After his season-long suspension a year ago, Saints coach Sean Payton will be walking the sideline in Raymond James Stadium on Sunday for the first time since fracturing his leg there in an Oct. 16, 2011 game with the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Payton had to undergo surgery after he fractured his leg and tore the medial collateral ligament in a sideline collision with three players — including Saints tight end Jimmy Graham — on the third play of that game.
Payton’s leg was pinned underneath Graham when he and two Bucs defenders all rolled out of bounds after a catch by Graham.
Payton tried to call plays from the bench while watching the game on the stadium’s Jumbotron for the remainder of the first half, which quarterback Drew Brees said was challenging, and eventually turned the duties over to offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr.
Brees said he can now chuckle about what happened when Payton tried to call plays off what he was seeing on the Jumbotron rather than from his usual spot on the sideline.
“I haven’t even thought about that to be honest with you, the fact that we are going back to Tampa — the scene of the crime,” Brees said Wednesday. “He was in extreme pain and he goes over where the offensive linemen sit and he’s sitting with his leg propped up calling plays from the Jumbotron.
“All of a sudden, the field flips and we are no longer going the way he was looking. So as he’s looking at the hashes everything is flipped around. There were times when he would start a play and it was the wrong hash and I’d flip it. But he hung in there as long as he could to stay with us.”
PRACTICE REPORT: Five players did not participate Thursday as the Saints continued to prepare for Sunday’s game.
Not working for the second day in a row were DE Tyrunn Walker (knee), NT Brodrick Bunkley (calf) and S Isa Abdul-Quddus (ankle). DE Glenn Foster (ankle) and CB Corey White (illness) were also out.
Limited were LB Curtis Lofton (knee), CB Jabari Greer (back) and CB Patrick Robinson (foot), while LB Martez Wilson (elbow) and LB Junior Galette (hamstring) were among those practicing fully.
ADAMS OUT: Bucs cornerback Michael Adams, a former UL-Lafayette standout, did not practice Thursday and was listed as out by coach Greg Schiano.
Also not practicing was TE Tom Crabtree (ankle), while G Carl Nicks and DE Adrian Clayborn (hip) had limited participation.
HITTING A HUNDRED: The 23-17 win against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday was the 100th as an NFL starting quarterback for Brees.
Brees, who is in his 13th season, is now 100-70 as a starter with the Saints and San Diego Chargers. Brees was 30-28 with the Chargers and is 70-42 with the Saints in the regular season.
JUMPING VINNY: With 357 yards against the Falcons, Brees now has 46,276 passing yards in his career — moving him past Vinny Testaverde (46,233) and into seventh place on the league’s all-time list.
In two or three games, Brees will pass Pro Football Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton, who piled up 47,003 yards in his career, and into sixth on the all-time list.
THOMAS’ MILESTONE: Saints running back Pierre Thomas went over the 3,000-yard mark in rushing for his career in Sunday’s game against the Falcons when he picked up 43 yards on nine carries.
Thomas, a seven-year veteran who made the team as an undrafted free agent, now has 3,017 rushing yards for his career. That has him in seventh place on the club’s all-time list, just 113 yards behind Ricky Williams (3,129).
VACCARO DRAWS FINE: Even though it won’t officially be announced until Friday, Saints rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro was fined by the NFL for his late hit on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in Sunday’s game.
Ryan scrambled for a first down in the first quarter and was in the process of sliding to the turf when Vaccaro came up and made the hit. Vaccaro was fined $7,875 by the league.