New Orleans Saints interim coach Joe Vitt would not declare running back Darren Sproles or any of the team’s other three injured players out for this week after they missed Thursday’s practice.
Vitt ruled Sproles out of last week’s game early after he had surgery on his fractured left hand, but said it’s a wait-and-see situation for Sunday’s game with the Atlanta Falcons in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Vitt will file the final practice report for the week Friday, which will include the game status of players appearing on the report.
Right tackle Zach Strief, who left Monday night’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles with a groin injury, is in the same situation.
“You listen to the advice of the doctors, the trainers and the player — and then you make a decision,” Vitt said of the challenge in making a decision. “It’s really not any bigger of a challenge than in the preseason. The player’s either healthy enough to go, or he isn’t.”
In addition to Sproles and Strief, DE Junior Galette (ankle) and WR Courtney Roby (shoulder) did not participate in Thursday’s practice.
Roby, who was hurt two weeks ago in Denver, is likely to miss his second straight game.
For the Falcons, LB Sean Weatherspoon (ankle), WR Kevin Cone (groin) and S Charles Mitchell (calf) did not practice for the second straight day Thursday.
Three players — DT Jonathan Babineaux (hamstring), WR Harry Douglas (ankle) and DT Peria Jerry (knee) were limited again.
If there’s anything we’ve learned about the 45-year-old rivalry between the Saints and Falcons is that more often than not it’s going to be a close game.
The 45-16 rout by the Saints over the Falcons last Dec. 26 in the Superdome was an exception to the recent pattern of close games in the 85-game series — which has the Falcons leading 45-40.
The four games before that were decided by a field goal and 19 of the last 36 meetings had final margins of seven points or less.
Falcons coach Mike Smith was asked on a conference call Wednesday if he thought the Saints ran up the score in their 45-16 victory the last time they met.
There was speculation at the time that Smith wasn’t happy with the Saints, who threw the ball when leading 38-16 to let Drew Brees break the NFL single-season record for passing yards.
“Not at all. … We didn’t play very well,” Smith said. “They played extremely well that night. (The) object of the game is to go out and score points when you’re on offense and stop them when you’re on defense.”
Saints center Brian de la Puente looked like a new man during the team’s open locker room period Wednesday as his familiar black beard was gone.
De la Puente said he and several teammates shaved their facial hair for Men’s Health Awareness Month, which supports prostate cancer awareness.
“It’s for a good cause,” said de la Puente, who kept his moustache. “I guess I’ll kind of look silly for a couple of days. We just kind of wanted to shed some light on prostate cancer, like we did for breast cancer last month.”
There was one problem, however, as de la Puente’s wife, Makenzie, didn’t care for the new look.
“She hates it,” he said.
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