Injuries will play a huge role in the New Orleans Saints' roster decisions this week as they cut down to 75 players today and 53 by Saturday.
The PUP list has to be a serious consideration for safety Jairus Byrd if he's not back on the practice field yet (which would mean sitting him for at least the first six weeks of the regular season).
Last but not least, some fairly big-name veterans like receiver Nick Toon, defensive end Anthony Spencer and possibly even linebacker Dannell Ellerbe could be cut outright after injuries have held them out for much of the preseason.
The Saints have until 3 p.m. CT today to trim the roster from 90 players to 75. Then they're scheduled to hold their only practice of the week at 4 p.m. CT as they prepare for Thursday's preseason finale at the Green Bay Packers.
It seems unlikely that any of the players I mentioned above will be ready to play by Thursday even if they return to practice today. So the Saints will have to take a leap of faith if they reserve a roster spot for any of them.
Byrd is the only player eligible for the PUP list (physically unable to perform) since he was on the list to being training camp. The Saints have never laid out exactly what Byrd is dealing with, though it's believed to be related to the knee injury that landed him on injured reserve last year. Byrd participated for most of organized team activities and minicamp earlier this summer before missing all of training camp.
Coach Sean Payton said in recent weeks that Byrd is expected back sooner than later and that the team had set a goal for him to return during the preseason. But we haven't even seen him on the practice field for a walk-through in weeks. So it's hard to imagine Byrd could be ready for a game in the first couple weeks.
We also haven't seen a glimpse of Spencer or Ellerbe since the Saints' preseason opener. We haven't seen Toon since the second preseason game. And Powell has missed every game so far.
Of that group, Ellerbe seems the most secure, since the Saints have the most invested in his contract and were using him in the starting lineup when he was healthy. However, fellow veteran David Hawthorne and rookie Stephone Anthony seem to have a tight grip on the two starting inside linebacker jobs at this point.
Spencer, 31, showed some decent flashes before suffering an unspecified injury, as well. But he needed to spend this summer proving he was healthy and ready to bounce back from the major knee injury that derailed his career in 2013. He hasn't had the chance to do that, which means the Saints could opt for healthy veteran Parys Haralson and young up-and-comers Hau'oli Kikaha and Kasim Edebali ahead of him.
Then there is Toon. What a shame this preseason has been for the fourth-year pro, who finally had an opportunity to play a significant role after being buried on the depth chart for so long.
Toon hasn't been able to take advantage, though. He was quiet for most of the summer -- even before leaving early against the New England Patriots two week ago. According to FOX Sports, it's just a short-term ankle injury. But it has still left the door wide open for young receivers like Brandon Coleman, Willie Snead and Seantavius Jones and veterans Joseph Morgan and Josh Morgan.
As I've written often this summer, I think Toon and the two Morgans could be fighting for one roster spot as the No. 4 receiver/blocking specialist. Toon seems third in the pecking order right now after both Morgans have played well this summer.