METAIRIE - When a key member of the New Orleans Saints suffers an injury that will keep him out of the lineup for an extended period, his teammates usually don’t stand around feeling sorry for themselves.
That’s been especially true the past few years with their receiving corps, which could be shorthanded again for the home opener against the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
Wide receiver Lance Moore could return Sunday after missing the season opener with the Green Bay Packers last week because of a groin injury. But No. 1 wide receiver Marques Colston is out and will probably be sidelined at least four games after breaking his collarbone late in the Packers game.
But the Saints have a deep receiving corps and a history of players getting the job done when injuries hit.
Like 2008, when Colston tore ligaments in his left thumb in the season opener and missed five games, Moore seized the opportunity to become Drew Brees’ go-to guy and had career highs in receptions (79), receiving yards (928) and touchdowns (10).
One year later, when hamstring and ankle problems limited Moore to seven games, former LSU standout Devery Henderson and 2007 first-round draft pick Robert Meachem stepped to the forefront and had career years in helping the Saints win Super Bowl XLIV.
Henderson finished that season with 51 catches for 804 yards and two TDs, while Meachem, who had 12 catches in his first two seasons, broke out with 45 receptions for 722 yards and nine scores.
“Obviously, he’s a big part of what we do,” Brees said of Colston, who had surgery Friday to insert a plate to stabilize the shoulder. “I feel what we have been really good at, going on six years now, when a guy goes down there are other guys to pick up the void and the slack - and they usually do a great job.”
In this case, it’ll likely be Henderson, Meachem and Moore, who is hoping to play against the Bears. But Adrian Arrington, a seventh-round draft pick in 2008, could finally get a shot as well.
“I think we will see his snap count go up,” Saints coach Sean Payton said of Arrington. “He’s someone that knows all the different positions. We have a lot of confidence in his ability whether he’s playing outside or he’s playing in the slot.”
Arrington spent his rookie season on injured reserve and most of the past two seasons on the practice squad. He’s played in just one NFL regular-season game, but had seven receptions for 79 yards in the 2010 finale against Tampa Bay.
Moore, Henderson, who had six receptions for 100 yards and a 29-yard TD against the Packers, and Meachem, who opened with five catches for 70 yards and a 31-yard score, will be more likely targets for Brees.
“It’s the next guy up, and that affects Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem,” Payton said. “It’s happened before with Marques and it’s happened before with several of the other players.
“Fortunately, we have a group of guys that know more than one position,” he said. “They understand the scheme. They’ve been in it long enough. We feel pretty good about being able to fill in the next player.”
While they know they have big shoes to fill since Colston has averaged 74 receptions, 1,019 yards and eight TDs a year since joining the Saints, Henderson and Meachem said they won’t be under any extra pressure.
“I just have to do what I’m expected to do,” Henderson said. “I’m not going to put any pressure or any expectations on myself. We’re just going to play ball like we normally do.
“I’m not worried about anything but going out there and playing football. I have to make smart decisions and do my assignments, so whatever happens from there happens.”
“There’s no added pressure,” Meachem said. “We do this every week. Sooner or later, somebody is going to go down. That’s just the nature of our business.”
When it happens, he said, everybody else has to step up around them.
“That’s the way we practice; everybody, every player practices like it’s a game,” Meachem said. “When it’s your time, all you have to do is be ready to play. When it’s your time to take advantage of the opportunity, you just do what you need to do.”