Saints banged up on defense

As they prepare for Sunday’s game with Atlanta, the New Orleans Saints appear to have some injury issues on defense.

Three key players sat out Wednesday’s practice. Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee) and cornerbacks Tracy Porter (neck/chest) and Patrick Robinson (stomach) sat out.

Vilma, the unquestioned leader of the defense, had been playing with a knee injury much of the season. The Saints finally shut him down Sunday against Tampa Bay. It’s unclear if Vilma is any closer to playing this week. If he’s not, the Saints might have to again move Jo-Lonn Dunbar into the middle of their defense.

Robinson has been dealing with a stomach issue this week. Coach Sean Payton said he didn’t have a firm diagnosis yet, but Robinson may be experiencing something similar to appendicitis. If Robinson and Porter can’t play Sunday, the Saints would be very short handed at cornerback. Leigh Torrence likely would start opposite Jabari Greer and rookie Johnny Patrick, who has barely played this season, would have to take on a bigger role.

Reserve defensive end Turk McBride (ankle) also missed practice. Running back Mark Ingram (heel) returned to practice on a limited basis. Ingram has missed the last two games.