MRI confirms torn Achilles tendon for New Orleans Saints receiver Dez Bryant

An MRI confirmed that wide receiver Dez Bryant has suffered a torn Achilles and now faces an expected eight-month recovery, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Saturday.

Two days after signing with the New Orleans Saints, Bryant suffered the injury on the final play of Friday’s practice, a source confirmed to Schefter, after it was first reported by NFL Network.

The recovery timeline puts Bryant on track to potentially be ready for training camp next year, when he again will be a free agent.

Bryant acknowledged a setback in a tweet Friday afternoon, writing, “This is the ultimate test.”

He was officially put on injured reserve by the Saints on Saturday. In a related move, the Saints activated undrafted rookie wide receiver Keith Kirkwood from their practice squad for added depth Sunday.

Bryant, who turned 30 on Sunday, had not been with a team since he was released by the Dallas Cowboys in April. He practiced for the first time Thursday.

The Saints could turn to another decorated veteran receiver, Brandon Marshall, who also impressed the team during a Tuesday workout, according to Schefter. The Saints also auditioned veteran receiver Kamar Aiken on Tuesday before opting to sign Bryant.

With Michael Thomas and rookie Tre’Quan Smith as their top two receivers, the Saints will almost certainly look to add depth at the position next week after placing Cameron Meredith on injured reserve Wednesday and Ted Ginn Jr. on IR last month.

A number of Saints players sent their support to Bryant on Twitter on Friday.

For Bryant, the injury continues a tumultuous year that began with a messy divorce in Dallas. The three-time Pro Bowler was released in April when he was due to earn $12.5 million.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Bryant was among the NFL’s best in his prime. He recorded three straight seasons of at least 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns from 2012 to 2014, and he earned Pro Bowl invites in 2013, 2014 and 2016.

His production, however, had been slipping in recent years as he battled foot and knee injuries; he had 69 catches for 838 yards and 6 touchdowns in 16 games last year. The Cowboys were ultimately ready to move on from what executive vice president Stephen Jones described as a “fiery” personality that could sometimes be a “distraction.”

Bryant signed a prorated contract that will pay him $600,000. He could have made up to $500,000 in incentives for reaching specific reception totals: $50,000 for catching 25 passes in the Saints’ remaining seven games after Sunday, an additional $100,000 for 30 catches, $150,000 for 35 catches and $200,000 for 40 receptions.

ESPN’s Mike Triplett contributed to this report.

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Will Fuller, Houston Texans wide receiver, ruled out with knee injury

HOUSTON — Wide receiver Will Fuller left the Houston Texans‘ game Thursday night against the Miami Dolphins because of a knee injury.

Fuller injured his knee midway through the fourth quarter while attempting to catch a deep pass from Deshaun Watson in the end zone. He was checked out on the field but was able to walk off under his own power.

Fuller left the game with five catches for 124 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown. On the touchdown, Fuller easily beat his defender across the middle and down the right sideline, trotting the final five yards into the end zone. The pass was the longest touchdown of both Watson’s and Fuller’s careers. The pair have now connected for 11 touchdowns in 11 games played together.

The receiver missed a game earlier this season because of a hamstring injury.

After the game, coach Bill O’Brien said he didn’t have an update on Fuller’s status. “We’ll have to wait and see,” he said.

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Consistent and versatile, Robert Woods might be the Most Valuable Rams receiver – Los Angeles Rams Blog

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Jared Goff calls him “Mr. Consistent.” But recently, “Mr. Versatility” would serve as an appropriate nickname for receiver Robert Woods as well.

For the past three weeks, Woods has shifted between positions in the Los Angeles Rams receiving corps as Cooper Kupp has been slowed and sidelined because of various injuries.

With Kupp’s status uncertain for Sunday, Woods’ versatility could be instrumental once again as the Rams (7-0) prepare to host the Green Bay Packers (3-2) at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.

“It goes unnoticed sometimes with all the stuff he’s able to do and how much I rely on him and how much all the receivers rely on him,” Goff said. “His versatility, how smart he is, his ability to block, his unselfishness, all that.”

Woods has caught 41 passes this season and ranks eighth in the NFL with 602 receiving yards. He’s averaging 14.7 yards per catch.

A sixth-year pro, Woods typically plays as an outside receiver who is relied upon heavily in the intermediate passing game, while sometimes contributing in jet motions, or sometimes on deep routes downfield.

But in the second half of a Week 5 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, Woods found himself in the slot after Kupp and Brandin Cooks were placed into concussion protocol. Josh Reynolds, a second-year pro, and rookie KhaDarel Hodge came off the bench and played on the outside. So Woods, with a deep knowledge of the offense, shifted inside and made the transition appear seamless as he finished with five catches for 92 yards.

“Just being here for two years, I was able to grasp my position and focus on it last year a lot more, whereas this year, better able to understand the whole offense and the concepts,” said Woods, who signed a five-year, $34-million contract shortly after McVay was hired in 2017. “I have my position understood and locked down to where I am paying attention to some stuff that the running backs are doing, some stuff that the tight ends are doing, just keying into the whole concepts and the purpose of the plays.”

“When those guys went out, he didn’t ever complain,” said Todd Gurley, who routinely credits Woods blocking ability in the run game. “He just did what he had to do, helped those other guys get lined up.”

Even as Kupp cleared protocol in time to return for a Week 6 matchup against the Denver Broncos, Woods soon found himself in the slot again after Kupp sprained his knee in the first half and eventually was sidelined for most of the second. Woods remained in the slot through last Sunday’s victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

Over the last three weeks, Woods has caught a team-high 17 passes for 279 yards, while ensuring that younger teammates are up-to-speed when they’re thrust into action.

“I’ll ask him about looks and stuff, what one player is giving him, certain stuff like that,” said Reynolds, who has four catches for 56 yards over the past three weeks. “We definitely communicate on the sidelines and stuff during games.”

“He’s exceeded every expectation that we’ve had for him,” said passing-game coordinator Shane Waldron. “He’s done a great job as a leader, in the run game — as a runner, as a blocker, as a pass protector at times — and obviously as a great route runner, and really just improved his game every day.”

Over the offseason, Woods worked to develop stronger hands at the request of coaches. By all accounts, he has shown marked progress, though the understated Woods said there were no special drills or workouts that helped him improve.

But he did credit extra throwing sessions with Goff for becoming more familiar with his quarterback’s ball placement, as the two improved chemistry and Woods worked to catch Goff’s passes in stride.

No matter which role Woods’ is in, the extra effort appears to be paying off — for Woods, for Goff and for the undefeated Rams.

“He’s got some of the best hands I’ve ever played with,” Goff said. “It’s comparable to anyone I’ve ever played with. If you guys watch most of his catches nowadays, it’s all out in front of his body — all with his hands. He makes some miraculous catches as well with his hands.

“He’s just become a guy that I can really trust with any route, any sort of cut, anything.”

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Terrance Williams, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, suspended 3 games NFL substance abuse

FRISCO, Texas — Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams has been suspended three games without pay for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.

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Larry Fitzgerald, Demaryius Thomas and the art of aging at wide receiver – Denver Broncos Blog

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — By the time his career with the Denver Broncos ended, wide receiver Rod Smith had two Super Bowl rings, 849 receptions, 68 receiving touchdowns and plenty of wisdom dispensed along the way.

“Old comes fast in the league sometimes and the guys who might have to fight it off the hardest are receivers, because once you can’t get open, they close the door on you,” Smith has often said.

Two of the most prominent in the wave of big receivers in their 30s — the Broncos’ Demaryius Thomas and the Arizona CardinalsLarry Fitzgerald — will face off Thursday night (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox). They continue to adapt — adjusting to changing times and offenses — and their aging bodies.

“Guys are only getting younger, quicker and faster,” Thomas, 30, said. “Younger you are, the quicker you heal, so they might be fresher than you … I think you always have to look to see if you need to change up some things to stay on point, to help your team win. You have to do that work, all the time, no exceptions, be a little lucky, a little blessed — all of the above — and never let up.”

Fitzgerald, 35, the Cardinals’ first-round pick in 2004, is now in his 15th season with the team. Thomas, a first-round pick in 2010, suddenly finds himself the longest-tenured Broncos player in the locker room.

Both are 6-foot-3, both have played north of 220 pounds at times during their respective careers, both have been to Pro Bowls, played in Super Bowls and been their team’s alpha receiver for a variety of quarterbacks.

And when they take a step back to see how they got from where they were as players to where they are now, even the path is similar. Each started as a split end — lined up wide, much of the time, on the offensive left.

And each has had to expand his skill set and move around the formation to remain impactful.

“I prepare much more now,” Fitzgerald said this week. “Playing X is way easier than doing what I’m doing now — all I did was play X. I’m on the backside of everything … it was pretty easy — I never studied, never really did much preparation, to be honest with you. But now I have to prepare a lot more. When you’re playing inside, you’re responsible for a lot of the [hot routes] — you have to relay the plays outside … I’m the closest to the quarterback, so when there’s distress, he’s going to be looking to me first, so you have be a lot more on your P’s and Q’s.’’

“[Fitzgerald] is right,” Thomas said. “… At the X, you’re usually on the backside — not much to worry about, a sight adjustment sometimes, a block here and there. You don’t have to think too much; you could go out, run your route. Now, there’s more to it.”

Fitzgerald largely plays out of the slot for the Cardinals these days — an intersection of experience, his knowledge of the game and the fact he’s playing in a league in which 35-year-olds at his position are on the shortest of lists.

“You change in terms of what you’re asked and what your responsibilities are,” Fitzgerald said. “… You move inside — your game kind of expands. You have to learn to do things different, be valuable when there are things you can’t do anymore or things you wish you could do and they won’t let you do anymore. You have to kind of evolve.”

For Thomas, it also has meant dealing with the physical battering he has taken along the way. He hasn’t missed a game since 2011, and rarely even a practice, but he constantly has battled hip, wrist, hand and foot injuries.

Thomas said he spends far more time on “the body work” in season and in the offseason than he ever thought he would as a 23-year-old rookie. Largely because of a troublesome hip, he also now plays at 218 pounds, down from the 238 pounds he said he weighed as recently as the team’s run to Super Bowl 50 in 2015, a season in which he had 105 catches.

“After that year we won the Super Bowl, I was real banged up coming out of that year and it took a while to get back,” Thomas said. “Noticing that, I knew I had to do more. I knew the game so much more because of Peyton [Manning] — it helped with angles, setting up routes … but my body had to get that kind of work too.

“But if I wouldn’t have lost the weight, [I] don’t know where I’d be. I mean, guys were noticing before I did. One guy told me in the playoffs that year, ‘You ain’t the same DT,’ and that was one of the years I was dealing [with the hip]. I’m strong as s— still, but that hit me. Getting that weight off helped my hip. I could run the same before, but the cuts, the stops — those are better. The thing is, if you slow down you ain’t getting the ball, you ain’t helping your team win. I want to help us win. I want to play in more of those big games.”

Josh Weinfuss contributed to this story.

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Ted Ginn Jr., New Orleans Saints wide receiver, out vs. Washington Redskins with knee injury

NEW ORLEANS — Ted Ginn Jr. has been ruled out of Monday night’s game with a knee injury, which could create more opportunity for New Orleans Saints rookie receiver Tre’Quan Smith or fourth-year pro Cameron Meredith.

The severity of Ginn’s injury is unknown. He played through a knee injury in recent weeks despite being limited in some practices, but then he didn’t practice at all this week. The Saints (3-1) have a bye in Week 6, which gives him extra time to heal.

Ginn, who is used often as a deep threat, has 12 catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns this season. He ranks second among Saints receivers behind Michael Thomas in every category, though running back Alvin Kamara and tight end Benjamin Watson have more catches and yards.

Smith, a third-round pick from Central Florida, could potentially run downfield routes in Ginn’s place. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder showed some big-play ability throughout training camp and the preseason, but he has just one catch for 18 yards so far this season.

Meredith, meanwhile, has gradually worked his way into the offense after recovering from a knee injury suffered in 2017, when he was with the Chicago Bears. He was inactive for the first two games this season. Then he caught four passes for 43 yards and a touchdown over the past two weeks.

Meredith (6-3, 207) could be used both in the slot and on the outside. Second-year pro Austin Carr is also an option in the slot.

The Saints’ healthy pass-catchers could be part of history on Monday night when New Orleans hosts the Washington Redskins. Drew Brees is just 201 yards away from passing Peyton Manning as the NFL’s all-time passing yardage leader.

Washington, however, ranks among the NFL’s top three defenses in total yards, passing yards and points allowed per game.

The Saints also released running back Mike Gillislee and officially activated running back Mark Ingram following his four-game suspension.

New Orleans signed Gillislee in Week 1 after he was released by the New England Patriots, but he carried the ball just 16 times for 43 yards with one catch for 9 yards, no touchdowns and one lost fumble.

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Green Bay Packers receiver Randall Cobb ruled out for Lions game

GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Green Bay Packers are taking the long view on Randall Cobb, but there’s a chance they’ll have at least one — if not two — of their three starting receivers for Sunday’s game at Detroit.

Cobb will miss his second straight game because of the hamstring injury he sustained in practice on Sept. 30, but Davante Adams will practice on Saturday and if all goes well he should play against the Lions.

The short workout before the team departs for Detroit will be Adams’ first time on the field since he dropped out of Wednesday’s practice with a calf injury.

Meanwhile, Geronimo Allison has made some progress through the concussion protocol and head coach Mike McCarthy said “there’s hope for Geronimo.” Allison was knocked out of last Sunday’s win over the Bills with a concussion in the second half.

Adams, Allison and Cobb have combined for 64 catches, 768 yards and six touchdowns — or 62.1 percent of the team’s receptions, 64.8 percent of the receiving yards and all but one of Aaron Rodgers‘ touchdown passes.

“I think we’ve still got some progress to make before I think both sides would be comfortable,” Cobb said Thursday. “It’s a long season and we’re on Game 5, but at the same time, it’s a short season, and we’re on Game 5. So it’s trying to balance both of those. If something was to happen and I reinjure the same hamstring, it’s going to put me out for double the time. So it’s trying to be smart on both sides of it, which I struggle with because I play through emotion.”

If all three were out, the Packers would be down to their three rookie receivers.

Of the three, only fifth-round pick Marquez Valdes-Scantling has caught a pass (two for 41 yards, including a 38-yarder against the Bills) this season.

Fifth-round pick J’Mon Moore played his first snaps from scrimmage last week against the Bills and did not have a ball thrown his way. He battled drop issues during the preseason.

Sixth-round pick Equanimeous St. Brown has played only special teams this season.

The Packers added a receiver, former fifth-round pick DeAngelo Yancey, to their practice squad on Thursday and have until the end of Saturday to add him to the roster in order to play him on Sunday.

“They’ve all got talent, they’ve all come a long way and at some point you have to find out a little bit more about exactly what you have,” Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said of the three rookies. “Quez did some good things, obviously made a big play in the game the other day and started to emerge on special teams. J’Mon is continuing to get better and better. EQ was up for the game. They’re a good group. We’ll just see how the rest of the week unfolds.”

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New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman to play versus Indianapolis Colts

New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman will make his 2018 season debut on Thursday vs. the Indianapolis Colts, per a league source, marking his return from a four-game suspension and the ACL he tore in August 2017.

Edelman can thank, in part…the Boston Celtics.

Edelman has spent time working out at the Celtics’ new training facility in Boston, sources tell ESPN. Edelman spent a significant number of mornings around the Celtics’ training staff and used the team’s Celtics weight room.

And he frequently played ping pong against Celtics star Gordon Hayward, who was a high school tennis champion in Indiana.

“He’s a good player,” Hayward texted ESPN. “I haven’t played against someone who moved like he did when he played. He was all over the place and low to the ground.”

Hayward thinks he beat Edelman 9-1 in games but as Hayward noted, “They were all close. It was fun getting a chance to hang out with him and compete in something. We were battling and by the end we would have an audience watching.”

On Thursday, Edelman also will have an audience watching — with Hayward be rooting for his hometown Colts. But this time he will playing his regular sport, against Indianapolis, on Thursday Night Football.

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Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown on modest start: ‘Watch the tape’

PITTSBURGH — Antonio Brown had a go-to answer when asked about his modest start to the season and his plans to break out.

“Watch the tape,” he said.

Brown referred to the tape eight times Friday in a one-minute span during his media interview at his locker.

Brown is coming off a turbulent Week 3 that included missing a work day due to a personal matter, tweeting “Trade me let’s find out” to a critic who said he’s not the same receiver without Ben Roethlisberger and a sideline confrontation with coordinator Randy Fichtner.

Brown bounced back with a touchdown in a 30-27 win at Tampa Bay.

But JuJu Smith-Schuster leads the team in receptions (27) and receiving yards (356), with Brown ranking second with 24 catches for 210 yards.

Brown, who ranks third in the NFL with 42 targets, looked to big-picture goals and stressed he can’t control when the ball comes his way.

“My statistics are already there. I’ve already done everything from a statistical point,” Brown said. “Obviously, it’s out of my control. I can’t throw it to myself. But what’s important is we continue to win. I’m getting a lot of respect out there. Guys are doubling me, tripling me. But what’s new? We’ve got to continue to win. Winning is most important. Obviously I think I’m the top-rated receiver from 2010 (among) who’s in the league. It’s all about winning at this point.”

Multiple times, Brown referenced not having control over whether the ball is thrown his way.

From 2013-17, Brown set an NFL record with five straight seasons with at least 100 catches. Last year, Brown was on an MVP-caliber pace with 1,533 yards and nine touchdowns before suffering a Week 15 injury.

Roethlisberger still targets Brown early and often but admits he’s not forcing the ball to his top receiver as much these days, acknowledging the supporting cast is getting open and defenses are still double-teaming Brown.

Smith-Schuster said he expects more attention from defenses, which will bring more balance to the attack.

“I think that’s on the come, very soon,” Smith-Schuster said. “I think I’m going to get a double-team. More and more as time comes on, they’re going to slow me down … Right now, AB is taking the double-teams, I’m able to get my plays in. When the time comes, if I get double-teamed, someone has to make those plays.”

Asked if he considers himself a No. 1-caliber receiver, Smith-Schuster deferred to Brown while breeding confidence.

“Man, to be behind Antonio, I feel like I do everything possible just to keep up with that,” Smith-Schuster said. “So, yeah.”

Brown is confident the big plays with Roethlisberger will come over a 16-game season. His media session was tamer than a week ago, when Brown responded to the criticism with defiance. Asked about the change in tone, Brown said he wasn’t upset last week and is blessed to play football, while teasing something bigger.

“It’s all about winning a championship, getting in the Hall of Fame,” Brown said. “It’s bigger than me. Bigger than stats. I’m trying to do something special. As long as we continue to win, the number will add up themselves. I’m still doing my job, regardless of if the ball is coming. I’m still running full speed, being a professional. Just gotta continue to do what’s right.”

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New York Giants’ receiver Odell Beckham Jr. says he can play better

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – New York GiantsOdell Beckham Jr. is 12th in the NFL with 271 receiving yards. He still thinks he could – and should – do better despite those three games being his first since breaking his ankle last October.

There was one play in particular during Sunday’s 27-22 win over the Houston Texans where Beckham wasn’t pleased with what he saw on tape.

“There have still been times where you’re coming back, and I’m used to everything, but it’s like you’re scared to just hit it like you used to,” Beckham said on Thursday. “And I saw there was one opportunity I missed. I was upset about it. There was a slant and it cleared out for me. It was perfect, and I kind of slowed down and [I] just hesitated a little bit for a second. And that could have been the difference. That’s the ones that go 60 or 70.”

Or in this case 91 yards.

The play Beckham was referring to presumably came in the third quarter. It was a first-and-10 from the Giants’ 9-yard line. Beckham caught a quick slant and before he ever hit high gear was clipped at his heels by cornerback Aaron Colvin. It went for a 13-yard gain instead of a 91-yard touchdown.

Beckham insists there was a hint of hesitation that cost him all those yards. It was hard to even seen with the naked eye. But he said it happened and had an idea of why.

“I just think that is part of getting back into it. Third game,” Beckham said. “It’s going to come and when it rains it pours.”

When looking at that play, all Beckham could think of was a 2015 matchup with the Jets. In that game he ran an identical route, caught the ball in stride and took it for a 72-yard score. This he believes is the difference between then (at the top of his game) vs. now.

Maybe there is something to it. Or maybe Beckham is just being hard on himself. He is known to be a tough self-critic.

“I’m never content. That is not a word I like to use,” Beckham said. “But I don’t know. It’s something I’m just coming back. I’m trying to feel it out. And I’ll regret that moment for life. I’ll watch that film and will remember that I could’ve taken that for 80. But it didn’t happen and I’m happy with what we’re doing. I’m definitely not content. I feel like I can always do more. That will always be my mentality. I can go for 500 yards and I’ll still look back at that one pass you didn’t get and it’s like, wow, I could’ve went for 560 and a touchdown. … That’s just how my mind is, how I’m wired.”

This is just fine with the Giants, who signed him to a five-year extension that could potentially be worth $95 million. Coach Pat Shurmur agrees with the approach and Beckham’s self-assessment.

“I’m glad when players say that,” Shurmur said. “When players are critical of their play and still have production, I think that is terrific. It means they are trying to get incrementally better. I agree. Let’s hope they all get better.”

An improved Beckham could be scary.

“Not for me,” Shurmur said.

The next step is reaching the end zone. Beckham hasn’t gotten there in the first three weeks of the season, when he has 24 receptions on 35 targets.

Beckham has gone four regular season games without a touchdown just once during his professional career. That came the first four weeks of the 2016 campaign.

“I love being in the end zone. It’s been a while. It’s been a while just being on the field,” he said. “Getting in the end zone, of course I want to get in there, but when it comes, it’s going to come.”

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