Drew Brees was once again limited during Thursday’s practice.
It is not known if Brees, who is dealing with a bruised rotator cuff, threw any passes during the session. He did not attempt a pass on Wednesday.
Before Thursday’s practice, Saints coach Sean Payton said he would not let Brees go until Sunday without attempting a pass.
“He wouldn’t go all the way to Sunday and then pregame is his first throws,” Payton said. “It’s a process that really starts with warming up and testing out how it feels, so we’ll see where it’s at.”
If Brees is unable to play, Luke McCown would likely start in his place.
Cornerback Keenan Lewis, who is working his way back from hernia surgery, and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hip) were also limited. It’s the first time Lewis has participated in a practice since his operation.
Safety Jairus Byrd (knee), wide receiver Brandin Cooks (ankle) and offensive lineman Jahri Evans (knee) did not practice.
Cooks expects to play Sunday, and a source said his injury is considered to be minor. If Evans cannot play, Senio Kelemete would likely start in his place.
While he’s a more natural left guard, Kelemete said he’d be comfortable starting in Evans’ place on the right side of the line.
“I’m just trying to get ever rep and every mental rep out there, too, just in case,” Kelemete said. “I hope Jah comes back, but if not, I’m ready.”
Ellerbe felt some frustration this summer when he missed the beginning of training camp with a toe injury and then suffered a different toe injury during the preseason opener.
Naturally, he wanted to play and be on the field. But the fact that he knew he was going to get healthy, avoid surgery, and eventually get back on the field was enough to give a positive outlook while he was rehabilitating.
“Just knowing that I’ll be able to play again, it’s a blessing,” Ellerbe said, referencing a 2014 injury while with the Miami Dolphins that landed him on injured reserve. “Because with the hip, when I did the hip, it could have been over. I’m just thankful to have a chance to come back and play.”
Ellerbe returned to practice this week in a limited capacity and is “very hopeful” he’ll be able to play this weekend but he said he’ll smart about the decision so he doesn’t create a lingering issue by injuring his toe again.
He also knows that if he does play, it’s unlikely that he’ll be thrown to the fire and assume a large role out of the gate. It’s more likely he’ll serve in nickel packages and be on a snap count of sorts until he’s fully up to speed.
“I know eventually I want to play every snap,” he said. “You got to wean yourself back in and get into football shape. I’m in shape but it’s a different type of shape, football shape.”
Payton is eager to see him back on the field. The Saints acquired Ellerbe as part of the trade that sent wide receiver Kenny Stills to Miami. When Ellerbe comes back, he’ll play weakside linebacker, where his ability in coverage will be best put to use.
“His strengths start with versatility. He is a run and chase guy, a guy with a significant role in your nickel and sub packages,” Payton said. “When he comes back, whether it be this week or not, he would probably come back first in sub packages and gradually into the base.”
Brandin Cooks sat out Wednesday’s practice with an ankle injury, but he returned to stretching during the open portion of Thursday’s practice.
Cooks isn’t worried about his status for Sunday against Carolina.
New Orleans’ No. 1 target plans to practice on Friday and play against the Panthers.
“Very confident,” Cooks said. “I’ll be out there.”
Cooks, who joked back and forth with reporters that he didn’t remember which ankle has an issue, said the injury didn’t affect him against Tampa Bay.
Cooks finished with five catches for 62 yards, and he’s got nine catches for a team-leading 111 yards this season.
“No, just didn’t have the game I wanted to have for myself,
Cooks said. “It happens, but we’re in the race to get better, individually and as a team.”
The Saints have brought wide receiver R.J. Harris back to the practice squad, according to agent, Landon Betsworth.
Harris spent training camp with the Saints and has been on and off the practice squad.
To make room for Harris, running back DuJuan Harris was placed on an injured list and no longer counts on the practice squad. DuJuan Harris is dealing with an abdominal injury, a source told The Advocate.
New Orleans also released offensive lineman Michael Brewste r from injured reserve with an injury settlement.