Finally, there was some good news for the New Orleans Saints’ banged-up linebackers Wednesday.
Outside linebackers Junior Galette and Martez Wilson had full participation in practice after missing most of training camp and all four preseason games with injuries.
Galette had a left hamstring injury that sidelined him since Aug. 7 after an impressive opening week of camp. Wilson dislocated his left elbow near the end of the team’s fourth practice July 29.
Their return is particularly good news for the Saints because Galette and Wilson could be in the starting lineup Sunday against Atlanta. The Saints lost their projected starters on the outside — Victor Butler and Will Smith — to knee injuries.
Smith is out for the season, and Butler is on the reserve/physically unable to perform list with the hope that he can return late this season.
Saints coach Sean Payton said the decision to put inside linebacker Jonathan Vilma on injured reserve/designated to return made sense because it’ll give him a chance to rehab his injured knee while not taking up a roster spot.
In the past, Vilma, who had an arthroscopic procedure Aug. 15, would have had to remain on the 53-man roster or be put on season-ending IR. He can begin practicing in six weeks, although he has to wait eight weeks to play in a game. That means he’ll be eligible for the Nov. 3 matchup against his old team — the New York Jets.
“This designation allows us to hold on to a player, not lose him for a season, and I think with where he is in regards to his rehab, it gives us a good chance to look at him,” Payton said. “It gives us a little bit of roster space and the ability to get him back.”
Only two players on the Saints’ 53-man active roster did not participate in Wednesday’s practice: safety Isa Abdul-Quddus (ankle) and defensive end Glenn Foster (ankle).
Besides Galette and Wilson, several players who were injured in the preseason — receivers Marques Colston (foot) and Nick Toon (chest) and guard Jahri Evans (back) — participated fully.
For the Falcons, receiver Roddy White (ankle), cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh) and linebacker Stephen Nicholas (thigh) were limited. Kicker Matt Bryant (back) had full participation.
For the Birds
The Saints will try to snap a disturbing trend Sunday.
They have started the regular season against the Falcons six times — and are 0-6 in those matchups. Five of the losses have come in New Orleans, the most recent being a 31-10 setback in Jim Mora’s debut as an NFL head coach Sept. 7, 1986.
Former Saints tackle William Roaf, a 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, will represent the franchise in the countdown to the season opener Thursday night.
Roaf and a representative from each of the other 31 teams will take part in the countdown from 32 to 1 before the Baltimore Ravens face the Denver Broncos.
Roaf is one of 21 Hall of Famers slated to participate in the event.