Tagged in: Rookie

Indianapolis Colts’ Julian Blackmon out for season after tearing Achilles

The injuries just won’t stop for the Colts in 2021, as second-year free safety Julian Blackmon suffered a season-ending torn Achilles in practice Wednesday, the team revealed.

This is Blackmon’s second significant injury in less than two years. He tore an ACL during the Pac-12 championship game while at Utah in 2019. Blackmon, who was selected in the third round of the 2020 draft, recovered quickly enough to play in 15 games and intercept two passes as a rookie.

Blackmon’s season ends with 34 tackles, one forced fumble and one pass defended.

“It’s how we respond that matters!” Blackmon tweeted. “Let’s get this W this week!!” Expect the Colts to add a safety to the active roster, because Khari Willis, George Odum and Andrew Sendejo are the only players at the position presently on the roster.

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Blackmon’s injury adds to what has been a season-long list of injuries for the Colts (2-4). Quarterback Carson Wentz, guard Quenton Nelson, linebacker Darius Leonard, kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, wide receiver Parris Campbell and right tackle Braden Smith are some of the key players who have been out or are currently out for multiple weeks due to substantial injuries.

Blackmon had 34 total tackles and forced one fumble in the Colts’ first six games of the season.

The second-year safety was just eight tackles away from matching the mark he set during his rookie season.

Blackmon, despite tearing his ACL during the Pac-12 championship game, was selected by the Colts in the third round of the 2020 draft and made 14 starts as a rookie. He finished that campaign with 42 tackles and two interceptions.

The Colts (2-4) have placed 19 players on injured reserve since the beginning of training camp in late July, with Blackmon set to be the 20th. Indianapolis plays at San Francisco on Sunday night.

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New York Giants WR Kadarius Toney has ankle injury, apologizes for throwing punch Sunday

Add Kadarius Toney to the New York Giants’ list of injuries to monitor.

The rookie wide receiver is dealing with an ankle problem that has his status in doubt for Sunday when the Giants host the Los Angeles Rams at MetLife Stadium.

“He was at the doctor when we went through our squad meeting [Monday] but we’ll see where that comes out right there,” coach Joe Judge said. “I don’t think it’s anything significant, in regards to season-ending. We’ll see how it affects us immediately in the future for this week.”

The Giants also have to monitor starting quarterback Daniel Jones, who is in the concussion protocol. The Giants won’t know much officially on him until later in the week, according to Judge. Mike Glennon would start if Jones is unable to play.

New York did receive fairly encouraging news on running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) and wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hyperextended knee). X-rays on Barkley’s left ankle were negative, although the Giants wouldn’t put a timetable on his return. His injury was described by a source on Sunday evening as a “sprain.”

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Golladay and Barkley were undergoing further testing Monday afternoon but Judge was “hopeful they dodged a couple bullets right there.” Neither injury is anticipated to be long-term.

A source told ESPN on Monday afternoon that most of the injured Giants were probably out a “couple weeks.” In the grand scheme of a 17-game season, this was fairly encouraging news.

The Giants (1-4) did lose rookie cornerback Rodarius Williams for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee.

Toney had an X-ray immediately after Sunday’s 44-20 loss to the Dallas Cowboys when he had a career-best 189 yards receiving. They came back negative.

He didn’t seem to think it was anything that would affect his status for this week.

“Yeah, I’m good,” Toney said Monday when asked about his ankle and if he would practice and play this week.

The 20th-overall pick in this year’s draft also apologized Monday on Twitter for throwing a punch that got him an ejection late in the fourth quarter.

Judge stated the incident would be handled in-house and a league source told ESPN on Monday that Toney would not be suspended. He would go through the standard discipline process with the league that will likely result in a fine

Toney didn’t think this incident would be anything more than a one-off.

“Me and (Head Coach Joe) Judge talked, and you know, stuff like that. Really, it was just a one-time thing,” he said. “I’m a rookie making early mistakes. I’ve just got to learn from them and build from it.

“I felt like I needed to apologize to mainly everyone, because as far as little kids looking up to me and stuff like that, it’s not the example I want to set for them, you know what I’m saying? I feel like, everybody makes mistakes and stuff like that, but at the end of the day we always have to be accountable for our emotions and our actions also.”

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Roethlisberger throws 2 TDs, Steelers top Broncos 27-19

Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers silenced the noise. At least for a week.

Funny how having something resembling a running game for the first time in a long time will do that.

Riding an offensive balance nonexistent for most of the last two years, the Steelers held off Denver 27-19 on Sunday to snap a three-game losing streak.

Rookie Najee Harris ran for a career-best 122 yards and a touchdown for Pittsburgh (2-3) before a cramping issue in his calves forced him to stand on the sideline while a late rally by Denver fell short.

The Broncos (3-2) trailed by 18 in the fourth quarter before a pair of Teddy Bridgewater touchdown passes brought them within striking distance.

Bridgewater’s fourth-down heave to the end zone with 11 seconds left was intercepted by James Pierre, permitting the Steelers to exhale. For a minute anyway.

Asked if the triumph will quiet withering criticism he’s endured over the last month, Roethlisberger just smiled.

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“Probably not,” he said. “But we won the game, and that’s all that matters.”

And won in a way they’re probably going to need to keep pace in the highly competitive AFC North. With Harris churning through holes that didn’t exist over the first four games, the Steelers didn’t have to rely exclusively on their 39-year-old quarterback to make something happen.

That was kind of the plan all along and got lost amid a difficult first month. The Steelers dropped three of four behind a retooled offensive line that at times looked overmatched.

Not so much versus the Broncos.

The Steelers gave up one sack and kept Denver outside linebacker Von Miller in check while running the ball 35 times and passing just 25, the kind of ratio Roethlisberger is more than happy to live with.

Several times Roethlisberger lined up in the shotgun with the option to run or pass, saw coverage that indicated he should probably throw it and opted to hand it off to Harris anyway because the 22-year-old runner and the five linemen in front of him had it going.

“Why take it out of his hand when you’re grinding it, you’re getting it?” Roethlisberger stated. “It was kind of fun to watch him excel and take over.”

Yet cramps forced out Harris in the middle of the fourth quarter. Bridgewater, who spent the bulk of the week in the NFL’s concussion protocol before returning to practice Friday, nearly drew the Broncos even.

Bridgewater completed 24 of 38 passes for 288 yards with a pair of scores: a 2-yard dart to Kendall Hinton and a 39-yard rainbow to Courtland Sutton with 5:46 to go that drew Denver within 24-19.

Bridgwater then drove Denver to the Pittsburgh 3 in the final seconds before Pierre’s first career interception ended the threat.

“We can’t wait until the game is out of hand to have a sense of urgency,” Bridgewater said.

The loss made Denver’s perfect September look more like a mirage. The Broncos piled up wins against the Giants, Jaguars and Jets last month. Tested by Baltimore and Pittsburgh in back-to-back weeks, the Broncos came up short.

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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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Chicago Bulls exercise contract options on Coby White, Patrick Williams

The Bulls have exercised a pair of rookie scale team options, locking in guard Coby White and forward Patrick Williams for the 2022/23 campaign, the team revealed wednesday in a press release.

While decisions on standard team options are typically due right before free agency begins, teams have to make their decisions on rookie scale team options a year in advance.

By October 31, clubs must either exercise or decline third-year options for first-round picks from 2020 and fourth-year options for 2019’s first-rounders.

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White was a starter for the Bulls this past season, but figures to come off the bench following the team’s acquisition of Lonzo Ball in free agency.

The 21-year-old averaged 15.1 PPG, 4.8 APG, and 4.1 RPG on .416/.359/.901 shooting in 69 games (31.2 MPG) in 2020/21. His ’21/22 debut may be delayed, since he’s coming off left shoulder surgery.

Williams, the No. 4 pick in the 2020 draft, was also a full-time starter last season as a 19-year-old rookie.

His role for 2021/22 stays unclear, but the former Florida State standout looks like a key part of Chicago’s long-term plans. He put up 9.2 PPG and 4.6 RPG on .483/.391/.728 shooting in 71 games (27.9 MPG) last season. White’s fourth-year option for 2022/23 is worth $7,413,955.

He’ll now be extension-eligible during the 2022 offseason and would be eligible for restricted free agency in 2023 if he doesn’t sign a new contract next year.

Williams’ third-year option for ’22/23 will pay him $7,775,400. The Bulls will have to decide on his fourth-year option for 2023/24 by October 31, 2022.

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Luka Doncic signs five-year, $207 million supermax rookie extension with Dallas Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic has signed a landmark five-year, $207 million supermax rookie extension, the team revealed Tuesday.

Doncic, one of the most accomplished players in NBA history at 22 years old and rapidly evolving into the future face of the league, becomes the first player eligible for the designated rookie max extension upon signing because he has twice been voted first-team All-NBA.

The deal contains a player option in the final year, agent Bill Duffy of BDA Sports told ESPN on Monday.

A contingent of the franchise’s leaders landed in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on Monday to formally present Doncic and Duffy with the contract, including Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, general manager Nico Harrison, coach Jason Kidd, assistant general manager Michael Finley, special adviser Dirk Nowitzki and director of player health and performance Casey Smith.

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“Today is a dream come true,” Doncic told ESPN in a statement. “The game of basketball has given me so much and has taken me to so many amazing places. I am humbled and excited to remain in Dallas as part of the Mavericks.

Doncic became the youngest MVP in EuroLeague history in 2017-18, when he led Real Madrid to a title before being selected with the third overall pick in the NBA draft, immediately getting traded from the Atlanta Hawks to the Mavericks for Trae Young and a future first-round pick.

Doncic won Rookie of the Year in 2018-19 and has been a first-team All-NBA selection the past two seasons.

Only four players in NBA history have made All-NBA first team multiple times before their 23rd birthday, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Doncic and Kevin Durant are the only players to accomplish the feat since the ABA-NBA merger.

Doncic, who led the Slovenian national team to its first Olympic berth and a fourth-place finish in Tokyo, has NBA career averages of 25.7 points, 8.4 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game. His playoff production has been even more impressive, as he has averaged 33.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 9.5 assists in 13 postseason games.

Despite Doncic’s individual brilliance, the Mavericks are still trying to advance past the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

Although Dallas has lost to the LA Clippers in each of the past two playoffs, Doncic dominated with five 40-point playoff performances, highlighted by a 43-point, 17-rebound, 13-assist outing that ended with the winning buzzer-beater in the Mavs’ Game 4 victory in 2020. He had a 46-point, 14-assist effort in last season’s Game 7 loss.

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New York Jets’ Zach Wilson signs rookie deal after missing first 2 days of practice

It took longer than expected, but the New York Jets and quarterback Zach Wilson agreed to terms on his rookie contract Thursday.

The first-round pick and presumptive starter, who missed two days of practice as the two sides haggled over technicalities in the contract language, signed a four-year, $35.15 million contract — a slotted deal that is fully guaranteed.

It contains a $22.9 million signing bonus and a fifth-year team option, standard for all first-round picks.

Wilson, who took a red-eye from Los Angeles and arrived in New Jersey on Thursday morning, was the last unsigned first-round selection from the 2021 NFL draft.

The contract includes offset language and the signing bonus will be paid within 15 days, per a source, details that imply that the sides have compromised because those were the sticking points. Originally, the Jets wanted to defer payments into 2022.

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Coach Robert Saleh, speaking to reporters shortly before news of the deal broke, said he talked to Wilson early in the week.

The conversation was strictly about football, not contract-related, Saleh said. He said he wasn’t worried about the stalemate being a disruption to the team.

“It’s more concern for the kid,” Saleh said. “Every rep is important, so my concern is that it’s two days too many for him. But as far as the installs go and the way we’re preparing the rest of the team, that doesn’t concern me.

“But this young man has a chance to do something special around here that hasn’t been done in a while and every rep matters for him.”

Wilson benefited from a heavy workload in the spring. With no veterans on the roster, he took all the first-team reps.

There was an increased sense of urgency to strike a deal because the Jets are counting on him to be their opening-day starter, although they haven’t revealed that. The only other quarterbacks on the roster are James Morgan and Mike White, neither of whom has regular-season experience. Rookie contract disputes are unusual because the deals are slotted, but teams and agents sometimes haggle over certain clauses.

The Jets include an offset in every contract that has guaranteed money, which provides financial protection if they release the player before the contract is complete. An offset lets a team to cut a player before the end of his four-year contract is completed and have the remaining money reduced by the amount of his next contract.

This isn’t an unusual stance. It’s believed that 30 of the 32 teams use offsets in contracts. The exceptions are the Los Angeles Rams and the Jacksonville Jaguars, with the latter having signed No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence to a deal with no offsets.

Without an offset, a cut player collects the guarantee from his old team plus the money he receives from his new team — aka double dipping.

What complicated the Jets’ negotiation was that at least two of the five quarterbacks drafted in the first round received deals without full offsets — Lawrence and Justin Fields (No. 11 by the Chicago Bears). Fields received a partial offset.

Interestingly, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, the top pick in 2020 and represented by the same agency that negotiated Wilson’s contract, signed a contract that includes offset language.

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QB Trevor Lawrence signs $36.8 million rookie contract with Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars quarterback and No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence signed his four-year rookie contract Monday, clearing the way for him to attend the start of training camp in three weeks.

Under the NFL’s rookie slotting system, Lawrence’s deal was projected to be worth $36.8 million and included a $24.1 million signing bonus. He will count $6.7 million against the salary cap in 2021.

The contract also incorporates a fifth-year option that is attached to every rookie deal for first-round selections.

A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that details of the contract includes: Lawrence’s signing bonus will be paid within 15 days and the quarterback is deemed to have passed his physical for signing bonus purposes.

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There is no offset language in the contract, meaning that he would still receive the full amount of guaranteed money left in his contract even if he were to be released and sign with another team.

The majority of Lawrence’s compensation will come in his roster bonuses in 2022, 2023 and 2024.

He will earn that bonus if he is on the 90-man roster on the third day after the mandatory reporting date.

Lawrence will earn his roster bonus even if he is on the active non-football injury list.

With Lawrence under contract, Jacksonville has now signed six of its nine draft picks. Running back Travis Etienne (first round), cornerback Tyson Campbell (second) and offensive tackle Walker Little (second) remains unsigned.

Lawrence is anticipated to be an immediate starter in Year 1. He went 34-2 at Clemson, recording the third-best winning percentage by a starting quarterback (minimum 30 starts) in college football since 1978.

He finished his college career undefeated in regular-season play and led the Tigers to the national championship as a freshman in 2018.

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Agent requests WR N’Keal Harry be traded by New England Patriots

Wide receiver N’Keal Harry’s agent said in a statement Tuesday that he has formally requested the New England Patriots trade his client.

“For the past several months, I have been working in cooperation with the Patriots behind the scenes to put a plan in place to let N’Keal to thrive in New England. Through two seasons, he has 86 targets, which obviously hasn’t met the expectations the Patriots and N’Keal had when they drafted a dominant downfield threat who was virtually unstoppable at the point of attack in college.

Following numerous conversations with the Patriots, I believe it’s time for a fresh start and best for both parties if N’Keal moves on before the start of training camp. That is why I have informed the Patriots today I am formally requesting a trade on behalf of my client,” agent Jamal Tooson said in the statement.

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“N’Keal understands a key ingredient to production is opportunity. He will continue to work hard to develop and refine his craft after missing a large portion of his rookie year to injury. His draft-day expectations for his NFL career have not changed. We are confident success is just around the corner for him and will aggressively pursue it.”

The Patriots picked Harry with the 32nd overall pick in the 2019 draft.

Injuries limited him to seven matches in his rookie season, in which he caught 12 passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Last season he had 33 receptions for 309 yards and two touchdowns in 14 games.

The Patriots added receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne in free agency, pushing Harry further down the team’s depth chart. He appears to be set to compete for the No. 4 or 5 role behind both those players and Jakobi Meyers, who led the Patriots in receptions (59) and receiving yards (729) last season.

Also Tuesday, rookie quarterback Mac Jones, selected 15th overall by the Patriots in the 2021 draft, officially signed his four-year, $15.6 million deal that also includes a fifth-year option.

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Eagles claim former Lions second-round running back Kerryon Johnson off waivers

The Philadelphia Eagles have taken a flyer on Kerryon Johnson, claiming the former second-round pick off waivers from the Detroit Lions.

Philadelphia adds Johnson to a crowded backfield as the Eagles will pick up the remaining salary on his rookie deal, a cap number of $2,069,359 for 2021 (the final year of his rookie contract). 

Johnson electrified the NFL as a rookie in 2018, rushing for 641 yards and three touchdowns in 10 matches. He became just the 10th rookie since the AFL-NFL merger to average 5.4 yards per carry in his rookie campaign (minimum 100 carries).

Johnson had a chance to become the featured back in 2019, but averaged just 3.6 yards per carry while rushing for 403 yards and three touchdowns in eight games. 

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A meniscus tear in his right knee altered his season in 2019, one year after a knee strain caused him to miss the final six games in his rookie season.

Relegated to third on the Lions’ depth chart, Johnson had 52 carries for 181 yards and two touchdowns in 2020 (averaging 3.5 yards per carry). He has 1,225 rushing yards and and 527 receiving yards in three seasons (4.3 yards per carry). 

Where Johnson fits in the Eagles’ plan at running back will be determined.

Philadelphia has Miles Sanders as the No. 1 running back, but there are spots on the depth chart open for competition. 

Boston Scott and 2021 fifth-round pick Kenneth Gainwell will compete for playing time on the depth chart, but the Eagles also signed Jordan Howard this offseason on a non-guaranteed deal. The Eagles also have Jason Huntley, Adrian Killins Jr., and Elijah Holyfield on the 90-man roster. 

Johnson should find a way to make the roster and receive snaps if he’s healthy. How Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni will use him in the rotation will be one of the intriguing storylines of offseason minicamp. 

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