The New Orleans Saints overhauled their linebacker corps in the offseason. Now, it looks like they’ll have to do it again – at least on a temporary basis.
Assistant head coach Joe Vitt said Monday that middle linebacker Curtis Lofton has a high ankle sprain and outside linebacker David Hawthorne has a torn meniscus and would have surgery immediately. Outside linebacker Chris Chamberlain reportedly already has been lost for the season with a torn ACL.
The Saints went out and signed Lofton and Hawthorne in free agency and both have worked with the first team throughout the offseason program and the first three preseason games. Chamberlain, another free-agent pickup had been working with the second team. Vitt said he’s not sure if Lofton and Hawthorne will be ready to return in time for the Sept. 9 opener against Washington and that might be a lot to expect.
High ankle sprains can drag on. Medical science has come a long way in what it can do for a torn meniscus (believe me, I’ve had that surgery multiple times and the recovery period keeps getting shorter), but it still might be too much to expect to see Hawthorne back for the opener.
Vitt said Ramon Humber will take over Lofton’s spot in the short term. I’m not sure the Saints want to turn their defensive play-calling duties over to Humber in the regular season, but Lawrence Wilson and Kadarron Anderson are the only other middle linebackers on the roster. Humber is the most experienced of the bunch, but there's one other potential problem. Humber reportedly will be suspended for the first three games of the season.
The wild card at middle linebacker is Jonathan Vilma. He has begun serving a one-year suspension, but there still remains some hope that could be overturned by the legal system.
The Saints have better depth at outside linebacker with Scott Shanle, Jonathan Casillas and Will Herring each having a legitimate chance to start. But the wave of injuries leaves the Saints without a lot of depth. If it looks like Lofton and Chamberlain could miss regular-season time, the Saints may be watching the waiver wire for depth in the coming weeks.