Injuries, returns dominate NFL pre-season

While Minnesota Vikings' running back Adrian Peterson hasn't faced contact in practice, he might...

While Minnesota Vikings' running back Adrian Peterson hasn't faced contact in practice, he might play against San Diego on Friday. (Chris Keane/REUTERS)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:19 PM ET

Some big names are set to return to action even as injury issues continue to arise around the league.

Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson might play against San Diego on Friday night, even though he has yet to face contact in practice.

The league’s premier back was activated only a week ago, after recovering from major knee surgery.

The news from one of Minnesota’s fiercest rivals also was positive on Sunday.

Green Bay welcomed two of its impact players back to practice. Wide receiver Greg Jennings is over a concussion, while tight end Jermichael Finley also returned from a quadriceps injury. Running back James Starks could be back in two weeks as well, meaning all of a sudden, Aaron Rodgers nearly has his whole band back together.

On the less encouraging side of the injury ledger:

San Diego wide receiver Vincent Brown has a broken ankle and will need surgery, resulting in an absence that will last at least two months.

The team had already lost running back Ryan Mathews to a broken collarbone.

Another California team is also banged up. San Francisco has lost running back Brandon Jacobs for a while to a knee injury suffered against Houston on Saturday night.

Though X-rays were negative, Jacobs was carted off of the field and probably won’t be able to start the regular season.

Another 49ers running back, rookie LaMichael James, hurt his foot on Saturday and had to leave the game, but said he will be at practice on Monday.

If James does have to miss games though, the Niners at least have considerable depth at the position in the form of productive veteran Frank Gore (who rushed for 1211 yards last season) and Kendall Hunter, who has shown flashes at times.

The Oakland Raiders haven’t been spared from the California carnage either. Backup quarterback Matt Leinart received two stitches on his non-throwing hand index finger after taking a hard hit and receiver Jacoby Ford is on crutches after hurting his foot.

Arizona left tackle Levi Brown has a torn triceps. The five-year starter is expected to be sidelined all season.

Same deal for Saints linebacker Chris Chamberlain, who is done for the year after tearing his ACL.

Meanwhile, Pro Bowl Washington linebacker Brian Orakpo hurt his left shoulder against Chicago on Saturday. That’s the same shoulder he had surgery on in the off-season.

Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather hurt his knee in the same game but escaped serious injury.

While Orakpo’s injury isn’t expected to be major either, he might be thinking about his shoulder every time he makes a hit this season, which obviously isn’t a good thing.

Shoulder ailments can become a recurring theme, just like hamstring trouble.

Speaking of which, Dallas owner Jerry Jones says he doesn’t think star wide receiver Miles Austin will return from his latest hamstring issue this week, meaning he likely will miss the entire pre-season since the fourth game is usually pretty meaningless.

Minnesota, while celebrating Peterson’s return, is also dealing with the fact that tight end Kyle Rudolph and cornerback Chris Cook appear to have concussions.

TUB FLUB

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is none too happy about a videotaped hazing incident involving cornerback Prince Amukamara and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.

Pierre-Paul eventually dumped Amukamara into a cold tub, leaving the corner royally peeved and Pierre-Paul gloating and uttering a barrage of expletives.

“I’m going to look into it, I’m going to talk to the parties involved,” Coughlin told the Newark Star-Ledger.

“As I’m understanding it, there were some parts of it that were inappropriate. And in no way, anything that occurs within this family or within our group should be a part of social media. I’m going to address that strongly because I spent a little time on that this preseason.”

So, sounds like the veteran coach is more angry that the incident found its way onto Twitter (via punter Steve Weatherford) than that it actually happened.

Amukamara is trying to be diplomatic, but doesn’t understand why it happened.

“I just don’t get it. I don’t understand the rules,” Amukamara said.

“I mean, I’m not a rookie anymore, so I don’t know why I’m getting thrown in the tub. I know it’s all love.”

The word is the Giants are trying to toughen up the young player.

The NFL told profootballtalk.com it is staying out of any punishment decisions, calling it a “club manner.”

STILL TALKING

We’re not the only ones wondering what’s up with Tommy Kelly.

We recently mocked the Raiders defensive end for saying the team would have a top-five defence this season after being horrible in that department a year ago.

Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb also believes Kelly is out to lunch, albeit for different reasons.

Kelly sacked Kolb in the end zone on Friday night and called Kolb “skittish” and “scared, among many other things, afterwards.

Kelly said Kolb was paying attention to the defensive pressure as opposed to what he was supposed to be doing offensively.

Kolb responded the next day, telling AZCardinals.com: “I have never been afraid of anyone on the field and that will never change. That includes Number 93 (Kelly).

“There’s a fine line between holding in the pocket and trying to escape to make a play. Tommy Kelly is too clueless to know the difference. I don’t mind people criticizing my play. Don’t ever question my toughness.”

Boom.

Can’t wait to hear what Kelly says next.

QUICK HITS

The good news for Giants cornerback Jayron Hosley: He returned an interception for a touchdown against the Jets. The bad news: He was wearing a walking boot after the game and doesn’t know how he hurt his foot ... Bears safety Brandon Hardin has been released from hospital and is fine, even though he was carted off of the field with a neck injury on Saturday.

 

PEYTON PASSES THE TEST

Peyton Manning passed some tests in his home debut on the weekend.

Sure, the Manning of old probably doesn’t throw two interceptions as he did in a 30-10 loss to Seattle on Saturday, but expecting Manning to be perfect so quickly into his return would be a mistake.

Still, Manning was reasonably accurate, connecting on 16-of-23 passes for 177 yards and really, his receivers booted two passes that should have been hauled in.

One of the most positive signs for Broncos fans came when Manning took a hard hit from Bruce Irvin after throwing the ball out of bounds, but showed no ill-effects, throwing a perfect pass on the next play.

Many had been holding their breath, waiting to see if the 36 year-old would be able to get up after getting drilled seeing as he was coming off of all sorts of neck issues.

Manning found it all a little amusing.

“I never heard a crowd cheer for an incompletion before,” he said after the game.

The Broncos and Manning are happy attention will now turn back to how many passes he completes and touchdowns he throws instead of how he responds to hits.

SANCHEZ NOT PANICKING

Is it time to panic yet Jets fans?

Mark Sanchez says no, even though both he and Tim Tebow have looked shaky so far.

“It’s not time to hit the panic button,” Sanchez said after the Jets fell 26-3 to the New York Giants, leaving the team without a touchdown through two games this pre-season.

“I’ve seen this team play much better than this. I’ve seen it in practice. The encouraging thing is we have the right personnel. These guys will go watch the film. They’ll go study, understand why it happened, come out next week and play well.”

But what about you Mark? Sanchez makes it seem like he has had nothing to do with New York’s struggles.

Sure he only failed to complete two of his 11 pass attempts, but he wasn’t able to lead the team up the field or convert when it was most necessary.

The Jets have some injury issues on offence and the pre-season doesn’t mean much, but there are still going to be calls for Tebow to replace Sanchez if he doesn’t start producing points.

But for that to happen, Tebow will have to show a pulse. He was just 5-for-14 for 69 yards in a full half of work against the Giants, with a 52.4 QB rating, which actually was better than Sanchez’s awful 51.1 number. Tebow, who was sacked four times, looked a lot better the previous week.

TITANS HAVE QB QUANDRY

Is ageless Matt Hasselbeck going to be a starter again?

Though young Jake Locker remains the heavy betting favourite to be the signal-caller in Tennessee, Hasselbeck might get the job instead because Locker has not impressed.

Locker, selected eighth overall in 2011, was just 4-for-11 for 21 yards and an interception on Friday against Tampa Bay. He did rush for 24 yards on two carries, but was otherwise extremely underwhelming.

Locker only completed about half of his pass attempts in limited work as a rookie, but at least did not throw an interception vs. four touchdown passes.

Hasselbeck played surprisingly well for the Titans last season and completed 4-of-5 attempts against the Buccaneers.

Head coach Mike Munchak is playing his cards close to his vest, but the franchise would undoubtedly prefer to see Locker emerge, since he is seen as a key part of the team’s future.

“I wouldn’t say he hurt his chances at all,” Munchak told the Memphis Commercial-Appeal.

“We have two more weeks to see plenty, so I guess when we feel we’re at that point we’ll make our announcements when we feel the time is right.”

 

JEFFERY A FIERY PERFORMER

One of the best rookie performers so far this pre-season has been Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.

The 6-foot-3 second-round selection has been hauling in passes and taking off afterwards, showcasing his quicks.

Jeffery caught three passes for 62 yards in a win over Washington after previously catching four passes for 35 yards against Denver.

Jeffery has also shown that he is a dogged competitor, something that those who followed him at South Carolina already knew. At the 2012 Capital One Bowl, he earned game MVP honours despite getting ejected in the third quarter for fighting.

Against the Redskins, Jeffery was hit with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for knocking DeAngelo Hall’s helmet off during a minor scrap.

‘’It was just part of the game. Just playing physical,” Jeffery told reporters afterwards.

But he might rein things in a bit going forward.

‘’I’ll just walk away next time and go back to the huddle,” he added.

Previously, Jeffery had told ESPN: “We try to make explosive plays; try to be one of the most explosive offences in NFL history.”

Based on Jeffery’s on-field demeanour, as well as that of fellow newcomer Brandon Marshall’s, he could have been referring to blowing up opponents trying to stop them as much as lighting up the scoreboard.

 

TARVARIS ROLLING OUT

Even if you don’t think Tarvaris Jackson is any good, give the man some credit.

Unlike many professional athletes, Jackson seems willing to lose a bit of money in order to get more playing time.

Jackson is behind Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson in Seattle and the team has told the quarterback they will move him.

His $4-million US salary complicates Seattle’s ability to trade Jackson, but he has agreed to alter his contract if he is sent somewhere he will see action, a source told cbssports.com.

It is all but impossible to believe a team would consider making Jackson its starter (he is 17-17 as a starting quarterback and had only one winning season), but even being a backup beats being a third-stringer.

Ironically, Jackson, pushed out in Seattle by Flynn, formerly an understudy to Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, could take Flynn’s old job with the Packers.

Arizona has two underwhelming quarterbacks already, but might be inclined to add a third.

Jackson, 29, threw for 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 2011, was sacked 42 times and has a career QB rating of just 77.7.

The Seahawks are not looking for much in exchange. Anything, actually, would be preferable to outright releasing Jackson.

 


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