Saints’ RB Sproles returns to practice with fractured hand

METAIRIE – After missing the last two games with a fractured left hand that required surgery, Saints running back Darren Sproles returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday.

While interim coach Joe Vitt said Sproles looked “real good,” he wasn’t ready to say that he’ll definitely play in Sunday’s game with the Oakland Raiders.

“We’ll evaluate,” said Vitt, who noted that Sproles didn’t take a hit on the hand he injured on Oct. 28 at Denver. “He practiced well today. You wait and see if the hand swells, all those things. But he was dynamite today.

“We did not hit today because we were in shells only. He caught the ball well and he ran great. I was very encouraged with his work today.”

PRACTICE REPORT: Sproles was joined on the practice field by wide receiver Courtney Roby, who injured his shoulder in the same game as Sproles and was sidelined for the last two games.

Vitt said Roby was limited, but did everything they asked him to do.

Not practicing were T Zach Strief (groin), CB Corey White (knee) and DE Junior Galette (ankle).

Vitt said White, who left Sunday’s game with the Atlanta Falcons shortly after making his first NFL interception, did not have to undergo surgery.

BANGED-UP RAIDERS: Raiders’ first-year coach Dennis Allen, an assistant with the Saints from 2006-10, turned in a long injury list following Wednesday’s practice with five players not working and four more limited.

Not practicing were RB Darren McFadden (ankle), DT Richard Seymour (knee/hamstring), FS Matt Giordano (concussion), SS Tyvon Branch (neck) and RB Mike Goodson (ankle).

McFadden and Goodson are the Raiders’ top two running backs, Seymour leads the team in sacks and Giordano and Branch are the starting safeties.

Also, K Sebastian Janikowski (groin), WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (hamstring) and TE Brandon Myers (shoulder/concussion) were limited.

PILING THEM UP: With three touchdowns in Sunday’s 31-27 win over the Atlanta Falcons, Saints quarterback Drew Brees has already thrown 25 scoring passes — marking the seventh straight season he’s had that many.

In the first 39 years of the franchise’s existence, Saints’ quarterbacks had 25 TD passes in a season exactly three times as Jim Everett had 26 in 1995 and Aaron Brooks had 26 in 2001 and 27 in ’02.

BREES ALARMED: Like a lot of other people, Brees was shocked to hear that three of his counterparts were knocked out of their games with concussions this past weekend — Jay Cutler, Michael Vick and Alex Smith.

“Yes, you never want to see that, especially a lot of head injuries and a lot of concussions,” Brees said. “Unfortunately, it’s part of the game to an extent.

“But when that many go down on one Sunday and it’s a lot of pretty high-profile guys, you just hope that all the necessary measures are being taken and make sure they’re definitely healed up before they come back.”

Brees said the last time he had a concussion was in 2005 when he was with the San Diego Chargers.

UNBEATEN NO MORE: The Saints’ victory over the previously-undefeated Falcons on Sunday marked the third time in franchise history that they handed an unbeaten team with a record of 6-0 or better its first loss.

Each time, they’ve done it at the expense of a division rival as they earlier beat the 7-0 Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 22, 1978 (10-3) and the 6-0 St. Louis Rams on Oct. 28, 2001 (34-31).

VOTING ENDS FRIDAY: Brees is again a candidate for the FedEx NFL Air Player of the Week award after going 21-of-27 for 298 yards and three touchdowns in the win over the Falcons.

Fans can vote online until 2 p.m. Friday at www.NFL.com/FedEx.