The New Orleans Saints remain snakebitten in the secondary.
Safety Rafael Bush tore a pectoral muscle in Sunday’s 31-19 loss at Arizona, the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Monday.
Bush, who made two tackles, has been starting at free safety in place of injured starter Jairus Byrd, who is battling a knee injury. Byrd reportedly is expected back in the next couple of weeks.
Bush got hurt in the second quarter after failing to make a tackle on Arizona tight end Darren Fells, then getting hit by the Cardinals tight end Jermaine Gresham as he continued his pursuit.
“We don’t address (injury issues on Monday),” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “Wednesday you’ll get an injury report.”
With Bush down, the Saints will re-sign safety Kenny Phillips, a league source told The Advocate. Phillips, whom the Saints released last week, has not played in a game since 2012 with the New York Giants.
Strong safety Jamarca Sanford played free safety against the Cardinals after Bush was injured and was not credited with a tackle while playing 41 downs.
Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer was 19-of-32 for 307 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
More roster moves
Things have returned to the status quo.
After letting go of Phillips, running back Tim Hightower and offensive lineman Mike McGlynn in recent days, the Saints decided to bring all three back to town.
Hightower and McGlynn were officially added to the roster Monday. To make room, New Orleans waived receiver Seantavius Jones and fullback Toben Opurum, who were promoted to the 53-man roster in advance of Sunday’s game against the Cardinals. Jones and Opurum are likely candidates to return to the practice squad.
New Orleans also signed running back DuJuan Harris, who has spent time with Jacksonville, Green Bay, Minnesota and Pittsburgh, to the practice squad. He was released by the Vikings earlier this month.
An extra day of reflection did not change Payton’s mind on his decision to punt with 1:58 left Sunday.
With the Saints trailing 24-19 and facing fourth-and-6 at their 7-yard line, Payton opted not to go for the first down. After the punt, the Cardinals took over at their 43 and scored a clinching touchdown on a 55-yard pass on their second snap.
Even if Arizona had run for three straight plays and failed to pick up a first down, New Orleans, which begin the series with two timeouts, would have gotten the ball back with about 50 seconds left and no timeouts, needing to score a touchdown.
If the Saints offense had stayed on the field and converted the first down, the Saints would have been at least at their 15 with an extra minute and two timeouts available.
“It was close enough (of a decision) to where it was discussed (during the 2-minute warning), and yet we felt like (punting) was the right thing to do,” Payton said. “Had it been a little bit closer yardage-wise, we probably would have considered going for it there — if it was fourth-and-2 or -3.”
Offensive tackle Zach Strief expected the punt.
“If you took 32 teams in the NFL, 31 of them would punt in there,” he said. “We’ve got two timeouts. If we get a three-and-out, we’re getting the ball back in a minute and hope not to get it on the 2. If the kick goes in the end zone and we’re on the 20 with a minute to go, we feel a lot better about the situation than the one we were in.”
Cornerback Delvin Breaux kept the ball he recovered after an Arizona fumble and displayed it in his locker at the Saints facility Monday.
For Breaux, a 25-year old New Orleans native and McDonogh 35 graduate, everything about his first NFL game was special. He spent the two previous years in the Canadian Football League and also had stints for the New Orleans VooDoo in the Arena Football League and the Louisiana Bayou Vipers of the Gridiron Developmental Football League.
“It hit me on the very first series,” he said. “I saw Larry Fitzgerald out the corner of my eye, and I was like, ‘Man, I’m really in the NFL right now. I’m playing against Larry Fitzgerald.’ It was pretty cool.”
Breaux had five tackles and broke up a third-down pass in the fourth quarter in addition to his fumble recovery, but he also was called for four penalties — including two on one play.
“You could actually jam receivers all the way down the field (in the CFL) until the ball was in the air,” he said. “That’s just something I have to work on constantly. You can’t change it overnight.”
Aside from the penalties, Payton liked what he saw from Breaux.
“He had the right look in his eye,” he said.
No one’s ball
The Saints missed some opportunities for interceptions against Palmer, with cornerback Brandon Browner dropping a hard, short throw and failing to hold on to a deep pass after getting both hands on it. Defensive end Cameron Jordan busted up two plays but could not grasp the ball at close range.
“One hit me dead in the face,” Jordan said. “I didn’t even see the ball coming. It came in hot, but that was a (potential) huge game-changing situation.”
Rookie linebacker Stephone Anthony dropped a pass in the third quarter right before the Cardinals kicked a field goal.
“We definitely have to get on the JUGS machine and start catching those,” Anthony said. “We have to have some turnovers.”
New Orleans tied for 21st in the NFL last year with 12 interceptions.
The Saints are 5-5 in openers since Payton was hired. When they have started 1-0, they finished 10-6 or better four times. When they started 0-1, they finished 7-9 three times. … Asked whether he was sick of being asked about former teammate Jimmy Graham, Saints tight end Ben Watson said no. “I love Jimmy,” he said. “I talked to him before and after the game.” … Payton lamented the Saints having an unusually high 18 third-down opportunities (they converted seven) as the product of failing to pick up big chunks of yards at a time. The 18 third downs matched their season high from 2014.
Advocate sportswriters Nick Underhill and Joel A. Erickson contributed to this report.