TAMPA, Fla. - New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton may have to call plays from the press box for a few games after he suffered an injury to his left knee on his team’s third play from scrimmage during Sunday’s game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Payton was scheduled to have surgery Monday morning to repair a torn medial collateral ligament and a tibia plateau fracture, which is a fracture involving the upper portion of the tibia where it connects to the knee joint.
His leg buckled under the weight of Saints tight end Jimmy Graham and a pair of Bucs defenders after Graham caught a 6-yard pass from Drew Brees and was ridden out of bounds by middle linebacker Mason Foster and strong safety Sean Jones.
Payton’s leg was pinned underneath Graham when all three players rolled out of bounds. Payton immediately tried to stand up, but had to sit back down with his back to the field.
“It’s just one of those things. The play kind of got on me a little quicker,” Payton said after the game. “Every once in a while, you feel like you get pinned with the play ? and that’s what happened.
“At first, I just thought I went down and hurt my knee,” he added. “When I tried to get up, I clearly felt something was up with it. I knew it was the MCL, the inside ligament.”
Play was held up for a couple of minutes as Payton was attended to by Saints trainers and medical personnel. He was finally helped up and taken to the end of the bench, where the knee was braced.
Payton tried to call plays from the bench for the remainder of the first half, but went to the locker room just before halftime where X-rays revealed the extent of the injury.
He hoped to go up to the press box to call the second half from the coaches’ booth, but couldn’t make it up there. So he watched the second half of his team’s 26-20 loss from his office beneath the stands in Raymond James Stadium.
“He tried to call plays from the sideline,” said Brees, “but it seemed like he needed to get the leg attended to.”
Payton turned his play-calling duties over to offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr., took some medication and then watched helplessly with an ice bag attached to his knee.
“I think my initial plan was to go up in the (press) box,” Payton said. “The problem was dealing with some of the pain issues. I thought Pete did a real good job, and I thought the staff did a good job.”
Before he left the field, Payton called the plays on a six-play, 79-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a 38-yard touchdown pass from Brees to wide receiver Marques Colston.
Payton said he’ll probably remain in Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans overnight and be released Tuesday in time to return to the office to help with the game-planning for Sunday night’s game against the Indianapolis Colts in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
It was a bad day for coaches on the sideline as Bucs defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake tore the patellar tendon in his left knee when he high-fived free safety Tanard Jackson after an interception by Jackson in the second period.
Graham said he talked to Payton after the game and explained that he was just trying to get the first down.
“I ended up getting it and there were a couple of guys on me,” Graham said. “The next thing, I’m rolling on the ground and Sean was on top of me. I think he was starting to look down at his play card for the next call.
“I talked to him later and I said, ?My bad,’” he said. “He said, ?No, it’s not your fault.’ “
“He (Graham) came in to see me and I didn’t understand why,” Payton said, “because I didn’t even pay attention to the fact that it was Jimmy. So obviously, he has no responsibility with that.”
After the game, Payton got a visit from Bucs coach Raheem Morris.
“He came by afterwards ? he was great,” Payton said.