Jimmy Graham returns to practice

Pro Bowl TE Jimmy Graham returned to Saints practice Wednesday, but not on a full basis.

Interim coach Joe Vitt said Graham ran routes without defenders to test the sprained right ankle that kept him from traveling with the team to Tampa on Sunday.
“He did what we call land base stuff,” Vitt said. “He did routes on air. He looked very, very good. The doctors and the trainers are examining right now. He looked good.”

The Saints did not miss Graham in Tampa, rolling up 458 yards while scoring five touchdowns, but they would love to have him back this Sunday night when they face Denver and Peyton Manning.

“When Jimmy was down this last week that gave opportunities for others,” QB Drew Brees said. “What you love is when you have access to the full arsenal.”
The Saints had only two healthy tight ends at practice -- David Thomas and practice-squad player Mike Higgins. Third-string TE Daniel Graham, who has played in all six games as a blocking specialist, was out with a knee injury.

Still striving: Brees has been in vintage form the last three games, completing 91 of 136 (66.9 percent) passes for 1,192 yards, 11 scores and two interceptions, but he's been doing it almost all by himself.

The Saints rank dead last in the NFL in rushing, averaging 76.2 yards, and failed to pick up a critical first down that would have allowed them to run out the clock while protecting a 35-28 lead against Tampa Bay. Darren Sproles was stuffed on third-and-3, forcing them to punt, and the Buccaneers came within 9 yards of a tying touchdown.

“Obviously the running game is still a huge issue for us and something we're still working on,” T Zach Strief said. “But the offense has felt at times how we should be feeling and we have gotten going the way we'd like to.”

Despite the lack of help on the ground, Brees agreed.

“Definitely you feel that no matter what play is called, we're going to make it work and we have the opportunity to really make something happen,” he said.

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