Darius Leonard

Darius Leonard Clears Concussion Protocol

Reigning defensive rookie of the year Darius Leonard has missed the past three Colts games, but the standout linebacker is on his way back. Frank Reich announced he cleared concussion protocol.

The Colts, who also announced starting safety Clayton Geathers is out of the protocol, had a Week 6 bye and will face the Texans in a pivotal AFC South matchup Sunday. Leonard suffered his concussion in Indianapolis’ Week 2 win against Tennessee.

Although Indianapolis managed to win two of its three games without Leonard, including a smash-mouth performance in Kansas City that featured a few key Colts absences, its defense will obviously be a more formidable unit with the burgeoning-star linebacker healthy. Leonard earned first-team All-Pro recognition as a rookie.

The Division I-FCS product dominated as a rookie, registering 163 tackles, seven sacks and four forced fumbles in 2018. He’s one of many Chris Ballard-era second-round picks to make an impact. A Ryan Grigson-era fourth-rounder, Geathers has struggled with injuries in his career but was one of a few Colts starters to re-sign this offseason. He only missed the Chiefs game due to his concussion.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Injury Updates: Juszczyk, Newton, Leonard

We rounded up a few injury updates earlier today, and now we have another batch to pass along:

  • 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk will miss four to six weeks of action with a sprained MCL, as Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network tweets. Pelissero also says Juice, one of the league’s most important fullbacks, will get a second opinion. There is some hope that the Harvard product can return before four weeks.
  • Panthers QB Cam Newton will not travel with the team to London this week, as Brendan Marks of the Charlotte Observer writes. Head coach Ron Rivera said Newton is making progress in his rehab of a Lisfranc injury in his left foot, but there’s still no definitive word as to when he might return.
  • The Colts are on a bye this week, and they should have a big boost when they return. LB Darius Leonard, who has missed the last three games with a concussion, shared a photo on IG saying he’s been cleared to play.
  • Raiders DE Arden Key suffered a sprained patellar tendon during the team’s win over the Bears on Sunday, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (via Twitter). He will miss several weeks, which led Oakland to work out a few edge defenders today.

AFC Rumors: Chiefs, Colts, Burfict, Allen

Although Tyreek Hill returned to practice this week, the Chiefs‘ offense will continue to operate without its premier wide receiver Sunday. The Chiefs ruled out Hill, but Damien Williams is expected to return to action, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Kansas City’s starting running back missed the past two games with a knee injury, leading to LeSean McCoy and second-year back Darrel Williams splitting time in the backfield. Damien Williams amassed 154 scrimmage yards and scored in the Chiefs’ divisional-round win over the Colts last season. Signs point to Hill returning in Week 6.

Shifting first to the team traveling to Missouri for this week’s Sunday-nighter, here’s the AFC’s latest:

  • Darius Leonard will miss his third consecutive game due to a concussion. Both Colts starting safeties will be out, with Clayton Geathers (concussion) joining Malik Hooker on the mend. Hooker is recovering from a knee injury. T.Y. Hilton got in a second straight limited practice, putting Indianapolis’ top wideout in line to return, but rookie receiver Parris Campbell underwent a procedure on his knee and will be out for an unknown time period, Mike Wells of ESPN.com notes. Campbell has played in each Colts game this season but missed preseason time with a hamstring malady.
  • The Bengals were expected to take their lumps this season. The Broncos‘ 0-4 start has surprised. But executives around the league are not anticipating a firesale for either franchise. “I agree they absolutely should be shopping players (ahead of the Oct. 29 trade deadline), but I have my doubts,” an NFL exec told CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora. “We’re applying reason and logic, but I’m not sure those teams will fully embrace what needs to be done.” Denver, which did trade Demaryius Thomas before last season’s deadline, has standouts from its previous Super Bowl team on expiring contracts — Chris Harris and Emmanuel Sanders. The Bengals house veterans A.J. Green, Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap. But Green is still recovering from injury and the latter two are early into 2018 extensions.
  • Josh Allen logged a full practice Friday, putting the Bills‘ starter on a path toward returning Sunday against the Titans. Allen suffered a concussion against the Patriots. Matt Barkley would start if the Bills, who have a Week 6 bye, play it safe with their offensive centerpiece.
  • Vontaze Burfict faces a rest-of-the-season suspension that could well end his career. The polarizing Raiders linebacker’s appeal is scheduled for Tuesday, and ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler tweets his argument will be based around the lack of precedent for a 13-week suspension ensuing because of one hit. However, the NFL said in its letter to the oft-suspended linebacker this ban was issued for a pattern of on-field decisions, rather than merely his collision with Jack Doyle. This considered, Burfict’s argument may not be successful.

Injury Roundup: Hilton, Lions, Bolts, Rams

It’s looking like the Colts‘ passing attack will have to operate without its top weapon Sunday. T.Y. Hilton drew a doubtful designation on Indianapolis’ Friday injury report. He did not practice all week. The eighth-year wideout left the Colts’ Week 3 win with a quadriceps injury, and although the Raiders enter Week 4 ranked 30th in pass defense DVOA, the Colts went 0-2 without Hilton last season. They are already down previous starter Devin Funchess, who sits on IR. The Colts also ruled Darius Leonard out for a second straight week. The All-Pro linebacker remains in concussion protocol.

Here is the latest from the Week 4 injury front:

  • Matthew Stafford popped up on the Lions‘ injury report Friday; he’s listed as questionable with a hip malady. While Stafford should be expected to play, given that he’s played through injuries in recent years and holds the league’s third-longest active start streak among QBs with 131, this is a less-than-ideal scenario going into a key inter-conference matchup with the Chiefs. Rookie UDFA David Blough has been Stafford’s backup this season, though Jeff Driskel is now on Detroit’s 53-man roster.
  • That matchup will not include Chiefs starting running back Damien Williams, who will miss a second straight game with a knee ailment. LeSean McCoy put together two full practices this week and will likely team up with Darrel Williams, as he did last week, in Detroit.
  • Good news for the Rams‘ offense. Sean McVay said both Austin Blythe and Tyler Higbee will be available against the Buccaneers on Sunday, per Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Blythe missed Los Angeles’ Week 3 game with a sprained ankle, while Higbee has been sidelined with a lung contusion.
  • Another Chargers game will unfold without their primary kicker option. The Bolts ruled out Michael Badgley for a fourth straight contest. Punter Ty Long‘s multipurpose afternoons will continue. Long made both of his field goal tries last week after missing two in Week 2.
  • Additionally for the Bolts, they will be without Mike Williams. He’s been declared out with a back injury. Travis Benjamin will head to Miami as doubtful to play, meaning Dontrelle Inman and Geremy Davis stand as the Chargers’ only two healthy auxiliary wideouts. This marks Williams’ second injury of the season. A knee problem plagued the third-year target earlier this month but did not force him to miss any time.
  • The Vikings‘ No. 2-ranked rushing attack will be tested in Chicago this week, and right guard starter Josh Kline will not play a part in the NFC North contest. The free agent acquisition will miss Sunday’s game with a concussion that kept him out of practice this week. This will end Kline’s 49-start streak. Veteran Dakota Dozier will start, per Mark Craig of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Dozier has started eight games in his six-season career, which included a Week 2 start in place of Pat Elflein.

Colts’ Leonard, Ebron Undergo Surgeries

Two key Colts will not be participating in workouts for a bit. Both Darius Leonard and Eric Ebron are coming off offseason surgeries, Chris Ballard said Tuesday (via CBS4’s Mike Chappell, on Twitter).

Leonard underwent a procedure last week to repair his left ankle, which was a problem spot during his standout rookie season. Ebron had groin surgery earlier this offseason.

It is safe to say Leonard will not be taking part in Colts OTAs or minicamp, with Ballard adding this particular surgery will require approximately six weeks of rehab. But with Colts training camp around 10 weeks away, the second-year linebacker figures to be fine by the time the team reconvenes.

The ankle injury caused Leonard to miss one game last season, a Week 5 nationally televised tilt in New England, but still earned first-team All-Pro acclaim. Ebron played a 16-game slate for the second straight year, voyaging to his first Pro Bowl after a 14-touchdown season. Both were among the best players at their respective positions and are set to be cornerstone players for a 2019 Colts team with higher expectations.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Colts, Texans, Pryor, Bolts

Anthony Castonzo will make his Colts debut on Thursday night. He’s active against the Patriots. The eighth-year left tackle has been sidelined for most of the past few months because of a hamstring injury, one he’s twice aggravated. Frank Reich said he did not intend to use an IR spot on Castonzo, and the first-year Colts coach’s confidence in the edge blocker being ready to return soon turned out to be appropriate. Castonzo participated in three limited practices this week.

Here’s the latest from the AFC, going into tonight’s intra-AFC matchup.

  • Indianapolis won’t, however, have the services of its top tackler. Darius Leonard, the NFL’s runaway tackles leader four games into his rookie season, will be out. The Colts tweeted the linebacker is not expected to dress against the Patriots. Both are technically active but are not going to play. An ankle injury is restricting Leonard, who has 54 tackles (seven for loss) and four sacks. He joins T.Y. Hilton, Marlon Mack and Kenny Moore among Colts who aren’t playing in Foxborough.
  • Seantrel Henderson‘s Texans stay did not produce much work. The one-year, $4MM free agent addition suffered a season-ending broken ankle in Week 1 against the Pats. The tackle who recently underwent surgery will be a UFA again in March but wants to return to the Texans. “Of course, I would like to be back,” Henderson said, via the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson. “I love it here.” Julie’n Davenport replaced Henderson at right tackle but was benched. Kendall Lamm‘s now playing there.
  • The AFC’s Los Angeles team has seen its wide receivers receive as much publicity as the Rams’ have, but the Chargers contingent’s quite deep in its own right. Although, it will be thinner for a bit going forward. Travis Benjamin is expected to be out for at least two weeks, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Benjamin’s been battling a foot injury this season. The Bolts hope he can return either for their Week 7 Titans game or after their Week 8 bye. L.A. still has Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams, however.
  • Terrelle Pryor only played two snaps against the Jaguars. He’s not happy with his current Jets role. “It’s kind of nerve-racking. I don’t like it,” Pryor said, via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, about his usage dissatisfaction. “It is what it is, though. You get frustrated, you know? You don’t go out there and make plays. I’ve shown when the ball comes to me, I make plays. I’m a big play waiting to happen.” Noting Jermaine Kearse surpassed Pryor in Gang Green’s wideout pecking order, Mehta adds Pryor suffered a groin injury during practice last week. Pryor’s experienced persistent injury trouble during his Jets and Redskins tenures. He did not live up to expectations in Washington and saw ankle problems recur in New York this offseason. Pryor, however, is averaging 19.8 yards per catch (eight grabs for 158 yards) but has only received one target the past two weeks.

Colts Sign Second-Round LB Darius Leonard

The Colts and second-round linebacker Darius Leonard have agreed on a rookie contract, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).

Leonard, the final Indianapolis rookie to come under contract, will receive a four-year deal worth roughly $7.248MM, per Over the Cap. The 36th overall selection, Leonard should collect a signing bonus of ~$3.351MM and carry a 2018 cap charge near $1.318MM.

It’s unclear exactly what held up negotiations between Leonard and the Colts, but Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star recently reported that Leonard would likely have a contract in place by today when rookies were scheduled to report. Back-end first-round picks were reportedly haggling over fourth-year guarantees, and that could have conceivably been a point of contention for Leonard, as well. With Leonard and Giants running back Saquon Barkley now signed, only nine 2018 draft selections are without deals.

Viewed as an extremely athletic linebacker coming out of South Carolina State, Leonard dealt with a quad injury during the spring but is expected to be fully healthy for training camp. Expected to be the Colts’ weakside ‘backer of the future, Leonard is a good bet to see playing time as a rookie alongside Antonio Morrison and John Simon, with former Eagle Najee Goode and fellow second-rounder Kemoko Turay acting as competition.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

South Notes: Falcons, Jones, Titans, Casey

Everyone is waiting to see whether Julio Jones will show up for Falcons training camp, but fans received an encouraging sign this week when Jones arrived at Matt Ryan‘s offseason passing camp (Twitter link via team). Jones has stayed away from the team this offseason in hopes of reworking his contract and it’s not clear if he’ll join his teammates on July 26 in Georgia.

Jones is underpaid for what he does, but he has three years to go on his deal and the Falcons aren’t under any real pressure to revise his deal. His yearly average of $14.25MM once seemed like a lot, but it’s now good for eighth among wide receivers. Jones could, in theory, improve his leverage by continuing to skip team activities, but he’ll have to pay substantial fines.

Here’s more from the South divisions:

  • Titans defensive end Jurrell Casey says he’ll stay on the field and protest during the national anthem, while accepting any fines levied against him under the terms of the new anthem policy. “I’m going to take a fine this year, why not?” said Casey (via CNN). “I’m going to protest during the flag. That’s what I’m going to say now.” Casey, 28, inked a four-year, $60.4MM extension with the Titans in 2017, so he can probably afford to pay some fines. It remains to be seen whether other players will follow suit.
  • Linebacker Darius Leonard is the only unsigned rookie left in the Colts‘ draft class yet to sign his contract, but that might not be the case for long. The Colts still expect to have a deal done by the time rookies report on Sunday, a source tells Stephen Holder of the Indy Star (on Twitter).