AP source: Saints lose Smith to injury for season

New Orleans outside linebacker Will Smith, one of the Saints’

top pass-rushers during the past nine seasons, has a knee injury

that will sideline him for the 2013 season, a person familiar with

the situation said.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of

anonymity Monday because the team has not commented publicly on

Smith’s injury, which occurred Sunday during an exhibition game

against Houston.

Smith, drafted 18th overall by New Orleans in 2004, spent his

first nine seasons as a defensive end. This year, he switched to

outside linebacker in new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s 3-4

scheme.

Smith was a projected starter, as was fellow outside linebacker

Victor Butler, who also is recovering from knee surgery that will

sideline him most or all of the season.

Now it appears that fourth-year pro Junior Galette and

third-year pro Martez Wilson will step into starting roles after

each of them missed substantial portions of the preseason. Galette

has an unspecified leg injury, while Wilson has only recently

returned to practice wearing a brace over his left elbow, which he

dislocated early in training camp.

The extent of Smith’s injury was first reported by the website

Pro Football Talk.

The Saints were confident Smith would be effective in Ryan’s new

defense because he was expected to serve in primarily a

pass-rushing role and only sporadically drop into short pass

coverage.

He had one sack this preseason during the Saints’ victory over

Oakland on Aug. 16. He was also credited with a tackle for a loss

and a quarterback hit this preseason.

Smith said he’d lost about 10 pounds, down to around 268, to

handle some of the outside linebacker duties which will be new to

him.

Smith had played in no fewer than 14 games in any of his first

nine seasons. His best season, statistically, was in 2009, when he

had 13 sacks for the lone Super Bowl championship squad in Saints

history.

As recently as last week, Smith expressed confidence he would

thrive in his adjusted role.

”For the most part, I’m going to be doing the same thing I’ve

always done and that’s why I said it wasn’t that big of a

transition,” Smith said.

Instead, Smith will miss an entire season for the first time in

what is now his 10th year in the NFL.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org