NFL Training Camp 2023: Biggest Injury Stories To Watch

Every year, NFL training camp injuries change the shape of the league. We look at the most impactful injury storylines to start training camp.

NFL training camps always open with the news of the players who open camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) or NFI (Non-Football Injury) lists. Though some are expected, a number of them catch NFL fans and observers by surprise. In some cases, they can radically alter the trajectory of a number of teams.

For a full list, keep updated with our live training camp injury tracker. For now, we look at the pre-camp injuries that are likely to have the biggest impact on the NFL.

Training Camp Injuries

Brock Purdy, QB, San Francisco 49ers

There probably isn’t a bigger injury story to begin the season than the progress of Brock Purdy, who took hold of the starting job in San Francisco after a pair of injuries to the 49ers’ other quarterbacks. Unfortunately, he also ended his season with an injury, creating a cascade of problems for a team expected to make a run at the Super Bowl.

Purdy was remarkably efficient last year in a small sample, but he earned the consideration of the 49ers, who seemingly plan to make him the starter ahead of their high draft pick, Trey Lance.

Recently, head coach Kyle Shanahan indicated that Purdy was ahead of schedule for his rehab from his UCL tear and expected him to participate in training camp.

J.K. Dobbins, RB, Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens made a number of moves immediately before camp, but the most impactful might have been moving J.K. Dobbins to the PUP list. Dobbins is still returning from injury to his knee and did not participate in minicamp. Given the importance of the Ravens’ rushing attack to their offense and how much it seems to change with Dobbins in, how he recovers could become a very big storyline for Baltimore.

La’el Collins, OT, Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals placed four players on the PUP list at the beginning of training camp, but only two are starters. La’el Collins might take a little bit longer to get back from injury, according to the Bengals, than Chidobe Awuzie, which is how Collins lands on this list.

Though the Bengals can lean on Jonah Williams to cover for Collins, they likely would just much rather have Collins ready to go. After tearing his ACL on Christmas Eve, Collins couldn’t have reasonably targeted any time in the offseason to return — he’ll have to wait until later in camp or even until the season starts.

Awuzie, on the other hand, is likely to return soon. Cincinnati will need that, as they’re thinner at cornerback than they are at tackle.

Breece Hall, RB, New York Jets

The Jets had a number of players go on the PUP list to begin camp, including starters Duane Brown and Randall Cobb. However, Breece Hall might be the most important of the three despite the position he plays.

The Jets have ample receiver depth, and their OL problems over the last two years have been health related more than talent related. If Brown or Cobb take a little bit longer before being ready to play, there will be solutions.

In the meantime, the Jets will be without the efficient play that Hall can provide. Despite his Hall of Fame credentials, Rodgers has always benefited from the run-focused approach the Packers have taken to roster-building, and many of his best years have come with an elite running back next to him in the backfield.

Rashan Gary, EDGE, Green Bay Packers

The Packers have needed high-level and consistent performance from their defense for some time, but with a new-look offense under Jordan Love, they’ll be leaning on that defense more than ever. A few defensive players landed on the PUP, including cornerback Eric Stokes, but Rashan Gary might be the most critical piece. Not only that, Stokes is expected to return soon, and his recovery has been on track, according to the Packers.

Green Bay drafted raw edge rusher Lukas Van Ness, so they have some depth. But the declining effectiveness of Preston Smith and the worrisome level of play of those behind Van Ness make this a big concern. Gary’s recovery from last year’s ACL tear may mean the difference between a run at the division title and staying home.

Baron Browning, EDGE, Denver Broncos

There are several alarming injuries for the Broncos heading into camp. Mike Purcell had surgery in the offseason, and there has been little in the way of progress reports for the defensive tackle. KJ Hamler was expected to be ready by the time training camp starts but landed on the NFI list and is expected to return soon.

Baron Browning might start the season on PUP, which would take him out of the first four games of the year. If that’s the case, it would be a big blow to the team.

Browning performed well after Denver traded away Bradley Chubb. They need more than Randy Gregory and Zach Allen up front to support Pat Surtain II, and if Browning’s recovery from surgery goes longer than expected, it could tank the Broncos’ chances in a very competitive AFC West.

Byron Young, DT, Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders had two key rookies start training camp on the PUP list — first-round pick Tyree Wilson and third-rounder Byron Young. Las Vegas expected Wilson to be slow to get ready after a foot fracture in college, but there was no indication that Young would be too injured to begin training camp, especially after participating in OTAs.

The unknown nature of Young’s injury is the primary concern, especially if it reduces the likelihood that the Raiders can finally find a solution to the weak defensive interior they’ve fielded for a few seasons now. With Wilson, there’s an expectation that he’ll be ready soon, and they already have Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones to rush the passer.

Mike Onwenu, G, New England Patriots

The Patriots have had offensive line issues ever since Dante Scarnecchia re-retired from coaching offensive linemen. But they still had some talent up front to make up for the lack of talent they had elsewhere. It might have been the case that their most talented player last year was Mike Onwenu, who followed up an impressive rookie campaign with another incredible season as one of the NFL’s top right guards.

Onwenu suffered an ankle injury late in the regular season, so it wasn’t surprising to see him limited in the spring sessions. But without a clear timetable for recovery, New England’s offensive line could take a step back despite their investments.

C.J. Gardner-Johnson, S, Detroit Lions

The Lions won’t have Hendon Hooker for the bulk of this year, but that was expected. Hooker’s addition to the NFI list doesn’t change things much for them. Similarly, Marvin Jones Jr.’s placement on the NFI list doesn’t seem to be cause for alarm as well, with Detroit describing it as precautionary.

C.J. Gardner-Johnson, however, was one of the gems of their successful free agency class and was meant to help revive an underperforming secondary. Early on in camp, the Lions were forced to cart Gardner-Johnson off the field.

Detroit drafted Brian Branch, expected to play a very similar role to the unique one that Gardner-Johnson is typically asked to play, so his camp injury may not be as detrimental as it otherwise could have been. The good news is that Gardner-Johnson’s injury doesn’t appear to be structural, according to Field Yates at ESPN.

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

Join the Conversation!

Related Articles