METAIRIE, La. — Drew Brees has a reputation as an accessible star. Now pass rushers are starting to see the Saints quarterback in a similar light.
Heading into Sunday's game against the Bucs, Brees has been sacked 19 times, more than for the entire 2006, '07 or '08 seasons and one fewer than in 2009.
That statistic is a troubling one for New Orleans' offensive linemen, who aren't used to seeing Brees take such a pounding.
"We're definitely talking about it," guard Carl Nicks said. "It's a direct challenge to your skill, your pride, your craft."
When Brees was getting good protection, he suggested that his offensive line's success stemmed in part from stability. This season, Brees has had several different sets of blockers.
Jonathan Goodwin, who had started three seasons at center, signed with the 49ers. The Saints signed veteran Olin Kreutz, who left after six games and was replaced by Brian de la Puente.
The team also waived right tackle Jon Stinchcomb, who had started every game for five seasons but played with a quad injury for much of 2010.
Stinchcomb was replaced by veteran Zach Strief, who sprained his knee in Week 3 and was spelled by second-year pro Charles Brown. Brown went down Sunday with a hip injury and on Wednesday was placed on injured reserve.
Strief is practicing fully this week and ready to start again.
FORTE UPSET: Bears running back Matt Forte told the Chicago Sun-Times he thinks his durability is being taken for granted, and he wants to be rewarded for his effort. ''The running back position is the most physically demanding on the field,'' said Forte, who hasn't missed a game in four seasons. ''Everyone acknowledges that. So to continue to give me the touches I've had since my rookie year but not award me a long-term contract sends the message that you're okay grinding me into a pulp.''
DRUGS CITED in death: Bubba Smith, the NFL player turned actor and TV pitchman, died of acute drug intoxication and other conditions, the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office said. Smith, 66, was found dead in his Baldwin Hills, Calif., home Aug. 3. Autopsy results showed the 6-foot-7 Smith had high levels of the weight-loss drug phentermine in his system.
Tebow cool with playful lions: Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow had no problem with Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch striking the prayerful pose known as "Tebowing" after sacking him Sunday. Tebow said he figures Tulloch was just having fun, not mocking him or his Christian faith by participating in the phenomenon that's become an Internet sensation. "He was just celebrating, having fun with his teammates, and I don't take offense to that," Tebow said. "I was bothered that I gave up a sack and that I didn't break the tackle. That bothered me."
CONCUSSIONS: The NFL has told its game officials to watch closely for concussion symptoms in players. The league's injury and safety panel issued the directive 10 days after Chargers guard Kris Dielman sustained a head injury against the Jets then suffered a seizure on the flight home.
BENGALS: Running back Cedric Benson was at practice after a one-game suspension for violating the NFL's conduct policy.
BILLS: A scoring change gave the team a 10th sack in its 23-0 victory Sunday over the Redskins. That's the second most in team history and the most ever allowed by Washington.
BROWNS: Running back Peyton Hillis apologized for missing a Halloween party for kids at a downtown Cleveland Boys & Girls club, an absence he blamed on a miscommunication.
CARDINALS: Quarterback Kevin Kolb sat out practice with a turf toe injury, and running back Beanie Wells also did not practice because of a sore right knee.
FALCONS: Left tackle Sam Baker will miss three to four weeks with a back injury.
JAGUARS: Receiver Mike Sims-Walker went on injured reserve with a knee injury. The team was awarded receiver Brian Robiskie off waivers from Cleveland.
LIONS: Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said he had no plans to change his playing style after meeting with commissioner Roger Goodell.
RAMS: Quarterback Sam Bradford, out two games with a high left ankle sprain, said he hopes to play Sunday.
STEELERS: Linebacker James Harrison practiced for the first time since fracturing the orbital bone around his right eye a month ago, but he's still not certain if he'll play Sunday night.
TEXANS: Receiver Andre Johnson, out four games with a right hamstring injury, was held out of practice.