Mar 5, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Southern California offensive lineman Andrew Vorhees (OL47) during the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Report: OL prospect Andrew Vorhees tears ACL at Combine

Southern Cal offensive lineman Andrew Vorhees, an All-American in 2022 who’s considered a top-100 NFL draft prospect, tore his ACL during drills at the Scouting Combine, NFL Network reported Monday.

A second OL prospect, Wanya Morris of Oklahoma, sustained a Grade 2 hamstring pull in his 40-yard dash, per NFL Network.

Vorhees suffered his injury Sunday but then came back Monday morning to do 38 reps in the 225-pound bench press with one leg on the ground, per the report. It’s reportedly a clean tear.

The injury occurred during position drills, per the report. Vorhees measured at 6-feet-6 and 310 pounds with 32 1/8 arm length.

Vorhees made 37 starts at USC over his four-year career, with 25 at right guard. The injury will likely erase his entire first season in the NFL.

Morris’ injury is a 3- to 4-week recovery, and it’s expected he’ll be ready for private workouts in April, per the report.

–Field Level Media

Dec 18, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers head coach Brandon Staley during the fourth quarter during an NFL game against the Tennessee Titans at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Chargers part with longtime head athletic trainer

The Los Angeles Chargers moved on from head athletic trainer Damon Mitchell, who had worked for the franchise in various capacities since 1999, ESPN reported Thursday.

Mitchell began with the Chargers as an intern 24 years ago. He became the head athletic trainer in 2017 and served in that role for six seasons.

The Chargers went 10-7 in the 2022 regular season and earned a wild-card berth. They led the Jaguars 27-0 late in the first half before Jacksonville rallied for a stunning 31-30 win in the AFC wild-card round.

Los Angeles played without wide receiver Mike Williams in that game after he sustained a back injury playing in Week 18, when the Chargers had nothing to gain.

The Chargers fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi during the offseason, and defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill left the team this week to join the Miami Dolphins and work under their new defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio.

Los Angeles’ Brandon Staley will remain as the team’s head coach for a third season in 2023.

–Field Level Media

Feb 6, 2023; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) speaks with media during Super Bowl Opening Night at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Super Bowl injury report: Patrick Mahomes practices fully

The Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles are relatively healthy in the leadup to the Super Bowl.

In post-practice injury reports released by the NFL on Wednesday, only one player, Chiefs wide receiver Kadarius Toney, did limited work due strictly to injury issues. Toney is dealing with ankle and hamstring ailments.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has been slowed by an ankle injury, took part fully in practice.

Kansas City had five other players listed on the injury report, but all were full practice participants: Linebacker Willie Gay (shoulder), running back Jerick McKinnon (ankles), running back Isiah Pacheco (wrist), guard Trey Smith (ankle) and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee).

Three Eagles players — right tackle Lane Johnson (groin), center Cam Jurgens (hip) and cornerback Avonte Maddox (toe) — were listed as limited practice participants due partly to the team’s desire to rest them.

Philadelphia defensive end Robert Quinn (foot) and guard Landon Dickerson (elbow) both were full practice participants.

The Eagles and Chiefs will face off in Super Bowl LVII on Sunday in Glendale, Ariz.

–Field Level Media

Sep 29, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Josh Tupou (68) sacks Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) in the second quarter at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati. Tagovailoa sustained a head injury on the play and left the game for treatment. Mandatory Credit: Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports

NFL data: Concussions up 18 percent in 2022

While concussions rose during the 2022 NFL season, not all injury news was bad as the league released injury data from the preseason and regular season on Friday.

While concussions were up 18 percent to 149 this season, compared to 126 last season, overall injuries were down 5.6 percent in 2022. This year’s concussion numbers were also 14 percent higher than the three-year average of 130 from 2018-20.

One reason for the higher numbers, though, could be that the NFL has made identifying head injuries an even bigger priority than ever.

Identifying head injuries during games and resting those players in subsequent weeks has been a focal point, especially after Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had multiple head injuries during the regular season.

Head injuries in quarterbacks were also higher than expected this past season, NFL Network reported.

“We continue to become more cautious and conservative in our evaluation and diagnosis of concussions,” NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills told ESPN. “That’s not just an opinion. That’s backed up by the data.”

According to the ESPN report, team medical staffs performed an average of 1.6 concussion evaluations per game, with twice as many medical timeouts by independent spotters to identify potential head injuries during games than in the prior season.

The league also reported fewer preseason head injuries. While most teams are now playing just three preseason games, an additional reason for the lower numbers was the use of a protective “Guardian Cap” mandated to be worn over the helmets of select position groups.

Leg injuries also dropped 25 percent during training camp in 2022, although lower-extremity injuries rose for the first five weeks of the regular season. Overall, injuries were down 14 percent in the preseason.

Aside from concussions, another concern is the number of injuries on kickoff and punt returns.

According to NFL Network, one out of every five concussions occurred on a kickoff or punt return, while 20 percent of ACL injuries occurred during special teams play.

While research and development has been done on a safer helmet for offensive and defensive lineman, ESPN reported that a helmet designed to specifically help quarterbacks also is in the works.

–Field Level Media

Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark (55) sacks Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) in the first half of the NFL game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Bengals And The Kansas City Chiefs 456

Bengals rule out LT Jonah Williams, RG Alex Cappa vs. Chiefs

A makeshift offensive line aligns in front of quarterback Joe Burrow for the second consecutive road playoff game on Sunday after the Cincinnati Bengals ruled out left tackle Jonah Williams and right guard Alex Cappa.

Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said Friday that neither lineman was ready to return from injuries. Williams is dealing with a knee injury, while Cappa has an injured ankle.

That means Cincinnati will use Max Scharping at right guard and Jackson Carman at left tackle.

A frenzied environment in Kansas City won’t be a factor for Carman, he said.

Carman lined up for 35 snaps at right guard in the 2021 AFC Championship game. He also was the starting left tackle for Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence when they were teammates at Clemson.

“We have a culture of winners and extremely humble, hard-working men,” Carman said. “It’s crazy to see what type of men. I’m walking with amazing people. I can’t overstate that enough.”

Carman’s primary assignment at left tackle is defensive end Frank Clark, who posted 5.0 sacks in the regular season while battling a pinched nerve in his neck.

Scharping will be in that right guard spot, which means a long evening dancing with Chiefs sack leader Chris Jones (15.5).

The Chiefs’ defense had a total of 18 pressures of Lawrence last week, with six QB hits and two sacks.

Taylor said cornerback Tre Flowers, who didn’t play last week, is set to play and has no injury designation on the team’s final report released Friday.

–Field Level Media

Nov 6, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) walks off the field after losing to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers heads long list of DNPs Wednesday

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his top offensive linemen headlined a lengthy list of Green Bay Packers who did not practice with the team on Wednesday.

Two days after coach Matt LaFleur called for Green Bay to lean into a mindset of working out of a losing streak that stands at five games, Rodgers, guard Elgton Jenkins, left tackle David Bakhtiari, wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Romeo Doubs, cornerbacks Eric Stokes and Shemar Jean-Charles, inside linebacker Krys Barnes and outside linebackers Rashan Gary and De’Vondre Campbell were all DNPs for the Packers (3-6).

LaFleur said the practice was more of a light workout focused on “above the neck” and mental reps because of the state of the injury report.

“It’s football,” LaFleur said, adding he won’t make excuses. “We’re not feeling sorry for ourselves.”

LaFleur said the uncertainty with injuries to a number of starters could stretch a number of days, which impacts their preparation for former Packers coach Mike McCarthy and the Dallas Cowboys (6-2).

“I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily extra work. You’re very intentional on who you ask to do what,” LaFleur said. “You could potentially simplify some things in certain areas — if that’s what you think gives you the best chance to win. Injuries are a part of this game. You’ve got to be able to adapt, and you’ve got to be able to adjust.”

There was some good news. Running back Aaron Jones practiced after leaving Sunday’s loss at Detroit with a knee injury, as did wide receiver Christian Watson (shoulder).

LaFleur worked under Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and understands the challenges the Cowboys bring with linebacker Micah Parsons, who has 8.0 of the team’s 33 sacks.

“He’s a game-wrecker,” LaFleur said. “You’ve got to give Dan a ton of credit in terms of the style of defense he’s playing right now. That’s not what it was in Atlanta. That’s not what it was in Seattle. … It’s a highly disruptive defense, a very physical defense. They do a great job of taking the ball away.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 16, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons safety Jaylinn Hawkins (32) reacts after an interception against the San Francisco 49ers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Arthur Smith ‘confident’ in Falcons’ secondary despite injuries

The Atlanta Falcons (3-3) hit the road to take on the defending AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals (3-3) Sunday with injury concerns in the secondary.

Starting cornerbacks A.J. Terrell (thigh) and Casey Hayward (shoulder) left the 28-14 win over San Francisco in the second half and did not return. Head coach Arthur Smith didn’t think Terrell’s injury was too serious, but he was less optimistic about Hayward’s status moving forward.

“The one to be concerned about is Casey (Hayward),” Smith said. “He’s the one we’re more worried about long-term.”

Terrell has been a standout for an opportunistic Falcons’ secondary that ranks tied for seventh in the NFL in interceptions (six) — and is fresh off one of its best performances.

In the absence of Terrell and Hayward, second-year pro Darren Hall (two pass breakups) stepped in and played well. So did Isaiah Oliver, who recorded three tackles and an interception after missing the team’s first five games.

“We are confident in our guys,” Smith said. “Guys stepped up and played really well. Darren did. He made a huge play on that ball to (Brandon) Aiyuk. He showed good patience and body control making that play.”

Starting safeties Richie Grant (41) and Jaylinn Hawkins (31) rank third and fourth on the team in tackles and continue to improve. Hawkins recorded his first interception of the year against the 49ers and also scored a touchdown after Terrell fumbled near the goal line following a fumble recovery.

It’s still unclear how the injuries to Terrell and Hayward will impact this week’s game against the Bengals. No matter who suits up, the Falcons will be challenged by a Cincinnati offense that features quarterback Joe Burrow and a dynamic trio of wideouts in Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd.

“We’ve got a challenge with Cincinnati and their personnel, especially with as much as they like to play in 11 personnel,” Smith said. “They have really good wideouts. And a really good quarterback.”

–After not playing against Tampa Bay, tight end Kyle Pitts caught three passes for 19 yards and his first touchdown of the season in the win over San Francisco. Pitts’ reputation as a weapon in the passing attack is a big reason why opposing defenses have to account for him it all times. But his emergence as a blocker has fueled the Falcons’ success in the run game.

“The affect he has on every play, you have to account for him,” Smith said. “Last year, we didn’t have a ton of runs behind him. We are running behind him a lot now. He draws a lot of attention. And he has an impact on every play he’s out there. He’s a very smart player.”

–Punt/kick returner Avery Williams has shone on special teams. He’s a big reason why the Falcons lead the league in punt return average (17.8 yards per return) and rank fourth in kick return average (24.8 yards per return).

–Field Level Media

Oct 2, 2022; Baltimore, Maryland, USA;  Buffalo Bills safety Jordan Poyer (21) leaps to secure a Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) tipped pass during the third quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Bills S Jordan Poyer, TE Dawson Knox out vs. Steelers

Injuries are denting the Buffalo secondary yet again with the Bills set to play the Pittsburgh Steelers without two of their top defensive backs.

Safety Jordan Poyer was ruled out on Friday with a rib injury. Poyer had two interceptions of Lamar Jackson to lead the Bills’ No. 1-ranked pass defense to victory over the Ravens.

In addition to Poyer, cornerback Christian Benford (hand) and tight end Dawson Knox (foot, hamstring) won’t suit up for Buffalo (3-1) in Week 5.

Head coach Sean McDermott confirmed their availability on Friday, but said pass rusher Von Miller was back at practice.

Pittsburgh (1-3) is turning the offense over to rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett in his first career start. Pickett replaced Mitchell Trubisky last week and scored two touchdowns on the ground but was intercepted three times.

–Field Level Media

Jul 29, 2022; Metairie, LA, USA;  New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (13) works on receiver drills  during training camp at Ochsner Sports Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Saints WR Michael Thomas questionable, CB Paulson Adebo out vs Falcons

New Orleans could be leaning on reinforcements in the secondary when the Saints kick off the regular season against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

Safety Tyrann Mathieu did not practice and is listed as questionable and cornerback Paulson Adebo is out for the game with an ankle injury that kept him out of practice all week.

Mathieu, who got a late start to practice in training camp, was listed with an illness and hadn’t been on the injury report Wednesday or Thursday.

The Saints aren’t yet declaring wide receiver Michael Thomas ready to go after a yearlong absence recovering from ankle surgery. He’s questionable for Week 1 due to a hamstring injury and was a limited practice participant for the third consecutive day.

Wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith (shoulder) was ruled out by the Saints.

The Falcons expect first-round pick Drake London to be a game-time decision. He’s questionable with a knee injury. Cornerback Darren Hall (quadriceps) also is questionable.

–Field Level Media

Sep 24, 2021; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange linebacker Stefon Thompson catches a pass  before a game against the Liberty Flames at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse loses LB Stefon Thompson, TE Chris Elmore

Syracuse lost starting linebacker Stefon Thompson and starting tight end Chris Elmore to season-ending injuries in Saturday’s 31-7 victory against Louisville.

Thompson had three tackles and a half-sack while Elmore did not catch a pass in the season-opening home win.

Head coach Dino Babers confirmed Monday that both players sustained lower-body injuries in the first half.

Thompson has 118 tackles, 8.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in 23 career games with the Orange.

The versatile Elmore has played in 52 games as a tight end, fullback, offensive lineman and defensive tackle.

–Field Level Media