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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Steve Smith back by Week 1?

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 20:  Steve Smith #89 of the Carolina Panthers breaks free upfield against the Minnesota Vikings at Bank of America Stadium on December 20, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

NFL.com’s Jason La Canfora is reporting that the Panthers are hopeful receiver Steve Smith (broken arm) will be back for their final preseason game. According to La Canfora, Smith is making good strides in his recovery and he should return by Week 1 of the regular season if he can’t play in Carolina’s final preseason game.

It’s an understatement to say that the Panthers need a healthy Smith in order to compete this season. It’s good that his injury has opened the door for Armanti Edwards, Brandon LaFell and Dwayne Jarrett to get more reps this offseason, but Matt Moore and the Panthers’ passing game couldn’t survive without Smith.

Edwards has turned heads in OTA sessions this summer, but he’s only a rookie and it’ll take time for him and LaFell to grasp the nuances of being a pro receiver. Most rookie wideouts struggle with route running in their first season, so without a veteran presence like Smith in the lineup to help take the pressure off, they’re likely to fail over the course of an entire season.

But if La Canfora’s report is correct, then the Panthers have nothing to worry about in regards to Smith’s injury. He’ll be rusty upon his return, but having him healthy and playing in Week 1 is the only thing that matters at this point and it appears like that scenario will become a reality.

Panthers’ Steve Smith breaks arm while playing flag football

Panthers’ wideout Steve Smith broke his arm while playing in a flag football game at his annual youth camp over the weekend. It was the same arm that he broke last season against the Giants.

According to the Charlotte Observer, Smith has already undergone surgery and will likely miss all of training camp, although he’s expected to be healthy by Week 1 of the regular season.

“Steve has talked to me and feels terrible about it,” says Panthers General Manager Marty Hurney. “Now his focus is on the rehabilitating process and getting back as quickly as he can.”

While the situation is certainly unfortunate, it’s hard to fault an athlete for injuring himself while doing something good for the community. It was a freak accident.

Someone that could benefit from Smith not being able to practice is promising rookie Armanti Edwards, who was taken in the third round of April’s draft. The former Appalachian State quarterback has impressed Carolina’s coaching staff in OTAs this offseason and could earn more playing time in the Panthers’ offense if he continues to turn heads in training camp and during the preseason.

Update: Check that, the Charlotte Observer is now reporting that Smith was actually playing flag football in an adult league – not at a youth camp. Rut-oh.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

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