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Saints starting tackle Jammal Brown injured at practice

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -What looked like a serious knee injury to Saints starting left tackle Jammal Brown on Tuesday morning was later diagnosed as a bone bruise.

"The encouraging thing is there wasn't any ligament damage the doctors were able to find," on an MRI or an X-ray, head coach Sean Payton said Tuesday evening. "So, we're fortunate and obviously that's a big relief."

Earlier Tuesday, trainers carted Brown from the practice field when he crumpled to the ground with a right knee injury. Teammates said he appeared to be in a lot of pain, but Payton said Brown's reaction may have stemmed more from the fact that knee injuries, which periodically sideline players for entire seasons, are among the things that athletes fear most.

In this case, Brown could be ready to get back on the field Friday night when the Saints host the Buffalo Bills in a preseason game, although Payton said it was doubtful he would rush his best blocker back that quickly.

Instead, Payton said second-year player Zach Strief and rookie Jermon Bushrod will get most of the playing time.

Brown has complained of nagging knee pain throughout his first two seasons as a pro, but Payton said the latest injury is unrelated to that.

"I think the concern was early today that that was the case," Payton said. "Fortunately, I don't think this was related to some of the chronic knee pains he's had in the past."

The Saints open their regular season Sept. 6 at Indianapolis. Payton said he would be surprised if Brown's injury lingered that long, saying he would estimate the absence to be "anywhere from three days to a week."

Brown, who was drafted with the 13th pick in the first round in 2005 out of Oklahoma, started at right tackle as a rookie and was moved to left tackle last season, when he was selected as a Pro Bowl starter.

He's part of an offensive line that allowed 23 sacks in 2006, fourth lowest in the league.

Strief was the Saints' top reserve left tackle last season.

Payton, however, was critical of Strief's performance Sunday in a preseason loss to Pittsburgh.

"He didn't play too well this last weekend, so there'll be competition over there," Payton said.

Strief, drafted out of Northwestern in the seventh round, played in nine games last season and did not allow a sack.

"My first thought was, 'I hope Jammal's OK,"' Strief said. "He's a big part of this offensive line, a big part of the team."

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