After straining his right hamstring in Sunday’s 16-14 win over Tampa Bay, New Orleans Saints defensive end Tom Johnson could miss four to six weeks, a league source said Monday. The Saints (2-0) had not confirmed that information.
Johnson entered the game against the Bucs (0-2) as one of four healthy defensive linemen on the roster. He was hurt with about 6 minutes left in the first quarter on a play when Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman scrambled for a 13-yard gain to the New Orleans 10.
Johnson was injured while rushing at Freeman from the quarterback’s blind side. He engaged with left guard Gabe Carimi and was passed off to left tackle Donald Penn when a hole opened for Freeman in the middle of the line of scrimmage.
Freeman ran through the hole, and Johnson cut to the left and back to chase. He fell forward after a step and didn’t get back up.
Athletic trainers came onto the field, massaged the back of Johnson’s leg and then helped him up. He favored his right leg as he was escorted away.
Johnson’s injury came after defensive ends Glenn Foster and Tyrunn Walker and nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley suffered injuries in previous games. Walker (knee) and Bunkley (calf) were hurt in New Orleans’ 23-17 victory over Atlanta in Week 1, and Foster tweaked his ankle in the preseason finale at Miami.
Foster, Walker and Bunkley were inactive for Sunday’s game, and the Saints have not said when they may return. Following Johnson’s injury, New Orleans finished the contest against the Bucs with defensive ends Cameron Jordan and Akiem Hicks and nose tackle John Jenkins as the only players on their roster listed as defensive linemen.
Jordan played all 59 defensive snaps, Hicks 53 and Jenkins 51.
Injuries also have plagued New Orleans’ linebackers. Outside linebacker Will Smith (season-ending injured reserve) and Victor Butler (physically unable to perform list) are dealing with torn ACLs, and inside linebacker Jonathan Vilma is on short-term IR after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in August.
To add depth to the defensive front, the Saints last week re-signed outside linebacker/defensive end Jay Richardson, whom they had cut Aug. 31.
The 6-foot-3, 288-pound Johnson, a pro since 2006, played in NFL Europe, the Canadian Football League and the Arena Football League before signing with the Saints in 2011. He has 59 tackles — 32 of them solo — and three sacks with New Orleans.