Horn may be back this week

Published 8:16 pm Thursday, November 16, 2006

Joe Horn practiced Wednesday and both the receiver and coach Sean Payton anticipate the Saints’ all-time leading pass-catcher will be on the Louisiana Superdome turf on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

“In Joe’s case, hopefully we pick right up where he left off and get him back in the flow of things,” Payton said. “It will be good to have him back, because he is someone who has made plays for us. Joe has good hands in tight traffic and is competitive.”

Horn has missed the past two games with a pulled groin. He said he could have played last Sunday but Payton chose to sit him out because he hadn’t practiced enough.

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He was listed as questionable on Wednesday’s official injury report, although players classified as such midweek often play on Sundays.

Horn said his groin did not feel too much different than it did late last week when he told Payton he was ready to play.

“It kind of felt the same. I ran around and caught some balls,” Horn said. “You have to practice on Wednesday and they have to get a feel for you and see if you can run and how it is.”

Despite playing in only seven games, Horn is second on the team in receiving yardage with 507. He has three touchdowns.

He said he does not want to quibble with Payton’s decision to leave him inactive last week and said the time off should not hurt his ability to pick up where he left off in terms of developing chemistry and timing with new quarterback Drew Brees.

“I’m not worried about the timing aspect with Drew Brees at all,” Horn said.

Payton said he agreed Horn “probably could have played,” in Pittsburgh.

“Yet I think when he and I talked about it he understood my decision,” Payton said. “What I didn’t want happening was all of a sudden another setback and now it’s three more weeks. … It’s hard for a receiver like Joe to miss Wednesday’s and Thursday’s practice and play in a game because there’s a lot mentally that goes into alignment assignment and it’s difficult for a lot of guys to miss the heavy work days and then step in and play. Joe understood where we were at. He was good about it.”

• Cincinnati has Chad Johnson. New Orleans has Joe Horn. Both have scored a lot of touchdowns and been in trouble with the NFL because of how they chose to celebrate them.

Horn is best remembered for pulling a hidden cell phone out of the goal post padding and pretending to make a call after one score, which drew fines from the league.

One of several times Johnson drew punishment from the league was when he revealed a small sign asking not to be fined by commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

They’ll both be in the Superdome on Sunday and Horn is excited about it, even if players have been increasingly limited by the NFL in how they can express themselves.

“It’s hard because our personality that we want to give is to have fun, to do things to make some of the fans that we see … enjoy the NFL, and the NFL has cut that out a lot,” Horn said. “So Chad was upset, I was upset and all the receivers who like to use props to just make the game fun — we can’t do that anymore. So we bring still some excitement. Most people that like to see us have fun wait for us to score touchdowns and do some exciting things.

“I got a little razzle-dazzle coming,” Horn added. “I got some tricks of the trade.”

New Orleans will try to stop Johnson from celebrating, but most Saints players said they generally enjoy watching him, in large part because they find him so funny. His better known antics have included sending bottles of Pepto-Bismol to opposing defensive backs because he intended to make them sick.

“Ten years ago I would have said, ’No way, guys like him are too flashy and weren’t good for the game,’ but I enjoy him,” Saints linebacker Scott Fujita said of Johnson. “I think he’s fun. I don’t think anything he does is harmful or disrespectful to anybody, so to me, I enjoy it, I enjoy watching him every week.

“But any time you can shut a guy like that up it’s fun, too,” Fujita added. “He’s a great player. I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”

Saints defensive lineman Hollis Thomas counts himself as another Johnson fan.

“He’s great. I laugh every time I see some stuff that he does,” Thomas said. “He’s a flamboyant guy. He’s probably a great teammate. But he’s not on my team, so … I like Joe Horn better.”

Horn, who calls receiver Marques Colston “Co-Co,” as in coast-to-coast, said he has been trying to get the standout rookie to show more personality on the field.

“I might have to teach (some celebration moves) to Co-Co because he’s getting in the end zone more than me,” Horn said. “I’m trying to get Co-Co to do some of those dances, but he’s kind of laid back. He doesn’t want to kick that rim just yet.”

INJURIES: The Saints listed six people on their injury report, but only Ernie Conwell did not practice on Wednesday. Conwell, who had minor surgery to repair a torn medial meniscus in his knee several weeks ago, said earlier this week that he hopes to be activated for the Saints next divisional game against Atlanta over Thanksgiving weekend.

He is listed as doubtful for this week, which technically means he could still play.

Horn, cornerback Fred Thomas (hamstring), special teams player Steve Gleason (knee) and tight end Nate Lawrie (back) all are listed as questionable but also practiced on Wednesday.

Receiver Terrance Copper, who has a bruise on his arm, was listed as probable. The Saints host the Bengals Sunday.