METAIRIE — Saints coach Sean Payton was released from a local hospital Wednesday, but did not attend practice as his team began preparing for Sunday night’s game with the Indianapolis Colts.
Payton left Ochsner Medical Center two days after having surgery Monday morning to repair a fractured tibia and torn meniscus in his left knee. He was hurt in a sideline collision early in Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay.
Assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt, who filled in for Payton at his daily news conference, said Payton went home after being released from the hospital but was expected to join his staff for meetings Wednesday night.
Vitt noted that while Payton was hospitalized Tuesday, he had a hand in formulating the game plan for the Colts as he texted offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael with suggestions after watching some video on a computer.
Vitt said it hasn’t officially been decided that Payton will call plays from the coaches’ booth in the press box Sunday night, but said that’s what Payton was leaning toward doing.
He said the only thing the staff did was put the game plan together and install the first- and second-down part of it like they do each Wednesday.
“As soon as Sean wants to sit down, we’ll talk about the weekend and schematically where he’s going to be, what he’s going to do, what he feels up to,” Vitt said. “So we really haven’t talked about any of that stuff yet.”
NO EXCUSES: At Payton’s request, Vitt and the other coaches reminded the Saints when they returned to work Wednesday that having the head coach on a limited basis this week will be no excuse to lose to the 0-6 Colts.
“Our core players understand that and we’re trying to get the new players to understand it’s firmly ingrained that it’s not OK to not give your best effort and that it’s not OK to come close but lose a game because the head coach has a broken leg,” Vitt said. “There’s a personal accountability that takes place with every coach and every player, and we’re here to win. Coming close and trying hard, you get no medals for that.”
He said the coaches and players just have to do what they would if Payton had been there Wednesday, which they did. He said not a player or coach on the team thinks the Saints are in turmoil.
“The meetings were great. The install meetings were outstanding and our players had a good practice today,” Vitt said. “You set your jaw and you keep your eye on the target, and you move on.
“I know there’s a lot of people in the league saying, ‘Boy, the poor Saints and yeah, yeah, yeah,’ no,” he added. “There are 31 other teams out there that are glad he got hurt and that he was in the hospital, missing practice, because they don’t want us to be successful. That’s just the truth.”
THOMAS RETURNS: Tight end David Thomas practiced on a limited basis Wednesday for the first time since suffering a concussion in Week 3 against the Houston Texans.
Thomas said he wore a new helmet, “the newest and best there is,” to help with the concussion symptoms that sidelined him for three games. He said he hopes to play against the Colts.
“It’s been a long time, it seems like it’s been a lot more than three weeks,” said Thomas, who suffered from headaches and the inability to focus. “But hopefully, it’s behind me now and I’ll be ready to go.”
IVORY STILL OUT: Second-year running back Chris Ivory did not practice Wednesday even though he’s eligible to come off the physically-unable-to-perform list.
Ivory missed all of training camp while recovering from offseason foot surgery and then had an operation to repair a sports hernia just after camp got under way.
The Saints have a three-week window for him to return to practice. Once that happens, they’ll have three another three weeks to decide whether to activate him, release him or leave him on PUP the rest of the season.
“Right now, we’ve made the decision that we’re not making a decision right now,” Vitt said. “We’re just holding on that and we’re seeing where he is physically, and we’ll evaluate him as the week goes on.”
PRACTICE REPORT: Not participating in Wednesday’s practice were defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (ankle), middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee), tackle Zach Strief (knee), defensive end Turk McBride (shoulder), tight end John Gilmore (neck/shoulder) and strongside linebacker Will Herring (hamstring).
Thomas was the only player who was limited.
MANNING, ADDAI SIT: For the Colts, quarterback Peyton Manning (neck) did not practice and will not play Sunday night.
Other notable absentees were two former LSU standouts — running back Joseph Addai (hamstring) and defensive tackle Drake Nevis (back). Both missed last week’s game with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Defensive end Dwight Freeney also did not practice with what was described as a “non-football related” reason.