METAIRIE, La. -- Tight end Jimmy Graham played a limited role in the New Orleans Saints' 49-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, appearing in only 33 of 83 snaps. However, both Graham and coach Sean Payton indicated afterward that it was more of a pre-determined game plan to limit his snaps, rather than any indication of an injury setback.
Graham has been managing the pain of a partially-torn plantar fascia in his left foot since Week 6. He also suffered an unspecified elbow injury during Week 9. And he was limited throughout practice last week.
Graham was in and out of the lineup steadily throughout the night against the Cowboys. And when he was on the sideline, he was always in "ready position," waiting to hop back on the field. He never showed any signs of discomfort.
His limited role was noteworthy, though, because he had played 56 snaps the week before in a 26-20 loss to the New York Jets.
"They just want to make sure that they're handling me the right way," Graham said after catching five passes for 59 yards against the Cowboys. "They really look to limit me at times. You know, I've got some issues. But you know, everyone does. So it's gonna be like that from week to week.
"You know me, personally obviously I want to be in on every play. But now it's kind of changing gears and getting used to sitting out for five to six plays and then going in and staying fresh and making sure you stay warm. That's not something I'm used to."
The most surprising thing about the way Graham was used against the Cowboys was how rarely he played when the Saints were in the red zone -- where he presents such a threat as a big, physical target. Graham leads the NFL with 10 touchdown receptions this season. And in his first game back from the foot injury two weeks ago, he played almost exclusively in the red zone.
Without getting into any specific details, Payton said Monday that Graham's role was "just predicated on the game plan and the work week."
It's likely Graham will see more red-zone snaps going forward as his specific game plan continues to evolve in future weeks.