Saints’ Jammal Brown hurt in practice with apparent knee injury

Updated: August 7, 2007, 2:56 PM ET

JACKSON, Miss. — Trainers carted New Orleans Saints starting left tackle Jammal Brown from the practice field Tuesday morning after he crumpled to the ground with an apparent right knee injury.

After practice, head coach Sean Payton said he was not certain if the injury was serious enough to require surgery but said he was optimistic it would not.

“His knee appeared stable on the practice field, but we’ve just got to wait and see,” Payton said. “A lot of times you can tell right away if there’s looseness in the joint, but there appeared to be pretty good stability.”

Payton said Brown would have an MRI and that he hoped to have results by Tuesday evening.

Brown was drafted in the first round out of Oklahoma, 13th overall, in 2005. He started at right tackle as a rookie and was moved to left tackle last season, when he was named an Associated Press All-Pro and selected as a starter for the Pro Bowl.

Brown was part of an offensive line that allowed only 23 sacks in 2006, fourth-lowest in the league. Coming into training camp, all five starters were expected to be back for the 2007 season.

If Brown cannot return to the lineup by the time the regular season opens on Sept. 6 in Indianapolis, second-year player Zach Strief, who is 6-foot-7, 350 pounds, is a likely candidate to fill in as he did during one game in Tampa Bay last season.

Payton, however, was critical of his performance in a preseason loss Sunday night to Pittsburgh in the Hall of Fame Game.

“He didn’t play too well this last weekend, so there’ll be competition over there,” Payton said.

Strief, drafted out of Northwestern last year as one of the Saints’ two seventh-round picks, 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.”

At Northwestern, Strief started 40 games at right tackle but became the Saints’ top reserve at left tackle during his rookie season as pro. During his one start, when Brown sat out with a sprained left ankle, Strief lined up against Simeon Rice. The Saints posted 363 yards of offense in a 31-14 victory.

“It gives you enough confidence to say I can play in this league in a game situation,” Strief said of that performance. “I’m just happy it wasn’t a huge loss for that one game, but obviously, we’re better off with Jammal there and hopefully that’s how we’re going to stay.”