METAIRIE, La. -- Pierre Thomas hobbled into the Saints' locker room on crutches Thursday, keeping weight off his sprained left ankle and sounding perplexed about why his recovery is going so much slower than he'd hoped.
"I really don't know what's the whole problem. Everybody keeps saying it's a sprain or maybe a little tear there," Thomas said. "I don't know for sure if that's true. I'm hearing so many different stories. I don't know what to believe."
Thomas, the Saints' leading rusher in 2009, accounted for 280 total yards from scrimmage and one touchdown rushing in the Saints' first three games of this season. His injury occurred while he was being tackled late in the fourth quarter of a Week 3 overtime loss to Atlanta. Thomas returned for the extra period in that game and gained 23 yards on a screen.
He even returned to practice on a limited basis three days before New Orleans' Week 4 loss at Arizona.
At that time, head coach Sean Payton sounded optimistic that Thomas was close to returning when he spoke about the possibility of both Thomas and safety Roman Harper (then slowed by a hamstring pull) playing in the Cardinals game.
"They were limited but they got work today and both of them are progressing quickly," Payton said then, adding that the players would be game-time decisions that week.
Thomas has not practiced since, though he seemed to be making progress on Wednesday when he was present for the portion of practice open to reporters, participated in the team stretch and did some light jogging.
During the open portion of practice on Thursday, however, Thomas was nowhere to be seen.
"All I'm thinking about is just trying to get healthy, just trying to get better," Thomas said. "I was told to stay off my foot. So that's why I'm in the crutches and in the boot. They told me to take a little pressure off, be on crutches for a little while just see how it does."
Thomas said he's been given no timetable on his return but does not fault the doctors and trainers who have diagnosed and treated the injury
"I'm not upset with anybody -- no person. I'm upset with my injury," Thomas said. "It's taking too long."
Fellow running back Reggie Bush also did not practice on Thursday as he continues to recover from a broken bone in his lower right leg. He also seemed unlikely to play on Sunday night against Pittsburgh.
"Both with him and Pierre, there's a little bit of wait and see," Payton said Thursday. "They'd have to do something more than what we've seen these first two days [of practice this week]. In Pierre's case, we put him in a walking boot to take some of the pressure off after his workouts leading up to this week, trying to rest it. So it will be unlikely that he gets to practice and then with Reggie we'll just monitor him again. We'll list the game status" Friday.
There were signs of the Saints getting healthier on defense. Starting cornerbacks Jabari Greer (left shoulder) and Tracy Porter (left knee) both practiced on a limited basis, as did linebacker Scott Shanle.
Greer was injured during the Saints' Week 6 victory at Tampa Bay. Porter had arthroscopic surgery to repair his left lateral meniscus after injuring himself in Week 4. Shanle has missed two games since pulling his left hamstring.
Porter said he felt "pretty good" but was not yet sure if he'd play Sunday.
"I'd like to," Porter said. "But I want to be smart, just as my coaches and my trainers want to be smart with me as well. If they don't feel it's the right time, they're going to hold me out. But if they tell me I can go, I'm definitely going to be happy and excited about that."