Jairus Byrd back on practice field for Saints _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Saint S Jairus Byrd (31) chats on the sideline with S Kenny Phillips (30) during the Saints' afternoon Walk Thru Training Camp practice Saturday in White Sulphur Springs, WV. Byrd has been on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

New Orleans free safety Jairus Byrd returned to the practice field.

Byrd, who hasn’t practiced since the final day of the Saints’ mandatory minicamp as he comes back from a knee injury, participated in the portion of practice open to the media Wednesday. He was listed with a “did not practice” designation on the Saints’ injury report, meaning he did not take part in team drills.

The veteran safety, who signed a six-year, $56 million contract last year, hasn’t played in a game since New Orleans lost to Dallas last September. Byrd tore the meniscus in his knee in practice later that week and missed the rest of the season.

Veteran linebacker Dannell Ellerbe , who missed more than a month with a toe injury, was listed as limited, a return to practice for a player who started the first preseason game.

Wide receiver Brandin Cooks (ankle) and right guard Jahri Evans (knee) did not practice.

Early returns

Veteran Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis is on his way back to the lineup after undergoing surgery on his hip.

Lewis said he did some work in Wednesday’s practice, albeit on a limited basis. He was listed as out on the Saints’ injury report, meaning he did not participate in team drills.

For Lewis, who had never undergone surgery before, it’s hard to judge how much progress he’s making. He will leave his timetable for return up to the Saints’ training staff and coaches.

“I can’t even judge it,” Lewis said. “It’s all new to me. I’ve never had surgery. First time. I don’t know how it’ll be, but I’m excited, and I know I’m getting closer.”

Lewis, who was initially expected to miss 4-6 weeks, thinks he’s ahead of schedule so far.

“I think I am,” Lewis said. “I’m running, I’ve got my cutting ability back, I’ve got my back-pedaling back.”

New face

New Orleans signed Connor Hamlett, an undrafted free-agent tight end from Oregon State, to fill the spot left open when Tampa Bay claimed Cameron Brate off the practice squad Tuesday.

Hamlett spent most of training camp with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he failed to make it through final cuts. Eventually signed to the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad, Hamlett was cut by the Eagles on Monday.

Hamlett initially tried out for the Saints four days before the first game. Now, he joins Chris Manhertz as one of two tight ends on the Saints’ practice squad.

A massive player at 6-foot-7, 265 pounds, Hamlett caught five passes for 45 yards for the Jaguars in the preseason.