- Associated Press - Monday, June 13, 2016

METAIRIE, La. (AP) - New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Hau’oli Kikaha has an anterior cruciate ligament injury in his left knee, the same knee in which the 2015 second-round draft choice had ACL repairs twice during his college career at Washington, said a person familiar with the situation.

The person said physicians continue to evaluate the full extent of the injury, but that Kikaha will not play in the 2016 season. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Monday because the Saints and Kikaha have not publicly discussed the injury.

Kikaha played in 15 games as a rookie and was in on 50 tackles with four sacks, four forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

He was injured during voluntary offseason practices last week, but the Saints have not yet placed him on injured reserve.

Kikaha’s previous left anterior cruciate ligament injuries sidelined him for most of 2011 and all of 2012. However, he flourished after coming back for 2013 and 2014 seasons, finishing his Washington career with a school-record 36 career sacks. He led all Division I Football Bowl Subdivision players in sacks with 19 in 2014 and was named Associated Press first-team All-America. The Saints then drafted him 44th overall, hoping he could improve a defense that has ranked next to last in the NFL the past two seasons.

The 6-foot-2, 253-pound Kikaha was expected to play a somewhat different role this season, lining up as more of a pass rusher off the edge than as a traditional outside linebacker. Before his injury, he’d said he was enjoying the change.

When he missed practice last Thursday, several teammates expressed concern that Kikaha could be sidelined for an extended period, but they did not discuss specifics about the injury.

New Orleans has several players in line to compete for more snaps at the position where Kikaha had been working, including German-born outside linebacker Kasim Edebali, whose five sacks last season ranked second on the club.

Second-year pro Davis Tull, who spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve because of a shoulder injury, also has been taking snaps as an edge rusher during recent offseason practices. Tull had 37 sacks and 60 tackles for losses in his career at Chattanooga, which plays in college football’s Division I Football Championship Subdivision.

Obum Gwacham, who is listed as a defensive end and was claimed off of waivers from Seattle last season, was taking snaps last Thursday with the first-team defense at the same spot in which Kikaha had been working.

Gwacham noted that he has been pleased by his form at practice since bulking up by about 15 pounds to around 258.

“Putting on that weight has definitely helped,” Gwacham said. “I feel a lot more confident. … I feel like I can hold my ground a lot easier. And I definitely feel a lot more explosive.”

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/AP_NFL


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