Patriots' injury bug continues with Edelman on IR

Patriots' injury bug continues with Edelman on IR

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Rob Gronkowski broke his forearm. Chandler Jones injured his ankle. Logan Mankins hurt his hip, calf and ankle.

Now Julian Edelman is out for the season. The dangerous punt returner and elusive wide receiver was placed on injured reserve with a foot injury by the New England Patriots on Tuesday.

The ailments keep piling up.

But so do the wins.

The Patriots' sixth straight victory last Sunday clinched first place in the AFC East. But things don't get easier. That streak, in fact, will be on the line Monday against the Houston Texans (11-1).

Like all teams, the Patriots (9-3) try to build depth. So, when a starter is sidelined, they can rely on his backup to fill in effectively, even if it means playing a different role. That happened at tight end when Gronkowski, the Patriots' outstanding pass catcher and blocker, missed the past two games with a broken left forearm- with the likelihood he'll miss at least two more.

The good news in that tight-end equation is that Aaron Hernandez, their other star tight end, is back after missing six games with a sprained right ankle.

One up, one down.

``Every player has some different strengths and so forth and you try to play to those guys' strengths,'' quarterback Tom Brady said. ``I don't think you go into it and you say . there's only one Rob Gronkowski; there's only one of those in the league.

``The guys that are going to be in there playing that role, (they) have to go in there and do the best they can do. That's why they're on the team and that's why we have 53 guys on the roster, so everybody can contribute at one point or another.''

Trevor Scott did that at defensive end with two sacks in Sunday's 23-16 win at Miami. Scott stepped in when Jones, a rookie who is tied for the team lead with six sacks, missed his second game, and his primary backup, Jermaine Cunningham, began a four-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances.

On the other side of the ball, Donald Thomas has filled in at left guard for Mankins, who was sidelined five of the past six games.

And now someone - or several players - will try to fill in for Edelman. He scored five touchdowns this season - three on receptions, one on a punt return and one on a fumble recovery. But he left Sun Life Stadium Sunday on crutches, wearing a walking boot on his right foot. Edelman may have broken his foot, but the Patriots provided no details of the injury.

Coach Bill Belichick did go out of his way, though, to praise Edelman's performance.

``Julian's had an opportunity to contribute offensively,'' he said. ``In the kicking game, he's done a good job for us as a returner. He's also done a good job for us on kickoff coverage. Offensively, he's done a good job with the ball in his hands on screens and routes where he can run it, reverses and screens and things like that.''

The Patriots re-signed Donte' Stallworth on Tuesday to help out at wide receiver. They had released him Aug. 27, after signing him as a free agent following one season with the Redskins. He spent 2007 with the Patriots, one of his six teams, and made 46 catches for 697 yards and three touchdowns that year.

``A lot of cuts in training camp are hard,'' Belichick said, referring to Stallworth. ``Guys come in, they work hard, they're competitive on our team, (and) they're competitive against competition.''

The loss of Edelman could mean more work for Wes Welker as a punt returner. That might increase the chances of injury for the NFL's leading receiver, although he filled in when Edelman missed three games this season with a hand injury.

Along the offensive line, this is nothing new. Backups have played key roles all season, protecting Brady and opening holes for running back Stevan Ridley. Right guard Dan Connolly missed the 59-24 win over Indianapolis Nov. 18 and was replaced by Nick McDonald. Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer sat out the 49-19 victory over the Jets Nov. 22 as Marcus Cannon took the start. And Thomas has stepped in for Mankins admirably, as mentioned.

``They've all done well,'' Belichick said. ``They're all young guys in the relatively early part of their careers that have come in here in a variety of circumstances.''

The health of the Patriots is improving in at least one area - the secondary. Safeties Steve Gregory and Patrick Chung are back after missing four games each, although Devin McCourty has moved from cornerback into Chung's starting spot.

After Gronkowski was hurt, Belichick was asked about the expectations for the backup tight ends.

``Same as for every player on the roster,'' he said, ``prepare, practice and be ready to go.''

So far, so good.


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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

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Road ahead suggests a wild finish in Eastern Conference playoff race

The Eastern Conference standings are so closely bunched as of today that the third-place Cleveland Cavaliers are only 1 1/2 games ahead of the sixth-place Philadelphia 76ers. With roughly a dozen games remaining for each NBA team, much can and likely will change over the next several weeks.

That is common for this time of the year, but a closer look suggests we could be in for some chaos in the final stretch. There are lopsided remaining schedules and impending personnel changes which could all contribute to one of the wildest regular season finishes in recent memory.

The Wizards are smack dab in the middle of the East playoff race and have their own circumstances to navigate. Let's take a team-by-team look at the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, knowing the top two seeds are all but locked up by the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics...


3. Cleveland Cavaliers (41-29, 12 games left)

Monday was a crazy day for the Cavaliers. First, they announced their head coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence to deal with an undiagnosed health issue. He will be replaced by associate head coach Larry Drew in the interim as he hopes to heal up before the playoffs.

Then, news broke they were getting Kevin Love back from a broken wrist after missing 21 games. Love returned to put up 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a big win over the Milwaukee Bucks. 

The Cavaliers will be without their coach for an undefined period of time, but now have their second-best player back on the court. That makes their final part of the season extra fascinating.

The Cavs are the team to watch of this group. Even though this season has been filled with turmoil, they still have LeBron James. He and Love have helped form the core of the last three Eastern Conference champion teams. If they pick things up, it's not crazy to consider them among the favorites to get out of the East again.


4. Indiana Pacers (41-30, 11 games left)

The Pacers are mostly healthy as they only feature a slew of minor injuries to big men Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. But Indiana's remaining schedule is unusually tough and it could make the difference in where they end up.

With only 11 games remaining, the Pacers still have to play the first-place Toronto Raptors once and the Golden State Warriors twice. Six of their last eight games will be on the road. They also see the Heat, Pelicans, Nuggets and Clippers.

The Clippers are currently ninth in the West and battling to make the playoffs. The Pacers will play them twice.

Keep in mind the Wizards own the season series over Indiana and will have a playoff seeding tiebreaker if they end up with the same record. Also worth noting is the Pacers have been much better at home (24-13) than on the road (17-17) this season.


5. Washington Wizards (40-30, 12 games left)

Though the Wizards' schedule is finally letting up soon from the 13 straight playoff teams stretch they have had to endure dating back to February, they too have a tough road ahead. The Wizards still have to play the Spurs (twice), Rockets, Cavaliers, Celtics and Nuggets. Four of their last six games are on the road and they have three back-to-back sets in their final seven games.

That's brutal. They may not have to see the defending champions twice like Indiana does, but the Wizards don't exactly have it easy.

The Wizards will, however, get John Wall back at some point. The five-time All-Star is slowly but surely working his way back and could participate in a full practice by the end of the week. Ideally they will get some games under his belt before the playoffs, but any time an All-NBA player is coming back to your team it's a good thing.

The problem is that there is little room for error in the standings and head coach Scott Brooks will have to reinsert Wall into the lineup during a tough schedule and while Wall is on a minutes restriction. It will be a tricky task to balance his lineups. 


6. Philadelphia 76ers (39-30, 13 games left)

The Sixers may have the most ideal road ahead of these four teams, at least in terms of their schedule. They still have the Timberwolves, Nuggets, Cavs and Bucks. But none of those teams are the juggernauts that Golden State, Houston and Toronto are. And of their final 13 games, the Sixers will play nine against teams outside of the playoff picture.

Philly also does not have to reincorporate a major piece into their rotation, like the Cavs do with Love and the Wizards with Wall. Their biggest injury is to Markelle Fultz, the 2017 No. 1 overall pick. If he does return this season, it will likely be in a minimal role, at least to start.

What could work against the Sixers is their inexperience and recent struggles against good teams. The Sixers are relying on very young players who have never been here before to carry the way. And since Valentine's Day, Philly has just one win against a team above the .500 mark, when they beat the Cavs on March 1. During those 14 games since Feb. 14, they have beaten up on the bad teams but lost to the Wizards, Bucks, Pacers and Heat (twice), basically all the teams surrounding them in the standings. 

Philly also lost their season series against the Cavs and Pacers, tied with the Wizards and are down 2-1 against the Bucks with one game to go. They may go to the finish line without a playoff tiebreaker against all the teams they would want one against.

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Ryan Grant reportedly signing with Colts after failed physical with Ravens

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Ryan Grant reportedly signing with Colts after failed physical with Ravens

It looks like Ryant Grant has found his new home, again.

After a failed physical with the Ravens, James Jones of NFL Network reports Grant plans to sign with the Colts.


Grant originally agreed to a four-year, $29 million deal with the Ravens, before the team pulled the offer citing an ankle injury that dated to the Redskins' final regular-season game, according to reports.

Baltimore eventually signed Michael Crabtree to a three-year deal, while Grant had visits with the Colts and Raiders.

His agent, Rocky Arceneaux, says Grant has been working out, running routes, and his ankle had been cleared by Dr. Robert Anderson in a second opinion.

In 2017 with the Redskins, he appeared in all 16 games, with 45 receptions for 573 yards and four touchdowns.