NEW ORLEANS — Saints defensive end Will Smith was raking leaves in his backyard Friday when he got the news that a CBA appeals panel had overturned his four-game suspension, the NFL had reinstated him and he’d be able to play Sunday against the Washington Redskins.
“I didn’t (finish),” Smith laughed. “I have a big pile there.”
Ditching his yard work, Smith had less than 48 hours to learn his team’s game plan, which he hadn’t been a part of because of a suspension stemming from the team’s bounty scandal. He had four tackles in a 40-32 loss, drawing an ovation from the crowd of 72,180 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome after his first.
While there’s still a chance Smith could miss games after further review by the league, he said all indications from the NFL Players Association are that he’ll remain on the field.
“The way they assured me is that it’s more likely I’ll be playing for the rest of the season,” Smith said. “If something else happens — I don’t know. I doubt it.”
Vilma starts chant
Dressed in a black T-shirt and pants, Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was chosen by Drew Brees to lead the “Who Dat!” chant just after the coin toss and drew a loud ovation as he jogged onto the field.
Like Smith, Vilma had his season-long suspension for his role in the bounty scandal overturned by the appeals panel. But he didn’t practice all offseason after having three knee procedures since last November and isn’t ready to play.
Greer a no-go
Saints cornerback Jabari Greer, who returned to practice just this week after having sports hernia surgery on Aug. 2, was inactive.
Johnny Patrick, who got quality snaps with the first-team defense in training camp and the exhibition season because of injuries to Greer and Patrick Robinson, started at left corner. But Patrick injured his lower right leg in the second quarter and did not return.
Other inactives for the Saints were RB Chris Ivory, DT Akiem Hicks and DT Tyrunn Walker.
The only inactives of note for the Redskins were S Brandon Meriweather (knee), NT Chris Baker and QB Rex Grossman.
In addition to Patrick, Saints SLB Scott Shanle didn’t play in the second half because of a lower leg injury and WR Devery Henderson left in the third quarter after taking a blow to the head on a catch.
For the Redskins, WR Pierre Garcon injured his right foot in the first quarter and didn’t return. ... S Jordan Bernstine hurt his right knee on kickoff coverage and was carted off the field, and LS Nick Sundberg broke his left arm when the Saints blocked a punt in the second quarter but played the rest of the game.
Even though the Saints lost, Brees pushed his streak with at least one touchdown pass to 44 consecutive regular-season games. That leaves him three shy of matching Johnny Unitas’ NFL record of 47 games in a row.
The Saints are now 16-30 in season openers. … Sunday’s loss snapped a nine-game winning streak at home for the Saints, one of only three teams to go 8-0 at home last season. … The Redskins’ 40 points was the most under coach Mike Shanahan, who took over in 2010, and it was the first time they’ve scored 40 since crushing San Francisco, 52-17, on Oct. 23, 2005.
Advocate sportswriters Sheldon Mickles and Mike McCall contributed to this report.