New York Jets: Alex Lewis among Sunday absentees for NFI injury

The New York Jets’ veteran blocker will not partake in Sunday’s game against Las Vegas after being placed on the non-football injury list.

The New York Jets have placed offensive lineman Alex Lewis on their reserve/non-football injury list.

Head coach Adam Gase announced on Friday that Lewis would not partake in Sunday’s home game against the Las Vegas Raiders (1 p.m. ET, CBS). According to notes from the Jets, Gase said that Lewis’ departure was “an organizational decision”. He would also insist that Lewis’ departure was not disciplinary and that he has continued to attend positional meetings.

“He’ll be out for the game,” Gase said. “He’s been in meetings…As soon as we have a resolution to this, then we can talk more about it.”

With his placement on the NFI list, Lewis will miss at least the next three games, eligible to return for the Jets’ penultimate game of the season on December 27 against the Cleveland Browns.

ESPN’s Rich Cimini shed some light on Lewis’ situation, mentioning that he is seeking help for an “off-the-field issue”. The Jets will continue to pay him during this process.

Lewis, 28, is in the midst of his second season with the Jets, having come over in a late-summer trade with the Baltimore Ravens during the 2019 offseason. Pro Football Focus has Lewis consistently ranked as the second-best lineman among qualifiers behind only Mekhi Becton. Lewis signed a three-year contract extension during the offseason but could be a salary cap casualty with the Jets poised to save just over $5.3 million if he is released.

It’s possible that relative newcomer Pat Elfein could take over for Lewis in his spot on the offensive line’s interior. Elfein took over for Lewis last week against Miami and previously made 43 starts over three-plus seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. He appeared in Minnesota’s Week 1 loss to the Green Bay Packers, but was sidelined with a thumb injury that led to a stint on injured reserve. The Jets signed him shortly after Minnesota released him upon activation from IR. Elfein was limited in Friday’s practice with a shoulder ailment.

Despite the loss of Lewis, the Jets (0-11) will be getting some of their blocking depth back, as Gase said that he expects to have both George Fant and Chuma Edoga back from ankle issues after each missed last week’s loss to Miami in East Rutherford. Fant was limited on Friday, but while Edoga was a full participant every day this week.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: Sam Darnold to start on Sunday vs. Miami

New York Jets, Sam Darnold

After missing the last two New York Jets games with a shoulder injury, Sam Darnold will return for a divisional showdown with the Dolphins.

New York Jets head coach Adam Gase announced on Friday that Sam Darnold will return to the team’s starting lineup on Sunday, as the team heads home to MetLife Stadium to battle the Miami Dolphins (1 p.m. ET, CBS). Darnold will make his first appearance since November 1 at Kansas City, when he reaggravated a shoulder injury suffered a month prior against Denver.

“It’s been a good week for Sam,” Gase said, per Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. “It just looks a lot different from the last time he tried to make a run at going in a game.”

Though the Jets (0-10) are officially removed from the AFC playoff picture, these final six games could mean everything to Darnold, whose 2020 struggles have observers and analysts wondering if he is still the Jets’ future under center. Having missed four games this season, Darnold is currently on pace to set career-lows with 1,045 passing yards and three touchdown passes.

But, right from the get-go, things will be different for Darnold than they were at the start of the season. Sunday against Miami will mark the first time that Darnold is able to work with the trio of receivers the Jets envisioned would be at the top of the depth chart at the start of the year. Darnold will work with second-round rookie Denzel Mims for the third time this season, having previously united with him for 84 yards on six receptions in tilts against Kansas City and Buffalo. Veterans Breshad Perriman and Jamison Crowder will likewise be ready to go. The Jets’ offense has enjoyed a slight resurgence upon the trio’s collaboration, tallying 614 yards and 55 points over the last two games, both of which are season-highs over consecutive games. Joe Flacco took over for Darnold in the meantime, leading the Jets to respectable outputs in losses to New England and the Los Angeles Chargers.

In comments made earlier this week, Darnold praised the progress that the incoming receiving trio was able to make, but also expressed personal excitement to get back on the field and lead the Jets to a victory. New York is the lone winless team in the NFL as the season prepares to reach its final stages.

Obviously, those guys are doing a really good job and are making plays for us,” Darnold said, per notes from the Jets. Regardless of their situation and how well they are playing, I just want to be out there, regardless of that. I’m always going to be eager to want to go out there and play football.”

Darnold is 1-3 against the Dolphins in his career, the lone win coming last season in East Rutherford. He would tally 270 yards and two scores in the Jets’ 22-21 triumph.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills: Cody Ford out for the year, John Brown to miss Sunday

The Buffalo Bills lose two key pieces of their offense to injury as they prepare to enter a crucial final stretch.

As the Buffalo Bills prepare for a crucial final stretch that could lead to a long-sought division title, they’ll be without two of their key offensive starters, one of which will be done for the year.

Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott announced on WGR 550 that offensive lineman Cody Ford will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a knee injury in Wednesday’s practice and that receiver John Brown (ankle) will miss at least the next game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS). The Bills (7-3) are looking to clinch their first division title since 1995 and lead the Miami Dolphins a game for the AFC East lead.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Ford suffered a torn meniscus and will undergo surgery that will feature a 3-4 month recovery period. It’s the latest blow to a Bills’ offensive line that has seen its share of medical absences. Ford had already missed three games due to other injuries and Jon Feliciano missed the first seven contests after tearing a pectoral muscle before the start of training camp. Mitch Morse has also missed time, and further turnover came when Quinton Spain was released. Ford’s duties will likely be assumed by a combination of Feliciano, Brian Winters, and Ike Boettger.

Brown’s injury is the latest in what’s been a star-crossed season. A calf injury sustained during the third game of the season previously forced him out and he was previously removed from the Bills’ last game in Arizona with an ankle ailment. The injuries have prevented Brown from capitalizing on a career-best 72 receptions and 1,060 yards from last season’s playoff trek.

In other injury news, defensive end Mario Addison (knee) missed Wednesday’s practice. His status for Sunday has yet to be determined.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

New York Jets: Sam Darnold returns to practice at Florham Park

After Wednesday’s practice, Sam Darnold appears to be inching toward partaking in the New York Jets’ home tilt against Miami.

Sam Darnold returned to New York Jets practice on Wednesday as the team continues to prepare for their Sunday afternoon matchup against the Miami Dolphins (1 p.m. ET, CBS). According to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, Darnold took all of the first-team reps under center, relegating Joe Flacco to scout-team duties.

Prior to practice, head coach Adam Gase said that Darnold was a “day-to-day” case, per notes provided by the Jets. Gase added that the plan going into practice would allow Darnold to “eliminate any kind of unnecessary throwing”.

“We’re going in there thinking that he’s going to be able to do quite a bit,” Gase said. “Sometimes during these special teams periods and things like that, a lot of throws are made in those periods. We’ll really limit those. Most of his throws will come either in individual or team periods.”

Darnold is attempting to come back from a shoulder injury originally sustained in an October 1 loss to Denver. He returned two weeks later for a divisional tilt against Buffalo but aggravated the ailment in the next game in Kansas City. Joe Flacco has assumed quarterback duties in the meantime and has overseen the Jets’ best offensive outputs of the year, including a season-best 322 yard in their Week 9 loss to New England leading into their open date. The offensive resurgence has coincided with the first instances of Denzel Mims, Breshad Perriman, and Jamison Crowder collaboratively taking the field. That trio topped the Jets’ receiving depth chart at the beginning of the year, but injuries prevented them from playing together in the early going.

Flacco has tallied 864 yards, six touchdowns, and an 80.5 passer rating over five games in subbing for Darnold. He confirmed that he took exclusively scout-team snaps on Wednesday and praised Darnold’s progress.

“He was running around out there, throwing the ball well, his arm was live, I mean that’s really most of what you can gather out there today,” Flacco said, per the Jets. “But you know, I thought his arm looked, the ball looked like it was spinning and coming at guys, so I thought he looked really good.”

Darnold spoke earlier this week and echoed Gase’s ideas of viewing things from a day-by-day lens. He also expressed anticipation in working with the revamped receiving corps if and when he returns. The quarterback has had minimal work with Mims, for example, after the first was chosen out of Baylor in the second round of April’s draft.

“Those guys are doing a really good job and are making plays for us,” Darnold said of the trio, per the Jets. “Regardless of their situation and how well they are playing, I just want to be out there, regardless of that. I’m always going to be eager to want to go out there and play football.”

Only adding to the idea of Darnold starting on Sunday is the fact that the Jets (0-10) released quarterback Mike White earlier this week and readded him to their practice squad. The former Dallas Cowboys draft pick served as Flacco’s backup over the past two games.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: La’Mical Perine, Sam Ficken placed on IR

Two major contributors to the New York Jets’ offense have been placed on injured reserve as they’re set to return to MetLife Stadium.

As the New York Jets return to MetLife Stadium to battle the Miami Dolphins on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS), they’ll be without two of their biggest scoreboard contributors. The team announced earlier this week that running back La’Mical Perine and kicker Sam Ficken were placed on injured reserve. Perine’s fellow rusher Josh Adams and tight end Ross Travis have been promoted from the practice squad.

Perine suffered a high-ankle sprain during Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, an injury that kept him out of the majority of the second half. A fourth-round pick out of Florida, Perine has been splitting the top rushing duties with Frank Gore since Le’Veon Bell’s release. He has tallied 202 yards on the ground this season, ninth amongst rookie rushers in the NFL. Perine also leads the Jets (0-10) with two rushing touchdowns this season, the latter coming on Sunday in Los Angeles on the Jets’ opening drive.

Ficken had already missed three games this season with a groin injury. Sunday’s date in Los Angeles marked his return, but Ficken missed two extra point in the Jets’ 34-28 defeat. It marred what has otherwise been a strong season for the Penn State alum, who leads the Jets with 35 points tallied this season. The failed extra points were his first misses on scores after touchdowns, while he has also converted 9-of-10 field goal attempts, including a career-long 54 yarder in an October loss to Denver. Sergio Castillo will resume the green kicking duties, having gone 6-of-7 in the previous three Ficken-free games. Castillo previously partook in both CFL and XFL action, earning an All-Star nomination with the former’s BC Lions in 2019.

Adams returns to the Jets’ active roster, having previously partaken in the first two games of the season as a substitute for the injured Perine, scoring a touchdown in their opening weekend loss in Buffalo. He began his NFL career under the watch of current Jets general manager Joe Douglas, having arrived as an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame in 2018. The veteran Travis has been on and off the Jets’ practice squad and active roster in each of the past two seasons. He played a handful of snaps in the Jets’ Monday night loss to New England on November 9.

In another roster move, the Jets released quarterback Mike White and immediately signed him to the practice squad, increasing the likelihood of franchise quarterback Sam Darnold returning to the lineup from a shoulder injury.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Buffalo Bills: Tommy Sweeney out for season due to COVID-19 condition

The Buffalo Bills tight end and New Jersey native was diagnosed with myocarditis, a condition sometimes associated with COVID-19.

The Buffalo Bills have announced that tight end Tommy Sweeney will miss the remainder of the season after being diagnosed with myocarditis, a heart condition associated with COVID-19.

Sweeney, in the midst of his second season with the Bills, was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list on October 24 after he was deemed a close contact when fellow tight end Dawson Knox tested positive for the virus. He had yet to appear in a 2020 game due to a foot injury prior to Knox’s positive test. The Ramsey, NJ native joined the Bills as a seventh-round draft pick out of Boston College last season and earned 114 yards on eight receptions in his debut campaign.

“I saw him today, he’s in good spirits,” Bills head coach Sean McDermott said, per The Buffalo News. “He’s had a rough year, with the injury, COVID, and residual piece of the COVID, unfortunately. We know he’s a good football player and a guy that we believe in and can’t wait to get him back on the field when he can in the offseason.”

According to WebMD, myocarditis is “inflammation of the heart muscle (myocardium)”. Symptoms include shortness of breath, abnormal heartbeat, light-headedness, and joint pain. Though the full extent of its direct association is unknown, the rare viral disease has been found in COVID-19 patients, even those who have recovered. Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez was diagnosed with myocarditis after a bout with coronavirus in July, who sat out the shortened 2020 MLB season to recover.

The Bills (7-3) are set to return to action this weekend following their bye week. They’ll host the Los Angeles Chargers at home on Sunday afternoon (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

New York Jets: What’s next for Mekhi Becton in 2020?

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton

Mekhi Becton has an undeniable future with the New York Jets. But with injuries interrupting, what should they do upon returning?

A lot of uncertainty surrounds the 2020 New York Jets. Mekhi Becton is far from that firestorm.

For all the faults of the modern Jets (0-9), Becton is perhaps as far removed from the gridiron cesspool as one from New York possibly can. Chosen 11th in April’s draft, the blocker will forever go down as the first pick of the Joe Douglas era. Thus far, Becton has fulfilled the hype that caused Douglas and New York decisionmakers to pass on several high-profile receivers. He has earned positive reviews from both his teammates and the coaching staff. Becton recently went viral for a big block laid down in the Jets’ recent showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs, when he lifted the 260-pound defender Frank Clark off his feet in making a block.

“I don’t care who you are, he’s going to try to finish you,” running back Frank Gore said of Becton, per Rich Cimini of ESPN. “He’s an old-school lineman, a Larry Allen-type guy. Larry Allen, that’s a Hall of Famer. I don’t want to speak too fast because he’s a young player, but he’s got a chance to do special things.”

“With Mekhi, he’s so big, he’s so powerful,” head coach Adam Gase noted, per Randy Lange of NewYorkJets.com. “Once he gets his momentum going and he has his hands on you, it’s hard to redirect and it’s hard to get off him.”

But even Becton isn’t fully immune to the Jets’ struggles. Injuries have taken their toll on Becton in the early going, including a chest injury in the early stages of Monday’s 30-27 loss to the New England Patriots. The ailment, which limited him to only 15 snaps in the nationally televised showdown, follows a shoulder injury sustained during the Week 3 defeat in Indianapolis. Just four days later, Becton was held out of the starting lineup in a Thursday night game against Denver but nonetheless dressed and entered the tilt when his replacement, sophomore Chuma Edoga, was lost to an injury of his own. Becton appeared to reinjure his shoulder against the Broncos and missed the Jets’ next two games entirely before returning for their home tilt against Buffalo in Week 7.

Heading into their bye, the Jets have been somewhat mum on Becton’s status moving forward, listing Becton as questionable after he visited the medical tent before going back to the locker room. Perhaps the best update has come from Becton himself, who mentioned that he was “good” and thanked fans for inquiring about his condition on Twitter.

But the Jets have an uncomfortable question…well, one of many uncomfortable questions that they’ll need to answer going forward: would they just be better off putting Becton in storage and waiting for happier times in 2021?

There are no indications that the Jets plan to make such a move, nor has Becton stated that he wants or would sit down the final seven games of this woebegone campaign. But there are certainly reasons why such an approach would be understandable.

Becton is perhaps far too great a competitor to buy into such a concept, but his injuries certainly give the Jets and their medical staff something to think about. The team already somewhat tempted fate by letting him into the Denver game, and this New England issue sounds somewhat more concerning.

According to head coach Adam Gase, Becton’s injury “caused him to have difficulty breathing”, per notes provided by the Jets.

“We went through all kinds of things to make sure that he was good,” Gase said. “Really at the end of the day, we decided not to put him back in the game, just making sure that he was okay. We were concerned that maybe there was something there we couldn’t figure out. We just wanted to make sure our trainers and doctors did everything they could to rule out any issues there. It’s no kind of muscle injury or anything like that, so we’ll take this next week to really kind of keep looking at that and hopefully get to a point where he’ll be ready to go for the next game.”

Gase didn’t want to play doctor but mentioned that the team medical staff didn’t say it was a lung or heart-related issue. He reiterated the team is “trying to put him in position to where he can play the next game”.

Becton is in a rare spot where his status in 2021, and likely beyond if he keeps playing at the current rate he’s created, is in no question. He’s one of the silver linings of this team and is ready to protect the franchise quarterback for years to come…be it Sam Darnold, Trevor Lawrence, or an unnamed third party.

There’s something tempting about giving Becton seven more consequence-free opportunities at game speed, just to truly hone his skills in his rookie campaign. But there have already been three occasions (Indianapolis, Denver, New England) where Becton has had to miss time due to injury. Sure, it’d be great for Becton to develop more chemistry with the offense…whoever sticks around for 2021, anyway…but at what point do you pull the plug on trying to salvage a lost season through him? When is the risk too great to keep the damage confined to this season alone?

Again, there’s no indication that any side has considered a Becton shutdown. If anything, Douglas indicated in comments made prior to Monday that his original draft pick wants to get in as many downs as possible before the year is out and that he wants to help the Jets put together anything that could be considered a positive or progress in 2020.

“He truly cares, and he truly wants to help,” Douglas said in notes provided by the Jets. “I think he is a player that is going to help us long-term. We’re excited about working with him every day, because you’re talking about a young man that loves football. He’s very smart, he’s tough as nails, and has a rare size and athleticism. And still, he’s just scratching the surface of what he can do physically. There’s a lot of desire from him to want to be the best player that he can be, so we’ve made it our mission to sort of bend over backwards to try to help him reach his goals.”

The Jets return to action on November 22 against on the road against the Los Angeles Chargers (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty: Sabrina Ionescu undergoes minor ankle procedure

sabrina ionescu, New York Liberty

The New York Liberty’s top overall pick is expected to make a full recovery after losing her rookie season to a July injury.

Sabrina Ionescu returned to New York City this week for a minor ankle procedure. The New York Liberty rookie underwent what the team called a “minimally-invasive procedure removed calcified scar tissue that was irritating a tendon behind (her) ankle”, a process overseen by Dr. Martin O’Malley at the Hospital for Special Surgery. Ionescu made her WNBA debut in the league’s Bradenton-based bubble over the summer, but her inaugural season was cut short by an ankle injury in her third game of the season.

According to Dr. O’Malley, Ionescu’s injured ligaments from her July incident have healed. Team doctors expect to clear her for physical activity soon.

“Sabrina had a minor ankle procedure to remove a loose bone chip that was irritating a tendon behind her ankle,” Dr. O’Malley in a team statement. “This chip that occurred during her sprain in July, did not involve the ankle joint cartilage surface and we expect a complete recovery.”

“With the long offseason, I am committed to returning in 2021 fully prepared to rejoin my team and jumpstart my WNBA career,”  Ionescu added in the same statement. “My rehab has been going very well and I look forward to getting back on the court.”

Ionescu set several records and earned even more accolades during her time at the University of Oregon. The Liberty took her with the top overall pick of the 2020 draft in April and she was immediately inserted into the starting lineup. She made a big impact in her limited time on the court, notably earning 33 points in only her second career game. Ionescu has spent most of the offseason in her hometown of Walnut Creek, CA, but returned to New York for her procedure. When WNBA action resumes in home arenas, the Liberty are expected to play their first full-time season at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The Liberty will also partake in the upcoming WNBA Draft Lottery, which will be held on a date to-be-determined.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets: QB Sam Darnold returns to practice on Wednesday

Eager for any kind of momentum, the New York Jets are hopeful that Sam Darnold can return to action on Sunday against Buffalo.

Sam Darnold was a limited participant in New York Jets’ practice on Wednesday, returning to fields at One Jets Drive for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury in an October 1 loss to Denver.

It’s unknown whether Darnold will be ready for Sunday’s rematch with the Buffalo Bills (1 p.m. ET, CBS), but that appears to be part of the Jets’ plans. Head coach Adam Gase described Darnold as being on a “pitch count” and that more clarity on his Week 7 status should emerge on Thursday.

“If there’s anything that lingers or anything where he’s throwing (in pain), that’s kind of his red flag of, ‘Hey, I have to let you guys know.’ We need him to be real honest,” Gase said, per Rich Cimini of ESPN. “If it’s a little less reps, I’ll be all right with that. He can handle that. If it was a second-year player behind Sam, I’d be a little more concerned.”

Veteran Joe Flacco remains continues to likewise prepare to make his third consecutive start.

“Obviously, you give the priority to Sam in terms of the reps and things like that,” Flacco said about his preparation this week, according to transcripts from the Jets. “I just got to stay mentally locked in and make sure I’m going through as much of the week as I can like I’m going to play.”

Darnold has missed eight games due to injury or illness since taking over as the Jets’ quarterback in 2018. The Jets (0-6) have lost each of those games, including the last two with Flacco at the helm.

As the Jets desperately seek offensive momentum, they could be welcoming back not only Darnold, but rookie receiver Denzel Mims as well. The second-round pick out of Baylor has dealt with injuries all season, but may be poised for a return on Sunday.

“Mims had a great week of practice last week with the scout stuff that we had him doing,” Gase said, per Chris Ryan of NJ Advance Media. “This week, we’ll get him involved in the normal offensive practice and, as long as we don’t have any setbacks and nothing happens, injury-wise, for us it’s the same thing with (La’mical) Perine. Let’s get these guys in there, let’s see what they can do, let’s give him the ball, see if of these young guys can make some explosive plays.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Joe Flacco ACTIVE and set to serve as New York Jets’ backup

New York Jets, Joe Flacco

Joe Flacco’s first time in a New York Jets gameday uniform will come against one of his former teams on Thursday night.

While Thursday night’s primetime matchup between the New York Jets and Denver Broncos (8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network) may lack that championship feeling, but Super Bowl flair will be on display on the home team’s sideline.

For the first time in his New York career, former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco will dress for the Jets and serve as Sam Darnold’s backup. Flacco was sidelined by a neck injury for nearly a full year but was signed by the Jets in May.

A native of Audubon, NJ, Flacco is set to enter his 13th NFL season. Flacco is best known for his 11-year tenure with the Baltimore Ravens, where he sits atop nearly every statistical list in the team’s passing record book. He helped guide the Ravens to their second Super Bowl in 2013, capturing MVP honors in the team’s 34-31 win over San Francisco.

Making his Jets debut against Denver carries a hint of Flacco irony. After Baltimore made the switch to Lamar Jackson at quarterback, he was signed by the Broncos to serve as a placeholder quarterback to 2019 first-round choice Drew Lock. Flacco started eight games in orange, throwing for 1,822 yards and six touchdowns before sustaining the aforementioned neck injury in an October loss to Indianapolis. Denver released Flacco last March, sticking with Lock, Jeff Driskel, and Brett Rypien on their quarterback depth chart. Rypien is set to make his first NFL start on Thursday with Lock injured.

The Jets (0-3) will still be without top receiving option Breshard Perriman, who will miss his second straight game with an ankle injury. Others on the New York inactive list include Jordan Willis, Marqui Christian, Quincy Wilson, and Nathan Shepard, as well as rookies Ashtyn Davis and James Morgan.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags