Jack Conklin

South Rumors: Dez, Buccaneers, Conklin

Friday’s top news thus far affected Dez Bryant. The veteran wide receiver and Saints employee for barely a day is feared to have torn one of his Achilles’ tendons. This would put him out for the season and impact his free agency. This reality appears to be in motion. The Saints are “pretty sure he tore it,” Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. While Michael Crabtree did buck the trend of Achilles injuries taking up to a year and more to recover from when he came back in six months to join the 2013 49ers late that season, Bryant is now 30 and was already dealing with damaged stock based on his recent work. Bryant doesn’t appear to be considering retirement and sounds ready to go through a rehab process (Twitter link). It’s possible Bryant could have to accept another one-year deal in the event he recovers from this injury, and that contract may not arrive until he recovers. He may well be back in a similar situation he was this year, when the Cowboys irked him by releasing him well after potential free agency suitors had spent on wideouts.

Here’s the latest from the South divisions:

  • Jack Conklin won’t be available for the Titans on Sunday. The third-year right tackle has not cleared concussion protocol and has been downgraded to out for Tennessee’s game against the Patriots. Swing tackle Dennis Kelly will start on the right side, Turron Davenport of ESPN.com notes.
  • The Buccaneers won’t have Vinny Curry in uniform against the Redskins. The first-year Bucs defensive end is out because of an ankle injury that prevented him from practicing all week. Carl Nassib started opposite Jason Pierre-Paul when Curry was previously out, in Weeks 7-8, and figures to do so again. Nassib’s three sacks are second on the Bucs, though well behind JPP’s eight.
  • Speaking of the Bucs, they could create an immense amount of cap space this offseason while not incurring much dead money to do so. Tampa Bay could create more than $100MM in cap space and incur barely $12MM in dead-money charges, according to Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap, by cutting several veterans. Mentioning Jameis Winston (guaranteed-for-injury fifth-year option of $20.9MM), Curry ($8MM savings, no dead money), DeSean Jackson ($10MM savings, no dead money) and Gerald McCoy ($13MM, no dead money), Fitzgerald sees a path for Tampa Bay to move into better spending position. Of course, some of these players — almost certainly McCoy — will still be around to help the Bucs, the organization’s lack of signing bonuses increases its flexibility. As of now, the Bucs are projected to hold just $10MM in cap room next year.

South Rumors: Irvin, Dez, Fitz, Titans

Bruce Irvin clearing waivers and landing with the Falcons gives him a chance to earn nearly $10MM this season. His one-year (or, eight-game) Falcons deal is worth $1.5MM, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports. Irvin was playing on an $8MM salary with the Raiders this season, and Florio notes he can recoup the balance of that salary ($3.76MM) by filing a termination pay claim. Vested veterans (at least four seasons’ experience) can do this one in their careers, and this may be the most money Irvin, 31, can claim through this measure. Total, the seventh-year veteran can collect $9.75MM this season. Considering he entered the year with no more guarantees remaining in his deal, that’s not a bad haul.

Here’s more from the Irvin front, along with the latest from the South divisions:

  • With Irvin rejoining a Dan Quinn defense, this one housing recent first-round defensive ends Takk McKinley and Vic Beasley, he won’t be the unquestioned top edge rusher like he was in Oakland. However, Quinn — who coached Irvin with the Seahawks — is planning a NASCAR package with the three ends and Grady Jarrett, per D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Quinn said the team will use the trio on the field together in practice this week in preparation to deploy the speed set a game at some point. The Falcons’ 17 sacks rank 27th in the league. Beasley has just one and is Pro Football Focus’ worst-graded full-time edge defender this season.
  • A six-plus-month stay in free agency ended for Dez Bryant earlier Wednesday, but the new Saints wide receiver is still looking to return to the market in 2019. Bryant wants to prove himself on a contending team and become a free agent again, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com notes. This has been Bryant’s plan all along, and he’ll likely join Tre’Quan Smith as a key complementary receiver for Drew Brees.
  • The Buccaneers won’t be pivoting back to Jameis Winston this week. Dirk Koetter confirmed (via ESPN.com’s Jenna Laine) Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the starter in Week 10. Although Fitzpatrick threw two interceptions in a 42-28 loss to the Panthers, he led the Bucs back from 35-7 and made it a one-score game. Tampa Bay ranks first in pass offense (356.6 yards per game) by more than 30 yards.
  • The TitansMalcolm Butler signing hasn’t worked out the way the team had hoped yet. Signed to a five-year, $61.25MM deal, Butler has struggled in coverage and rates as PFF’s No. 98 cornerback through eight games. Mike Vrabel, though, does not plan to bench Butler. The first-year coach attributes some of the defender’s woes to reading the wrong keys, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets.
  • Tennessee may have to temporarily demote Jack Conklin, though. The right tackle starter is in concussion protocol after the Titans’ win over the Cowboys. Conklin already missed this season’s first four games because of the ACL tear he suffered in last year’s playoffs. Conklin has started five games this year and was on the field for all 32 Tennessee regular-season contests during his first two NFL seasons.

South Notes: Bucs, Reid, Titans, Jags, Colts

The Titans will have their offensive line intact on Sunday against the Eagles. Jack Conklin is returning after missing the first three games, and the third-year right tackle starter appears to be glad his rehab took this careful route from the ACL tear that required a full offseason and some regular-season time to overcome. It looks like the Titans’ decision to keep Conklin off their PUP list was critical, since a PUP designation would’ve shelved him for the season’s first six weeks.

I honestly feel better than I’ve ever felt playing,” Conklin said, via Erik Bacharach of The Tennesseean. “I feel faster, I feel quicker, and I’m honestly a lot stronger than I’ve ever been playing.”

Conklin and Taylor Lewan haven’t played in a full game together since the Titans’ wild card win over the Chiefs. Lewan suffered a concussion earlier this season but is now back at his left tackle spot. Both players are signed through at least 2019, although it’s a near-lock the Titans will pick up Conklin’s fifth-year option next May.

Here’s how some other South-division teams look going into their Week 4 games:

  • Dirk Koetter wanted Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken to focus more on the offense as a whole rather than having to split time between OC duties and wide receivers coach as he previously did. It was Koetter’s decision to hire a wideouts coach, Skyler Fulton, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times notes. Monken then took over devising the Bucs’ practice scripts before calling plays in the preseason, per Stroud, who adds Koetter made a concerted effort to accelerate Bucs camp practices in order to squeeze in more work. Stroud argues it was a smart decision for the Bucs to stick with Koetter, a chopping-block candidate after 2017’s disappointment, than bringing back Jon Gruden.
  • The risk Le’Veon Bell will wear down as his late-20s seasons commence should induce the Colts to stay away from the soon-to-be 27-yard-old running back in free agency, at least at the price he seeks, Nat Newell of the Indianapolis Star writes. Chris Ballard‘s repeated mantra reiterations of building through the draft makes it unlikely the Colts will trade for Bell, Newell adds. The Colts are projected to possess a staggering (and league-most) $126MM in cap space in 2019. They could more than afford Bell and do not have much in the way of proven ball-carrying talent. But the risk of not getting value from this unique free agent would make an investment risky.
  • Eric Reid‘s Panthers contract maxes out at $2MM and includes $1MM in base salary. NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero has numbers for the gray area in between, tweeting the sixth-year safety could earn up to $610K through incentives. Wage bumps for playing time and a Pro Bowl nod exist in this deal. Reid hasn’t made the Pro Bowl since 2014. Carolina’s on a bye this week, giving Reid additional time to acclimate to his new team’s defensive scheme.
  • Leonard Fournette sent and deleted a tweet that indicated he will be back for the Jaguars‘ Week 4 game against the Jets, Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk notes. The second-year running back included the phrase “happy to be back” in his since-deleted tweet, providing a good sign he’s ready to return from the hamstring malady that cost him two games (and perhaps a decent sign the Jags don’t want the Jets knowing this a day in advance). The Jags went 1-1 without their offensive centerpiece.

South Rumors: Conklin, Freeman, Reid, Colts

Jack Conklin is in line to make his season debut for the Titans. The right tackle participated fully in Tennessee’s Friday workout and is set to play Sunday, per TitanInsider.com’s Terry McCormick (on Twitter). Finalizing a recovery from the torn ACL he suffered during the Titans’ divisional-round loss last season, Conklin missed the team’s first three games. Taylor Lewan returned from a concussion in Week 3. This will mark the first time the Titans have deployed their top two tackles together since that Patriots game in January.

Adoree’ Jackson also passed concussion protocol, per McCormick, paving a path for the second-year cornerback to play Sunday as well. Here’s the latest from the South divisions:

  • Devonta Freeman‘s knee issue, though, has not progressed to the point he’ll reclaim his starting spot. The Falcons will hold their first-string running back out again this week, Dan Quinn said Friday (via ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure, on Twitter). Freeman has not played since injuring his knee against the Eagles on opening night.
  • Eric Reid‘s Panthers deal includes $390K in per-game roster bonuses, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (on Twitter). The $390K will be in addition to Reid’s $1MM base salary, and Schefter adds playing-time and Pro Bowl incentives could bump this pact up to $2MM. It’s unclear what the playing-time thresholds are, or how much a Pro Bowl nod would increase’s Reid’s pay, however.
  • Patrick Robinson underwent ankle surgery on Wednesday, ESPN.com’s Mike Triplett of ESPN.com reports. This operation came because the Saints cornerback tore multiple ligaments in his injured ankle, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (on Twitter). The Saints placed their slot corner on IR earlier this week. He is not expected to return this season.
  • Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo will miss another week because of his injured hamstring. Frank Reich confirmed (via The Athletic’s Stephen Holder, on Twitter) the eighth-year veteran is out for Sunday’s game against the Texans. Castonzo has not played in a game this season and has now experienced multiple setbacks in attempts to surmount this hamstring problem. He’s not yet being considered for IR, however.

Extra Points: Davis, Vea, Pats, Lamp, Colts

Prior to Vontae Davis‘ now-infamous halftime retirement, the 10-year NFL veteran cornerback told Bills defensive backs coach John Butler, “I’m done” while he was in uniform late in the first half. This one-sided conversation, per Davis (via The Undefeated’s Domonique Foxworth), occurred in the final minute of the half. Lafayette Pitts replaced Davis in the game and ended up having to play a larger role after halftime once Davis did not return for the second half.

I didn’t expect them to understand,” Davis said, via Foxworth, of his teammates’ reaction to his abrupt NFL exit. “That moment was shocking to me as well. … My intention was not to hurt my teammates. In that moment, my intuition was telling me I don’t belong on that field anymore.”

The Bills received a roster exemption after the 30-year-old defender’s retirement, and they placed Davis on the reserve/left squad list, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports. While Davis sounds about as far away from a player who’d attempt a comeback, his placement on this list would not allow it — with the Bills or another team — this season.

Shifting back to some active NFLers, here’s what’s new going into Week 3:

  • Jack Conklin‘s 2018 debut is unlikely to take place Sunday, Titans insider Paul Kuharsky tweets. In the final part of his recovery process from a torn ACL sustained in January, Conklin appears likelier to suit up in Week 4 against the Eagles than Sunday against the Jaguars. The Titans didn’t have Conklin nor Taylor Lewan in Week 2, but Tennessee’s left tackle has been cleared to return from a concussion he sustained in the season opener. Swing tackle Dennis Kelly, however, remains out. An illness forced Kelly to be hospitalized before last weekend’s game.
  • Another AFC South tackle won’t play Sunday, but Anthony Castonzo‘s second hamstring setback in as many months has not caused the Colts to consider placing him on IR. Indianapolis’ left tackle remains week-to-week in his recovery, Frank Reich said (via the Indianapolis Star’s Zak Keefer, on Twitter). Were Castonzo to land on IR, he would not be able to return for eight weeks.
  • Three Patriots deemed unlikely to play will, in fact, sit out New England’s Week 3 game in Detroit. The Patriots announced Trey Flowers, Patrick Chung and Eric Rowe are out against the Lions. The team did not declare Marcus Cannon or Josh Gordon out. Cannon returned to practice this week and made progress, pointing to the right tackle’s return.
  • Vita Vea‘s calf strain will delay his debut for another week. The Buccaneers‘ first-round pick is out for Monday night’s Steelers game, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. Vea did practice on Saturday, doing so for the first time in a month, so the defensive tackle’s NFL debut appears imminent.
  • The Chargers continue to bring Forrest Lamp along slowly. The 2017 second-round pick has not yet debuted, and Anthony Lynn said (via Jeff Miller of the Los Angeles Times) Lamp isn’t ready for action yet. “It’s just that Forrest was an athletic guard,” Lynn said. “He moved a lot and we pulled him in space. He doesn’t feel that speed yet. He feels like he’s a step behind.” Lamp tore an ACL a few days into his rookie training camp and underwent an arthroscopic procedure in May. The Bolts are already down Joe Barksdale for another week. They’ve been playing guard-tackle Michael Schofield in Lamp’s spot, and Sam Tevi started in Barksdale’s right tackle position last week in Buffalo.

AFC Injury Notes: Titans, Ben, Berry, Bolts

Marcus Mariota experienced difficulty gripping the ball after suffering a Week 1 elbow injury, but he could well return for the Titans this week. However, he doesn’t appear to be at full strength. Blaine Gabbert stands to see time as well as an apparent result. Mike Vrabel said he expects to use both of his quarterbacks against the Texans, via Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com (on Twitter). Mariota hasn’t made much progress since his injury in Tennessee’s opener and was still experiencing tingling in his throwing arm as of Wednesday, per Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com, making this an interesting situation for a Titans team with playoff aspirations. If Mariota fails to progress by Sunday, it wouldn’t be hard to envision the Titans sitting him. Gabbert filled in for an injury-ransacked Cardinals team last season, making five starts (including a 12-7 win over the Titans). He completed 11 of 22 passes in a loss to the Dolphins last week.

Here’s the latest on the AFC injury front heading into Week 2:

  • A higher-profile AFC passer does look to be in better shape going into Week 2. Ben Roethlisberger practiced fully on Friday, Mike Tomlin said (via ESPN’s Adam Schefter, on Twitter), pointing him toward being available in Sunday’s Steelers-Chiefs tilt. An elbow malady caused Big Ben to miss practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Joshua Dobbs would start against Kansas City if Pittsburgh’s franchise passer can’t go.
  • When Mariota and/or Gabbert take snaps Sunday, they’ll do so with second-string tackles. Jack Conklin won’t be ready to debut, and Taylor Lewan is out as well after suffering a concussion, McCormick notes.
  • Eric Berry‘s ninth NFL season remains on hold while he battles a heel ailment. The All-Pro Chiefs safety did not practice on Friday and is doubtful to suit up in western Pennsylvania on Sunday, per Andy Reid (via Brooke Pryor of the Kansas City Star, on Twitter). Berry’s battled this heel trouble, on the opposite foot of the torn Achilles he suffered in September 2017, for over a month.
  • As expected, Joey Bosa is out for the Chargers-Bills game Sunday. Right tackle Joe Barksdale won’t suit up, either, ESPN’s Eric Williams tweets. A knee injury’s affecting Barksdale. Sam Tevi is likely to start for the Bolts at right tackle. Second-year defensive end Isaac Rochell replaced Bosa as a starting defensive end last week.

Injury Notes: Berry, Giants, Titans, Falcons

Some teams will be opening their seasons without key defenders. Here’s the latest from the Week 1 injury front:

  • The nagging heel issue Eric Berry‘s been dealing with will likely keep him out of Week 1. Andy Reid (via Adam Teicher of ESPN.com, on Twitter) does not expect his All-Pro safety to be available when the Chiefs play arguably their toughest AFC West game of the season — a road tilt against the Chargers. Berry’s been held out of practice this week. He missed the Chiefs’ final 15 games of last season with an Achilles tear, his second severe NFL injury. Berry’s right heel’s plagued him in recent weeks, and was also an issue in Kansas City’s 2017 training camp; the ninth-year safety tore his left Achilles’ tendon in Week 1 of last season. He hasn’t practice since August 11. Eric Murray and the recently reacquired Ron Parker are K.C.’s likely safety starters, per Teicher.
  • Suffering a high ankle sprain in practice late last month, Olivier Vernon will not be available for the Giants on Sunday. Vernon will miss New York’s Week 1 game against Jacksonville, Pat Shurmur said (via SNY.tv’s Ralph Vacchiano). This will pose a problem for the Giants’ pass rush, which is now without Jason Pierre-Paul. This could push rookie Lorenzo Carter into Big Blue’s lineup Sunday, per Matt Lombardo of NJ.com, who adds the Georgia-developed edge defender may play plenty regardless of his first-string status.
  • The Titans will be missing some key players but may also have one back sooner than expected. Derrick Morgan‘s meniscus issue hasn’t stopped him from practicing this week, and the ninth-year edge player practiced fully on Thursday to put him in line to start Sunday. However, the Titans will begin their season without Jack Conklin, Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry, Jim Wyatt of Titansonline.com tweets. Evans and Landry were Tennessee’s top two 2018 draft picks.
  • Keanu Neal‘s Week 1 injury (an ACL tear) proved to be the biggest health news thus far on Friday, and the Falcons may not seek an outside replacement. Damontae Kazee is likely the next man up for the Falcons, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets, rather than Atlanta going after former Dan Quinn charge Earl Thomas or UFA Eric Reid.
  • Joey Bosa may miss Week 1 as well, and the Chargers‘ dynamic pass rusher was spotted in a walking boot on Friday, Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Bosa will be out for Sunday’s game, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Bosa missed the preseason with a foot injury, but Wang notes (on Twitter) that ailment healed and that the third-year defensive end is week-to-week because of a different malady on that same foot. While the Bolts have maybe the NFL’s best edge-rushing tandem in Bosa and Melvin Ingram, they aren’t especially deep at that position.
  • Jesse James will start at tight end for the Steelers on Sunday against the Browns. Vance McDonald will miss Pittsburgh’s opener, per Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews (Twitter link). A foot injury shelved McDonald during the preseason, halting the tight end’s offseason momentum as he prepares for his second Steelers season.

Titans Cut Roster Down To 53

Starting right tackle Jack Conklin will return to the Titans’ active roster after missing training camp due to his ACL tear in Tennessee’s second-round playoff game. He will be taken off the PUP list, pointing to an early-season return rather than a six-week absence.

Many other Titans will have to head elsewhere. Tennessee announced its cuts, trimming the roster from 90 to 53 players. Here is the full list of cuts:

Placed on IR:

South Rumors: Conklin, Colts, Panthers

As expected, the Titans placed Jack Conklin on the PUP list at the outset of training camp. The third-year right tackle tore an ACL in Tennessee’s divisional-round loss to New England in mid-January. Given that barely six months have passed, this could be expected. Mike Vrabel said this was a possibility as his team concluded minicamp, and Conklin confirmed this was a methodical process.

Here’s the latest from the Titans, along with some of their top rivals.

  • Tennessee also placed tight end Phillip Supernaw on the PUP list while also slotting second-round pick Rashaan Evans and free agent wideout addition Michael Campanaro on the non-football illness list. The Titans’ rookies and quarterbacks opened camp Sunday, and each of these players is eligible to be reinstated for full work by the time full practices begin Thursday.
  • Titans linebacker Kevin Dodd wound up on the reserve/did not report list.
  • The Colts added multiple veterans up front this offseason, with Matt Slauson and Austin Howard now in the mix for starting roles as stopgaps. Indianapolis boasts some depth at guard now with Slauson, the recently re-signed Jack Mewhort and No. 6 overall pick Quenton Nelson on the roster. Mewhort’s re-up and the Slauson addition, though, did not deter the Colts from selecting Braden Smith in the second round. The franchise’s goal is for Smith, an Auburn alum, to be the long-term starter at right guard opposite Nelson, Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star notes. Though, Holder cautions his development figures to take longer than Nelson’s. Once entrenched as a Colts guard starter and a candidate for a long-term extension, Mewhort suffered significant injury setbacks in 2016 and ’17 to limit him to a one-year, $1.5MM deal with just $300K guaranteed. Slauson is signed for one year and $2.5MM. One member of this tandem could begin the season in an unfamiliar backup role.
  • It looks like Denico Autry has a path toward either a full-time starting role or a prominent backup job with the Colts. Chris Ballard raved about the defensive end/tackle’s skill set this weekend. “Let me tell you the one you need to watch: It’s Autry,” Ballard said. “Denico Autry is legitimate. He’s long; he’s strong; he’s passionate. I am really excited to watch him play. He’s made up of all the right stuff.” Autry (career-high five sacks last season) served as a rotational player with the Raiders, lining up as an end and a tackle during his four-year run in Oakland.
  • A host of players are vying to replace Andrew Norwell on the Panthers‘ starting line. Amini Silatolu, Taylor Moton and former Viking Jeremiah Sirles are among them, with Jordan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer noting Ron Rivera has expressed optimism about the prospect Silatolu can man the first-string post opposite Trai Turner. Silatolu started 15 Panthers games as a rookie in 2012 but hasn’t been a first-stringer on more than three occasions in a season since 2014. Rodrigue adds that Moton may be the top challenger but may also be used as a tackle and be in line to succeed Daryl Williams in the event he follows Norwell’s path as a UFA defection in 2019.

Jack Conklin Addresses Rehab Timeline

Last month, Mike Vrabel said Jack Conklin could begin Titans training camp on the PUP list. The third-year tackle discussed his recovery this weekend but did not confirm he’d be ready by the first Vrabel-era camp commences.

While Conklin stopped short of proclaiming himself ready to go, which can be expected since he tore an ACL in mid-January, he said no setbacks have occurred during his recovery.

I am still rehabbing, but things are going well, no setbacks,” Conklin said, via Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com. “It is hard having a new staff, not able to be out there running around. But I have a great team and the staff has done a great job of getting me (healthy). I am excited.”

Conklin added that he’s down to 310 pounds from 320, with Wyatt pointing out that may be a better fit for the new offense the Titans will run under new OC Matt LaFleur. The Titans are exercising patience with their right-edge starter.

You don’t want to come back too early and hurt it again,” Conklin said. “You want to make sure you are full health and ready to go. If I come back too early, I am not only hurting myself, but I am hurting the team. If I can’t play at the level I need to perform at, there’s really no reason I should be out there playing. I think I need to earn my way back health-wise and practicing and that is something I am working toward and something I am excited to get back to.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.