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METAIRIE, La. — New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara returned to practice Wednesday after what a source described as an unexcused four-day absence that was believed to be contract-related.

And though a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that Kamara was also receiving treatment on his back during that missed time, he participated fully in Wednesday’s practice.

“We’re actively negotiating a contract with him and his agent, and we’ll keep you posted if there’s any progress,” said Saints coach Sean Payton, who declined to specify if Kamara was absent from all team activities or if he will be fined for the absence.

Payton, who visited with Kamara on Wednesday, said it would be premature to have concerns about the running back sitting out the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sept. 13.

“We’re focused on him being a part of our plan Week 1,” Payton said. “Look, it was good having him back out here. I thought he had a good practice today, and he’s an important part of what we do.”

Kamara, who is heading into the final year of his rookie contract, reported for the start of training camp and participated for the first several weeks, insisting at the time that he was not focused on his contract. It’s unclear what changed, but the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement does make it harder for Kamara to threaten an extended holdout.

According to the CBA, a player under contract would lose an accrued season if he fails to report to training camp on the mandatory reporting date or if “the player thereafter failed to perform his contract services for the club for a material period of time.” That would make Kamara a restricted free agent next year instead of unrestricted.

The Saints could also fine Kamara up to $40,000 per day, though those fines are not mandatory since Kamara is still on his rookie contract.

Neither of those things would be an issue, however, if the Saints and Kamara could work out a new deal.

A source confirmed to Fowler that the Saints were open to the possibility of trading Kamara for a first-round draft choice in light of his absence. However, this is not a case where the Saints are eager to part ways with the three-time Pro Bowler.

The Saints are willing to make a long-term commitment, despite their salary-cap limitations, because of the added value that Kamara brings as both a runner and receiver. The problem will be in agreeing where his value lies — between the $12 million per year that Joe Mixon received in his extension with the Cincinnati Bengals and the $16 million per year that Christian McCaffrey received in his extension with the Carolina Panthers.

https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/29796184/alvin-kamara-returns-practice-amid-ongoing-contract-talks-saints

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