METAIRIE - For the second time in four seasons, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is on pace to break the all-time single-season passing record of 5,084 yards set by Dan Marino in 1984.
Through the Saints’ first nine games, Brees has thrown for 3,004 yards and is averaging 333.8 yards per game. If he continues at that rate, the 11-year veteran would finish with 5,304 yards.
Brees, who has eight consecutive 3,000-yard passing seasons, came close to getting the record in 2008 before finishing with 5,069 yards - just 15 shy of Marino’s mark.
When Brees reached the 3,000-yard mark in Sunday’s 27-16 win over the Tampa Bay Bucs, he became the first player to get there in nine games. He had the previous mark of 2,985 yards through nine games in 2008.
Also out Wednesday were middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee), cornerback Patrick Robinson (stomach pain), tackle Jermon Bushrod (stomach virus) and defensive end Turk McBride (ankle).
Running back Mark Ingram (heel) did practice on a limited basis after missing the past two games. Also limited were running back Chris Ivory (hamstring) and tight end John Gilmore (neck).
Payton said rookie defensive end Greg Romeus, a seventh-round draft pick this spring, has been put on the active/physically-unable-to-perform list and has begun practicing with the team.
Romeus suffered a torn ACL in his knee late last season at Pitt and was not able to practice when training camp started in late July.
The Saints also made several practice squad moves, signing cornerback Kamaal McIlwain and wide receiver Andy Tanner and releasing quarterback Sean Canfield and cornerback Terrail Lambert.
Gonzalez, McClure sit
All-Pro tight end Tony Gonzalez and center Todd McClure, a former LSU standout, were among a group of six Falcons who didn’t work Wednesday.
Gonzalez has a back problem; McClure’s absence was not injury-related, according to the practice report released by coach Mike Smith.
Also out were defensive ends John Abraham (not injury related) and Ray Edwards (knee), tackle Sam Baker (back) and safety William Moore (quad).
Cornerback Brent Grimes (knee) and defensive tackle Corey Peters (knee) were limited in practice.
While Payton wouldn’t name names, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that Tulane has asked for permission to speak to assistants Curtis Johnson and Terry Malone about their vacant head coaching position.
Johnson, the wide receivers coach, is a native New Orleanian who’s had college coaching stops at San Diego State and Miami. Malone, who coaches tight ends, was at Michigan before joining Payton’s staff in 2006.
Offensive line honored
The Saints offensive line of tackles Jermon Bushrod and Zach Strief, guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks, and center Brian de la Puente were chosen Wednesday as the winner of the Madden Protectors Award for Week 9.
That group did not allow a sack and had a hand in the Saints rushing for 195 yards - their second-highest total this season - in a 27-16 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Saints are now a contender for the 2011 Madden Protectors Award, which will be announced during Super Bowl week.