NFL

NFL AM: Injuries to Jordy Nelson, Maurkice Pouncey Spoil Sunday’s Preseason Action

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Nelson, Pouncey Suffer Serious Injuries 

A “meaningless” preseason game between the Packers and Steelers proved to be anything but.

Both teams suffered serious injuries in their Sunday showdown that could greatly affect their ability to defend their respective division titles.

On the Green Bay side, WR Jordy Nelson injured his knee after making a move to pick up more yards after his second catch of the game. He crumpled to the ground without any contact from a Pittsburgh player and needed help walking off the field.

Nelson is still undergoing more evaluations but the feeling in the locker room is he likely suffered a torn ACL that will end his season.

“It’s difficult to lose a guy like that in a meaningless game,” QB Aaron Rodgers said.

If Nelson is done for the season, he will be nearly impossible to replace. The Pro Bowl receiver is coming off a season in which he caught 98 passes for 1,519 yards and 13 scores. The Packers have some talented young receivers ready for increased roles — including Davante Adams, Ty Montgomery and Jeff Janis — but the drop-off from Nelson to those players is precipitous.

The Steelers lost a Pro Bowler of their own in center Maurkice Pouncey, who was carted off the field in the first quarter after Green Bay safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix rolled up onto his ankle. Head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed after the game Pouncey will likely need surgery, although no timetable has been set for his return.

Veteran backup Cody Wallace, who filled in for Pouncey when he missed 15 games with a torn ACL in 2013, will likely step back into the starer’s role.

“That’s what I’m here for. That’s my job,” Wallace said. “They brought me in here to be the backup interior guy, and I embrace that role. If it comes to having to step up for a period of time, I’d be happy to do that. I just try to be as physical as I can.”

The pair of significant injuries will likely reignite the debate about whether the NFL’s preseason is too long. The NFL has suggested removing two preseason games and replacing them with two additional regular-season games, but players have balked at that offer without the guarantee of a proportional pay increase.

What’s clear is the league’s desire to improve player safety does not seem to jive with an entire month of preseason contests.

For what it’s worth, the Steelers won Sunday’s game, 24-19, although both teams walked away feeling like losers.

Titans Spoil Fisher’s Return

Jeff Fisher returned to Tennessee on Sunday for the first time since being fired as the team’s long-time head coach following the 2010 season. He received a loud ovation from the crowd and a front-row seat to the Titans’ 27-14 victory.

No. 2 overall pick Marcus Mariota led the way for the home team, completing 5-of-8 passes for 58 yards. One of those incompletions was a drop by Dexter McCluster, who had the ball bounce right off his chest as he sat uncovered in the end zone.

Mariota’s outing appeared all the more impressive when it was later revealed his in-helmet communicator failed shortly before the opening drive.

“It’s one of those situations a lot of young quarterbacks will panic, but he didn’t,” head coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We had a couple miscues and that led to a couple situations that put us in long yardage deal son that first drive. He still made some plays and handled himself well. It’s not something that you plan, but it was good to see him respond.”

The Titans were still able to rack up plenty of points. Chase Coffman caught a pair of touchdown passes, one each from Zach Mettenberger and Alex Tanney. The defense even contributed to the scoring, as CB Perrish Cox returned an interception 24 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter.

On the St. Louis side, new QB Nick Foles struggled through a rough outing. He completed just 3-of-7 passes for 18 yards. After being picked off by Cox on his opening drive, Foles led the Rams to just one first down on his next three series.

Hayne Looks the Part for 49ers

Former Australian league rugby star Jarryd Hayne had another big day in San Francisco’s 23-6 win over the Cowboys on Sunday, inching closer to claiming a roster spot that was once considered a long shot.

A raw but talented athlete, Hayne carried eight times for 58 yards. He also returned three punts for 84 yards, including a 34-yard that began with an impressive over-the-shoulder catch.

“I’m still a long way off from where I want to be,” Hayne said. “I want to go into games confident that everything I do I’m comfortable with.”

Hayne was not the only unexpected source of highlights for the home team. DL Mike Purcell intercepted a pass by third-string QB Dustin Vaughan and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown that stretched San Francisco’s led to 13-0.

“How about my man? Pick-6,” coach Jim Tomsula said.

The 49ers added another defensive touchdown after recovering a blocked punt in the end zone in the fourth quarter to blow the game open.

The Cowboys could muster little offense with Vaughan under center (Brandon Weeden left the game with a head injury), but had some highlights of their own on defense. One notable example came when rookie second-round pick Randy Gregory sacked QB Colin Kaepernick for a 14-yard loss on Kaepernick’s final drive.

“That was the bright spot of the game. We were in some compromising positions on defense — bad field position and scoring opportunities for them,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. “We kept them out of the end zone, had some timely sacks, and that was impressive.”

The Cowboys have now dropped two preseason games in California in the last two weeks. The team finally plays in Dallas again on Saturday against a Minnesota Vikings team that is 7-0 in preseason games under head coach Mike Zimmer.


About Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo

Michael Lombardo has spent more than 10 years as a team expert at Scout.com, primarily covering the Chargers, Cardinals and Panthers. He has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and other venues.