The hits keep coming for the New Orleans Saints, and not always good ones in the last month.
Linebacker A.J. Klein was injured Nov. 24 against Carolina, and linebacker Kiko Alonso was hurt Thanksgiving night against Atlanta. Klein missed two games before returning and Alonso hasn't played since.
Safety Vonn Bell sat out the last two games, against Indianapolis and Tennessee, with a knee injury. And in the game against the Titans, cornerback Eli Apple (ankle) and safety Marcus Williams (groin) departed with injuries.
The Saints, like every NFL team, had to be ready for just such a rash of occurrences to their starters – or as ready as they possibly could be.
That explains why, in short order, New Orleans signed linebacker Manti Te'o on Dec. 3, claimed cornerback Janoris Jenkins off waivers on Dec. 16, signed safety D.J. Swearinger on Dec. 19 and on Christmas Eve, added cornerback DeShawn Shead.
Every NFL team has its "ready list." Not all of them have had to use it as much as have the Saints, 12-3 entering Sunday's regular-season finale against Carolina at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
"Typically, the ready list is players that aren't on the roster that we've got graded and if a game ended Sunday, we could call Sunday night and we feel like we've got a pretty clean evaluation on them," Saints Coach Sean Payton said. "I'd say usually four or five deep at various positions.
"There are four or five tight ends, four or five receivers. You've got a list of players that you feel like you know who they are and what they can do or can't do."
Jenkins was a late, bonus addition to the list. He started the first 13 games of the season for the Giants, was waived Dec. 13, and claimed by New Orleans three days later.
With Bell out, he would add depth to the secondary. But when Apple and Williams were injured, Jenkins was needed to play more snaps than forecast.
"I think (Jenkins played) well," Payton said. "For the amount of snaps he had, he played obviously a little bit bigger role with some of the injuries. But overall, well."
Swearinger expects to do the same, when called upon. And that could be sooner than later: Bell, Apple and Williams all didn't practice Thursday.
Swearinger started seven of eight games he played for the Raiders and Cardinals this season before he was released Dec. 10. The call from the Saints was a blessing, he said.
"Words can't describe how excited I am to eventually get to put something out there on film this week, being on a winning team, a winning organization," said Swearinger, who was inactive against Tennessee. "As soon as I got here you felt the vibe of winning, you felt the camaraderie, you felt everybody being together. On winning teams that what you have, so I'm more than happy to be here."
He said it's not out of the ordinary for teams to need help late in a season.
"In my seven years in this league, Week 15 and 16 and 17 are your hardest weeks, no matter where you are, whether it's a playoff team or you're not going to the playoffs," Swearinger said. "The (defensive backs), the wide receivers tend to get injured in Week 15, 16 and 17, that's just the business. You get the wear on your body and people have got to be ready. So this is the time of year that you've got to really take care of your body."
That's exactly what Shead was doing when he got the call from the Saints.
"I was just training. Training every day, at home, just at home spending time with my family," he said.
But the defensive back, who played for the Lions last season and for Seattle the six seasons prior to '18, winning the Super Bowl with the Seahawks in 2013, worked out for the Saints earlier this season and was prepared when the call came.
"It's definitely a difficult situation (being out of the league) because I definitely feel like I should be playing," Shead said. "But you've just got to wait. You've got to wait for your opportunity in this league. All you can do is control what you can control, and all I can control was just my workout and my grind. So I just grinded and grinded, waited for my opportunity and I'm going to try to make the best of it.
"There's a lot of similarities to the championship teams I've been on. You see it's a family here. Everybody takes you in, there's no egos here, great leadership. It's great to see that.
"It's great to jump back in (with a contender). I've been to the playoffs many times, and won the Super Bowl. So I know what it takes to win. I think that could be one of the reasons they brought me in, along with being able to play any position in the secondary. So I think I can be a great asset to help in any way, of course on special teams, too. Anywhere they need me to help I can go out there and make something happen."
Part of being ready when your name pops on the ready list.