VIKINGS CONFIRM COUSINS IS DONE FOR THE SEASON WITH A TORN ACHILLES TENDON IN A DEVASTATING BLOW
EAGAN, Minn. (AP) Kirk Cousins has a torn right Achilles tendon that will end his season, the Minnesota Vikings announced on Monday after his first career injury put a somber tone on their three-game winning streak.
The Vikings announced that the MRI exam on Cousins confirmed their initial fear of a tear after the 12th-year quarterback went down in pain in the fourth quarter at Green Bay on Sunday after planting his foot in the grass to try to avoid a sack. He quickly limped off the field, unable to put weight on his right leg.
Rookie Jaren Hall took over from there, as the Vikings (4-4) held on to beat the Packers 24-10 and climb above the cut for the playoffs after an 0-3 start. Staying there will be far more challenging without Cousins, their ever-ready leader who’s suddenly and stunningly unavailable to play.
Cousins will have surgery on a to-be-determined date, the Vikings said. No recovery timetable was announced, but it’s typically at least a six-month process for returning to full strength. New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers has raised the possibility of returning yet this season from his torn left Achilles tendon, but after getting hurt in the opener he’s nearly two months ahead of Cousins on rehab.
Cousins, who is on track to be a free agent next spring, has never missed a game in the NFL to injury. He has gone to great lengths to keep himself as healthy as possible, realizing the car-crash nature of his position while trying to extend his career as long as he can.
His appearance on the Netflix documentary “Quarterback,” that shadowed him, Patrick Mahomes and Marcus Mariota throughout the 2022 season endeared him to a broader audience with the up-close look at his willingness to take those punishing hits for his team and work arduously each week to prepare his mind and body for the next game.
The beginning of the show started with him at home reading a children’s book about football to his youngest son, Turner. The opening lines of the book that Cousins read to his son included this foreboding passage: “An injury to the quarterback can sink a team’s entire season.”
Now the Vikings are about to find out if it will or not.
The late-blooming overachiever who was an afterthought recruit at Michigan State and a fourth-round draft pick in 2012, Cousins became the full-time starter with Washington in his fourth season and signed an unprecedented fully guaranteed contract with Minnesota in 2018 after he hit the open market.
Cousins has had his well-publicized share of ups and downs, with only one career win in a playoff game, but even at age 35 he’s continued to ascend as a passer in coach Kevin O’Connell’s complicated system. His completion rate (69.5 percent) is the third best of his career and fifth in the league in 2023. He’s tied for the NFL lead in touchdown passes (18), second in passing yards (2,331) and third in passer rating (103.8).
Over the three games since superstar wide receiver Justin Jefferson was sidelined by a hamstring injury, Cousins went 79 for 107 (73.8%) for 833 yards and five touchdowns with four sacks and two turnovers.
“It breaks my heart. That guy is the leader of the team. He’s the heart and soul of the team,” Hall said.
STEELERS LEAVING DOOR ‘AJAR’ FOR QB KENNY PICKETT TO PLAY AGAINST TITANS. SAFETY FITZPATRICK OUT
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is leaving the door “ajar” for Kenny Pickett to play on Thursday when Tennessee visits Acrisure Stadium.
Pickett left Sunday’s 20-10 loss to Jacksonville late in the second quarter with a rib injury. He warmed up briefly at the end of halftime but did not take the field again. Backup Mitch Trubisky played the entirety of the second half as Pittsburgh fell to 4-3.
Tomlin said Pickett will try to practice at least once before facing the Titans (3-4).
“I need to see physical preparation in order to consider him, certainly,” Tomlin said.
While Pickett could play, All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick will not. The three-time Pro Bowler left in the first quarter with a hamstring injury and did not return.
The Steelers defense forced three turnovers and bent but rarely broke against the Jaguars with Fitzpatrick on the sideline, though the one touchdown they gave up — a 56-yard strike from Trevor Lawrence to running back Travis Etienne — came when Lawrence took advantage of an overly aggressive Damontae Kazee, who briefly bit on a shallower route and was out of position when Lawrence’s pass sailed over his head.
Kazee, who also picked off Lawrence in the end zone in the second quarter, will likely start with Fitzpatrick out.
Pittsburgh’s run defense could get a potential boost by the return of veteran defensive lineman Cam Heyward. Heyward hasn’t played since needing groin surgery after getting hurt in a Week 1 loss to San Francisco. The 34-year-old returned to practice last Thursday.
REPORT: TITANS QB WILL LEVIS EXPECTED TO START THURSDAY
Rookie quarterback Will Levis is expected to draw his second pro start when the Tennessee Titans visit the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night to kick off Week 9, ESPN reported.
Ryan Tannehill is still recovering from a high-ankle sprain and likely won’t be ready on the quick turnaround, per the report.
Levis is 1-0 after firing a “dream come true” four touchdown passes in his NFL debut on Sunday in the 28-23 win over the Atlanta Falcons. Levis completed 19 of 29 passes for 238 yards. He led the Titans to their highest scoring output of the season.
The Titans drafted Levis 33rd overall in the 2023 NFL Draft with Tannehill, 35, in the final year of his four-year, $118 million contract.
Levis became just the third quarterback ever to fire four touchdown passes in his NFL debut, joining Fran Tarkenton (1961) and Marcus Mariota (2015).
“This is a dream come true for sure,” Levis said. “I dreamed of this moment as a kid, and to get a win is incredible. But we have a few more minutes to celebrate it today, then we’re on to Pittsburgh.”
According to NFL Research, Levis’ three touchdown passes of 30-plus yards are the most in an NFL debut all-time — excluding strike-shortened seasons.
“Not a bad debut,” Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said postgame. “We hit some shots down the field. The opportunities to move the ball down the field were there, and we hit ’em.”
The Titans improved to 3-4. Thursday’s host Steelers are 4-3.
REPORT: JETS C CONNOR MCGOVERN DISLOCATES KNEECAP
New York Jets starting center Connor McGovern sustained a dislocated kneecap during Sunday’s game and is considered week-to-week, NFL Network reported Monday.
There’s a chance the injury won’t require surgery, per the report. McGovern will get a second opinion.
McGovern left Sunday’s win against the New York Giants in the second quarter. Starting left guard Wes Schweitzer, who slid over to center to replace McGovern, later left the game with a calf injury.
Fourth-string offensive lineman
Fourth-string offensive lineman Xavier Newman, elevated from the practice squad for the game, ended up playing 72 percent of the Jets’ offensive snaps. The Jets entered the game without guard/backup center Joe Tippman.
The Jets signed Newman earlier this month after he was waived by Tennessee.
McGovern, 30, has started every game he’s played in for the Jets, who signed him to a three-year contract worth $27 million in March 2020. He re-signed with the club this past April, coming back on a one-year, $1.9 million deal.
He has played in 102 career games (91 starts) since the Denver Broncos selected him in the fifth round of the 2016 draft.
The Jets also lost defensive tackle Al Woods to a season-ending torn Achilles on Sunday.
REPORTS: PATS WR KENDRICK BOURNE TEARS ACL, DONE FOR ’23
New England Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne suffered a torn right ACL in Sunday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins and will miss the rest of the season, ESPN and NFL Network reported Monday.
Per the report, tests performed Monday morning revealed the extent of the injury, which has an estimated recovery time of six to eight months.
Bourne caught three passes for 36 yards, including a 24-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. He suffered the injury on a tackle in the fourth quarter.
Bourne, 28, leads the Patriots in receptions (37), yards (406) and touchdowns (four). In this third season in New England, Bourne was closing in on last season’s yardage total of 439 and already surpassed his one TD reception from 2022.
He played his first four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers (2017-20) before joining the Patriots. In 99 career games (25 starts), Bourne has gained 3,409 yards and scored 21 touchdowns.
Bourne is playing in the final season of a three-year, $15 million contract and will become a free agent in 2024.
CARDINALS QB KYLER MURRAY WON’T PLAY IN WEEK 9
Kyler Murray’s season debut with the Arizona Cardinals is on hold for at least one more week.
Coach Jonathan Gannon already has announced that Joshua Dobbs will start at quarterback next Sunday against the Cleveland Browns for the lowly Cardinals (1-7).
Dobbs has started all eight games.
Murray hasn’t played since tearing the ACL in his right knee on Dec. 12, 2022, and, after surgery this year, has been on the PUP list. He was designated to return on Oct. 18, opening the 21-day window until Nov. 8 to add him to the 53-man roster.
Murray was not activated for Sunday’s 31-24 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
And with Gannon already ruling out Murray for Sunday’s game at Cleveland, the earliest Murray could play is on Nov. 12 at home against the Atlanta Falcons.
Murray, 26, signed a five-year, $230.5 million deal before the 2022 season. He is 25-31-1 as a starter, having thrown for 13,848 yards and 84 touchdowns against 41 interceptions. He also has 2,204 career rushing yards and 23 touchdowns.
REPORTS: FALCONS DT GRADY JARRETT (ACL) DONE FOR SEASON
Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl defensive tackle Grady Jarrett tore his ACL during Sunday’s game and will miss the rest of the season, ESPN and NFL Network reported.
An MRI revealed the damage Monday, per the reports.
Jarrett was injured on the fourth defensive play of the game during Sunday’s loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Jarrett, 30, had 23 tackles, 1.5 sacks and eight quarterback hits in eight starts this season. Jarrett has started every game he’s played in for the Falcons going back to the 2017 season. He earned Pro Bowl honors in 2019 and 2020.
Jarrett has 443 tackles, 34 sacks, five forced fumbles and 68 tackles for loss in 135 career games (120 starts) since the Falcons selected him in the fifth round of the 2015 draft.
He has been remarkably durable, missing only three games in his career — one in 2015 and two in 2018.
PACKERS’ RASHAN GARY AGREES TO 4-YEAR, $107 MILLION CONTRACT EXTENSION
Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Rashan Gary announced Monday that he agreed to a four-year contract extension, bringing a bit of good news to a team that has lost four straight games.
Gary announced the four-year, $107 million extension that included a $34.6 million signing bonus on social media. The Packers announced the extension later Monday without revealing terms.
A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press that Gary can earn $107 million through the end of a deal that now runs through 2027 because he’s receiving about $96 million in new money to go along with his 2023 salary of $10.8 million. The person spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the team hasn’t announced the terms.
“Thanks to everyone in the Green Bay Packers organization, my family, business team, NFL, friends, fans & supporters for taking the ride with me,” Gary said in his post. “The grind doesn’t stop. Sacrifices lead to achievable goals.”
This deal gives the slumping Packers (2-5) a long-term commitment from one of their top overall players. Gary was eligible to become a free agent after the season if he hadn’t agreed to an extension.
Gary, who turns 26 on Dec. 3, has a team-high 4½ sacks even though he was playing limited snaps early in the season as he worked his way back from a torn ACL. He only started playing more than half of the Packers’ defensive plays in their past two games, a 19-17 loss at Denver and a 24-10 home defeat against the Minnesota Vikings.
He had 9½ sacks in 2021 and had six more last season despite playing just nine games before his season-ending ACL injury.
“Rashan has been an impact player and person for us since he joined the Packers,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said in a statement. “His work ethic is unmatched and he has developed into a team leader and cornerstone of our team. We are very pleased that he will remain in Green Bay for years to come.”
Gary has spent his entire career with the Packers, who selected him out of Michigan with the 12th overall pick in the 2019 draft.
ANALYSIS: NFL CAN’T PROTECT QBS FROM FREAK, NON-CONTACT INJURIES LIKE ACHILLES TEAR
The NFL has done everything in its power to protect quarterbacks short of putting a flag on them.
Can’t hit them high. Can’t hit them low. Can’t touch them too late.
But the two most devastating QB injuries this season didn’t involve a violent hit. Kirk Cousins wasn’t even touched before he went down Sunday.
Aaron Rodgers was barely hit on a sack when he suffered a torn Achilles tendon on the fourth play of his first game with the New York Jets in September.
The Minnesota Vikings fear Cousins also has a torn Achilles tendon. Cousins, who has never missed a game because of an injury in his 12-year career, could miss the rest of the season after suffering the non-contact injury on a freak play.
“Three-man rush and he kind of stepped up in the pocket. That is all I saw,” Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said. “I just know in some of my dialogue with Kirk it seems like maybe his cleat might have gotten stuck in the ground or whatever it was. It probably isn’t right for me to speculate. I just know that it was incredibly, incredibly unfortunate in that moment.”
Rodgers was spun around by Buffalo’s Leonard Floyd on a seemingly innocent play when he got hurt. His injury occurred on a turf field at MetLife Stadium, leading the NFL Players Association to call for all teams to switch to a high-quality natural grass. Half the league’s stadiums have turf. Cousins got hurt on a grass surface at Lambeau Field.
Injuries are piling up for quarterbacks across the league.
Matthew Stafford, Tyrod Taylor, Kenny Pickett and Desmond Ridder couldn’t finish their games Sunday. Deshaun Watson, Daniel Jones, Anthony Richardson, Justin Fields and Ryan Tannehill were among the other starting QBs who didn’t play in Week 8 because of injuries.
Taylor got hurt when he took a crushing shot and was tackled on turf. He was running to the right sideline when Quinton Jefferson wrapped up his legs and C.J. Mosley hit him from behind, landing on his back and driving Taylor’s chest into the ground.
Taylor was hospitalized with an injury to his rib cage. He was staying overnight for observation.
“You never know what play it is, what time it is, if it’s going to happen, if it’s not going to happen so there’s a tough part about staying ready, being ready for that role, which is what makes that position so difficult,” said Giants third-string QB Tommy DeVito, who replaced Taylor. “So, I thought Tyrod did a good job helping me throughout these last couple months being here, and just when he went down, everybody just looked at me and we were all good and we were going to go through with (what) our game plan was.”
DeVito was an undrafted rookie who played at Illinois last season after transferring from Syracuse. He threw the ball just once in regulation before the game went to overtime. DeVito finished 2 of 7 for minus-1 yard in a 13-10 loss to the Jets.
Except for the Vikings, who were up 24-10 and won by that score when Cousins went out, every team that lost its quarterback on Sunday lost.
Stafford injured his thumb in the first half of the Rams’ 43-20 loss at Dallas. Pickett injured his ribs in Pittsburgh’s 20-10 loss to Jacksonville. Ridder was evaluated for a concussion and cleared to return but didn’t come back into Atlanta’s 28-23 loss at Tennessee.
Several other QBs played through pain.
Jalen Hurts threw four TD passes on a banged-up knee in Philadelphia’s 38-31 win at Washington. Patrick Mahomes struggled with flu-like symptoms and suffered cuts on his non-throwing hand in Kansas City’s 24-9 loss at Denver.
Justin Herbert had the middle finger on his non-throwing hand bandaged up but he wasn’t limited in the Chargers’ 30-13 win over Chicago. Herbert threw for 298 yards and three TDs.
The No. 1 priority for every offensive line in the NFL is to keep its quarterback safe. Sometimes that’s not good enough to prevent serious injury as the Vikings found out.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWS
PASADENA POLICE INVESTIGATE REPORT OF MISSING ITEMS FROM COLORADO LOCKER ROOM FOLLOWING UCLA GAME
(AP) — The police in Pasadena, California, confirmed an investigation is underway after a report that several items went missing from the Colorado locker room while the Buffaloes played No. 20 UCLA at the Rose Bowl over the weekend.
UCLA is in communication with law enforcement, Rose Bowl Stadium officials and the University of Colorado concerning the matter, Lisa Derderian, the city’s public information officer, said Monday.
The production crew of “ Well Off Media,” which chronicles coach Deion Sanders and the Buffaloes, posted a video on YouTube titled, “Colorado Loses to UCLA: Thieves at Rose Bowl Steal From Colorado’s Locker Room.” In the video, players gathered around the bus after a 28-16 loss to the Bruins on Saturday night and discussed items being taken from inside the locker room, including jewelry.
One person had a chain he recently purchased go missing. He said in the video: “I just got mine, bro. I had the jewelry box and everything. They took it out of my jewelry box.”
On the social platform X, the site formerly known as Twitter, Colorado safety Cam’Ron Silmon-Craig posted in all caps: “In locker room you would think your stuff safe man its crazy.”
Darius Sanders, who also documents the Buffaloes, posted a video Monday from Folsom Field where he said coaches and support staff also discovered items went missing. He said he had money gone from his bag.
The Buffaloes have fallen to 4-4 after starting out with three straight wins in Deion Sanders’ first season in charge. He has instantly raised the profile at Colorado. The game against the Bruins was the fifth on network television, which is the most in Colorado history for a season. The Buffaloes have also played in front of a capacity crowd in all eight games this season.
Sanders reshaped Colorado through the transfer portal after the program went 1-11 last season.