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New Orleans Saints tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (84), offensive guard Larry Warford (67) and tight end Josh Hill (89) celebrate Hoomanawanui's touchdown reception against the Detroit Lions during the second half on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints won 52-38.

Larry Warford returned ahead of schedule to start against the Buffalo Bills last Sunday.

Warford, who suffered an abdominal strain against the Green Bay Packers, was initially supposed to be out longer than the two games he missed.

But as the week of preparation before Buffalo began, Warford felt good enough to go.

"It was a little earlier," Warford said. "I was feeling alright, so we tested it out, asked the doctor about it, and he was like, yeah, dude, if you feel good, it's a little early, but if you feel alright. I was as shocked as anybody."

Warford played 59 of 77 snaps on Sunday against Buffalo, but he feels like he could have gone the distance if the Saints needed to keep him in the game. With the game in hand, Saints coach Sean Payton pulled Warford and left tackle Terron Armstead, who were both battling injuries leading up to the game, as a precautionary move.

"I felt good, went out, played well and didn't have any after-effects," Warford said. "I was lucky."

By coming back early, Warford joined a trend that has been a big boost to an offensive line that's been banged up ever since the summer.

New Orleans keeps getting its injured offensive linemen back faster than expected. Center Max Unger's return from offseason Lisfranc surgery, Armstead's return from surgery to repair a torn labrum and Warford's return all happened faster than it was initially reported or diagnosed.

“That’s significant. One of the things you’re always hopeful of in the season when you have players that miss time is that it’s not for long periods of time," Payton said. "Beau (Lowery), Scottie (Patton) and those guys (medical staff) have done a great job of getting those guys back with confidence and ready to play."


Follow Joel A. Erickson on Twitter, @JoelAErickson.