METAIRIE — Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera might be a little biased, but he said
fans shouldn’t be down on the New Orleans Saints’ defense after their season-opening setback to the Washington Redskins.
Rivera, who worked with first-year Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo in Philadelphia, said Wednesday it’s much too early to draw anything from their 40-32 loss to the Redskins.
“I worked with Steve Spagnuolo in Philadelphia. … I saw what he did in New York. I saw what he was trying to do in
St. Louis. He’s trying to do
the same thing in New Orleans,” Rivera said in a conference call with Louisiana reporters.
“The only thing I can say is that you have to be patient.”
The Saints had a rough start Sunday, giving up three touchdowns and four field goals on the Redskins’ first eight possessions.
Rivera pointed out that when Spagnuolo was with the New York Giants in 2007, people wanted him fired after three games. However, they went on to win Super Bowl XLII with Spagnuolo drawing up the defensive blueprint for a stunning 17-14 win over a potent New England Patriots’ offense.
“Everybody wants to jump to conclusions after one game,” Rivera said. “We’ve played one game this year, and the big thing is the proof’s going to be at the end of the year.
“My whole point is if we’re going to make judgments after the first game, a lot of crazy things happen.”
Brees eyeing rebound
Quarterback Drew Brees had a rare off day in the loss to the Redskins as he completed just 46.2 percent of his passes — marking only the second time in 96 regular-season games with the Saints that he came in under 50 percent.
That was unexpected from a quarterback who set the NFL single-season accuracy record at 70.6 percent in 2008 and broke it last year at 71.2 percent.
“We set the bar high. We have high expectations,” Brees, who was 24 of 52 against the Redskins, said Wednesday. “There’s no harsher critic on myself than me.”
The only other time Brees failed to hit 50 percent of his passes with the Saints was on Dec. 24, 2006 against the Giants when he was 13-of-32 for 40.6 percent on a brutally windy day in the Meadowlands.
All told, he’s been under 50 percent just six times in his 155-game career.
Not practicing Wednesday as the Saints began preparing for Sunday’s game with the Panthers were DE Turk McBride (ankle), WR Devery Henderson (concussion) and CB Johnny Patrick (thigh). SLB Scott Shanle (knee) was limited.
Also, cornerback Jabari Greer had full participation for
the first time since having sports hernia surgery on Aug. 2.
For the Panthers, RB Jonathan Stewart (ankle) practiced fully Wednesday after missing Sunday’s game with the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Stewart’s return was a welcome sight for Rivera, whose team rushed for 10 yards on 13 carries in a 16-10 loss to the Bucs.
“Jonathan practiced today for us and looked good,” Rivera said. “It’s good to have him back. He’s a big part of what we do.”
Linebacker Kenny Onatolu missed practice for a non-injury related reason, while
WR Steve Smith (knee) was limited.
The Saints made a roster move Wednesday, bringing back wide receiver Greg Camarillo and putting wide receiver Adrian Arrington on injured reserve.
Camarillo was signed during training camp when the position was thin because of injuries, but was released when the final roster cuts were made.
Arrington was signed Monday, just one day after Henderson left the game with the Redskins following a blow to the back of the head.
The Saints also added middle linebacker Barrett Ruud to the active roster after being put on the exempt-commissioner permission list last week.
Saints interim coach Aaron Kromer said middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma has been working on his surgically-repaired knee at the team’s training facility since his season-long suspension was overturned Friday.
“He appears that he’s doing well. He’s running around, working drills and doing different things,” Kromer said of Vilma, who’ll miss at least six games on the physically-unable-to-perform list. “I don’t know if he is football-ready, but he appears to be doing well.”