METAIRIE — Already weakened by league sanctions stemming from the bounty scandal, the New Orleans Saints sustained another blow to their “work-in-progress’’ defense Saturday with news that veteran linebacker Chris Chamberlain will undergo season-ending knee surgery.
According to NFL.com, Chamberlain suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during the first half of Friday night’s 27-24 exhibition loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. It happened with 8:24 remaining in the second quarter when Chamberlain’s left leg got pinned underneath him on a block by Jaguars’ right guard Uche Nwanderi.
Saints interim coach Joe Vitt did not disclose the extent of the injury, nor a date for the surgical procedure.
“We all know that this is part of the game but he had become a big part of our football team,’’ Vitt said. ‘’He was a perfect fit for what we were trying to get done here, so that’s a blow. That’s a setback for us. (But) we’ll deal with it and that’s the way it is.’’
The loss of Chamberlain affects the Saints defense on many levels. First and foremost, he is the one player most familiar with the scheme employed by Saints first-year defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo because of their association the past three seasons with the St. Louis Rams.
Secondly, Chamberlain was in the mix to start at strongside linebacker and also has a working knowledge of the “mike’’ and “will’’ positions under Spagnuolo.
“Right now, we don’t have somebody in the building who has Chamberlain’s knowledge of the defense who can play (all three linebacker positions) with good efficiency and production and has the communication skills to share his information and help get his teammates lined up,’’ Vitt said.
“He had mastered the system because he had played it with Spags up in St.Louis.’’
Originally a seventh-round draft pick of the Rams in 2008, Chamberlain was the second of three veteran free agent linebackers signed by Saints officials over a 10-day period in late March and early April.
Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton signed first (March 24 from Atlanta), then Chamberlain (March 26) and David Hawthorne (April 3 from Seattle). Chamberlain signed a three-year, $4.05 million contract that included a $1.2 million signing bonus. His contract runs through the 2014 season.
Chamberlain’s injury and loss is the most significant of training camp and comes less than two weeks before middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith are scheduled to begin serving their suspensions for their roles in the bounty scandal.
“We’re going to have sit down tomorrow ... we’ll have a personnel meeting, we’ll step back and see exactly where we are injury-wise and re-stack the board,’’ Vitt said. “We may have some position changes and see exactly where we are.
“We have some young guys we’re going to take a look at. We signed Ramon Humber a week ago, and that was one of the things that we liked about Ramon is he can play three positions. He’s more of ‘mike/will’ player than a ‘sam,’ so we’ll come back and take a look at the board tomorrow and see where we are.’’
Vitt said the team received some good news with regards to injured WR Andy Tanner, who left Friday’s game in the second quarter with an injured left ankle. “Andy has a sprained ankle, and the word we got this morning is it’s not as bad as we originally thought last night,’’ Vitt said. “But we’ll wait and see on him.’’
S Isa Abdul-Quddus will continue to be monitored for any lingering effects from a blow to his helmet against the Jaguars.
Also, CB Jabari Greer (sports hernia) is expected back in time for the team’s regular-season opener against the Washington Redskins on Sept. 9 after undergoing a procedure on or around Aug. 2 to repair his injured groin.
The Saints have waived and reached an injury settlement with CB A.J. Davis, who suffered an ankle injury in the club’s second preseason contest at the New England Patriots on August 9 and was placed on injured reserve three days later.
Players will be off Sunday and resume practice at 11:15 a.m. Monday with an eye on the Redskins and rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. On Tuesday, the Saints will begin preparations for Saturday night’s home exhibition game against the Houston Texans. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at the Superdome.
All remaining practices during the preseason are closed to the public.
Copyright © 2011, Capital City Press LLC • 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810 • All Rights Reserved