Alvin Kamara's departure, Juwan Johnson's injury prognosis, mark the end of Saints minicamp

Thu, Jun 13, 2024
NFL News (AP)

Alvin Kamara's departure, Juwan Johnson's injury prognosis, mark the end of Saints minicamp

METAIRIE, La. (AP) - Whether New Orleans Saints star running back Alvin Kamara or top receiving tight end Juwan Johnson will take part in the opening of training camp late next month was cast into doubt as minicamp wrapped up on Thursday.

Kamara, who practiced on Tuesday and Wednesday, and spoke optimistically about New Orleans' new offense, walked out of Saints headquarters and drove off right before the last practice of minicamp began. His agent, Brad Cicala, told the NFL Network that Kamara's sudden departure was contract related.

Meanwhile, Saints coach Dennis Allen said Johnson has a foot injury and that it's not clear how long his recovery will take.

Kamara has two seasons left on the five-year, $75 million contract he signed in 2020, but none of the $22.4 million in salary the deal calls for in 2025 is guaranteed. That makes 2024, for practical purposes, Kamara's final season under contract.

The decision to initiate a holdout begins a game of chicken with Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, who could either agree to an extension, trade Kamara, or do nothing and see how long the running back is willing to go without a paycheck.

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After Thursday's practice, Allen appeared caught off guard by Kamara's abrupt departure.

"He was here for the walk-through this morning and then we went in, and I haven't had a chance to talk to him, so I'm not sure why he wasn't out there," Allen said. "I haven't talked to Alvin so, that's all I've got for you.

"I'm really not going to get into any of that stuff," Allen added. "At the end of the day, I said what happened and I haven't had an opportunity to talk to him, so I think it would be unfair to make any statements on that right now."

Saints quarterback Derek Carr said Kamara had looked fit and primed to be a major factor in the Saints' revamped offense.

The club this offseason hired Klint Kubiak as offensive coordinator, and he is installing a scheme similar to one run in San Francisco, where he was a top assistant under coach Kyle Shanahan. The scheme emphasizes outside zone runs and play-action passes, with potential options often coming out of the backfield.

"You hand him the ball, it just feels different," Carr said of Kamara. "God blessed him with those first three steps that are just different than everybody else."

When Carr was told about the contract issue, he said, "My dad always told me, 'Don't put your hand in another man's pocket."

"I'm going to let him deal with his money," Carr added. "If that's what it's about, then God bless him. ... Running back's a hard job. That's between him and the organization. But everyone here loves AK. We all love him as a teammate."

The dynamic Kamara has surpassed 1,100 yards from scrimmage in all seven of his NFL seasons, but his 694 yards rushing in 2023 were a career low and his 466 yards receiving were the second lowest in his career.

Meanwhile, Allen declined to get into specifics about Johnson's prognosis.

"It's really hard to say because it wasn't any sort of event," Allen said of Johnson's injury. "It's his foot. His foot was bothering him. And he's unable to practice right now. But it really wasn't an event, so I'm not really sure exactly how it happened. So we'll just see what his availability is and when he becomes available."

Johnson, who had 876 yards and 11 touchdowns receiving during his past two seasons combined, participated in voluntary offseason practices, but was not able to take part in minicamp practices.

"He looked phenomenal" during voluntary practices, Carr said. "The thing that I love the most about him was his mentality he came with. ... He was locked in, laser focused. He was on a mission. And so, I am really excited to watch Juwan this year."

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