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.

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Drew Brees, Pierre Thomas banged up for Saints

Sep 20, 2010; San Francisco, CA, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) throws a pass during the Saints' 25-22 victory over the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park. Photo via Newscom

Good thing the Saints take on the hapless Panthers this Sunday, because they’ve become the walking wounded.

Reggie Bush (broken fibula) doesn’t need crutches anymore and is walking without pain. He believes he’ll be back sooner than expected, but that’s about the only injury news that favors the Saints right now.

Drew Brees will play Sunday against Carolina, but he’s expected to wear a brace on his sore left knee. He suffered the injury late last week in an overtime loss to the Falcons and while he doesn’t think the knee will affect his performance, you never know how a player will respond to an injury until he gets on the field. The good thing is that Brees is a tremendous pocket passer and even if he had two good knees we wouldn’t be seeing his best Michael Vick impression.

The other significant piece of injury news surrounding the Saints has to do with Pierre Thomas’ ankle. He’s going to be a game-time decision after missing practice the past two days, although the team has yet to active DeShawn Wynn from the practice squad so that’s a good sign. Head coach Sean Payton also said on Thursday that Thomas is a rare player in that he can miss practice and still be mentally ready to play on Sunday.

The Saints struggled to run the ball last week against the Falcons and it hurt them late in the game. Their passing attack was still unstoppable, but come overtime their defense was worn down from being on the field all day and Atlanta took advantage. I don’t expect the Panthers to pull off an upset this week, but with Brees and Thomas hobbled the game could be tighter than anticipated.

Training Camp Notes: Bush, Smith, Marshall

New Orleans Saints:
Reggie Bush was limping noticeably after cutting Wednesday morning’s practice short, although he says his knee is fine. An MRI was taken on Bush’s knee earlier this week and apparently the results were positive, so the running back might just have to miss the next few days as a precaution. (FOX

San Francisco 49ers:
Apparently Alex Smith has pulled ahead in the starting quarterback derby according to 49ers beat writer Matt Maiocco. While Hill still seems like the more physically gifted quarterback between the two, it’s good to see that the franchise isn’t giving up on Smith (a former first overall pick) just yet. But Smith could also play himself out of the starting role in preseason, so stay tuned. (Matt Maicco on Twitter)

Denver Broncos:
Brandon Marshall continues to sit out with an undisclosed injury that he suffered last weekend. The Denver Post suggests that the injury was due to Marshall’s offseason hip surgery, although head coach Josh McDaniels refuses to comment on the situation. (Denver Post)

Kansas City Chiefs:
Head coach Todd Haley has reportedly been impressed with how good running back Larry Johnson has looked so far in camp. Teammates have apparently marveled at how good of shape the 29-year-old running back is in this season. Kansas City’s offensive line still needs some work, but it’s good enough to give a motivated LJ a chance to shine again this season. Maybe Johnson will be one of the surprise performers in ’09. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Atlanta Falcons:
Harry Douglas was carted off the field on Wednesday with a left leg injury and it apparently the situation doesn’t look good for the Falcons young receiver. Atlanta’s already in a heap of trouble at the wideout position with Roddy White holding out for a new contract. If Douglas has to miss significant time, GM Thomas Dimitroff (who traded promising WR Laurent Robinson to the Rams for half a can of original Pringles earlier this offseason) might be forced to get a deal done soon with White. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

New York Jets:
Quarterback Kellen Clemens continues to struggle with his pocket presence according to a report by the New York Daily News. Considering the Jets have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, this seemingly is a huge problem, even though it’s still early in camp. Maybe this news bodes well for rookie Mark Sanchez starting right away. (New York Daily News)

Green Bay Packers:
The Packers are having trouble signing first round pick B.J. Raji and according to ESPN 540’s Scott Wisniewski, the two sides are far apart on a deal. Rotowold speculates that Raji’s agent could be waiting on No. 10 overall pick (Raji was the No. 9 overall pick) Michael Crabtree to sign a deal with the 49ers before he gets something done for Raji in Green Bay.. (Rotoworld)

Reggie Bush has microfracture surgery on knee

Boy, a few years ago, that headline would have sent the entire city of New Orleans into a panic, but new techniques in microfracture surgery have really improved long-term results.

Bush is expected to be ready for June minicamps.

Reggie Bush’s knee surgery was more serious than the Saints initially indicated last month, but General Manager Mickey Loomis said the team still expects the running back to be ready for minicamp in early June.

Loomis said Bush had a microfracture procedure performed on his left knee after he was placed on injured reserve in mid-December. Bush’s injury initially was reported as a sprained medial collateral ligament, which doesn’t usually require surgery, but Coach Sean Payton indicated last week that Bush had an arthroscopic procedure performed by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.

Loomis did not give details about the surgery, but he said it was not a “major” procedure.

There is no doubt that Bush has loads of talent, but over the last two seasons he has missed 10 games with various ailments. From a fantasy football perspective, he’s a monster in PPR leagues, but in the real NFL, his injury history and inability to consistently gain yards between the tackles have some calling him a bust. I think he’s been productive enough thus far to gain a reprieve, pending the results of this surgery. If he returns in 2009 with a 1500-yard season, he should be back on track.

Going a bit deeper into the fantasy impact of this news, Pierre Thomas suddenly looks like a darkhorse to finish in the top 10 next season. He figures to have solid value even with Bush healthy and productive, as the Saints’ offense is explosive enough to support two good fantasy RBs. If Bush is hobbled or misses anytime, he could blow up.

Saints get crushed by Panthers, lose Reggie Bush for 3-4 weeks

Reggie BushFox’s Curt Menafee reported that Saints’ RB Reggie Bush will undergo surgery on Monday to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee and will miss the next 3-4 weeks. He suffered the injury in New Orleans’ 30-7 loss to the Panthers on Sunday.

This is a crushing blow for a team that has struggled this season despite being considered a Super Bowl contender in preseason. It’s been well noted that Bush isn’t an every down player and that he can’t run between the tackles, but he brings another dimension to the Saints’ offense in the passing game and can be explosive returning punts (which is how he got hurt Sunday).

New Orleans goes to London next week to play the Chargers, then have their bye before traveling to Atlanta to take on the surprising Falcons. And outside of the Chiefs and Lions, there isn’t a “gimmie” on their schedule the rest of the way.

The Saints ran into a brick wall in Carolina on Sunday. This was a nice bounce back with for the Panthers after they were steamrolled by Tampa last weekend. Steve Smith was absolutely phenomenal, hauling in six catches for 122 yards and a touchdown, which he caught falling down and between two defenders. Rookie Jonathan Stewart continues to impress, too, rushing for 68 yards and a touchdown.

Who would have thought after seven weeks, the Saints would be the worst team (at least in terms of win/loss record) in the NFC South?

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