New Orleans Saints defensive tackle and first-round draft choice Sheldon Rankins has been diagnosed with a broken fibula, an injury that occurred Monday during training camp practice in West Virginia, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.
The person, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the Saints haven't disclosed Rankins' injury, said Rankins is seeking a second opinion but appears to need surgery. Typically, fractured fibulas are not season-ending but sideline players for around six weeks.
Saints training staff used a cart to take Rankins off the practice field in White Sulphur Springs after he went down during drills simulating goal-line situations.
Coach Sean Payton said he wasn't "going to speculate" about Rankins' condition and said, "hopefully, the news is good."
The 6-foot-2, 305-pound Rankins was drafted 12th overall out of Louisville. He's among several players New Orleans acquired in hopes of improving a defense that ranked second-to-last in the NFL the past two seasons.
He frequently practiced with the first-team defense during camp and even intercepted Tom Brady during joint practices with New England last week.
Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen also declined to address Rankins' injury specifically but spoke generally about his approach when a key player goes down.
"You're going to face adversity throughout the season and nobody knows when and in what form it's going to happen," Allen said. "But if that's the case, it's next man up — next guy's got to step up, rise up and play to that same level. So that's our mindset."
Rankins becomes the latest of several projected starters or key regulars to struggle with injuries before the regular season has even begun.
Cornerback Keenan Lewis started training camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list and returned to practice only briefly before he was sidelined by a hip injury. Starting outside linebacker Stephone Anthony, a late first-round pick last season, was injured in the preseason opener against the Patriots, although Payton, who did not disclose the nature of that injury, has suggested that Anthony will return "sooner than later."
During offseason practices earlier this summer, 2015 second-round draft pick Hau'oli Kikaha tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee for the third time since his college career at Washington. That injury that is expected to sideline Kikaha the entire season.