Injuries hit nearly every NFL team in the preseason or regular season. Sometimes making the playoffs depends on when the injuries happen and if the player returns healthy for a playoff push.
Injuries have hit the New Orleans Saints before the start of their conditioning programs, and voluntary and mandatory organized team activities.
New Orleans offensive center Max Unger suffered a foot injury late last season and even missed the week-16 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. During the offseason, Unger underwent foot surgery to have a screw inserted.
Saints head coach Sean Payton expects his center back by the third week of the season. NFL Network is reporting that the two-time Pro Bowler could miss the start of the regular season.
New Orleans traded star tight end Jimmy Graham for Unger two years ago in a deal with the Seattle Seahawks. The Saints gave him a three-year extension worth $21 million last summer to lock up the 31-year-old during his prime years.
Unger’s injury isn’t devastating if he is able to return and play at a high level before the start of the regular season. But New Orleans got bad news during OTAs when left offensive tackle Terron Armstead tore his labrum and must have surgery.
The 25-year-old tackle has been one of the best at his position since New Orleans drafted him out of the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Nagging knee and quad injuries have hit him over the last two seasons.
Now, Armstead is out four to six months with this shoulder injury. The Saints will now have to shuffle their line for this season and hope Armstead returns before the end.
New Orleans can use fifth-year backup center Senio Kelemete to replace Unger if needed. The Saints can move third-year player Andrus Peat from left guard to left tackle.
First-round draft pick Ryan Ramczyk could be moved to left guard to join free agent Larry Warford, who is at right guard. Zach Strief, a 12-year veteran, is still holding down the right tackle spot and earned a raise this season.
New Orleans has to get the offensive-line starters set if the team is going to become more run-oriented this season. That seems like the plan with current starter Mark Ingram leading a running-back group that now includes future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson and third-round pick Alvin Kamara.
But it isn’t just the offensive line that injuries have hit this season. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley hasn’t been able to take part in any offseason activities.
Fairley is getting doctors opinions about a heart condition that he has known about since he came into the league. The condition, which is an enlarged heart, was discovered at the NFL Combine in 2011.
When the defensive tackle signed a new contract worth $28 to $30 million with the team, doctors became concerned about his heart condition during a standard physical he received before resigning.
The first doctor to see Fairley advised him not to play football again, but a second doctor gave a different opinion, that might mean he can play. That has led the defensive tackle to see a third doctor to see if he can continue his career.
Fairley was a nice surprise last season in a one-year deal as a free agent. He collected 43.5 total tackles, 22 quarterback hits, nine tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks.
New Orleans has signed 11-year veteran Tony McDaniel to add depth to the defensive line. McDaniel has made 47-career starts with 271 tackles and 6.5 sacks. He played last season with the Seahawks and has spent time with the Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars over the course of his career.