Subject: The first injury report for the week is out
Content: DNP: Jack Conklin (concussion) Authentic Ryan Succop Jersey , Taywan Taylor (foot), Dane Cruikshank (knee), Daren Bates (illness)Limited: Derrick Morgan (shoulder), Tajae Sharpe (ankle)Full: Will Compton (hamstring)Conklin, Taylor, and Cruikshank all left Monday night’s game against the Cowboys with their injuries and all three missed practice today. Conklin is in the concussion protocol which can be highly unpredictable. Just this season we have seen Adoree’ Jackson return to play the following week while Taylor Lewan and Blaine Gabbert both took two weeks before returning to action. There really is no set timeline with these injuries, but given that this is a short week for the Titans, it seems like there is a better than 50-50 chance that Conklin misses the Patriots game. Dennis Kelly would start at right tackle in his place and, frankly, Kelly has been outstanding when pressed in to action this season so the team should be OK with him in there if Conklin can’t go.Taylor was reportedly wearing a walking boot on his injured foot in the locker room which certainly doesn’t seem like a good sign for him to be able to go this weekend either. Taylor has been inconsistent in his second season out of Western Kentucky, but the Titans already thin receiving corps certainly doesn’t need to get any thinner. If he can’t go — and maybe even if he can — Cameron Batson seems likely to get the start as Tennessee’s primary slot receiver when the team is in 11 personnel. The speedy, undersized, undrafted rookie from Texas Tech caught two passes for 21 yards — both for 3rd down conversions — in his first extended action at wide receiver on Monday night and earned praise from Mike Vrabel for his work in the game.Cruikshank left the Cowboys game early with a knee injury and did not return. He is a key part of the Titans highly rated special teams units and will be missed if he can’t get on the field Sunday. Another key special teamer, Daren Bates missed with an illness. Most of the time players with an “illness” designation return to practice relatively quickly, but given the Dennis Kelly experience earlier in the year, I won’t rule anything out. Missing both Bates and Cruikshank would be troublesome for the Titans coverage units. Those two guys are frequent playmakers in the third phase.In better news, Derrick Morgan was a limited participant on Wednesday after missing the Cowboys game with a shoulder injury. It would be a good sign for his availability if he’s able to get a full practice or two in before the end of the week. The Titans didn’t miss him too much against Dallas as they tallied 5 sacks in the second half, but having another quality pass rusher on hand to chase Tom Brady is always helpful.Tajae Sharpe was also limited in practice with an ankle injury that he suffered in pregame Monday night. He ended up playing a heavy complement of snaps in the game without aggravating the injury so he’s likely going to be able to go on Sunday barring a setback. Even though he’s more than likely going to be available, it might behoove the Titans to call up either Roger Lewis or Devin Ross off the practice squad to boost the numbers at wide receiver. If Taylor can’t go — which seems pretty likely at this point — it would leave them with just four healthy wide receivers on Sunday, including one with a somewhat gimpy ankle.Finally, Will Compton was a full participant as he gets back in the mix after missing time with a hamstring injury. His availability will be important if Bates can’t go for whatever reason as he’s another special teams contributor. As for the Patriots, they seem to be a team getting healthier at the moment. Guard Shaq Mason, running back Sony Michel, and tight end Rob Gronkowski all made limited appearances on Wednesday. Michel (knee) and Gronkowski (ankle/back) both had limited sessions last week before sitting out their game against the Packers so they could still end up deciding to let those guys rest through their Week 11 bye. Mason did not practice all of last week and missed the game so his limited showing marks an improvement for him.The Patriots injury report is always long, but often veteran guys like Dont’a Hightower are listed as limited all week before ultimately playing every Sunday. I would keep an eye on Mason Youth Quinton Spain Jersey , Michel, and Gronkowski, but they otherwise seem to be a healthy football team. The NFL's revision of the catch rule figured to grab the spotlight this season.Then the league altered the regulations on using the helmet when making contact on both sides of the ball, basically making it a 15-yard penalty no matter where on the helmet strikes an opponent. Even players on offense and linemen in the trenches are subject to being flagged, with potential fines and ejections for particularly flagrant hits by lowering the helmet.Players are upset. Officials are deeper under the microscope. Fans are wondering why replay review isn't part of the entire process.Suddenly, the Dez Bryant and Jesse James non-catches are non-issues. It's all about the helmet hits, which unquestionably need to be removed from the game in a similar way that tacklers launching to make hits pretty much has been eliminated in the pros.Here's where things stand from a variety of constituencies as we head toward the kickoff of the 2018 schedule:THE LEAGUENFL executives were encouraged that the flags thrown for helmet-initiated hits dropped from 51 through the opening two weeks of the preseason to nine for Week 3 鈥?when many regulars get on the field, though in a limited capacity. Officials have been instructed not to flag incidental or inadvertent contacts with the helmet or facemask by defensive or offensive players. The deeper we get into games that count, the better those with the whistle or ball in their hands or the guys attempting tackles will have a handle on what's legal."These are necessary changes where the rules come in," says Troy Vincent, the NFL's football operations chief and one of the hardest hitters in the league when he played defensive back from 1992-2006. "As stewards for the long term, the well-being of the players comes first."Adds Giants owner John Mara, a long-time member of the competition committee that advises rules changes for teams to vote on:"I think officials and players will adapt to the rule, that is what happens every time we have a change based on player safety. There's an outcry at the beginning that it will change the game, and it never works out that way; statistics don't bear that out at all. Players should not lower their heads is what it is all about, and we should not have some of the injuries we have seen."THE OFFICIALSThe rule change has placed the men in stripes in even sharper focus. Simply put, at the current speed of play and with the size and power of players, any call is difficult. Now, a bit more judgment has been added, with decisions made in split seconds."It's still a work in progress because officials need to learn to instinctively read and react to this type of hit that they've never looked at before as a foul," says recently retired referee Terry McAulay, now an analyst for NBC. "So there is going to be some learning curve yet to come, but I think they're in a much better place than they were a week ago."One somewhat puzzling question remains: Why isn't video replay involved when some of these calls, especially if they lead to ejections, can be game changers?Well Kevin Byard Jersey , it actually is, on a limited basis. Should a player be ejected for initiating helmet contact, Al Riveron and his staff at New York headquarters can affirm or overrule the ejection."Our charge is, No. 1 player safety: Make it safer in all ways," Riveron says. "No. 2, make sure we still have a product that is entertaining. And No. 3, find a happy balance with replay and how much it gets involved. We always stop the game to get it right."Mara believes replay could play a further role if officiating the rule becomes too problematic."I certainly think are a lot of people who would support adding those calls to instant replay and making them reviewable," he says, "and I think that's another discussion we could have in the offseason if it is warranted."THE DOCTORS AND RESEARCHERSThousands of hours and millions of dollars of data gathering, research, technological innovations and testing helped lead to the new rule. Every penny will have been well spent if usage of the helmet as a weapon disappears."It's an offshoot of all that work," says Jeff Miller, the league's executive vice president of health and safety initiatives, whose department works with medical professionals, researchers and equipment manufacturers. "An identification of what causes concussions and why there was a troubling increase in them."We see patterns, the increased velocity of the hits, the positioning of the head and neck ... that increase in force and magnitude of a hit, and not just with the crown of the helmet."Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's medical director, believes all the data helped construct a comprehensive story that required immediate action."Everything we saw said we must act on this," Sills says of the injury rate for helmet-first hits. "There was a sense of urgency when the data was so compelling to do something now on this."THE COACHESFor decades, the head was taught to be part of the tackling process. That has changed 180 degrees 鈥?at least in the NFL 鈥?as the consequences of that technique became so clearly grim and far-reaching.NFL coaches 鈥?yes, even those who don't win with regularity 鈥?are the elite of the profession. Still, changing a culture that was part of football for so long, and might still be at lower levels of the sport , is challenging.Throw in that some coaches were caught by surprise by the wide-ranging change, and others aren't truly certain when flags will fly, and there's concern on every NFL sideline.New Titans coach Mike Vrabel, a Super Bowl-winning linebacker, narrated a league-distributed video on tackles that are kosher and which are outlawed. Yet his team was among the most penalized early in the preseason."It's frustrating because I'm not doing a good enough job explaining to them what they're calling," Vrabel said during training camp. "I think they look at me like I'm nuts when I say, 'This is what they're looking for. This is what they're calling.'"We just really have to start watching. The helmet thing extends drives. Penalties are going to lead to scoring opportunities; 15 yards is an explosive gain. ... To continue to give them the 15-yard penalties is frustrating because I have to do a better job of making sure these guys aren't using the top of the helmet."Another worry among coaches is whether the calls on offensive players will be equitable to those on defenders. Former Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, now a CBS analyst, recalled seeing three flags thrown on the defense for helmet-first hits when it was obvious to him that the ball carrier initiated the contact."It's a great rule," he says. "They just have to not over-officiate it. They shouldn't use the posture of getting in a protective position by the running back before he gets tackled, yet he's the one making contact with the helmet."THE PLAYERSUltimately, as anyone involved in any sport will say, the players have to make the plays. And make sure they are permissible plays.It's not going to be easy at first. According to 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman, it won't be easy ever.Or fair."It's an idiotic rule, so there's no need to go down that road," Sherman says. "There's no way you can tackle and play football. I could tackle like that if I was standing still, got on my knees, no one was moving and I was tackling bags or something. But to ask you to do that at full speed?"Adds Texans safety Tyrann Mathieu: "It's going to be extremely difficult. Obviously, guys are trying to take the initiative to really go about it the right way, but sometimes it's like, what do you expect a guy to do? Hopefully, we'll get it corrected and like I said, hopefully it doesn't take too much money from the guys."I just don't know when it's a foul, when it's clean. I have no idea."