Tagged in: running back

Seattle Seahawks expecting to be without Rashaad Penny for at least Week 2

The Seattle Seahawks fear running back Rashaad Penny will miss this weekend’s game versus the Tennessee Titans and possibly longer because of a calf injury, coach Pete Carroll stated Monday.

Penny, the Seahawks’ No. 2 running back behind Chris Carson, left Sunday’s season-opening victory over the Indianapolis Colts after seven snaps and two carries for 8 yards.

Carroll said after the 28-16 victory that the team played it safe by pulling Penny when the calf tightened up, knowing it had three other tailbacks available.

On Monday, Carroll called Penny’s injury a calf strain. “It’ll take us a bit to figure out what the return will be on that,” Carroll said. “He ran really well when he ran … so we’re going to miss him, it looks like, this week.”

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Carroll later mentioned the option that Penny could be out a couple of weeks.

He said the team is in “good shape” at the position with Carson, Alex Collins, DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer.

Collins was inactive Sunday, one of six healthy scratches for the Seahawks after they entered their opener with no one listed as out, doubtful or questionable on their final injury report.

Penny’s career has been marred by injuries since Seattle chose him 27th overall in the 2018 draft. He missed 21 regular-season games over his first three seasons, including 13 last year after tearing an ACL in December 2019.

He missed the offseason program following a cleanup procedure on the knee, then got off to a strong start in training camp only to miss more time with a thigh injury.

The Seahawks declined Penny’s fifth-year option in May, making 2021 a contract season. Also Monday, Carroll said the Seahawks will know more Wednesday about the statuses of wide receivers Dee Eskridge and Penny Hart, who both left the opener with head injuries and are now in the concussion protocol.

Carroll stated he hadn’t seen the test results on backup center Ethan Pocic’s sprained knee. Pocic rotated in with starter Kyle Fuller for 14 snaps before he was hurt in the fourth quarter.

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Baltimore Ravens adding RB Le’Veon Bell to practice squad

The Baltimore Ravens signed three-time Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell to their practice squad Tuesday to help their injury-filled backfield, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Bell, 29, will likely soon get elevated to the 53-man roster, the source added.

The addition of Bell comes after the Ravens lost third-string running back Justice Hill to an Achilles injury on Thursday. Baltimore already had lost starting running back J.K. Dobbins when he tore the ACL in his left knee in the preseason finale.

Bell, who worked out for Baltimore on Monday, will provide experience and pass-catching skill behind starter Gus Edwards and backup Ty’Son Williams.

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In 2019, the Ravens had a chance to sign Bell in free agency but chose to add Mark Ingram, who played in Baltimore for two seasons before getting released in January.

After gaining over 1,000 yards rushing in three of his five seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bell hasn’t been the same playmaker since sitting out the 2018 season. Last season, he totaled 328 yards rushing and two touchdowns with the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs.

Bell last played for the Kansas City Chiefs after he was let go by the New York Jets.

His role on the Chiefs was pretty much non-existent, and he had been looking for a job for some time.

The Ravens could also sign a young running back who can help on special teams as well, a source said. Bell isn’t the first former Pro Bowl player to get signed to the Ravens’ practice squad. Last year, Baltimore added wide receiver Dez Bryant to its practice team before promoting him to the 53-man roster.

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Baltimore Ravens’ J.K. Dobbins having MRI but expectation is RB is out for season

Baltimore Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins sustained a left knee injury Saturday night, but the expectation is the injury will end his season, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Dobbins was carted off the field after injuring the knee during the opening drive of the Ravens’ 37-3 rout of Washington at FedEx Field. A second-round pick from a year ago, Dobbins was entering his first season as Baltimore’s featured running back.

If Dobbins is out for the season, the Ravens’ top two backs are Gus Edwards and Ty’Son Williams. Edwards is one of the more underrated backups in the league, averaging 5.2 yards per carry over the past three campaigns (third best among running backs).

Williams, who went undrafted out of BYU last year, has impressed the Ravens this summer with his physical running style, rushing for 131 yards on 24 carries this preseason (5.5-yard average).

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The Ravens have confidence in Edwards, who signed a two-year, $10 million extension this offseason and has shown he can be a starting running back when called upon. In 2018, Edwards took over as the Ravens’ No. 1 running back midway through the season and helped lead Baltimore to the playoffs. He averaged 93.4 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns in the final six games that season.

The Ravens have had the NFL’s top-ranked running attack over the past two seasons because of the system that it has installed around quarterback Lamar Jackson, who gained a team-leading 2,211 yards rushing combined in 2019 and 2020. Over that span, three running backs have gained over 800 yards: Edwards, Dobbins and Mark Ingram.

This offseason, the Ravens explored the possibility of adding a veteran running back for depth.

Free agent Todd Gurley II visited the Ravens in June, but he left without a contract. It’s unknown whether Gurley’s knee issues would let him to hold up for a full season.

Dobbins, 22, was primed for a breakout 2021 season. Last year, he averaged 6.0 yards per carry, the second-highest average by a rookie running back over the past 20 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Only the New Orleans Saints’ Alvin Kamara (6.1) had a higher average as a rookie.

Dobbins’ injury was the latest setback in a rough summer for Baltimore. Because of injuries, Baltimore’s top three wide receivers have missed a chunk of training camp and its projected starting offensive line didn’t practice together for the first time until last week.

Wide receiver Rashod Bateman, a first-round pick, had groin surgery on Aug. 13 and could miss the beginning of the regular season.

Now, the expectation is Dobbins will miss the 2021 season, which is the outcome many of the Ravens’ players were bracing for Saturday night. “That one hurts, bro, because you know how much work he put in [and] the type of guy he is,”

Ravens wide receiver James Proche said after Saturday’s game. “He loves the game. Anytime the game is taken away from you like that, you really feel for him.”

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Los Angeles Rams acquire RB Sony Michel from New England Patriots

The Los Angeles Rams have acquired Sony Michel from the New England Patriots to add some much-needed depth at the running back position.

The Patriots obtained a sixth-round pick in 2022 and a fourth-rounder in 2023 in the deal.

Michel fills an immediate need for the Rams, who will play the season without rising star Cam Akers after he tore his right Achilles tendon while working out before training camp.

In Akers’ absence, Darrell Henderson Jr. has taken over as starter, but the Rams lack depth behind the third-year pro.

“We identified Sony for many reasons,” Rams general manager Les Snead said Wednesday. “Number one, being his experience, and experience meaning like a player who has carried the ball in big games and in those big games, where there have been big moments, big drives, big series.”

Second-year pro Xavier Jones, an undrafted free agent in 2020, and rookie seventh-round pick Jake Funk have competed throughout the preseason with the hope of proving they could fill the position.

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At the outset of training camp, coach Sean McVay stated the Rams would give their young backs ample opportunity to compete for the job but left open the possibility that the team could look for outside help when the season opener approached.

Asked this week whether Jones and Funk had proved through two preseason games that they could be ready for Week 1 versus the Chicago Bears on Sept. 12, McVay said the Rams were in the process of figuring that out.

“We got a little bit of time,” McVay said. “Darrell is a guy that’s been established and done some good things. But I was pleased with both those guys.”

Henderson suffered a mild thumb sprain in practice Monday but returned to practice Tuesday with a cast or brace protecting his left hand.

A fourth-year pro, Michel has rushed for 2,292 yards and 14 touchdowns in 28 starts for the Patriots, who drafted him in the first round with the 31st pick in 2018.

“What he does bring is this element of make a cut, get north and south and get north and south with some force,” Snead said. “The physics that he brings to the table — let’s call it a flavor or genre that we felt like complemented our group.”

In a 13-3 triumph over the Rams in Super Bowl LIII, Michel rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.

Michel is due to earn a base salary of $1.79 million in the final year of his contract in 2021 after the Patriots previously elected not to exercise his fifth-year option for 2022. He had drawn rave reviews from Patriots running back coach Ivan Fears this preseason, with Fears saying he had “upped his total game.”

Last season, Michel missed six games when he was placed on injured reserve after Week 3 because of a quadriceps injury. In nine games he rushed for 449 yards and a touchdown on 79 carries. In a 24-3 loss to the Rams, Michel rushed for 22 yards on seven carries.

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New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley ‘doing well’ in ACL rehab, unsure of status for start of season

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley says he is “doing well” in his rehab from a torn ACL, but won’t put a timetable on his return or provide any public assurance that he will be back for the beginning of the new season.

The Giants open the regular season versus the Denver Broncos on Sept. 12, some 11 months after the major surgery on Barkley’s right knee. He also had MCL and meniscus damage.

“You know me. I’m going to take it one day at a time. Just come in with my head down and ready to work,” Barkley said Wednesday after spending the second day of mandatory minicamp inside the team facility while most of his Giants teammates practiced.

“It’s going to be whenever my body tells me I’m ready or I’m able to show everyone I’m ready again. That’s when I’m going to be able to go out there and hopefully be elite, what I was before but even better.”

This is the approach Barkley and the Giants are taking. They aren’t going to set any potentially unrealistic expectations for his return, thus putting any unnecessary pressure on him to get back on the field.

The tight-lipped Barkley wouldn’t even go into detail about where he is in the rehab process, although sources have told ESPN recently that there have been no significant setbacks and that he has progressed to jump-cutting. “Looks good,” one of the sources said.

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Barkley was also positive about the progress he’s making, even if he was unwilling to publicly provide the full details.

“I just expect to come in every single day and work hard, work my butt off, listen to the coaches, listen to the trainers, listen to the doctors,” he said. “I’m going to take it one day at a time. Whenever I’m able to, I guess you can say, go out there and participate with the team again, I’ll be ready.

“I’m doing well. I’m doing pretty well. Just taking one day at a time. Just listening to the trainers from [senior vice president of medical services] Ronnie [Barnes] to [director of rehabilitation] Leigh [Weiss] to all the way down and still being in conversations with [surgeon] Dr. [Neal] ElAttrache and [head team physician] Dr. [Scott] Rodeo. Just listening to them and taking it one day at a time.”

It has become clear in recent weeks that the Giants are going to take it slowly with the Pro Bowl running back. They are looking at this situation with a long-range view that prioritizes his well-being and future over the short-term gain of being ready for training camp or the start of the campaign.

Barkley is not expected to be full-go for the start of training camp, a source told ESPN last month. They aren’t going to put him on the field in live situations until he’s 100%. It’s entirely possible that might not be until October.

Barkley seems to be on board with the plan, although he admitted it’s difficult to be patient.

So for now and likely most of this summer, he will just have to envision how he fits into the offense alongside newcomers Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Kyle Rudolph and several others.

Free-agent acquisition Devontae Booker is filling Barkley’s role in the meantime.

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New York Giants sign former first-rounder Kelvin Benjamin

The New York Giants have signed former Carolina Panthers first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin, the team revealed Sunday.

Benjamin and former Philadelphia Eagles running back and Super Bowl hero Corey Clement impressed over the weekend during tryouts at rookie minicamp and received one-year deals.

A wide receiver who had more than 1,000 yards as a rookie for the Panthers in 2013, Benjamin has not played in the NFL since 2018. He worked primarily as a tight end at the tryout.

“In terms of Benjamin working a different position [Friday], we’re going to work different guys at a variety of things right now,” Giants coach Joe Judge said.

“He’s a big guy. He’s always been a big receiver. He’ll work receiver. He’s working a little bit flex tight end as well. “I wouldn’t really kind of, you know, pin him down to any one position at this point. We’re going to use the weekend to move him around to different spots and see how it works out.”

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Benjamin would join a crowded tight end room along with Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo. The Giants also are deep at wide receiver after adding Kenny Golladay and John Ross in free agency and drafting Kadarius Toney in the first round.

This will make it tough for Benjamin to eventually land a spot on the final roster, regardless of position.

It was just three years ago during a Monday Night Football broadcast that ESPN analyst Booger McFarland famously declared Benjamin was “probably a Popeyes biscuit away from being a tight end.”

Benjamin, 30, has spent time with the Panthers, Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs. He has 209 career receptions for 3,021 yards and 20 touchdowns. The 28th overall pick in 2014 was drafted in Carolina by current Giants general manager Dave Gettleman.

Clement, 26, spent the first four campaigns of his professional career with the Eagles. He has been slowed in recent years by injury but is best known for his performance in Super Bowl LII, when he had 100 receiving yards and a touchdown in the Eagles’ upset win over the New England Patriots.

Clement also helped execute the Philly Special, a trick play that resulted in a touchdown reception by quarterback Nick Foles.

The Giants needed veteran depth at running back. With Saquon Barkley coming back from a serious knee injury, the Giants signed Devontae Booker as a free agent and drafted Gary Brightwell in the sixth round.

New York also announced that it had waived running back Jordan Chunn and tight end Nate Wieting.

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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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Arizona Cardinals sign ex-Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner

The Arizona Cardinals added much-needed depth in the backfield on Tuesday when they agreed to terms on a one-year deal with former Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner.

Conner, 25, will be paired with Chase Edmonds to form the Cardinals’ 2021 backfield. It’s expected that they’ll share reps and responsibilities in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense that asks running backs to be both rushers and receivers.

Conner will reunite with Cardinals running backs coach James Saxon, who was his position coach in Pittsburgh in 2017 and 2018. He received a one-year, $1.75 million contract, including a $500,000 signing bonus and $1.25 million salary fully guaranteed, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

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Connor went to the Pro Bowl in 2018 under Saxon’s guidance after rushing for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns, tied for the third most in the NFL that season, and while catching 55 passes for 497 yards and a touchdown in 13 matches.

Arizona was in need of another running back after letting Kenyan Drake go in free agency. He signed with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Conner, 25, joins the Cardinals after spending the past four campaigns with the Steelers. In 50 career games (33 starts), he rushed for 2,302 yards and 22 touchdowns on 532 carries (4.3-yard average) and caught 124 passes for 963 yards and four touchdowns.

A third-round pick out of the University of Pittsburgh who was named to the Pro Bowl in 2018, Conner becomes the latest well-known veteran to join the Cardinals.

The team previously signed edge rusher J.J. Watt, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, wide receiver A.J. Green, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, cornerback Malcolm Butler, a two-time Super Bowl champion, along with kicker Matt Prater, guard Brian Winters and safety Shawn Williams.

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Cincinnati Bengals release RB Giovani Bernard after eight seasons

The Cincinnati Bengals have released veteran running back Giovani Bernard, the team revealed on Wednesday.

Bernard, 29, has played all of his eight NFL seasons with the franchise that drafted him in the second round in 2013. He has appeared in 115 matches and rushed for 3,697 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also had 342 receptions for 2,867 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The former North Carolina player was entering the final year of a two-year extension he signed in September of 2019. The Bengals will gain $4.1 million in salary-cap savings with Bernard’s release and incur only $666,667 in dead money versus the cap, according to Roster Management System.

Bernard started a career-high 10 games in 2020 because Joe Mixon was out with a foot injury. His best rushing performance was an 83-yard effort in a win over Pittsburgh on Monday Night Football, the Bengals’ first triumph over the Steelers since 2015. It was Bernard’s highest rushing total since Week 16 of the 2017 season.

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The Bengals have parted ways with several notable veterans who were part of the team’s playoff runs from 2011 to 2015.

The team released former All-Pro defensive tackle Geno Atkins earlier this offseason and did not re-sign former Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green.

With his ability in the passing game and reliability as a runner in a committee, Bernard shouldn’t have difficulty landing a new gig. A club looking for a third-down back could find a bargain in the 29-year-old Bernard, who still has tread left on the tires.

Bernard is also one of the best pass-protecting backs in the entire NFL, a trait that many teams covet in their backup RBs. Cutting Bernard now makes running back depth a need for the Bengals. Joe Mixon remains one of the top-flight backs in the NFL, with game-breaking ability. 

Samaje Perine impressed coaches for stretches last season and should climb the depth chart. A pass-catching back is now a need for the Bengals, which could look to the draft to fill the new void.

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RB Tevin Coleman first San Francisco 49ers free agent to join coach Robert Saleh’s New York Jets

Addressing their thin backfield, the New York Jets agreed to terms Wednesday with former San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman on a one-year deal that can be worth up to $2 million, a league source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Coleman will be reunited with Jets coach Robert Saleh and several assistants, all of whom left San Francisco after the season. After a few failed attempts over the past week, Saleh finally landed a 49ers free agent.

Coleman joins a relatively unproven backfield that incorporates Ty Johnson, La’Mical Perine and Josh Adams, none of whom has rushed for more than 511 yards in a season.

There’s also a good chance the Jets will draft a running back. The Jets plan to run the 49ers’ offense under new coordinator Mike LaFleur, a former San Francisco assistant, so Coleman will be familiar with the scheme.

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Coleman’s best year was 2018 with the Atlanta Falcons, when he ran for 800 yards in a contract year.

He rushed for 544 yards on the 49ers’ NFC championship team in 2019, but 2020 was a washout because of injuries.

In Week 2 versus the Jets, Coleman suffered a sprained knee that landed him on injured reserve. He was one of several 49ers players to get injured that day at MetLife Stadium, prompting complaints from the team about the quality of the turf.

Coleman sprained a knee later in the season and wound up playing only 63 offensive snaps in eight matches. He was limited to 53 yards on 28 carries (1.9 average) and no touchdowns.

It will be a new-look backfield for the Jets, whose leading rusher last season was Frank Gore, 37, a free agent who might retire.

The Jets also made a move on defense, signing former Philadelphia Eagles pass-rusher Vinny Curry to a one-year, $1.3 million contact. Curry, who turns 33 on June 30, projects as a situational rusher.

He recorded three sacks and 10 quarterbacks hits in 11 games last season. In nine seasons, including eight with the Eagles, he has 32.5 career sacks.

The Jets, one of the most active teams in free agency, have signed 11 players.

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