METAIRIE, La. – In a matter of hours Friday night, the New Orleans Saints’ linebacker corps went from bulked up and fixed to decimated and questionable.
Reserve linebacker Chris Chamberlain was lost for the season when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the second quarter.
At some point, starting weakside linebacker David Hawthorne tore a meniscus in one of his knees.
Though he still played on the injured knee, he was set for a surgery Monday that will keep him off the field for a few weeks.
But maybe the most important loss was starting middle linebacker Curtis Lofton, who is now sidelined with a high ankle sprain. When the injury occurred isn't clear, but it will keep him out at least a couple of weeks.
Yet, according to acting head coach Joe Vitt, the Saints will keep calm and carry on, looking for the next player on the depth chart to step up and in.
“We’ve had to win football games around here without Jonathan Vilma, who missed five games last year (and) Will (Smith) missed, I think, the first two games last year,” Vitt said. “It’s part of the game. It’s part of the process. The one thing I do know is this is a tough, hardened veteran team that’s just going to go onto the next play and the next game.”
Jonathan Casillas likely will get the nod at weakside linebacker for Hawthorne.
The question becomes a little murkier in regard to who replaces Lofton. Ramon Humber is set to take over in the short term. Jonathan Casillas could play the position in a pinch.
Humber, though, will serve a three-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy to begin the season.
Nevertheless, on Monday, Vitt mentioned Humber as the first candidate to get the shot at stepping in for Lofton.
“He’s quick. He’s got range. He’s smart,” Vitt said. “His teammates respect him, so he fits right into the program.”
Regardless of who takes over at which position, free safety Malcolm Jenkins said there’s confidence that those in the locker room and on the roster will fill in ably for New Orleans.
“We got hit with that injury bug last week,” Jenkins said. “But we’re confident in the guys we have behind them. This will be a huge week for them to get up on that learning curve and really step in those positions with the ones and get good, quality reps and I think it’ll fare well for us during the season.”
And there’s still a chance that New Orleans will make a move, Vitt said. That’s not a given, however.
“Our pro personnel people do an outstanding job in acquiring talent for us, so we’ll see what talent is available to us on other rosters in potential trades or picking someone up when they’re waived, but we’re happy with what we have now and we’re excited,” Vitt said.