METAIRIE, La. – New Orleans Saints guard Jahri Evans (hamstring) returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday and said he expects to play Monday night against the Miami Dolphins. But seven Saints players were held out of team drills, including receiver Lance Moore (hand).
Also missing team drills on Thursday were running back Mark Ingram (toe), guard Tim Lelito (calf), safety Roman Harper (knee) and defensive linemen Brodrick Bunkley (calf), Tyrunn Walker (knee) and Tom Johnson (hamstring).
The Saints didn’t provide any details on the injuries, so it’s too early to predict whether any of the players who missed practice will be able to play Monday.
Evans, however, spoke confidently about his own chances of playing after missing the first game of his eight-year career last Sunday.
“Fortunately it wasn’t too serious where I had to miss more than one. I’ll be back out there this week,” said Evans, who was active for last week’s game and said he would have been able to play if needed as an emergency option. “I just couldn’t run. We tested it at the end of the week and I couldn’t run, and running is a big part of football. We were just cautious not to hurt it more to where I could take it to a higher-grade injury and be smart with it. We knew we had extra days coming into this week, and it paid dividends.”
That’s key for the Saints since Evans’ status is the most significant of anyone on the injury report. The Saints clearly suffered without him last week. Undrafted rookie Lelito started in Evans’ place and struggled in both pass protection and the run game. And now Lelito himself is injured.
Moore left last Sunday’s game in the fourth quarter with the training staff. But the Saints have never specified the nature of his injury. Although Moore is a valuable part of the Saints’ offense, they should be deep enough to absorb his loss with backup receivers Kenny Stills, Robert Meachem and Nick Toon capable of stepping into greater roles.
The Saints also have not specified the nature of Harper’s injury, which has kept him out since Week 2. But they’ve also been deep enough to absorb his loss, with starters Malcolm Jenkins and Kenny Vaccaro playing every snap this season. Backups Rafael Bush and Isa Abdul-Quddus (who may return from his own ankle injury this week) also offer depth.
Ingram missed all of last week with an unspecified toe injury. He declined to get into detail about the injury Thursday. The Saints are also deep enough to handle Ingram’s absence with veterans Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles and promising undrafted rookie Khiry Robinson.
As for the glut of injuries on the defensive line, the Saints have been able to absorb them so far. But they’d love to get at least one of those guys healthy enough to play. Walker appeared to play the entire game last Sunday after returning from his knee injury, so it’s possible he’s just getting extra rest this week.