- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 3, 2011

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Drew Brees was back in the heart of a huddle, albeit an unusual one in an uncertain time.

Gathered around New Orleans’ star quarterback were not just offensive players, but defenders and specialists. There were players currently under contract with the Saints and some who are not.

Brees secured access to Tulane’s facilities and called on teammates to join him for the workouts. Nearly 40 of them did on Tuesday, taking cues from one of the few leaders they have while the NFL lockout prevents them from training on team property or contacting coaches.

“We would all be working out somewhere anyway, so why not do it together and why not do it in an organized fashion where it’s very football-related,” Brees said. “It’s preparing us to have a championship season, and I feel like it’s putting us way ahead of other teams around the league, just by the fact that we’re so organized.”

Normally, May and June are months for organized offseason workouts and minicamps, all of which will be canceled if the lockout lingers into midsummer. So players on a number of teams around the league have begun to gather in some form.

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez invited teammates to join him in California for what he’s calling the Jets West Camp. Broncos safety Brian Dawkins has organized some workouts with about a dozen teammates in the Denver area. Cleveland quarterback Colt McCoy hosted some Browns teammates for workouts in Austin, Texas.

More than a dozen Miami Dolphins, including quarterback Chad Henne and have been working out together regularly on a soccer field near the team complex. The group includes Chad Henne and offensive tackle Jake Long.

Falcons linebacker Coy Wire and right tackle Tyson Clabo have organized workouts that about 30 teammates have attended in Cumming, Ga.

After Saints players broke their huddle with Brees, they divided into groups and started conditioning and agility drills. Most wore shorts and T-shirts. None wore helmets.

Brees said work on formations and plays _ even film study _ may come later, depending on how long the lockout lasts, but there will be “absolutely no contact.” He added that about three workouts per week are planned for May and parts of June, mimicking what the Saints would normally do in the months leading up to training camp.

Left tackle Jermon Bushrod, fullback Heath Evans and safeties Roman Harper and Darren Sharper were among those who showed up despite not having contracts nailed down for next season.

Bushrod said he saw the workouts as an opportunity to “get back to where I need to be to be successful, and that’s pretty much how everybody looks at it, whether your contract situation is a little hazy or not.”

Still, some key players whose contracts are in limbo, such as receiver Lance Moore, did not show, but Brees didn’t begrudge their absences.

“I don’t blame them if they’re not here just because the risk with all this is we have no injury protection,” Brees said, noting that if players have a season-ending injury, teams would not have to put them on injured reserve and continue to pay them as they otherwise would.

Brees negotiated the use of the Green Wave’s facilities with Tulane Athletic Director Rick Dickson, who said he was eager to reciprocate for help the Saints have given the university in the past.

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