Injury Notes: Taylor, Burks, Kamara, Gallup

Giants backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor exited today’s game with a concussion, according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. Taylor was put into action when starting quarterback Daniel Jones was sidelined with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter of today’s win over the Bears.

Taylor had a rough showing, throwing an interception on his first possession under center, and, in the very next possession, sustaining a helmet-to-helmet hit from Bears cornerback Kyler Gordon that would remove him from the game. With both quarterbacks hobbled, the Giants were temporarily forced to utilize their emergency quarterback, starting running back Saquon Barkley.

Following Taylor’s exit, the Giants ran a couple of plays with Barkley leading a wildcat-style offense, with Jones serving as a decoy out wide. Jones would eventually return behind center, solely to hand the ball off to Barkley for the remainder of the game.

Jones claimed after the game that he was OK, so there’s a chance that he will be able to return for New York’s Week 5 matchup with the Packers in London. If Taylor, who will now go through the league’s soon-changing concussion protocol, is unable to play, the Giants have quarterback Davis Webb on the practice squad.

Here are a few more injury notes from Week 4 of the NFL season, starting with the loss of an AFC South rookie:

  • Titans rookie wide receiver Treylon Burks left today’s contest with the Colts almost immediately after sustaining a foot injury in the fourth quarter. “Almost” because, perhaps being unaware of the injury protocol in the NFL, Burks got stuck on the field for one more play while injured before he went to the ground and was able to leave the game. Burks eventually found his way to the sideline and was carted off to the locker room, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. The first-round pick out of Arkansas was reportedly seen in a walking boot and on crutches after the game, according to Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com, but the severity of his injury has yet to be reported. So far this season, Burks and trade-acquisition Robert Woods have led the team in receiving, but neither has extremely eye-popping numbers through three weeks of play. Any absence by Burks would mean more snaps for Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and Kyle Philips on offense.
  • Saints running back Alvin Kamara was officially ruled out early in the morning for most Americans before the team’s London matchup versus the Vikings. Kamara, who’s been dealing with rib issues, is reportedly “looking to get healthy for (the) long haul,” according to Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.football. In his absence, the Saints split carries between Mark Ingram and practice squad elevation Latavius Murray.
  • After tearing his ACL late in the 2021 season and having surgery in February, Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup made his season debut today against the Commanders. Gallup played sparingly but proved useful while available. On three targets, Gallup caught two balls for 24 yards and a touchdown.

Javonte Williams, Randy Gregory To Undergo MRIs For Knee Injuries

As if losing a close game to a division-opponent wasn’t bad enough, the Broncos saw starters on both sides of the ball leave the game with knee injuries, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Running back Javonte Williams and pass rusher Randy Gregory will both get MRIs tomorrow morning, according to Jeff Legwold of ESPN, to determine the severity of their injuries. 

Unfortunately, it sounds like those with knowledge of the situation believe Williams injury to be a serious one, via Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). If Williams is forced to miss extended time, it would be a devastating blow to Denver’s offense. While the second-year running back out of North Carolina has consistently split lead-rusher duties with veteran Melvin Gordon, Williams had been the more productive back so far through three games this season.

It also doesn’t help that, after his fourth fumble of the season (the most for an NFL running back so far this year), Gordon was squarely placed in the doghouse tonight. When Williams left the game, instead of Denver leaning on the other side of its two-headed rushing attack, it was third-string veteran Mike Boone that heard his name called. Gordon did eventually return to the game, but his two carries for the remainder of the game are either indicative of the team’s trust in him right now or simply a result of the team needing to pass the ball in order to get back into a game that got away from them late.

Denver will have to figure out where it stands with Gordon moving forward, if Williams is forced to miss multiple games. Boone has extremely limited starting experience from his time in Minnesota and, with Damarea Crockett already on injured reserve, practice squad running back Devine Ozigbo is currently the team’s only other option.

Gregory also left the game with a knee injury. He was able to walk off the field under his own power but, after being examined, was carted off the sideline into the locker room. Gregory is just the latest of several Broncos pass rushers dealing with injuries this season as Christopher Allen, Jonathon Cooper, and Aaron Patrick have all dealt with ailments this season.

The defense struggled to stop the Raiders and running back Josh Jacobs following Gregory’s departure. An extended absence from the field could leave Denver’s defense hurting. If Gregory can’t suit up, young backups Nik Bonitto and Baron Browning will work opposite Bradley Chubb to get to the quarterback.

The lack of optimism is not encouraging heading towards the week, but MRIs Monday morning will inform the Broncos of just how dire their situation is.

Latest On Amended Concussion Protocols

The league is inching closer to officially amending its concussion protocol, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. The update, provided by NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills, reports that the NFL and the Players Association are “still discussing final language and unintended consequences” of the new concussion protocol. 

The assumption is that the changes that require specific language to avoid unintended consequences would be the ongoing discussions over “gross motor instability” and its interpretation. Unchanged, the current protocols allow what happened with Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. In Tagovailoa’s situation, the team was able to pinpoint a back injury as the source of Tagovailoa’s stumbling, allowing him to return to the game despite the fact that he underwent concussion protocols in the days after the game leading up to the Thursday night contest.

The amended protocols would not allow the stumbling to be assigned to an injury that would permit a player to return to a game. Instead, any displayed gross motor instability would result in a player being removed from a game. While it sounds like that could set a dangerous precedent wherein anybody who trips and falls is taken out of the game, that’s exactly why the NFLPA and the league are spending so much time on the language to avoid “unintended consequences.”

The amendment is also intended to err on the conservative side. Dr. Sills was quoted saying, “Our goal is to get them out and not let them play.” He emphasized that, despite the firing of the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant that cleared Tagovailoa to return from his first injury, the team physicians “have the final say in diagnosing concussions and return to play.” He also posits that there is “no team doctor anywhere in the league who’s going with a differing opinion.”

Dr. Sills put forth that the new protocols could go into effect as soon as Week 5 of this season. He cautioned, though, that there should be an emphasis on educating how to apply the new protocol consistently league-wide: from team physicians to UNC’s to certified athletic trainers who are employed to spot potential head trauma.

As for Tagovailoa’s case and the investigation into the situation, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Tagovailoa is expected to be interviewed about the sequence of events last week. Schefter reports also that the investigation is expected to continue for another week or two and that the results of the investigation are still expected to be announced “almost immediately after” the investigation has concluded.

Patriots QB Brian Hoyer Out For Game With Head Injury

The Patriots were forced to turn to veteran backup quarterback Brian Hoyer with second-year starter Mac Jones out this week after injuring his ankle in the team’s loss to the Ravens. After suffering an injury in his first start since Week 4 of the 2020 season, though, Hoyer has been ruled out for the remainder of the game with a head injury. 

On just his second series as the starting quarterback, Hoyer took a hard hit on a sack from Packers linebacker Rashan Gary and left the game to be evaluated with a head injury. Hoyer had looked good in his limited time, completing five of his six pass attempts for 37 yards before getting knocked out of the game.

With Jones and Hoyer ruled out, New England was forced to turn to its fourth-round pick from this year’s draft, Bailey Zappe. The rookie out of Western Kentucky is truly the Patriots’ only option as even their emergency quarterback, wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, is out today with a knee injury.

The former Hilltopper faces the daunting task of beating the Packers in his first bit of NFL playing time. So far, Zappe has been up to the task becoming the first quarterback from the 2022 NFL Draft class to throw an NFL touchdown. Both Titans’ rookie quarterback Malik Willis and Steelers’ rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett were allotted playing time before Zappe, but it was Zappe who cashed in with his arm first (Pickett had two rushing touchdowns in today’s loss to the Jets).

Even if Zappe leads the Patriots to an upset victory over the Packers, he likely won’t be asked to man the starting job for long. Despite the apparent severity of Jones’ initial injury, Jones has refused to accept an extended absence, seeking a second opinion on his diagnosis and teasing fans not to count him out for this week’s game before being ruled out. Hoyer’s injury shouldn’t keep him out for very long either, unless it’s an especially severe head injury.

If they are forced to move forward with Zappe, the next few games could be manageable as they don’t face a single team currently over .500 until after their bye week. If Jones and Hoyer are out for multiple weeks, Zappe would be in line to start against the Lions next Sunday and the Browns the following week.

It also would not be a surprise to see New England sign a quarterback to their practice squad this week. The Patriots will need someone to back up Zappe with even Meyers on the injured list.

Steelers Replace Mitch Trubisky With Kenny Pickett At QB

Given the team’s offensive struggles to begin the season, questions have been asked with increasing volume regarding the Steelers’ quarterback situation. At halftime during today’s game against the Jets, the Steelers benched starter Mitch Trubisky in favor of first-round rookie Kenny Pickett

Trubisky signed a two-year deal this offseason to operate (at least temporarily) as Pittsburgh’s starter to begin the post-Ben Roethlisberger era. In the build-up to the draft, however, it was widely known that a long-term move was coming. Pittsburgh made the Heisman finalist the only first-round quarterback of his class, leading to questions about when he would see the field.

Those were intensified when Trubisky struggled out of the gate. Despite an average of just 5.5 yards per attempt, and only a pair of touchdown passes through the first three games, it was reported that the team was intending on keeping him as the No. 1 throughout the 2022 season. It came as little surprise, then, that the former Bears first-rounder got the nod again for today’s contest.

By halftime, however, Trubisky had managed 84 scoreless yards and an interception, and the Steelers trailed 10-6. Going against the perceived notion that Pickett wouldn’t take over until at least midseason, head coach Mike Tomlin decided to make the swap. The effect on the team’s offense turned out to be substantial.

The unit scored a pair of touchdowns in the second half, and got the lead until the game’s final seconds. Overall, Pickett finished 10-of-13 passing, with 120 yards through the air and a pair of rushing touchdowns. Each of his other three passes were, however, intercepted, contributing greatly to the end result, a 24-20 loss.

After the game, Tomlin said, “I thought we needed a spark… We didn’t do much in the first half, not enough offensively, and I thought he could provide a spark for us” (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of NFL Network).

He added that no decision has been made regarding Pittsburgh’s Week 5 starter. Given the performance of each of the team’s signal-callers, the way the team ultimately leans will be worth watching in the coming days.

Colts LB Shaquille Leonard Exits Week 4 Game With Concussion

4:02pm: Leonard did indeed play in today’s game, registering a pair of tackles. However, he suffered a concussion during the contest, as noted by The Athletic’s Zak Keefer (on Twitter). With the Colts scheduled to play this Thursday, it seems doubtful that Leonard would be available for Week 5.

9:28am: Colts star linebacker Shaquille Leonard is expected to make his 2022 debut against the Titans on Sunday, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (via Twitter). Barring a setback, Indianapolis will have its three-time First Team All-Pro assuming his familiar role as the anchor of the team’s defense.

Leonard underwent offseason back surgery to relieve the pressure that two discs in his spine were putting on his nerves. Earlier this week, Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star published an article discussing Leonard’s status, noting that some have wondered why he has not returned to game action despite having practiced for nearly a month and being listed as a full participant. Those questions intensified when Leonard was shown moving and celebrating on the video board at Lucas Oil Stadium during the Colts’ Week 3 win over the Chiefs last Sunday.

In responding to that criticism, Leonard referenced the ankle injury that required offseason surgery last year, hampered him throughout the 2021 campaign, and lingered into this past summer. “I’m going to say this, because I’ve seen it all on social media: If I’m ready to go, I’m going to play,” he said. “Everybody knows me. I went out there last year with one ankle. I love this game, I love this game with all my heart and I’d do anything to play this game for 100 years. There’s no such thing as me standing on the sideline because of me.” 

Leonard indicated he has not suited up for the first three games of the 2022 season simply because he did not believe he was ready to make a positive contribution to the defense. “People think it was just back and ankle, but there were a lot of nerve things that went wrong,” he added. “Practicing for four weeks: People have to understand, that first week was nothing but stiffness. The second week was OK, how can I cover ground? Third week, OK, let me see how can I tackle? Can I tackle in space? Can I move left and right? Can I do the things that I know I’m supposed to do? That’s what it comes down to.”

Head coach Frank Reich said that the team has been comparing Leonard’s practice tape with tape of him performing at full strength, and that review led him to conclude that Leonard was not yet close enough to his normal self to play. However, Rapoport’s report suggests that the situation has sufficiently improved over the past few days.

It goes without saying that the return of a player of Leonard’s caliber will be a significant development for the 1-1-1 Colts. Despite the ankle injury, Leonard posted 122 total tackles, four interceptions, eight passes defensed, and a league-leading eight forced fumbles in 2021.

Vikings S Lewis Cine To Undergo Leg Surgery

The Vikings’ trip to London resulted in a win, but also a major injury to a key young member of their secondary. Rookie safety Lewis Cine was carted off the field with a fractured left leg, and will undergo surgery before returning to Minnesota, reports ESPN’s Kevin Seifert

Cine suffered the injury during a punt return in the first quarter of today’s game against the Saints. An air cast was fitted, demonstrating the severity of the play. The news marks a major blow for the 22-year-old, who had played all-but exclusively on special teams to begin his NFL career.

The Georgia product was the final pick of the first round of April’s draft, after Minnesota traded back with the Lions. One of several highly-acclaimed members of the Bulldogs’ title-winning defense, he took a step forward with each of his three seasons in college. Best known for his physicality, Cine carries high expectations for the long-term, but attention will now turn to his recovery.

“Very tough moment for our team,” head coach Kevin O’Connell said after the game. “[Cine is] obviously a guy that, from Day 1, has been a personal favorite of mine and does everything we’ve asked. He was continuing to progress in his rookie year and really had a dynamic role for us on special teams.”

With Cine sidelined, the Vikings will continue to use 2021 fourth-rounder Camryn Bynum as a starter at safety alongside Harrison Smith. The injury could open up more playing time for Josh Metellus, who has primarily played on special teams since being drafted in 2020.

NFLPA Beginning Search For DeMaurice Smith Successor

The NFLPA has had stability at the top for over a decade, but it will have a new leader in the relatively near future. Executive director DeMaurice Smith is currently in his final term, and the union is beginning the search process for his successor. 

Smith, 58, was re-elected last October. The vote which extended his stay came in the wake of the latest CBA negotiations, which saw a notable split amongst the players. Smith received the minimum 22 votes required to retain his position, but his final term is expected to be brief.

The NFLPA’s executive director since 2009, Smith will be replaced by no later than 2025, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. He adds, however, that Smith’s transition to a consulting role will more likely take place along a quicker timeline than that. The union’s search for his successor has just begun, with a vote being possible to take place as early as March 2023.

To date, only one candidate has emerged: former Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Schaub. The 41-year-old’s playing career ended after the 2020 season, the final year of his second stint with the Falcons. Schaub – who also spent seven seasons as the Texans’ starter – has been a vocal critic of the two most recent CBAs, and their impact on players.

“It is unprecedented what we’ve done the last two CBAs, with the tenure of the deals, which is almost triple the average career length of most players,” he said recently, via Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic (subscription required). “These past two, it’s been too long based on what has shifted hands and shifted across the table.”

The most recent CBA was marked by a widespread increase in player compensation, particularly at the low end of the pay grade, in exchange for the regular season being expended to 17 games. New TV deals in particular have, on the other hand, led to major spikes in franchise values, as demonstrated most recently by the record-shattering sale of the Broncos this summer.

To find a successor, NFLPA president J.C. Tretter, along with the 10 other members of the union’s executive committee and three most senior player representatives will compile a list of two to four candidates. A general vote amongst all player reps will determine Smith’s replacement. With the current CBA set to run through March 2031, though, there does not need to be much urgency in the search process.

Rams G David Edwards In Concussion Protocol

The Rams will be without starting left guard David Edwards for Monday’s matchup against the division-rival 49ers. As Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic reports, Edwards told head coach Sean McVay that he was feeling “foggy,” and he entered the concussion protocol on Saturday morning (Twitter link).

Given the situation surrounding Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, which prompted the league and union to amend the concussion protocols, the way in which NFL teams handle brain injuries will be even more scrutinized in the near-term. McVay, though, was clear that the Tagovailoa matter had no impact on Edwards’ treatment.

“[I]t was great for [Edwards] to be able to kind of communicate,” McVay said (via Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com). “We took the right steps, especially, with the [Tagovailoa] situation that occurred on Thursday. But really just in general, regardless of whether or not that happened with [Tagovailoa], [it’s] something we take very serious and I appreciate him handling it the right way.”

Edwards, a 2019 fifth-rounder, spent more time at right guard than left in his rookie campaign, but he has settled in as the club’s starting LG over the past several seasons. He received above-average marks from Pro Football Focus in both the 2020 and 2021 campaigns, and a repeat performance in 2022, his platform year, could set him up for a multi-year extension from the Rams or a lucrative free agent contract in 2023.

This continues a disturbing trend along the Rams’ O-line. Starting center Brian Allen, who underwent a knee procedure following Los Angeles’ season-opening loss to the Bills, will also miss the San Francisco game — his third straight absence — while both Tremayne Anchrum and third-round rookie Logan Bruss are out for the season.

Per Rodrgiue, Bobby Evans will fill in at LG in Edwards’ stead (Twitter link). Evans was selected several rounds before Edwards in 2019, and while he started seven games in his first professional season, he has started only one contest since.

Latest On Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey

OCTOBER 2: McCaffrey is indeed expected to play against the Cardinals in Week 4, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link).

OCTOBER 1: Despite McCaffrey not practicing at all this week, there remains a “strong chance” that he will be able to play on Sunday, as noted by Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network. Quarterback Baker Mayfield echoed the uncertainty surrounding the situation, however, so McCaffrey’s status could ultimately come down to game time.

SEPTEMBER 29: Christian McCaffrey was out of practice once again today, but there’s optimism that he’ll take the field this weekend. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the Panthers believe there’s still a chance that their star RB will play on Sunday against the Cardinals.

McCaffrey suffered a quad injury during Sunday’s win over the Saints. He was also listed on last week’s injury report with ankle stiffness, but it’s uncertain if that ailment contributed to his latest injury. When asked about the injury, offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo refused to say if his starting running back will play this weekend.

“Obviously, Christian is a special player, right?” McAdoo said (via ESPN’s David Newton). “He’s one of the best players in the league. We’ll take into consideration whether we have him or whether we don’t. That’s obviously up to the medical team and coach, but we’ll be ready for them if we do have him and we’ll be ready for them if we don’t.”

The two-time All-Pro has dealt with his fair share of injuries throughout his career, and he’s missed 22 games over the past two years. When he’s on the field, he’s one of the most explosive players in the NFL, and he’s shown that in his three games this season. So far this year, McCaffrey has 300 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown on 60 touches.

Chuba Hubbard got 10 starts as a rookie while filling in for McCaffrey, and he’d likely see a significant role if his teammate is inactive. The Panthers are also rostering D’Onta Foreman, who started three games for Tennessee last season in place of Derrick Henry.

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