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Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne out for preseason

New Orleans Saints linebackers Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne are battling injuries that are expected to keep them out for the remainder of the preseason, Bradley Handwerger of WWLTV.com reported Monday.

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Saints interim coach Joe Vitt later said Lofton has a high ankle sprain but is expected to be back before the Sept. 9 regular-season opener against the Washington Redskins. Vitt wouldn't rule out Hawthorne, who will need surgery to repair torn meniscus in his knee, for the opener.

"We certainly think Curtis is going to be ready for the first game. The diagnosis on David is encouraging," said Vitt, whom The Associated Press said noted that Hawthorne kept playing in Friday night's preseason loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars even after suffering the injury.

"Our pro personnel people do an outstanding job in acquiring talent for us," Vitt added. "We'll see what talent is available to us on other rosters in potential trades or picking someone up when they're waived, but we're happy with what we have now."

With middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma facing a season-long suspension, the Saints signed Lofton away from the Atlanta Falcons with a five-year, $27.5 million contract in March. Hawthorne was signed to a five-year, $19 million contract in April. Lofton and Hawthorne (Seattle Seahawks) led their previous teams in tackles in each of the last three seasons.

Depth at linebacker suddenly is an issue for the Saints, who also lost free-agent addition Chris Chamberlain to a torn anterior cruciate ligament during the 27-24 loss to the Jaguars.

Ramon Humber will serve as the starting middle linebacker while Lofton is out, Vitt said. If Lofton isn't healthy enough to return by Week 1, the Saints will be in a real bind. Humber is suspended for the first three games of the season for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy.

Follow Brian McIntyre on Twitter @brian_mcintyre.

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