The New Orleans Saints now expect center Max Unger, who recently underwent foot surgery, to be ready to play in Week 3 of the preseason.
There were reports speculating that Unger would miss start of the regular season, but Saints coach Sean Payton said otherwise on Saturday.
"We anticipate probably early August," Payton told reporters on day two of rookie minicamp when asked about Unger's return. "I see him possibly being able to get into the preseason. Our goal would be Week 3 (of the preseason), so that's where he's at."
The 31-year-old Unger has been dealing with the same foot injury that caused him to miss one game last season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 14.
Payton said Saturday that Unger decided to have surgery about a week ago to insert a screw into the foot after not seeing positive results following the initial plan of resting the Lisfranc injury.
The Saints consulted with renowned foot expert Dr. Robert Anderson on the injury.
"At the end of the season, on the X-ray he had a little bit of a space there, where you would call the Lisfranc," Payton said. "And you make one of two decisions. Dr. Anderson, who we think is one of the best foot guys in football, felt like, 'Hey, let's rest it. No need for a procedure.'
"When we got back started in the offseason program (in April), it had increased a little bit. So he felt like putting a screw in it now was going allow him plenty of time to rehab."
Unger will miss 10 days of organized activities and the mandatory three-day minicamp in mid-June before the Saints break for training camp, which is expected to start in late July.
The 6-foot-5, 305-pound Unger started 31 of 32 games for the Saints the past two seasons after being acquired as part of the 2015 trade that sent tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks.
The Saints signed Unger to a three-year, $22.2-million extension last year that will keep him in New Orleans through the 2019 season. Unger, who made the Pro Bowl in 2012 and 2013, entered the league in 2009 out of Oregon as a second-round pick (49th overall) of the Seahawks. He has appeared in 98 career games, all starts.
During Unger's absence, New Orleans likely will turn to versatile Senio Kelemete, who can play all positions on the offensive line. The Saints also have second-year center Jack Allen, who spent the 2016 season on the practice squad, and undrafted rookie center Cameron Tom on the roster.
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