Saints’ reserve RB Hill out for the year

Sean Payton would prefer to have a running back other than
Reggie Bush or Pierre Thomas handle the pounding of certain
short-yardage carries and those late-game runs when the Saints are
trying to protect leads and wind down the clock.

With two preseason games left, the search for that role appears
wide open.

Running back P.J. Hill, a promising second-year pro out of
Wisconsin, was waived on Monday and is expected to be placed on
injured reserve with a partial triceps tear that will sideline him
for the season.

Hill’s injury comes less than two weeks after a season-ending
right knee injury to Lynell Hamilton, who entered training camp as
the leading candidate to become the third running back after Mike
Bell, who handled that role in 2009, left for Philadelphia in free
agency.

”There’s a couple players that aren’t here who were here a year
ago at this time, Lynell being one of them, who’s now injured, Mike
Bell certainly being the other,” Payton said. ”These other guys
are going to have to really step up and prove themselves for a spot
on the roster.”

Now that Hill is out, the ”other guys” now consist of
undrafted rookie Chris Ivory, recently acquired veteran free agent
Ladell Betts and Wynn.

Ivory, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound power runner who last year
transferred from Washington State to Division II Tiffin, has
impressed Payton so far, rushing 26 times for 96 yards and one
touchdown in two exhibition games. However, he has made some rookie
mistakes and last Saturday against Houston, he was unable to score
on first-and-goal from the 1.

”He ran hard and had good effort. He’s got good balance,”
Payton said. ”He finishes runs well, which has been pretty
exciting to see, and yet there’s a ton of things that he’s working
on like any rookie would be.”

Betts, who in 2006 rushed for more than 1,000 yards with
Washington, has yet to practice since being acquired last week. He
is recovering from a serious left knee injury from last season in
which both his anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments
were torn. However, Payton said he expected Betts to see some
playing time in the next preseason game against San Diego on Friday
night.

”Trying to get him into the preseason will be important, just
so we can see what we have,” Payton said. ”Certainly his
experience matters, and yet you still want to see what you have in
the player, especially someone who came off an injury like
that.”

Wynn is a fourth-year pro who spent his first three seasons in
Green Bay. He played in only four games in 2009 before a torn
meniscus in his knee ended his season.

”He’s versatile. He’s had experience in an offense similar to
ours,” Payton said. ”With P.J.’s injury, we felt it necessary to
bring him in here.”

Wynn said he canceled a visit with a team in the fledgling UFL
when he got the call from the Saints.

”I’ll have to get in the playbook, because you can’t make no
plays standing around trying to learn,” Wynn said. ”So that’s the
most important thing I’m worried about.”

Payton agreed that there is some urgency for the new running
backs to learn the play book, but added that the timing could have
been worse.

”It’s harder when it happens in-season and a player arrives on
Tuesday, study the play book, practices Wednesday and he’s playing
in the game,” Payton said.

Payton also indicated that whoever learns quickest likely will
have a role in most games and could find themselves being called
upon to make significant contributions some weeks, as was the case
for the Saints’ top four running backs in their Super Bowl-winning
2009 season.

”Whether it was Pierre, Reggie, Lynell or Mike Bell, all four
of them played a pretty important role for what we did
offensively,” Payton said. ”My experience has been, you’ve got to
have depth at that position because the season’s long and those
guys get hit often.”

NOTES: Starting RT Jon Stinchcomb returned to practice for the
first time since bruising his shoulder in practice last Wednesday.
Reserve S Usama Young also returned from a hamstring pull that had
sidelined him since Aug. 14. … Rookie TE Jimmy Graham and
second-year LB Stanley Arnoux remained out, both with right ankle
sprains. … All-Pro FS Darren Sharper and veteran LB Clint Ingram,
who are both recovering from left knee surgeries, still have yet to
practice since opening camp on the physically unable-to-perform
list.