METAIRIE, La. — Misery, the saying goes, loves company.
For the Saints this past season, it wasn’t misery. It was injuries.
By the time New Orleans’ 12-6 campaign was finished, 10 players were on the team’s injured reserve list and another on the reserve/physically unable to perform list.
And nine were players either expected to be big contributors this season or had been before they were injured.
Jabari Greer. Kenny Vaccaro. Patrick Robinson. Joe Morgan. Victor Butler.
Not to mention Will Smith, Jonathan Vilma, Parys Haralson and Kenyon Coleman.
The list is a who’s who of man if only they had finished the season.
It’s the defense that took the biggest hit. Of those who ended the season injured, nine played on that side of the ball. At least they have each other to work with in attempting to get healthy for next season.
“I feel that, although our defense played outstanding in our absence, the guys returning, such as me, P. Rob, Kenny, Vic, Will, AJ (Davis) will only add value and compete at the highest level,” Greer said.
Greer might have been the biggest loss, his season ending on Nov. 17 in New Orleans’ 23-20 win over San Francisco with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
In his place stepped Corey White, who struggled the rest of the regular season as quarterbacks targeted him opposite shutdown corner Keenan Lewis. In the final eight games of the season, when White started, quarterbacks completed 38 passes when targeting him, including two touchdowns.
Yet, New Orleans’ defense finished the season with the No. 2 pass defense and in the playoffs didn’t allow either Nick Foles or Russell Wilson to throw for more than 200 yards.
While Greer would like to be back by preseason next year, it might be hard with that coming just eight months post-injury.
“Although God's timetable may be a little different than mine, I hope to be ready by camp,” Greer said. “The (physical therapy) staff has been really challenging and encouraging me, and I try to compete in the training room with guys like Pat, A.J. Davis and Joe Morgan.”
Greer, though, wasn’t the only player missed.
No. 3 cornerback Patrick Robinson had his season end in the second week of the season with a patellar injury. Safety Kenny Vaccaro was finished in Week 16 when he broke his ankle. Will Smith had an ACL tear in the third preseason game.
Then there’s Butler, who was signed in free agency to give the team a physical presence at linebacker, one who already knew defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s scheme from their days together in Dallas.
His injury, a torn ACL in his left knee, happened during organized team activities in June. He began the season on PUP and had a chance to return but, ultimately, his knee wasn’t ready by the time it needed to be.
Now he’s just looking to return with no lingering issues.
“I’m foaming at the mouth,” Butler said. “I’ve taken a couple of DVDs home with me – I say a couple – 15 just to watch film from this and watch the guys so next year when I get back, it’s like I never missed a beat. I want to play football and I want to play with this group.”
He added, “If I didn’t have bills and stuff to pay, I’d probably do it for free. But you gotta take care of momma and you got to take care of the light bill and the last I checked, the car note isn’t free so you’ve got to get paid. But I love playing the game of football and it’s even better when you’ve got a group of guys like this around you.”
Then there’s Morgan, who was expected to be one of the Saints’ key ingredients on offense, stretching the field with his straight-line speed.
But he tore the ACL, also in his left knee, during the Saints’ training camp intra-squad scrimmage.
He’s on pace to return, in theory, by training camp this summer.
“The doctor who did my surgery said a year I should be back healthy and shouldn’t feel any setbacks,” Morgan said. “I’m trying to cut that down obviously and hopefully by OTAs and minicamp I’ll be able to go out and do the things I used to do.”
For the Saints, now is the time just to monitor the health of those who were injured and are aiming to return.
“There haven’t been any setbacks,” coach Sean Payton said. “The progress has gone on like normal. Obviously you have a variety of different injuries. That number is a little higher than we’re used to – we’re talking about the existing list. It will be important to get those guys back as quickly as possible.”