When Saints safety Vonn Bell was on his recruiting visit to Ohio State, Ryan Shazier served as his host.
So when Bell was watching Monday Night Football and saw the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker suffer a spinal injury after making a tackle against the Cincinnati Bengals, it hit home for him.
"It was heartbreaking," said Bell. "He's like family to me. I've been to his home and I've met his parents and we are close."
Bell and Shazier were teammates at Ohio State.
Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas was also on that Buckeyes team and is close to Shazier as well.
"Just to see something like that happen to a player like that, who is such a great example and who represents the game so well was tough," Thomas said. "Ryan put in a lot of time and work into the sport. He is a guy who is so honest to the game, so to see something happen like that to him and us to be close friends, like family, is just sad to see."
According to an NFL.com report on Tuesday, Shazier remains hospitalized at University of Cincinnati Medical Center and will undergo further testing and evaluation for his spine injury.
The original diagnosis was that Shazier has a spinal contusion with some swelling involved.
"You never want to see that happen to anyone, but when it's close to home like that it makes you sit back and think and make you appreciative of things you have," Thomas said. "He has a great family and is very spiritual and he prays for protection. He just got dealt a bad hand and you never want to see that happen and I'm just going to keep praying for him. I know he will overcome this in the end."
The Saints find themselves facing some uncertainty on the injury front heading into Thursday night's game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Cornerback Marshon Lattimore (ankle), free safety Marcus Williams (groin) and left tackle Terron Armstead (thigh/shoulder), who all missed Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers returned to practice on Monday, taking part on a limited basis.
But New Orleans was also working without left guard Andrus Peat (groin) and running back Mark Ingram (toe), who have played in all 12 games so far.
Both Peat and Ingram were listed as limited on Monday's estimated injury report, making it likely that they suffered their injuries in the win over the Panthers.
Middle linebacker A.J. Klein (groin), defensive end Trey Hendrickson (knee), cornerback P.J. Williams (shoulder) and cornerback Ken Crawley (abdomen) were also listed as limited. For Klein, the injury is new; he wasn't listed on Monday's report.
The NFL's expansion of Thursday night football has drawn criticism from players around the league in recent years.
After high-profile injuries to Richard Sherman and other Seahawks during Seattle's Thursday night win over Arizona earlier this year, several Seahawks blamed the lack of time to get their bodies ready for action.
None of the Saints have made those same pleas this week, but Saints quarterback Drew Brees is not a fan of Thursday night football.
"No, not really," Brees said. "The time off after is good, but the rush to get ready, get your body ready, I don't think guys get too excited about it. The bottom line is everybody's got to do it. We play when we're told to play."
Brees' thoughts were echoed by a few other players, who pointed out that the one positive is that every NFL team faces a Thursday night game at some point or the other.
"That is beyond my comprehension, beyond my knowledge, and I'm pretty sure the owners don't care what I think, as in I, singular," defensive end Cameron Jordan said. "Now, if we come together as a collective, sure. ... I'm not condemning it, and I'm not praising it. It's something we all have to deal with."
The truth is that most players are not fully recovered for kickoff on Thursday night, although Brees tries to use the power of self-persuasion to convince himself he feels good.
"I tell myself I do, so I guess I do," Brees said. "Mind over matter."
Cornerback De'Vante Harris, who was waived on Saturday, has been brought back to the practice squad. ... Former Saints defensive end Davis Tull worked out with the team on Tuesday. Tull, a fifth-round pick of the Saints in 2015, was cut last year and spent time with the Los Angeles Rams this season, although he has never played in an NFL game.