball carriers or tapped the quarterbacks.
The defense was credited with four sacks, one each for safeties Roman Harper and Chris Reis on blitzes. Defensive ends Charles Grant and Anthony Hargrove also got one apiece.
In between drives, the Saints worked on the kicking game. Place kicker Garrett Hartley made all eight field goals he attempted, ranging in distance from 33 to 41 yards. Hartley also looked solid on kickoffs. He did not have any touchbacks but several of his kicks were fielded inside the 5.
Because of rain, the Saints held the scrimmage on their indoor field and did not work on punts. Payton has said the competition between incumbent punter Glenn Pakulak and fifth-round draft choice Thomas Morstead will play out during preseason games.
Harrington, working primarily with the second team was 16-of-26 for 126 yards, including a short touchdown pass to first-team receiver Devery Henderson.
Undrafted rookie Sam Donaldson led all rushers with 56 yards in 11 carries, highlighted by a 26-yard gain. Fellow undrafted rookie P.J. Hill rushed eight times for 22 yards and a 1-yard touchdowns. Pierre Thomas and Bell each gained 22 yards, with Thomas carrying six times and Bell five. Lynell Hamilton carried five times for 19 yards.