New Orleans trying to avoid travel delays with approach of Tropical Storm Karen
To avoid potential travel problems from Tropical Storm Karen, the New Orleans Saints will leave for Sunday’s game with the Chicago Bears on Friday instead of Saturday.
Saints coach Sean Payton said Thursday the team will get Friday’s practice in and then depart later that afternoon — pushing up their usual early Saturday afternoon takeoff by about 18 hours.
Payton said the Saints won’t have a walkthrough practice at Soldier Field on Saturday, but will try to get a light workout on a field near the team hotel.
“We were able to handle this pretty smoothly, but our plan is to leave tomorrow in the afternoon just to be smart and not get caught,” Payton said. “It really more sounds like a potential wind issue Saturday, so we’ll leave in the afternoon (Friday).”
As of Thursday afternoon, Karen was expected to make landfall Saturday as a strong tropical storm near Mobile, Ala. Tropical storm conditions could be felt in New Orleans starting late Friday.
The last time the Saints left town early for a regular-season game was when Hurricane Gustav slammed into Louisiana in 2008.
The Saints played their final exhibition game on a Thursday night, then flew to Indianapolis two days later to prepare for their season opener back home against the Tampa Bay Bucs — just six days after Gustav made landfall on Labor Day.
The Saints were also impacted by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 when they fled the city and practiced for three days in San Antonio for their Week 2 game with the San Francisco 49ers and, of course, by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
For the first time since it started handing out player of the month awards in each conference in 1986, the NFL on Thursday gave one to a tight end.
The Saints’ Jimmy Graham earned NFC Offensive Player of the Month honors just one day after quarterback Drew Brees was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for the 15th time since 2006.
Graham, a four-year veteran, had 27 receptions for 458 yards and six TDs in September to help the Saints to a 4-0 start. He ranks second in the league in receiving yardage, is tied for first in touchdown receptions and is fourth in first downs.
His 413 receiving yards in the past three games tied the mark for most yardage by a tight end over a three-game span in NFL history.
Wide receiver Lance Moore could miss his second game in a row with a hand injury that he suffered in a Week 2 game with the Arizona Cardinals.
Moore, who was held out of Monday night’s game, did not practice again Thursday after sitting out Wednesday’s workout.
While he politely declined to discuss the exact nature of the injury or a timetable for his return, he said trainers and coaches are being conservative because he has to use his hands to catch the ball.
“My job is to stay sharp, both mentally and physically, and make sure when I get back on the field my body is capable,” he said. “We don’t want to make it worse. That would be foolish because it could turn something that isn’t a terrible injury into something that’s horrible. That’s our main focus.”
Payton said nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley practiced Thursday on a limited basis for the first time since injuring his right calf in the season opener with the Atlanta Falcons.
Not practicing were Moore, SS Roman Harper (knee), RB Mark Ingram (toe) and DE Tyrunn Walker (knee). CB Keenan Lewis (hip) and DE Tom Johnson (hamstring) were limited.
Tillman, Marshall sit
For the second straight day, the Bears listed cornerback Charles Tillman, a former UL-Lafayette star, and wide receiver Brandon Marshall as not participating in practice.
Tillman has a groin and knee problem, while Marshall, the Bears’ leading receiver, did not work because of a foot injury.
DT Stephen Paea (toe), LB D.J. Williams (illness) and S Anthony Walters (hamstring) also did not practice.
Clark on ESPN
Former LSU standout and Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark will continue a two-day visit with ESPN on Friday.
Clark, who worked as a guest analyst at ESPN during the offseason and continues to make appearances this season, will join First Take at 9 a.m., SportsCenter at noon and 2 p.m., and NFL Kickoff at 6 p.m.