With rookie safety and special-teams contributor Vinnie Sunseri nursing an injury, the Saints acquired a free agent with similar qualities on Tuesday: Jamarca Sanford.
The Saints created a spot on their roster by waiving guard/center Eric Olsen, the NFL said. Sanford’s joining the Saints wasn’t official Tuesday, but a league source confirmed he had reached terms on a deal with New Orleans.
A mainstay on the special-teams coverage units as well as a rookie fifth-round draft choice out of Alabama, Sunseri hurt himself defending the kickoff the Saints booted to start the third quarter of their 27-24 overtime defeat at home against the 49ers. San Francisco’s Carlos Hyde had run out a Thomas Morstead kickoff eight yards deep in the end zone; Sunseri evaded the 49ers’ protection and zeroed in on the returner at the 10.
Sunseri didn’t have the best of angles, however; and, sensing that, Hyde cut to his right. Sunseri flailed his left arm at Hyde in an effort to trip up the returner as he went by, but Hyde barged through the arm tackle before being brought down at New Orleans’ 22. Meanwhile, Sunseri lay face down on the turf of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and clutched at his left arm.
When the Saints punted for the first time following halftime, Sunseri wasn’t out on the field, and he was officially ruled out for the remainder of the contest.
Sunseri had three solo tackles on special teams, which tied him for second on the Saints (4-5) with four other players before he was hurt. He had also logged 11 snaps of defense as an extra safety, registering half a tackle.
Regarding the player the Saints signed in the wake of Sunseri’s injury, Sanford served on Washington’s special teams for three games this season and recorded 1.5 tackles before being released in mid-October. He was with the Minnesota Vikings for the first five seasons of his NFL career, which began in 2009.
Sanford started 44 regular-season games for the Vikings and had two interceptions, 11 passes defensed and 169 solo tackles. His time in Minnesota came to an end when the Vikings let him go with an injury settlement after he hurt a quad in August.
As for Olsen, he had been with the Saints in 2012, was not with the team last year and came back to New Orleans after veteran center Jonathan Goodwin went down with a knee/ankle injury during an Oct. 19 loss at Detroit. Second-year pro Tim Lelito started in place of Goodwin for the next three games, but Goodwin reclaimed his place on the offensive line during Sunday’s setback at home against San Francisco.
—MORGAN REPORTEDLY REINSTATED—
In other Saints-related news, New Orleans reinstated wide receiver Joseph Morgan after suspending him for undisclosed reasons on Oct. 28, according to a report on Twitter from sportscaster Howard Balzer.
The Saints declined to confirm the report. Morgan has been a member of the Saints since 2011 but has only appeared in 15 games. Fourteen of those games were in 2012, when he caught 10 passes for 379 yards and three touchdowns. He missed all of 2011 and 2013 because of preseason knee injuries.
Nick Underhill contributed to this report.