Category Archives: NFL

Top New York Jets free-agent signing Carl Lawson ruptures Achilles, will miss 2021 season

New York Jets defensive end Carl Lawson, the team’s biggest free-agent signing from the offseason, will miss the 2021 campaign after rupturing his left Achilles tendon Thursday.

The injury happened during a red zone period in a joint practice between the Jets and Green Bay Packers at the Packers’ facility. Several players took knees and the practice fell ominously quiet as medical personnel tended to Lawson.

Safety Zane Lewis also suffered a season-ending injury during the joint practice as the Jets stated he tore a patella tendon and sprained an MCL. Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (knee) and wide receiver Denzel Mims (hip) also were injured Thursday, but their injuries are considered minor and both players are day-to-day, the Jets said.

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Lawson’s season-ending injury is a huge blow to the Jets, who were counting on him to be their primary edge-rushing threat in their new 4-3 front.

He had been dominant in training-camp practices.

The loss of Lawson will force the Jets to retool their defensive line under new head coach Robert Saleh, who spent the last four seasons as the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive coordinator.

Saleh is no stranger to dealing with injuries and still fielding a strong defense. The 49ers ranked No. 5 in total yards allowed last season despite the losses of Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas, Dee Ford, Richard Sherman and Ezekiel Ansah due to injuries.

Bryce Huff, an undrafted free agent last year out of Memphis, is the favorite to get a chance to replace Lawson as a primary pass-rusher for the Jets.

The Jets signed Lawson to a three-year, $45 million contract in March. He spent his first four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. Lawson has a history of major injuries. He tore his left ACL at Auburn in 2014, and he tore his right ACL with the Bengals in 2018.

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New York Jets OL Alex Lewis, a former starter, decides to retire

New York Jets guard Alex Lewis, who walked off the practice field Aug. 5 with an apparent head injury, has decided to retire from the NFL, a source told ESPN on Wednesday.

By rule, Lewis, 29, was eliminated from playing for any team in 2021 when he was placed last week on the reserve/left squad list. He was aware of that possibility and wasn’t surprised when the Jets used that designation, the source said.

Lewis’ head injury wasn’t the reason he left the team, as the Jets suggested soon after his sudden departure. “He’s going through some things which are much greater than football right now,” coach Robert Saleh said on Aug. 7. “We’re just giving him a chance to kind of sort through it all.”

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Lewis’ retirement culminates a tumultuous year.

The former starter spent time last campaign on the non-football injury list as he sought medical help for an undisclosed condition. That came after a heated practice-field exchange with then-coach Adam Gase.

In the offseason, the Jets replaced Lewis by drafting guard Alijah Vera-Tucker in the first round. Lewis wasn’t happy, a source said, prompting him to skip the voluntary portion of the offseason program.

The Jets approached Lewis about a pay cut, and the two sides agreed to a reworked deal in May. His base salary was lowered from $5.8 million to $3 million, and the final year of his contact (2022) was voided, which would have allowed him to become a free agent.

In theory, Lewis could try a comeback in 2022, but “it remains to be seen whether he has any desire to play again,” the source said.

Lewis, a fourth-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2016, played three years with them before being traded to the Jets in 2019. He did a solid job at left guard and was rewarded with a three-year, $18.6 million contract. He played in 44 career matches, with 39 starts.

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Green Bay Packers bringing back Jake Dolegala for QB depth

With Jordan Love’s shoulder still an issue and Aaron Rodgers not expected to play in the preseason, the Green Bay Packers are bringing back quarterback Jake Dolegala.

The signing was not revealed by the team but was made public by his agency, Generation Sports Group.

The team will have to make room on the roster before it can make it official. They were at the NFL-mandated limit of 85 players as of Tuesday.

Dolegala spent nearly two months with the Packers this offseason. He was signed in June after participating in the team’s mandatory minicamp but was released on July 27 shortly before training camp, when Rodgers ended his holdout and returned to the team. The Packers also released veteran Blake Bortles on the same day.

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Love injured his right (throwing) shoulder in the Packers’ preseason opener on Saturday. Coach Matt LaFleur implied that there’s no long-term concern but that Love might miss some time. He was held out of practice on Monday, and the team did not practice on Tuesday. They Packers start two days of joint practices with the New York Jets on Wednesday leading into their preseason game on Saturday.

LaFleur said Love could “potentially” play versus the Jets.

Love was expected to play into the third quarter last week against the Houston Texans but instead was pulled at halftime. Kurt Benkert, the third quarterback on the roster, played the second half.

Dolegala was originally signed by the Bengals as an undrafted free agent in 2019. He was the Bengals’ No. 3 QB that season but was released following the 2020 training camp. He spent parts of last season on the Patriots’ practice squad and briefly returned to them early in training camp this year.

Before Tuesday’s cut to 85, the Packers also swapped cornerbacks with the New York Giants. They traded 2018 second-round pick Josh Jackson for 2018 third-round pick Isaac Yiadom.

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Trevor Lawrence bounces back from early sack, turns in solid debut as Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback

Trevor Lawrence’s first NFL snap ended with a sack that nearly turned into a fumble, but the Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback didn’t let that rattle him.

The 2021 No. 1 draft pick bounced back from that inauspicious start and turned in a solid but unspectacular performance in the Jaguars’ 23-13 loss to the Cleveland Browns at TIAA Bank Field on Saturday night.

Lawrence threw for 71 yards — including a 35-yarder to Marvin Jones Jr. to convert a third down — but failed to lead the first-team offense to any points in his two possessions and admittedly held on to the ball too long at times.

But he also made some good throws and left his head coach feeling pretty good about the former Clemson standout — though there’s a lot of improvement needed.

“I asked [passing game coordinator Brian Schottenheimer] how he played, and he said he did pretty good,” coach Urban Meyer said. “I thought the ball to his left right in front of us, I think it was on third down, he really anticipated a nice out cut, scrambled and delivered a nice one to Marvin Jones.

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“He certainly wasn’t awestruck. We’ve got to execute better. We’ve got to protect him better. And we’ve got to get all our wideouts healthy and just play better.”

Lawrence went 6-for-9 and, per NFL NextGen Stats, completed 3-of-4 of those passes into tight windows, which equaled the best completion percentage on tight-window throws by a Jaguars quarterback in 2020.

The offense also was much more effective under Lawrence (74 yards) than under Gardner Minshew II, who threw for 47 yards and an interception and led the offense to 46 yards in three possessions.

“I feel like the first time out there, I felt comfortable, felt poised,” Lawrence said. “Obviously, the first play’s not kind of what you want for the first play, but after that, I thought we did a good job. We communicated well up front. They did a really good job of protection. At least one of those sacks was on me, for sure, just holding the ball too long. That’s something I’ll work on. Just maneuvering in the pocket is something I’ve always got to work on.

“Other than that, I missed an easy one to Marvin, a little quick out I wish I would have hit. But other than that, I felt good out there. I think we were seeing it, all on the same page. There’s obviously things to clean up, but I thought it was a pretty good day.”

The biggest thing for Lawrence to clean up is getting rid of the ball quicker, which he did at times on quick throws to LaViska Shenault. Meyer stated he would need to look at the film to figure out why Lawrence was hesitant to get rid of the ball, but there were times when the signal-caller had to wait for receivers to get clear.

Lawrence accepted to having a bit of nerves, but he stated those went away quickly, as he felt more comfortable on his second drive than on his first.

“The first play you’re a little bit, especially first game here in the NFL, you’re a little bit nervous; but after that, you’re just playing ball,” Lawrence said. “Definitely felt that [comfort] setting in.

“I usually typically get nervous before the first game of any season anyway, so that’s pretty standard. I was excited. I was ready to get out there. It’s been a long time coming. It’s been my dream.”

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Rashod Bateman to undergo groin surgery, may miss Baltimore Ravens’ season opener on Monday Night Football

Baltimore Ravens first-round pick Rashod Bateman will have surgery on his groin this week and could miss the start of the season.

“He’ll be back from that sometime in September,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said after Thursday’s practice. “I think that’s pretty good news.”

Bateman’s surgery likely jeopardizes his availability for the Ravens’ season opener on Sept. 13, when they play at the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football. Baltimore then hosts the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2 (Sept. 19) before traveling to face the Detroit Lions in Week 3 (Sept. 26).

Bateman tweeted later Thursday that he will “be back soon.”

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Bateman, who was projected to be among Lamar Jackson’s top three wide receivers, injured his right groin Tuesday while making a cut against cornerback Marcus Peters in a one-on-one drill.

Harbaugh stated Wednesday that Bateman was expected to miss “a number of weeks.”

The No. 27 overall pick, Bateman was one of the biggest offseason additions to a Ravens receiver group that totaled the fewest catches (137), receiving yards (1,729) and first downs (83) in the NFL last season.

Bateman is the fourth Baltimore wide receiver to miss multiple practices leading up to Saturday’s preseason opener versus the New Orleans Saints, joining Marquise “Hollywood” Brown (hamstring), Miles Boykin (hamstring) and Deon Cain (undisclosed). Brown, who hasn’t practiced since July 29, has been running off to the side and appears to be close to returning.

The Ravens’ only three healthy wide receivers who have caught a pass in the regular season are Sammy Watkins, Devin Duvernay and James Proche. Watkins is the only one with more than 20 career receptions.

Bateman had no history of injuries in his three seasons at Minnesota, where he played every game in 2018 and 2019 before opting out after five games last campaign.

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Seattle Seahawks cut DE Aldon Smith for off-the-field matter

Aldon Smith’s hopes of continuing his NFL comeback with the Seattle Seahawks are over.

The team waived the veteran defensive end, it announced, with sources telling ESPN the move was due to an off-the-field matter. The decision is not football-related but rather the result of Smith violating the team’s trust, according to a source.

The 31-year-old Smith has faced alcohol and legal issues for much of his NFL career, including an arrest in April on a second-degree battery charge in Louisiana.

That incident occurred shortly after the Seahawks signed him to a minimum-salary deal hoping that he could keep his personal life in order and continue his career revival, which started last season with the Dallas Cowboys after he missed the previous four seasons because of NFL suspensions. Smith has been staying in a sober living home in Seattle, as he did last season in Dallas.

While speaking with reporters on July 31 for the first time since signing with the Seahawks, Smith said his “tremendous support staff” helps him with his ongoing attempt to remain sober.

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“For me, it was just making myself vulnerable and being willing to trust and lean on [those] people,” he said. “I’ve always had people that were there, but I would always try to carry everything on my shoulders. So letting people help me and accepting that help was a major game-changer.”

Smith had been impressing the Seahawks with his play during training camp.

“Really good” was how one team source last week described how Smith was looking on the field. He played in the Seahawks’ mock game Sunday at Lumen Field and practiced Tuesday after the team’s day off.

Smith is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 24 in connection to his April arrest in Louisiana. He is accused of choking a man unconscious during an altercation that started inside a New Orleans-area coffee shop. According to the police report obtained by WWL-TV, Smith had confronted the man about marital issues the man was having with one of Smith’s relatives.

Two days before that incident, the Seahawks signed Smith to a one-year, $1.1 million contract that included $137,500 guaranteed.

Smith did not take part in the Seahawks’ voluntary offseason program — many of their veteran players declined to take part until the final week — and received an excused absence from their mandatory minicamp in June. Coach Pete Carroll said Smith was not physically ready to practice at the time.

After Smith worked himself into shape heading into training camp, Carroll commented about how hard Smith had worked to get his body ready and how quickly he was picking things up. But Carroll also conveyed the reality that given Smith’s troubles with alcohol, there was more to his quest for a roster spot than what he showed on the field.

“We really sense that the more we can support him, the more, obviously, we can be there for him, the stronger it makes him,” Carroll said July 31. “So that’s really what our intent is here.”

The Louisiana arrest was the latest of Smith’s several legal issues, which have contained multiple DUI arrests and a domestic violence charge. The NFL suspended Smith for parts of the 2014 and 2015 seasons and from 2016 to 2019 for violations of its policies on personal conduct and substance abuse.

He returned to the NFL last season with the Cowboys and had five sacks in 16 games, with three coming in one game against Seattle and all of them coming in the first half of the season. Smith set an NFL record with 33.5 sacks over his first two seasons and has 52.5 sacks in six seasons.

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C.J. Henderson rejoins Jacksonville Jaguars after missing Sunday scrimmage

Jaguars cornerback C.J. Henderson returned to practice Tuesday after being excused from Sunday’s scrimmage for personal reasons, and the team is positive that the second-year player can make up for all the time he has missed in training camp before the Sept. 12 season opener.

Henderson was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list July 23. He was activated Friday but has participated in only two of the team’s 11 practices.

“He can make us a lot better football team,” assistant head coach/inside linebackers coach Charlie Strong said Tuesday. “Just to see him get around us and get out on the field and go to work was really exciting.

“I think we’ve still got enough time here [to get him ready]. We’re what, a month still out from playing our first game, and then we have these preseason games and they will be good to get him back so he can get out there and run around.

But just knowing that he can get back and we can just teach him the defense and he can learn it, because we’re doing a lot on defense and it would be good for him to get back and just go through the whole learning process. Even if he can’t come after practice, just being in the classroom really helps.”

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Strong said he and coach Urban Meyer are committed to helping Henderson, the No. 9 overall pick in 2020, recover from a hard rookie season that included a shoulder and groin injury that eventually landed him on injured reserve in November and that the two recently visited Henderson at his home.

“Any time you have a great young man like that, you want to make sure that you do everything possible to help him and to help him get back on track,” Strong said.

“I was telling Coach, I said, ‘We’re out of the process of just trying to just get guys and just push them aside.’ Our whole thing is just creating value for him.

“… He wants to play. And that’s the thing. He’s going to do everything he can to get back, and we’re going to do everything we can to help him get back.”

Henderson’s NFL debut in 2020 was impressive, with five tackles, an interception and three pass breakups, including one on fourth down to seal the Jaguars’ triumph over the Indianapolis Colts.

Henderson injured his shoulder three weeks later but played through it, which contributed to his inconsistency.

A groin injury suffered versus the Green Bay Packers ended his season after eight games.

Henderson, who underwent offseason shoulder surgery, was expected to be the Jaguars’ top cornerback in 2021, but Sidney Jones worked in his spot with the first-team defense during Henderson’s time on the reserve list. Henderson worked with the second-team defense at times Tuesday.

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New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz will miss start of season due to injury

New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz is estimated to miss time at the start of the season because of injury, according to a source, adding to the Saints’ growing roster upheaval.

Lutz’s specific timetable is unknown, but there is optimism that he won’t miss too many matches. He missed time at the beginning of training camp with a groin injury, and the source indicated that Lutz aggravated a previous injury.

The kicker took to Instagram to acknowledge that he had an injury that had worsened and decided to get it “fixed now in order to miss the least amount of time as possible.”

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Lutz did not say when he hoped to return.

The Saints are signing veteran kicker Brett Maher after Monday’s auditions to fill in for Lutz, a source told ESPN. Maher, 31, spent two seasons as the Dallas Cowboys’ kicker 2018-19 and has been on practice squads/offseason rosters since then with the Jets, Washington, Texans and Cardinals.

The Saints are expected to have at least 11 new starters in Week 1 due to Drew Brees’ retirement, an offseason salary-cap purge, defensive tackle David Onyemata’s suspension and now injuries to Lutz and receiver Michael Thomas.

Lutz, 27, was a Pro Bowler in 2019 and ranks as one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history with a field goal rate of 86.6% during his five-year career.

The Saints will also have a new punter in 2021 after releasing longtime standout Thomas Morstead this offseason. Second-year pro Blake Gillikin is anticipated to take over the role after spending last season on injured reserve.

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Indianapolis Colts, Darius Leonard agree to 5-year, $98.5M extension that makes him top-paid ILB

The Indianapolis Colts and linebacker Darius Leonard have agreed to an extension, the team revealed Sunday.

Sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter it is a five-year, $98.5 million extension that will make Leonard the highest-paid inside linebacker in NFL history.

Leonard passes San Francisco 49ers linebacker Fred Warner, who signed his new deal at the outset of training camp that made him the NFL’s highest-paid inside linebacker at the time.

“I’m a competitor. If you’re not first, you’re last,” Leonard said of besting Warner’s deal. “To have my name at the top, that’s something I don’t take for granted. I have to continue to go out and prove that. You’ve seen the [linebacker] rankings; I think I was sixth, I was No. 8 on Madden.”

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Leonard joins offensive tackle Braden Smith as the two players the Colts have locked up to long-term extensions during training camp.

Leonard stated he hopes to make his training camp debut this week after offseason ankle surgery.

The 26-year-old Leonard was a first-team All-Pro for the second time in 2020, when he had 132 tackles, three sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries while helping the Colts return to the playoffs after a one-year absence. He was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2018, when he led the NFL with 163 tackles and also recorded seven sacks.

A second-round draft selection in 2018, Leonard has 416 tackles in three seasons and also has 15 career sacks and seven interceptions. “We all know Darius, that chip has served him well,” coach Frank Reich said.

“Whatever level of disrespect he felt from all that, he’s used that as a motivator in [his] own way, but what I’ve learned to appreciate about Darius is he’s going to be motivated no matter what to be the very best. He’s going to hold himself to those standards.”

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Jordan Love prepared to be Green Bay’s starting quarterback but says it’s ‘great’ Aaron Rodgers returned

He’s not to the point where he’s giving long and revealing answers like Aaron Rodgers, and he’s not one to crack up the room like third-stringer Kurt Benkert, so what is Jordan Love as he settles into the No. 2 quarterback job with the Green Bay Packers now that the reigning NFL MVP has returned?

No one’s immediate future was more up in the air during Rodgers’ standoff with the team than Love’s. Yet to hear his teammates tell it and to listen to him answer questions, Love was — and still is — nothing if not calm and even-keeled.

“Obviously there’s going to be either two options: Either he was going to be back or he wasn’t,” Love stated of Rodgers on Thursday in his first public comments since training camp opened on July 28.

“So yeah, I mean, it’s obviously very great to have Aaron back just on this team. Obviously he’s a huge presence at the quarterback position and in the locker room as well and then as a leader on the team, so it’s great to have him back.”

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A day after Rodgers said he tried to keep Love abreast of any developments during the offseason — because as Rodgers said, “I just felt that’s what I would want in that situation, just to hear from the guy” — Love called their relationship like a Master and Padawan, referring to one of Rodgers’ favorite movies, “Star Wars.”

Love said he found out about Rodgers’ return just before he boarded a plane to Green Bay for training camp.

“Actually, the whole time I had to convince myself that I was going to be the starter,” Love said. “That’s the only way you can look at that situation. I feel like if you don’t, you won’t be ready. That’s how I looked at it the whole way — is in my head he wasn’t coming back, I’ve got to get myself ready to be the starter.”

It was an invaluable offseason of work for Love, the 26th overall pick of the 2020 draft, given that he served as the No. 3 quarterback last season and did not even suit up for a single match as a rookie.

Much like in offseason practices, Love has experienced good and bad days so far in camp. Take Thursday, for example. He completed a tight-window crosser to Reggie Begelton and had perfect placement on a deep sideline out to Devin Funchess. But then during the two-minute drill, he went 0-for-3 with a pair of turnovers on downs and an interception by undrafted rookie Christian Uphoff on a wobbly deep ball.

“It was funny, I was talking to him in pre-practice today just about how things are going, and he seems so calm this year,” Packers guard Lucas Patrick said Thursday. “You can tell that he’s picking up on everything, and I think those OTAs reps were crucial for him. Just a ton of reps to say the cadence, say the playcall, go through things, hit strikes on quick stuff. Yeah, so I think he’s handling it well.”

Love said it helps that he can work in what he called “a great quarterback room” where he’s surrounded by the thoughtful Rodgers and the outgoing Benkert. While Rodgers was revealing again in his comments on Wednesday and Benkert cracked up the room by telling reporters the story of how he got cut by the Falcons earlier this year and that he basically invited himself to a July 4 cookout with some Packers fans, Love was his composed and buttoned-up self as he waits his turn.

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