METAIRIE, La. -- Saints left cornerback Jabari Greer will miss at least the next three weeks after undergoing surgery in Philadelphia on Tuesday to fix a sports hernia, Head Coach Sean Payton said Thursday.

Payton said Greer is expected back no sooner than Week 17 against Carolina.

'What happened is all of a sudden you hit a plateau and the feeling was after four weeks, it wasn't getting any better,' Payton said. 'So we went that route. We spent time with the player and weighing all the option playing through it or there's enough time here with where we're at in Week 12 to get him back.

'The procedure went well Tuesday. (Dr. William) Meyers was optimistic.'

Greer has not played since Nov. 8 against the Carolina Panthers, a game he left with what was initially diagnosed as a groin pull.

Payton says it was not immediately clear that the injury was serious enough to require more than rest. The team decided this week that it would make more sense for Greer to have the surgery and be fully healthy for the playoffs rather than have him try to play through it, as defensive end Will Smith did during the 2008 season.

Tight end Jeremy Shockey missed three games during the 2008 season with a sports hernia, left tackle Jammal Brown had the surgery earlier this season before going on IR with an additional hip issue and middle linebacker had the procedure done this past spring.

Shockey, Vilma and Smith have returned without any further physical hindrance.

Jan. 3, 2010, the final game of the season, is the earliest Payton said Greer would return. If not then, he'd be ready for the Saints first playoff game, most likely to come in the second round of the NFL playoffs.

'I think it's a realistic scenario,' Payton said. 'That's what went into the decision, the time left in the season and where we're at. All parties felt like let's go ahead and do this now and start the rehab. He'll be back in the facility tomorrow.'

Thursday Did Not Practice: Tracy porter (knee), Jabari Greer (groin), Scott Fujita (knee), Marvin Mitchell (hamstring) and Mike Bell (knee)

Limited: Jermon Bushrod (thumb), Jahri Evans (toe), Bobby McCray (back), Lynell Hamilton (shoulder),Jonathan Vilma (knee), Pierre Thomas (quad), Jonathan Goodwin (ankle), Usama Young (hip/calf), Lance Moore (ankle/hamstring), Randall Gay (hamstring), Sedrick Ellis (knee), Darnell Dinkins (foot), Reggie Bush (knee), Jeremy Shockey (hamstring).

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