Andrew Luck

AFC Notes: Patriots, Luck, Henne

The Patriots‘ best chance to replace the bruising and punishing running of LeGarrette Blount, who was a key part of the team’s success over the past few seasons, could come from a surprising source. In his first attempt to predict the Patriots’ 53-man roster, Jim McBride of the Boston Globe says that UDFA LeShun Daniels, Jr. might be the best-equipped of New England’s stacked running back group to fill Blount’s void. McBride does not believe Daniels will make the team out of camp, writing that he is more likely a practice squad candidate at the moment, but the future is bright for the 6-foot, 225-pounder, who excelled in his senior season at Iowa.

Now for more from the AFC:

  • Patriots wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell was kept on the sideline during spring practices, but Mike Reiss of ESPN.com says there is nothing to worry about. Mitchell has a more extensive injury history than many second-year players, and New England is handling his workload accordingly to ensure they can keep him healthy for the long haul.
  • We heard earlier this week that Andrew Luck may not be ready for training camp, leading some to wonder if he is also in danger of missing the start of the regular season. Kevin Bowen of Colts.com, however, does not believe that’s the case. Bowen says that if the team was really concerned about Luck’s availability for Week 1, the team would have brought in a veteran QB to compete with backup Scott Tolzien.
  • Alex Marvez of NFL.com tweets that Chargers linebacker Nick Dzubnar is completely healed from the ACL tear that prematurely ended his 2016 season. Dzubnar has primarily served as a special teams contributor during his first two years in the league, but he has performed very well in that role.
  • Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union takes his first crack at predicting the Jaguars‘ 53-man roster, and there do not seem to be any major surprises there. One point of intrigue is the quarterback position, as O’Halloran speculates that second-year signal-caller Brandon Allen, who was good enough in camp and the preseason last year to convince Jacksonville to keep a third QB for the first time since 2013, could unseat longtime backup Chad Henne.
  • Earlier today we took a look at a few notes on the Steelers and Browns.

Extra Points: Luck, Hopkins, Bell, Freeman

As he enters his fifth-year option season, DeAndre Hopkins has nothing but great things to say about the Texans, as Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle writes.

Those talks are between the Texans and my agent, but this city has embraced me just like my hometown in South Carolina has,” said Hopkins, who’s represented by Creative Artists Agency. “I love being here. I love playing for this team, great organization. Bob McNair and Cal McNair, they do a great job at having an organization that speaks for itself. I thank those guys all the time for picking me 27th when nobody knew who DeAndre Hopkins was.”

Hopkins and Houston are expected to hammer out a new deal this offseason. For now, he’s set to play out the year at a $7.915MM figure.

Let’s check out some other notes from around the league…

  • Colts quarterback Andrew Luck underwent offseason shoulder surgery, and ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that he may not be ready for training camp in July. “To be honest, I have not thought about it,” Luck told Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star. “If I’m ready for it, then great. If I’m not, then that’s the way it is. I’m certainly hopeful for it. In my mind all I can do — and I truly feel this way — with this rehab, with my shoulder, I can’t look five months down the road, three months down the road, a week down the road. To me it’s about the next rehab session, the next day. That’s where my focus is and that’s where I think it needs to be to truly get back to 100 percent.” If Luck was forced to miss any time, Scott Tolzien would presumably take starters reps.
  • Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell still hasn’t signed his franchise tender with the organization, and ProFootballTalk.com’s Mike Florio wonders what it’d take to sign the Pro Bowler to an extension. Using the franchise tag as a guide, the writer guesses that Bell would request at least a two-year contract worth $26.6MM, with team options accounting for the subsequent years. Of course, considering the player’s injury and suspension history, Florio guesses that the Steelers would request some type of per-game bonuses. He also assumes that Bell would be seeking a lucrative roster bonus in an attempt to immediately pocket as much as money as possible.
  • Brandon McManus hasn’t signed his restricted free agent tender contract with the Broncos, but Mike Klis of 9News in Denver tweets that the veteran kicker is not “protesting,” noting that the 25-year-old is participating in minicamp. McManus has appeared in 47 games with the Broncos over the past three seasons, converting 82.9-percent of his field goal attempts.
  • Former NFL quarterback Josh Freeman worked out with the Montreal Alouettes today, reports Herb Zurkowsky of the Montreal Gazette (via Twitter). The former first-rounder’s last NFL appearance came in 2015, when he threw for 149 yards and one touchdown in a start for the Colts. Between 2010 and 2012, Freeman started 47 games for the Buccaneers.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Andrew Luck Still On Track For Week 1

We have not heard much about Andrew Luck‘s recovery from offseason shoulder surgery, which is probably a good thing for Colts fans. Although the procedure itself was something of a surprise, given that club owner Jim Irsay had insisted during the 2016 season that Luck wouldn’t need surgery on the right shoulder injury that has bothered him the past two years, Luck was expected to be fully recovered by the start of training camp.

Andrew Luck

Mike Wells of ESPN.com says Luck is still on track to start the Colts’ Week 1 contest against the Rams, though he did not indicate whether the star signal-caller would be ready for camp. Wells simply wrote, “The Colts report to training camp at the end of July. It’ll be interesting to see if Luck is at the point by then where he can practice.”

The team itself has not provided any meaningful updates on Luck’s status. When asked about Luck during a May 31 exchange with the media, head coach Chuck Pagano said that Luck is “[d]oing great. I’ve got to give you the same thing. He’s doing well rehabbing every single day. He’s a coach out there on the field. He’s in the meetings. He’s doing everything but obviously taking snaps, but he’s taking every one of them from a mental standpoint.”

As Pagano suggested, Luck has been a regular at the Colts’ facility, but it is unclear what exactly his training regimen entails. Wells, though, surmises that no news is good news, and he fully expects to see Luck under center when the regular season rolls around.

After inking a record extension last summer, Luck completed 63.5 percent of passes, threw 31 touchdowns against 13 interceptions and piled up 4,240 yards in 15 games in 2016. Those numbers represented a significant revival for the 27-year-old Stanford product, who struggled mightily during a seven-game, injury-plagued 2015. If Luck is healthy in 2017, the Colts should reasonably expect to challenge for a playoff berth.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Colts, Ravens, Broncos, Jets

A quick look around the AFC…

  • While announcing Andrew Luck‘s right shoulder surgery Thursday, Colts owner Jim Irsay declared that the quarterback will be ready for the season. Here’s a clearer timeline, courtesy of Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (via Twitter): Luck will start throwing again in three months and should be ready for a full return in six months, which puts him on track for mid-July.
  • After four seasons, the Ravens are likely to part with pass rusher Elvis Dumervil this winter, writes Clifton Brown of CSNMidAtlantic.com. By releasing Dumervil, who has one year left on his contract, the Ravens would open up $6MM in cap space. Baltimore could use those savings to find a cover corner or offensive weapon, Brown suggests. Dumervil, who’s celebrating his 33rd birthday today, is coming off an eight-game, three-sack season. He missed just one contest out of 48 from 2013-15 and combined for 32.5 sacks, including a lofty 17.5 in 2014.
  • The Broncos will hire Brock Olivo as their new special teams coach, reports Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter link). Olivo spent the past three years as the assistant special teams coach with the AFC West rival Chiefs.
  • Jets guard Brian Winters will receive all $15MM of the guaranteed money on his four-year, $29MM contract in the first two seasons of the deal, per Darryl Slater of NJ.com. The pact also contains per-game roster bonuses of $500K in both 2019 and ’20.

Andrew Luck Underwent Shoulder Surgery

Colts owner Jim Irsay insisted during the season that quarterback Andrew Luck wouldn’t need surgery on the right shoulder injury that has bothered him the past two years.

Andrew Luck

“There isn’t some kind of chronic shoulder injury or anything like that, I promise you,” he said in the fall (via Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star). “There are no surgeries planned. He is fine and the shoulder is something that just disappears into the woodwork when he wins his next MVP or when he wins a Super Bowl.”

It came as somewhat of a surprise, then, when Irsay announced Thursday that Luck underwent a shoulder procedure.

Tweeted Irsay, “Andrew recovering from successful outpatient surgery to fix right shoulder injury that had lingered since 2015. Will be ready for season!”

Even though the Colts stumbled to their second straight 8-8 campaign in 2016, Luck didn’t show any ill effects from the injury. After inking a record extension last summer, Luck completed 63.5 percent of passes, threw 31 touchdowns against 13 interceptions and piled up 4,240 yards in 15 games. Those numbers represented a significant revival for the 27-year-old Luck, who struggled mightily during a seven-game, injury-plagued 2015.

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Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Rumors: Payton, Rams, Gruden

Despite rumors to the contrary, one source tells ESPN.com’s Mike Triplett there is no indication the Saints are more willing to part ways with Sean Payton now than they were in the past. That same source also refuted the notion that morale is low in New Orleans because of speculation over Payton’s future. Regardless, you can expect the Payton buzz to continue for a while. There’s now talk that Payton has “sincere interest” in the Rams’ opening.

Here’s a roundup of the latest coaching rumors:

  • Bills offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn and Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter are two to watch in the Rams‘ coaching search, Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News tweets.
  • There are reasons why Jon Gruden does and doesn’t make sense for the Rams, Mike Florio of PFT writes. Gruden has star power, offensive know-how, and relationships with both COO Kevin Demoff and Washington exec Bruce Allen, who could be a GM candidate for the team. He could also help the team attract Raiders fans in the area. Conversely, one could argue that Gruden was overrated as a coach since he won a Super Bowl with a defense built by Tony Dungy and run the highly-respected Monte Kiffin. Gruden also doesn’t have a rep as a player-friendly coach.
  • Panthers coach Ron Rivera has been mentioned as a possibility for the Rams‘ job, but his agent tells Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer there hasn’t been any contact between Rivera and Los Angeles. “There hasn’t been any contact,” agent Frank Bauer said. “Ron’s super happy where he’s at.” Of course, that doesn’t mean a whole lot. The Rams could still wait until after the season to reach out to Rivera and, even if they have already, his agent would never publicly confirm an act of tampering. If there is mutual interest between the Rams and Rivera this spring, L.A. would still have to negotiate a trade with the Panthers.
  • Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh won’t be returning to the NFL in 2017, but he could eventually be back, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (link via PFT). If and when he goes back to the NFL, Rapoport says he could be a match for the Bears. Meanwhile, some league insiders have speculated to PFT that Harbaugh could eventually coach the Colts, reuniting him with Andrew Luck.

Andrew Luck To Play On Monday Night

The Colts will see the return of their best player when they face the Jets on Monday Night Football, as quarterback Andrew Luck has emerged from the league’s concussion protocol and will start in a critical Week 13 contest, the club announced today.Andrew Luck

[RELATED: Colt Activate Trent Cole]

Indianapolis was forced to turn to backup signal-caller Scott Tolzien against the Steelers on Thanksgiving Day, and the Colts predictably struggled to generate any sort of consistent offense (though the club’s defense perhaps shoulders more of the blame for that Week 12 loss). The Colts now sit with a record 6-6, one game behind the AFC South-leading Texans, and a half-game behind the Titans, who are on bye.

Heading into their matchup against the Jets, the Colts have a 20.7% chance of earning a postseason berth, according to Football Outsiders, and the path to playoffs almost assuredly entails taking the division crown thanks to the strength of other AFC wild card contenders. A victory over New York would bump those odds to roughly 30%, tweets Brian Burke of ESPN.com, while a loss would drop them to the 10-15% range.

The news and signals on Luck coming out of Indianapolis had been positive all week, as he was spotted on the practice field as early as Monday. Additionally, the Colts opted to waive quarterback Stephen Morris when activating linebacker Trent Cole, a clear indication that Luck was looking at an imminent return to game action.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colts QB Andrew Luck On Track To Return

Andrew Luck was forced to sit out Thursday night with a concussion, but it looks like he’ll be in uniform for the Colts on Monday. The quarterback was on the practice field today as Indianapolis prepares for Monday’s game against the Jets, as Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star tweets. It’s not immediately clear if Luck has completed the league’s concussion protocol yet, but he can’t be far off. Andrew Luck (vertical)

Without Luck, the Colts were forced to turn to Scott Tolzien under center. Predictably, the offense wasn’t quite the same and the Colts succumbed to the Steelers who were powered by Antonio Brown‘s three touchdown performance.

If Luck is given the green light for this week, the Colts will likely bump Tolzien back to No. 2 and cut Stephen Morris. Throughout the year, the Colts have been using two QBs on the 53-man roster, so Morris figures to be on the chopping block. If Morris clears waivers, he could be re-signed to the practice squad, where he has spent most of the season.

Now at 5-6, the Colts are still in the divisional conversation as they sit behind the Titans (6-6) and the Texans (6-5). So far this year, Luck has completed 62.9% of his passes for 2,827 yards with 19 scores against eight interceptions.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Colts’ Andrew Luck Out Thursday

As expected, the Colts will be without quarterback Andrew Luck when they face the Steelers on Thanksgiving in a battle of 5-5 AFC playoff contenders. Luck suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter of the Colts’ 24-17 win over the Titans last Sunday and hasn’t practiced since.

Andrew Luck

With Luck on the shelf, the Colts will turn to backup Scott Tolzien as their starter and promote Stephen Morris from the practice squad to serve as their No. 2 signal-caller. The 29-year-old Tolzien has two NFL starts under his belt – both with the Packers in 2013 – and has completed 56 of 91 passes (61.5 percent) for 721 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions in his pro career.

Luck, who missed nine games last year with various injuries and posted underwhelming numbers, had bounced back this season prior to his latest ailment. The fifth-year man has hit on 62.9 percent of his attempts (up from 55.3 in 2015), thrown for 2,827 yards and added 19 scores against eight picks. With a Thursday game this week and a Monday night matchup against the Jets in Week 13, Luck will have extra time to work his way back for the Colts’ next contest. In the meantime, the Colts won’t have the face of their franchise against a Steelers team that crushed them, 45-10, a year ago.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Andrew Luck In Concussion Protocol

Andrew Luck‘s status for a Thanksgiving-night game against the Steelers is in doubt after the fifth-year quarterback ventured into concussion protocol, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter).

Right now, the Colts aren’t hopeful that Luck could be cleared in time for the pivotal game, so they are planning for Scott Tolzien to get the nod, Rapoport reports (on Twitter). If the backup is forced into action, it would be the second straight season the Colts will face the Steelers without Luck. Pittsburgh beat Indianapolis 45-10 in Week 13 last year.

Chuck Pagano said the team will prepare Tolzien to be the starter this week, with Luck needing to navigate several stages in hopes of returning by Thursday night. Luck is being evaluated for a concussion by this distinction since going into concussion protocol doesn’t mean the quarterback has one. Luck wasn’t feeling well after Sunday’s win against the Titans, per Pagano.

The Colts sit 5-5 and in second place in the AFC South and two games back in the conference’s wild-card race. Luck has started every game last year after missing nine starts last season, which represent his only games missed since being drafted No. 1 overall.

Formerly Aaron Rodgers‘ backup in Green Bay, Tolzien signed in Indianapolis this offseason but has scant starting experience. A Rodgers 2013 injury left Tolzien in command of the Packers’ offense briefly, but the team signed Matt Flynn after Tolzien made two starts, going 0-1-1. He’s a career 61 percent passer, with 90 of his 91 regular-season attempts coming during that 2013 stretch. The 29-year-old Tolzien has one career touchdown pass and five interceptions.

Luck’s odds at playing Thursday appear slim due to the short time between the Colts’ Week 11 and Week 12 games, with Mike Garafolo of NFL.com noting (on Twitter) Davante Adams doing so earlier this season represents among the few exceptions.

This season, Luck’s completing a career-high 62.9 percent of his throws. The former Stanford prodigy has thrown for 2,827 yards, 19 touchdowns, with eight interceptions.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.