Tight end Rob Housler return to practice Wednesday for the first time this regular season.
All along, Bruce Arians has talked about the importance of tight ends in his offense, and now, it looks like the most important tight end – Rob Housler – will finally get a chance to play after dealing with a bad ankle for two weeks.
Then again, is Housler a tight end?
Arians spoke about star Saints tight end Jimmy Graham Wednesday, but he might as well have been talking about Housler too. "I don't really worry about him lining up blocking anybody, but he's such a physical mismatch," Arians said.
However Housler is described, he figures to be a key component for Arians. He was expected to make an impact this season,
and Arians kept him under wraps during the preseason – not knowing the coming-out game wasn't going to arrive until the third week.
Housler wouldn't even talk about the game, instead focusing only on Wednesday's practice – "Something we preach here," he said.
Housler did said he felt good and wanted to push his ankle and see how it went.
"I'm dying to get back out there," Housler said. "It was especially hard last weekend here at home. You battle to get back as soon as you can and to not be there for the home opener was tough."
Housler's biggest highlight of the preseason was a dropped touchdown pass against the Chargers. But Arians never seemed to have any concerns that Housler would produce once the games counted.
"We definitely missed him these first two weeks," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "Jimmy (Dray) has done a great job wearing a bunch of different hats, playing a couple of different spots and really having his role expand.
"But it's just great getting (Housler's) explosiveness back on the field."
HAMSTRINGS SLOW MORE THAN FITZ
Arians was asked if there were any new ways to treat hamstrings compared to his early days in coaching, and the coach chuckled.
"Not really," Arians said. "They have hyperbolic chambers and all that stuff – that's way too high-tech for me. I'm still used to ice."
The subject remained important for the Cards. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald didn't practice Wednesday on Arians' orders while he tries to recover from his bad hamstring. Rookie linebacker Kevin Minter is "doubtful" to play Sunday, Arians said, also because of a hamstring injury.
Running back Rashard Mendenhall also missed practice with a toe injury, which will be important to watch after he played well against the Lions. Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (biceps) was limited, as was Housler.
The Saints had seven players who did not practice: safety Isa Abdul-Quddus (ankle), defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley (calf), guard Jahri Evans (hamstring), defensive end Glenn Foster (ankle), safety Roman Harper (knee), running back Mark Ingram (toe) and defensive end Tom Johnson (hamstring).
The Saints, hosting the Cards Sunday, are 2-0 even though both coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees talked about about much improvement the team still needs to make.
"I feel like we have left a lot of opportunities out on the field," Brees said. "We've been kind of lucky to come away with the wins in those ballgames with the way we have played at times."
But the Saints remain powerful on offense, especially at home in the Superdome. And as good as Brees has been with Graham or receivers Marques Colston and Lance Moore, it is running back Darren Sproles that gives Arians pause.
"He's probably the most explosive player on the field," Arians said. "He's the guy who concerns me most on their whole team."