It sounds like a decision on Jimmy Graham’s availability for this week’s game will not be made until Sunday morning.
The Saints tight end has been making progress from an undisclosed shoulder injury suffered Week 6 against Tampa Bay, to the point he has been able to practice this week despite initial reports sidelining him for 2-3 weeks.
Addressing reporters Friday in front his locker at the team’s practice facility, Graham said he is not sure if he will play this week against the Detroit Lions and does not expect that ruling to come until he works out before Sunday’s game.
“I think (coach) Sean (Payton) might try to see how I’m doing on Sunday and maybe work me before the game to see where I’m at,” Graham, who was limited in Friday’s practice and is listed as questionable for Sunday, said. “As of right now, I don’t know.”
Payton declined to answer when asked about Graham’s status Friday. He also refused to answer a question about whether or not Graham could be used solely in red-zone packages, as he was last year against the Buffalo Bills on his way back from a foot injury.
Graham played 20 snaps in that game and finished with three catches for 37 yards and two touchdowns. Asked if he could be used in a similar capacity this week, Graham said his job requires more than that and cracked a joke.
“Who doesn’t just want the ball in the red zone,” Graham said. “If I could do that for the next 20 years, I would do that, but that’s not how it works for tight ends.”
Graham suffered the injury in the first quarter of a 37-31 win over the Buccaneers but managed to remain in the game until the second quarter.
“I played until I really couldn’t move it anymore,” Graham said. “I just had to do what was smart.”
If Graham is unable to play, it’s likely Ben Watson and Josh Hill will see an uptick in snaps. The Saints also signed Tom Crabtree during the bye week. Payton said Friday that the new tight end is quickly picking up the offense.
Despite sitting out Friday’s practice with a toe injury, his second absence of the week, cornerback Keenan Lewis is listed as probable for Sunday’s game.
Linebacker Ronald Powell and running back Pierre Thomas, who both missed their second practices this week because of illness, are also listed as probable, joining center Jonathan Goodwin (knee), running back Mark Ingram (hand), and fullback Erik Lorig (ankle) on the list.
Linebackers Ramon Humber (ankle) and Kyle Knox (ankle) have been ruled out.
Cornerback Patrick Robinson, who has not practiced this week with a hamstring injury, is listed as questionable.
The Saints will need to deactivate five more players 90 minutes before Sunday’s game.
For the Lions, wide receiver Calvin Johnson (ankle) is questionable and tight end Eric Ebron (hamstring) is doubtful.
Filling up at fullback
With Lorig returning to practice this week, Payton was asked whether getting a second healthy fullback on the roster could impact the standing of Austin Johnson, who has held down that spot this season.
The coach would not delve into specifics, but noted that the team has carried two fullbacks in previous seasons and said that he likes what both players bring to the table.
He also said Johnson’s ability to run the ball will have no impact on Lorig, who has not recorded a single carry since entering the league in 2010.