Pierre Thomas was nearly a Patriot

NEW ORLEANS - AUGUST 21: Pierre Thomas  of the New Orleans Saints scores a touchdown against the Houston Texans at the Louisiana Superdome on August 21, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

According to Brian Allee-Walsh of NewOrleans.com, the Saints nearly traded running back Pierre Thomas to the Patriots leading up to the October 19 deadline.

The Saints were reportedly targeting a cornerback but talks fell through after New England asked for a draft pick to be thrown into the deal. Thomas has missed the last five games due to an ankle injury.

It’s not surprising to hear that the Saints nearly dealt Thomas considering how frustrated coach Sean Payton has been with his running back’s injury issues over the last two years. Thomas was a vital piece down the stretch run last year, but he can never stay healthy. Not having Thomas and Reggie Bush in their backfield has hurt the Saints this season, as Payton’s offense has lost its balance.

On the injury front, Thomas told the media on Thursday that doctors found something else wrong with his ankle when they re-examined him last week. That said, he was also told he can ditch his crutches during the Saints’ bye in Week 10, which is a positive sign for his status the rest of the year.

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Injuries are starting to catch up with the Saints

NEW ORLEANS - OCTOBER 03: Drew Brees  of the New Orleans Saints throws the ball against the Carolina Panthers at the Louisiana Superdome on October 3, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. of the Carolina Panthers (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

How does a winless, hopeless and inferior Carolina Panther team take the defending Super Bowl champs to the brink before finally succumbing to defeat?

Injuries – that’s how.

There’s definitely something wrong with the Saints and while we could try to search for a deeper meaning to their recent struggles, I think the reason is simple. They’re just too banged up on the offensive side of the ball and we better get used to lackluster wins like their 16-14 victory today until they’re healthy again.

Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas were both sidelined for New Orleans against Carolina and it showed. Drew Brees still managed to complete 33-of-48 passes for 275 yards and a touchdown, but the Panthers knew New Orleans couldn’t run the ball so they stayed back in coverage and allowed Brees to complete underneath passes. To Brees’ credit, he took what the defense gave him and led his team to a much-needed victory following last weekend’s overtime loss to the Falcons.

But Brees isn’t 100% either. He wore a brace on his sprained knee and although it didn’t look like it affected him too much, he was still hampered. Brees’ injury coupled with Bush and Thomas being held out, and suddenly the Saints look incredibly vulnerable.

Of course, this is the price that the defending champs pay. Every game is the opponent’s Super Bowl and when injuries pop up, you just have to deal with them and find ways to win. That’s what the Saints did on Sunday and while it wasn’t pretty, at the end of the day victories are all that matters.

Speaking of injuries, Panthers’ receiver Steve Smith suffered a high ankle sprain today and at the moment, there’s no timetable for his return. This news must make rookie Jimmy Clausen incredibly happy, as Smith has lived in the rookie’s ear for the past two weeks. I thought Smith may murder Clausen and leave his body on the Superdome carpet after Clausen wasn’t paying attention to the playclock and the Panthers had to burn a timeout.

What is going on with the Saints’ running back situation?

According to Saints’ beat writer Jeff Duncan via his Twitter page, Lynell Hamilton took the first-team reps for New Orleans during practice on Wednesday. Duncan expects Hamilton to see a heavy workload against the Bills, which begs the question: What is going on with the Saints running back situation?

My question revolves around Sean Payton’s obvious hatred (okay, so I’m exaggerating) for Pierre Thomas, who practiced on Wednesday but who still isn’t seeing first-team reps in practice. I understand that he’s been battling a knee injury, but if he went through practice on Wednesday with no complications, why is Hamilton expected to get the majority of the rushing load on Sunday?

It stands to reason that the Saints may have possibly soured on Thomas, whom many people (me included) thought would have a breakout year in 2009. Thomas was supposed to be New Orleans’ every down back this year and the perfect complement to Reggie Bush. But whether it’s his knee or the possibility that he egged Payton’s house at some point during the offseason, Thomas has taken a backseat to other backs like Hamilton.

Just to get you up to speed on Hamilton, he went undrafted in 2008 and spent the entire season on the Saints’ practice squad. He made the team this year as a fourth back despite fumbling twice in the team’s preseason opener. Had Thomas and Bush not been dinged up entering the season, it stands to reason that Hamilton may not have even made the final roster.

And with that, it’s perplexing that Hamilton would get the start over Thomas this week. Again, maybe Payton and the Saints are still worried about Thomas’ knee and they’re taking it slow with him. But if they’ve soured on him being a No. 1 back, then do him (and fantasy football fans for that matter) a favor and either release him or trade him to a team that could use a runner with his skill set.

Here’s hoping Thomas eventually gets to shine in this league, because he certainly has the talent.

Unless this sorts itself out by week’s end, the message is clear: Stay away from Thomas/Hamilton this weekend if you can. The Saints might be taking it easy on Thomas during the week so that he can start on Sunday, or maybe they don’t feel good about his knee and are planning to give him another week by getting Hamilton ready to start. Hopefully, the Saints’ beat writers will get some answers for us, but HC Sean Payton is tight-lipped about injuries, so we may not get any before kickoff.

Fantasy Quick-Hitters: Fitz, Marshall, and more

Larry Fitzgerald isn’t happy with the number of balls being thrown his way. In PPR leagues, Fitz is averaging 16.3 fantasy points through two games, which isn’t bad, but he’s only averaging 53 yards per game, well off last season’s average of 89 ypg. If he weren’t catching TDs, fantasy owners might be a little panicked.

Mike Bell is likely to miss Week 3, at least according to Jay Glazer, who is usually right about such things. Pierre Thomas is coming back from his own knee sprain and was active on Sunday, so if Bell misses, he’ll have a shot to post some nice numbers against Buffalo if the Saints give him his usual workload. The good news for Bell is that an MRI revealed no structural damage.

Troy Williamson is out for the year. The Jags also cut Nate Hughes, so the starting duties are left up to Torry Holt and Mike Sims-Walker (who posted some nice numbers in garbage time on Sunday). Sims-Walker is worth a pickup in most 12-team leagues. Let’s just hope he can stay healthy.

HC McDaniels says that B. Marshall is a rotational player. This is not what we wanted to hear. It’s not clear why McDaniels is rotating his WRs when Marshall and Eddie Royal are far and away the Broncos’ two best wideouts. Royal has been getting consistent snaps, so this looks like some sort of punishment for Marshall. Not good. Fantasy owners can feel free to bench Marshall if they have a better option waiting in the wings. It looks like Marshall’s days of 10-15 targets a game are long gone, at least for now.

Fantasy Quick-Hitters: Pierre, Jamal, Santana and more

Saints beat writer Jeff Duncan speculates that Pierre Thomas’s injury is worse than the team is letting on. Duncan says that HC Sean Payton comes from the Belichick school of releasing injury information to the media. If Thomas doesn’t play, Mike Bell is a decent start even though the Eagles are pretty good defensively. Philly gave up 72 rushing yards to DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, and the Saints have a much better passing attack than Carolina does. This should keep the Eagles off balance and open up some running lanes. Assuming Thomas sits, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bell had 80-90 yards rushing and a TD in Week 2.

Jamal Lewis probable to start. Rookie James Davis is still questionable with a shoulder injury, so Lewis should be a serviceable start against the Broncos, who gave up 108 total yards and a TD to Cedric Benson last week.

Redskins’ beat writer thinks the team will take more shots downfield in Week 2. This would be good news for Santana Moss, who is a big-play receiver. The Giants smothered him in Week 1, but he should have an easier time getting open against a sketchy Rams defense.

HC Haley wants to get the running game on track. Well, of course he does. But it’s good to hear that Haley isn’t ignoring the problem. The Raiders really struggled against the run last season, but played better in Week 1 against the Chargers, so we’re not sure LJ is a sure bet for a good game. He’s startable if you’re in a pinch, however.

Matt Schaub is close to 100 percent. The Titans gave up a lot of yards through the air to Ben Roethlisberger last week, so there is a possibility that Schaub could have a bounce-back game this week. I’m not excited about his prospects, but he’s not a terrible start.

HC McDaniels plans to spread the ball around. He doesn’t want to name a WR1 because he doesn’t want to get into the habit of forcing the ball to a guy that’s double-teamed. In Week 1, Marshall led the way with seven targets, while Eddie Royal, Jabar Gaffney and Brandon Stokley had four targets apiece. Expect Marshall and Royal to lead the team in targets this season.

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