METAIRIE — After serving a two-game suspension for using a banned diuretic back in 2008, New Orleans Saints veteran defensive end Will Smith practiced with the team Wednesday for the first time since training camp.
Smith, an eight-year veteran, was reinstated by the NFL on Monday and will play and start Sunday when the Saints go against the Houston Texans in the Superdome.
“I’m just glad to put it behind me,” said Smith, the Saints’ best pass rusher. “I know the coaches were always concerned about it, the fans, everyone was always concerned about it.
“I’m happy it’s over with so I don’t have to worry about it and can just focus on football, focus on the Houston Texans, and focus on the rest of the year.”
Saints coach Sean Payton was certainly happy to have Smith back.
“Will had one of his better training camps prior to the suspension,” Payton said. “He’s in real good shape. And anytime you get a player like Will Smith back, one of your captains and someone who’s been a steady player for us and gives us a ton of good snaps against the run and the pass, it can only help you.”
Smith was suspended for the first two regular-season games without pay, and, according to a ruling by the NFL, he’ll also forfeit his next two game checks. All told, it’ll cost him $352,941 a game or a total of just more than $1.41 million from his $6 million base salary this season.
Smith’s return was good news for Payton and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who were minus three starters and a key backup for Wednesday’s workout.
Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee), strong safety Roman Harper (ankle) and cornerback Tracy Porter (calf) were the starters who were sidelined. Also out was weakside linebacker Jonathan Casillas (foot).
Payton was hopeful that Vilma, Casillas and Harper, who also missed last Wednesday’s practice, will be able to get some work in Thursday.
Kicker Garrett Hartley (hip) and wide receiver Marques Colston (shoulder) also didn’t participate in team drills, although Colston, who had surgery to repair a fractured collarbone on Sept. 9, caught passes during individual drills.
Defensive tackle Tom Johnson (calf) was limited.
Texans running back Arian Foster, who led the NFL in rushing last season with 1,616 yards and 16 touchdowns in 16 games, didn’t practice Wednesday because of a hamstring injury.
Foster injured his hamstring in the third preseason game and played sparingly in the season opener before aggravating the injury in Sunday’s 23-13 win over the Miami Dolphins.
He has just 33 yards on 10 carries.
Running back Derrick Ward (shoulder/ankle), wide receiver Jacoby Jones (knee) and cornerback Sherrick McManis (hamstring) also did not work.
Linebackers Brian Cushing (knee) and DeMeco Ryans (elbow/Achilles), cornerback Jonathan Joseph (ankle), and wide receiver Kevin Walter (shoulder/
thigh) were limited.
To make room for Smith on the 53-man active roster, the Saints waived running back Joique Bell.
Bell, a second-year pro, earned a roster spot with a strong training camp and exhibition season, and Payton expressed interest in bringing him back to the practice squad if he clears waivers.
The Saints also made two changes to their practice squad, signing wide receiver Montez Billings and running back Tristan Davis and releasing quarterback Sean Canfield and defensive tackle Swanson Miller.
In their 1-1 start, the Saints have scored 30 points or more in their first two regular-season games for only the third time in the 45-year history of the franchise — also doing it in 1993 and 2009.
They’ve never scored 30 or more in three straight games to open a season, however, but will be trying to do it against the Texans on Sunday.