Saints back at work after open week
METAIRIE — The NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints resumed practice Tuesday in preparation for Monday night’s nationally-televised game against the New York Giants at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Kickoff is set 7:40 p.m.
The Saints (7-3) have been off since Nov. 13 after edging the Atlanta Falcons 26-23 in overtime at the Georgia Dome. After an off-day Wednesday, the Saints will work on Thanksgiving Day and continue game preps through Sunday.
“This game Monday night will be a big challenge and our players recognize that,’’ Saints Coach Sean Payton said of the Giants (6-4) who are coming off a 17-10 loss at home to the struggling Philadelphia Eagles. “We’ll have our work cut out for us, and we’ve got to have a real good week of practice and have a real week of getting back into our routine.’’
Thomas’ season in doubt
Veteran Saints’ tight end David Thomas’ season appears to be in jeopardy after he left the team’s most recent game 10 days ago with an undisclosed head injury.
Thomas was not on the practice field Tuesday. He was sidelined for five games earlier this season with a severe concussion.
Payton said no decision has been made with regard to Thomas’ roster status.
“Nothing new to report,’’ Payton said when asked if the team had made a roster move at tight end. “We will when it’s official.’’
Thomas has five catches for 16 yards.
Pressure with a capital ‘P’
Keeping quarterback Drew Brees “clean’’ Monday night will be Job 1 for the Saints’ offensive line, particularly for tackles Jermon Bushrod and Zach Strief.
The Giants share the NFL lead in sacks with 31 with Minnesota and Washington and are led by defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul (10.5) and Osi Umenyiora (7).
“These guys can rush the passer very well without having to rely on additional pressure,’’ said Payton, alluding to the Giants’ ability to be effective with a conventional three- and four-man pass rush. “When you look at their numbers, they are very impressive. So those one-on-one battles will be as challenging, if not more challenging, than any game we’ve played to date.’’
The Saints have yielded 19 sacks, tying them with the New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys and Giants for eighth fewest in the NFL.
Payton offered no update on the status of his injured players, pointing to Thursday as the first day he must comply with the league mandate.
Starting MLB Jonathan Vilma, most notably, has missed the past two games with an injured knee. “He’s doing well,’’ Payton said. “His treatment is going well. With him, it’s day to day. You measure how he’s moving. Thursday, we’ll be able to give you a better indication of where he’s at.’’
It has been 39 days since Payton suffered a broken left leg and cartilage damage during a sideline collision at Tampa Bay with Saints’ tight end Jimmy Graham. “I’ve got two more weeks without (putting) weight on it and then we begin the process of partial weight bearing,’’ Payton said. “My goal is maybe by Christmas being able to walk without crutches. And I think the long-term goal would be March 1st where it’s 100 percent. So far, it’s going well.’’ Payton said he will remain on the sideline on game day through the remainder of the season. … Former Saints left tackle Willie Roaf is among 26 semifinalists being considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Roaf played nine seasons in New Orleans (1993-01) and ended his career with the Kansas City Chiefs (2002-05). Fifteen finalists from the modern-day era will be announced in early January. Roaf was a finalist last year. … Saints running back/return specialist Darren Sproles continues to lead the NFL in all-purpose yards with 1,604 (348 rushing, 448 receiving, 635 kickoff return and 173 punt return).
“Part of why I’m here is to help show and inspire people (who) have been diagnosed with ALS to continue living their lives,’’ said former Saints safety Steve Gleason, who Tuesday faced a room full of reporters and TV cameras for the first time since he publicly announced in September that he’s battling the terminal disease ALS.
“And, if we as a group can help those people continue to live a life that’s enriching and extraordinary, then I think that’s part of my goal.’’
“Gleason Gras’’ will be held from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday at Champions Square outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. It will feature a star-studded musical lineup and food from various New Orleans restaurants local restaurants. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased through Ticketmaster of the New Orleans Arena box office. Proceeds will support Gleason and his family, in addition to helping raise awareness for ALS. “Three of the things I love about this city — music, food and football — all in one place,’’ Gleason said.