METAIRIE, La. When Jimmy Graham went through practice on a limited basis Friday after two days of sitting out, Saints coach Sean Payton knew there would be a decision to make.
'Typically there aren't many players that don't practice Wednesday, Thursday or Friday at all and play and have success playing on Sunday,' Payton said. 'I thoughtFridaywas gonna be important that we saw something, and he was able to get work in.'
That work allowed Payton to give the go-ahead and Sunday, in New Orleans' 35-17 win over Buffalo, Graham thanked him by catching three passes, turning two of those receptions into touchdowns.
It might not have statistically been Graham's best work this season, but it was certainly his most efficient and most impressive.
'He's able to get in and play, I think 18 snaps,' Payton said. 'But he had a couple big plays for us and it worked out well.'
Graham missed Wednesday and Thursday practices sitting out with a plantar fascia injury to his left foot.
The difficult part of making the decision to play the tight end came more with introducing him into the game plan after the team spent the week preparing Benjamin Watson and Josh Hill.
It also hinged on how much pain Graham could tolerate.
'Then the challenge was, 'How's he gonna feel playing a couple plays then being out 10 plays? Is there gonna be any soreness?' ' Payton said. 'But this wasn't a swelling issue. I think it was a matter of, 'Hey, did he feel comfortable planting and jumping, stopping and starting?' '
Graham spoke after the game Sunday but Monday, during the 45-minute open locker room window for reporters, he wasn't at his locker. When he appeared as reporters were walking out, it was too late to ask how he was feeling.
But while Payton wouldn't say whether Graham was in pain Monday morning, he did say he thinks it will be something the tight end can deal with in the future.
'I think from a pain standpoint, my understanding is it can begin to diminish,' Payton said. 'And yet, you know, I know this, we're not gonna sit here week to week discussing it. But I think it's something he'll be able to manage.'