With Bryant out, Saints look else­where for re­ceiv­ing help

The Sun Herald (Sunday) - - Sports -

torn Achilles heel on the last play of his sec­ond prac­tice Fri­day with the NFC South-lead­ers, a freak­ish in­ci­dent, ac­cord­ing to ob­servers, that hap­pened on a rou­tine, non­con­tact play in prepa­ra­tion for Sun­day’s game against the Cincin­nati Ben­gals at Paul Brown Sta­dium (noon, FOX).

He was not ex­pected to play a role in Sun­day’s game but was point­ing to­ward next week’s clash against the de­fend­ing Su­per Bowl-cham­pion Philadel­phia Ea­gles at the MercedesBenz Su­per­dome af­ter he bet­ter grasped the play­book and worked him­self into foot­ball shape.

Now those plans have been dashed in the snap of a ten­don.

If a sched­uled MRI con­firms the sever­ity of Bryant’s in­jury as a torn Achiles heel, “at his age, his ca­reer likely is over,” one New Or­leans-based or­tho­pe­dic sur­geon told me Satur­day.

If noth­ing else, Bryant’s ca­reer in New Or­leans is over be­fore it even got started. The pur­pose of his sign­ing a oneyear, pro­rated con­tract of $1.25 mil­lion was to bol­ster a de­pleted wide re­ceiver po­si­tion on the 53-man ros­ter af­ter the re­cent losses of Ted Ginn Jr. and Cameron Mered­ith.

Bryant signed with the un­der­stand­ing that he would play a sup­port­ing role in the pass­ing game with a heavy em­pha­sis in red zone and third down sit­u­a­tions. The plan was for Bryant to com­ple­ment al­pha dog wide­out Michael Thomas, ver­sa­tile run­ning back Alvin Ka­mara, screen spe­cial­ist Mark In­gram,

rookie WR Tre’Quan Wil­liams and tight end Ben Wat­son.

It seemed like a win-win propo­si­tion for Bryant and the team. The Saints had ac­quired a proven big-play wide re­ceiver (73 TDs in eight sea­sons with the Cow­boys) at a mod­est price for the stretch run, and Bryant was given an op­por­tu­nity to res­ur­rect a ca­reer with a le­git Su­per Bowl LII heavy­weight con­tender.

Saints Gen­eral Man­ager Mickey Loomis and Coach Sean Pay­ton are ex­pected to pur­sue the sign­ing of free agent wide re­ceiver Bran­don Mar­shall, 33, who worked out Tues­day at the team’s fa­cil­ity, along with Bryant and vet­eran re­ceiver Ka­mar Aiken. ESPN’s Adam Schefter re­ports that the Saints are likely to turn to Mar­shall, “who impressed New Or­leans dur­ing his work­out this week.”

Mar­shall pulled in11 passes for 136 yards and a touch­down with Seat­tle be­fore be­ing re­leased Oct. 30.

For the short term, the Saints could pro­mote rookie Keith Kirk­wood (6-3, 220) from their prac­tice squad.

Kirk­wood played col­lege ball at Tem­ple and had 45 catches for 671 yards and seven touch­downs dur­ing his se­nior sea­son.

As for Bryant, he now must deal with the sud­den­ness of a po­ten­tially ca­reer-end­ing in­jury, or at the very least a min­i­mum of eight months of gru­el­ing re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

Plenty of time for him to pon­der what might have been.

Brian Allee-Walsh, a long­time Saints re­porter based in New Or­leans, can be reached at sports@sun­her­ald.com.

MAR­CIO JOSE SANCHEZ As­so­ci­ated Press

For­mer Seat­tle Sea­hawks re­ceiver Bran­don Mar­shall may be a tar­get for the Saints.

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