We call it the Daily Dose, but a more appropriate name for this column might be Who Got Hurt Today. I know it sounds bleak, but now that teams are practicing in full pads and going head-to-head in preseason action, it feels like the NFL may have more wounded than walking.
But on Tuesday, a hush fell over Injury City. All was calm. Birds chirped, the ocean glistened and Dont’a Hightower came off the PUP list (so did Deone Bucannon). Even the doom-and-gloom capital of the Internet—you know it as Twitter—was abuzz with, dare I say it, good news.
I fear the mere mention of all this positivity (not a trait I’m usually associated with) might send us all spinning into oblivion. But I also feel it’s important to celebrate one of the rare instances in football’s rich, winding history where a 24-hour news cycle was mostly dominated by positive developments.
There are plenty of apt adjectives to describe Cam Newton’s recovery from offseason shoulder surgery—deliberate, painstaking, leisurely, never-ending. It’s been a drawn-out process to be sure, but on Thursday, Newton’s monk-like patience will finally be rewarded. Cam is set to play in Thursday’s preseason tilt with Jacksonville, which will serve as Carolina’s dress rehearsal for the regular season.
Newton will probably be on a strict snap count relative to his healthier, better-prepared teammates, but the fact that he’ll be out there at all is a major victory for the Panthers. If there were any lingering concern about Cam’s status for Week 1, Thursday should put those doubts to rest.
Tuesday was also a banner day in New England, where Mike Gillislee returned to a full practice session after sitting out the previous two weeks with a nagging hamstring injury. Remember, New England opens on Thursday night this year, which means the Pats are in a real time crunch to get ready for the regular season (not that a Bill Belichick-coached team would ever be caught unprepared). That sense of urgency no doubt played a role in Gillislee’s presence on Tuesday, though the first-year Patriot claims his return wasn’t hasty and said he’s already back to 100 percent.
The Patriots don’t employ a traditional running-back hierarchy—experienced fantasy players are well-versed in Belichick’s weekly trickery. But if anyone were to break out in New England’s crowded backfield this year, it would likely be Gillislee. Even if he fails to become a factor in the passing game—that role will likely be reserved for Super Bowl hero James White—Gillislee’s goal-line prowess should have fantasy owners licking their chops. If an aging, one-dimensional back like LeGarrette Blount can rush for 18 touchdowns in Foxboro, Gillislee can certainly make a run at double-digits if health permits.
The Jets don’t have much to cheer about these days—the roster as currently constructed is one of the worst in recent memory. But for a fleeting moment on Tuesday, the sun shined through in East Rutherford, where Matt Forte made his long-awaited return to practice. Forte’s balky hamstring is no longer giving him trouble and the 31-year-old has every intention of suiting up for Saturday’s preseason game against the Giants.
A healthy Forte is certainly an asset but the veteran’s skill set will likely be wasted on one of the league’s worst offenses. Not to mention that he's firmly in the decline phase of his career and sharing reps with the younger and largely superior Bilal Powell. Forte had his moments last season—he managed eight touchdowns and averaged over 76 yards from scrimmage—but his early workload came back to haunt him as injuries and ineffectiveness mounted throughout the year. There will come a time in your fantasy draft when it makes sense to take Forte, but it won’t be in the early rounds.
Ty Montgomery was shelved for the Packers’ second preseason game last weekend, but nobody was really pressing the panic button about his lower leg injury. Turns out, his leg is already on the mend—he resumed practicing Tuesday—and Montgomery hopes to compete in Saturday’s preseason game against the Broncos. Montgomery carries the sickle-cell trait, a condition that doesn’t always mesh with high altitudes—former Steelers safety and current ESPN analyst Ryan Clark was famous for sitting out games in Denver. Despite his health obstacles, Montgomery plans to be in uniform and should operate as the Packers’ lead back if he gets the green light.
I’ve been hesitant to endorse Montgomery in fantasy this year, citing his relative inexperience at running back (it’s common knowledge by now that he began his career as a wide receiver). But if you want to argue the other side of it, Montgomery’s receiving acumen gives him some extra juice in PPR while his role as the goal-line finisher for an elite Packers offense is also enticing.
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Everyone who tuned in to Monday night’s preseason game between the Browns and the Giants had to be wondering the same exact thing—why in the world was Odell Beckham playing? I imagine this is why the Steelers haven’t made much of a fuss about Le’Veon Bell’s holdout this summer. It’s given them time to evaluate other players (namely third-round pick James Conner) while keeping Bell out of harm’s way.
But most teams don’t have that luxury (you know, if having your star running back go AWOL for a month is considered a luxury). Instead, coaches are left to roll the dice, hoping to strike a delicate balance between giving their players enough reps while getting them out soon enough to preserve their long-term health. With players often operating at different speeds—you’ll see hungry newcomers going all-out to make the team while veterans are mostly playing not to get hurt—you could make the argument that preseason games are more lethal than games played during the regular season.
While Briean Boddy-Calhoun’s low hit on Beckham was technically legal, a preseason game in mid-August probably wasn’t the right showcase for it. All things considered, Beckham’s injury could have been much worse. He escaped with a garden-variety low-ankle sprain and passed all of his concussion tests. Reports surfaced late Tuesday night that OBJ could miss a game or two during the regular season, but if that’s the worst case scenario, the Giants can still feel satisfied knowing they dodged a major bullet.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not in the wake of his recent injury, Beckham has considered taking out a $100 million insurance policy if he can’t reach a long-term deal with the Giants by Week 1. That would cost Beckham up to $600,000, which is almost a third of his 2017 base salary. If OBJ continues on his Hall of Fame trajectory, he’ll have a real chance at hitting nine figures on his next contract.
In a cruel twist of fate, the receiver lining up opposite Beckham was also injured on Monday night. Luckily for the G-Men, Brandon Marshall’s shoulder issue can be safely filed in the “no-big-deal” category. His X-rays came back negative and it doesn’t appear the ailment will cost Marshall any regular season time.
Sorry for the overwhelming positivity, guys. I’ll try to be more downtrodden and sullen for my next article.
Quick Hits: Devonta Freeman is in the final stages of the league’s concussion protocol. His return to practice is imminent … Julio Jones may see his first preseason action Saturday against Arizona. The Falcons have taken it slow with Julio, who is coming off offseason foot surgery … The Browns are expected to announce their starting quarterback on Wednesday. Brock Osweiler has started the Browns’ first two preseason games, though second-round rookie DeShone Kizer offers a much higher ceiling … Colts coach Chuck Pagano admitted there’s still no timetable for Andrew Luck’s return from shoulder surgery. Mike Chapell of IndySportsCentral said he “doubts” Luck will play against the Rams in Week 1 and hinted he might not resurface until Week 3 … There was talk over the weekend that LeGarrette Blount could be on the outs in Philly but Eagles coach Doug Pederson refuted that claim by calling Blount a “big part” of the team’s offense. Blount led the NFL in rushing touchdowns a year ago and figures to be the Eagles’ lead ball carrier in 2017 … Jaelen Strong plans to appeal his one-game suspension for a 2016 drug arrest. Strong was popped for marijuana possession but avoided criminal charges by completing a diversion program. Houston’s receiving corps is already in rough shape with injuries to DeAndre Hopkins (hand), Will Fuller (collarbone) and Braxton Miller (ankle) … Drew Stanton was announced as the Cardinals’ backup quarterback on Tuesday. He won the job over former first-round pick Blaine Gabbert … Quincy Enunwa underwent successful surgery to repair a bulging disc in his neck on Tuesday. The contract-year wideout faces a 6-9 month recovery … Damarious Randall was back at Packers practice Tuesday after clearing the concussion protocol. He was carted off in Green Bay’s preseason opener against Philadelphia … Bills coach Sean McDermott said he expects Jordan Matthews back by Week 1. J-Matt resumed practicing on a limited basis Sunday after suffering a chip fracture in his sternum a week earlier … The Bills began their rebuilding movement by trading away Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby earlier this month, but don’t expect them to do the same with LeSean McCoy. According to PFT’s Mike Florio, the Bills have never entertained offers for McCoy and have no plans to start. Trading McCoy would only save the Bills about $1 million in cap room … T.J. Ward resumed practicing on Tuesday as did Emmanuel Sanders. Ward sat out two weeks with a hamstring injury while a shoulder issue caused Sanders to miss last week’s preseason game against the 49ers … Cooper Rush has been taking reps with the second-team offense at Cowboys practice. The undrafted rookie has become a real threat to overtake Kellen Moore for backup duties behind Rookie of the Year Dak Prescott … Trent Richardson had an eventful day on Tuesday. Richardson was on his way to Canada to finalize a deal with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL but changed his mind and decided he’d rather stay in the states. T-Rich is hoping for another shot at the NFL, though he hasn’t played a regular season down since 2014.