Tagged in: linebacker

Denver Broncos linebacker Alexander Johnson to miss rest of season because of torn right pectoral muscle

Denver Broncos linebacker Alexander Johnson, who is the team’s second-leading tackler, will miss the remainder of the season after he suffered a torn right pectoral muscle in Sunday’s 34-24 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.

Broncos coach Vic Fangio stated Monday that tests had revealed the tear. Johnson, who has 32 tackles on the season, becomes the third Broncos defensive starter — and third linebacker — to head to injured reserve in the past four weeks. Outside linebacker Bradley Chubb went to injured reserve last month after surgery to remove a bone spur from his left ankle.

Johnson is also the second of those defensive starters, along with fellow inside linebacker Josey Jewell, to have suffered a torn pectoral muscle. Jewell suffered his injury in the Broncos’ Week 2 victory over Jacksonville. Fangio said the team’s medical staff will look at both injuries to evaluate why two players at the same position suffered the same injuries.

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“They’ll look at it, Josey’s was a contact injury, and [Johnson] fell on his,” Fangio said. “But they’ll look at it. It seems to be a more common injury nowadays around the NFL than it has been in the past.”

Fangio isn’t imagining it.

In 2019, the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine did a study to determine whether the number of players suffering torn pectoral muscles was on the rise. And after studying the injuries that had been made public, the report said torn pectorals had increased five times between 2010 and 2017 than had occurred from 2000 to 2010.

Jewell suffered his injury on special teams — covering a punt — while Johnson was injured in pass coverage on a 31-yard touchdown pass from Raiders quarterback Derek Carr to running back Kenyan Drake.

Micah Kiser entered the match after Johnson was injured and played the rest of the way. Kiser and Justin Strnad are expected to start at the two inside linebacker spots Thursday night against the Cleveland Browns, with Strnad expected to wear the communication earpiece in his helmet during the game.

Jewell had worn the earpiece, and then Johnson did in the weeks following Jewell’s injury.

“That’s the way it will be right now, [but] we’ll see how [Kiser] can do it with it, too, and make a decision by game time,” Fangio said. Fangio stated the Broncos might have to elevate one or two inside linebackers from their practice squad for Thursday’s game. Inside linebackers Curtis Robinson and Barrington Wade are on the Broncos’ practice squad and both were with the team throughout training camp.

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Broncos are expecting same old Raiders even without Gruden

Denver Broncos star linebacker Von Miller still sees the Las Vegas Raiders as Jon Gruden’s team even after their rival’s iconic coach resigned in disgrace.

While acknowledging “how they call the game will definitely change because they have a new play caller,” Miller insisted, “what they do is what they do.”

“They’re not going to come out here and be an option team. They’re not just going to come out here and change their whole identity because Gruden’s gone,” Miller argued. “They’re still going to do some of the things that they do well. We just don’t know when they will do it.

“To be honest, that’s really every week that we go out there,” Miller added. “We really don’t know what the other team is going to present.”

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Longtime special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia makes his debut as the Raiders’ interim head coach Sunday, with offensive coordinator Greg Olson taking over play-calling duties in a matchup pitting 3-2 teams who are seeking their first victory in October.

“No one wants to be a head coach in this particular situation, no one wants to be put in front of this under these particular circumstances,” said Bisaccia, whose first NFL job was under Gruden in 2002, when he was hired as special teams coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“But it’s an incredible opportunity, not only for me but for all the other coaches to see what we can do with this adversity, see what we can do with this challenge.”

Olson’s voice isn’t an unfamiliar one to Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.

“My rookie year he called plays,” Carr said. “I’ve heard his voice through the headset. I know how he calls the game and I know how he thinks. We’re in the same room. Every conversation I had with coach Gruden, I had with Oly this whole time.

“It’s not going to be anything crazy new but there are philosophies that some people have. So, I don’t want to give Oly’s secrets away, but could things be different? Yes. Could things be similar? Yes, absolutely.”

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Antonio Brown tests positive for COVID-19

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have placed wide receiver Antonio Brown on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the team revealed Wednesday.

Brown has tested positive for the virus, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Brown is the third player, along with inside linebacker/special teams captain Kevin Minter and practice squad wide receiver Travis Jonsen, to be placed on the list this week.

“Kevin and A.B. are both on the COVID list. With A.B., we’ve got plenty of guys with a proven track record at that position,” Arians stated, pointing to their depth at wide receiver with Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson.

“Kevin will be missed as far as special teams, but we’ve got some young guys ready to roll.” Arians said Minter and Brown technically still have an opportunity to play Sunday, but the team is preparing as if they won’t be available.

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Brown, like every one of his teammates and all members of the Bucs’ coaching staff, is fully vaccinated, and per NFL rules, needs two negative tests 24 hours apart to return, as long as he is asymptomatic.

Players who are vaccinated are not subject to the mandatory 10-day quarantine as unvaccinated players.

Brown’s 138 receiving yards through two matches is second-most on the team this season, and he’s arguably the Bucs’ most versatile route runner — he can go deep but also is extremely productive using his suddenness inside.

Last year’s team moniker was “beat the virus,” and Arians has largely attributed losing only four starters to COVID-19 — for a total of six games — with winning the Super Bowl.

The Bucs hit the road this week for one of the more challenging parts of their schedule. They take on the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, and then next week, they’ll travel to Foxborough, Massachusetts, to take on the New England Patriots.

The Bucs lost to the Rams 27-24 last season, with the Rams limiting the Bucs to just 209 passing yards, among the lowest of their season.

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Broncos DE Bradley Chubb (ankle) will undergo surgery

Broncos linebacker Bradley Chubb’s 2021 debut lasted less than an entire match. Now, he’s hoping his 2021 season will last longer than his brief showing in Week 2.

Having re-injured his ankle on Sunday versus the Jaguars, Chubb will undergo an arthroscopic procedure Wednesday on his ankle and hopes to return this season, he announced through the team on Tuesday.

“I’m going to push everything I can to get back to these games and hopefully it’s sooner rather than later. My mindset is just going to be attack it 100 %every day,” Chubb stated.

Chubb said he’s been dealing with a bone spur in his ankle and the procedure will be to “clean it up” and “scope it out.”

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported Chubb’s timetable will depend on how the surgery goes, though a surgery such as this generally takes six to eight weeks of recovery time.

Chubb is likely headed to injured reserve.

The initial hope was that Chubb’s ankle would respond to treatment and that surgery could be avoided, but it didn’t work out that way, NFL Network’s James Palmer reported.

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The biggest obstacle for the Broncos’ burgeoning star has been staying on the field.

Following a sensation 12-sack rookie season in 2018, Chubb played in only four matches in 2019 due to a torn ACL. Chubb’s 2020 return saw him play in 14 games, but he missed this season’s opener with an ankle injury that he tweaked in his debut (which saw him tally one tackle in 19 snaps).

Making matters worse for the Broncos’ defense, which has spearheaded the team’s 2-0 start, is that inside linebacker Josey Jewell is already out for the season with a torn pectoral.

A procedure awaits Chubb on Wednesday and then another trip on a familiar road to recovery. “I’m gonna push everything I have to get back to these games,” Chubb said. “I expect to see a whole new Bradley Chubb.”

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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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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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Denver Broncos LB Von Miller ‘at peace’ if this is final year with team

Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller reported for his 11th campaign Tuesday, and while he has always hoped to be a “Bronco for life,” he says as he enters the last year of his contract that he wants to play several more years and is “at peace” if that is eventually somewhere else.

“I would like to keep playing. Whether that’s here with the Denver Broncos or somewhere else, I’m totally at peace with that,” Miller stated as the Broncos’ veteran players reported Tuesday for training camp. “I want to play five to seven more years, I think I said that a couple weeks ago.”

Miller, who was the Broncos’ first-round pick in the 2011 draft, is the team’s longest-tenured player. The Broncos engaged his contract option for the 2021 season in March, the last year of the six-year, $114.5 million deal he signed in 2016 several months after he had been named MVP of Super Bowl 50.

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He turned 32 in March, is about to be a father and said he wants to keep playing so his future son will be able to see him play.

But after worrying about his future for most of the summer of 2020, Miller said he’s taking a calmer approach this time around, even as he hopes to finish his career with the Broncos.

“I’m not really thinking about this is the last year of my contract, [or] will I be with the Broncos,” Miller said. “Last year, to be honest, that was really on my soul. I really wanted, I really wanted — of course I want to be here. I want to stay here for the rest of my career, but getting past that is kind of a release for me.”

Miller had powered through a bevy of offseason workouts in 2020 in hopes of leaving his eight-sack season in 2019 behind and helping end the current Broncos playoff drought, but he suffered a season-ending ankle injury days before the season opener and did not play in a game. His eight-sack total in ’19 was the lowest since 2013, when he had five.

Broncos coach Vic Fangio has already predicted Miller is again poised to have a big year in 2021, and general manager George Paton said picking up Miller’s option was an easy decision. “We wanted Von to be a Bronco … he’s going to have a Pro Bowl-type season,” Paton said earlier this year.

“Sitting out last year, it really helped me be at peace,” Miller said Tuesday. “Being at peace and being content, they are two totally different things. I feel like you can be at peace with whatever happens, but you still want to go out there and lead the league in sacks, you still want to get Defensive Player of the Year, still want to get all this crazy stuff, but I’m at peace with whatever happens.”

With 106 sacks in 135 career matches, Miller is the Broncos’ all-time sack leader, and he enters the 2021 season as the league’s active sack leader, five ahead of J.J. Watt.

Since Miller missed the 2020 season and Broncos outside linebacker Bradley Chubb missed most of the 2019 season with a knee injury, Miller has plenty of optimism for what the two may be able to do together in the defense this year. Chubb was named to his first Pro Bowl last season.

And in the 20 games Miller and Chubb have played together, they have combined for 29.5 sacks.

“He looks ready to go, I’m ready to go, this might be the one … I’m excited to see the things me and Bradley can do,” Miller said. “I feel great … I’m still running the same, still lifting the same as those guys. …” Miller added later.

“I’m hoping to play another five to seven years, maybe even more. I don’t want to put a number on it — if it’s less, it’s less. I’m at peace I’ve played in the league long enough. I’ve been in the league 11 years, so every single year after this is just a true blessing. I want to play a long time.”

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Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers agree on 5-year, $95 million extension

The San Francisco 49ers took care of their final piece of big offseason business Wednesday, agreeing to terms with Fred Warner on a contract that will make him the highest-paid off-ball linebacker in NFL history, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Warner and the Niners agreed to a five-year, $95 million deal that contains $40.5 million guaranteed, sources told Schefter. The $19 million average annual value surpasses the previous high of $18 million per year held by Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner.

Warner’s $40.5 million is the second-highest guaranteed total for an off-ball linebacker, trailing only the New York Jets’ C.J. Mosley’s $51 million, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

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The deal comes six days before the 49ers are booked to report to training camp and 10 days before they start practice on July 31, which was always viewed as an unofficial deadline for Warner and the team to complete a deal.

Warner, 24, left little doubt that he wanted to get a deal done this past May during organized team activities, when he said he wants “to be a Niner for life.”

A third-round pick in the 2018 draft, Warner ranks seventh in the NFL in tackles (366) and is one of two players with 250-plus solo tackles (252) and 15-plus pass breakups (16) in that time, along with Wagner.

Warner ended last season with 125 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions as he earned his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro nods along with the Niners’ two most prestigious team awards.

Warner joins tight end George Kittle and left tackle Trent Williams in landing record-setting contracts for their position in the past year.

Kittle re-signed just before last year’s training camp, and Williams agreed to his deal with the Niners in March.

Getting Warner’s deal done now also helps reset the market for his position, as the Indianapolis Colts’ Darius Leonard and Chicago Bears’ Roquan Smith are also due for lucrative extensions.

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Pittsburgh Steelers shoring up defense with Melvin Ingram addition

The Steelers are signing edge rusher Melvin Ingram, his agent confirmed on social media Monday.

Ingram is signing a one-year deal, according to NFL Network.

The 32-year-old Ingram fills a major hole in the Steelers’ defense left by the free-agency departure of Bud Dupree to the Tennessee Titans.

“I met with Coach [Mike] Tomlin,” Ingram told NFL reporter Josina Anderson. “You can tell he’s very involved and a players’ coach. That’s what stood out to me. He wants to win, and that is what I am on.

“My role is my role. He just told me to come in and be me. Everyone knows how I play.” Ingram, who had interest from other NFL teams and visited the Steelers on Monday, will strive for the spot opposite T.J. Watt that is now occupied by second-year outside linebacker Alex Highsmith.

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With Dupree’s exit, the depth behind Watt and Highsmith was perilously thin.

NFL journeyman Cassius Marsh and sixth-round draft pick Quincy Roche were anticipated to be the primary backups.

Ingram, a 2012 first-round pick, had spent his nine-year career with the Chargers, racking up 49 sacks — fourth in franchise history — en route to three consecutive Pro Bowl nods from 2017 to 2019.

He played in just seven matches last season because of a nagging knee injury that landed him on injured reserve twice, and he failed to record a sack for the first time in his career.

The Chargers opted not to re-sign him after his four-year, $64 million deal expired following the 2020 campaign.

Ingram may not be as productive as he was in previous years, but he’s in a defense that will give him tons of easy openings along the defensive line, and a secondary that will force opposing quarterbacks to think twice before throwing. That alone could provide Ingram with a career resurgence, and the Steelers with the cog they need to keep that line firmly established as the NFL’s best.

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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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