METAIRIE, La. — The Saints will be without running back and return specialist Darren Sproles on Monday against Philadelphia after he had surgery to repair a broken hand.
Acting head coach Joe Vitt didn’t say when the injury happened and said the running back will be re-evaluated next week.
“Darren Sproles wants to play,” Vitt said. “All our players want to play. When you can’t play in a game, you’re disappointed. He’s extremely accountable to his teammates. He’s a big part of what we do around here. He’s one of those guys that lives for Sunday. He’s disappointed."
In addition to Sproles, receiver Courtney Roby has been ruled out with a shoulder injury.
Sproles hasn’t missed any time since the Saints signed him prior to the 2011 season. He set an NFL record for all-purpose yards in 2011 with 2,696, besting an 11-year-old record by six yards.
Through seven games in 2012, Sproles had 26 carries for 117 yards, carrying a team-high 4.5 yards-per-carry. His 323 yards receiving are third-most on the team and his 39 catches put him one behind receiver Marques Colston and tied for 19th in the NFL for most receptions.
Sproles, though, was the team’s kick and punt returner, averaging 28.7 per kickoff return and 6.6 yards per punt return. His kickoff average is 7th-best in the league.
Vitt said the team has an idea about who will fill in for Sproles in the return game, but wouldn’t identify the player ahead of Monday night’s game.
Travaris Cadet took the bulk of the team’s kickoff returns in the preseason, averaging 25.3 yards per return on 10 kicks. He also returned seven punts for a 4.1 yard average. Receiver Joe Morgan had five punt returns for an 8.4 yard average.
Morgan, however, is recovering from a chest injury he suffered against Tampa Bay that kept him out of Sunday’s game at Denver. He has practiced full the past two day.
Cadet has spent the past two days putting in extra time in returning kicks after practice, making sure the former return standout at Appalachian State is prepared for Monday night’s duties.
“I’m very comfortable,” Cadet said. “What you put in is what you get out. You’ve got to stay out there, do the extra work, catch the extra punts, catch the extra kicks, getting in the book a little bit more because my role is probably going to be expanded a little bit more.”
The Saints still have a bevy of running backs on the roster and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael said all will have to pitch in to make up for losing Sproles.
“Darren is a special guy,” Carmichael said. “Cadet had done some of those things in the preseason. We had moved him to receiver so right now he’s focusing on that position. We’ve got Pierre (Thomas), Mark Ingram. Chris Ivory has a chance to step into a role. Next man up.”
Cadet sees this as an opportunity to showcase his talent, the same skills that earned him a spot on the roster in spite of not just being an undrafted rookie free agent, but a crowded backfield.
“In life, you only get so many chances to do that,” Cadet said.