Brian Allee-Walsh

Saints limp into summer break with latest injury to LT Armstead

New Orleans Saints offensive tackle Terron Armstead needs surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder and his rehabilitation is expected to take four to six months, said a person familiar with the situation.
New Orleans Saints offensive tackle Terron Armstead needs surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder and his rehabilitation is expected to take four to six months, said a person familiar with the situation. Associated Press

Center Max Unger is wearing a walking boot after recently undergoing Lisfranc surgery.

Defensive tackle Nick Fairley's career is on hold as he awaits a third and perhaps definitive opinion from a heart specialist.

And now oft-injured left tackle Terron Armstead — the primary protector of quarterback Drew Brees' blindside when standing in the pocket — is scheduled to undergo surgery Monday to repair a torn labrum and be sidelined four to six months.

It appears the New Orleans Saints are in a world of hurt as they wrapped up their offseason program Thursday and begin a six-week respite in preparation for the start of what promises to be an intriguing training camp in late July.

On a critical scale, Armstead's loss is the most impactful because of his position and the amount of time he is expected to miss — a minimum of six games and possibly 10 or more after all is said and done.

Unger is expected back on the field in late August and plans to be in the starting lineup for the primetime season openerSept. 11 against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis.

And while losing Fairley would be a hit to the defense -- he played all 16 games for the first time as a pro and posted career-best number for tackles and sacks -- his loss would be absorbed by other role players. Team officials already have begun preparing for life after Fairley by signing well-traveled defensive tackle Tony McDaniel, who had come to minicamp on a tryout basis.

All that said, the dual loss of Unger and Armstead will cause angst for Coach Sean Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis in the coming months.

Ideally, Payton could shift left guard Adrus Peat (No. 1 pick in 2015) to left tackle and play swigman Senio Kelemete at left guard. Or, Payton could insert rookie Ryan Ramcyzk (32nd overall pick in April) at left tackle and keep Peat at left guard. Ramcyzk (6-6, 314) has yet to sign his contract as he is recovering from hip surgery and must pass a team-mandated physical.

Whoever replaces Unger in the preseason (Jack Allen, Josh LeRibeus) will be doing so on a temporary basis and merely keeping the seat warm until Unger's return.

No doubt, fans and media will be eyeing those positions played by Unger, Armstead and Fairley when training camp opens the week of July 24-30 at the team's facility in Metairie, La.

I'll have my eyes trained on Brees, who'll be working behind a makeshift offensive line, albeit his actual game snaps will come sparingly against Cleveland, Los Angeles Rams, Houston and Baltimore during the preseason.

As Brees goes, so go the Saints.

Brian Allee-Walsh is a long-time Saints reporter based in New Orleans. He can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.

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