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Saints' Jimmy Graham doesn't catch pass in limited role

DETROIT -- You wouldn’t know it by looking at the box score, but New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham indeed returned from his shoulder injury and played a limited role in a 24-23 loss to the Detroit Lions.

Graham didn’t catch a pass and was targeted only twice. An official snap count was not immediately available, but Graham appeared to play roughly 20 snaps or more, mostly in clear passing situations -- including the ill-fated final drive.

Graham wasn’t available to the media after the game as he iced down his shoulder.

Saints coach Sean Payton said “there was a handful of plays tagged for” Graham. But he pointed out that the Saints actually played very few snaps in the red zone, which is where Graham might have been a bigger factor.

“He was in the nickel, some of the third down, some of the red zone,” Payton said. “We kind of did the same thing a year ago [when Graham returned from a plantar fasciitis injury] against Buffalo. We kind of had a set plan in place for him, and the challenge is just making sure you’re ready if you’re not playing on a more frequent basis.”

It’s tough to predict how much Graham’s role will increase in the coming weeks. He doesn’t appear to have any limitations when it comes to catching the ball, but his ability to block and absorb contact will likely be bigger determining factors.