Bradley Handwerger / Sports Reporter
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METAIRIE, La. Right tackle Zach Strief returned to practice Wednesday, albeit on a limited basis, a positive sign as the Saints prepare for a critical Sunday showdown with NFC West-leading San Francisco.

Meanwhile, tackle Charles Brown (right knee) and cornerback Corey White (left knee) did not practice. White was injured in the Atlanta game while Brown left this past Sunday's game at Oakland early with his injury.

Cornerback Elbert Mack (concussion) and defensive end Junior Galette (left ankle) also didn't practice.

Running back Darren Sproles, who hasn't played a game in nearly a month with a broken left hand, was full for the third straight practice.

Strief, who injured his left groin in New Orleans' Nov. 5 win over the Eagles, missed six straight practices and even flew to Philadelphia to visit with Dr. Williams Meyers, a noted sports hernia physician.

But Strief said the injury wasn't, in fact, a sports hernia, calling it instead a 'core muscle injury.'

The key to his return will be how he feels Thursday, he said.

'I felt good today,' Strief said. 'At the same time, you have to wait to see how things respond. Missing time with any type of injury, there's a little bit of how's your body going to react to being back in action. I feel good and we'll see where I'm at tomorrow.'

With both Brown and Strief both question marks this week, the Saints signed tackle William Robinson, who spent time with the team in 2011 on both the practice squad and active roster.

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