(The Sports Xchange) - New England Patriots middle linebacker Dont'a Hightower will miss the rest of the season with a torn pectoral muscle, an injury that was suffered in the third quarter of last Sunday's win over the Atlanta Falcons.
The Pro Bowler reportedly had surgery on Thursday to repair the injury and is expected to make a full recovery for 2018.
This is a huge loss for a New England defense that has struggled in the first half of the season. One player called Hightower the team's best defender while lamenting the loss and others used the word "special" to describe the linebacker both as a playmaker and a leader in the locker room as a team captain.
"He knows the defense like the back of his hand. To lose a guy like that is a huge blow for the team," linebacker David Harris said. "But as a linebacker group, we have to step up and try to fill his place, which is going to be tough to do. It's a huge loss."
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Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith signed a four-year contract extension, the team announced.
Financial terms were not disclosed by the team, but ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the deal was worth $50 million.
Smith had signed a four-year contract worth $2.43 million after being selected by Jacksonville in the fifth round of the 2014 draft.
Smith has a team-leading 58 tackles this season to go along with two interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. The 26-year-old has recorded 408 tackles and six interceptions, with two being returned for touchdowns.
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Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly was a full participant in practice for the second straight day.
Kuechly, who sat out last week's contest versus the Chicago Bears with a concussion, is on pace to play for Carolina (4-3) in its NFC South road game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-4) on Sunday.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Kuechly is progressing through the concussion protocol and he is "looking forward to having him out there."
The four-time Pro Bowl selection still needs to be cleared by an independent neurologist before he can return to the field.
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Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had screws inserted in his fractured right collarbone during surgery last week.
In a taped appearance, Rodgers told television host Conan O'Brien that doctors used "13 screws" to repair his collarbone.
The 33-year-old Rodgers was injured during the first quarter of the Packers' 23-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 15.
Rodgers, who was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 20, has another four weeks before he can practice and isn't eligible to play in a game until Dec. 17 at Carolina.
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Cleveland Browns rookie defensive end Myles Garrett will not travel with the team to London and has been ruled out of Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings with a concussion.
Garrett, who was the top overall pick of the 2017 draft, was placed in concussion protocol on Tuesday after complaining of symptoms upon entering the Browns' facility.
The 21-year-old registered a team-leading four sacks and has 11 tackles in his first three games this season.
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Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer was placed on injured reserve.
Palmer is expected to miss eight weeks with a broken left arm sustained in Sunday's 33-0 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Arizona (3-4) will have the option of bringing back Palmer should the club remain in contention. The 37-year-old is eligible to return for a Week 16 matchup with the New York Giants.
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Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs is inching closer to his return to the field.
Diggs was a full participant in practice after sitting out the previous two games with a groin injury.
The 23-year-old Diggs is aiming to be back in the lineup for the NFC North-leading Vikings (5-2) in Sunday's game versus the Cleveland Browns (0-7) in London.