Tagged in: LB

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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LB Kwon Alexander agrees to re-sign with New Orleans Saints

Linebacker Kwon Alexander is back with the New Orleans Saints after he spent the offseason recovering from a torn Achilles tendon.

They agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $3 million, his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

It’s a birthday present of sorts for Alexander, who turned 27 on Tuesday.

Alexander, who played college football nearby at LSU, proved to be a good fit for the Saints after they obtained him in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers last November.

The 6-foot-1, 227-pounder started seven matches for New Orleans and had 27 tackles, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. His season ended in December, however, when he suffered a torn Achilles tendon in a Christmas Day triumph over the Minnesota Vikings.

The Saints released Alexander in March before he was due to make $13.4 million in salary and bonuses this year. But clearly they kept the door open, and they brought him in for a workout last month after he was healthy enough to resume football activities.

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The Saints are suddenly crowded at the linebacker position after they drafted Pete Werner in the second round this year and Zack Baun in the third round last year. And it’s a position where they typically play only two linebackers at a time, with Demario Davis locking down one of those spots.

But Alexander, who is particularly valuable on passing downs, adds to their overall depth and versatility after they lost some key pieces at cornerback and along the defensive line during a salary-cap purge this offseason.

The Saints have been filling out their depth throughout the first week of training camp after they cleared out more than $10 million in cap space late in the summer.

They have also recently signed cornerbacks Brian Poole, Prince Amukamara and KeiVarae Russell; running back Devonta Freeman; receiver Chris Hogan and guard J.R. Sweezy.

Alexander, who was initially drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fourth round out of LSU in 2015, made the Pro Bowl in 2017. He has started a total of 66 games in his career with 471 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 7 interceptions and 9 forced fumbles.

The 49ers signed Alexander to a four-year, $54 million contract as a free agent in 2019, but he was limited during the 2019 season by a torn pectoral muscle before returning for their playoff run. He played in five games for the 49ers in 2020 but was sidelined by a high-ankle sprain at the time he was traded.

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Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee retires after 11 seasons

After 11 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, linebacker Sean Lee has decided to retire.

A second-round pick in 2010 out of Penn State, Lee was a two-time Pro Bowl selection (2015, 2016) and the unquestioned leader of the defense for most of his career.

“It’s been a complete honor,” Lee told ESPN. “I’ve been blessed to play for the incredible Jones family, with such great coaches and teammates that I love like brothers. I loved every minute playing and tried to pour my heart and soul into winning and helping my teammates at all costs.

“To say the injuries were frustrating would be an understatement, but the support I received through them all was humbling and the lessons I learned battling adversity will last a lifetime. There are always regrets, but I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish and I leave this game grateful.”

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Injuries marked Lee’s time with the Cowboys, but when healthy he was one of the best linebackers in the NFL.

The 34-year-old led the Cowboys in tackles in 2011 and 2015-17, and he retains five of the top seven tackle games in team history, including a record 22 vs. the Giants in 2016.

He also had 14 career interceptions, returning two of them for touchdowns; 5 fumble recoveries; 2 forced fumbles; 59 tackles for loss; and 4 sacks.

He was credited with 995 tackles for his career, good for eighth in team history. He averaged 8.4 tackles per game, the most among the top 10 tacklers in team history. Darren Woodson, who is the franchise leader with 1,350, averaged 7.6 tackles per game.

Lee missed time with hamstring, wrist, toe, neck, knee and core-muscle injuries as well as concussions. He missed the 2014 campaign due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

He played in just nine matches last season after undergoing sports hernia surgery in September but was feeling better at the end of the year and contemplated a return for a 12th season.

His impact off the field was just as great as it was on the field.

“As an individual he’s one of the most selfless people that I’ve ever been around,” linebacker Leighton Vander Esch stated after the season.

“The dude just truly loves the game, and he is going to do what’s best for the game. He’s extremely intelligent, he understands it like nobody I’ve been around. He’s just a phenomenal individual — his character bleeds off and is contagious.

“He’s like an older brother to me, and I know he wants to see everyone around him succeed and that’s just what’s special about him. If other people are succeeding, [if] the team is succeeding? He’s just as happy as if he was out there doing it. I think it’s special to have a guy like him around. They don’t come around very often.”

Lee’s decision continues an offseason shift for the Cowboys in longevity and leadership as defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford, a nine-year veteran, also elected to retire and the team moved on from 16-year long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur.

With Lee and Crawford not returning, DeMarcus Lawrence, a second-round pick in 2014, is the longest-tenured defensive player on the Cowboys. Randy Gregory, a second-rounder the next year, is the second.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers bringing back LB Lavonte David on 2-year, $25M deal

Coach Bruce Arians made good on his word at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Super Bowl boat parade, when he told inside linebacker Lavonte David, “Your ass ain’t going nowhere.”

The Bucs on Tuesday agreed to terms with David on a two-year deal worth $25 million, with $20 million guaranteed, sources told ESPN, keeping one of the league’s premier inside linebackers from hitting free agency.

The move came just a few hours after the Bucs franchise-tagged wide receiver Chris Godwin, whom Arians also told at the parade, “Your ass ain’t going nowhere, either.”

Entering Tuesday, the Bucs had roughly $15 million in salary-cap space, according to Roster Management.

They were able to get creative and use three voidable years in David’s contract to spread his cap number more evenly though, so he’ll only count $3.5 million against the salary cap this year.

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“Grinding in them trenches with my dogs! No better feeling!” David captioned a photo on Instagram, with the hashtag #2more.

David, who has silently been one of the league’s better inside linebackers since he was drafted by the Buccaneers in the second round of the 2012 draft, missed only seven total snaps during the 2020 season.

He had 117 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, an interception, 6 passes defensed, 3 forced fumbles and 2 recoveries during the regular season, and he added 26 more tackles and a sack in the postseason as the Bucs won Super Bowl LV.

The longest-tenured player on the team and a captain for seven successive seasons, David, who turned 31 in January, is looked up to in the locker room and is largely credited for the development of Devin White, who enjoyed a breakout sophomore season in 2020.

In nine NFL campaigns, David has 1,124 tackles, 24 sacks, 128 tackles for loss, 55 QB hits, 12 interceptions, 52 passes defensed, 24 forced fumbles, 16 fumble recoveries and 3 defensive touchdowns.

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Washington LB Thomas Davis Sr. says he’ll retire after 2020 season

Washington Football Team linebacker Thomas Davis Sr. will retire at the end of this campaign, he said in an Instagram post.

Washington (6-9) can extend Davis’ final season by defeating the Philadelphia Eagles to win the NFC East on Sunday.

Davis, 37, has played 16 years in the NFL — the first 14 with Carolina and then the past two with the Los Angeles Chargers and Washington. Davis has served mostly in a backup role with Washington this season. He has played in seven games and received 132 snaps from scrimmage, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Washington coach Ron Rivera signed him because of Davis’ leadership and his familiarity with what Rivera wanted from his players.

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Rivera trusted Davis because of how he played for him in Carolina, where he made the Pro Bowl three consecutive seasons, from 2015 to 2017. He was a first team All-Pro performer in 2015, the year Carolina reached the Super Bowl. Davis signed a two-year deal with the Chargers in 2019 but was released last offseason.

Davis also endured three torn ACLs.

As a reminder of how he endured, Davis posted pictures of cleats on Instagram that sum up his career. One cleat has written on it “3 ACL Tears. 3 ACL Recoveries.” It also shows how many Pro Bowls he earned. On the other cleat, it reflects him winning the 2014 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

Carolina drafted Davis with the 14th overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft; he had played linebacker and free safety at Georgia. He was considered a top safety prospect before that draft, but the Panthers moved him to linebacker.

His speed and athleticism helped him have success in the NFL. In 199 games, Davis recorded 1,151 tackles, 29 sacks, 18 forced fumbles and 13 interceptions.

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San Francisco 49ers trade LB Kwon Alexander to New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints continued their aggressive approach toward the 2020 season by obtaining linebacker Kwon Alexander from the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for veteran linebacker Kiko Alonso and a conditional fifth-round draft pick.

Both linebackers are on the mend from injuries. Alexander missed the past three weeks with a high ankle sprain but returned to practice last week. Alonso, meanwhile, has not played yet this season after tearing his ACL in January. But he also returned to practice last month.

The 49ers signed Alexander to a four-year, $54 million contract as a free agent from Tampa Bay last campaign. But Alexander, 26, was limited last year by a torn pectoral muscle before returning for their playoff run.

This was a way for the 49ers to shed salary because they like their depth at the position — specifically second-year linebacker Dre Greenlaw, who has started in Alexander’s place whenever he has been injured.

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The Saints, meanwhile, have one of the NFL’s best run defenses.

But the athletic 6-foot-1, 227-pounder should help their pass coverage while playing alongside All-Pro Demario Davis. Both players are Mike/Will linebacker hybrids.

Coach Sean Payton stated Monday the Saints envision Alexander as a Will linebacker, where he will compete for playing time with current starter Alex Anzalone while Davis plays more of the Mike linebacker role.

Payton said it would be difficult for Alexander to play Sunday night at Tampa Bay because of the five-day onboarding process that is required. But Payton said the “goal” is for Alexander to be able to suit up in Week 10 — versus the 49ers of all teams in New Orleans’ Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The Saints can easily afford Alexander’s deal for the rest of this season, as he is due less than $1 million in base salary and per-game roster bonuses over their final nine matches. However, they will have a decision to make next year before Alexander is due an additional $13.4 million in salary and bonuses.

Only $2 million is guaranteed for injury-only. Alexander is due another $13.5 million in 2022, none of which is guaranteed.

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Dolphins LB Vince Biegel expected to miss season with torn Achilles

Practice was cut short for Miami Dolphins linebacker Vince Biegel on Tuesday after he had to be carted off the field. Unfortunately, it seems the injury was as feared.

According to Josh Tolentino of TheAthletic.com, Vince Biegel will miss the entire 2020 NFL season after suffering a torn Achilles.

The loss of Vince Biegel deals a major blow to the Dolphins’ linebacker corps heading into the 2020 season. He proved to be quite the acquisition when he was included in the deal for linebacker Kiko Alonso with the New Orleans Saints and this spurred them to sign him to a restricted free agent tender this offseason.

The former fourth-round pick was slated to compete for a starting job after registering 59 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 13 quarterbacks hits and an interception.

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Vince Biegel’s absence will open things up for outside linebackers Andrew Van Ginkel and potentially Emmanuel Ogbah to take over the bulk of the snaps on the edge.

Regardless, expectations remain tempered for this young team following an unprecedented offseason due to the restrictions placed in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Vince Biegel is not the only notable player missing from the defense thus far in training camp with cornerback Xavier Howard still on the physically unable to perform list. Howard continues to recover from the knee surgery he had in December and there is still plenty of speculation regarding whether or not he is on track for the season opener versus the New England Patriots.

If Howard isn’t able to play to start the season, rookie first-round draft pick Noah Igbinoghene and second-year player Nik Needham would be the top options to start for him. Top free-agent signing Byron Jones is expected to lock down one cornerback spot.

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