Demaryius Thomas injury timeline: Could WR return sooner than expected?

Demaryius Thomas injury timeline: Could WR return sooner than expected?

The Demaryius Thomas the New England Patriots signed Tuesday isn't the same guy who posted five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.

He turned 31 on December 25, a day after being placed on the Houston Texans' injured reserve with a torn Achilles. There's a chance he won't even begin the 2019 season on the Patriots' active roster.

As NFL Network's James Palmer reported Tuesday, though, there appears to be optimism in New England about Thomas' recovery timeline.

As Palmer points out, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was Thomas' head coach in Denver when the wide receiver first tore his Achilles in February 2011. Many expected Thomas to miss most of the 2011 season, but he returned ahead of schedule in late October and played in 11 games that season.

Thomas is eight years older this time around, so a similar eight-month recovery seems aggressive. But if the wide receiver is able to return in, say, nine or 10 months, he could be ready around the start of the 2019 season and possibly even join the Patriots for their season opener.

But New England also could opt to play it safe with Thomas, placing him on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list to start the season and viewing him more as a mid-season acquisition -- à la Josh Gordon in 2018 -- to bolster a Julian Edelman-led receiving corps.

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NFL opt outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL opt outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL training camps officially began Tuesday, but there were some notable absences.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif became the first NFL player to opt out of the 2020 season last Friday, citing health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, multiple players have followed suit, continuing a trend across all major North American professional sports of players declining to participate in their seasons as COVID-19 persists in the United States.

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The Patriots especially have felt the impact of this trend: Six New England players -- including star linebacker Dont'a Hightower -- already have opted out, the most of any NFL team.

Below is a running list of the players who have opted out of the 2020 NFL season, according to reports or team/player confirmations. The list is sorted alphabetically after the Patriots, with the date of the players' opt-outs in parentheses.

New England Patriots

RB Brandon Bolden (July 28)
OT Marcus Cannon (July 28)
S Patrick Chung (July 28)
LB Dont'a Hightower (July 28)
WR Marqise Lee (August 1)
OG Najee Toran (July 27)
FB Danny Vitale (July 27)
TE Matt LaCosse (August 2)

Baltimore Ravens

OT Andre Smith (July 28)
WR/KR De'Anthony Thomas (July 27)

Buffalo Bills

CB E.J. Gaines (August 2)
DT Star Lotulelei (July 28)

Carolina Panthers

LB Jordan Mack (July 28)
LB Christian Miller (August 3)

Chicago Bears

DT Eddie Goldman (July 28)
S Jordan Lucas (August 3)

Cincinnati Bengals

OT Isaiah Prince (July 31)
DT Josh Tupou (July 31)

Cleveland Browns

OL Drake Dorbeck (July 29)
OL Drew Forbes (July 29)

Dallas Cowboys

CB Maurice Canady (July 27)
WR Stephen Guidry (July 28)
FB Jamize Olawale (Aug. 2)

Denver Broncos

OT JaWuan James (Aug. 3)
DT Kyle Peko (July 28)

Detroit Lions

DT John Atkins (July 29)
WR Geronimo Allison (Aug. 2)

Green Bay Packers

WR Devin Funchess (July 28)

Houston Texans

DT Eddie Vanderdoes (July 28)

Jacksonville Jaguars

EDGE Larentee McCray (August 1)
DL Al Woods (July 31)

Kansas City Chiefs

OG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (July 24)
RB Damien Williams (July 29)

Las Vegas Raiders

CB D.J. Killings (August 3)
DE Jeremiah Valoaga (August 3)

Los Angeles Rams

OT Chandler Brewer (July 31)

Minnesota Vikings

NT Michael Pierce (July 28)

New Orleans Saints

TE Jason Vander Laan (July 28)
TE Cole Wick (July 28)

New York Giants

WR Da'Mari Scott (August 2)
LT Nate Solder (July 29)

New York Jets

OL Leo Koloamatangi (July 28)
LB CJ Mosley (August 1)

Philadelphia Eagles

WR Marquise Goodwin (July 28)

Seattle Seahawks

OG Chance Warmack (July 27)

Tennessee Titans

OL Anthony McKinney (July 28)

Washington Football Team

DT Caleb Brantley (July 27)
LB Josh Harvey-Clemons (August 3)

Free Agents

G Larry Warford (July 28)

How Tom Brady looked in first Bucs practice with Rob Gronkowski, LeSean McCoy

How Tom Brady looked in first Bucs practice with Rob Gronkowski, LeSean McCoy

Tom Brady and his new Tampa Bay Buccaneers teammates are hitting the ground running throwing.

The former New England Patriots quarterback participated in his first official practice as a Buccaneer last week as Tampa Bay's training camp opened.

Tuesday's practice was the team's first session open to the media, however, and the first we've seen with Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski and new running back LeSean McCoy all on the field together. (McCoy officially signed with the team Tuesday morning.)

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So, how did Brady look with his new squad? Reporters were stationed on the far end of Tampa Bay's practice field for Tuesday's early-morning workout but still captured decent footage of Brady throwing to the Bucs' pass catchers.

Here's Brady uncorking a few deep balls into the endzone, courtesy of ESPN's Jenna Laine:

Here's another view of a similar Brady throw from The Athletic's Greg Auman:

And here's the 43-year-old QB hitting wide receiver Mike Evans on an out route. (If you turn the sound up, you can hear Brady barking out the snap count.)

Tuesday's workout was more of a "light throwing session" than a full-blown practice, per Auman. But Brady still brought his trademark tenacity to the field, according to Laine, who spotted the six-time Super Bowl champion "shouting encouragement to his receivers" and giving McCoy and Evans a hug and a fist bump, respectively.

As for the on-field product, Laine noted Brady's timing with his wide receivers "already looked strong, with the chemistry not far behind."

That should come as no surprise considering the veteran QB held informal workouts with Bucs skill players as early as May after leaving the Patriots in March. 

"He was really on top of it in the spring," Bucs tight end Cameron Brate said last Thursday in a video conference with reporters. "It's all the same game -- everyone runs, essentially, the same plays. You just have different verbiage for it. Just making those connections for him in his head because he was in New England for 20 years.

"He said it was definitely weird calling things different terminology for him, but I think he's going to be up to speed in no time."

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