Veteran kick returner, tight end brought back as Saints prepare for Baltimore
The Saints have two familiar faces back in camp after the bye week. Veteran WR Michael Lewis returns to practice after spending the regular season so far on the physically-unable-to-perform list, and TE Billy Miller is back with the team to ease the temporary loss of starter Ernie Conwell.
Lewis is apparently recovered from a severe knee injury suffered early last season in New York against the Giants. After spending the first six weeks of the season on the PUP, Lewis is available to practice with the Saints for the next three weeks. Before then, the Saints must either activate Lewis to the 53-man roster, place him on injured reserve and end his second straight season, or terminate his contract.
Lewis, who owns the league's single-season return yardage record and the most productive kick and punt returner in team history, arrives at a good time for the Saints. RB Reggie Bush has a strong 10.7 yard average on 15 of the team's punt returns so far, while RB Aaron Stecker is averaging only 21.6 yards, having taken 10 of 18 kickoff returns so far. Lewis averaged almost 26 yards per kickoff return in his record-breaking 2002 season and over 24 yards per return in his career. If healthy, Lewis may replace one of the Saints' young receivers currently on the roster, a depth chart which features Joe Horn, Devery Henderson, Marques Colston, Terrance Copper, Jamal Jones and Lance Moore.
The Saints depth chart at tight end, however, is much more shallow. With starter Ernie Conwell out, the Saints have reliable blocking-style veteran Mark Campbell and skyscraping 6'7 Nate Lawrie at the top options. Campbell has three catches on the season, while Lawrie made his first catch as a Saint and only his second career reception in the Saints' last game against the Eagles. Arriving to be the new #3 option is veteran Billy Miller, who was with the Saints in the offseason and through training camp. The pass-receiving Miller, a former USC product, was a 7th round pick of the Broncos in 1999 as a receiver. Moved to tight end and cut before the 2001 season, Miller re-emerged with the expansion team Texans, scoring the first touchdown in the new franchise's history on a catch and dive from David Carr. The 6'3, 253 pound, 29-year old athlete arrives back with the team, likely only until Ernie Conwell recovers from a moderate knee injury in 2-4 weeks.
Last week, the Saints waived emergency QB Jason Fife, who has been on and off the Saints 53-man regular season roster often as the team's injury situation changes.