METAIRIE, La. (AP) -Saints first-round draft choice Robert Meachem has had a rough first month as a pro.
Coach Sean Payton says it's better that he goes through it now than during the season.
Meachem will spend the next month to six weeks rehabilitating his right knee following an arthroscopic procedure to clean out loose cartilage and repair his medial meniscus.
This comes after he showed up for rookie camp - in his own and Payton's evaluation - overweight and out of shape, then sprained his left ankle.
``I kind of feel discouraged a little bit because I want to show the coaches what I can do and you can't show them what you can do when you're hurt,'' Meachem said Wednesday. ``For me, it's going to be a time I've got to keep praying and just stay focused - don't let the knee injury get to me.''
The Saints knew Meachem had undergone surgery on the same knee in 2003, when he sat out a season as a medical redshirt for Tennessee. But Payton said there was no evidence in medical reports that team officials saw or in Meachem's performance at the NFL's scouting combine in Indianapolis that Meachem had any serious problems.
``We were completely on page from what we saw from his combine medical records and charts and if we felt like it was going to be something that was going to be real serious, obviously we would have taken that into account,'' Payton said. ``But the type of procedure he had done, it's not going to hamper him in the future. If it was something more serious, you wouldn't be looking at that type of rehabilitation time'' of six weeks or less.
Meachem stayed in New Orleans for the procedure, which was performed Tuesday by team physician Dr. Timothy Finney.
Meachem said he thought he was fully healthy when he arrived in New Orleans after playing the past three seasons at Tennessee. Four years ago, doctors never gave Meachem the impression his right knee would need maintenance as time passed following the initial surgery.
``They never told me they were going to have to redo anything. They just told me they repaired it and I wouldn't have arthritis,'' Meachem said. ``I thought I was perfectly healthy and ready to go.''
Meachem, who has worked hard at conditioning and losing weight at Saints headquarters since he recovered from his sprained ankle, said the knee soreness came on gradually. It didn't become debilitating until the second day of last weekend's minicamp.
``I don't know how I did it. I don't know when I did it. I just know that it flared up,'' Meachem said. ``My knee was swelling up and then all of a sudden, two days ago, it was killing me to sleep. I really wasn't getting any rest.''
Payton said the swelling might have gone down with rest and surgery may not have been necessary, but that operating was the best option with training camp more than a month away.
Players are expected to report - likely at Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., but possibly at team headquarters in Metairie - on July 25, with the first practice on July 26.
``The approach we've taken is to be smart about it,'' Payton said. ``It was something we felt like we could have managed ... and at the same time, just with the soreness he had, we thought it was better to quickly go in and clean it up. ... From a rehabilitation standpoint, the timeframe we're looking at is real conducive to getting him back in camp so he doesn't miss any time at all.
``I didn't want it to be a nagging problem,'' Payton added. ``The doctors felt real good about what they saw prior to doing the scope and I think we all felt like it was best to do it now. When his rehabilitation's over, it won't be a lingering issue. It will be something that can be 100 percent and cleaned up.''
Saints special teams standout Steve Gleason will be out for at least two months after having microfracture surgery on his right knee.
Gleason is expected to be ready to practice about a week after training camp opens in late July.
Now in the last year of his contract, Gleason, 30, has four blocked punts since 2002. He's best remembered for his last block, which occurred early in the Saints' first game at the newly renovated Louisiana Superdome since Hurricane Katrina. The block was recovered for a touchdown in the Saints' victory over Atlanta on Monday night football.

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