Tagged in: healthy

Chicago Bears QB Andy Dalton could miss additional time because of knee injury

Justin Fields made his first NFL start Sunday for the Chicago Bears, and there is an opportunity the rookie quarterback could get the starting nod for another game or two.

Bears quarterback Andy Dalton, who was out Sunday with a bone bruise on his left knee, could miss an additional week or two depending on how quickly he recovers, league sources told ESPN.

Dalton has a bone bruise from his femur and tibia colliding, according to a source. Dalton did not suffer damage to any cartilage or ligaments and does not need surgery, but his return will be determined by how quickly the bone bruise heals.

The Bears have not placed Dalton on injured reserve, which would mandate that the 11-year veteran miss at least three matches. There is hope within the organization that Dalton will return sooner than that three-week threshold.

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Bears coach Matt Nagy stated this past week that Dalton would remain Chicago’s starter when healthy.

The franchise entered the season planning to stick with Dalton as long as possible, allowing Fields time to grow during his rookie year.

Fields, who Chicago selected with the No. 11 overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, stated Wednesday that he is ready to start Sunday versus the Cleveland Browns, emphasizing that he has been “preparing for this moment for a long time.”

Dalton, who turns 34 next month, suffered the knee injury last Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals after landing awkwardly on the Chicago sideline following a scramble.

His left knee appeared to buckle, and the three-time Pro Bowler immediately pointed to Fields to enter the game. Fields went 6-for-13 passing for 60 yards with an interception and rushed 10 times for 31 yards versus the Bengals. He threw two passes, both completions, in a Week 1 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

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Sammy Watkins agrees to one-year contract with Baltimore Ravens

Sammy Watkins agreed to a one-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens, the team revealed. The team stated the contract is pending a physical.

Terms were not disclosed but sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter the deal is worth $6 million with $5 million guaranteed.

The addition of Watkins ended the Ravens’ difficult pursuit of an experienced wide receiver for quarterback Lamar Jackson and helps boost the NFL’s 32nd-ranked passing attack. Watkins’ 4,665 career receiving yards are more than double the combined career total of the Ravens’ current wide receivers (2,032).

If he can stay healthy, Watkins can team with Marquise “Hollywood” Brown as Baltimore’s starting wide receivers and complement him as a valuable underneath target for Jackson.

It has been a trying offseason for the Ravens to land a veteran wide receiver for Jackson, which further raises interrogations of whether wide receivers want to play in Baltimore’s run-first offense.

Desperately needing a wide receiver in a dwindling free-agent pool, the Ravens watched JuJu Smith-Schuster turn down a better offer to return to Pittsburgh last week and then lost out on T.Y. Hilton, who chose to go back to Indianapolis on Wednesday.

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Baltimore eventually went with Watkins, who had met with Ravens officials on Tuesday before leaving for a visit with the Colts. When Indianapolis retained Hilton, the Ravens struck a deal with Watkins.

By joining Baltimore, Watkins reunites with Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman and passing-game specialist Keith Williams. In Roman’s only full season as the Buffalo Bills’ offensive coordinator, Watkins produced career highs with 1,047 yards receiving and nine touchdowns in 2015. Before being hired by the Ravens this year, Williams recently served as Watkins’ personal receivers coach in the offseason.

This marks the first time Baltimore has signed a wide receiver this early in free agency since the Ravens added Michael Crabtree in 2018. The most significant free-agent wide receiver signings by the Ravens in the past two years were Seth Roberts and Dez Bryant.

One of the bigger surprises of the Ravens’ offseason was Baltimore not signing a wide receiver immediately when it was among the team’s top needs.

The Ravens’ wide receivers have ranked last in each of the past two campaigns in catches and receiving yards, and this group ranked among the youngest in the league because their two most experienced targets (Bryant and Willie Snead IV) are free agents.

Before bringing in Watkins, the Ravens’ top four wide receivers on their roster — Brown, Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay and James Proche II — were all drafted in the past two years, and none are over the age of 24.

The signing of Watkins won’t preclude the Ravens from drafting a wide receiver, but it should decrease the necessity to select one in the first round. Watkins is only the Ravens’ second free agent signed from another team this offseason.

Earlier this month, Baltimore signed guard Kevin Zeitler to a three-year, $22.5 million contract.

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Green Bay Packers bring back Kevin King despite struggles in NFC title game

The Green Bay Packers are bringing back cornerback Kevin King on a one-year deal worth up to $6 million, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

King, the Packers’ top pick in the 2017 draft, had been much maligned throughout his career for injuries and inconsistent play. He concluded his season by allowing Tom Brady’s 39-yard touchdown pass to Scott Miller with one second left in the first half of the NFC Championship Game, then was flagged for pass interference on the drive that permitted the Buccaneers to run out the clock.

King has never stayed healthy for an entire season. He missed five matches last season because of a quad injury. He has missed 23 of a possible 64 regular-season games over his four-year career. He missed more games (17) than he played in (15) during his first two NFL seasons.

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Former Packers general manager Ted Thompson traded back from No. 29 overall in the 2017 draft, passing on T.J. Watt, among others, and picked King at No. 33 overall.

King has six career interceptions, five of those coming in the 2019 season, when he played a career-high 15 matches.

His signing keeps intact the starting secondary from last season, including second-team All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander along with safeties Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage.

The Packers have a new defensive coordinator, Joe Barry. Former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s contract was not renewed following last season.

The Packers lost All-Pro center Corey Linsley, who joined the Los Angeles Chargers on a five-year deal worth an average of $12.5 million per season.

The move reunites him with offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga, who left the Packers for the Chargers via free agency a year ago.

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Kansas City Chiefs tackle Mitchell Schwartz has back surgery, eyes healthy 2021 season

Chiefs right tackle Mitchell Schwartz is starting his offseason with a procedure.

Schwartz is undergoing surgery Wednesday after a back injury stripped him of 10 regular-season matches and the entire postseason. The ailment is the only one to hold Schwartz out of any games over his nine-year NFL career, offering an indication as to its severity.

In a social media post Wednesday before the operation, Schwartz said he anticipates returning for 2021, which could provide the first important step toward the Chiefs solving the offensive line woes that played a significant factor in the Super Bowl loss to Tampa Bay.

“I was hoping to recover enough to get back for the playoffs/Super Bowl, but that didn’t happen,” Schwartz wrote in his Tweet. “It’s time to address the issue. The recovery process isn’t too long, which is nice. Looking forward to a healthy 2021!” Schwartz, 31, has one year left on a contract that will pay him nearly $10 million.

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When healthy, he has been one of the game’s best right tackles — and before this season was one of its most reliable. In 2019, Schwartz did not allow a sack all season, according to Pro Football Focus.

He missed a snap during the 2019 season for the first time in his career but returned in the same game.

He attempted to play through this back injury in the 2020 season, starting in Buffalo before removing himself from the Week 6 contest. He never returned over the remainder of the season but put off surgery in hopes of a potential Super Bowl appearance.

The Chiefs could have used him. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes was pressured on 29 of his 56 dropbacks and scrambled 497 yards behind the line of scrimmage in an effort to buy more time. The Chiefs were on their third-string right tackle in the game.

Mike Remmers had filled in for Schwartz most of the season — and done so admirably — but when Eric Fisher injured his Achilles in the AFC Championship Game, Remmers moved to left tackle and guard Andrew Wylie kicked out to right tackle.

Both players struggled at their new spots versus the Buccaneers. Schwartz joined the Chiefs in 2016 in free agency, signing a five-year contract that made him one of the most-compensated right tackles at the time. He spent his first four seasons in Cleveland.

The Chiefs have won the AFC West division title every season Schwartz has been on the team.

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Chiefs’ Le’Veon Bell, Sammy Watkins and Buccaneers’ Antonio Brown, Antoine Winfield Jr. expected to play in Super Bowl

Several injured players for the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are expected to be healthy for Super Bowl LV.

Chiefs running back Le’Veon Bell (knee) and wide receiver Sammy Watkins (calf), as well as the Bucs duo of wide receiver Antonio Brown (knee) and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (ankle), are all likely to be ready for Feb. 7, sources told ESPN’s Dianna Russini.

All four missed their conference championship games Sunday. Watkins played in 10 games for the Chiefs in the regular season. He was out earlier in the season with a sore hamstring and later with a calf injury, and he did not play in either of the Chiefs’ previous postseason games.

Watkins concluded the regular season fifth on the Chiefs with 37 catches for 421 yards and two touchdowns.

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Bell joined the Chiefs in October after he was released by the New York Jets. Since his arrival, he has had a lesser impact for the Chiefs than had been expected.

After the Chiefs lost Clyde Edwards-Helaire for a stretch, they passed over Bell and made Darrel Williams their featured back in a Week 16 game versus the Falcons and in the divisional-round playoff game against the Browns. During the regular season, Bell rushed for 254 yards in nine games for the Chiefs.

Winfield suffered an ankle injury in practice last Thursday and missed Friday’s practice.

He still flew to Green Bay with the team, but after he tested his ankle out in warm-ups, it was deemed the best course of action for him to sit out the match.

Brown, who led the Bucs in targets the final five weeks of the regular season, suffered a knee injury in the divisional game against the New Orleans Saints. He did not practice last week, nor did he make the trip to Green Bay, as the team felt he wasn’t as far along as it had hoped in his recovery and thought a plane ride could cause further swelling. Brown caught a 36-yard touchdown in the wild-card game against Washington.

The Bucs’ other starting safety, Jordan Whitehead, who forced two fumbles, left Sunday’s victory over the Packers with a shoulder injury and did not return.

Whitehead underwent an MRI on Monday, but sources told ESPN’s Jenna Laine that it’s too soon to tell whether he’ll be able to play in the Super Bowl and that they’re taking it one day at a time to see how it goes.

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Nuggets star Nikola Jokic clears quarantine in NBA’s Orlando bubble

Since Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 back on March 11, prompting the suspension of the NBA season, dozens of players have sadly also come down with the virus. Thankfully none of them have become seriously ill, but a few, including Spencer Dinwiddie and Taurean Prince, have been forced to sit out of the league’s plan to resume the season at Disney World later this month. 

Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic was another who tested positive for the coronavirus, but he will be able to play after returning multiple negative tests, both in his native Serbia, where he was infected, and back in Denver.

While it’s terrific news that Jokic has been cleared, the timing of the tests meant he was unable to join the Nuggets on their flight to Orlando Jokic tested positive for COVID-19 back in June, just a few days after he was spotted hanging out with tennis star Novak Djokovic, who also ended up testing positive.

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The fact that Jokic is already healthy is great news, first and foremost, just for him and his family’s sake.

This virus is extremely unpredictable, and even with healthy people like Jokic, there are no guarantees. 

his virus is extremely unpredictable, and even with healthy people like Jokic, there are no guarantees. 

So that, of course, is the main priority, but also from a basketball perspective, this is big for the Nuggets. They’re in third place in the loaded Western Conference at 43-22 and will need Jokic operating at a high level if they want to improve on last season’s second-round playoff exit. 

How Jokic will fare once play starts obviously remains to be seen, not just because of his ordeal with the virus and the strange circumstances of this bubble, but because he lost a tremendous amount of weight during the quarantine — so much so that he apparently has abs now, according to Nuggets president Tim Connelly. 

While having abs is never a bad thing, it will be attractive to see how Jokic fares with a smaller frame. He’s always been a guy that’s used his bulk to throw opponents around and carve out space, and he might not be able to do that to quite the same extent anymore. 

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