METAIRIE - The New Orleans Saints will prepare for Sunday night’s game with the Detroit Lions the same way they would have if suspended defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was going to be available.
Suh was suspended by the NFL for two games - including Sunday’s game with the Saints - earlier this week after he stomped on the arm of a Green Bay Packers’ offensive lineman during a Thanksgiving Day game.
The absence of the 6-foot-4, 307-pound Suh might be a problem for the Lions, but the Saints will prepare as if Suh was hurt and questionable for the game, coach Sean Payton said Wednesday.
“We have to prepare for the Lions, no different than if a player showed up as questionable on the final injury report or was limited (in practice),” Payton said. “We have to prepare to play that team, and it’s the team that’s most important.”
Payton said the big difference will come in the fact that Suh, who will appeal the suspension Thursday, is a force against the run and can push the pocket from the inside and create pressure on the quarterback.
“Obviously, he’s a great player,” quarterback Drew Brees said of Suh. “He’s one of the best defensive tackles in this league, and obviously, he brings a pretty physical presence. I think if you look across the board though, they have a lot of talent and have an ability to really get after the passer.”
Saints sleep in
As he has done for the past couple of years after a Monday night game, Payton gave his team a little extra time to recover after getting off the field around 11 p.m. Monday.
On a normal work week, players have to be at work by 8 a.m. Wednesday, the first big day of practice for the upcoming game. But they didn’t have to be in until 1 p.m. to begin prepping for the Lions.
“We tried to put a little bit more time between the end of the game Monday and when we started (Wednesday),” Payton said. “We’ve done this before and cut back some snaps in practice. We’ll increase the reps on Thursday and kind of get back into our normal routine.”
Running back Mark Ingram said the extra five hours of rest was appreciated.
“It was important for us to be able to put some air between the time we stepped off the field and reported today,” he said. “It’s like the bye week, it came at a good time and everybody is healthy and rejuvenated.”
Only four players appeared on Wednesday’s practice participation report.
Defensive end Turk McBride, who has missed the past two games with an ankle injury, was the only player who didn’t participate in the workout.
Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee) and cornerback Jabari Greer (knee) were limited, while defensive tackle Tom Johnson (elbow) participated fully.
The only Lions of note who didn’t practice Wednesday were safety Louis Delmas (knee), cornerback Chris Houston (knee) and running back Kevin Smith (ankle).
Romeus on IR
Payton said the Saints officially put defensive end Greg Romeus, their seventh-round draft pick this spring, on injured reserve.
Romeus tore the ACL in his knee when he was still playing for Pitt last November and was put on reserve/non-football injury while still rehabbing the knee in training camp.
But he began practicing on Nov. 9 and the Saints had a 21-day window in which to activate him, put him on injured reserve, or release him.
“When we drafted him, the plan all along was this year he was going to spend half of it in rehab and the other half or a little less on injured reserve,” Payton said. “I liked what I saw. We’re real encouraged with what we saw.”
Payton said Wednesday that wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson, a New Orleans native who’s been mentioned as the frontrunner for the Tulane job, would make a good college head coach.
Johnson has worked with Payton in the past at San Diego State and was a part of Payton’s first staff that he assembled in New Orleans in 2006.
“First off, he’s an extremely hard worker ... he’s very smart,” Payton said. “Just take for instance his position group in six years now. One of the things we constantly look at is the productivity and how they’ve responded.
“The question with Curtis is not if he’s going to be a head coach, the question is when. He’s going to have a lot of opportunities. It’s a great reflection on the organization and who we’re hiring.”
Payton oversaw Wednesday’s practice without crutches for the first time since injuring his left knee in a sideline collision with tight end Jimmy Graham and a pair of Tampa Bay defenders on Oct. 16.
Payton, who underwent surgery the next day, later walked in for his daily news conference without the crutches even though he didn’t expect to be able to put partial weight on the leg until mid-December.