METAIRIE, La. — Zion Williamson has been welcomed with open arms by his new neighbors, the New Orleans Saints. He attended their first training camp practice on Friday, then joined Drew Brees & Co. for a basketball-themed quarterback challenge on Monday.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) July 30, 2019
But the New Orleans Pelicans better not let their No. 1 draft pick get too close. Otherwise, the Saints might try to snatch him up for themselves.
“If you’ve seen the way he’s put together …” Saints coach Sean Payton said of the 6-foot-7, 285-pounder on Monday on Sirius/XM NFL Radio. “Just 10 snaps a game as a sub [defensive] end.”
Actually, Payton said if Williamson were willing to join the Saints, “there’d be five position coaches with their hands up right now, starting with the defensive line coach and the tight end coach.”
“It’s not like he requires a lot of projection,” said Payton, who said the Saints have scouted many former basketball players over the years. “Like, we’ve looked at a lot of body types, but I feel like that’s an easy projection. …
“We considered the seventh-round pick even in case there was a problem across the parking lot.”
In a more serious tone, Payton said he and the rest of the Saints organization “are excited for the Pelicans,” who share the same owner in Gayle Benson and the same practice facilities in Metairie, Louisiana.
“Because look, we’re separated by a parking lot, and this winning culture is somewhat contagious,” Payton said.
Brees has mostly welcomed Williamson with open arms. He signed a jersey for him after the NBA draft that read, “Passing the torch to you!” He gave Williamson another shout-out earlier this month at the ESPYs, telling him the city of New Orleans was ready for him.
However, Brees wasn’t quite as kind of a host on Monday, when Williamson and Saints running back Alvin Kamara both joined in on the quarterbacks’ daily passing challenge.
They welcomed Williamson by bringing a basketball hoop into the Saints’ indoor practice facility and combining three basketball shots with a series of football throws at the hoop. When the competition reached a tiebreaker stage, Brees was the only one to sink a basketball shot from the 5-yard line to the back of the end zone (40-plus feet) to win the competition.