NFL Wire News

Saints’ top cover man sees hip specialist

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NEW ORLEANS — The Saints thought they solved some of their secondary problems three weeks ago when they got cornerback Keenan Lewis and free safety Jairus Byrd back after both missed the first three games of the season.

But Lewis, the Saints’ best cover cornerback, might be having more trouble after undergoing surgery on Sept. 1 to repair a ligament in his hip.

Citing a source, the New Orleans Advocate reported Tuesday that Lewis, who played only eight snaps in last Thursday’s 31-21 win over the Atlanta Falcons, went to see a specialist Monday to be checked for discomfort in the hip.

Expected to be sidelined for 4-6 weeks, Lewis returned 4 1/2 weeks later and played 18 snaps in the nickel and dime packages against the Dallas Cowboys, then played 27 snaps against the Philadelphia Eagles before regressing last week.

Lewis did not participate in Wednesday’s practice.

–After closely watching a closed training camp duel between kickers Zach Hocker and Dustin Hopkins, Saints coach Sean Payton decided to go with Hocker.

After six games, Hocker is gone.

The first-year kicker was released after missing three field goals in the past three games — including a 30-yarder that would have won the Dallas Cowboys game in regulation — and replaced by former Washington Redskins kicker Kai Forbath.

Forbath, who made 60 of 69 career field-goal attempts (87.0 percent) in four seasons with the Redskins, was released after the first game of the season and replaced by Hopkins, who has gone 10-for-11 since being picked up.

Meanwhile, Hocker, who was 4-for-4 in the season opener, has gone just 5-for-9 since then.

“There was something missing in the last few weeks,” Payton said Wednesday. “That’s studying not only his made or missed kicks, but that’s also studying his (extra points).”

–Payton and some of his players praised the performance of veteran tackle Tony Hills after he was forced to line up and play early in last Thursday’s game against the Falcons.

After signing with the Saints just 10 days earlier, Hills was pressed into action when they lost Andrus Peat to a knee injury on the first possession against the Falcons. Peat started in place of Terron Armstead, who was sidelined for a second consecutive game by a knee injury as well.

Payton said he had said only about “eight words” to Hills since he was signed when he told him at halftime that he’d have to play about 65 snaps because Peat would not be returning to the game.

“You just jab a guy in the chest and you say let’s go,” Payton said. “The look in his eye was right.”

A seven-year veteran, Hills struggled early in giving up three quarterback hurries. But he quickly settled in and settled down.

“He has been here long enough to maybe have one hotel bill. … All of a sudden, he’s pretty much going to start the whole game now because Andrus’ injury came early,” Payton said. “He settled in, especially when we were throwing it like we were. I really liked the look in his eye at halftime.”

–Following their upset of the Falcons, the Saints reaped one of the NFC’s player of the week honors Wednesday.

Reserve linebacker Michael Mauti was named the conference’s special teams player of the week for his blocked punt and 4-yard return for a touchdown that helped set tone for the Saints’ 31-21 win.

Mauti, who father Rich was a wide receiver and special teams standout with the Saints in the late 1970s and early 1980s, broke through and blocked a Michael Bosher punt.

Mauti initially fell on the ball, but got up and carried it into the end zone to give the Saints a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter. It was the first blocked punt and touchdown of Mauti’s career and the first for the Saints since 2012.

PRACTICE NOTES: T Andrus Peat (knee) did not practice Wednesday and will miss Sunday’s game with the Indianapolis Colts because of a sprained MCL. … OLB Dannell Ellerbe (hip) and LT Terron Armstead (left knee) did not practice Wednesday and their availability for Sunday is unknown. … WR Marques Colston (right shoulder) was limited in Wednesday’s practice although his availability for Sunday’s game is unknown. … LG Tim Lelito (shoulder) returned to work on a limited basis Wednesday but it’s not known yet if he’ll be able to return Sunday after missing one game. … P Thomas Morstead (right quadriceps) practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and could be ready to play Sunday after missing two games. … FS Jairus Byrd (knee) was limited in practice Wednesday, but should play Sunday against the Colts. … ILB Ramon Humber (thigh) had limited participation in Wednesday’s practice and his status for Sunday’s game is unknown.


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