The Sports Xchange

NFL Team Report - New Orleans Saints - INSIDE SLANT

Second-year pro Ryan Griffin is making a strong push to be the New Orleans Saints' backup quarterback this season.

Taking advantage of Drew Brees' strained left oblique muscle, which has kept the eight-time Pro Bowl pick off the practice field for more than a week as well as Friday night's exhibition opener, Ryan has made big strides in an effort to unseat last year's backup -- 11-year NFL veteran Luke McCown.

Griffin, who has shared first-team practice repetitions with McCown since Brees was injured, had a better go of it in the Saints' 26-24 exhibition win over the St. Louis Rams while going against the Rams' second-teamers.

McCown started and was intercepted on his first possession by Rams defensive end Chris Long, but then led his team on a drive that ended with a 37-yard field goal by Shayne Graham. McCown was 7 of 10 for 49 yards with one interception and a 41.2 passer rating.

Griffin was much more efficient, completing 17 of 23 passes for 179 yards with one touchdown -- a 25-yarder to rookie wide receiver Brandin Cooks -- and no interceptions. He had a long pass of 46 yards and had a 107.0 passer rating.

Griffin, who also had a big day in the Black and Gold Scrimmage a week earlier, stood tall in the pocket and took a big hit from behind while delivering the touchdown pass to Cooks.

"It (the hit) didn't even happen as far as I'm concerned," Griffin said.

Griffin picked up where he left off when the Saints returned to the practice field after a day off. In a two-minute drill to end practice, he threw a Hail Mary touchdown pass from midfield to tight end Benjamin Watson, but served up an interception to cornerback Corey White that would have been a pick-six.

At the same time, McCown may have taken a step back with three incompletions and a sack-fumble on four snaps in the drill although Saints coach Sean Payton isn't close to naming Brees' backup with three preseason games remaining.

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NFL Team Report - New Orleans Saints - NOTES, QUOTES

--The Saints welcomed quarterback Drew Brees and cornerback Champ Bailey back to practice this week after both missed about a week and a half of training camp work.

Both players, however, are unlikely to play in the Saints' second exhibition game against the Tennessee Titans on Friday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Brees was back in pads for the first time since Aug. 1 after recovering from a strained left oblique muscle; Bailey participated in practice for the first time since suffering an undisclosed injury one day before Brees was hurt.

Brees had been day-to-day, according to Saints coach Sean Payton, but played pitch and catch with free safety Jairus Byrd before last Friday's preseason opener with the St. Louis Rams.

On Monday, Brees threw passes to injured wide receiver Kenny Stills, who ran intermediate routes against Bailey.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Brees worked mainly on his conditioning and footwork while other players participated in team drills. Brees graduated to some individual work Wednesday, but still was limited.