Up until this week, Kendall Hunter’s only association with the Saints was something he’d already forgotten.
Hunter, whose name was mentioned by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams as one of the 49ers to intimidate on a tape before a 2011 playoff game, was reminded by a friend on the phone after delivering the news that he’d signed in New Orleans.
The veteran running back hadn’t thought about it at all.
“It was funny, because I was a rookie,” Hunter said. “Next thing you know, I’m here.”
Hunter now arrives with three weeks left to show the rest of the NFL what he’s got left.
Used mostly as Frank Gore’s backup, Hunter rushed for 1,202 yards in his first three seasons in the NFL, then tore an ACL before the 2014 campaign and never made it back to the field in San Francisco.
Hunter was in the mix in San Francisco earlier this year before undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his knee, a procedure that led to an injury settlement.
Now, the Saints’ injury situation at running back gives Hunter a chance to prove himself again, plus a chance to check out his alma mater, Oklahoma State, in the Sugar Bowl.
“I’ve just been blessed with another opportunity,” Hunter said. “The Saints gave me another opportunity to come here and help out. I’m excited about it.”
Obum Gwacham has carved out a place in the Saints lineup.
The rookie defensive end from Oregon State has now played in five straight games after finding himself on the inactive list for seven of the first eight games.
Now, Gwacham is contributing, picking up 2.5 sacks and four quarterback hits in just 62 snaps so far this season.
“A lot of teams had called me a bit of a project, but I knew what I could do, especially on special teams and as a pass rusher,” Gwacham said. “The coaches, they trusted me enough to put me out there.”
Special teams has helped keep Gwacham on the active list. Athletic enough that he played wide receiver at Oregon State before moving to the defensive side of the ball, Gwacham is on every special teams unit, and he’s made three tackles.
“I told them you can put me wherever,” Gwacham said. “I’ll do whatever I can.”
Free safety Jairus Byrd hasn’t missed a practice or a game since returning to the lineup in early October, but Byrd was held out of practice on Wednesday with a knee injury.
Byrd, who has 47 tackles, an interception, a sack and a forced fumble this season, might have been just protecting a nagging pain. New Orleans hasn’t brought in a safety, a move the Saints made in the past when there were injury concerns at the position.
Left tackle Terron Armstead and wide receiver Marques Colston also got the day off, a regular occurrence for the two. Armstead is protecting an ailing knee, and Colston has routinely taken veteran’s days off.
New Orleans also got a couple of players back. Right guard Jahri Evans (ankle) and defensive tackle John Jenkins (concussion) were both limited, along with right tackle Zach Strief (hip/shoulder). Evans and Jenkins have each sat out the last two games.