The Saints played their last three games without tight end Jeremy Shockey (toe) and played two of those games without receiver Lance Moore, who has missed eight of the Saints' last nine games with injuries to each ankle at different times. The Saints did not have an official injury report on Tuesday, but both dressed for practice and sounded optimistic about their chances of returning.
"I feel all right," Shockey said. "I know we're practicing hard to reach our full potential. I think everyone is confident on both sides of the ball in the locker room."
Shockey was close to playing late in the regular season but was rested out of caution, said Payton, who added that getting the star tight end back could be a big boost.
"He's a presence inside, not only in the passing game," Payton said. "He helps us in the running game and gives us flexibility with our personnel groupings, so he's certainly one of the guys we look at as a key starter. There are a number of things that he allows you to do when he's playing rather than when he's not."
The Saints also hoped leading rusher Pierre Thomas, who cracked three ribs in the first half of the Saints' loss to the Buccaneers on Dec. 27, would be back as well.