METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans Saints rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro suffered a fractured left ankle during the team's 17-13 loss Sunday to the Carolina Panthers and will have surgery Tuesday, according to coach Sean Payton.
The team has not announced a roster move, but the injury certainly ends Vaccaro's season.
Vaccaro's ankle was rolled up and bent awkwardly in a pile during the first quarter. An air cast was placed on his leg before he was carted off the field.
Payton compared the injury to the one suffered by Saints offensive tackle Bryce Harris last season. Harris was placed on injured reserve, but he returned in time for summer practices.
"It's a fracture in the ankle," Payton said. "It's fairly clean."
Payton said the surgery will be performed by Charlotte-based surgeon Robert Anderson, known as one of the country's top foot and ankle specialists.
Vaccaro was considered by many analysts to be among the NFL's top rookies. The first-round draft pick from Texas played almost every snap for the Saints in a versatile role -- often matching up against top slot receivers.
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan recently called Vaccaro the best safety in the league.
Vaccaro has 79 tackles with one sack, one interception and one forced fumble. He will be missed by the Saints, though the team has depth at safety as veteran and former Pro Bowler Roman Harper will likely replace Vaccaro in the starting lineup.