METAIRIE, La. -- The New Orleans Saints decided to make special changes to their roster barely one week into training camp.
They signed kicker Patrick Murray as competition for second-year pro Wil Lutz (and possibly for punter Thomas Morstead since Sean Payton pointed out Sunday night that Murray does both). And they brought back longtime long snapper Justin Drescher while cutting long snappers Thomas Gafford and Chase Dominguez.
It's hard to imagine that Lutz is in any danger, barring a major collapse this preseason or an injury. So far, Lutz has been running unopposed throughout training camp and looking solid in practice (to the untrained eye, anyway).
But it's normal for teams to have two kickers in camp, and Murray certainly has an upside worth examining. The 26-year-old had a good rookie season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014, making 20 of 24 field goals, before he tore his ACL in 2015. Then in 2016, Murray played in two games with the Cleveland Browns (making 1 of 2 field goals and 3 of 4 extra points) before he reinjured his knee.
As for Drescher, the Saints had planned to let him go this year in an attempt to try and upgrade the position. But they didn't like the inconsistency they were seeing from the longtime veteran Gafford or the undrafted rookie Dominguez -- or long snapper Jesse Schmitt, who they cut earlier this summer.
Saints coach Sean Payton said the other day that Gafford and Dominguez were having "up and down" camps and that the Saints "still have work to do there."
Payton said earlier this summer that the Saints decided to make a change at long snapper because they wanted to improve in coverage and protection (which he reiterated Sunday). It likely had something to do with the epidemic of blocked kicks that plagued the Saints last year.
But the Saints apparently missed the consistency that Drescher brought to them in 102 games from 2010-16.
"Maybe they wanted to go back to old reliable or something," said Drescher, who said vindication wouldn't be the right word. "It’s just nice to be back. I’m not mad, I’m just excited to be here. Another opportunity to play the game I love."
Drescher said he worked out for a couple teams this year and always stayed ready.
"The NFL’s all about being ready when the opportunity’s given to you," Drescher said. "And I showed up ready to rock and roll yesterday, snapped well, and now here I am with my buddies."
Payton also pointed out that he believes Drescher is healthier now after battling groin issues in two of the past three years. But he indicated the job is still open to potential new candidates.
"We'll keep evaluating it and see how he's doing," Payton said.