SANTA CLARA, Calif. — As San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo took another step toward returning from the torn left ACL that wiped out most of his 2018 season, cornerback Richard Sherman is feeling as good as he has in a long time now that he’s another year removed from his own injury history.
Come the start of training camp in July, the 49ers expect to have their offensive and defensive leaders back at full speed and ready for the start of the 2019 season. They hope that the dozen or so other players dealing with injuries will also be healthy and prepared when that time comes.
That’s a group that includes linebacker Fred Warner (knee), running back Matt Breida (pectoral), tight end Garrett Celek (concussion and back), running back Jerick McKinnon (ACL), linebacker Kwon Alexander (ACL) and cornerback Jason Verrett (Achilles), all of whom did not participate in Tuesday’s organized team activity and likely won’t be able to do anything until training camp.
Rookie defensive end Nick Bosa joined the injured list Tuesday when he tweaked his hamstring during team drills and watched the rest of the practice from the sideline.
Much like his teammates, for Garoppolo to be ready for the start of the season, there’s still plenty of work that needs to be done.
On Tuesday, Garoppolo participated in individual and 7-on-7 drills. He did not, however, take part in team drills.
According to coach Kyle Shanahan, Garoppolo will not be cleared for full team work until training camp in part because the team doesn’t want to risk having defenders around Garoppolo’s legs during offseason work.
“I think he’s handling it as well as he can,” Shanahan said. “He’s getting used to it. It’s just a long process when you recover from an ACL and he gets as much work as he can get in. I know he’d love to be out there for every rep, but he knows that he can’t, so he’s trying to make the most of his 7-on-7 and do as much work in every other aspect as he can.”
Wearing a titanium knee brace that he described as “really lightweight,” Garoppolo has already impressed teammates and the coaching staff with how well he has moved in the first two OTAs.
After suffering the knee injury in a Sept. 23 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Garoppolo missed San Francisco’s final 13 games.
Since then, Garoppolo has slowly checked all the boxes necessary for a return. Garoppolo said Tuesday he hasn’t dealt with swelling in the knee in “a long time” and his post-practice routine no longer requires him to do as much work to keep the swelling to a minimum.
In the first pair of OTAs, Garoppolo has been particularly pleased with his ability to push the ball down the field like he used to. Garoppolo has also been making progress in the weight room, where he has been able to lift more weight with his left leg and even out the weights on various leg exercises.
The next step is to get reacclimated to some of the awkward things required of a quarterback evading pass-rushers.
“[It’s] just the weird movements, reaction movements, things that are hard to simulate in practice where you don’t want to think about it so much,” Garoppolo said. “You want to react to the defense so it’s little things like that. But they’re coming together.”
Sherman, meanwhile, is not coming back from any sort of serious procedure and, for the first time in some time, is feeling back to his old self.
“It’s the first time in a few years that I’ve been able to move and groove like I wanted to,” Sherman said. “I had the MCL a few years ago, had the Achilles. This offseason I don’t have anything, thank goodness. And I’m able to just move and explode and just get to the spots I want to. I can stop when I want to stop, I can go when I want to go. It changes the whole dynamic for me.”
Sherman is entering his second season with the Niners after signing as a free agent in March 2018. Last year at this time, Sherman was recovering from Achilles surgery and was not able to participate fully during the offseason program as he continued his rehabilitation.
This year, Sherman calls the difference “night and day” as he has been able to participate throughout the offseason program.
While Sherman still managed to play 14 games last season, he often found himself feeling the effects of the Achilles surgery, comparing it to having his Achilles tendon stapled back to the bone in his leg. When he had the final suture removed late in the season, Sherman said he finally began moving more freely.
The lingering effects of that Achilles procedure also resulted in Sherman dealing with a calf injury that he attributed to some overcompensation, something else he’s no longer dealing with.
With the pain gone, Sherman said he has also moved on from any mental blocks that come with the injury.
“I think it goes away when you don’t physically feel pain anymore,” Sherman said. “Then you know you can move like you want to. When you feel pain in certain movements, you just don’t want to hurt it any worse than it already is, so you kind of baby it a little bit. When you don’t have it, you don’t worry about it. You’re just moving. You’re just getting to your spots, you’re moving full speed. You can never really move full speed when you have that kind of inhibition because you’re always conscious of which foot you’re putting in the ground on certain cuts and the game is too fast.
“Even a guy who thinks at my pace, it’s still too fast to just be like, ‘Hey, I’m going to put the right foot in the ground to break on this out route when the guy is already moving.’ I’ve got to be able to react.”
At one point during 7-on-7 drills Tuesday, Garoppolo drilled a completion to receiver Jordan Matthews over the middle on an intermediate dig route with Sherman in coverage.
As Sherman reached for the pass, it narrowly missed his outstretched fingers and landed in Matthews’ hands for a would-be big gain.
“It was just a great ball and a confident throw from him and it was just exactly what you want to see from your quarterback moving on in his rehab and where he is in the process,” Sherman said. “To be only in day two and be able to make those throws already is a great compliment.”
And for as much as that throw signaled Garoppolo’s impending return to his teammates, it was what followed with Sherman that meant even more to Garoppolo.
“Even if it was just a little trash talking between series or whatever it is, it’s a nice feeling to be back out there and be in the huddle with the guys and looking them in the eyes,” Garoppolo said.
Sources — Redskins TE Reed’s career in jeopardy
Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed, who has suffered multiple concussions during his career and already has been ruled out of Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bears because of his latest one, might not be able to return at all, league sources told ESPN.
There are those within the Redskins organization and around the league who are concerned Reed will not be able to play again, according to sources. Reed will continue to undergo testing, but the player, the team and doctors know what he is up against.
Any player who has suffered the number of concussions that Reed has — it is difficult to pinpoint the exact number — puts himself at grave risk by playing again.
The Redskins had been counting on having Reed, a former Pro Bowler and one of their best players, this season. But in Washington’s third preseason game last month against the Falcons, Reed suffered his latest concussion, which already has knocked him out of the first three games of the season.
Reed, 29, still would like to resume playing, but it is hardly automatic that he will. The more time that goes on without him coming back, the less likely it is that he will return to a sport in which he has excelled.
Source — AB texts ‘crossed the line’ for Patriots
Had Antonio Brown not sent intimidating group text messages to a female artist who accused him of unwanted sexual advances last week, the star wide receiver would be playing in the New England Patriots‘ game Sunday against the New York Jets, league sources told ESPN.
But when Brown sent those text messages as a member of the Patriots — he was not with New England during the time period when he allegedly sexually assaulted another woman — the organization felt that it had to move on from him.
“That crossed the line,” one source familiar with the organization’s thinking told ESPN. “This was real evidence.”
Now the question becomes how New England handles Brown’s departure. The Patriots are expected to withhold the $9 million signing bonus they agreed to pay Brown when he signed; $5 million is due Monday and the other $4 million is due Jan. 15, 2020.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Brown will file a grievance Monday to try to recoup that money, setting up a legal battle between the player and the team.
Among other factors, New England will lean on the “representation and warranty” clause in Brown’s contract that specifically states: “Player represent warrants and covenance to the club that he will 1) execute in good faith and to the best of his ability all of his obligations to and for the club; 2) he does not and will not participate and is not engaged or will not engage in any conduct or activity that is illegal, unlawful or immoral. And 3) No circumstances exist that would prevent player’s continuing availability to the club for the duration of the contract.”
However, other NFL sources strongly believe that the Patriots eventually will owe Brown the $9 million. Those sources insist that once a signing bonus is earned, it’s earned, and there’s no turning back.
“They are going to lose,” one NFL executive predicted about the Patriots’ plight, referring to the looming financial battle between Brown and New England.
Brown called out Patriots owner Robert Kraft as part of his Sunday morning Twitter tirade, referring to Kraft’s ongoing case in Florida in which he was charged with solicitation for allegedly receiving a sex act at a massage parlor. After the tweets, a source told ESPN that “Kraft [is] never writing that check, no matter what the ruling is now.”
Brown was officially released by the Patriots on Friday, one day after the lawyer for the female artist reached out to the NFL because Brown apparently sent what were described as threatening text messages to her client.
The sides spoke Friday morning, with the woman’s attorneys saying in a statement that the league “pledged to conduct a thorough investigation under its Personal Conduct Policy.” According to that statement, the league also contacted the Patriots, who then directed Brown to have no further contact with the woman.
As part of a Sports Illustrated report published this past Monday, the woman accused Brown of sexual misconduct when she was working at his Pennsylvania home in 2017.
Brown also has been accused of sexually assaulting his former trainer, Britney Taylor, according to a lawsuit she filed Sept. 10. Taylor met with the NFL this past Monday. A source had told ESPN that there are “more interviews and information-gathering being conducted now beyond Taylor.”
It remains unclear when or if Brown will interview with the league. He is an unrestricted free agent eligible to sign with any team, and the NFL said Friday that Brown would not be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list while he is a free agent.
But the league also warned, “If he is signed by a club, such placement may become appropriate at any time depending on the status of the investigation.”
Sources — Brees consulted Trout before surgery
Brees had surgery Wednesday to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb. The operation was performed in Los Angeles by Dr. Steven Shin, the doctor who also operated on Trout’s thumb in 2017.
Trout, a two-time MVP and eight-time All-Star for the Los Angeles Angels, missed just over six weeks during the 2017 season after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb.
Trout told Brees, however, that he could have returned from the surgery in five weeks, and once he did, he was pain-free and had full range of motion, sources told ESPN.
Brees, 40, who is expected to miss six weeks but has not been placed on injured reserve, wanted to know about the rehab process, and Trout spelled it out for him. So even before he began his rehab, Brees already was eyeing the quickest possible return.
Brees visited with Shin after suffering the injury in last Sunday’s loss in Los Angeles to the Rams. He traveled to Houston for a consultation with Dr. Tom Hunt, another hand specialist, before returning to Los Angeles to have Shin perform an InternalBrace ligament-augmentation operation, virtually the identical surgery Shin performed on Trout.
“After speaking with both doctors and other professional athletes, there have been no other NFL quarterbacks to have this surgery with the internal bracing on their throwing hand — I take that as a challenge!” Brees wrote in a text message to ESPN.
The Saints also haven’t given up hope that Brees could return sooner than the expected six-week timeline, according to sources. The Saints’ schedule sets up for Brees to be back Nov. 10 against Atlanta, after the bye week, which means he would miss six games.
Returning after the bye would give Brees seven weeks to recover — with six games missed — but Brees “wants to play and knows the window [in New Orleans] is short,” one source said.
Brees wanted to join the Saints in Seattle for their game Sunday against the Seahawks but was warned by Shin not to fly to Seattle because of the risk of a setback due to possible “swelling and inflammation.”
“The first 7-to-10 days of post-surgery are really important,” Brees said in a text message. “It crushes me not to be there with them, but I have to do everything I can to get back as fast and strong as possible.”
Brees is aware he has an opportunity to be an injury pioneer for the second time in his NFL career, having made an unlikely comeback from major reconstructive shoulder surgery in 2007 when Dr. James Andrews repaired a radically torn labrum and rotator cuff with 13 anchors. Andrews did the repair without having to open Brees’ shoulder with a scalpel.
Brees was under center nine months later for the Saints, who took a risk by signing him to a free-agent contract. The rest literally has been history, as Brees broke Peyton Manning’s NFL record for career passing yards last season.
“Drew was a one-in-a-million comeback,” Andrews said. “The surgery was one thing, but the rehab Drew did with [therapist] Kevin Wilk was everything. Drew had an insatiable appetite for every detail of surgery and rehab. He was relentless.”
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