Payton: Saints not looking for LB despite Morgan's surprise retirement

METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said he was caught a little by surprise when veteran linebacker Dan Morgan retired for a second time since signing last year, but he added that the team has no immediate plans to seek an additional linebacker.

"Barring something unforeseen arising, I don't think so," Payton said.

Career Statistics
Games/Starts: 59/59

Tackles: 386

Sacks: 7

Morgan's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, announced on his Twitter page Monday that his client was retiring and said the former Pro Bowl linebacker's decision is final this time.

Payton said Tuesday after a voluntary offseason practice that he has yet to speak with Morgan.

"I've just played some phone tag with him, and that has been about it," the coach said.

Morgan, a first-round draft pick by Carolina in 2001, spent seven seasons with the Panthers, during which he was sidelined off and on by multiple concussions. Shortly after signing with the Saints as a free agent, he retired and missed all of last season.

Morgan decided to come back to the NFL this winter, but he went out with a calf strain during the Saints' minicamp last weekend. Payton said Morgan appeared committed to his comeback throughout the winter and spring, but that something seemed to change after the veteran pulled up lame in minicamp.

"The thing that was different this time was that he had just gone through a whole offseason program, so there was a little more investment on his part compared to a year ago, where he kind of gave it a run and then decided to sit," Payton said. "This time, he had spent a number of weeks here with the lifting and the running and the defense. There was more time on task with him and (his retirement) was a little bit of a surprise, but nonetheless I think that afternoon I realized that he was probably going to retire."

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If the Saints chose to seek another veteran linebacker, those available include former Tampa Bay Buccaneers star Derrick Brooks. However, it didn't appear Tuesday that the Saints were inclined to seek out anyone new, even though linebacker Stanley Arnoux, a fourth-round pick in this year's draft, also is expected to miss the whole season because of a torn Achilles' tendon.

"Right now, we feel pretty comfortable with the group," Payton said. "We had 10, and now we have nine. Nine is what we go to training camp with."

Morgan was expected to compete with Scott Shanle for playing time at weakside linebacker. Payton said Mark Simoneau, who started at middle linebacker in 2006 and 2007 before missing all of last season because of a back injury that required surgery, could move over to the weak side. Jonathan Vilma is now firmly entrenched at middle linebacker after playing every play of the season at that position in 2008.

"(Simoneau) has flexibility," Payton said. "I think you're going to see him compete for snaps. ... He's probably about 90 percent now off of surgery and coming back well. That's a positive. He was playing real well prior to getting hurt at the end of training camp last year."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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