Tagged in: coach

San Francisco 49ers LB Dre Greenlaw to have groin surgery, out indefinitely

The San Francisco 49ers hoped linebacker Dre Greenlaw would be back sooner than later after he injured his groin in last week’s victory against the Detroit Lions.

On Monday, Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said Greenlaw would be day-to-day this week. On Thursday, it became clear Greenlaw will miss extended time, as he’s slated to have surgery to repair the groin injury, a league source confirmed to ESPN.

Greenlaw’s injury is the third this week to a key 49ers starter that will keep them out for an extended period. It comes on the heels of earlier news that cornerback Jason Verrett and running back Raheem Mostert will miss the rest of the campaign with knee issues.

While Greenlaw is expected back from his surgery, there is not yet a specific timeline for him to return, though he is expected to have the procedure in the next 24 hours and be out into November before being reassessed, the source said.

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Greenlaw appeared to suffer the injury while returning an interception 39 yards for a touchdown just before halftime of last week’s 41-33 victory in Detroit. 

Azeez Al-Shaair replaced Greenlaw after the injury and Greenlaw did not return to the game.

Al-Shaair, who is expected to replace Greenlaw in the lineup, finished with seven tackles, including two for loss, and two passes defended.

“He stood out,” defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans said. “Everyone could see the effort, the tackling in space, the way he played — that’s the way a linebacker should play. He made a lot of plays for us … I’m excited to where Azeez started the season and he’ll continue to get better and better.”

The Niners, who are staying at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia leading into Sunday’s game versus the Philadelphia Eagles, are coming off an injury-plagued 2020 season in which they at one point had players worth more than $80 million in salary-cap space on injured reserve.

Losing three starters in Week 1 has caused some Niners captains to take a proactive approach this week in trying to keep their teammates from not falling into a “here we go again” mindset.

“With the last two days working out here, it’s been talked about,” quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said.

“It’s something that you have to address. It’s not like you could avoid it in any way. It’s just one of those things. You’ve got to stay hydrated, do all the right things, the little things behind the scenes, getting with the trainers, getting with the body maintenance people. I mean, there’s a million little things that go into it and we just can’t get lazy, especially early in the season. It’s going to translate to later in the year and just on and on. It’s all tied together.”

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Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence will miss 6-8 weeks with broken foot

Dallas Cowboys defensive DeMarcus Lawrence sustained a broken foot in Wednesday’s practice that will force him to miss 6-8 weeks.

It is a huge blow to a defense that did not generate a sack in Week 1 versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and could also be without its second-best pass rusher, Randy Gregory, Sunday versus the Los Angeles Chargers.

Lawrence was listed as a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice but immediately had an MRI, which revealed the break.

Lawrence did not practice for most of training camp because of offseason back surgery but he recorded six tackles, two quarterback pressures and forced a fumble against the Buccaneers.

He has 45.5 sacks for his career and is a two-time Pro Bowl pick. As for Gregory, coach Mike McCarthy did not sound hopeful before practice about him passing COVID-19 protocols in time to play versus the Chargers.

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“If you look at the history, it’s been 10 days pretty much everybody we’ve dealt with in the COVID protocol,” he said. “We’ll just see how it goes.”

With Lawrence out and if Gregory cannot play, then the Cowboys would potentially turn to Dorance Armstrong and Tarell Basham as their starters with Bradlee Anae and Chauncey Golston as backups.

They have combined for 10 sacks in their careers, or only 3.5 sacks more than what Lawrence recorded a year ago. Basham has 7.5 sacks in 59 games.

Golston, a third-round pick, missed all of training camp with a hamstring injury and was inactive for the season opener.

Perhaps the start of Wednesday’s practice was a bad omen for the Cowboys defensive line. Assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett was carted off the field with an apparent right knee injury that will require surgery.

Since the 31-29 loss to the Buccaneers, the Cowboys have lost four starters: Wide receiver Michael Gallup was placed on injured reserve with a calf strain, right tackle La’el Collins was suspended five games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, Gregory was placed on the COVID-19 list and now Lawrence is out with the broken foot.

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Leylah Fernandez, one day after turning 19, tops Elina Svitolina, advances to US Open semifinals

With no players from the United States left to pull for in the US Open, the fans are adopting a neighbor from the North to treat as one of their own: Leylah Fernandez, an unseeded Canadian teenager with an exciting game and enthusiasm to match.

A day after turning 19, Fernandez reached her first Grand Slam semifinal — and became the youngest player to get that far in the women’s bracket at Flushing Meadows since Maria Sharapova in 2005 — by adding a 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (5) triumph versus No. 5 Elina Svitolina on Tuesday to earlier wins over past US Open champions Naomi Osaka and Angelique Kerber.

“I obviously have no idea what I’m feeling right now,” said Fernandez, a left-hander with quick baseline reflexes who is ranked 73rd and participating in only the seventh major tournament of her nascent career. “I was so nervous. I was trying to do what my coach told me to do.”

That coach is her father, who isn’t in New York; he stayed home and is offering tips in daily phone conversations. That helps, certainly, as does the loud backing she has been receiving from the spectators, who rose and cheered wildly each time Fernandez raised a fist high above her head or wind-milled both arms after winning a key point in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

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“Thanks to you, I was able to push through today,” she told the crowd after edging Svitolina, the Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist whose two Grand Slam semifinal runs include the 2019 US Open.

Not requiring any encouragement to get out of his seat was Fernandez’s fitness coach, who would leap and shout, pointing fingers or waving clenched fists.

Svitolina’s husband, two-time major semifinalist Gael Monfils, offered similar support from Ashe’s other guest box.

It was touch-and-go down the stretch — even after Fernandez grabbed the opening set, and even after she led 5-2 in the third. One way in which she held a clear advantage: Of points that lasted more than eight shots, Fernandez won 26, Svitolina 16.

Five times, Fernandez was two points from winning but failed to collect the next point. Finally, at 5-all in the tiebreaker, she moved to match point when she smacked a down-the-line passing shot that got past Svitolina with the help of a bounce off the net tape.

Fernandez put up both palms, as if to say, “Sorry about that bit of luck,” while Svitolina put a hand to her mouth in dismay.

Svitolina’s backhand contributed to her undoing late, and when a return from that side landed long, it was over. Fernandez dropped to her knees at the baseline and covered her face; Svitolina walked around the net to approach Fernandez for a hug.

Next on this magical ride for Fernandez will come yet another test versus a player who is ranked higher and has more experience on the sport’s biggest stages: Aryna Sabalenka.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, matched her best result in a Grand Slam tournament by reaching the semifinals via a 6-1, 6-4 triumph over French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who was seeded No. 8. Sabalenka acknowledged having confidence problems in the biggest tournaments earlier in her career, saying she has worked with a psychologist to deal with those fears.

It seems to be working, as Sabalenka made her initial Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon and will try to go a step further in New York.

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Miami Dolphins OL Austin Jackson, TE Adam Shaheen hit reserve/COVID-19 list

The Miami Dolphins placed offensive lineman Austin Jackson and tight end Adam Shaheen on the reserve/COVID-19 list Monday, sources told ESPN’s Field Yates, potentially leaving them short-handed as the team prepares for its Week 1 match versus the New England Patriots.

The Dolphins confirmed the moves Monday and also elevated cornerback Jamal Perry as a COVID-19 replacement.

“We think he can help us,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said. “At the end of the day we’re going to do what we feel is best for the team and bring guys up who can help us. We felt that way about him so we brought him up.”

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The NFL Network reported that Shaheen tested positive for COVID-19, which means he’ll miss Sunday’s game as he is unvaccinated and must quarantine for 10 days, according to NFL policy. It is not yet clear whether Jackson is on the reserve/COVID-19 list as a result of contact tracing or a positive test.

Jackson started 12 games as a rookie in 2020 after being selected 18th overall by the Dolphins.

He was slated to once again start at left tackle for Miami this season.

For Shaheen, who came to Miami via trade last offseason, this marks a second stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list in as many months after he was deemed a close contact in August.

Shaheen has also vocally opposed getting the vaccine, calling his decision “bigger than just COVID.”

“For me, it’s a personal choice, and it’s bigger than just COVID,” he said. “The NFL is trying to push it. … I’m going to continue to go through the protocols of the unvaccinated that they make me do. I’m not going to get fined.

“But they’re not going to strong-arm me into doing something for more freedom when this is such a changing atmosphere, and they’re already taking away freedoms of the unvaccinated guys.”

“I would never question Adam’s commitment to the team,” Flores stated. As for Jackson, if he is unable to meet the requirements to move off the reserve/COVID list, Flores said, “We’ve got a few different options.”

The Dolphins plan to work different combinations of linemen in practice this week and Flores called potential replacement Greg Little a “hard-working kid” who has “had some bright moments in the couple weeks that he’s been here.”

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New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley takes next step in recovery, completes first contact practice

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley and wide receiver Kenny Golladay participated in a padded practice Thursday, and Barkley took some contact seemingly without incident for the first time since tearing the ACL in his right knee 11 months ago.

It was the latest step in Barkley’s progression and a mandatory one before he gets into a match, according to coach Joe Judge. The Giants open the campaign Sept. 12 versus the Denver Broncos.

“We did a normal practice safely, and just talked to the guys and [they] gave me some good shots,” Barkley said afterward. “But it’s [about] route running and running routes just to get me back in the flow of things, so I guess you could say yes [I took my first hit].

“But [Thursday] felt good at practice and practicing with everyone on the team. Think that was definitely needed. Just grateful to be out there and just getting ready for the season.”

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Barkley will have to get through another fully padded practice next week before likely getting cleared by doctors.

The Giants don’t practice again until Monday.

Barkley is trending in the right direction and has a strong chance to play Week 1 versus Denver, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. There is optimism, but the Giants have been cautious and still could hold him back. It will ultimately be a team-driven decision.

“This whole process I’ve been a team player listening to the doctors, listening to the coaches, listening to the trainers, knowing that they have my best interest at heart,” Barkley said. “Whatever they feel that is best for me and best for the team, I’m willing to do.”

Barkley was activated off the physically unable to perform list on Aug. 9. He worked his way into live drills for the first time last week during joint practices with the New England Patriots while wearing a red no-contact jersey.

On Thursday, he shed the red jersey for the first time in live drills. Did he feel like his old self out on the field?

“I guess. I feel good. Taking it one day at a time,” Barkley said. “I’m just not even trying to think about do I look like my old self. I’m a very confident player. I know whenever I’m able to get back out there — maybe it might be one quarter, maybe it might be one play — whatever the opportunity is, when I’m back out there, I know I’m going to be able to go out there and be who I am and play how I am.

“Right now, I’m not focusing on if I’m making cuts, saying, ‘Is that how it was before?’ I’m focusing on getting in football shape, just living in the moment, enjoying the moment and playing football again.”

There isn’t much time left. The Giants have 10 days and just four practices before their season opener. Only one is expected to be with full pads. Getting through that would help Barkley inch nearer to being ready for Week 1.

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Minnesota Vikings TE Irv Smith Jr. likely to miss season after undergoing surgery on meniscus

Minnesota Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. underwent surgery Wednesday to repair a meniscus injury, according to coach Mike Zimmer.

Zimmer did not give a timeline for Smith’s return but acknowledged that the Vikings are preparing for the third-year tight end to miss the whole season.

“We knew it was probably going to be a little while anyway,” Zimmer said. “Those are all part of things you have to plan for.”

Sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Smith is facing a recovery timetable of 4-5 months. The Vikings placed Smith on the reserve/injured list later Wednesday.

Zimmer stated Monday that Smith was injured during Minnesota’s preseason finale at Kansas City, although it’s difficult to discern how and when he suffered the injury. The tight end was on the field for only 11 plays, and there was no noticeable moment where he appeared to get hurt.

“Sometimes injuries are like that,” Zimmer said. “You [don’t know] until you get in there. Honestly, with Danielle [Hunter] last year, that was about as insignificant as you can imagine. Then you get in and X-ray and MRI and do all those things and find out it’s more significant than you think.”

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Smith was primed for a breakout season at the time of his injury, having risen to the top of the Vikings’ depth chart at tight end after the departure of Kyle Rudolph during free agency. With Rudolph injured during the final four matches of the 2020 season, Smith stepped in and recorded three touchdowns on 20 targets, finishing the year with 30 catches for 365 yards and five scores.

“He’s just a great football player, and there’s no reason to think he wasn’t going to have a great year, but he’s got a lot of good football ahead of him,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “I would expect, whenever he’s back, the same great player that he was last year and that he was this August.”

According to Zimmer, team doctor Dr. Christopher Larsen repaired Smith’s injured meniscus instead of removing it, which could have led the tight end to develop an arthritic knee condition. Meniscus repair involves a longer recovery than a clean-up type procedure but will benefit the long-term health of Smith’s knee.

On Tuesday, the Vikings made a move to mitigate the loss of Smith, signing veteran tight end Chris Herndon and a 2022 sixth-round pick from the New York Jets for a 2022 fourth-round selection.

Minnesota also claimed former Jacksonville tight end Ben Ellefson on Wednesday.

After critiquing his team’s tight end depth as “not very good,” Zimmer said the Vikings would be looking to add additional players as they constructed the initial 53-man roster. Herndon spent three seasons with the Jets and found himself on the trading block after falling down the depth chart during training camp.

Last season, Herndon struggled with drops and fumbles and transitioned into more of a blocking tight end. He bounced back toward the end of 2020, recording 31 catches for 287 yards and three touchdowns.

Minnesota will also lean on its No. 2 tight end, Tyler Conklin, in Smith’s absence. Conklin returned to practice this week after dealing with a hamstring injury he classified as “minor.”

Like Smith, the 2018 fifth-round pick had a strong showing at the end of the 2020 season. Conklin finished his third year with 19 catches for 194 yards and a touchdown and developed into a consistent blocker.

Even if Smith had been able to play this season, the Vikings didn’t see specific responsibilities he would handle versus Conklin, which could bode well for this offense as it tries to compensate for the loss of its potential breakout star tight end.

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Cam Newton returns to New England Patriots from COVID protocol

New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton returned to the team facility Thursday and practiced after missing three consecutive days due to a COVID-19 protocol “misunderstanding,” with coach Bill Belichick saying Newton “didn’t violate team rules.”

Belichick mostly referred to the team’s statement — which said that the club approved Newton leaving the New England region for a medical appointment — when asked about how the “misunderstanding” occurred.

“I don’t really have anything to add. We released a statement, and I think that covered it as thoroughly as we can without getting into a lengthy thing. So we’ll just leave it at that,” Belichick said.

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Newton’s absence opened the door for rookie quarterback Mac Jones to take No. 1 repetitions each of the past three days, and he seemed to take advantage of the opportunity Wednesday versus the New York Giants, capping off his practice by leading the offense to an 80-yard touchdown drive.

With Newton back Thursday, Belichick said, “All the quarterbacks will get work.”

Thursday marks the Patriots’ final practice of training camp, and then the team will visit the Giants in the preseason finale on Sunday (6 p.m. ET).

The quarterback competition between Newton and Jones remains a top storyline, with Belichick having consistently stated that Newton is the starter but that, like players at any position, he has to reestablish that standing throughout the preseason.

Belichick has also said there could be a change at any position if someone performs better than the starter or the starter isn’t available.

Asked at what point he needs to transition from a spirited quarterback competition to having a starter and giving that player the majority of repetitions to get him prepared for the season opener Sept. 12 against the Miami Dolphins, Belichick said: “I don’t have a timetable on that. … I’m not sure.”

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Coach Mike Budenholzer signs 3-year extension with Milwaukee Bucks

After leading the Milwaukee Bucks to the franchise’s first NBA championship in 50 years, coach Mike Budenholzer has signed a multiyear contract extension with the team.

The deal, revealed Tuesday night, is for three years, sources told ESPN.

Budenholzer — who was entering the final year of his deal — now ties himself to the Bucks through the 2024-25 season. His extension punctuates three seasons that include a trip to the Eastern Conference finals and the championship victory over the Phoenix Suns in July.

“The appreciation I have for being a part of the Bucks organization is hard to express,” Budenholzer said in a statement. “The players make the success happen on and off the court.

We have the best players and to them I am grateful. They’ve grown and we’ve grown together during the last three campaigns.

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“We all can’t wait to get back to work and face the great challenge of competing again for an NBA Championship. … Let’s keep getting better and building great teams and doing great work on and off the court.”

A two-time NBA coach of the year, Budenholzer is 31-17 in the playoffs as Bucks coach, including the 2021 NBA title and trips to the conference finals and semifinals.

He’s 172-65 as Bucks coach in the regular season.

“Bud is a great coach and a fantastic partner to work with every day as we build a team that consistently competes for championships,” said Bucks general manager Jon Horst.

“We’re extremely grateful for the leadership Bud provides and we look forward to building on the success we’ve had over the last three years and congratulate Bud on this well-deserved extension.”

Before arriving in Milwaukee in 2018, Budenholzer led the Hawks to the playoffs in four of his five seasons in Atlanta. He had a 213-197 record with the Hawks.

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Atlanta Falcons quarterback AJ McCarron ‘heartbroken’ after right knee injury in preseason defeat

Atlanta Falcons backup quarterback AJ McCarron left the game in the second quarter of Saturday night’s 37-17 defeat to the Dolphins with a right knee injury at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium.

While Falcons coach Arthur Smith didn’t want to speculate on the exact nature of McCarron’s injury until after the veteran has an MRI, he did not sound encouraged by the possible prognosis.

“I really feel for AJ McCarron,” Smith said. “Any time something like that happens and it’s non-contact, it’s tough when you know what these guys put into it. I feel for AJ. We’ll obviously get the MRI to confirm but he’s heartbroken.

“He had bounced back and he was out there fighting, fighting for his team and trying to get the extra yards.”

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The injury came with 10 minutes left in the first half.

McCarron handed the ball off to running back Qadree Ollison and as he came out of his typical movement following the handoff he grabbed his right knee.

McCarron tried to walk toward the sideline but couldn’t initially get there. Falcons medical staff came to examine him and he walked off to the sideline. Minutes later, McCarron walked slowly to the Atlanta locker room. He completed 3-of-6 passes for 43 yards and had one run for seven yards versus the Dolphins. The run came a play before he hurt his knee.

Smith stated he wasn’t sure whether that play had anything to do with McCarron’s injury. McCarron was replaced by undrafted rookie Feleipe Franks, who he had been battling with for the No. 2 position throughout training camp. Franks, who was initially projected to play the second half, entered the game with 10 minutes left in the first half instead.

Franks completed 4-of-9 passes for 46 yards, no touchdowns and one interception while also rushing three times for 32 yards. He was sacked four times.

“The one thing that Feleipe has shown is that he can extend plays,” Smith said. “I thought he threw the ball a little bit better tonight at times. Still got to push him where he’s had a lot of growth and will continue to grow.”

Smith said in order to develop quarterbacks, you have to play them and that was the philosophy with Franks over the first two preseason matches. Smith said unfortunately the situation Franks faced Saturday — being forced to play earlier than expected due to injury — is what his role would be as a backup quarterback sometimes.

The Falcons signed McCarron to a one-year deal for more than $1.21 million on April 30 — hours prior to the second day of the NFL draft — to be No. 2 on the depth chart. A fifth-round pick out of Alabama in 2014 by Cincinnati, McCarron has played in 17 games, starting four and completing 62.6 percent of his passes for 1,173 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions.

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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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