Tagged in: training camp

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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Injury-bit San Francisco 49ers lose Justin Skule, Tarvarius Moore to season-ending injuries

After their 2020 season was ravaged by injury, the San Francisco 49ers hoped that 2021 would bring better health. They’re not off to a promising start.

During a planned team activity Monday, the Niners lost two players to what will almost certainly be season-ending injuries more than three months before the 2021 campaign initiates. Offensive lineman Justin Skule suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, and safety Tarvarius Moore tore his Achilles, according to a team spokesperson.

While neither Skule nor Moore has been an established starter for the Niners, both have played prominent roles in recent seasons.

Skule has played in 31 regular-season matches over the past two years with 12 starts at tackle and guard. He was expected to compete with Shon Coleman for the swing tackle job in training camp before the injury.

Moore had played a similar role in the secondary, appearing in all 48 regular-season games over the past three seasons with 13 starts. He had 49 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 2020 when he started eight games. He was expected to compete for the starting job at strong safety before Monday’s injury.

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Without Moore, the Niners have a group including veterans Jaquiski Tartt, Tavon Wilson, Marcell Harris and Tony Jefferson, who signed on Monday, and rookie Talanoa Hufanga to compete for spots on the safety depth chart.

Skule and Moore are the latest in a long run of disappointing injuries to the 49ers.

In 2020, the Niners lost 161.6 games to injury, the second most of any team in the past 20 years, according to Football Outsiders’ adjusted games lost metric (which also factored in players missing game for COVID-19 reasons).

Many of those injuries affected some of the Niners’ most significant players, as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, tight end George Kittle, ends Nick Bosa and Dee Ford, receiver Deebo Samuel, cornerback Richard Sherman and running back Raheem Mostert combined to play in 37 of a possible 112 games (33%).

After the season, general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan vowed to “look at everything” to try to get and stay healthier in 2021. That included an increased emphasis on durability among the draft class and in outside free agents they acquired.

“What I’ve learned with some of our luck here, especially last year … when too many of those add up, it’s hard to compete,” Shanahan said in May.

“And I think that hit us harder than anything last year. That hit us before COVID, and that’s something we can’t do again. So, we’re not saying that we’ll never take a risk again or anything, but we definitely wanted to make a point because of what’s happened the last couple of years, at least to try to avoid that.”

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San Francisco 49ers DE Nick Bosa (ACL) expected to be ready for training camp

More than 80 of the players on the San Francisco 49ers’ 90-man roster participated in Tuesday’s organized team activity — but the most positive news of the day might have been about one of the few players who wasn’t there.

Defensive end Nick Bosa was not in attendance at the voluntary session as he works his way back from the torn left ACL he suffered on Sept. 20, 2020. But, after the roughly 75-minute OTA, coach Kyle Shanahan made it clear that Bosa’s rehabilitation is going well and the expectation is that when training camp opens on July 31, Bosa will be a part of it.

“Nick’s in Florida,” Shanahan said. “I’ve been talking to Nick since February on this. He came out in February for a while to get checked up on his knee and stuff. With him coming off the ACL and everything, it’s going great. … He’s got a good setup out there with his brother and the guy who works with his knee. They’re in contact with our guys all the time and just didn’t want to take him off his routine right now. I totally agree with him out there. He’s going to show up at some time during this, but he won’t be going out there doing anything coming off the ACL, but we fully expect him to be ready for training camp.”

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Getting Bosa back at full strength would be a big development for a defense that dropped from fifth in sacks in 2019 (48) to 22nd last year (30).

Bosa suffered the torn ACL early in a Week 2 win versus the New York Jets. It was the first of a series of season-destroying injuries for the Niners, who slumped to 6-10 after winning the NFC championship the previous campaign.

The 49ers’ pass rush would also benefit from the return of another key edge rusher if Dee Ford is able to recover from his persistent back issues. Ford, who appeared in just one game in 2020, also didn’t participate Tuesday, but Shanahan said Ford had been at the team’s facility since February and has made progress.

“Everyone knows the sensitivity of his injury with his back and stuff, but he’s been putting in a lot of work here and we feel it’s going the right direction,” Shanahan said.

“Last week, we sent him home because he had been here so long, to go back to his hometown, see his doctor and plan on coming back here in the next couple of weeks. But don’t expect to see him till training camp on the field.”

Also not participating Tuesday was running back Jeff Wilson Jr., who recently had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee, a league source told ESPN, confirming an NFL Network report. Wilson is expected to miss four to six months.

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Texas Rangers reliever Jonathan Hernandez shut down from pitching at least 4 weeks with UCL sprain

The Texas Rangers will be without one of their top relievers to initiate the season after hard-throwing Jonathan Hernandez was shut down from pitching for at least four weeks because of a ligament sprain in his right elbow.

Rangers general manager Chris Young stated Tuesday that an MRI revealed a low-grade ulnar collateral ligament sprain after the right-hander felt something when throwing his last batting practice session.

Hernandez had a breakout season last year, when he was 5-1 with a 2.90 ERA in 27 appearances in the pandemic-shortened 60-game season. He had 31 strikeouts and eight walks in 31 innings, relying heavily on a sinker that averaged nearly 98 mph.

“The good news on him is that this [injury] is one that normally recovers and responds well with some rest,” Young said from the team’s spring training camp in Surprise, Arizona. Young also stated that outfielder/designated hitter Willie Calhoun is dealing with some mild groin tightness after playing Monday.

The team planned to be cautious with Calhoun for a few days but didn’t initially plan an MRI.

That game came exactly one year after Calhoun was hit in the face by a fastball that broke his jaw during a spring training game.

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Young said the Rangers would re-evaluate Hernandez after four weeks, and determine then if the 24-year-old’s ulnar collateral ligament has healed enough to begin a throwing program. He hadn’t yet pitched in a spring training game and will need significant time to build back up once he can throw again.

“Jonathan is obviously one we were counting on,” said Young, who expects the reliever to be out at least a couple of months. “This one hurts a little bit. But there’s still a chance he pitches this year.”

While Hernandez didn’t have any save opportunities last season, he pitched in some high-leverage situations. The Rangers expected to use him in a similar role this year, with maybe some opportunities as the closer.

“We kind of anticipated him being obviously one of our back-end guys, a multiple inning-type pitcher as well,” manager Chris Woodward said. “He’s an eighth-, ninth-inning guy that we can pitch for the eighth and the ninth if we wanted to. We don’t have that option with some of our other guys.”

Jose Leclerc is coming back from a shoulder injury the closer sustained a week into last season, when pitched in only two matches. Left-handed Joely Rodriguez, who had a 2.13 ERA and struck out 17 in his 12⅔ innings last season, is still behind in spring training because of a sprained ankle before getting to camp. He is expected to throw his first bullpen session Friday.

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Deshaun Watson met with Houston Texans coach David Culley, still wants to be traded

Quarterback Deshaun Watson met with new Houston Texans coach David Culley last Friday, according to sources, and informed Culley that he has no plan of suiting up for the team again.

Upset over the way the organization has operated in recent years, Watson has asked the Texans to trade him and has had very little contact with the team since the season ended.

The conversation with Culley is believed to have been the first between the two. Culley said in his introductory news conference that he expected Watson to be on the team in 2021.

But according to the sources, Watson’s message to Culley in Friday’s meeting was that nothing has changed on his end and he still would like to be traded. So far, the Texans have told interested teams that they don’t intend to trade Watson, who just last summer signed a four-year, $156 million contract extension that runs through 2025.

Trading Watson would cost the Texans $21.6 million in dead money against this year’s salary cap — a significant hit since his cap number if he’s on the team is just $15.94 million.

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Any team acquiring the young superstar would get a tremendous bargain in 2021, as Watson is arranged to earn just $10.54 million in salary this year before that number jumps to $35 million in 2022, $37 million in 2023 and $32 million each in 2024 and 2025.

If the Texans choose not to trade Watson, he could opt not to report to mandatory team activities or training camp, but at a cost.

Houston can fine Watson $95,877 for missing minicamp and can fine him $50,000 per day for each day of training camp missed, plus one week’s salary — $620,000 — for each preseason game missed. In the unlikely scenario that Watson chooses to retire, the Texans can collect $21.6 million.

Watson’s trade request came after he was reportedly unhappy with the process used by the team to hire new general manager Nick Caserio in early January.

Watson set career highs in the 2020 season in passing yards, touchdowns and completion percentage. He also threw a career-low seven interceptions. His 33 touchdowns and 4,823 passing yards were single-season franchise records.

He is the NFL’s career leader in completion percentage at 67.8%, ahead of New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. In 2020, Watson became just the 11th player in NFL history to complete at least 70% of his passes in a season.

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Harden returns to Rockets, scores 12 in preseason debut

James Harden was back in a Houston uniform.

It’s still uncertain how many more times that’ll happen.

The three-time defending NBA scoring champion made his preseason debut with the Rockets on Tuesday night, after practicing only one time with his team following a late arrival to training camp amid incessant trade speculation. Harden scored 12 points in 21 minutes and the Rockets beat the San Antonio Spurs 112-98.

Harden also had four assists, three rebounds and two steals. He checked out for the final time with 5:02 left in the third quarter, having missed his final four shots.

John Wall and Ben McLemore each had 15 points for the Rockets, who got 11 points apiece from Eric Gordon and Jae’Sean Tate and 11 rebounds from DeMarcus Cousins. Lonnie Walker IV scored 17 for the Spurs, who got 13 points, seven assists and five rebounds from Dejounte Murray. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 12, while Rudy Gay and Devin Vassell each added 11 for San Antonio.

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Harden seemed anything but disinterested to start his first live game action of the season.

He stood immediately to the right of new Rockets coach Stephen Silas in the pregame huddle, his eyes staring intently at whatever Silas was sketching up before taking the floor.

His first shot was a made straightaway 3-pointer, his second attempt led to him getting fouled from beyond the arc and making three free throws.

So, his shooting touch was there, at least at the outset — as was his touch on passes. He connected with Danuel House on a three-quarter-court chest pass to set up a dunk late in the opening quarter, timing clearly not much of an issue after a couple months off.

Harden went 3 for 10 from the field, including 2 for 6 from 3-point range. He also went 4 for 5 at the free-throw line.

The Rockets lost guard Chris Clemons with 9:58 left, after he was taken off the court in a wheelchair. Clemons made a 3-pointer for an 87-74 Houston lead, and after retreating to the defensive end for the ensuing possession, appeared to take a bad step and immediately started reaching for his right Achilles area.

There was no immediate diagnosis of Clemons’ injury. There are four matches Wednesday, followed by seven on Thursday, eight on Friday and then three in the preseason finales Saturday. The regular season starts on Dec. 22.

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Draymond Green, James Wiseman absent from Golden State Warriors practice

Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green and No. 2 overall draft pick James Wiseman missed Day 1 of the team’s training camp Monday.

Coach Steve Kerr didn’t detail why the two were absent but did say they were the only two players not to take the court. Kerr noted that he couldn’t elaborate on what Green and Wiseman are able to do at the moment.

“I will not comment on that any further,” Kerr said. “I’m not allowed to comment on that. You can make your own deductions. I know it’s really tricky.”

Last week, general manager Bob Myers acknowledged without providing names that two players had tested positive for COVID-19 and said they would be out at least 10 days before being tested again. Kerr noted the awkwardness for both coaches and media in trying to give an update on the health of his team without revealing who tested positive.

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“I’m just trying to figure out which one of you has put all the pieces together and figured out what’s happening here,” Kerr said. “I think you guys all got it.”

It’s the same awkward dance that is going on throughout the NBA this season concerning to injury updates and players’ privacy. Kerr knows that the uncertain nature of the virus makes it something that will hover over the league all season.

“This is the nature of this season, so everybody’s going to be dealing with it,” he said. “Every team in the league. I think the way we’re looking at it is we’re lucky to be playing basketball. We’re grateful for the opportunity to compete and play, and any difficulties to the season pale in comparison to what’s happening out in the world, so there won’t be much talk from our end about COVID and the protocols and what it means to our team … What matters is the protocols and being healthy and safe and keeping everybody that way.”

Kerr isn’t worried about Green’s readiness to play as soon as he is medically cleared to hit the floor.

“When he’s ready to go, he’ll be out there,” Kerr said. “I’m not worried about Draymond. He’s got a better feel for what we do than anybody, so he’ll be fine once he gets rolling with practice.”

As for Wiseman, getting him prepared for the condensed season will be trickier. Kerr knows that it will be hard to get the second overall pick in last month’s draft ready after his training camp absence, but he isn’t going to complain about the hand the Warriors have been dealt. “It’s unfortunate, but that’s just the way it goes,” Kerr said.

“Our coaching staff has been showing him tape the last few days, and he’s still getting some homework in between now and the time he’ll be able to play again. So it’s not ideal, but nothing’s ideal for anybody in 2020.”

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Jets release veteran starting right guard Brian Winters

The New York Jets have released Brian Winters, who started at right guard until being sidelined by an injury last year and was the team’s longest-tenured player.

The timing of the release is surprising because general manager Joe Douglas said lately that Winters would be given a chance to go to training camp and compete for the starting job.

Winters was due to make a non-guaranteed $7.3 million in the final year of a four-year, $29 million contract. There will be no cap hit for the Jets; the entire $7.3 million comes off the books.

The Jets overhauled their offensive line in the offseason, including signing guard Greg Van Roten to a three-year deal.

Van Roten is expected to be the team’s starter at right guard this campaign.

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The Jets also re-signed starting left guard Alex Lewis and signed center Connor McGovern and tackle George Fant to multiyear contracts. In addition, the Jets used their first-round draft pick (11th overall) on offensive tackle Mekhi Becton.

A starter since his rookie year in 2013, Winters suffered a shoulder injury last training camp but started the regular season in his familiar right guard position and lasted nine matches before succumbing to the pain. He underwent surgery and was placed on injured reserve.

Winters, 29, is known for his toughness. In 2017, he missed only three games despite an abdominal tear, which required surgery after the season.

The following year, he didn’t miss a single snap on offense. He entered the league in 2013 as a third-round pick out of Kent State. He was second to running back Bilal Powell as the longest-tenured Jets on the 2019 team. Winters has appeared in 89 games, including 79 starts, over nine seasons.

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Cowboys’ DeMarcus Lawrence debating whether to report to training camp

The Dallas Cowboys could be without their star pass rusher entering training camp.

DeMarcus Lawrence, a two-time Pro Bowl selection in 2017 and 2018, is debating whether or not he will skip training camp due to the upcoming birth of his daughter. His wife is due in October and the current coronavirus pandemic may make it unsafe for Lawrence and his family.

Cowboys training camp is set to start on July 28. “I’m taking it one day at a time, talking with my team and trying to figure out as many details as possible before I make a decision and have it set in stone,” Lawrence told ESPN.

“Shoot, I love to ride with my brothers and play the game of football. When I have to take that away from myself, it’s hard and I don’t want to make a decision like that. But I also have to make sure I’m taking care of my family. Family is No. 1. After the game of football is done, that’s the only thing I have to depend on, so I’ve got to take care of them.”

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He doesn’t want to miss his daughter’s birth after being absent for his son’s birth back in 2014.

“But my No. 1 concern is will I be able to see my family and be there for my daughter’s birth?” Lawrence said. “If I can’t be, we’re really going to have to take some major difficult considerations about this season, because I’m not missing the birth of another child.”

The Cowboys haven’t exactly had the best of offseason. Dallas was recently unable to complete a long-term contract with franchise quarterback Dak Prescott.

The failure to get a deal done before the deadline last Wednesday means the 27-year-old will play on a franchise tag — a one-year deal — worth $31.4 million. Lawrence is entering the second year of a five-year, $105 million deal — with $65 million guaranteed — that he inked prior to the begining of the 2019 season.

If he sits out training camp, he would be forced to repay part of his bonus.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Jason Pierre-Paul undergoes knee surgery

Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul published on Snapchat that he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Friday, describing the procedure as a “tune-up.”

Pierre-Paul posted video of himself waiting for surgery at the hospital, getting into his car afterwards and walking on crutches with his knee bandaged.

“Get this surgery. You feel me? But I’m Gucci though. You feel me?” Pierre-Paul said in the video. “Because your boy just had to do it. He just had to do it.”

… Your boy good. I just had a little tune-up. But to be honest, if I’m going to break that sack record this year, I needed to do the surgery. So I did it.” A source told ESPN that there are no concerns about him missing the start of training camp.

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After suffering two fractured vertebrae in his neck last offseason, Pierre-Paul went on to record 8.5 sacks in 10 matches in 2019, while teammate Shaq Barrett led the NFL with 19.5 sacks.

Throughout the season last year, Pierre-Paul was listed on the injury report with a knee injury but continued to play.

Earlier this offseason, he signed a new two-year deal worth $25 million. The surgery was performed to alleviate some discomfort he was feeling.

“Your boy good. I just had a little tune-up,” Pierre-Paul said. “You feel me? But to be honest, if I’m gonna break that sack record this year, I needed to do the surgery. So I did it.”

The two-time Pro Bowl selection was traded from the New York Giants to the Buccaneers before the 2018 season. Earlier this off-season, Pierre-Paul signed a two-year, $25 million deal with the Buccaneers.

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