Saints rookie linebacker Khairi Fortt couldn't hide his disappointment Wednesday after being notified he'd be placed on his team's short-term injured reserve to begin the 2014 season.
"I've been working my whole life to get to this point where I could finally play my first official game in the NFL," said Fortt, who hurt a hamstring in the Saints' second exhibition of the preseason on Aug. 15. "I've been battling this hamstring issue which will probably be good in the next week or two, but I know they're just taking a precaution."
New Orleans' decision to put Fortt on short-term IR keeps him out of practice for 42 days, or six weeks. It sidelines him from games for eight weeks.
Oct. 15 is six weeks from Wednesday. Oct. 29 is eight weeks. That means he'd be eligible to play in the seventh game of the Saints' season, which is at Carolina on Oct. 30, a Thursday night.
Whenever Fortt begins practicing with the team again, the Saints will have three weeks to determine whether they'll send him to their season-ending injured reserve or put him on the active 53-man roster. Of course, as is the case with any player who has not accumulated at least four years of NFL experience, Fortt could be waived.
Fortt's quest to forge a pro football career has been a relatively turbulent one.
He played for a dizzying number of coaches during his college career: five. He went to Penn State out of high school, working with Joe Paterno (2010), interim coach Tom Bradley (2011) and Bill Blankenship (spring 2012).
After the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State, he transferred to California, where he played for Jeff Tedford (2012) and Sonny Dykes (2013).
He redshirted in 2012 because of a knee injury and played just one season for the Golden Bears. California posted an ignominious 1-11 record the one campaign Fortt made it onto the field for the school, though he emerged as a semifinalist for the Butkus Award given to the nation’s top linebacker.
The Saints chose Fortt in the fourth-round of the draft in May, and he came under the command of a sixth head coach since 2010: Sean Payton.
Fortt accumulated one tackle in the preseason for the Saints prior to hurting his hamstring. It was for a loss. The Saints included him in the first 53-man roster they handed to the NFL on Saturday; but then they short-term IR'ed him and gave his spot to veteran wide receiver Robert Meachem, who had been released by New Orleans over the weekend.
"There's a little uncertainty to where he is at just in regards to the amount of snaps he had or was limited to based on the injury," Payton said Wednesday in discussing Fortt. "We think he has a chance to develop into a good young player, and yet it is still kind of an incomplete if you will with regards to the evaluation."
Fortt vowed to make the most of the time he'll be shelved.
"I'm just going to take this time to make sure that everything is right with my hamstring, along with every other nick and bruise I feel that needs to be treated, just making sure I stay up with my playbook, make sure I know everything," Fortt said. "So when I come back it's almost like I didn't miss a step or am ahead of the game."