There are some very recognizable players dealing with injuries that may cause them to miss a portion of NFL training camps, if not the entire preseason.
Among them are a promising rookie pass rusher, a rookie receiver who was selected in the top 10 this spring and one of the best young passers in the game today.
For various reasons, their availability at the start of camp is very much in question. And for some, this could be a very costly delay that could effect their entire seasons.
These 10 players all have injury concerns that we’ll be closely monitoring throughout training camp and preseason games.
Takkarist McKinley, pass rusher, Atlanta Falcons
As we’ve seen in the past, Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff saw a player he loved and didn’t hesitate to trade up in the draft to land him. The Falcons moved up a handful of spots to take Takk McKinley No. 26 overall this past April.
A supremely confident young man, McKinley has already declared he’ll rack up more sacks than No. 1 overall pick, Myles Garrett.
Hopefully missing out on the start of training camp won’t derail that bold claim. After having surgery to repair a torn labrum this spring, McKinley is expected to need some extra time to recover, per Dan Pompei of Bleacher Report.
We’ve seen countless rookies struggle to get up to speed when they’ve been behind the eight ball due to injuries out of the gate. Hopefully that won’t be the case for McKinley, and for the Falcons.
At this time, Brooks Reed is penciled in as the starter, but he’s very limited in what he can do. They need McKinley to play big opposite Vic Beasley at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Max Unger, center, New Orleans Saints
Already without their star left tackle, Terron Armstead, the Saints will enter training camp without starting center Max Unger. The two-time Pro Bowler had foot surgery in early May (Linsfranc) and is hoping he’ll be available for Week 1.
Max Unger said he's targeting a Week 1 return. The Saints' center underwent foot surgery in May.
— Josh Katzenstein (@jkatzenstein) June 14, 2017
Now, it’s worth pointing out that Unger is a nine-year veteran and doesn’t necessarily need practice during training camp to come in and be effective during the regular season. But offensive lines take time to come together, and we’re already talking about a fractured group.
Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, this is a significant injury, and one that Unger must be extremely careful coming back from. Foot injuries are among the most notorious of any for being pesky buggers that often come back to haunt players, even after successful surgery.
Mike Williams, wide receiver, Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers spent some pretty significant draft currency taking Williams No. 7 overall this past April. The Clemson product is certainly talented and has the freaky physique teams fall in love with every single year (6-foot-4, 218 pounds).
Williams was also very productive last year as a redshirt junior for the national champions, hauling in 98 passes for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns. He missed most of the 2015 season after suffering a neck fracture but was also a 1,000-yard receiver as a sophomore the year before that.
Unfortunately, Williams was injured during rookie minicamp — mild disc hernation was how it was described at the time. Since then, conflicting reports have emerged, with one suggesting the rookie could need back surgery — a report Williams has since denied.
Still, the fact remains that it’s likely Williams will be held out of practices for the start of training camp after recently undergoing epidural injections to relieve pain. Rookie receivers who miss training camp don’t typically have strong first seasons in the NFL, so this will definitely be something to keep an eye on going forward.
Derrick Johnson, linebacker, Kansas City Chiefs
Since Johnson was selected in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft, he’s consistently been one of the best inside linebackers in the NFL. He’s a four-time Pro Bowler and was recognized as a First-Team All-Pro in 2011. Along with Eric Berry, Johnson has been the heart and soul of Kansas City’s defense.
Unfortunately, last season Johnson ruptured his Achilles tendon. It was the second such injury for him in three years. He was cleared for individual drills in mid June, and Justin Houston raved about how good he looked during those minicamp practices.
“He was just out there through (the) individual (portion), but I couldn’t tell the difference. He looked great, he looked fast,” Houston said, per Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star.
So there’s hope that Johnson can potentially make his second successful comeback from what used to be a career-ending injury for NFL players. However, it’s worth pointing out that he’s going to be 35 years old in November, and age has a way of catching up to players after these types of injuries.
Mike Pouncey, center, Miami Dolphins
— Miami Herald Sports (@HeraldSports) July 22, 2017
Since entering the NFL as a rookie out of Florida in 2011, Pouncey has been among the most consistent, best centers in the league. Though, injuries have been an issue. Then, last year he missed significant time for the first time in his career with a hip injury that cost him 11 games.
Recently, Pouncey had a stem cell procedure performed on his hip, which remained a problem back in April. He’s remained unavailable during offseason practices as he recovers, but the Dolphins are hopeful Pouncey will be healthy enough to work his way back into football shape this summer and start in Week 1.
Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reported recently that Pouncey had suffered “no setbacks with his hip rehabilitation since going on injured reserve last year,” noting both he and the Dolphins are “confident” that his next exam will “yield positive findings.”
Even if this does happen, the Dolphins are not going to rush Pouncey back into action. He’ll be brought along slowly. The team needs its Pro Bowl center for the long haul to have any chance of taking the next step after finally making the playoffs last year for the first time in eight seasons.
Tyler Eifert, tight end, Cincinnati Bengals
One of the more talented tight ends in the NFL, Eifert has not played a full 16-game season since being selected by Cincinnati in first round back in 2013. In two of his four seasons so far, Eifert has missed significant time — 15 games in 2014 and eight games last year, though he started just two.
In his two relatively healthy seasons, Eifert has produced. He really came into his own in 2015, catching 13 touchdown passes to help spark a potent Bengals offense.
Unfortuntely, Eifert underwent back surgery last December. He’s been saying he’ll be ready for the start of training camp, and Jim Owczarski of Cincinnati.com wrote recently that “all indications are that will be the case when camp opens.”
That’s awesome news for Eifert and the Bengals. But we’ll take it with a grain of salt at this point.
Demarcus Lawrence, defensive end, Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys are in a bad way when it comes to talent at defensive end. David Irving is suspended the first four games of the season and Tyrone Crawford isn’t the answer. Hopefully Taco Charlton pans out, because if he doesn’t the ‘Boys might be impotent when it comes to rushing the passer.
Complicating things on this front is the fact that Lawrence underwent back surgery this offseason, his second back surgery in as many years. He was very limited last year after his first surgery (and because of his own four-game ban), finishing with just one sack and 11 total tackles in eight games played.
It was a far cry from his sophomore season in 2015 when Lawrence opened eyes with an eight-sack campaign. The Cowboys are going to bring him along slowly this summer, and Jon Machota of SportsDay noted he’ll be limited to open camp. They cannot afford to have yet another pass rusher fall by the wayside heading into the season, so this injury is certainly worth watching.
Luke Joeckel, offensive lineman, Seattle Seahawks
It’s a known fact that the Seahawks are talent poor when it comes to the offensive line. No move highlights this fact more than the simple reality that adding former Jacksonville Jaguars first-round bust Luke Joeckel was seen as an upgrade.
The Seahawks hope Joeckel can be a starter at offensive guard. They were “impressed” by his work inside back in May, but that was in shorts with no pads and no hitting. Making things more interesting in this regard is the simple fact that Joeckel is coming off knee surgery last year. The injury he suffered in Week 4 that cost him the rest of the season was no minor one. Joeckel tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus.
He’s expected to be fully functional for camp, and for the sake of Russell Wilson’s health we hope he is both healthy and effective, wherever he lands on the offensive line. That said, it’s by no means a sure thing on either count.
Jalen Ramsey, cornerback, Jacksonville Jaguars
We already know Ramsey won’t practice to start camp. The Jaguars placed him and fellow cornerback Aaron Colvin on the PUP list, meaning they will be rehabbing their respective injuries while their teammates practice.
Ramsey suffered a groin injury, presumably in minicamp, that required surgery in June. He’s one of the team’s best players and was outstanding as a rookie last year, hauling in two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
The Jags are obviously taking no chances with Ramsey as he recovers from surgery. A team with high expectations after the past couple of years in which they assembled copious amounts of high-priced talent, Ramsey will be a big key to their success, or failure, in 2017.
Andrew Luck, quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
And now we come to it. The granddaddy of them all.
With a healthy Andrew Luck, the Colts should finally break their three-year playoff drought and could make a deep playoff run. Without him, they’re going to be doomed to the AFC South basement in all likelihood.
Luck finally had shoulder surgery this offseason to repair an injury he suffered all the way back in the beginning of the 2015 season. Even as recently as this past week, the Colts either did not know or would not divulge whether the quarterback would be available to practice at the start of camp.
Though, if recent reports are any indication, the answer to that question is probably no. At this point, we’re wondering if Luck will even be ready for Week 1.
Things could get very interesting in Indy, because head coach Chuck Pagano was already on thin ice. If Luck can’t play and the Colts get off to a horrible start, then that hot seat is going to be sizzling.