Optimism on Graham, other injuries

METAIRIE, La. – The New Orleans Saints didn’t offer any specific injury updates Monday. But coach Sean Payton talked about how well tight end Jimmy Graham progressed throughout last week with his foot injury. And defensive backs Kenny Vaccaro and Keenan Lewis both insisted that they expect to play this week against the New York Jets after their nasty helmet-to-helmet collision on the final defensive play of Sunday’s 35-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills.

Graham playfully declined to discuss how his foot was feeling Monday morning, since the Saints prefer to keep injury information on the down low. Graham smiled and said, “I don’t know.”

But based on the way that Graham and Payton have described his partially-torn plantar fascia over the past two days, there wasn’t any significant risk of further injury or swelling after he played 18 snaps on Sunday. It’s more an issue of how much pain Graham can tolerate.

The injury may continue to limit Graham in the weeks to come. But Payton and Graham both said he felt progressively better throughout last week, so they’re optimistic he can continue to feel better moving forward.

“I think from a pain standpoint, my understanding is it can begin to diminish,” Payton said. “I know this – we’re not gonna sit here week to week discussing it. But I think it’s something he’ll be able to manage.”

Payton said the Saints went into last week with a “skeptical” approach, drawing up the game plan without Graham involved and knowing they could add him in later in the week. That’s exactly what they did after Graham looked good in practice Friday, putting a highlighter through about 40 possible plays that might feature Graham during the game.

Graham wound up playing 18 snaps, and he was targeted just three times. But he still made a big impact with three catches for 37 yards and two touchdowns.

“I felt all week long his body language and his demeanor was that where he felt he was gonna be able to play,” Payton said, crediting Graham and trainer Scottie Patton and the training staff. “It wasn’t as sore as he thought, and it was getting better quickly each day. And that was encouraging. … I thought it worked out well.”

As for new injuries suffered on Sunday, there was no update on safety Malcolm Jenkins, who left with an undisclosed leg injury in the second quarter. But Jenkins described the injury as a “tweak” after the game and said he left mostly as a precaution.

Vaccaro and Lewis were both in the Saints’ locker room Monday morning, and both said they expect to play this week. Vaccaro said he had to go through the concussion protocol, which included avoiding bright lights on Monday morning. It remains to be seen if either player will be limited when the Saints begin practicing on Wednesday.