New Orleans is in the middle of another shuffle at safety after Rafael Bush was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle on Arizona.
But the Saints might be getting another key safety back very soon.
Veteran Jairus Byrd, who missed training camp and the first week with a knee injury, is on his way back.
“We’re fortunate that Byrd’s coming along,” Saints coach Sean Payton said on his morning teleconference Wednesday.
Byrd, who signed a six-year, $56 million contract as New Orleans’ prize free agent in the 2014 offseason, hasn’t played since tearing his meniscus in practice last October.
“Obviously, with Jairus, there’s going to be a transition,” Payton said. “It’s been a while since he played football, and we understand that.”
For the second straight season, the Saints also lost Bush, a versatile player who can fill in ably for either Kenny Vaccaro at strong safety or Byrd at free safety, as he has done all offseason.
Bush initially tried to stay in the game for a couple of snaps after tearing the muscle in his chest.
“When you watch the play on film, it’s nothing you would notice immediately, but all of a sudden, you see in the next play or two the loss of strength in his chest and his left arm,” Payton said. “I’m disappointed for him.”
New Orleans signed an obvious replacement on Monday.
Kenny Phillips, a veteran trying to come back after two years away from football due to injury, will help fill the role as Byrd works his way back into shape.
“Fortunately, Phillips was just here and just in the swing of things with regards to what we’re doing,” Payton said. “Two weeks ago, versus Green Bay, he was playing a bunch of snaps.”