George Rogers, the NFL's rushing leader as a Saints' rookie last year, probably will miss two to four games with a hamstring pull, New Orleans Coach Bum Phillips said yesterday.
"Playing without George in the game is like having Christmas without Santa Claus," Phillips said.
At that, Rogers will be playing sooner than several others injured around the league on opening day Sunday. Christmas will find some of them having missed all season but for their abbreviated playing time on Week 1.
Among those out for the year: Buffalo linebacker Shane Nelson, San Francisco defensive end Dwaine Board, Cleveland linebacker Clay Matthews, New York Giants offensive guard Bruce Kimball and Denver safety Steve Foley.
Atlanta lost linebacker Neal Musser with a broken arm and obtained Robert L. Jackson, former Browns' regular, from the Broncos on waivers to fill in.
The Saints also saw kicker Morten Anderson sprain an ankle on his first play as a pro, prompting Phillips to try to contact Toni Fritsch and Efren Herrera, veterans cut by the Oilers and Seahawks, respectively, last week.
Phillips defended his decision to start Ken Stabler at quarterback over 12-year Saints regular Archie Manning in the 21-7 loss to St. Louis, saying, "You don't run a football team on sentiment. You make what you think is the best decision for the whole football team. We got beat because we didn't play well, not because of who played quarterback or how they played."