Injuries, holdouts, and more from the first NFL OTA sessions


The NFL’s organized team activities (OTAs) are in full swing closing out the month of May, with veterans and rookies alike reporting for voluntary spring workouts and some light, non-padded sessions on the field. Here’s a look at some of the biggest storylines emerging out of OTAs, including injury updates, players holding out as they seek new contracts, which players are in the “best shape of their lives” (hint: everyone) and more.

OTA injury news roundup

  • 49ers TE George Kittle is missing OTAs recovering from offseason core-muscle surgery. While he’s missing the team’s spring practices, he says he should be good to go for training camp, Matt Barrows of The Athletic reports.
  • Packers RB Josh Jacobs is dealing with a hamstring injury that’s limited him in OTAs. He’s going through individual drills, but there’s no doubt any limitation will provide rookie Marshawn Lloyd, who’s already been earning “oohs” and “ahhs” from the coaching staff, the opportunity to earn reps.
  • Falcons RB Bijan Robinson is dealing with an ankle injury that’s held him out of OTAs. Head coac Raheem Morris expects him to be available by mandatory minicamp, taking place between June 10-12.
  • Rams RB Kyren Williams will miss OTAs and mandatory minicamp managing a foot injury. Coach Sean McVay expects him to be ready for training camp. His absence has provided third-round rookie Blake Corum a big opportunity to earn snaps heading into the 2024 season, a proven workhorse back coming out of Michigan.
  • Bears rookie wideout Rome Odunze has been working individually in OTAs while dealing with some hamstring tightness. Per head coach Matt Eberflus, Odunze is expected to return to team drill participation in the coming week, which is good news for a rookie who could certainly use reps with his new QB.
  • In one of the weirder and more fascinating developments this offseason, Packers WR Christian Watson saw a specialist this offseason to help get to the root of the hamstring injuries that have plagued him during his first two seasons. That specialist noted an imbalance in the muscle mass between his two legs, which he’s working to correct this offseason for improved health moving forward.
  • New Jets wide receiver Mike Williams hasn’t been cleared for football activities after suffering a torn ACL last season. Though he expects to be ready for the start of the season, his absence is providing a huge opportunity for rookie Malachi Corley to carve a role for himself in the offense. Corley has already endeared himself to QB Aaron Rodgers in a big way, who referred to Corley as his “favorite receiver in the draft” just weeks after inviting the rookie to stay in his guest house. Let’s just hope it’s the football acumen that rubs off on Corley rather than the propensity for provocative theories.

#HoldoutSZN

Injuries aren’t the only thing keeping players off the field throughout OTAs. There are also a lot of talented wide receivers waiting to #GetPaid this offseason, and most of them are skipping these voluntary workouts until they secure the bag.

Here’s a look at the list of most notable receivers holding out of OTAs, as well as their projected average annual market value, courtesy of Spotrac:

  • CeeDee Lamb (Cowboys) – $33,727,774
  • Justin Jefferson (Vikings) – $32,494,940
  • Ja’Marr Chase (Bengals) – $30,244,841
  • Brandon Aiyuk (49ers) – $26,500,092
  • Tee Higgins (Bengals) – $19,713,377

For Lamb, Jefferson and Chase, it feels more of a matter of “when” than “if” they’ll receive a market-setting deal. Aiyuk and Higgins, however, enter the year with more uncertainty.

The 49ers have made it clear that their goal is to ink Aiyuk to a long-term extension, though there are still reports that the two sides remain far apart on a potential deal.

Higgins, meanwhile, has requested a trade amid reports that the Benglas have not attempted to negotiate a long-term contract. Of the two, it seems more probable that Higgins could find a new home as soon as this season by virtue of a trade. The most interesting potential fit would likely be with the New England Patriots, who rank top-five in projected cap each year through the 2028 season and could sorely use a WR1 for their new rookie quarterback, Drake Maye, once he’s ready to take over the reigns.

The totally accurate list of players who are in “the best shape of their lives” ahead of 2024

Finally, my favorite annual tradition! The very necessary update everyone needs through OTAs; which players are in the very best shape of their lives, bound to unlock a new level of NFL play thanks to their new bods?

NFL insider Dianna Russini (The Athletic) on Ravens QB Lamar Jackson:

“Lamar Jackson looks different this spring. He is intentionally down to 205 pounds — 25 pounds less than his 2022 weight and lower than last season, when he played at 215. The word in Baltimore is this slim Lamar could be even faster than the one we’ve seen in years past.”

Trainer Josh Scott on Steelers RB Najee Harris, per Brian Batko of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

“Much more durable, much more nimble dropping that maybe eight or 10 pounds, whatever it was, of body fat but then replacing some of that with some good, lean tissue,” Scott said. “And that’s really shown in his movement. He’s looking really, really springy; really, really light off the ground; and more agile.”

Dolphins HC Mike McDaniel on the weight loss of QB Tua Tagovailoa this offseason, via Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post:

“The results speak for themselves. [Tua Tagovailoa]’s svelte.”

Bills OC Joe Brady on RB James Cook, per Alaina Getzenberg of ESPN:

“He’s physically in a better shape than he was, you can look at him and I can tell he put in a lot of work this offseason. He looks different and in a good way.”

Last but not least, feast on this photo of 2023 No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young looking absolutely ripped:



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