New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)

NFL stars coming off injuries eager for prominence in 2021


Dak Prescott’s right shoulder and Carson Wentz’s left foot sidelined the Dallas and Indianapol­is quarterbac­ks almost all of training camp when the plan called for a normal ramp-up to their comebacks in the regular season.

Cincinnati QB Joe Burrow, New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, San Francisco defensive end Nick Bosa and Cleveland receiver Odell Beckham Jr. knew they would be limited in the preseason coming off knee injuries that cut short their 2020 seasons.

The rest of the NFL stars seeking redemption had something approachin­g normal camps, and all of them — limited ones included — are eager to get back to prominent roles after watching and waiting for months.

Just don’t expect them to be longing for the Comeback Player of the Year award.

“There were so many guys that were injured, not just with our team but with this league, that whoever gets that, that will be special,” Prescott said. “I don’t think anybody … is shooting for that, I guess. I want to be the best player I can be, and if that comes with it, then oh well.”

Prescott, whose season ended in Week 5 with a compound fracture and dislocatio­n of his right

ankle, strained his right shoulder warming up for practice the first week of camp this year. He didn’t play in the preseason but should be set for the Sept. 9 opener at Super Bowl winner Tampa Bay and seventime champ Tom Brady.

Doctors told Wentz the roots of the former Philadelph­ia QB’s foot issue probably went back to high school. He had surgery to remove a bone fragment Aug. 2 and returned after three weeks when the initial diagnosis was as many as 12.

After Philip Rivers retired, the Colts traded for Wentz, who struggled in his final season with the Eagles and wanted a fresh start elsewhere. The foot issue might keep him out of the opener Sept. 12.

“Unfortunat­ely, I’ve been here before with limited reps and had to go play,” said Wentz, who injured a knee when he was in the MVP conversati­on in 2017 and the Eagles went on to win the Super Bowl without him. “I’m excited that I’ve been able to do some walk-throughs the last couple of weeks and still be involved. It wasn’t one of those injuries where you go rehab and you’re away for a while.”

Knee injuries ended the 2020 season for Barkley and Bosa in Week 2, Beckham in Week 7 and Burrow in Week 11. Burrow was the only one of the four to play in this preseason — for 90 seconds in the finale Sunday.

“There’s a lot of things I have to continue to do because it’s truly a ninemonth recovery process, minimum,” Burrow said in late July, at the 71⁄2-month mark. “There’s still a lot of maintenanc­e I need to do. But I’ll just compound that on practices, find places I can get rehab in.”

Barkley appears to be the only one with any doubt about being available for the Sept. 12 opener. He still had a non-contact jersey in practice last week.

“I’m going to give y’all the same answer I’ve been giving you, and it’s not like I’m trying to blow smoke or anything like that,” said Barkley, the former Penn State star who was drafted second overall in 2018 and was Offensive Rookie of the Year. “To be honest, I don’t know.”

 ?? Noah K. Murray / Associated Press ?? Giants running back Saquon Barkley is one of many star players who could be a candidate for NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
Noah K. Murray / Associated Press Giants running back Saquon Barkley is one of many star players who could be a candidate for NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

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