(AP) Saints running back Alvin Kamara returned to practice Wednesday after declining to take the field in recent days because of his apparent dissatisfaction with progress on a contract extension.
''It was good having him back out there,'' Saints coach Sean Payton said. ''I thought he had a good practice today and he's a big part of what we do.''
Kamara, who is due to become a restricted free agent after this season, reported to training camp on time and said initially that he was not concerned with his contract status and focused more on his health and the upcoming season.
''I'm not concerned with contract talks at all. Me and my agent talked briefly about it and I told him, I said, 'Don't tell me anything about a contract until it's like something where it's happening or it's something that I need to know.,'' Kamara said. ''I don't talk upstairs (to the front office) about contracts. I don't talk to coaches about contracts. I'm just here to do my job.''
He practiced without issue for much of the first couple weeks before missing practices on Aug. 23 and 24 because of what Payton described as a stomach virus. He returned to practice for two days in the middle of last week but then missed four consecutive practices before returning on Wednesday.
The Saints have said Kamara was at the facility every day to get tested for the coronavirus and comply with the club's COVID-19 protocols.
''We're actively negotiating a contract with he and his agent and well keep you posted if there's any progress,'' Payton said, declining to specify if Kamara was fined for the four recent practices he missed.
For now, Payton remains optimistic Kamara won't miss any regular season action because of his contract status.
''We're focused on him being a part of our plan Week 1,'' the coach said.
Kamara, a third-round draft choice out of Tennessee in 2017, is slated to make about $2.1 million in what is the final season of his first contract.
That is a bargain price relative to the current market for players who produce as he has.
He gained 1,330 yards from scrimmage last season with five touchdowns rushing and one receiving despite missing two games with ankle and knee injuries which continued to bother him much of the season. Kamara had 1,554 yards of total offense and 13 TDs as a rookie, when he was named NFL offensive rookie of the year, and was even more productive his second season (1,592 yards and 18 TDs).
Calorina's Christian McCaffrey, who like Kamara a threat as a runner or receiver, signed a four-year contract extension worth $64 million last April after gaining 2,392 yards and scoring 19 TDs from scrimmage.
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