They've lost their home, lost their focus, and lost two straight games after a stirring victory in the season opener. And now the New Orleans Saints, with the emotion that marked the opening day win at Carolina apparently flagging a bit, are losing players.
The team confirmed that strong safety Jay Bellamy, who had started 122 straight games in stints with the Seattle Seahawks and Saints, suffered a season-ending injury to his right rotator cuff in Sunday's loss at Minnesota. The 12-year veteran will have surgery later this week to repair the torn rotator cuff and will be placed on injured reserve.
It marks the second consecutive week in which the Saints lost a key veteran for the year. Standout return specialist and wide receiver Michael Lewis suffered a season ending knee injury, a torn anterior cruciate ligament, last week.
The loss of Bellamy, who had 10 tackles in the first three outings of the season, further thins a New Orleans secondary already scrambling because of injuries, with standout cornerback Fakhir Brown having missed two games because of a knee problem. And it will force coach Jim Haslett to shuffle the starting lineup at safety.
Free safety Dwight Smith, acquired during the offseason as an unrestricted free agent, will move into Bellamy's strong safety spot. And he will be replaced by rookie Josh Bullocks, a second-round draft pick from Nebraska, a player the coaches like, but who has struggled with the nuances of the game after a strong training camp.
Bullocks is a solid hitter with good range, and his physical skills stood out this summer, but the staff is concerned with his grasp of the defensive scheme at this point. Still, he represents the Saints' best option at this point, the coaches feel.
"We'll go with the rookie and we'll see what happens," Haslett said.
Moving the always-active Smith to strong safety might subjugate his playmaking skills, because he probably won't be able to move to the ball as much as he did at free safety, a position where his former experience at cornerback was key. But the coaches want to get Bullocks on to the field and feel he is a better fit at free safety.
Bellamy, 33, has been a stalwart for the Saints since signing in 2001 as a free agent. Not a flashy player, he nonetheless adds stability and savvy to the unit and he will be missed. The former Rutgers star, who began his career in Seattle in 1994, has appeared in 165 games and has 784 tackles, 9½ sacks, 24 interceptions and 67 passes defensed. In his four-plus seasons in New Orleans, he has 450 tackles, and led the team in stops in each of the last two seasons.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.