CINCINNATI — The Bengals have placed starting middle linebacker Preston Brown on injured reserve, the team announced on Tuesday.
The injury is a blow to an already depleted defense that had to play two backup linebackers last week against the Ravens.
Brown said he injured his knee in the third quarter of a game against the Saints on Nov. 11. He was in a knee brace the following week and did not practice, but said he couldn’t discuss what specifically was wrong.
“Coach says I can’t speak about injuries,” Brown said on Wednesday. “It happened in like the third quarter but I kept playing. So I’m not really sure.”
Brown signed with the Bengals in the spring after spending the first four years of his career in Buffalo. He never missed a game with the Bills and was tied for the NFL lead in tackles last year.
However, he only played in seven games this season in Cincinnati after injuring his ankle in the season opener, which caused him to miss the next two games. He also tweaked the ankle against the Dolphins but played the next week.
His knee injury will end his season, and his likely replacement is Hardy Nickerson, who has filled in for Brown
Brown is the fourth straight free agent linebacker the Bengals signed. Others included A.J. Hawk in 2015, Karlos Dansby in 2016 and Kevin Minter in 2017. None of those signings lasted more than one season.
CINCINNATI — The Bengals placed tight end Tyler Kroft on injured reserve on Friday, ending his season several weeks after he broke a bone in his foot against the Dolphins on Oct. 7.
The reason behind the delay was the hope that Kroft could eventually come back this season if everything went right. But it was clear after Kroft remained in a walking boot several weeks later that things weren’t progressing as they had hoped.
Kroft said he met with numerous doctors and specialists to try to figure out a solution but also indicated in October that everything needed to go perfectly to plan for him to be able to come back.
“It’s been weird,” Kroft said on Oct. 24. “It started the first day. We thought something was going to happen, and the next day comes around, and we’re … it’s evolving every week, honestly. We’re trying to keep that in mind, and we’re doing everything we can to come back this year and not prolong it.”
Kroft stayed in the game after his injury occurred despite hearing a “pop” that indicated a bone was broken.
“We knew what had happened to it and felt like I could push through it and go,” he said.
“Coming into the year we thought we were a pretty deep position group. It’s awful how snake-bitten we’ve been this year,” he said.
The Bengals promoted tight ends Jordan Franks off their practice squad on Oct. 23. and Matt Lengel off the Texans practice squad on Oct. 10. Eifert, who is out for the season, was still in a walking boot and on crutches as of Friday.
The three-time Pro Bowl lineman has a tendon injury to his right foot.
Long was hurt in the closing minutes of the Bears’ 24-10 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday. Tight end Dion Sims rolled into him while the two were blocking for Jordan Howard on a run.
The injury to Long leaves the NFC North-leading Bears (4-3) in a painful and familiar spot with him as they get ready to visit the Buffalo Bills (2-6). Chicago also could be without star pass-rusher Khalil Mack (right ankle) and No. 1 receiver Allen Robinson (groin) again. The two missed the win over the Jets.
The 29-year-old Long made the Pro Bowl his first three seasons after being drafted in the first round in 2013. But he missed eight games in 2016 and six last season, after playing in 47 of a possible 48 from 2013 to 2015.
The Bears could move Eric Kush or rookie James Daniels from left guard, where they have shared time. Kush missed the game against the Jets because of a neck injury, but he is expected to play against Buffalo.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Su’a Cravens will buckle a chinstrap on a football helmet and play in a regular-season game Sunday for the first time since Dec. 11, 2016.
Cravens, who has been on injured reserve since the end of the preseason with a knee injury, was formally moved to the Denver Broncos‘ active roster Friday and will play against the Houston Texans on Sunday.
“It’s been a year and a half overdue now,” Cravens said. “I was ready to play Week 1, then an injury comes. I had a torn meniscus the whole time, not even knowing. It’s all been a part of God’s plans. It’s my time now, so take advantage of it.”
Cravens missed the 2017 season with post-concussion syndrome.
“I’m going to try to blast somebody,” Cravens said earlier this week. “I’ve got to. It’s been eight weeks, so I’ve got some built-up frustration.”
The Broncos acquired Cravens and two 2018 draft picks in a trade with the Redskins this past March. In exchange, the Redskins got two draft picks in the 2018 draft and a conditional pick in the 2020 draft.
Cravens has also dealt with knee and elbow injuries during his career.
In September 2017, he was placed on the exempt/left squad list by the Redskins after he had indicated to some that he wanted to retire. Cravens has said he was dealing with family issues at the time.
During training camp this summer, Cravens missed time with swelling in his knee and — when the team cut to 53 players just before the start of the season — he was moved to injured reserve. He has practiced the last two weeks without any issues.
“I’ve been here every day,” Cravens said. “It hasn’t been a vacation for me. I haven’t been home in California or anything. If I wasn’t rehabilitating, I was in the defensive meetings and learning everything. I’ve been doing the exact same schedule besides playing. I’m glad that I’m getting rewarded with playing now. I’m looking forward to that.”
The Broncos have seen Cravens as a possible solution in covering opposing tight ends and running backs in the passing game when they go to their dime (six defensive backs) package. And that’s where he figures to get most of his work Sunday against the Texans.
Seattle tight end Will Dissly (105 receiving yards, TD) and Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce (157 yards, two touchdowns in two games) were trouble spots for the Broncos this season.
“His body type and skill set as a dime backer is valuable because he can play first, second and third down,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “… Obviously, if they pass the ball on first, second or third down, he can cover tight ends.”
Joseph said Cravens would not be on any kind of play count against the Texans. Cravens enters the lineup in a week when three defensive starters — linebacker Brandon Marshall (knee), cornerback Bradley Roby (ankle) and Darian Stewart (neck/stingers) — will miss the game.
Linebacker Von Miller will start, but has also practiced this week with a brace on his left knee, which he said was “just a little sore” after practice Friday.
“We have ballers everywhere on defense,” Cravens said. “I just feel like we’re not making every play that we should make. We’re leaving a lot of plays out there and a lot of our games have come down to one score. Hopefully, I can be the one that comes in and picks up those plays that we’re missing on and that’s what we need to get this ball rolling.”
THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — The debate grew so loud, it could be heard across the Los Angeles Rams‘ locker room.
Along a row of lockers occupied by the defensive backs, Aqib Talib grew increasingly animated as he argued the day’s topic: Which NBA player could cross over to the NFL?
Every player in the secondary chimed in, until the growing crescendo of voices became so loud that the group almost missed a reminder that meetings were about to start. Just like that, the debate was suspended, as players rushed out the door.
That was Week 2.
The Rams’ locker room has been decisively quieter since Talib was placed on the injured reserve after a Week 3 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. Where Talib once filled the locker room with lively debate and laughter, there’s now a speaker that occasionally plays music to drown out the silence.
Talib’s absence has been felt, on and off the field, even as the Rams have won eight straight games.
“He’s just kind of magnetic,” coach Sean McVay said about Talib. “People are just drawn to him. Where there’s a charisma, there’s a swagger, there’s a confidence, but then also there’s that experience. … You definitely miss a player of his caliber.”
“When he’s not around everybody is more mellow because he is the biggest personality in the room,” safety Lamarcus Joyner said.
The Rams made significant moves over the offseason to upgrade their secondary, trading for All-Pro cornerback Marcus Peters and Talib, a five-time Pro Bowl selection. Talib, an 11-year veteran, made such a fast impression on his teammates that they voted him a team captain, despite this being his first season in L.A.
Peters especially took to Talib, who had previously played in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ 3-4 scheme in Denver and helped Peters with some of the nuances of the system.
But Peters and Talib only played together 2½ games before Talib suffered an ankle injury that required surgery. Since then, Peters has manned one side of the field, and Troy Hill and Sam Shields the other.
The Rams are undefeated, but Talib, especially against a gauntlet of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, is missed.
“This secondary needs him,” cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman said. “Aqib is a one of the centerpieces of our team.”
“You’re going to miss that presence,” said Hill, who has started four games with Talib sidelined. “So that’s a big factor and things like that. But he’s still out there, helping, seeing what he sees and things like that.”
Peters and Hill held their own against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. But they also allowed the future Hall of Fame quarterback to complete several big plays.
Peters allowed passes of 48 and 41 yards to receiver Davante Adams. Both completions prolonged drives that eventually led to touchdowns. But Peters also made two critical stops on third down and finished with six tackles.
Hill, coming off a bounce-back performance that included his first career interception against the San Francisco 49ers, allowed receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling to run by him, as Rodgers completed a 40-yard pass for a touchdown to give the Packers a late lead.
Talib watched from the sideline.
“He tell us, like, ‘The ref letting people play, so you can be a little more aggressive,'” Hill said. “He say little things that he see out there and things like that.”
This Sunday, the challenge for the Rams’ defense will become even greater as they prepare for Drew Brees, the NFL’s all-time passing leader, and the New Orleans Saints at the SuperDome.
The Saints have won six straight since dropping their season opener and Sunday’s game could serve as a preview of an eventual NFC playoff matchup.
The Saints are ranked second in the NFL in scoring, averaging 33.4 points per game. Brees has passed for 1,990 yards and 14 touchdowns, with an interception, and is averaging 8.19 yards per throw.
“It’s Drew Brees, man,” said Peters, who has intercepted one pass this season. “Everybody on the defense got to just clamp down that much more.”
“Just another great quarterback,” Hill said. “Kind of the same as Aaron Rodgers, get the ball out, things like that. … So you’ve just got to be technique sound and just go out there and just try to execute.”
The Saints also feature receiver Michael Thomas, who has caught 58 passes for 669 yards and four touchdowns. Thomas averages 11.5 yards per catch.
“You’ve got a future Hall of Famer at quarterback and you got a lot of great skill guys around him,” Joyner said. “It’s just overall it’s going to be a dog fight and we just know we’re going to have to play for 60 minutes.”
Robey-Coleman said that after facing Rodgers, there’s a sense of confidence among the secondary that they can play with, if not defeat, any great quarterback, including Brees.
“I don’t want it to come off arrogant or anything,” Robey-Coleman said, “But this week is going to kind of be a little lighter from a standpoint of quarterbacks. Got two quarterbacks, got two Hall of Fame quarterbacks and we prepared for one, so the preparation for the next one is not as bad as going against that first one.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Chicago Bears right guard Kyle Long has a tendon injury in his right foot, and the team is deciding whether to put him on injured reserve.
Coach Matt Nagy said Wednesday the three-time Pro Bowl lineman has a boot on his foot and is “week to week.” The Bears are still trying to figure out the “complete extent” of the injury.
Asked if Long has any broken bones, Nagy said, “I’m not going to get into the details of it.” But he added there are “some issues” with a tendon.
The Bears could place Long on IR with the intent to return in eight weeks if they don’t think he could be back sooner.
“Those are decisions we’re going through,” Nagy said. “We’re not there yet. We don’t need to be. Once we get to that point, then we’ll decide what we want to do.”
Long was hurt in the closing minutes of the Bears’ 24-10 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday. Tight end Dion Sims rolled into him while the two were blocking for Jordan Howard on a run.
The injury to Long leaves the NFC North-leading Bears (4-3) in a painful and familiar spot with him as they get ready to visit the Buffalo Bills (2-6). Chicago could also be without star pass rusher Khalil Mack (right ankle) and No. 1 receiver Allen Robinson (groin) again. The two missed the win over the Jets.
The 29-year-old Long made the Pro Bowl his first three seasons after being drafted in the first round in 2013. But he missed eight games in 2016 and six last season after playing in 47 of a possible 48 from 2013 to 2015.
Nagy again said the latest injury was not the same as the severe one to his right ankle in 2016 that required surgery. Long also had operations on his shoulder, elbow and neck after he was shut down last year.
“It’s tough to hear news like that — one of our brothers and other family going down,” quarterback Mitchell Trubisky said. “We’re going to support him all the way and back him up and then it’s next-man-up mentality. We’ve got a lot of depth at the O-line. I feel really comfortable with where we’re at and who’s stepping in there.”
The Bears could move Eric Kush or rookie James Daniels from left guard, where they have shared time. Kush missed the game against the Jets because of a neck injury but is expected to play against Buffalo.
Another option at right guard is Bryan Witzmann. He signed with Chicago three weeks ago and made 13 starts last season for Kansas City while Nagy was the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator.
One scenario that can apparently be ruled out is moving Cody Whitehair from center to guard, a position he has played. Nagy said the Bears haven’t considered that.
“It’s tough to see (Long) go down with the passion that he plays with,” Whitehair said. “We hope for the best for him. I know we’ve got the right guys that will step in for him and give their best.”
With Long out, the line loses not only one of its best blockers, but a team leader.
“He helps me a lot with technique stuff,” Daniels said. “He also (tells me) if there’s a certain look, just be alert for things like that. Both ways, it’s nice to have him around.”
Game notes: Nagy said the Bears will take a similar approach with Mack and Robinson, after both were held out of practice last week on Wednesday and Thursday and limited on Friday.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — After a flurry of injuries in the San Francisco 49ers‘ secondary late in the 2017 season, Adrian Colbert stepped into the starting free-safety job and played well enough to claim it on a permanent basis.
Now, just seven weeks into Colbert’s first year as the full-time starter, Colbert’s season is almost certainly over. On Monday, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said the team is placing Colbert on injured reserve with a high right-ankle sprain, an injury he suffered in the third quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Shanahan said Colbert is expected to miss six to eight weeks, and though that time frame would allow the possibility for Colbert to be one of the team’s short-term injured reserve candidates, Shanahan said the 25-year-old would “probably not” come back this season.
The Niners re-signed quarterback Tom Savage to take Colbert’s spot on the roster. Savage signed with San Francisco last week but was released to make room for defensive back Tyvis Powell because of multiple injuries in the secondary.
With 11 minutes left in the third quarter of Sunday’s game, Rams quarterback Jared Goff fired a pass deep down the left sideline for receiver Brandin Cooks. Colbert sprinted to the sideline, where he converged on the ball simultaneously with Niners cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon.
As Colbert attempted to brace for landing, his right leg bent awkwardly underneath him. He was taken to the locker room on a cart but returned to the Niners’ sideline soon after. After the game, Colbert indicated he’d be OK but was unsure of the official diagnosis.
Colbert’s is the latest and longest-term ailment for the Niners defensive backs and comes on the heels of what Shanahan believed was one of Colbert’s better performances this season.
“We had a challenge for him the last few weeks and I thought in this game he had covered sideline to sideline very well, just running and hitting,” Shanahan said. “And [he] made a real good play on the play he got hurt on also. They tried to challenge us, go over the top, which you want the corner there on, but usually the middle-third player will show up with the speed Colbert has, and he did and he made a good play and unfortunately he got hurt.”
In parts of seven games this season, Colbert posted 20 tackles and a pass defended. Now that he’s out, Shanahan said the Niners will look at all options, including the potential return to free safety of cornerback Jimmie Ward once he recovers from a hamstring injury.
For now, rookie D.J. Reed will get the first opportunity to replace Colbert. A fifth-round pick out of Kansas State, Reed has appeared in all seven games with one start and has 13 tackles on the season.
“Colbert is one of those guys last year who got his opportunity because a lot of guys went down,” Shanahan said. “And he was one of the guys that the second half of the year we got to watch grow and go through some trial and error but ended up playing at a very high level last year and made us very excited about going into this year with him.
“Now, Colbert going out is going to give more opportunities to D.J. Reed or other players, so you hope some other guys step it up like he did last year.”
He would be eligible to return for the Christmas Eve game against Denver in Week 16.
Lynch suffered the injury during the Raiders’ Week 6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in London. He was trying to pull his right leg out of the grasp of Seahawks cornerback Shaquill Griffin when linebacker Austin Calitro leveled Lynch, who landed awkwardly and stayed on the Wembley Stadium pitch for a moment before gingerly jogging off the field.
Lynch, 32, has rushed for a team-high 376 yards on 90 carries (4.2-yard average) and three touchdowns in 2018. He also has 15 receptions for 84 yards.
The five-time Pro Bowler’s two-year contract is up after this season; it pays him a fully guaranteed $2.5 million in base salary after he restructured it this offseason, though it carries a salary-cap number of more than $4.45 million for 2018, per ESPN Stats & Information data. Lynch received a $1 million roster bonus on the 11th day of the league year, and he already has accrued $281,250 in roster bonuses ($46,875 per game on the Raiders’ 46-man roster, with a max of $750,000). He would miss out on $468,750 in bonuses if he did not play another game this season; he stood to earn up to $3.75 million in yards and touchdown incentives.
With Lynch out, veteran Doug Martin figures to become the No. 1 back for Oakland (1-5), which returns from its Week 7 bye to host the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
It’s unclear if Ginn has a chance to return later this season after missing the required eight weeks. He had been dealing with a knee injury for more than a month and did not play in Week 5 before the Saints had a bye in Week 6. It was not immediately clear if he suffered a setback or if the Saints decided to give him additional time to recover.
Losing Ginn is a disappointing development for the NFL’s top-scoring offense. Ginn, 33, had one of the best seasons of his career after he joined the Saints as a free agent in 2017, posting 53 catches, 787 yards and four touchdowns in the regular season and then 12 catches, 187 yards and a TD in two playoff games.
The Saints do have good depth at the position and an obvious contingency plan in place. Smith, who was drafted in the third round out of UCF, replaced Ginn as New Orleans’ primary deep threat in Week 5 and delivered in a big way in a 43-19 rout of the Washington Redskins. Smith had three catches for 111 yards, including a 62-yard TD and a 35-yard score.
Before that, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Smith had just one catch for 18 yards on the season. But he showed his big-play ability throughout training camp and the preseason.
Meredith, meanwhile, plays both in the slot and on the outside. And he has seen his role with the Saints steadily increase since he was a healthy inactive in Weeks 1 and 2.
Meredith, 26, joined the Saints this year as a restricted free agent after he suffered a major knee injury with the Chicago Bears last summer. It took him a little while to get up to speed after he also missed time in training camp with an unspecified ailment. But he had a season-high five catches for 71 yards in Ginn’s absence in Week 5.
The Saints may also have an injury concern on the offensive line this week. Both of their starting guards missed practice Thursday (Larry Warford with a back injury and Andrus Peat with a head injury). The team re-signed veteran offensive lineman Michael Ola for added depth.
In positive injury news for the Saints, top cornerback Marshon Lattimore has cleared the concussion protocol after he was sidelined during the first quarter of that Week 5 game against Washington. Lattimore has practiced fully all week and is expected to play Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens and their ninth-ranked passing offense.