Guard Chris Kuper, a player Denver Broncos coach John Fox consistently called "as tough a guy as you'll ever meet," told team officials Monday morning he intends to retire from the NFL after eight seasons.
A gruesome ankle injury in the last game of the 2011 regular season and the infection that followed last year were too much for Kuper to physically overcome as he now enters his post-playing life. A former team captain and one of the most universally-respected players in the locker room, Kuper played in just 11 games over the last two seasons combined.
Kuper battled for two years to try to return to form when he was routinely the most consistent of the team's linemen, headed for what looked to be a long, award-filled career. But Kuper then suffered an ankle dislocation against the Kansas City Chiefs in the final game of the 2011 season.
The resulting surgery, which included several plates and screws, limited him to just seven games in 2012. Kuper then had a serious infection in the joint, the after-effects of an additional surgery, following the 2012 season and that hurt his ability to prepare for the 2013 season.
Kuper's activity level was curtailed by doctors during last spring's offseason program. He took daily treatments throughout the season with the team's training staff and could often be seen limping in the days following games.
He played in four games this past season with one start, against Indianapolis.
However, it shouldn't be shocking. San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said while he wouldn't count Bowman out for Week 1, midway through the season is more realistic. Harbaugh is simply being cautious and showing that Bowman will not be rushed back. It's the right approach.
Bowman hasn't suffered a setback. The normal ACL recovery time is 6-9 months from the time of surgery. Bowman had surgery Feb. 2 so the second half of the season would be the right target date.
The 49ers have experience with starting a season without a key player. Receiver Michael Crabtree missed the first 11 games of the season while recovering from a torn Achilles he suffered in May. The 49ers offense badly missed Crabtree.
I think the team will handle this situation better. They are deep on defense and Bowman will not miss as much time.
Michael Wilhoite did a nice job while playing for an injured Patrick Willis for a short time last season. He will likely get the first crack at replacing Bowman, although I could see the team adding a veteran to provide options and depth while the team waits for Bowman's return.
Ware had been bothered by the elbow injury the past two years but was recently diagnosed with a nerve issue. In a recent interview with ESPNDallas.com, Ware explained that when he would bend his elbow the nerve would be exposed, and when it would get hit it would cause pain. Larry Allen had a similar surgery following the 2001 season and did not have an issue again.
Ware missed three games last season because of a quadriceps strain and was held to a career-low six sacks. With the Cowboys needing to make several salary-cap driven decisions this offseason, the team could approach him about re-working his contract. He is set to make $12.25 million this year and count $16 million against the salary cap.
“I feel when I practice more or just practice in general I do play better,” Ware said. “When you’re out there, you do your reps, you’ve seen it, but there’s nothing like simulating going against full speed.”
“My mentality is if there’s anything, I’m going to play through it,” Ware said. “If you want me to play in a game, I’m going to give all I got. What I would do in practice, the contact stuff I wouldn’t make it through it so I wouldn’t do it. Let me get a couple of run plays in here so I can see the runs, see the plays and what they do. With the pass rush, if we’ve got some stunts, I want to go through that so I got the timing right.”
Garrett believes the time off impacted Ware’s numbers. In 2012-13, Ware was on the daily injury report 57 times. He has been listed as a full participant 14 times. He has been listed as limited 22 times and as did not practice 21 times. Of the 96 practices the past two seasons in which a daily injury report was filed with the league, Ware was limited or out 43 times.
In the last two seasons Ware has recorded 17.5 sacks. In 2010-11, Ware was on the daily injury report 18 times. He was listed as a full participant twice, limited 11 times and did not practice five times. In those seasons he had 35 sacks.
"He's missed a lot of practice time over the last couple of years because of all these injuries and that's something that can impact a player, even a player of his caliber," Garrett said earlier in the offseason. "You need to practice. You need to make sure you have the skills necessary to play your best come Sunday and he's done an amazing job from a mental and physical toughness standpoint of playing in these games. We've got to get him to the point where he's healthy and he can practice and get himself ready to play the way he's capable of playing."
Lee, who has been rehabbing and working out at Valley Ranch since the season ended, said the neck has improved and he is feeling healthy. The Cowboys open their official offseason program on April 21.
"I'm working all the neck exercises," Lee said. "I think it was just having time to heal, allowing that ligament to heal, and it takes a certain amount of time. I think we're on the path to where it's pretty much there."
Lee missed the final three games of the 2013 season after getting hurt in the first quarter in a Dec. 9 loss to the Chicago Bears, which came after he missed two games with a hamstring injury.
Lee kept hoping he could return, but the doctors would not clear him after an MRI revealed a torn ligament.
"I don't need surgery, which is a positive," Lee said. "But I didn't play at the end of the year at a very critical time, and it's been two years in a row, and I need to be out there. There's no excuse for it. I've got to find a way to stay on the football field."
Romo underwent a discectomy to repair a herniated disk on Dec. 27. He was home the same day and attended exit meetings at Valley Ranch two days after surgery.
Cowboys officials, including owner Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett, said last month that Romo had experienced relief from the surgery and was on target to be ready for the start of offseason team activities in the spring.
According to a source, Romo is currently doing core and stabilization exercises, parts of the first phase of rehab after back surgery.
Obviously, healthy 2014 returns for both Pierre-Paul and Cruz are vital for the Giants. When those two are healthy, you could argue that they're the team's best players on their respective sides of the ball. But here's a quick look at a few other guys who did end the season on injured reserve and their outlook for 2014 with the Giants:
C David Baas: Strong candidate for either a pay cut or an outright release, though the cap savings are minimal unless they designated him a post-June 1 cut.
S Stevie Brown: Unrestricted free agent who missed 2013 following ACL surgery. Giants want him back and should be able to reach a deal.
C Jim Cordle: Missed final five games with a knee injury. Restricted free agent likely to be retained as a useful, still-promising backup.
FB Henry Hynoski: Season never got on track and ended due to shoulder injury. John Conner may have taken his job. How much will FB be used in Ben McAdoo's offense?
DT Shaun Rogers: Hey, did you expect them to bring him back last year? Me neither.
CB Aaron Ross: They need help and depth at cornerback and Ross is obviously a guy they like. But the market is flooded with healthy ones.
G Chris Snee: Surgery on each hip now. He could decide to retire. If he doesn't, they'll need to cut him and bring him back for far less money.
S Cooper Taylor: Rookie had trouble staying healthy. Could be key on special teams if he can come back strong.
CB Corey Webster: Thanks for the memories.
RB David Wilson: Recent neck surgery could have him back on the field in 2014, but there's no way to count on it for sure.
With that in mind, below is a brief overview of some of the major injuries to monitor this offseason among Patriots that remain under contract through at least the 2014 season:
Tight end Rob Gronkowski. The burly tight end tore his ACL in a matchup against the Browns, undergoing surgery in early January. The timeframe for recovery from such an injury varies by the patient, but a rough estimate is eight months. As of now, Gronkowski's status for the start of next season is not yet known.
Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. A torn Achilles' tendon shut down Wilfork after just four games, but if such a thing as a silver-lining exists in the situation, it's that the injury happened early enough in the season to provide him ample recovery time. He was spotted on the sidelines during the season moving around and walking, and it seems reasonable to expect he'll be ready for training camp.
Linebacker Jerod Mayo. Mayo tore his pectoral muscle early in the season, missing the final 10 regular season games. Like Wilfork, it seems reasonable to expect Mayo back on the field for training camp.
Offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer. The standout right tackle had his season cut in half due to a broken leg. His return would help to re-solidify the offensive line, which will now be coached by Dave DeGuglielmo.
Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly. Kelly joined Wilfork on injured reserve after injuring his knee against the Bengals in what turned out to be a torn ACL. With extensive time to recover, a return for training camp would also seem likely.
Wide receiver Danny Amendola. After injuring his groin in Week 1, Amendola battled the severely painful injury throughout the season. While he didn't meet production-based expectations in 2013, the pain he played through should not be overlooked.
Defensive tackle Armond Armstead. The intriguing young defensive tackle underwent surgery to repair an infection just before training camp, causing him to miss the full season. He remains a little bit of an unknown to this point, but, if healthy, could be a contributor along the defensive front.
The list above highlights only some of the major injuries that impacted the Patriots this season, as the team deals with an incredible number of games lost due to health issues. There also may be other injury issues that appear in the offseason that we are not currently aware of.
As the team is not required to release injury information during the offseason, there's only so much we know about the various injuries. If any information does come along, we'll be sure to pass it along.
For now, this list shows injuries to keep an eye on this offseason.
The timeframe for his recovery, according to his agent Richard Kopelman of KLASS Sports, is in the 6-to-8-week range, which should have Arrington ready for the start of the team's offseason program in April.
The 27-year-old Arrington played in all 16 games, with 12 starts, this past season. His primary role has been as the team's No. 3 cornerback, but because of the high percentage of sub defense played by the team (67 percent), he is often on the field in a starter-type capacity.
He played 72 percent of the defensive snaps in 2013.
Arrington's availability is one of his strengths, as he's never missed a game since joining the Patriots in 2009. He is viewed as a key part of the team's cornerback corps in the coming years, along with Logan Ryan (second year) and Alfonzo Dennard (third year), and potentially free-agent-to-be Aqib Talib.
Two days after posting that he was "ready for action" and that any team "who's looking for a top notch free safety this kid is ready to dominate," Collins confirmed that he would like to return to the field even though he hasn't played since he sustained a neck injury in Week 2 of the 2011 season.
"I'm optimistic about it," Collins said in a telephone interview with ESPN.com on Wednesday. "My whole purpose for sending that tweet out is to just let teams know that if they're willing to take a chance, I'm open to it."
The Packers released Collins on April 25, 2012, after the team would not clear him following cervical fusion surgery in which New York-based surgeon Frank Cammisa repaired the herniated disk in Collins' neck by fusing together his C-3 and C-4 vertebrae.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Richard Sherman wasn't on the field for the final few minutes of Super Bowl XLVIII, having suffered an ankle injury early in the fourth quarter. But that didn't lessen Sherman's excitement after his Seattle Seahawks' 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos.
"It really numbs the pain a lot," Sherman said. "It was really hurting, and I was sad I let my teammates down and I wasn't able to finish the game. But I knew they would step up for me and do that. And this feeling is just unbelievable, it's a dream come true."
The truth is, the game was over long before the Seahawks' star cornerback was carted back to the locker room. Sherman was on crutches after the game but said X-rays were negative and the injury was diagnosed as a high ankle sprain.
"I'm as 100 percent as I can be for the celebration," Sherman said. "I will be at the celebration, I will not miss that."
The Seahawks' defense was simply dominant on Sunday, holding the top-ranked offense in the NFL to just one score. Sherman, who led the league in interceptions in the regular season with eight, played a part, with three tackles and one pass defensed. But he was overshadowed by some of his teammates -- although to be fair, Peyton Manning didn't throw in Sherman's direction often.
That leaves Seattle with only two tight ends for the game -- starter Zach Miller and rookie Luke Willson. Davis (6-foot-7, 265 pounds) has been used quite a bit as an extra blocker, especially in goal-line situations.
There was no report this week of Davis being injured or missing practice.
The other six inactives were not a surprise: receiver Bryan Walters, rookie running back Christine Michael, offensive tackles Michael Bowie and Caylin Hauptmann, defensive tackle Jordan Hill and defensive end Benson Mayowa.
Jammer had played in some of the Broncos' specialty units down the stretch and the decision meant cornerback Marquice Cole, who was signed in the days leading up to the AFC Championship game, would be in uniform Sunday night.
The Broncos' other inactives are: quarterback Zac Dysert, running back Ronnie Hillman, tackle Vinston Painter, guard Chris Kuper, tight end Joel Dreessen and defensive tackle Sione Fua.
Fua has battled a calf injury for the last week.
Prater participated in the team’s media day event at the Prudential Center and is on track to practice Wednesday when the Broncos conduct a workout at the New York Jets' practice facility. Prater said he felt "a lot better" and spent his time Tuesday answering the usual questions for kickers about potential Super Bowl game winners and bad weather for Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVIII.
Asked how weather might affect the game, Prater said, "You know me. I’m not a huge thinker about too much. It’s just one of those things where I think no matter what, if you hit the ball well, it’s going to go straight and it’s going to go far. I’m not worried about it too much. I don’t think it’s going to be too windy. If anything, the wind affects it more than the cold. As long as it’s not too windy, I think we’ll be fine to get the touchbacks, hopefully limit their return game."
The Broncos held Prater out of practice Thursday, Friday and Saturday, in part, for Prater to recover and to avoid passing the illness to other players a week out from the title game. Broncos coach John Fox has said repeatedly Prater would be fine for Sunday’s game.
Prater led the NFL in touchbacks on kickoffs during the regular season and was 25-of-26 on field goal attempts, including 6-of-7 from 50 or more yards, including an NFL record 64-yarder Dec. 8 against the Tennessee Titans.
Prater is 5-of-6 in the postseason, including a 4-of-4 performance in the AFC Championship Game last Sunday.
I still expect Armstead to make that “Year 2 leap” that players and coaches often talk about. Armstead played very well in the playoffs after being thrust into the lineup for the first time in Week 16. And now the athletic 6-foot-5, 304-pounder from Arkansas-Pine Bluff should spend the entire offseason working with the starting unit as he continues to develop.