FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- While there is always the chance of a late-week change, the current signs point to the New England Patriots being without injured running back Rex Burkhead for Sunday's home game against the Houston Texans.
Burkhead, who suffered an injury to his ribs in Sunday's win over the New Orleans Saints, did not practice Wednesday and also wasn't on the field for the start of Thursday's workout. If he is indeed unavailable, it would leave the Patriots with four running backs on the 46-man game-day roster: Mike Gillislee, James White, Dion Lewis and Brandon Bolden.
Burkhead, who appeared to be primed for an expanded workload against the Saints, didn't play on offense after the team's fourth series. He did return to the game on special teams, as a member of the punt-return unit, which could have been viewed as an indication that the injury wasn't initially diagnosed as anything overly serious.
As for how Burkhead's potential absence might affect the team's running back usage, it shouldn't have much of an impact on Gillislee and White. Their roles seem firmly established at this point, with Gillislee the top power option in short-yardage situations (four touchdown runs) and White the reliable top option as the "passing back."
If anything, it might create a bit more of a workload for Lewis, who had some success as a pass-catcher against the Texans in the divisional round of the playoffs last season.
Hart injured his ankle last week against the Dallas Cowboys. He finished the contest, but missed Thursday's practice.
The second-year tackle limped off after the second play against the Lions. He will not return.
The Giants moved left guard Justin Pugh to right tackle in Hart's absence. He practiced at that spot throughout the week. Pugh played right tackle for most of his first three professional seasons.
Brett Jones entered the lineup at left guard with Pugh moving to the outside.
In the third quarter, Giants linebacker J.T. Thomas was ruled out with a groin injury.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and Mike Daniels all appear to have avoided season-ending injuries after dropping out of Sunday night's loss at the Atlanta Falcons, but all three Green Bay Packers playmakers likely will need all week to determine whether they can play against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Coach Mike McCarthy refused to give any injury details on specific players during a news conference Monday night.
"I don't have anything for you on any of the players," McCarthy said. "We're still working through it. We got back at 3 a.m., so we had a lot of work to do."
However, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter that Nelson's quad strain is not considered serious. He is is "50-50" for Sunday's game against the Bengals, the source said.
When asked whether he was concerned any of the injuries were season-ending, McCarthy said: "I don't think I'll be reporting on season-ending injuries, no."
Nelson left during the Packers' first drive because of a quad injury to his right leg and did not re-enter the game despite going through treatment and riding an exercise bike on the sideline. It's the same leg that Nelson hurt in the 2015 preseason, when he tore his ACL and missed the entire season. This, however, is a soft-tissue injury.
So is Daniels' ailment. The defensive tackle pulled his hamstring in the first quarter and also could not return.
ATLANTA -- Two of the Green Bay Packers' biggest playmakers didn't it make through the first series of Sunday night's 34-23 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Another tried to gut out an injury but finally succumbed.
Receiver Jordy Nelson hobbled off the field after eight offensive plays because of a quad injury, and defensive tackle Mike Daniels pulled a hamstring on the Falcons' first drive. Receiver Randall Cobb tried to play through a shoulder injury and finally dropped out in the fourth quarter.
"I got hit in the first quarter and then aggravated it," said Cobb, who was the only one of the three that was available to discuss his injury. "I think I'll be all right, though."
For Nelson, it was a non-contact injury to the same leg in which he tore his ACL in the 2015 preseason and missed that entire year.
Nelson tried to work through it on the sideline. After undergoing treatment, he rode a stationary bike and then jogged on the sideline but never returned and was ruled out of the game shortly after halftime with the Packers' trailing 24-7 at the break.
Nelson did not have a ball thrown his way before he left with the injury. He caught seven passes for 79 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown in the season-opening win over the Seahawks.
Daniels' first-half hamstring injury came after he played perhaps the best game of his career in the last week's season opener against Seattle. He had 1.5 sacks, four quarterback hits and seven tackles.
The Packers also lost two members of their secondary during the game, cornerback Davon House
ASHBURN, Virginia -- The plan to play Washington Redskins receiver Josh Doctson more this week has hit a snag. Doctson is questionable for Sunday's game at the Los Angeles Rams because of hamstring tightness.
Redskins coach Jay Gruden had wanted to play Doctson 35-40 snaps this week after limiting him to 20 in the season-opening loss to Philadelphia. But Doctson felt tightness in his hamstring, which had sidelined him for two of the first three preseason games this summer. Doctson was limited in practice all week.
Gruden said they will have a better sense of his availability Saturday; they are flying to Los Angeles Friday and will practice at UCLA the next day.
Doctson, a first-round pick in 2016, and the team have been frustrated by his lack of availability. He missed 14 games last season with Achilles' issues. The Redskins need his talent on the field to help provide a boost to the passing game. But he also has to show he can get it done.
Regardless, even if he plays Sunday it could be once again in a limited role. Gruden had said Monday that he wanted Doctson to string together consistent practices to help prepare him for more time.
"Those will come eventually in time," Gruden said of the increased snaps.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The Chicago Bears listed seven players as questionable for Sunday’s game at Tampa, including wide receiver Markus Wheaton (finger), left guard Kyle Long (ankle), outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (back) and running back Jordan Howard (shoulder).
Wheaton said that he’d feel better with a week of full practices under his belt before the Bears activate him for a regular season game.
“More so for them upstairs [the front office],” Wheaton said on Friday. “They want to see me practicing before they throw me out in a game, so I have to build confidence in them also in myself and my finger, and then we'll go.”
Wheaton also admitted that he has been unable to develop much chemistry with starting quarterback Mike Glennon. The former Pittsburgh Steeler sat out most of the early portions training camp due to an appendectomy. He underwent that procedure prior to having surgery to repair his broken left pinkie finger.
“We got a good amount of reps in camp but definitely not where I want to be and I'm sure not where he wants to be,” Wheaton said. “So, we have to work on that.”
As for Long, Raymond James Stadium – the home of the Bucs -- was the site of the horrific ankle injury he sustained last year that required surgery. Long is improving, but he may still be a week or two away from making his 2017 debut.
Like Wheaton, Long was limited all week in practice.
“[I’m] getting closer and closer,” Long said. “I wouldn’t be able to tell you 100 percent [that I’m ready to play], but I will say I’m a lot farther along than I was.”
Meantime, the Bears added Floyd to the injury report on Friday with a tight back. The pass-rusher did not want to discuss his injury when questioned by reporters, but Floyd still practiced on a limited basis, after having full participation on Wednesday and Thursday.
Howard – limited all week – did not speak to reporters in any of the Week 2 open locker room sessions. Howard also failed to meet to the media following the Bears’ 23-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday. Beard coach John Fox said Howard hurt his shoulder on his 4-yard touchdown run.
Veteran running back Benny Cunningham is doubtful with a high-ankle sprain.
MINNEAPOLIS -- New Orleans Saints right tackle Zach Strief was ruled out of Monday night's game against the Minnesota Vikings with a knee injury after he walked off the field with trainers before halftime.
Losing Strief is a big blow to a Saints offense that was already starting the year without left tackle Terron Armstead because of a shoulder injury.
New Orleans' offense struggled to generate much of anything in the first three quarters, falling behind 19-9 with 196 total net yards.
Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Crowder would be listed as questionable because of a hip flexor. Crowder was limited in practice all week because of the injury. However, Crowder looked surprised in the locker room Friday when told he was listed as questionable.
“There’s no concern,” Crowder said. “I’ll be ready.”
Crowder is a key part of the Redskins’ offense, having caught a combined 126 passes the last two years. They also have Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson, but Crowder is the one who has worked with quarterback Kirk Cousins the most. He also returns punts. If Crowder can’t play, Ryan Grant would handle the slot receiver duties.
“Yeah he’s a concern,” Gruden said of Crowder. “Anybody who’s questionable is a concern. We have another day of treatment – recovery – and we’ll see how he is tomorrow.”
But Crowder participated during individual drills the last two days after tweaking his hip in practice. He ran routes at normal speed in those drills. He said he has spent time in both the cold tub and hot tub this week.
He also called the injury “minor.”
“It wasn’t anything major from the get-go,” Crowder said. “Just a little minor injury. I planned this whole week to play Sunday.”
Even though it occurred 25 minutes after practice ended, it’s what the Redskins needed to see: A
healthy Reed getting in extra work on his first day back. And doing so without any issues.
Reed returned to practice Wednesday after being activated from the physically unable to perform list Sunday. He had opened camp on the PUP list because of sprains in his left ankle and big toe. Coach Jay Gruden said he’d like to play Reed in their third preseason game Sunday. The Redskins typically rest their starters in the fourth preseason game.
“It’s important, it’s not critical,” Gruden said of Reed playing Sunday. “I’d like to get him back out there and get in the running game a little bit and obviously catch a couple passes. If he’s not feeling up to it at that time, so be it.”
Reed hasn’t worked a lot with the starting offense this year, having worked out in Florida during the spring voluntary practices. He looked sharp during the two-day June minicamp. But he has played in Gruden’s offense for three seasons and has been Cousins’ primary target for the past two, with 153 catches and 17 touchdowns in that time. The Redskins also have more than two weeks to get ready for the opener.
“Jordan has missed time before and come back and not missed a beat,” Gruden said. “He’s one of those freakish guys that has the luxury of doing that. Not many other people can do that. Still, you’d like a player to get some involvement in a game before you play a real one.”
“It’s real important to feel some hits and have live bullets at me, get my feet under me,” Reed said. “I’m pretty confident right now in my toe.”
Ten days ago Reed started wearing a wider cleat and orthotics as he continued to rehab. He said that he has protected his toe enough that he doesn’t feel any pain. He didn’t look limited when running routes, whether during one-on-one work or after practice with Cousins and several other players, including receiver Terrelle Pryor.
“It’s not real easy when you miss time,” Reed said. “But I got some extra work with [Cousins]. Yesterday I got extra work with him. I’ll keep doing that so we’ll be ready for the first game.”
The Redskins’ offense has struggled in the preseason, with three points and no first downs versus the opposition’s No. 1 defense in four series. But Wednesday was the first practice they had all their skill talent available this summer. Key receivers Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson played their first preseason action this past Saturday versus Green Bay.
But Reed remains the focal point of the offense, so his return and readiness for the season opener is pivotal. He provides unique movement skills, Cousins said, and creates matchup issues based on where he’s aligned. He runs well, so placing a linebacker on him makes it tough; he’s bigger than a safety.
“If you want to put your best corner on Jordan Reed, that’s one option,” Cousins said. “But now you’re opening a door for whoever else is out there -- a Josh Doctson, a Terrelle Pryor, a Vernon Davis so on and so forth. We’re always looking for those matchup advantages and they tend to be in Jordan’s favor just because of how uniquely gifted he is. And usually a guy covering him is not the top cover guy on the team.”
The key now, for Reed and the Redskins, is making sure that he stays on the field.
"I'm really broken-hearted about George Fant getting hurt," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "Just unfortunate. He's done so much and come so far."
Fant suffered the injury with 8 minutes, 49 seconds left in the second quarter. He was moving backward in pass protection when teammate Justin Britt, who was on the ground, rolled into him. Fant immediately went to the ground and clutched the knee. Trainers tended to him for several minutes before carting Fant off the field.
Fant started 10 games at left tackle last year and was going to start there again in 2017.
Carroll said earlier this summer that Fant had the best offseason of any Seahawks player. Fant bulked up from 296 pounds to 320 pounds.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – His teammates' reactions said as much Thursday night, as did Billy Winn’s own expression when he was helped on to a cart in the first quarter of the Denver Broncos’ preseason game against the Chicago Bears.
An MRI exam conducted Friday has confirmed Winn suffered a torn right ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. Winn suffered the injury with just 46 seconds left in the first quarter when he stepped awkwardly in a crowd during a 6-yard run by Bears running back Ka’Deem Carey.
Broncos coach Vance Joseph said following the game that Winn would have the MRI Friday to check the extent of the injury. But Winn’s teammates wore somber expressions when he was helped to a cart by the Broncos trainers and Winn, who had expressed high hopes for the season this past week, looked resigned to the injury's severity.
Players were also waving for the training staff almost as soon as the play was over. Winn, who re-signed with the Broncos late in free agency, played 342 snaps on defense last season (29.9 percent).
He played in all 16 games in 2016, starting two. Winn, because the Broncos selected DeMarcus Walker in the second round of this past April's draft after they had signed both Domata Peko and Zach Kerr in free agency, was facing a tight battle for available roster spots in the defensive line.
This past week Broncos special teams coordinator Brock Olivo said Winn had volunteered during the offseason to be a backup long snapper on punts and field goal attempts if needed. Olivo also expressed his belief Winn could find some kind of role on special teams.
“I know he’s done that in the past,’’ Olivo said. “When we first got here, Billy came up and said, ‘Hey, I’m your guy if you need a backup.’ Billy is an amazing athlete. I don’t know if you guys have seen. He can play in space too so we’re excited about Billy.’’
“It’s not a hamstring or anything. He got his knee tweaked,” Payton said – which is an important distinction, since Lattimore dealt with significant injuries to each of his hamstrings early in his college career.
“I think he’ll be fine. It won’t be long,” Payton said of Lattimore, who was injured during Monday’s practice. The team then was off on Tuesday.
The Saints’ top cornerback, Delvin Breaux, also remained sidelined Wednesday with an unspecified injury – though he was in attendance watching from the side at the beginning of practice.
Meanwhile, offensive lineman Senio Kelemete made his training camp debut Wednesday after he was activated from the PUP list.
OXNARD, California -- The last time Jaylon Smith wore pads on a football field was Jan. 1, 2016, in the Fiesta Bowl.
His left knee was shredded after he was pushed in the back by an Ohio State offensive lineman, causing Smith's foot to plant into the ground. He tore his anterior cruciate ligament. He tore his lateral collateral ligament. He suffered damage to the peroneal nerve, causing some teams to eliminate him from their draft boards.
As Smith was slowly helped off the field, he could not lift his left foot as it skimmed across the ground.
When the Dallas Cowboys put the pads on Wednesday for their third practice of training camp, Smith will be in full pads on a football field for the first time since the injury.
To Smith, it will be just another day in a journey that he believes will see him become one of the best linebackers in the NFL.
"Very confident on myself and everything I've done this far," Smith said. "The strength staff, the rehab, Britt Brown, Jim [Maurer], all those guys: We have a plan set in place and we don't want to defer from it. It's just about working every day, and it's something where for me everything I've done we start off slow, we continue to progress, we continue to progress and we're good. And I've succeeded in everything thus far."
To almost everybody else -- coaches, teammates, executives -- it will be another sign of progress.
Smith's older brother, Rod, is a running back with the Cowboys.
"I think he's ready to get out there," Rod Smith said. "He's been preparing since the injury, so he's been doing a good job keeping his mind off it. Focused, keeping his mind right. Focused on what he needs to have it focused on. He looks ready."
Justin Durant sat next to Jaylon Smith last year in the linebackers room as Smith worked through his rehab his rookie season, unable to play.
"I love everything about him," Durant said. "I'm excited for him to get out there. I want to see how good he is, too."
Said wide receiver Dez Bryant: "The dude's a freak of nature. Look at him. He looks like a damn action figure out there. The guy's phenomenal. I'm ready to see him in action. I think he's going to perform well."
There is no way of truly knowing how Smith will perform until he is on the field in a game. Wearing pads during training camp offers more of a glimpse into the reality than offseason practices conducted without pads, though.
As optimistic as the Cowboys are, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said he has not seen enough to know for sure if Smith will help during the regular season.
"No, other than I know he's a very talented and a terrific college player," Marinelli said. "We know what he's about. He's got size and the movement. That's a great starting point. Great starting point."
Had he not been injured, Smith might have been under consideration by the Cowboys with their first-round pick at No. 4 overall over Ezekiel Elliott. That's if he would have been available. He could have gone among the top three picks.
While the strength and movement have returned to his left foot, Smith continues to wear a brace to help keep it flexed. Zack Martin wore a similar brace during his rookie season when he suffered an ankle injury going into the playoffs.
"It's great for support," Martin said. "Obviously when you have that injury the biggest thing is when it moves a little bit it hurts. It keeps it stable and made a huge difference for me."
Smith hopes he won't need a brace when the regular season starts, or perhaps the one he wears will be modified more. The ligaments are strong and secure. The nerve continues to regenerate and the Cowboys believe it will fire completely in the future. Smith has been coy when discussing the specifics of the nerve injury but has always been positive it would return fully.
A recent EMG showed the nerve's conduction has grown from the last test in the spring,
"Those are the things you can see that things are changing for him in a positive way," executive vice president Stephen Jones said.
The Cowboys will work Smith in slowly as he goes, just as they did in the spring. The goal is to be ready for the regular-season opener against the New York Giants, but today is a significant step.
"It's about patience," Jaylon Smith said. "But with sitting out a year, I've learned so much about myself as a man. Everything I do is with a clear-eye view. It's a focused vision, determined belief and earned dreams. It's something I live by and walk with every single day."
The Vikings placed Murray on the physically unable to perform list on Monday as they began three days of early work for quarterbacks, rookies and injured players. Murray, who had surgery in March to clean up a lingering ankle injury from last season, missed the Vikings' entire offseason program, and it remains to be seen whether he'll return from the PUP list when the Vikings have their first full-squad practice Thursday.
"It’s very difficult, because those [other] guys, they have the upper hand," Murray said. "They’ve been out there practicing. Dalvin [Cook], he’s been in the system. It’s one thing for me to watch from the sideline, but when you’re in it, it’s much easier to learn when you’re able to make the mistakes that I can only see. I would say that they’re ahead of the game right now, so when I do come back I have some making up to do. I have to bust my behind to make sure I set myself apart."
The Vikings signed Murray to a three-year deal in March, effectively signaling the end of Adrian Peterson's time in Minnesota. They then used a second-round draft pick on Cook, who will compete with Murray and Jerick McKinnon for playing time in the Vikings' revamped backfield.
Minnesota also put defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd on the non-football injury list as he continues to work through the nerve issues he has battled since having surgery on his right knee last September. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said Sunday that Floyd has "improved," but a timetable for the former first-round pick's return to the field remains unclear.
Atlanta Falcons defensive linemen Adrian Clayborn and Derrick Shelby will join All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones and Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant as players held out for the start of next week's organized team activities, multiple sources told ESPN.
Coach Dan Quinn previously said both Jones and Trufant would be sidelined during OTAs and likely up until training camp while coming off foot and pectoral surgeries, respectively. The statuses of Clayborn and Shelby were a little unclear despite injuries that ended their 2016 season prematurely.
Clayborn suffered a torn biceps in a Jan. 14 divisional playoff win over Seattle and was told a full recovery would take five months from when he suffered the injury. Shelby tore his Achilles in a Oct. 16 game at Seattle and faced up to eight months of recovery.
"Adrian Clayborn ... he's doing well," Quinn said at the end of March. "And then Derrick Shelby had an Achilles injury like the fifth week of the year. He looks good physically. He's actually changed his body. ... He looks different as a guy walking around. You can see the size, the strength. He looks great. .... All of them are in different phases of their rehab, but all we anticipate being fully ready."
When he said "fully ready," Quinn was referring to training camp and the start of the season. There is no need to rush any of the players back into action now, particularly Jones, who coming off a March 6 surgery to remove a bunion on his left foot. Jones told ESPN everything is on schedule for a training camp return in late July.
The Falcons officially begin OTAs next Tuesday after having their first three days of those activities wiped away this week due to an NFL rules violation from last year related to excessive on-field contact.
While the Falcons will be without Jones, Trufant, Clayborn, Shelby, and rookie first-round draft pick Takkarist McKinley from UCLA (shoulder rehab/NFL college finals rules) for OTAs, Pro Bowl center Alex Mack is set to participate after playing through the Super Bowl with a non-displaced fracture in his left fibula.
The Falcons have OTAs this coming Tuesday, June 1-2, June 5-6, and June 8-9. No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-and-11 drills are allowed.
Mandatory minicamp is June 13-15.