Marcus Ball’s most noticeable play against Cincinnati on Sunday was an offside penalty that turned a third-and-6 into a third-and-1 when he blitzed too early. He could be noticed more often next Monday against Baltimore because he might be starting.
Regular starting free safety Rafael Bush fractured his right fibula in the fourth quarter Sunday and could be out four-to-six weeks. Ball is one of only three healthy safeties on the roster along with starting strong safety Kenny Vaccaro and Jamarca Sanford, who signed last Wednesday.
Ball, who has six tackles in five games, played two seasons for the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League before signing with the Saints last April.
“I would describe (Ball) as more of a strong safety type player,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “He’s played in some of the free safety groups for us. He had that early-season (hamstring) injury, and yet there’s some elements to his game that he needs to improve on as well. We’ll see where he’s at and how he factors in.”
Sanford, a six-year veteran, started 41 games for Minnesota from 2011 to 2013 and making 216 tackles in that span. The Vikings released him at the beginning of September, and Washington picked him up at the end of September. He played in three games before the Redskins released him.
“We’ll have to look closely at our best combination there and pay attention to what we think gives us the best chance to win this weekend,” Payton said.
After reviewing the video, Payton agreed with the assessment that New Orleans came out flat against Cincinnati.
“I felt the same thing our fans felt when watching the game,” he said. “We have to look at the work week and make sure we’re ready physical and mentally to play better than we did yesterday.”
The Saints (4-6) are tied with Atlanta for first place in the struggling NFC South.
Vaccaro spoke out about the Saints’ problems after the loss to Cincinnati, saying there was a different vibe without veterans like Malcolm Jenkins, Roman Harper, Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma.
Payton said Monday he had no issue with Vaccaro’s comments.
“When you watch that game towards the end and there was a pretty good chance the score was going to end in their favor, I love how he was playing,” Payton said. “I love the attitude and the toughness he brings and the frustration that comes with it.”
Lofton was less thrilled.
“When you express your frustrations, you don’t express them to the media,” Curtis Lofton said.
“You keep that in house. He’s not the only player that feels that way. There’s been numerous guys that have expressed the same feeling, but there’s a different way of doing it. That’s how it’s been handled here in the past, and that’s how it needs to be handled here in the future, too.”
Drew Brees re-took the NFL’s all-time lead for accuracy after connecting on 33 of 41 passes vs. Cincinnati. His career percentage of .6612 is better than the retired Chad Pennington’s .6604. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers is close behind at .6591. … Johnson and guard Jahri Evans, the two players who participated in a conference call with reporters on Monday, both said they were confident New Orleans would win the NFC South. Evans said he would not care what the Saints record was as long as they made the playoffs.