NEW ORLEANS Blindsided.
The word aptly describes the initial reaction of New Orleans Saints officials in the wake of the sudden and troubling loss of talented left tackle Terron Armstead, who protects the blind side of right-handed quarterback Drew Brees when No. 9 drops back to pass.
Armstead underwent surgery Monday to repair a torn labrum and is expected to miss four to six months.
And while the news is quite sobering for Who Dat Nation as June slips into July, things could be a lot worse.
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For instance, the injury to Armstead could have happened on the eve of the regular season or during the season for that matter, placing coach Sean Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis in full panic mode. At least, team officials have several personnel options currently on the roster to consider before the start of training camp in late July.
Payton and the Saints have been down this path before at left tackle. Consider:
▪ In 2006, promising but unproven Jammal Brown asserted himself in his second season and helped the Saints win the NFC West and advance to the conference championship game in Payton’s first year on the job.
▪ In 2009, Jermon Bushrod took over the starting job at left tackle in training camp in the absence of Brown who missed the entire season with a torn ACL. The Saints didn’t miss a step with Bushrod in the lineup, going on to win the NFC South and Super Bowl XLIV. After the season, team officials traded Brown to the Washington Redskins.
▪ Bushrod kept the starting job through the “Bounty Gate” season of 2012, earning a Pro Bowl honor that season and eventually signing a five-year, $35 million with the Chicago Bears in the offseason.
▪ With Bushrod gone, the Saints turned to Charles Brown in 2013. In Week 16, against Carolina on the road, Payton made a stunning change at left tackle, benching Brown and inserting Armstead. The Panthers prevailed 17-13 but Armstead held his own against elite pass rusher Charles Johnson, helping pave the way for Brown’s departure via free agency after the season.
Armstead had made a name for himself coming out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, running the fastest 40-yard dash (4.71 seconds) of any offensive lineman in the history of the scouting combine. His other pre-draft measureables made him one of the steals of the ’13 draft.
And while Armstead has played well since being thrown into the fray in 2013, he has been hobbled by various injuries in each of the last three seasons, with the latest coming during a non-contact blocking drill in minicamp June 14.
Now, Payton and the Saints are left to tackle the problem.
Brian Allee-Walsh is a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.