Darren Sproles: Latest Update on Injured Saints Running Back

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistNovember 16, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 16:   Darren Sproles #43 of the New Orleans Saints runs with the ball against the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on September 16, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles has missed the team's last two games after undergoing an operation for his fractured hand, but it appears he is close to a return. 

According to Saints head coach Joe Vitt, via Mike Triplett of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Sproles practiced for the first time Thursday, and it was business as usual for Sproles:

More on #Saints Sproles. Team didnt hit in practice, but he caught the ball and ran the ball well, according to Coach Joe Vitt.

— Mike Triplett (@TripTP) November 14, 2012

With Sproles making a quick recovery post-surgery, it sounds as if he could be ready for the Saints' Week 11 matchup against the Oakland Raiders should the team need his services. 

Fortunately for the Saints, and perhaps unfortunately for Sproles, there's no reason to rush the electric running back into action considering how the rest of the backfield has performed during his absence. 

Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory have headed the rotation with Sproles out and have done a great job. When asked how the backs have performed without Sproles in the rotation, Vitt admitted they had done exceptionally well (h/t ProFootballTalk):

“For the first time this past week, we really dedicated ourselves to finding a role for these guys and [did some] game-planning to their strengths...to be quite frank, they were underutilized early in the season.”

Now that Vitt realizes he has a deep backfield, it'll be interesting to see how things pan out with Sproles almost back to 100 percent. 

Sproles is a valuable weapon for quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints offense. He's a legitimate scoring threat every time he touches the ball, so adding his versatility to the already talented backfield makes the Saints all the more dangerous. 

Sproles sounds like a full-go for the Saints in Week 11 despite limitations to non-contact practice. How much playing time he actually receives, if any, remains to be seen.