Saints DE Akiem Hicks injured during practice against Patriots

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- New Orleans Saints defensive end Akiem Hicks left with an apparent injury Wednesday during a joint practice with the New England Patriots.

The starting defensive end walked off the field with trainers, who then appeared to examine his right knee/leg area for several minutes before he walked slowly back to the locker room under his own power. He did not return.

Coach Sean Payton wasn’t available for interviews after practice and the Saints didn’t have an afternoon walk-through session. They’ll be back on the field with the Patriots again Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Saints’ entire starting secondary remained sidelined: safeties Jairus Byrd and Kenny Vaccaro and cornerbacks Keenan Lewis, Brandon Browner and Delvin Breaux.

“I think that’s training camp, though. I mean, that happens,” Payton said before Wednesday’s practice. “You’re gonna have days where guys can’t practice. Hopefully we have more of them out there and the guys that are nicked up, we get back soon.”

Byrd has been out the longest, missing all of training camp while rehabbing a knee injury. Payton told ESPN’s Britt McHenry on Wednesday that there is a plan for Byrd's return and that he's expected back during the preseason.

Lewis and Vaccaro, who left Tuesday’s practice with undisclosed injuries, watched from the sideline in jerseys, but no pads. Browner rode the stationary bike at one point during practice – the first time he has been spotted since suffering a leg injury in last Thursday’s preseason opener. Breaux has also made appearances in practice since being injured in Thursday’s game. All four could be back in a reasonable amount of time.

The Saints’ replacement secondary held up surprisingly well against Tom Brady & Co. in Wednesday’s practice. Brady settled for a number of checkdowns and there appeared to be one or two “coverage sacks” where he got swallowed up in the pocket (though there is no live contact). Linebacker Stephone Anthony and cornerback Brian Dixon had two of the best pass breakups I saw when the starting units were on the field.

Brady did, however, burn the Saints for two deep passes during a two-minute drill. First was a deep throw to receiver Chris Harper, who broke wide open with safety Rafael Bush the nearest defender in the area. Then came a perfectly placed fade into the back of the end zone to receiver Danny Amendola.

In other injury-related news:

  • The Saints placed veteran tight end Kevin Brock on injured reserve and re-signed veteran Alex Smith to replace him. Brock was signed at the start of training camp last month but suffered an unspecified injury during practice on Tuesday.

  • Payton also confirmed to McHenry that running back C.J. Spiller is expected back in time for Week 1 after ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported that Spiller underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last week.

  • The Saints are also thin at linebacker/defensive end, where Dannell Ellerbe, Anthony Spencer, Ramon Humber and Ronald Powell remain sidelined.