Injuries might put a damper on some of this week's most anticipated reunions.
New Orleans Saints cornerback Brandon Browner and New England Patriots running back Travaris Cadet might not be healthy enough to face their former teams when they get together for joint practices at the Saints' training camp site at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia on Wednesday and Thursday. But there will still be some old familiar faces around, regardless.
ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss and I take a look at how these teams' former players have fared since switching sides:
RB Travaris Cadet (Saints 2012-14; Patriots 2015)
Reiss: Coach Bill Belichick credited him with having a good spring and start to training camp, as he showed up as a reliable pass-catcher with the ability to make some plays after the initial catch. His speed stood out. But Cadet appeared to injure his left hamstring on Aug. 8 and hasn't practiced since. He's in the mix of players to replace the departed Shane Vereen as the lead passing back -- where his work in pass protection will be watched closely because he didn't do it much in New Orleans -- and also projects as a factor on special teams.
LB Rufus Johnson (Saints draft pick/practice squad 2013, released August 2014; Patriots 2015)
Reiss: One of the surprise standout performers from the Aug. 13 preseason opener against the Packers as he batted down a pass on a screen and also generated a solid pass rush on multiple snaps, Johnson is making a charge for a roster spot. He looks the part at 6-foot-5 and 280 pounds. Said Belichick: "Rufus has a lot of things going for him -- good size, athletic, long, good level of power. Needs some experience, needs some playing time. He's a hard-working guy." If I was making a 53-man roster projection right now, he'd probably be on the club based on what he's shown.
DE Rob Ninkovich (Saints draft pick 2006, released September 2007; re-signed to Saints practice squad 2008, released again July 2009; Patriots 2009-15)
Reiss: The one player coach Sean Payton lamented got away from New Orleans, he's the projected starting left defensive end and steady as they come, a technician who plays with a high effort level. The Patriots rewarded him with a revamped contract this offseason, pushing some money into 2015, which was a notable sign of the respect they have for him.
CB Brandon Browner (Patriots 2014; Saints 2015)
Triplett: Browner remained sidelined Tuesday with an unspecified leg injury that he suffered in the preseason opener -- leaving his status for this week in serious doubt. That's a bummer, because Browner is such a huge part of the Saints' revamped identity on defense. Browner was the Saints' first priority in free agency because he filled their two most glaring needs -- giving them a physical presence at the No. 2 cornerback spot as they transition to more press coverage and a vocal leader on and off the field. Browner has embraced both of those roles, as we discussed in a recent Q&A. He looked solid before the injury, breaking up a handful of passes in practice and disrupting routes, etc. Of course he has some limitations against quicker guys. But Payton always talks about having the right "vision" for players and knowing what to expect from them. They know what they're getting out of Browner.
TE Benjamin Watson (Patriots' first-round draft pick 2004-09; Saints 2013-15)
Triplett: Watson, 34, has been sipping from the fountain of youth this summer. He dominated in red zone drills one day recently, catching TD passes from three different quarterbacks. And he's been among the Saints' leading pass-catchers throughout organized team activities, minicamp and training camp. I've joked he's been doing his best Jimmy Graham impression. But I do think he'll take on a slightly-bigger role in the offense as the Saints replace Graham by committee. Watson hasn't produced much offense in his previous two years in New Orleans, but he is on the field a ton as their best blocking tight end. And he's well respected and trusted by QB Drew Brees, who won't hesitate to lean on him when needed.