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Saints' Kamara 'explosive' in return to practice, Carr's status uncertain

Alvin Kamara New Orleans Saints Alvin Kamara - The Canadian Press

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — A well-rested, healthy and vigorous Alvin Kamara was back on the Saints' practice field Wednesday, looking “explosive” in the words of coach Dennis Allen.

New Orleans' injured quarterback, Derek Carr, watched practice snaps unfold from behind the action, wearing his jersey but no helmet or pads.

Kamara is finally set to play after serving a three-game suspension in connection with a February 2022 melee in a Las Vegas casino hotel — and made it pretty clear that he's ready.

“I feel like college again; I’m fresh — I’m real fresh,” Kamara said. “I'm happy. Y’all will see when I get out there. I’m excited — definitely, definitely excited. It’s going to be fun.”

Carr's status for Sunday's home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is less certain, but the quarterback wasn't wearing any visible sling over his sprained right shoulder and wasn't about to rule himself out after sitting out one practice.

“I’m going to do everything I can to, you know, be out there with my guys,” said Carr, who was injured at Green Bay on Sunday while being sacked for the 11th time in three games.

“If I can help, if I can play, I’ll play. If I physically just can’t play, then I can’t play. But if I’m out there, that means there’s no fear of reinjury,” Carr said. "So, I’m going to do everything I can to be out there, but never hurt the team at the same time.”

Allen said that if Carr cannot play, Jameis Winston, who is 6-4 as a Saints starter since 2021, will take over under center.

“I'm not ruling anything out,” Allen said. “We feel confident in Jameis being able to go in there and lead us to victory if he's called upon to do so.”

Taysom Hill, who has been taking snaps at quarterback every game — usually for QB runs but also for period passing plays — practiced without a red QB practice jersey and appeared to be preparing for his usual role as a utility player on offense and special teams.

“I don't think a whole lot's going to change,” Allen said. “Certainly, we don't want to give away our secrets in terms of what our plans are schematically.”

Although Hill is 7-2 as a starting QB in his Saints career, Allen said naming Hill QB No. 1 this week “wasn't a consideration.”

Regardless of who plays quarterback for New Orleans, Kamara's return could prove significant. Adept as both a runner and receiver, he has never gained less than 1,330 yards from scrimmage in a season.

“There’s some things I do that opens up our offense a little more — for everybody, not just for me,” Kamara said. “So, I’m excited to get back out there and kind of get some of those opportunities.”

Kamara said he spent part of his suspension in Miami, working out with his personal trainer, "like an abbreviated, less taxing offseason, kind of.

“Just kind of kept my same routine, tried not to overdo it, being anxious and wanting to play,” he added.

While Kamara unabashedly speaks of rarely watching football on TV in his free time, he said he made sure to watch his team play the past three weeks.

“It’s funny to sit back and watch — obviously not being able to affect the game — but watching and seeing, like, what could be,” Kamara said. “You know, it’s easy to sit back and be like, ‘We should’ve done this or we should’ve done that.’ So, I felt myself doing that. I felt like a fan a little bit.”

Kamara played all of last season while the legal resolution of his 2022 case was still pending. Finally, last July, he reached a plea deal in his criminal case and a civil settlement. The NFL announced his suspension in early August, giving him the peace of mind to know that when Week 4 arrived, he could move on with his career without any looming external distractions.

“Obviously, that situation was kind of over my head last year,” Kamara said. “Now, this year, shoot, I’m free. Literally. And figuratively. I’m just ready to play, ready to go.”