Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
NEW ORLEANS -- Saints head coach Sean Payton could return to the practice field later this week, but he's spending the night in the hospital recovering from surgery.
Tight end Jimmy Graham rolled up on Payton's left leg during the first drive of Sundays game.
"When I saw him on the field get up after the injury and he immediately went back down, I knew something was more involved as far a bone, probably a broken bone," said Orthopedic Surgeon and former Saints team doctor Tim Finney.
Finney watched the hit, like most Saints fans, on TV.
He said a violent blow like that to the outside of the knee puts a lot of stress on the ligaments, the tissue that connects bone to bone.
"That's the MCL and that's what tears first, and if the deformity continues and the energy is high enough, the lateral condyle pushes the lateral tibia plateau downward and you get a fracture of the lateral plateau," said Finney.
Monday morning, surgeons spent three hours repairing the damage.
"What we do normally is put a plate along the side along with some screws going across to hold that in place so that the patient can start moving the knee," said Finney.
Dr. Gregory Stewart, co-director of the sports medicine program at Tulane University, said the rehab process can start almost immediately.
"Early on, he'll be working on range of motion, making sure the knee doesn't get stiff and working on keeping the muscles around the knee strong and that can be done without putting weight on the knee, said Stewart.
Doctors say it could be the first or second week of the playoffs before Payton can put any real weight on his injured knee.
"He may make the decision that he wants to be down on the filed," said Stewart. "If that's the case he's going to be on crutches and probably be a little further away from the action than he was this past week."
Both Stewart and Finney recommend that Payton stay off his leg and the sidelines, at least for now. They say it would mean less pain and less need for pain killers, both of which could affect Payton's coaching.
According to the Saints, Payton will be coaching from the booth for at least the next few weeks.