METAIRIE – The Saints’ kicking duel between Garrett Hartley and John Kasay is apparently going down to the final two exhibition games, starting with Saturday night’s matchup with the Houston Texans.
Hartley, one of the heroes of the team’s run to a Super Bowl XLIV title in 2009, is being challenged by Kasay, who capably filled in last year when Hartley was sidelined for the entire season with a hip injury.
On Wednesday, special teams coordinator Greg McMahon said the coaching staff is no closer to making a decision than when training camp started July 26.
“We’re going to go to the last two games and just let it play out,” McMahon said. “I think that is the fair process. That is what we decided to do going into camp, and we’ll stay true to that.”
In the first three exhibition games, Hartley has made both of his field-goal attempts, while the 42-year-old Kasay is 2-for-4.
“It’s the whole process and there are a lot of elements involved in it,” McMahon added. “We will sit down as a staff once we get through (the preseason) and decide which direction we want to go.
“We’re just not ready yet. It’s not just who makes the most kicks. We have to look at the whole picture just to be fair to it.”
“It’s a great competition,” interim coach Joe Vitt said. “They have been competing every day in practice, they’ve been competing in the games. So we’ll let it play out.”
SPROLES LIKELY TO SIT: Even though he returned to practice this week after being out for almost two weeks with a knee injury, running back Darren Sproles is unlikely to play Saturday night or in next week’s preseason finale against the Tennessee Titans.
Vitt said he’d have no problems going into the regular season with a fresh Sproles than have him aggravate the knee injury he sustained in the second preseason game at New England.
“We feel comfortable with that, that’s fine,” offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. said of Sproles sitting out the next two games. “The important thing is for him to be ready for that week one game.”
JOHNSON BETTER: Vitt said cornerback Marquis Johnson, who has had swelling in his knee that forced him to miss recent practices, had a better day when he returned Thursday and has a good chance of playing against Houston.
Vitt also noted that linebacker Barrett Ruud, who practiced for the first time Wednesday after being acquired in a trade Monday night, took some snaps Thursday and is being integrated into the defense. He said Ruud could get into Saturday night’s game in the second half.
INJURY REPORT: Not practicing Thursday were LB Curtis Lofton (ankle), LB David Hawthorne (knee), LB Ramon Humber (hamstring), CB Jabari Greer (hernia), WR Andy Tanner (ankle), WR Nick Toon (foot), WR Adrian Arrington (knee), DT Tom Johnson (ankle) and CB Kamaal McIlwain (groin).
None of them are expected to play Saturday night.
LEWIS TO APPEAR: Former Saints return man Michael Lewis, who now serves as a team ambassador, will appear at the Saints Hall of Fame Museum at Gate B on the Plaza Level of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome from 5-6:15 p.m. Saturday.
The Hall of Fame is open three hours prior to and for 45 minutes after each home game, and admission is free to ticket holders.