METAIRIE – Center Olin Kreutz had full participation in practice on Wednesday for the first time since injuring his left knee in Week 3 as the Saints began preparing for Sunday’s game with the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Kreutz returned to practice on a limited basis late last week, but missed his second straight game Sunday when the Saints took a 30-27 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
Backup center/guard Brian de la Puente has done an admirable job filling in for Kreutz the past couple of weeks, but it’s not known who will be in the lineup when the Saints meet the Bucs in Raymond James Stadium.
“I think we just pay attention to Olin’s practice snaps and the way he’s feeling,” Saints coach Sean Payton said when asked if Kreutz would return to the lineup Sunday. “We have someone who’s a solid backup behind him.
“Brian got some snaps (with the first team) also, and we just have to work through the practice reps and make sure (Kreutz) is 100 percent ready. We just have to be mindful of his condition, but he looked good today.”
PRACTICE REPORT: The Saints’ injury list was the shortest it has been in weeks on Wednesday as only three players didn’t practice and only one was limited.
Not practicing were wide receiver Devery Henderson (calf), tackle Zach Strief (knee) and tight end David Thomas (concussion). Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee) was limited, even though he’s played the past two games after missing a Week 3 game against the Houston Texans.
Besides Kreutz, two players who’ve been injured — strongside linebackers Martez Wilson (shoulder) and Will Herring (hamstring) — were able to practice full Wednesday.
BLOUNT, MCCOY AILING: The Bucs, who are still smarting from a 48-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, did not have leading rusher LeGarrette Blount and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy available for practice Wednesday.
Blount is experiencing swelling and soreness in his knee; and McCoy, the third overall pick in the 2010 draft, has an ankle problem.
Both could be sidelined for Sunday’s game, which is a big deal for the Bucs. Blount has 328 yards and a 4.3 average this season, while McCoy has become a force in the middle with 13 tackles and a sack.
Also missing practice Wednesday was starting middle linebacker Mason Foster (ankle), while strongside linebacker Quincy Black (ankle) was limited.
BUCS SIGN CUTRERA: Because of a lack of depth at linebacker, the Bucs on Tuesday signed former LSU player Jacob Cutrera off the Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squad.
Cutrera, a Lafayette native who played for the Tigers from 2006-09, made the Jaguars’ roster as an undrafted free agent in 2010 and played in eight games. He played mostly on special teams and recorded six tackles.
The Bucs, who were down to one backup linebacker at the end of Sunday’s game, will use Cutrera as a backup in the middle and on the strong side.
GOING FOR FOUR: Tight end Jimmy Graham, who on Sunday became the first Saints player at that position to have three consecutive 100-yard receiving games, will be going for a fourth against the Bucs.
Three straight is the most in the NFL since Tony Gonzalez, another former basketball player whom Graham patterns his game after. Gonzalez had four in a row in 2000 with the Kansas City Chiefs.
STATS CORRECTION: Saints defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis and defensive end Will Smith shared the team’s only sack of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton after a review of the game tapes by the coaching staff.
When Newton was dropped early in the second quarter, statisticians and Fox announcers credited defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin with the sack.
But it was Ellis who got there first with Smith coming in to help make the stop.
BREES THE AMBASSADOR: Drew Brees has been chosen to serve as the U.S. National Ambassador Against Hunger for the United Nations World Food Program.
Brees and his wife, Brittany, are lending their names to an initiative to provide life-saving assistance in the Horn of Africa. Because of a severe drought, more than 13 million people in the Horn are in need of assistance, which Drew Brees saw firsthand on a USO Tour.
“I had a chance to see firsthand some of the issues those people are facing,” he said. “It’s one thing to see it on TV or hear about it, it’s another thing to see it in person — especially when you have (two) small children like I do. Your heart just gets torn out whenever you see that kind of thing.”