NFL injury updates: News on Saquon Barkely, Tyrann Mathieu, Jamison Crowder and more

Rejoice, football fans, the first Sunday of the NFL regular season is here! The 2021 season got off to a great start thanks to the thrilling game between the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The other 30 teams are making the final adjustments to their roster before Week 1, which means managing their injury report. Some teams have received positive news about key players battling injuries. Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich said quarterback Carson Wentz will start after undergoing surgery on his foot a little over a month ago, and New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley seems to be on track to play Sunday after missing most of last season with an ACL injury. Other squads aren’t so lucky, however. The Baltimore Ravens have had to endure many injuries already, specifically to their running backs.

Heading into Week 1, our team reporters breakdown some injuries news surrounding big-name players that could impact their team’s chances of winning. Here’s what we know about their status heading into opening week in the NFL:

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Injury: Foot

After being limited in practice all week, Sanders is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a lingering foot injury. Sanders, however, is likely to play in his first game for the Bills this weekend. The oldest player on the roster quickly developed chemistry with quarterback Josh Allen and should have a sizeable role on the offense this year. — Alaina Getzenberg

Injury: Hamstring

Waynes, who missed all of ’20 with a pectoral injury, will not make his Cincinnati debut against his former club, the Minnesota Vikings. Waynes suffered a hamstring injury toward the end of training camp and didn’t practice all week ahead of Sunday’s game. Look for cornerback Eli Apple to get the start opposite Chidobe Awuzie. Apple and Awuzie will have to contend with Vikings WRs Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson. — Ben Baby

Injury: Finger Decker suffered a finger injury earlier in the week and will miss Week 1. “We’ll adjust from there and we will move forward,” said Lions coach Dan Campbell. Decker started Wednesday’s practice, but the injury occurred in pass protection. He met with a doctor Friday afternoon where his status was determined. Campbell feels “that it’s probably leaning that way” to requiring surgery. Rookie Penei Sewell will likely fill his role as they look to protect QB Jared Goff in his debut. — Eric Woodyard

Injury: Back

Smith has practiced exactly three times this season – once midway through training camp only to shut it down the next day and then twice this week only to be held out on Friday. What would the Packers miss without him? It’s hard to know because he hasn’t missed a game since he signed with them in 2019, but know this: He’s one of only three players with 12-plus sacks in each of the past two seasons (Aaron Donald and T.J. Watt are the others). It will be a game-time decision but considering coach Matt LaFleur said Friday that Smith is still “feeling some things,” it doesn’t look good. — Rob Demovsky

Injury: Calf

Seattle Seahawks receivers D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett would be in for a big game against the Colts since they won’t have their top outside cornerback. Rock Ya-Sin is the frontrunner to start with Kenny Moore to try to slow down the Seattle passing game. Both Metcalf and Lockett had over 1,000 receiving yards last season. — Mike Wells

Injury: COVID-19 list

Mathieu remained on the Covid-19 list Friday after testing positive last week. He hasn’t practiced all week and, though the Chiefs could still activate him in time for Sunday’s game if he passes the NFL’s protocols, that’s unlikely. “We’ll move guys around, do what we have to, try to do most of the things we do with Tyrann but certainly some of those things are going to change and some of the calls might alter because of that,” defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said. — Adam Teicher

Injury: Hamstring

He did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, but his agent says it was “precautionary.” We will see if this is a lingering problem, but coach Brandon Staley is very careful when one of his guys comes up with an issue. Ekeler had a hamstring issue last season where it was so painful he had to walk backwards. — Shelley Smith

Injury: Knee

The Vikings optimism surrounding Barr’s availability quickly dissipated after he did not practice on Thursday and Friday. Some days the lingering knee issue feels good, others it doesn’t, according to coach Mike Zimmer. This could be a chronic problem on a week-to-week basis. Replacing Barr will be Nick Vigil, who will wear green dot duties after calling the defense throughout training camp in Barr’s absence. Cincinnati typically uses three or four receivers at a time, so it’s likely Vigil will play an every-down role Sunday if the Vikings stay in their nickel defense. — Courtney Cronin

Injury: Knee

Barkley has done everything the Giants asked this summer, without any setbacks. It has him positioned to play in the opener after tearing the ACL in his right knee in Week 2 of last season. Barkley will play Sunday, albeit in a limited role, barring a setback. Coach Joe Judge has been adamant about taking a long-range approach with his star running back and that might mean around 20 to 30 snaps and 10-15 touches in his first game back.— Jordan Ranaan

Injury: COVID-19 list Their top slot receiver hasn’t cleared COVID-19 protocols, so the Jets could use rookie Elijah Moore in the slot or turn to Braxton Berrios. WR Keelan Cole (knee) is questionable, which could mean a role for Denzel Mims or Vyncint Smith (practice squad). — Rich Cimini

Injury: Knee McLeod was recently taken off the physically unable to perform list but isn’t quite ready for game action after tearing his ACL in December. He’s been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons. Second-year player K’Von Wallace is expected to get the start in his absence opposite Anthony Harris. Wallace started three games last year and finished the season with 21 tackles. — Tim McManus

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