Tagged in: LB

Los Angeles Chargers LT Rashawn Slater (torn biceps) out for season, LB Joey Bosa (groin) week-to-week

Left tackle Rashawn Slater and edge rusher Joey Bosa are among the Los Angeles Chargers players who suffered significant injuries in a lopsided Week 3 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Slater will miss the remainder of the season after tearing his left biceps tendon and Bosa will be sidelined indefinitely because of a groin injury, as per coach Brandon Staley.

“It’s going to be a tough loss for us,” Staley said about Slater, the Bolts’ 13th overall pick in 2021 who earned Pro Bowl recognition as a rookie last season. “We’re going to make sure over the next couple of days that we put good contingency plans in place.”

Staley stated he was unclear if Bosa would be placed on injured reserve. “He’ll probably be week-to-week,” Staley said. Wide receiver Jalen Guyton also will be sidelined for the remainder of the season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament late in the fourth quarter.

“It’s a tough one, he was playing a good game,” Staley said of Guyton, a fourth-year pro who in a reserve role had two catches for 64 yards.

Storm Norton, who lost a training camp competition with Trey Pipkins III for the right tackle job, took over at left tackle when Slater left the game in the third quarter. Veteran linebacker Kyle Van Noy and edge rusher Chris Rumph II took over for Bosa.

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With the 38-10 loss to the Jaguars, the Chargers fell to 1-2, and now prepare for back-to-back road match at Houston and Cleveland.

Staley expressed confidence that despite losing multiple key players, several other starters who have been dealing with injury issues, including quarterback Justin Herbert, were holding steady, if not improving.

“Not setbacks at the game,” Staley stated of Herbert, who completed 25 of 45 passes for 297 yards and a touchdown, with an interception and lost sack fumble, while playing through fractured rib cartilage suffered 10 days earlier.

A day removed from leaving Herbert in the game late in the fourth quarter, down 20 points, Staley would not go so far as to say he regretted leaving the Pro Bowl quarterback in the game, but indicated that moving forward, a different decision would be made.

“It definitely was my decision to keep him out there,” Staley said, adding later, “If I had to do it again or if I have to do it again, I need to make sure that I communicate to Justin [that] in a tough circumstance like that when you’re behind, that you’ve already done enough. I look forward to that next time, but in that moment, I don’t regret how we went through that together.”

Herbert told reporters after the game he stayed in the game because he “just didn’t want to quit on the team.”

Staley said that Pro Bowl center Corey Linsley, who was inactive Sunday because of a knee issue, was improving and expressed optimism that he would return to practice, along with receiver Keenan Allen, who has been sidelined the last two games because of a hamstring injury.

And Staley provided some clarification in regard to the situation surrounding cornerback J.C. Jackson, their marquee offseason free agent acquisition. Jackson underwent ankle surgery last month and was sidelined for the season opener, but played 100% of the snaps in Week 2 before he was inactive again Sunday.

Staley said Jackson had “inflammation” inside his ankle, but that there was “nothing structural.” “Just making sure that he doesn’t go out there and have something else happen,” Staley said. “There was just some inflammation that we were taking a look at and again, just being cautious looking at the long term.”

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Pittsburgh Steelers LB T.J. Watt doesn’t need surgery, expected to miss six weeks

Doctors determined Tuesday afternoon that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ T.J. Watt does not surgery on his torn pectoral and the star pass-rusher is expected to miss about six weeks, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Watt, who suffered the injury on Sunday in a 23-20 overtime triumph over the Cincinnati Bengals, had sought out second and third opinions on the injury.

Watt on Tuesday tweeted a gif of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator character saying “I’ll be back.”

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin stated earlier Tuesday that the organization was “encouraged” about the injury outlook for the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.

“We’re probably in a lot better place than we were after the game,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “… I can definitively say that T.J. won’t play this week [against the Patriots], but I won’t make any commitments beyond that.

“We’re encouraged, and we’ll just continue to look at the situation and gain opinions and do what’s appropriate.”

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Watt appeared to suffer a torn left pectoral muscle in the final seconds of regulation when he tried to sack Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, and as he walked off the field, he told medical personnel that he tore his pec. Watt recorded a sack and an interception in Sunday’s match.

Asked if Watt would go on injured reserve, Tomlin was noncommittal on Tuesday.

Injured reserve would rule Watt out for a minimum of four games. The Steelers can designate up to eight players to return from IR throughout the season, and each player can return twice.

In Watt’s absence, the team will first turn to outside linebackers Malik Reed, gotten in a trade with the Broncos last month, and Jamir Jones, whom the organization grabbed off waivers. The Steelers signed veteran linebacker Ryan Anderson to their practice squad later Tuesday, but Tomlin didn’t commit to playing new faces on Sunday.

Last season, Watt had 22.5 sacks to tie the NFL’s single-season sack record. He has 73 sacks in his career.

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LB Anthony Barr, Dallas Cowboys agree to one-year deal

After talks that covered a couple of months, the Dallas Cowboys reached a one-year agreement with veteran linebacker Anthony Barr on Wednesday.

The deal is for $2 million but can max out at $3 million, a source told ESPN’s Todd Archer.

With the Cowboys keeping Micah Parsons in a multifaceted role between linebacker and pass-rusher in 2022, the team wanted to add some veteran help alongside Leighton Vander Esch with no other uber-experienced linebacker on the roster.

The Cowboys have second-year linebacker Jabril Cox coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament. While he has gotten off to a good start, he has missed the past two days of work, although there does not seem to be concern over his status.

Barr, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, had a career-high three interceptions to go along with 2.5 sacks and 72 tackles last season, the latter of which was his third-highest output in his eight seasons with the Minnesota Vikings.

The 30-year-old linebacker appeared in 11 games after undergoing a procedure on his right knee that forced him to miss the first four matches of the 2021 season.

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He reworked his contract last March to allow himself to hit free agency after the 2021 season.

After missing the final 14 games of 2020 upon tearing a pectoral muscle versus Indianapolis, Barr’s salary and bonuses were reduced from $12.9 million to $10 million with a fully guaranteed base salary of $9.4 million.

Barr has a background with Cowboys senior defensive assistant George Edwards, who coaches the linebackers, from their time together in Minnesota.

The former UCLA standout was former Vikings coach Mike Zimmer’s first draft pick in 2014 (ninth overall). Barr, a 3-4 outside linebacker in college, transitioned to a nontraditional off-ball role in Zimmer’s 4-3 scheme, where he was used strategically on blitzes designed around his skill set. According to Pro Football Focus data, Barr was ranked as the 12th best pass-rusher at his position and 14th in coverage in 2021.

Barr wore the green dot on his helmet for the majority of his time in Minnesota and played a critical role in calling defensive plays on the field.

The last time Barr hit free agency in 2019, the linebacker verbally agreed to a deal with the New York Jets that would have paid him $15 million per season for five years, but he returned to the Vikings less than 24 hours later to sign for far less money.

He has 495 tackles, 17.5 sacks, 8 forced fumbles and 5 interceptions in eight campaigns.

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LB Robert Quinn says he hopes Chicago Bears don’t trade him

Chicago Bears edge rusher Robert Quinn stated he experienced disbelief and shock when Khalil Mack, the other half of Chicago’s dominant pass rushing duo, was traded to the Los Angeles Chargers last month for a 2022 second-round pick (No. 48) and 2023 sixth-round selection.

The Mack trade was the first major move executed by new general manager Ryan Poles before the start of free agency. The Bears eventually parted ways with more than 25 players in March via expired contracts or roster cuts.

Quinn, who set the franchise’s single-season record for sacks in 2021 with 18.5, has been the subject of trade speculation this offseason after the Bears dealt his Pro Bowl teammate for draft capital while starting a massive overhaul of the roster.

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The defensive end, who turns 32 in May, faces insecurity about his own future in Chicago, even though he remains under contract through 2024 after the Bears gave him a five-year, $70 million extension in 2020.

“The only thing I thought of was hopefully my résumé or my production from last year gives me a little weight to keep my foot in the building,” Quinn said Tuesday after being presented with the team’s Brian Piccolo Award.

“At the end of the day, it’s a business. Again, you see Khalil Mack getting traded. Again, it’s just a business. Don’t dwell on it, too crazy.”

Quinn then reiterated his desire to stay with the Bears in 2022.

“I didn’t expect to go anywhere, or want to go anywhere, but again, this is a crazy business,” Quinn said.

At the NFL owners meetings last month, Poles was asked whether considering trading Quinn was an option.

“That hasn’t come up,” Poles said in March.

For now, Quinn remains with the Bears, but he’s not particularly a fan of the phrase most would use for the state of the Bears: a rebuild.

“I don’t think that’s the right way we should phrase it, because people in — the guys in the building are professionals and I think everyone carries themselves to high expectations,” Quinn said.

“I believe, me personally, no player is better than me, and I believe everyone else should carry themselves the same way. So to say, ‘a rebuild’ is, I guess, a funny word. I think it’s just getting guys to believe who they truly are, and perform at their high level of expectations, because everyone’s talented enough, because they’re here. Now you’ve just got to go prove it.”

Speaking ahead of his first draft as general manager, Poles addressed the situation the Bears are currently in with a roster that only has 64 players under contract and a host of needs they hope to address with the NFL draft this week, most notably along the offensive line and at wide receiver and cornerback.

The way Poles describes it, the Bears view the state of the team as a remodeling project, not a rebuild.

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Pro Bowl LB Bobby Wagner reaches five-year deal with Los Angeles Rams; worth $50M

Pro Bowl linebacker Bobby Wagner will be staying in the NFC West next season despite his release by the Seattle Seahawks earlier this month.

Wagner agreed to terms on a five-year contract with the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, the team revealed Thursday.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter the deal is for $50 million and can be worth up to $65 million if Wagner reaches incentives.

It will mark a homecoming for Wagner, who was born in Los Angeles and attended high school in Ontario, California, about 35 miles east of the city.

Wagner becomes the latest big-name player to join a star-studded Rams defense that already involves defensive tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

Donald (five), Wagner (four) and Ramsey (three) have all earned at least three first-team All-Pro selections over the past five seasons. Only six defensive players in the NFL have achieved that feat over that time period, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

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The Rams had a need at one of their inside linebacker spots after they declined to tender Troy Reeder as a restricted free agent.

The Baltimore Ravens also were in the mix to sign Wagner before he decided to sign with the Rams. The Dallas Cowboys also had interest in Wagner.

Wagner publicly and privately voiced his unhappiness over how the Seahawks handled his release earlier this month. Seahawks general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll expressed their regret over how they communicated those plans to Wagner.

Wagner, 31, was the last remaining member of the star-studded defenses that led Seattle to its lone world championship and a return trip to Super Bowl XLIX after the 2014 season.

Wagner, the Seahawks’ all-time tackles leader with 1,383, is coming off a 170-tackle season that earned him his eighth Pro Bowl nod in 10 seasons. He posted that personal best despite missing all but one snap of the final two matches with a knee sprain.

While Wagner didn’t make as many impact plays as in some of his best seasons, he recorded an interception, a sack, a forced fumble and five passes defended in 2021 en route to a second-team All-Pro selection.

In 2020, Wagner was one of 22 defenders named by the Pro Football Hall of Fame to the All-Decade Team for the 2010s. His Hall of Fame-worthy résumé also includes six first-team All-Pro selections, two second-team All-Pro selections and eight Pro Bowls nods, tied for second most in franchise history.

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Las Vegas Raiders releasing LB Cory Littleton after 2 seasons

The Las Vegas Raiders are releasing high-priced linebacker Cory Littleton after two underwhelming seasons, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

The Raiders are expected to designate the move with a post-June 1 designation, according to the source.

After spending his first four campaigns with the Los Angeles Rams, Littleton, 28, signed a three-year, $35.25 million free-agent deal with $22 million guaranteed with the Raiders in 2020 and was expected to help in sideline-to-sideline pass coverage. Instead, he lost his starting job to rookie Divine Deablo late last season.

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The post-June 1 designation will save Las Vegas $11.75 million against the cap after that date but will cost the Raiders $4 million in dead money this year and $10 million in 2023.

Earlier Thursday, the Raiders restructured the contracts of foundation left tackle Kolton Miller and versatile running back Kenyan Drake to save $14.525 million in cap space.

They also informed fullback Alec Ingold they were not tendering his contract.

Littleton started 27 of 31 games for the Raiders and had just 0.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. He did not have an interception among his four passes defended. He also had six tackles for a loss among his combined 180 tackles.

The Raiders have a new regime with general manager Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels, who came over from the New England Patriots.

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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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