Photos of Jimmy Graham from the 2014 regular season. Photos by Michael C. Hebert. (New Orleans Saints photos)
The New Orleans Saints haven't listed Jimmy Graham on this week's injury report, and that's just as well.
It's not as if the All-Pro tight end isn't going to play Sunday against Cincinnati in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and it's not as if it's going to be a surprise if he plays well.
The shoulder injury that helped limit him to no receptions on two targets against Detroit three games ago – the one that had him listed on the injury report in various stages of practice participation the previous three weeks – has been about as restrictive to him as a 5-foot-9 cornerback.
Which is to say, not very preventive at all.
Against Green Bay, Carolina and San Francisco, Graham has caught a combined 22 passes for 218 yards and four touchdowns. That's 39 percent of his 56 receptions this season, 37 percent of his 594 receiving yards and 57 percent of his seven touchdowns. And the numbers would be more impressive if he hadn't been penalized for offensive pass interference on what would have been a game-winning, 49-yard Hail Mary catch against San Francisco.
Graham, it turns out, has been administering as much pain as he has felt.
"I think each player is different," Coach Sean Payton said Thursday. "With him, he's tough. He's someone who's very competitive, but it can vary. Some guys have a knack for that and they're very comfortable executing, even though they might be sore and there might be pain with that. Other guys, it's not as easy for. A lot of that depends on the player."
Graham, it appears, is a player who can navigate through.
He leads the Saints in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns despite having no receptions against Detroit and only two against Tampa Bay, the game in which he was injured.
"He's tough," running back Mark Ingram said. "There are guys all around the league dealing with things and for you to just go out there and push through the pain and deal with it throughout the week, and continue to be productive and be great for the team, says a lot about his character and his toughness and how great he is.
"It's tough but at the same time, throughout the week you take care of it, get it to the best point you can get, and then go out Sunday and do your best. You're not always going to be 100 percent healthy. There are guys on every team dealing with something. You just get it right and you go out there and do your best to be productive."
At this time of the season, tight end Benjamin Watson said, the expectation of a player is to be a bit battered. So most have learned to deal with the discomfort.
"He does the same thing he does when he's healthy – prepare mentally, know the gameplan, take care of your body," Watson said. "It's Week 11 so we all have to take care of our bodies away from the game. If you go around this locker room, you see a lot of guys who just have to put in the extra work to keep your body ready so it can be as good as possible on Sunday.
"Physically, you expect to be hurting at this point of the year and you expect to have something to push through. And mentally, it can be tough when you're dealing with discomfort and pain and weakness in a certain area. But the body is an amazing thing. The body will adapt if you allow it to and take care of it."