DATs DAVIS: Saints’ Jameis Winston Doubtful To Start Vs Vikings; Andy Dalton Expected To Play

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

With this week’s final injury report now released by the New Orleans Saints, quarterback Jameis Winston is listed as doubtful to play against the Minnesota Vikings. The Saints and Vikings take part in the upcoming international game this week in London, England. Wide receiver Michael Thomas (toe), safety Marcus Maye (rib) and left guard Andrus (concussion) are all listed as out. Star running back Alvin Kamara (rib) and wide receiver Jarvis Landry (ankle) were both listed as questionable.

Saints Head Coach Dennis Allen stated earlier in the week that the expectation for Winston was to practice on Thursday, and that Wednesday’s absence was a planned rest day for the quarterback. Winston has not practiced at all this week. Backup quarterback Andy Dalton has been getting all the reps in with the starters this week, and tight end Taysom Hill is getting reps in with the backups. Allen spoke to media on Friday, explaining that Winston has expressed frustration due to not feeling any better at this point in the week and that his absence was purely a medical decision. Dalton is expected to start this week.

Dalton was a free agent acquisition for the Saints this past offseason, after spending time with the Chicago Bears in 2021 and the Dallas Cowboys in 2020. Dalton was the long-time starting quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals since being drafted in 2011. Dalton expressed extreme confidence and comfort when talking about his chemistry with the wide receivers, noting that he has built a rapport with them since the Spring.

Winston has been dealing with a back injury since week one against the Atlanta Falcons. Winston was briefly taken into the medical tent in week one, but came back out and ultimately led the Saints to a come from behind victory against their heated division rival early in the 4th quarter. Since then, it’s been reported that Winston has been dealing with four fractures to his L1 – L4 vertebrae, which are located in the lumbar part of his spine. Saints writer Maddy Hudak went into detail about the quarterback’s injury, and how it has been impacting Winston’s performance on the field.

“The L1 and L2 vertebrae affect your hips and legs. Injuries there can reduce hip flexion and range of motion, and sometimes a feeling of numbness in your lower body. L3 is where it’s no longer connected to the spinal cord tissue. An injury here now involves nerve roots, leading to a sense of weakness in the lower extremities, and loss of flexibility in your hips, legs, and groin. Numbness and weakness might sound similar, but you retain strength with numbness—you just lose range of motion. Weakness means you actually lose strength; it’s no longer a superficial feeling.”

“Not only do you have a reduced range of motion, but within those confines, you lose flexibility in your stance,” Hudak continued. “L4 injuries are typically less severe but are important here: it affects your ability to bend your feet as well in a particular direction. Those vertebrae can uniquely affect the play at quarterback.”

Winston’s back reportedly had no further risk of injury, and is being dealt with for pain management as he recovers week-to-week. The last two weeks against both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Carolina Panthers, he struggled. Winston missed multiple deep throws to rookie wide receiver Chris Olave in week two vs the Bucs, as well as several overthrows to Thomas, Landry, and tight end Juwan Johnson. Winston ultimately threw three interceptions. He did not fare much better against the Panthers in week three, as the injuries limited his ability to move in the pocket and pick up necessary yardage with his legs.