WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — C.J. Spiller, who was signed to a four-year, $16 million deal this offseason and expected to play a key role in the Saints’ offense, underwent arthroscopic surgery Friday on his knee, a source confirmed to The Advocate.
Saints coach Sean Payton declined to address the injury after Saturday’s practice.
The running back first missed the Saints’ scrimmage Aug. 7 because of a minor knee injury and tried to come back to practice Sunday and Monday, only to be shut down for Tuesday’s practice. After that, the Saints determined that Spiller could go through the procedure — a source described it as “maintenance” — and still be back to full strength for the Saints’ season opener in Arizona.
The running back missed practices last week because of a knee injury. He attempted to come back and was subsequently shut down.
Spiller’s absence leaves the Saints without their satellite back for much of the preseason.
Missing in action
Defensive starters Brandon Browner (leg), Dannell Ellerbe (toe) and Delvin Breaux all suffered minor injuries in the Saints’ preseason opener at Baltimore, but the injuries should not be cause for concern, various sources said. Starting safety Jairus Byrd also remains absent from the practice field, although Payton has said the Saints expect the safety back soon.
Backup linebacker Ramon Humber, offensive guard Cyril Lemon and defensive tackle Lawrence Virgil, who all left Thursday’s game with injuries, did not practice, along with three players — linebacker Ronald Powell, guard Sean Hickey and tackle Nick Becton — who were battling prior injuries.
Three veterans — safety Jamarca Sanford, tight end Ben Watson and linebacker Anthony Spencer — who played against Baltimore also did not practice. Watson left the team to be present for the birth of his fifth child.
Many happy returns
Rookie running back Marcus Murphy was drafted in the seventh round out of Missouri in large part to upgrade the Saints’ return game.
Sunday night, Murphy acquitted himself well in his first chance, averaging 26 yards on five returns and breaking one all the way to midfield, although the return was called back because of a penalty.
Murphy, who also scored his first touchdown in the fourth quarter as a running back, faces a crowded, veteran group at running back, but he could make the 53-man roster as a return man.
“I came into training camp preparing to be a returner,” Murphy said. “I know I can do a lot of things well in space out of the backfield, but I did a lot of things well in college as a punt and kick returner, so I knew that would be a big role for me.”
The Saints worked out former Louisiana-Lafayette linebacker Justin Anderson and signed him after Saturday’s practice. ... After kicker Zach Hocker got three field goal tries in Baltimore, Payton will try to get competitor Dustin Hopkins more opportunities against New England. ... Long snapper Justin Drescher, rookie cornerback P.J. Williams and wide receiver Jalen Saunders returned to practice.
Five observations from the practice field:
1. Wide receiver Brandon Coleman might not have gotten much work against Baltimore, but he went right back to work with two touchdowns and several other catches.
2. Defensive end Akiem Hicks is back to full strength, and he looked dominant again, exploding past Jahri Evans in one-on-one drills.
3. Middle linebacker Stephone Anthony still has much to learn about watching the quarterback’s eyes, but he made the play of the day, reaching high to deflect a Drew Brees throw.
4. Wide receiver Marques Colston continues to be productive, setting up a touchdown for the first-team offense in two-minute drill by catching a 25-yarder against cornerback Keenan Lewis.
5. Rookie defensive tackle Ashaad Mabry continues to show flashes of potential against the run, making two tackles at the line of scrimmage.