New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton confirmed Monday that quarterback Jameis Winston tore his anterior cruciate ligament and damaged his medial collateral ligament in Sunday's 36-27 victory over Tampa Bay.
The Saints (5-2) will play Atlanta (3-4) on Sunday in the Caesars Superdome.
"He got the images back, it confirms an ACL tear and generally speaking, in this case there's damage to the MCL, which is not uncommon," Payton said. "It's the ACL tear that puts you out for a longer period of time. But that's basically where it's at right now."
Winston completed six of 10 passes for 56 yards and a touchdown, without an interception, against the Buccaneers before injuring his knee on New Orleans' second offensive play of the second quarter. In total this season, he completed 95 of 161 passes for 1,170 yards and 14 touchdowns, with three interceptions.
"We definitely were encouraged (with Winston's progress)," Payton said. "We felt like we had seen the arm strength, the leadership, all of those things. The thing we talked about all the time, they're going to evaluate you on your record. He was 4-2 and yeah, it wasn't always perfect. But he's someone that had become a vital part to what we were doing."
Payton said Winston's journey as a Saint – he'd been Tampa Bay's starter since he was the No. 1 overall pick in 2015 through 2019, then was New Orleans' backup to Drew Brees and Taysom Hill in 2020, and earned the starting position this season – made the injury even more devastating.
"To some degree, they're all personal," Payton said. "Not just Jameis, but we've had a handful of guys. When you see these guys go through the process of training camp, and each one has got a different journey – and certainly, Jameis' is more visible and he's a great example. But as a coach, you get disappointed personally for the player because the investment and the time spent on getting to this position – at 4-2, you're starting, you had to take a year and wait for this opportunity. Those are the things that are hard.
"And when you look at his injury, his was a classic field turf injury. I don't (think) that happens on grass. I know right now, the data says 28 percent more likely to have a player injured when we play on artificial surfaces, and this was one of those cases."
Winston was replaced Sunday by Trevor Siemian, who hadn't thrown a regular-season pass since 2019 and hadn't thrown a touchdown since 2017. Siemian connected on 16 of 29 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown, without an interception.
"He did a good job," Payton said. "There are a number of plays that he's got a free rusher, the ball's getting out in time. I thought he played with poise and made good decisions. That's what you want someone to do that's coming into a game, with not a lot of work. I thought he handled the situation well. The tape was good for him.
"We knew he was someone that had a quick release and good feet. Smart. I remember him starting at Denver, I think they opened the season with Carolina (in 2016). He's got good athleticism. And then we had a chance to acquire him last year and get to know him more. I would say he picks things up pretty quick, the ball comes out pretty quick and that served him well (Sunday) with some of the pressure looks we were getting."
Payton said the Saints are satisfied with their current quarterback room, which includes Siemian, rookie Ian Book and Taysom Hill, who has missed the last two games due to a concussion he suffered against Washington on Oct. 10.
He said Hill, who started four games last season when Drew Brees was injured and helped the Saints to three victories, is progressing. His two most productive games in victory came against the Falcons: 18 of 23 passing for 233 yards, with 10 rushes for 49 yards and two touchdowns, and 27 for 37 for 232 yards and two touchdowns, with 14 rushes for 83 yards.
"He's doing well," Payton said of Hill. "He's on schedule and all that's good."
As for bringing in a quarterback, Payton expressed an unlikelihood to do so.
"Look, it's been done every year where a team needs to bring someone in," he said. "The one thing in our league is, it happens all the time at different positions. This guy wasn't with us, he's with us next week and all of a sudden he's playing in a game and you're like, 'Holy cow.'
"And then when it happens at quarterback it's more significant because all of the nuances relative to learning the position. So, typically if that happens, that player would have to be pretty smart, a quick study, someone that could learn.
"But it's something that is not unusual. Maybe what's more unusual is if someone that's not with the club has to come in and play very soon after he's not been with that club. I think it's a challenge."