METAIRIE - New Orleans Saints starting tackle Zach Strief practiced on Wednesday for the first time since spraining the medial collateral ligament in his right knee on Sept. 25.
Strief, who has been sidelined for the past four games, worked on a limited basis as the Saints began preparing for Sunday’s game against the winless St. Louis Rams in the Edward Jones Dome.
Strief likely won’t play against the Rams, but he and coach Sean Payton said he’s right on schedule with his rehab. Strief said he began running 10 days ago and was happy to finally get back on the practice field.
“I think I’m on schedule. ... This week was the best-case scenario, and I’m not sure yet where the rest of the week will go,” he said. “I feel like it’s been a good rehab. I’m feeling good, and we’ll see where it goes this week.
“There’s no surgery involved with an MCL, so the first (thing) is to get out running again,” he said. “The big thing is making sure that it’s stable and healed up. I think it’s real close. It was good to get on the field again.”
Training room company
Strief laughed when asked about having Payton, who is also rehabbing from a knee injury and fractured tibia, in the training room alongside his players.
“I’ll tell you, the dynamic changes a little bit when the coach is sitting in the training room all the time,” Strief said with a smile. “It is a little bit quieter. That’s a tough situation for him. I know he doesn’t want to be in there any more than we do.”
Strief said everyone wants to get out of the training room as soon as they’re done with their daily rehab assignment, but they’re sure to get a lot of work done with Payton around.
“You do a little less talking, a little less joking with each other because he’s sitting there - even though he’s harder on us than we are on each other,” Strief said. “He’s right there with us.”
Payton said running back Mark Ingram (heel), weakside linebacker Jonathan Casillas (knee), middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee) and defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (ankle) did not participate in practice.
Ingram injured his right heel in Sunday night’s game against the Indianapolis Colts and had a protective boot on his foot when he left the locker room.
Tight ends Jimmy Graham (ankle), David Thomas (concussion) and John Gilmore (neck/shoulder) were limited in practice along with Strief and strongside linebacker Will Herring (hamstring).
Defensive end Turk McBride (shoulder) worked fully after missing practice time last week and the Colts game with a shoulder injury.
To help out with the situation at tight end, the Saints signed Tory Humphrey and waived quarterback Sean Canfield. Humphrey played with the Saints in 2009 and 2010 and was with the team in training camp, but was among the final roster cuts on Sept. 3.
The Saints also signed wide receiver Andy Tanner to the practice squad and released defensive tackle Swanson Miller.
Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, the first overall pick in the 2010 draft, was among a group of eight players who didn’t practice Wednesday.
Bradford missed Sunday’s 34-7 loss at Dallas with a high-ankle sprain and will be day-to-day this week, according to coach Steve Spagnuolo.
“When I say it’s day to day, you may think that’s coach lingo, but that’s legitimately what it is,” Spagnuolo said. “He’s in the middle of his rehab. Until the trainers feel that he can practice getting on his toes and dropping back, we won’t do that until we get the green light.”
Among the other players who missed practice were wide receiver Danario Alexander (hamstring), linebacker Brady Poppinga (calf), and tackles Rodger Saffold (illness) and Jason Smith (neck/concussion).
Drew Brees was named Wednesday as the NFC Offensive Player of the Week by the NFL for his performance in a 62-7 blowout of the Colts.
Brees completed 88.6 percent of his passes, going 31-of-35 for 325 yards and five touchdowns, and had a season-high passer rating of 144.9 while playing less than three quarters.
It’s the 11th time that Brees has been honored as the NFC’s top offensive player since joining the Saints in 2006.
Brees and Ingram are up this week for two awards voted on by the fans. Brees is a finalist for the FedEx Air NFL Player of the Week honor, and Ingram is a nominee for the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week.