Alge Crumpler, TEN -
Lingering Knee Soreness
Titans' TE Alge Crumpler, who was bothered by knee and ankle injuries last season, says that he is feeling great and that he will be ready for training camp and the start of the regular season. However there are unconfirmed reports that Crumpler is dealing with a degenerative knee condition that will continue to get worse over time. According to team officials, Crumpler passed a thorough team physical prior to him being signed and the official word out of Tennessee is that the medical staff is happy with his current health. In fact he has lost 15 pounds this off-season and appears to be in great shape. But he still experiences soreness in his knee after workouts and local media outlets believe that his knee will be an issue for the remainder of his career. This doesn't mean he can't have a big year. In fact I expect him to bounce back nicely from his disappointing 2007 season. But don't be surprised if his knee keeps him limited in practice during training camp and at times throughout the regular season.
Antonio Gates, SD -
Dislocated Big Toe / Off-Season Surgery
Chargers' TE Antonio Gates missed the team's entire off-season conditioning program and he's still not running a full speed, however head coach Norv Turner has told reporters that Gates is progressing well and that he will be ready for the start of the regular season. Gates, who dislocated his left big toe late last season, had surgery to repair the damage to the ligaments and tendons in the surrounding area early in the off-season and according to reports he is about a month away from being cleared to return. Gates is no longer wearing a walking boot but he only recently was cleared to jog and he will likely be held out of training camp as a precaution. Gates is anxious to get back but he indicated to reporters that he is willing to wait as long as the team deems necessary before practicing and playing again. The Chargers are doing this the right way by playing it safe with their best receiver. Expect him to be healthy for Week 1, but we will keep a close eye on his progress just in case.
Todd Heap, BAL -
Partially Torn Hamstring
Ravens' TE Todd Heap, who played in only six games last season because a partially torn hamstring, began running back in February and according to offensive coordinator Cam Cameron he will be ready for the start of training camp. Heap actually tried playing through his injury last season so it shouldn't surprise anyone that his final numbers were disappointing. According to reports Heap focused his off-season training on strengthening his legs and most importantly improving the flexibility of his lower body. His hamstring is no longer an issue and he is in great shape with training camp only a few weeks away.
Eric Johnson, NO -
Arthroscopic Ankle Surgery
Saints' veteran TE Eric Johnson, who had arthroscopic surgery on his ankle back in April, has nearly made a full recovery and according to team officials he will be available for the start of training camp. Johnson actually injured his ankle in the off-season and it wasn't healing as the medical staff had expected and hoped for so he had scar tissue surgically removed from the joint to help it heal. Johnson told reporters that he has been frustrated with his ankle, but that he hopes it will no longer be an issue. The Saints made a strong push to acquire Jeremy Shockey prior to the rookie draft and while that fell through it indicates that the team is less than satisfied with the production at the TE position. A healthy Johnson is currently still the favorite to begin the regular season in the starting lineup, but look for the Saints to give Billy Miller every opportunity to win the job.
Leonard Pope, ARI -
Cardinals' TE Leonard Pope, who was placed on IR last year after dislocating his ankle in Week 14, is still not completely healed but the team still hopes that he will be healthy enough to take part in portions of training camp. According to reports Pope missed all of the team's OTA's in May and was limited to individual and medically supervised workouts in June. Coach Ken Whisenhunt told reporters that Pope will likely participate in training camp but he wasn't sure how much he will be able to do. At this point the team expects him to be 100% for the start of the regular season, but we will have to see how things go when training camp begins before we can determine his regular season status.
Robert Royal, BUF -
Arthroscopic Knee Surgery
According to reports Bills' TE Robert Royal should be ready for the start of training camp and the team expects him to be 100% by the start of the regular season. Royal had arthroscopic surgery on his knee several months ago and while the extent of the procedure has not been released to the public it appears that his injuries were not severe. Royal did not take part in any of the Bills' pre-camp workouts in June, however team officials expect him to be present when training camp begins. Head coach Dick Jauron told reporters that there will be an open competition for the starting TE position so look for Royal to battle with Derek Schouman for the job.
Tony Scheffler, DEN -
Lingering Foot Soreness
Broncos' TE Tony Scheffler, who was shut down this off-season after complaining of lingering soreness in a previously injured area of his left foot, appears to be doing well and the team expects him to participate in training camp. Scheffler fractured the fifth metatarsal on his left foot during an off-season workout last year and team physicians surgically inserted a screw into his foot to stabilize the injured area. When Scheffler returned he dealt with lingering soreness and even though it bothered him when he planted or made cuts he continued to play through the discomfort. The team's medical staff ordered Scheffler to rest during the off-season and both Scheffler and the Broncos thought that the injury was a thing of the past. Unfortunately while running a route during a workout in May Scheffler said he felt a sharp pain in the exact same area. The medical staff feared the worst and sent him for X-rays and additional tests. The good news is that the X-rays came back negative but the medical staff placed him in a walking boot for two weeks as a precaution. According to reports the team isn't sure why his foot it still bothering him and Scheffler has told reporters that his foot could be a problem for the next two years. He did return to practice in June and he apparently took part in every drill with teammates in the last few of June minicamps. However if you plan on drafting Scheffler realize that you are taking a TE with an injury risk.
Jeremy Shockey, NYG -
Fractured Fibula and Severely Sprained Ankle
The New York Giants expect TE Jeremy Shockey to be at full speed for the start of the regular season after he spent a good portion of the off-season recovering from leg and ankle surgery. Shockey fractured his left fibula and tore ligaments in his left ankle during a game against the Redskins last season and was placed on Injured Reserve after undergoing surgery to correct his injuries. The team's medical staff believes that Shockey has completely healed and the Giants are confident that he will be available for the start of training camp. However don't be surprised if they play this thing cautiously and limit his involvement in training camp to one workout a day.
Quinn Sypniewski, BAL -
Ravens' backup TE Quinn Sypniewski will miss the entire 2008 season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during the team's first minicamp this off-season. According to reports an MRI on Sypniewski's knee revealed that the ACL was actually torn off the bone. Head coach John Harbaugh said that while Todd Heap is the starting TE and their best receiver, Sypniewski was the best blocking tight end on the team and he was important in goal line and short-yardage situations. It looks like Sypniewski will be out 9 - 12 months while he recovers from reconstructive surgery and the team expects him to be ready for off-season workouts in 2009.
Ben Watson, NE -
Off-Season Ankle Surgery
Patriots' TE Ben Watson will be limited in training camp as he continues to recover from off-season ankle surgery. Watson, who missed four games last season because of a severely sprained ankle, was ordered to rest and rehab immediately after the Super Bowl. However he was still experiencing discomfort nearly two months later and so the medical staff decided that they needed to take a closer look at the damage. So in March Watson underwent an arthroscopic procedure that revealed cartilage tears and scar tissue. Surgeons immediately repaired the damage and he has been recovering ever since. Watson has not practiced with the team since the surgery and it looks like he will not be at full speed when training camp begins. However team officials are hopefully that he will play in at least two preseason games and be ready for the start of the regular season.
Kellen Winslow Jr., CLE -
Arthroscopic Knee Surgery
Another off-season and another surgical procedure for Winslow. Browns' TE Kellen Winslow Jr. had arthroscopic surgery on his ailing knee back in February to remove remove loose bodies and clear up scar tissue and according to reports he's feeling good and appears ready for the start of training camp. Winslow, who underwent microfracture surgery on his knee last off-season, played the entire 2007 season while dealing with regular bouts of joint inflammation and discomfort. But it didn't seem to affect his production as he finished the year with 82 catches, over 1,100 yards and 5 touchdowns. Winslow underwent what one team official called "routine maintenance" on his ailing knee during the off-season and he's already made a complete recovery. He'll likely be limited in training camp and in the preseason as a precaution. The team will definitely try to limit to wear and tear on his knee so don't be surprised if he is limited in practice during the regular season as well. Winslow is one of the toughest players in the NFL and he will likely fight his way through another season, but his long-term fantasy value (dynasty league participants take note) is definitely in question. There is only so much a knee can take and it's only a matter of time before he is unable to play (see Terrell Davis). Hopefully his knee holds up for at least another couple of years before we start seeing a decline in his production.