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Spiller makes brief debut for Saints

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METAIRIE, La. — New Orleans Saints fans finally got a chance to see one of the team’s top offseason acquisitions when former Buffalo Bills star running back C. J. Spiller got on the field in Sunday’s game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Spiller, who suffered a knee injury in training camp and had arthroscopic surgery on Aug. 14, missed all four preseason games — leaving Saints fans to wonder when they’d get a chance to see him after he missed the season opener with the Arizona Cardinals.

Spiller’s first touch as a member of the Saints was a beauty. It came on their fifth play from scrimmage as he easily won a one-on-one matchup with a Bucs linebacker and caught a 19-yard pass from Drew Brees for a first down.

However, that was Spiller’s only catch and he had three rushing attempts for seven yards. He was seen on the sideline with a wrap on his knee, but still played some snaps in the second half.

Saints head coach Sean Payton said the plan going in was to limit Spiller, who just returned to practice last Wednesday, to get about a dozen snaps. But he played only seven, according to the official NFL gamebook.

“The plan for him, and with some of these guys, you see it all of the time, is to get on the bike, stay warm and stay loose if you’re playing on a limited basis,” Payton said. “That was more of the plan, as to how he was going to keep it warm. He is doing fine.”

–Saints starting defensive end Akiem Hicks said Monday he was benched by Payton in the third quarter of their 26-19 loss to the Bucs on Sunday, but Payton said it was a rotational decision.

Hicks, who was in for 28 snaps against the Bucs after playing 42 snaps in the season opener at Arizona, was replaced primarily by undrafted free agent Bobby Richardson.

Richardson played 40 snaps against the Bucs after being on the field for 14 snaps in the game with the Cardinals.

While Hicks said he was going to meet with Payton on Monday afternoon about his playing time, Payton told reporters that the reduced snaps in the second half was a strategic in-game decision.

“It wasn’t benched,” Payton said. “I told him, ‘Hey, we’re going to play some other guys here.’ It’s pretty common to rotate a defensive lineman. And after we did that, we had pretty good production defensively. In fact, very good.”

–The loss to the Bucs was the sixth in a row in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the Saints, who also saw a seven-game winning streak against Tampa Bay go down the drain.

After winning their first three regular-season games at home in 2014, the Saints dropped their last five and then fell in the home opener Sunday. The Saints also dropped their two preseason games played at home this summer.

The six-game losing streak is the longest for the Saints in the Superdome since they dropped 10 in a row in a two-season span in 1979-80.

Notes: Free safety Jairus Byrd, who had knee surgery last October, was inactive for Sunday’s game with the Bucs and it is still not known when he will return . … Free safety Kenny Phillips, signed last week after being released on the final cuts, started Sunday’s game in place of Byrd. … Left cornerback Keenan Lewis reportedly had hip surgery before the final preseason game and didn’t play Sunday, but could be close to returning … Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe was held out of Sunday’s game because of a toe injury he suffered early in the preseason and it is not known when he will return.


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