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Injured Saints Return To Offseason Training Ready To Play

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Aug 3, 2015; White Sulphur Springs, WV, USA; New Orleans Saints tackle Andrus Peat (75) blocks linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha (45) during training camp at The Greenbrier. Mandatory Credit: Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 3, 2015; White Sulphur Springs, WV, USA; New Orleans Saints tackle Andrus Peat (75) blocks linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha (45) during training camp at The Greenbrier. Mandatory Credit: Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports /
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Although the New Orleans Saints didn’t have an unprecedented number of injuries in 2016, they were still badly bitten by the injury bug.

Fortunately, most of those injured players returned to training camp on Monday ready to work out. As of now, they appear set to play for the New Orleans Saints in 2017.

Aug 26, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback P.J. Williams (25) in the second quarter of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 26, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback P.J. Williams (25) in the second quarter of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports /

The problem was never the sheer number of injuries. The problem was that the injuries either happened at the Saints’ thinnest positions — at defensive end, for example — or happened disproportionately to entire position groups, leaving others unscathed — cornerback, for example, and tight end.

This led to some difficult roster evaluations in the offseason. How do you judge your cornerback position when three prospective contributors are all returning from various degrees of injuries? How do you judge your DE depth when a possible starter suffers his third ACL tear of his career?

The answer, by and large, is that you can’t rely on these players to contribute. If they do, wonderful. A bonus. Depth. But if they don’t, you have to be prepared. So the Saints have made finding a pass rusher and a cornerback a priority. And it hasn’t been much talked about, but the same might be true for tight end.

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The good news is that, on the first day of training camp, a number of injured Saints came ready to play.

Safety Erik Harris, who tore his knee. Obum Gwachum, who sat with an undisclosed injury. Tight ends Josh Hill and Michael Hoomanawanui, with lower leg injuries. And perhaps most importantly, cornerback P.J. Williams and defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha. Kikaha tore his ACL before the season, after having torn it twice in college. And P.J. Williams suffered what might have been the scariest football injury I’d ever seen (barring Johnny Knox) and spent the year on I.R. with a concussion. All reports are that he’s up and ready to play.

It remains to be seen if there will be any dropoff in these player’s ability. Concussions are no laughing matter. And leg injuries can cost a crucial step. Kikaha suffered an ankle injury in his rookie campaign and was a shell of her earlier self: will the same be true after this third ACL injury?

The hope, obviously, is that these players can come back and compete at the same level as when they left. We’ll wait until we have eyes on football activity before we make any such judgments.

On the other side, some players have yet to make their first appearance. Damian Swann, who was plagued by concussions in his rookie year and then suffered a mysterious chest injury in 2016 was a no go. His career is very much up in the air. Kyle Wilson and Jamarca Sanford spent 2016 on I.R. and have yet to be resigned. The Saints could use both vets as depth on their roster. Michael Mauti, who battled a stomach disease, is still fighting to save his career.

We wish all the best to these guys and hope to see them back in the league soon. Whether that be in black and gold, or what have you. Get well soon.

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