Saints could have Sharper by July after microfracture knee surgery

METAIRIE, La. -- All-Pro safety Darren Sharper should be healthy enough to return to practice from microfracture surgery when training camp opens in late July, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said Saturday.

Sharper has said he had minor arthroscopic surgery on his left knee after the Super Bowl.

A microfracture is an arthroscopic procedure designed to replace lost cartilage. It's more serious than a typical cleanup of the knee joint and usually requires longer rehabilitation.

"If you took microfractures and put them in the right column and just a simple scope in the left, from all the feedback we have gotten and in staying in touch with the doctors, it's probably closer to somewhere in the middle," Payton said. "There still was a little bit of that procedure, and it will require a little bit of a longer rehab, which is what he's doing now."

Sharper was one of the stars of the Saints' 2009 Super Bowl championship season, but he sat out intermittent practices and two regular-season games to rest his knee. He signed a one-year deal to return to New Orleans last Monday.

Had Sharper elected to go elsewhere in free agency, the Saints could have moved second-year cornerback Malcolm Jenkins to free safety. Payton said Jenkins still could play various positions in the defensive backfield.

"He's someone that has great toughness, good range, exceptional ball skills and he loves the game. So we have flexibility with him," Payton said. "He's going to get work at safety. But he can come down and play over the slot. He can come down and play outside."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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