Jan 7, 2024; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (19) runs after a catch against the Los Angeles Rams during the first quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

49ers WR Deebo Samuel back at practice, but limited

San Francisco 49ers star wide receiver Deebo Samuel returned to practice Thursday with the NFC Championship Game looming in three days’ time.

Samuel went down with a left shoulder injury in the first quarter of last Saturday’s 24-21 divisional round win over the Green Bay Packers. After trying to return to the game, he went to the locker room and was ruled out for the rest of the night.

Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday that Samuel has a 50-50 shot to play against the visiting Detroit Lions this Sunday. Though the shoulder was not fractured, Samuel was dealing with a lot of pain, per the coach.

Samuel was limited Thursday. Everyone else on the 49ers was a full participant, including defensive tackles Arik Armstead (foot, knee) and Kalia Davis (ankle), linebacker Dre Greenlaw (Achilles), safety George Odum (biceps) and cornerback Ambry Thomas (hand).

Samuel, 28, caught 60 passes for 892 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for 225 yards and five scores in 15 games during the 2023 regular season.

The Lions saw rookie tight end Sam LaPorta (knee) return to practice on a limited basis Thursday. Wide receiver Kalif Raymond (knee), guard Jonah Jackson (knee), center Frank Ragnow (ankle, toe, knee, back) and corner Chase Lucas (illness) sat out for the second straight day.

–Field Level Media

Dec 31, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA;New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41)  stiff arms Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (31) during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

Saints’ Alvin Kamara (ankle) game-time decision vs. Falcons

The New Orleans Saints listed running back Alvin Kamara as questionable for the regular-season finale against the Atlanta Falcons, with coach Dennis Allen calling his availability a game-time decision.

Kamara did not practice all week after suffering a sprained ankle last Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“He’s one of those guys that is so valuable to our team that we’re going to go all the way up to game time to see where he’s at,” Allen said of the five-time Pro Bowl selection. “He’s made improvement throughout the week and we’ll just wait until game time to make a decision on that.”

The Saints are in the running for the NFC South title; they must beat Atlanta and have Tampa Bay lose to or tie with Carolina. The Saints can also make it as a wild card with some external help.

Kamara has totaled 1,160 yards from scrimmage (694 rushing, 466 receiving) and scored six touchdowns this season across 13 games (12 starts). He has caught 75 passes on 86 targets; his career high for a season is 83 receptions in 2020.

New Orleans ruled out tackle Landon Young (knee) and safety Lonnie Johnson (knee) against Atlanta. Joining Kamara as questionable are running back Kendre Miller (ankle, illness), wide receiver A.T. Perry (illness), tight end Juwan Johnson (chest), defensive end Payton Turner (toe), defensive tackle Khalen Saunders (concussion) and safety J.T. Gray (illness).

The Falcons have deemed quarterback Taylor Heinicke questionable due to an ankle injury. He was limited each day in practice, and Desmond Ridder would start if Heinicke cannot.

Cornerback Mike Hughes (concussion) and defensive end Zach Harrison (knee) are also questionable, while center Drew Dalman (ankle), linebacker Troy Andersen (pectoral) and safety DeMarcco Hellams (concussion) were ruled out.

–Field Level Media

Dec 10, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Bijan Robinson (7) runs against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

NFL fines Falcons for violating injury report policy

The NFL fined the Atlanta Falcons $75,000 and head coach Arthur Smith $25,000 on Friday for violating the injury report policy earlier this season.

The violation involved running back Bijan Robinson and his undisclosed illness prior to a Week 7 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 22, a game the visiting Falcons won 16-13.

Smith and the Falcons should have added Robinson to the injury report with the illness. The rookie first-round pick had just one carry for 3 yards and played only 11 snaps in that game.

Robinson, 21, has rushed for 801 yards and four touchdowns and added 41 receptions for 323 yards and three TDs in 14 games (13 starts).

–Field Level Media

Miami Dolphins guard Connor Williams (58) is check out by staff during the first quarter against the Tennessee Titans at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Fla., Monday, Dec. 11, 2023.

Dolphins C Connor Williams out for year, WR Tyreek Hill day-to-day

The Miami Dolphins lost starting center Connor Williams for the rest of the season with a torn ACL.

The news was more positive for star wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who is considered day-to-day with an ankle injury.

Both Williams and Hill were hurt Monday night in the first quarter of a 28-27 defeat to the visiting Tennessee Titans.

Williams, 26, is in his second season in Miami and sixth in the NFL. He has made 77 starts across 83 career games with the Dallas Cowboys (2018-21) and Miami.

“You don’t directly replace him, necessarily,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel said. “I’d love to take the time right now to speak to the regard that this team has for Connor Williams and what he was doing this year, playing some excellent ball … You don’t necessarily replace that directly. However, you also prepare a lot for contingencies for these types of scenarios.”

Liam Eichenberg filled in at center Monday night and is expected to start at the position going forward.

As for Hill, he was injured with 2:50 left in the first quarter while being tackled. Tennessee’s Sean Murphy-Bunting brought down Hill with the latter’s lower left leg getting stuck underneath the left side of the cornerback’s body.

Hill was able to run off the field, from the Titans’ sideline to the Dolphins’, but he stayed out of the game till midway through the third quarter. He finished the night with four catches for 61 yards on just 34 snaps (47 percent of the offense’s plays).

“When it happened, like my first reaction was like, man, my ankle is gone,” Hill said postgame. “My adrenaline kicked in, I ran off the field, then I sat for a while and it got stiff and I was going through a lot of pain. Then I just made up in my mind, I came in at halftime, I texted my wife, I was like, ‘This (expletive) hurt.’ I need an ankle massage tonight, and she’s like, ‘You’d better get your ass back in that game, dawg.’ I was like, ‘All right.’”

Come Tuesday, McDaniel called it too early to be confident about Hill’s status for Sunday’s home game against the New York Jets.

“It was a painful ankle. Until he flat-out tells me there’s no doubt he’s going to play, you always have to plan for everything,” McDaniel said.

Hill is attempting to be the first 2,000-yard receiver in league history. He leads the NFL with 1,542 yards and 12 touchdown catches and ranks second with 97 receptions.

–Field Level Media

December 19, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; Atlanta Falcons offensive tackle Jake Matthews (70) during the second quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons try to regroup following slew of injuries to key players

The good news for the Atlanta Falcons is that they remain in the hunt to win the NFC South with four games left to play in the 2023 season.

The bad news for Arthur Smith’s team is that it’s now dealing with a rash of injuries to key players at a particularly important point in the playoff race.

Atlanta (6-7, 3-1 NFC South) entered Sunday’s matchup with Tampa Bay without five starters: right tackle Kaleb McGary, center Drew Dalman, defensive tackle David Onyemata, linebacker Nate Landman and cornerback Jeff Okudah. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (torn ACL) and linebacker Troy Andersen (pectoral) are both already out for the year.

But in the 29-25 loss to the Bucs, the Falcons also lost left tackle Jake Matthews, right guard Chris Lindstrom and defensive tackle Kentavius Street, leaving the team decimated in the trenches prior to a crucial upcoming road game against the Carolina Panthers (1-12, 0-4).

Smith seemed optimistic about the return of Matthews and Lindstrom for this week’s upcoming game, but he wasn’t as confident when asked about the availability of Onyemata, Landman, McGary, Dalman and Okudah.

“I think (Matthews and Lindstrom) have a real chance to play this week,” Smith said. “We’ll know more later in the week on the others.”

Atlanta is still awaiting the results of a second opinion on Street, who suffered a pectoral injury. Street stepped into Jarrett’s spot along the defensive front after the Pro Bowler went down.

“It may not be as bad as we thought,” Smith said. “But we’ll see.”

Storm Norton started in place of McGary and Ryan Neuzil took by far his most snaps of the season Sunday in place of Dalman.

Tyler Vrabel, who was elevated from the practice squad on Saturday, filled in for Matthews when he went down. Kyle Hinton stepped up and replaced Lindstrom when he exited, which left the Falcons with just one regular starting O-lineman, left guard Matthew Bergeron, in the game in the second half.

Defensively, Andre Smith started in place of Landman and had eight tackles and a forced fumble. Rookie Clark Phillips III got the start in place of Okudah and was credited with five tackles and two passes defended. But he had a costly holding penalty on Tampa Bay’s game-winning drive shortly after Atlanta took a 25-22 lead with 3:23 left to play.

Two weeks ago, Phillips filled in for A.J. Terrell when he was ruled out with a concussion.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had a run these last two weeks with injuries,” Smith said. “A lot of different O-linemen are playing, some D-linemen are playing and it’s our job to problem-solve and find ways to go win. We got to regroup and try to get back on track this week because we still have of opportunities ahead of us”

–Matthews has made a franchise-record 157 consecutive starts at left tackle. It is the longest active streak in the NFL. That streak could be in jeopardy if he is unable to play against Carolina.

–Drake London set career highs in catches (10) and yards (172) in the loss to the Bucs. It was the most yards by an Atlanta wideout since Julio Jones had 173 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals in 2018.

–Field Level Media

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow takes the field to watch his team practice before facing the Jacksonville Jaguars at Everbank Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida Monday, December 4, 2023.

Reports: NFL clears Bengals after investigation into Joe Burrow injury disclosure

The Cincinnati Bengals were in full compliance with NFL injury report rules related to quarterback Joe Burrow’s status ahead of the team’s Week 11 matchup with the Baltimore Ravens, according to multiple reports Saturday.

The NFL had conducted a weeks-long investigation into the timing and reporting of Burrow’s injury.

Burrow was knocked out of a Nov. 16 loss to the Ravens with what appeared to be a non-contact injury to his wrist. In the second quarter of the 34-20 loss, Burrow threw a touchdown then immediately grabbed his right arm near the wrist. He went to the medical tent and attempted several throws on the sideline before ultimately being ruled out.

A video posted the night before by the Bengals on social media — and later deleted — showed Burrow getting off the team bus with a protective wrap on his right hand. Burrow later told reporters the wrap was a compression sleeve to help prevent swelling during flights and unrelated to the injury suffered in the Nov. 16 game.

The NFL reportedly reviewed practice footage and medical records as part of the investigation, as well as interviewing medical personnel, according to CBS Sports.

Potential punishments for these types of violations would have included hefty team fines or even lost draft picks.

Burrow was found to have a torn ligament in his right wrist that required season-ending surgery on Nov. 27.

Prior to the injury, Burrow’s 91.0 rating was his lowest passer rating since his rookie year in 2020. He completed 244 of 365 passes (66.8 percent) for 2,309 yards and 15 touchdowns with six interceptions this season.

–Field Level Media

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) walks off the field after the fourth quarter of the NFL Week 11 game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023. The Bengals fell to the Ravens, 34-20.

NFL looking into Joe Burrow’s absence on injury report

The NFL wants to know why quarterback Joe Burrow did not show up on the Cincinnati Bengals’ injury report before Thursday night’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

A league official confirmed to ESPN on Friday morning that an investigation is underway into the wrist injury that knocked Burrow out of the game in the second quarter of a 34-20 loss.

A video posted by the Bengals on X on Wednesday night — and later deleted — showed Burrow getting off the team bus with a protective wrap on his right hand.

The NFL is checking into Cincinnati’s compliance with the league’s injury report policy. Potential punishments for violations include hefty team fines or even lost draft picks.

Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor said he was unaware of Burrow dealing with an injury to his right wrist prior to the game in Baltimore.

“This was the first I saw anything about it,” Taylor said postgame.

Burrow went to the locker room after leading the visiting Bengals on a go-ahead drive in the second quarter. His pinky appeared to be bent awkwardly, and the QB spent several minutes in the medical tent.

Burrow bent over in obvious pain after throwing a 4-yard touchdown to Joe Mixon with 5:49 left in the second quarter for a 10-7 lead.

Before exiting, Burrow was 11-for-17 for 101 yards and the touchdown to Mixon. Jake Browning took over at quarterback for Cincinnati’s next offensive series, and he finished 8-for-14 for 68 yards and a touchdown.

The Bengals fell to 5-5 this season, during which Burrow has compiled the lowest passer rating since his rookie year in 2020. He has completed 244 of 365 passes (66.8 percent) for 2,309 yards and 15 touchdowns with six interceptions.

–Field Level Media

Oct 26, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) runs after making a catch against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fourth quarter at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Bills WR Stefon Diggs (back) limited in practice

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs was limited in Friday’s practice due to a back injury.

Diggs, 29, was not listed on the initial injury report Thursday for Monday’s game against the Denver Broncos.

The three-time Pro Bowl selection has an NFL-leading 70 receptions for 834 yards and seven touchdowns in nine games this season.

Cornerback Christian Benford (hamstring) and safety Micah Hyde (neck/stinger) did not practice for the second straight day Friday.

Safety Jordan Poyer (shin) and defensive end Leonard Floyd (illness) were full participants Friday after sitting out on Thursday.

Terrel Bernard (concussion) was limited for a second straight day, while fellow linebackers A.J. Klein (back) and Baylon Spector (hamstring) improved from limited to full participation.

The Bills (5-4) are 4-1 at home heading into Monday night’s date with the Broncos (3-5), who are 1-2 on the road.

–Field Level Media

Sep 25, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans (13) looks on against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

Bucs WR Mike Evans (hamstring) will play Sunday

Limited earlier in the week by a hamstring issue, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans practiced Friday and will play Sunday against the visiting Detroit Lions.

“Mike’s full-go,” Bucs coach Todd Bowles told reporters Friday. “Mike fully participated and he looked good.”

Evans, 30, who leads the Bucs with 337 receiving yards and three touchdowns this season, injured his hamstring in the first half of a 26-9 win over the New Orleans Saints on Oct. 1. He used the bye week for treatment was limited in practice Thursday.

Linebacker Shaq Barrett sat out practice Friday with an illness and is listed as questionable, but Bowles expects him to play Sunday in a matchup of NFC division leaders.

Cornerbacks Jamel Dean (neck/shoulder) and Derrek Pitts (hamstring), linebackers Devin White (foot) and SirVocea Dennis (hamstring), tackle Luke Goedeke (calf), defensive tackle Calijah Kancey (calf), safety Ryan Neal (concussion) and linebacker Anthony Nelson (concussion) all practiced Friday.

The Lions ruled out seven players for the game: safety Brian Branch (ankle), running backs Jahmyr Gibbs (hamstring) and Zonovan Knight (shoulder), guard Jonah Jackson (ankle), tight end James Mitchell (hamstring), cornerback Emmanuel Moseley (knee) and defensive lineman Josh Paschal (knee).

–Field Level Media

Oct 8, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) gets yards after the catch as Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith (22) makes a tackle during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Chiefs TE Travis Kelce (ankle) will play vs. Broncos

The Kansas City Chiefs expect tight end Travis Kelce to play Thursday night against the Denver Broncos, four days after sustaining a right ankle injury, according to multiple media reports.

Kelce officially is listed as questionable. He suffered the injury, reported to be a low ankle sprain, during the second quarter of Sunday’s 27-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

Kelce missed a Chiefs touchdown drive to open the third quarter but returned for the next drive and caught five passes, including a touchdown reception. He finished the game with 10 receptions for 67 yards.

The Chiefs listed Kelce as a non-participant on Monday’s estimated practice report. He was limited in his return to practice Tuesday.

Kelce missed the season-opening loss to the Detroit Lions after hyperextending his knee in practice. The four-time first-team All-Pro has 27 catches for 222 yards and three touchdowns in four games this season.

Kansas City also must make decisions on defensive end George Karlaftis (hamstring) and punter Tommy Townsend (left knee), who were listed as questionable. Both teams will release their lists of inactives approximately 90 minutes before the game.

–Field Level Media