Jimmy Graham happy to be back

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Jimmy Graham admitted this offseason was tough on him.

Although the New Orleans Saints' tight end wound up with a monster new contract worth $40 million over four years, he said of the process it took to get here: "You know, you don't really get into football to do things like that."

"It's a tough process, it really is," Graham said after his first practice back with the team at training camp Friday. "You never see the business side of it, and you never experience litigation, things like that. So for me, it was an eye-opener.

"But in the same respect, I'm just happy that all that mess is over and that I can just focus on this team and this season."

The most awkward moment for Graham probably was sitting in an arbitration hearing for two days, listening to testimony from his own coach and general manager, among others, trying to shoot down Graham's case for being declared a wide receiver.

But it also was hard for Graham to see comments like the ones quarterback Drew Brees made this summer to USA Today, when he said the Saints would be prepared to move on with or without Graham.

And Graham said it was very frustrating to keep quiet when he felt like incorrect information was being reported about his contract demands.

Luckily for Graham, he said he had a good support system to help him deal with the isolation, including family, his marketing agent and former Saints teammate Jonathan Vilma, who worked out with him every day in Miami.

"Jonathan Vilma dedicated his summer to me," Graham said. "And he worked out every day, grinded with me every day and he listened to every complaint and every word and everything I said. And analyzed it and told me what was best. So he was truly amazing this offseason, he really was."

But even that great support couldn't replicate the feeling of being around a locker room full of teammates -- which Graham said he missed most of all.

"These last three days have been awesome," Graham said. "I told these guys that they don't know how much you miss it until you're gone for that amount of time, knowing everyone else is together. I missed the locker room, I missed the coaches and just being with the guys. Today was a special day for me."

As for whether or not any fences had to be mended with anyone on a personal level, Graham echoed the comments from coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis from a day earlier, saying, "No, you know, everything's back to normal now. We're good."

Physically, everything is certainly good with Graham, who ran the best time of any Saints player in Thursday's conditioning test.

"Jimmy's Jimmy," Brees said. "He's ready to roll. I've had multiple conversations with him where he's just like, 'Man, I'm just so glad to be back.' So glad to be back in the mix with the guys and hearing the plays again, my voice in the huddle.

"So I could just see it in his eyes and the way that he's got a little pep in his step. So he's ready to roll."

Graham didn't have any real standout moments during Friday's practice, good or bad. But he was already getting back into that familiar rhythm with Brees on the field as they were playing catch off to the side at one point during a special teams session.

"You know, it's natural with Drew. It's just something that we have," Graham said. "We've always had it, and we've always worked on it. So today felt good, but there's obviously some little things that I need to work on and that we need to get on the same page -- or I need to get on his page. But all of that will be solved in the next couple weeks.

"And I feel fresh. You know, I was just on an extended vacation, and now I'm back hungry and ready to go."

And, for the record, Graham is also ready to put that whole tight end/wide receiver controversy behind him, as well.

"Yeah, I'm an All-Pro tight end, so I'm gonna stay that way," Graham said.