METAIRIE, La. (AP) Playing light-heartedly off his recent national television commercial, Saints backup quarterback Luke McCown says he's prepared for his ''chance to shine'' if starter Drew Brees cannot play at Carolina on Sunday.
The right-handed Brees has a bruised rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder. Brees says he's confident he can play, but he was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday.
In his TV ad, McCown touts how good the backup systems for a mobile phone company would be if needed.
''I've been at this a long time and I've played this role as a backup for a long time. The thing with backups around this league is that you prepare every week to be the starter,'' said McCown, a 12-year veteran.
''This week of preparation has been no different for me,'' McCown added. ''You're getting all the mental reps you can get, studying all the looks, memorizing the formations of the plays, and then just being ready, if Drew ever goes down to be ready, and shine like all backups want the chance to shine, right?''
Missing practice for New Orleans on Thursday were receiver Brandin Cooks (ankle), safety Jairus Byrd (knee) and guard Jahri Evans (knee).
Cooks, however, said he feels well enough to play.
''I'll be out there,'' he assured, but declined to get into specifics about his ankle injury.
During the preseason, Cooks caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from McCown against Baltimore and had a 36-yard reception from McCown against New England.
''He's a great quarterback. I'm very comfortable playing with Luke. He's accurate. He can throw the ball well. So it's not a worry of mine or I don't think it's a worry on this team if that was to happen.''
Meanwhile, the Saints were increasingly hopeful about the possible returns of cornerback Keenan Lewis (hip) and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (toe), who have not played yet this season. Both have returned to practice in a limited basis this week.
Ellerbe, who was acquired this offseason from Miami in a trade that sent receiver Kenny Stills to the Dolphins, was injured in New Orleans' first preseason game.
''It's kind of frustrating, but you can't let it get to you,'' Ellerbe said. ''It's an injury that you don't need surgery for, so it's just a matter of waiting it out.''
AP NFL websites: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL