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NFL notebook: Saints top pick Rankins has fractured fibula

New Orleans defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, the Saints’ first-round draft pick, suffered a broken leg Monday. (Chris Tilley / Associated Press)
New Orleans defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, the Saints’ first-round draft pick, suffered a broken leg Monday. (Chris Tilley / Associated Press)
Associated Press

New Orleans Saints defensive tackle and first-round draft choice Sheldon Rankins has been diagnosed with a broken fibula, an injury that occurred Monday during training camp practice in West Virginia, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.

The person, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the Saints haven’t disclosed Rankins’ injury, said Rankins is seeking a second opinion but appears to need surgery. Typically, fractured fibulas are not season-ending but sideline players for around six weeks.

Saints training staff used a cart to take Rankins off the practice field after he went down during drills simulating goal-line situations.

Coach Sean Payton said he wasn’t “going to speculate” about Rankins’ condition and said, “hopefully, the news is good.”

The 6-foot-2, 305-pound Rankins was drafted 12th overall out of Louisville. He’s among several players New Orleans acquired in hopes of improving a defense that ranked second-to-last in the NFL the past two seasons.

He frequently practiced with the first-team defense during camp and even intercepted Tom Brady during joint practices with New England last week.

Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen also declined to address Rankins’ injury specifically but spoke generally about his approach when a key player goes down.

“You’re going to face adversity throughout the season and nobody knows when and in what form it’s going to happen,” Allen said. “But if that’s the case, it’s next man up – next guy’s got to step up, rise up and play to that same level. So that’s our mindset.”

Rankins becomes the latest of several projected starters or key regulars to struggle with injuries before the regular season has even begun.

Cornerback Keenan Lewis started training camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list and returned to practice only briefly before he was sidelined by a hip injury. Starting outside linebacker Stephone Anthony, a late first-round pick last season, was injured in the preseason opener against the Patriots, although Payton, who did not disclose the nature of that injury, has suggested that Anthony will return “sooner than later.”

During offseason practices earlier this summer, 2015 second-round draft pick Hau’oli Kikaha tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee for the third time since his college career at Washington. That injury that is expected to sideline Kikaha the entire season.

Bills’ Enemkpali to miss regular season with torn ligament

Bills defensive end IK Enemkpali will miss the regular season after tests confirmed he tore a ligament in his right knee.

Enemkpali was hurt late in the second quarter of Buffalo’s 19-18 preseason-opening loss Indianapolis on Saturday. His foot caught in the turf and he fell awkwardly while being blocked by Colts lineman Jonotthan Harrison.

The injury further depletes Buffalo’s outside pass-rushing depth. Enemkpali was playing in place of projected rookie starter Shaq Lawson, who will miss at least the first month of the season because of shoulder surgery. Lawson’s primary backup, Manny Lawson, is expected to miss a few more weeks recovering from a partially torn pectoral muscle.

The Bills claimed Enemkpali off waivers a year ago after he was released by the Jets for punching and breaking the jaw of quarterback Geno Smith during a locker-room confrontation.

49ers lose backup QB Thad Lewis to season-ending knee injury

49ers backup quarterback Thad Lewis will miss the entire season after tearing knee ligaments during an exhibition game.

Coach Chip Kelly said that Lewis tore his ACL on a scramble Sunday against Houston and will need season-ending surgery.

The injury leaves San Francisco with just two completely healthy quarterbacks in camp. Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick are competing for the starting job although Kaepernick did not throw the last two practices last week or play in the exhibition opener because of a sore throwing shoulder.

The 49ers are hopeful that Kaepernick can return to practice this week, although Kelly said he had no further information beyond Kaepernick being day to day.

Rookie Jeff Driskel is the other quarterback on the roster but he struggled throwing the ball in his debut, going 4 for 12 for 20 yards. Driskel did run for 61 yards on five carries.

Lewis was 12 for 21 for 97 yards and is the only offensive player with experience in Kelly’s system after having spent last season as a backup in Philadelphia.

“I’m just really disappointed for him because I thought he played well yesterday and was really starting to come on,” Kelly said.

Browns’ Gordon grateful upon return to practice field

After he was suspended from the NFL for a year, Josh Gordon didn’t know if he’d ever take the practice field for the Browns again.

Gordon put on his pads beneath a brown No. 12 uniform for the first time in nearly two years, following his activation from the non-football injury list.

“I missed it, being back here,” Gordon said. “I was hoping for the best and I was blessed to get an opportunity to come back.”

The last time Gordon practiced for Cleveland was Dec. 26, 2014. Less than two months later, he was suspended indefinitely for multiple violations of the NFL’s drug policies.

Even upon reinstatement into the league by Commissioner Roger Goodell on July 25, Gordon wasn’t sure if the new Browns regime would want him to be part of the organization.

He was still suspended for the first four regular-season games of 2016 and was bringing plenty of baggage back to the Browns.

As it turns out, the team’s front office and new coach Hue Jackson were ready to welcome him with a clean slate.

“I’m grateful to them. I definitely am,” Gordon said. “They’re not looking at my past and I’m not trying to look back toward that. We’re just ready to move forward.”

While Gordon was permitted by Goodell to practice with the team during training camp, a quad injury he suffered during individual offseason workouts prevented him from taking the field for the first two weeks of training camp.

Now that he’s healed enough to practice, Gordon thinks he can still be the same player that finished with 1,646 receiving yards during a Pro Bowl season in 2013.

“I’m the same guy. I’m definitely the same guy. I’m confident in my abilities,” Gordon said. “I definitely am aware of what I can do and I think I can build upon that and do even better.”

Starting quarterback Robert Griffin III is well aware of the abilities that Gordon mentioned.

Having played with the receiver at Baylor, Griffin has seen Gordon’s skills first-hand and is excited to have the chance to work with him again.

“We had some great games, some great times together and we’re looking forward to really building that here in Cleveland,” Griffin said. “I know he’ll be ready when he steps out there.”

Gordon’s status for Thursday’s exhibition game against the Atlanta Falcons is in the air. With just two days of practice before the game, it’s unlikely the receiver will play.

When he does get the opportunity to play in his first game since Dec. 21, 2014, Gordon will appreciate it more than ever.

But in the meantime, he’s just happy to be able to practice again.

“I think every day I’m back, it means a lot to me,” Gordon said. “This opportunity we have here is like nothing I’ve felt before or seen before and I really want to be a part of it.”

Suggs returns to Ravens practice for 1st time since injury

Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs has returned to practice for the first time since tearing his left Achilles tendon last September.

The six-time Pro Bowl selection participated in workouts on a limited basis. Suggs suffered his second Achilles injury in four years in the 2015 opener.

He said in a statement: “It felt great to be back on the field with the team, there is nothing like it. Didn’t get to do too much today as I am working my way back.”

The 33-year-old Suggs owns the team record with 106 1/2 sacks as he enters his 14th season with Baltimore.

Wide receivers Steve Smith and Breshad Perriman, linebacker Elvis Dumervil and running back Lorenzo Taliaferro remain on the physically unable to perform list for the Ravens.

Zimmer would let Peterson play in preseason ‘if he wants to’

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has left open the possibility of some preseason playing time for running back Adrian Peterson.

Zimmer said he has not decided whether or not to put Peterson on the field in an exhibition game for the first time in five years. Zimmer said he’d let Peterson play “if he wants to,” but the coach and the player have not discussed the situation recently.

The Vikings play Thursday at Seattle. The natural opportunity for a Peterson cameo would be against San Diego Aug. 28, the team’s first game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Zimmer said after last season that he “probably” made a mistake by not playing Peterson in any exhibitions, when asked about his role in the passing game.

Cowboys lock up center Frederick on long-term extension

Cowboys have locked up center Travis Frederick with a long-term contract.

The Cowboys signed the two-time Pro Bowl player to a six-year, $56 million extension that runs through 2023 after agreeing to terms just before the preseason opener at the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday. The average of $9.1 million per season makes him the NFL’s highest-paid center.

Frederick, drafted 31st overall in 2013, was the second of three first-round picks on the offensive line by Dallas in a four-year span starting with left tackle Tyron Smith in 2011. Left guard Zack Martin was the team’s top selection in 2014.

Smith is also signed through 2023, and an extension for Martin is likely to be an issue next summer.

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