NEW ORLEANS – Though it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, the Saints will designate defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins to return from injured reserve at some point today, head coach Sean Payton begrudgingly revealed during his Wednesday morning conference call.

Rankins, the team’s first-round pick (12th overall) this year, suffered a broken leg on Aug. 15, just a few days before the Saints wrapped up The Greenbrier portion of training camp. He had surgery two days later. The prognosis was good: six to eight week recovery time, which made him an obvious candidate to return.

Teams are allowed to designate just one player to return off IR each year. By rule, players who receive the designation can begin practicing after Week 6, but aren’t allowed to play until after Week 8.

The NFL tweaked the rule this year by changing when teams must designate a player to return. Previously, teams were required to do so when a player was put on injured reserve. Now, there’s more flexibility, as the teams don’t have to designate the player until he’s ready to return to practice.

When asked if the Saints would designate Rankins Wednesday, Payton answered: “Yeah, that would happen, my expectation is it does happen.”

Payton then said Rankins is healthy enough to return to practice and would do so today. The coach then decided it was time to move on, saying “I think we’re good right there. We’re ahead of the game with an injury question,” he joked.

Payton typically refuses to answer injury-related questions, preferring instead to direct reporters to the daily injury report.

Rankins is one of several injured players the team hopes to have back in the coming weeks.

The team is optimistic cornerback Delvin Breaux, who suffered a broken fibula during the Week 1 loss to Oakland and had surgery to repair it the next day, will also return soon.

Meanwhile, linebacker Danell Ellerbe has been battling a nagging quad injury that has kept him out since the start of the season. He recently returned to practice on a limited basis, but has yet to participate fully.

Obviously, getting Rankins, Breaux and Ellerbe back would be a huge shot in the arm for the battered Saints defense, which, despite missing several key players, has continued to improve. Better yet, though, the defense has managed to help string together consecutive victories after beginning the season 0-3.

However, on the other side of the ball things are bit more ominous. The Saints are still without starting left tackle Terron Armstead, who hasn’t played since injuring his knee against the New York Giants in Week 2. Now, the status of Armstead’s replacement, Andrus Peat is in question. Peat was injured during the first half of the win over Carolina on Sunday and was unable to return.