NFC Update: Injuries Sideline Key Players Ahead Of NFL Season
By Christian S. Kohl
Chicago Bears: Brandon Marshall is apparently in stellar shape and fully healthy for camp. Jay Cutler also looks impressive early, and that tandem, coupled with a reportedly increased role of Matt Forte will be the group most responsible for Chicago’s success this season. Optimism is high, provided the turnover and sack totals of Cutler by season’s end are not.
Detroit Lions: Ndamukong Suh reportedly destroyed the conditioning test this week for the Lions. While impressive, and apparently in the best shape of his career, Suh’s strength and speed have never been concerns compared to his temper and effectiveness long-term. Ryan Broyles was also cleared for activities in camp this week after coming off ACL surgery.
Green Bay Packers: Casey Heyward injured his hamstring this week, and is expected to miss a few weeks. Alex Green continues his timeshare with James Starks for lead back, and rookie WR Charles Johnson got an encouraging MRI of his knee which will allow him to resume practicing immediately.
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings signed three top 30 picks to deals this week. Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson all signed four-year deals with Minnesota. Meanwhile, the Vikings consider Matt Cassel a legitimate option if Ponder flounders early, and Adrian Peterson, to no one’s surprise, will see little to no action in the preseason to avoid further risk of injury to the elite back.
Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons signed Matt Ryan as their QB for the next five years, offering him over $100 million in the process. Ryan is reportedly as pleased with Julio Jones as he is with his new contract, considering Jones to be even more improved and dangerous than last season. Those two are the undisputed future in Atlanta, and a few more pieces to the puzzle may finally put them over the top.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Darrelle Revis was cleared to participate in team drills, and is expected to be a full go for week 1. Greg Schiano reiterated his public stance of confidence in Josh Freeman, while Vincent Jackson began taking reps in the slot as a way to contribute more heavily in the 2 minute offense.
New Orleans Saints: The foot of Marques Colston got him placed on the active/PUP list this week, which will reportedly only keep him off the field a few days. New Orleans appears committed to increasing Mark Ingram’s role in their offensive attack, and Johnathan Vilma claims to be in the best shape of his life. Still, the return of Sean Payton is their biggest acquisition, or re-acquisition this season if the Saints look to return to championship form in the near future.
Carolina Panthers: Jonathan Stewart has been sidelined due to issues with not one but both his ankles. Ankles are generally pretty important for a running back, so odds are Stewart will need at least one of them to heal in order for him to contribute heavily this year. DeAngelo Williams looks prepared to carry the overwhelming bulk of the load while Stewart recovers.
Dallas Cowboys: Anthony Spencer had surgery on his knee this week, though preliminary reports indicate he’ll still be ready for week one. Dez Bryant is off to a great start in camp, though personal issues and consistency are always the concerns for Bryant as opposed to his raw skills when healthy. In less promising news, reports indicate Miles Austin may be playing his final season with Dallas due to injury issues and salary cap constraints.
New York Giants: The stars of the Giants are not shining brightly early on. Hakeem Nicks reportedly is off to a slow start both literally and figuratively, with some questioning if he’s even attempting to operate at full tilt. Meanwhile, Jason Pierre-Paul can give no indication whether or not his back will be healthy enough to allow him to play in week 1. The Giants need a lot to click to return to championship form this season.
Philadelphia Eagles: In a setback which dwarfs all other Philly player news, WR Jeremy Maclin tore his ACL this past Saturday and will miss the entire season for the Eagles. This comes as a huge blow both to Maclin and Philly, as he expected to figure prominently in the new Chip Kelly attack. Foles and Vick continue their timeshare with the first team offense, though both have now lost a big piece of their offense with Maclin sidelined for 2013.
Washington Redskins: Reports indicate that Robert Griffin III will be ready to go in the opening week for the Redskins if his recovery continues at this pace. Little else matters for Skins fans this offseason, as Griffin demonstrated he is absolutely invaluable for them when leading the offensive charge.
Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals signed #7 overall pick Jonathan Cooper to a four-year deal, ending his two day holdout. The Cards also inked Eric Winston and John Abraham to contracts this week, bolstering a lineup badly in need of impact players.
Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks currently believe the injury to Percy Harvin’s hip will not require surgery. Surgery would end his season, so obviously Harvin will do all he can to play through the pain of the labrum injury and contribute to the formidable Seattle offense.
St. Louis Rams: TE Lance Kendricks will likely miss three weeks while recovering from issues with his knee. Meanwhile, absent Steven Jackson, the campaign has begun for who will emerge as the lead back in Jeff Fisher’s run-first attack. Daryl Richardson looks likely to begin the season as the starter in that role.
San Francisco 49ers: Injury reports were also the story emerging from San Francisco this week. Mario Manningham looks to be four weeks away from practicing, while Kyle Williams appears to be nearly 100% after tearing his ACL last fall. Kendall Hunter is reportedly the favorite to receive more carries in the SF backfield than LaMichael James, assuming the Achilles of Hunter is fully healthy.
The good news is, arrests and court cases did not dominate NFL news this week. The bad news is that injuries to key players overwhelmed the news cycle instead. Here’s to a healthier and law-abiding week next week. Stay tuned for the latest news on players all around the league, as the very first week of football this season inches ever closer.
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Christian S. Kohl is a sports contributor for CBS Local Digital Media.