Tue Oct 4 1:32pm ET
By ROB MAADDI
AP Pro Football Writer
Seattle Seahawks defensive end Marcus Smith (97) and quarterback Russell Wilson (3) leave the field after an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. The Titans won 33-27. Smith, a 2014 first-round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles, is among many former and active NFL players who have shared their personal stories to break the stigma surrounding mental health and encourage people to seek help they need. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski, File)
The pressures of the NFL were getting to Marcus Smith II.
He hadn't lived up to the expectations of being Philadelphia's first-round pick, which led to anxiety, depression, panic attacks, being released by the Eagles - and a move across the country to Seattle. Smith didn't talk about his mental health because he didn't want anyone to think he wasn't tough enough to play in the league.
On his way to Seahawks practice in August 2018, he stopped at the edge of a hill, ready to drive off of it. A call from his pregnant wife and his mother-in-law changed his mind. He went to practice and told coach Pete Carroll and defensive line coach Cliff Hurtt what happened.
''(Carroll) supported me in every way possible. He actually helped me get that therapist, let me know that everything was going to be fine,'' said Smith, who was drafted in 2014. ''It took me at least six, seven months to go through all the things in the past that I had never addressed. ... If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have done what I was doing and I probably wouldn't be here today.''
Smith has dedicated himself to making sure other players don't reach the breaking point he was at. He's also among many former and active NFL players who are sharing their personal stories to break the stigma surrounding mental health and encourage people to seek help they need. The league and the NFL Players Association are offering resources for teams, too.
''I definitely think we're moving in the right direction with guys actually opening up and going to get the help,'' Smith said on the AP Pro Football Podcast. ''I just want to make sure that it's not too late. That's why we have to continue to speak about it.''
Hall of Fame safety Brian Dawkins has been working to educate people about mental health - or cerebral wellness, as he likes to call it - since his induction in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018.
Two-time Super Bowl champion Malcolm Jenkins, who retired after last season, has talked openly about weekly therapy sessions that help him cope with stress because he wants young men to know it's not a weakness.
Six-time Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall has become an outspoken mental health advocate since he was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder during his playing career.
Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Chris Hubbard holds an annual event for mental health through his Overcoming Together Foundation. Hubbard was drawn to the issue after a friend in high school killed himself.
''I know for a lot of us, especially the African American community, it's not talked about,'' Hubbard said. ''I wanted to get to a level where I can help others out, to let people know that you're not alone, that we're in this thing together, and we can overcome it together.''
Free agent safety Douglas Middleton, who has played parts of six seasons with six teams, started Dream the Impossible Foundation to serve people with mental health issues after his best friend died by suicide in 2017.
Middleton stresses the importance of proactively seeking therapy.
''I always tell people it's not something that you do in response to having a bad day,'' he said. ''It's more like how can I make sure I don't have a bad day, how can I be the best version of myself. You're not going to lift weights when you feel bad. You're going to lift weights to continue to feel good, look good and be a healthy person. So, you have to treat your mental health like your physical.''
The NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed in May 2019 to increase mental health resources available to players and club staff. Each team is required to have a licensed behavioral health clinician on staff, as well as a pain management specialist.
The players' union makes a clinician directory available to all players in helping them locate a clinician near them, be it a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or counselor.
Through their insurance, all players receive up to eight free counseling sessions at no cost. NFL Life Line provides suicide prevention, crisis management and in-the-moment problem solving with trained crisis counselors.
There's also a supplemental health benefit through The Trust, which serves players who have or had at least two seasons in the NFL, that gives former players access to outpatient psychiatry and counseling services in their home communities. And the Professional Athletes Foundation provides wellness tips and resources for former players.
''We don't want this dark picture around mental health,'' Smith said. ''It's a journey that you can overcome.''
Seattle Seahawks running back Travis Homer (knee) and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (hand) both put in full practices on Thursday. Homer was limited on Wednesday, while Goodwin didn't practice at all. Rookie Kenneth Walker III (ankle) and DeeJay Dallas (ankle) have yet to practice this week, so if one or both are inactive in Week 14 against the Carolina Panthers, Homer would see a significant role increase in the backfield. He's worth a speculative waiver-wire pickup if you roster Walker or need help at the RB position this week. The 24-year-old was inactive in Week 13 due to an illness. Goodwin now has a shot to suit up on Sunday versus Carolina, but he's not a realistic starting fantasy option behind target hogs DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (shoulder) and wide receiver DK Metcalf (hip) were both added to the Week 14 injury report on Thursday and were listed as limited practice participants. Unless either player gets a downgrade in Friday's practice, they should be able to play this Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Smith is having a career year in his ninth NFL season and he has multiple passing touchdowns in each of the last six games, including three in last week's win over the Los Angeles Rams. He's become a low-end QB1 in 2022. With Smith looking like a new man this season, Metcalf has benefitted as is a low-end, must-start WR1 if he's active. Metcalf has 67 receptions on 100 targets for 798 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games. He may not reach double-digit TDs like he has the last two years, but everything else has been strong.
Seattle Seahawks running backs Kenneth Walker III (ankle) and DeeJay Dallas (ankle) both missed practice for the second straight day this week on Thursday. Walker jammed his ankle in the Week 13 win over the Los Angeles Rams, and both he and Dallas are highly questionable to play this Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Meanwhile, Travis Homer (knee) returned to a full practice on Thursday, so if both Walker and Dallas are inactive this weekend, Homer could see the lion's share of the backfield work, making him worth a waiver-wire pickup late in the week. The 22-year-old Walker has been Seattle's top back in 2022 when healthy, but he could be on more of a snap count if he's able to return to practice and play on Sunday.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon has cleared the league's concussion protocol, has put in two full practices this week and is set to end his two-game absence and play in Week 14 against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. He'll return as the team's lead back, with Samaje Perine working as the ultimate situational runner and change-of-pace back. Offensive coordinator Brian Callahan likes the idea of keeping both Mixon and Perine fresh in December and into the playoffs, but Mixon will have clear RB1 upside in fantasy again this weekend against a shaky Browns run defense. Meanwhile, Perine will remain involved, but the drop in volume will make him a touchdown-dependent RB3/flex with Mixon back. Six of Mixon's first nine 100-yard games in his career came in December, with two coming against the Browns.
Los Angeles Rams quarterback John Wolford (neck) is under center with the starting offense during pre-game drills on Thursday night, so it looks like he'll get the start over Baker Mayfield against the Las Vegas Raiders. Wolford was questionable coming into this one with an injury, but he's active and will at least start the game for the Rams. But this will only be Wolford's seventh NFL game and fourth career start. Even though Mayfield was just claimed off waivers from the Carolina Panthers on Tuesday, he apparently already has a good grasp of the playbook and figures to get into this game if Wolford struggles at all. With Matthew Stafford (concussion, neck) basically done for the year on Injured Reserve, Mayfield could run with the job the rest of the way. Rookie Bryce Perkins is also active and will be the No. 3 on Thursday.
Los Angeles Rams quarterback John Wolford (neck) is active for the Week 14 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders. The 27-year-old was questionable coming into this game after being limited during practice this week. It sounds like Wolford is feeling good enough to play, but it's unclear if he'll start. The Rams have also mentioned that Bryce Perkins and newly acquired Baker Mayfield are also active for this game. They haven't announced which quarterback is going to be under center for this contest. Regardless, this isn't an ideal streaming situation for fantasy managers anyway.
Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs (calf, quad) will be active for the Thursday Night matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. The 24-year-old was questionable coming into this game due to lingering calf and quad injuries. However, it appears Jacobs is good to go and should have his normal workload during this contest. Jacobs has been putting on a show lately and is a must-start against this Rams defense in Week 14.
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams (ankle) was upgraded to full during Thursday's practice. The 28-year-old has been sidelined the last two weeks after re-aggravating his ankle injury in Week 11. It appears Williams is trending in the right direction for the Week 14 matchup against the Miami Dolphins. Obviously, there is certainly high risk with starting Williams in fantasy leagues. However, he does have strong WR2 value for this contest. The Chargers desperately need a win and having Williams on the field will certainly help their chances. Fantasy managers should check back again after Friday's practice to see if his status changes at all.
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (neck) was limited during Thursday's practice. This is a bit of a surprise to see Barkley pop up on the injury report with a neck injury. It doesn't sound like this is something that is going to stop Barkley from playing against the Philadelphia Eagles this weekend. The hope is that this neck issue won't impact his performance on the field. If healthy, Barkley is a strong RB1 heading into this Week 14 matchup with Philly. Fantasy managers will have to check back after Friday's practice for another update on Barkley.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (hip) was not able to suit up for Thursday's practice. He has been nursing a hip injury throughout most of the season. He was able to get through a limited session on Wednesday. As always, Friday's practice is going to go a long way to determining whether or not Johnson will play this weekend. His absence would mean increased value for George Pickens. If healthy, fantasy managers should consider Johnson a WR3 for this matchup against the Baltimore Ravens. There should be more details on his status after Friday's practice.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris (oblique) was only able to get in a limited practice session on Thursday. The 24-year-old suffered an oblique injury in Week 12, but was able to play through it last week. This seems like the Steelers are just being cautious with Harris, so fantasy managers shouldn't be too concerned. It sounds like he'll be fine for this weekend, assuming he doesn't suffer a setback during Friday's practice. He'll be in the RB2 mix for the upcoming matchup with the Baltimore Ravens.
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (toe) missed his second straight practice of the week on Thursday. Head coach Doug Pederson said on Wednesday that he thought Lawrence might be able to practice at some point this week. Friday's session will be a shorter workout, so it's possible Lawrence can get back on the field then. Still, the second-year QB's status for Week 14 against the Tennessee Titans remains very up in the air. If the 23-year-old is able to practice on Friday and play this weekend, he'll be a nice QB2 with upside against an injury-ravaged Titans secondary. For what it's worth, Lawrence said early this week he expected to play in Week 14. If he doesn't get cleared, backup C.J. Beathard would make his first start since the 2020 season.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Zay Jones (chest) put in a limited practice on Thursday for the second day in a row this week. There's no indication that Jones' injury will keep him from playing this weekend against the Tennessee Titans. However, quarterback Trevor Lawrence (toe) might not play, so Jacksonville's receivers would need to be downgraded if C.J. Beathard is forced to make his first start since the 2020 season. Jones had a career day in Week 12 with 11 receptions for 145 yards on a season-high 14 targets, but he came back down to Earth last week with just two catches for 16 yards. His production this year has been completely unpredictable, and he's scored just one time (back in Week 3).
Detroit Lions running back D'Andre Swift (ankle) returned to a full practice on Thursday after he was listed as limited on Wednesday. Barring some sort of setback on Friday, Swift should be all systems go for a Week 14 meeting with the Minnesota Vikings. The 23-year-old has been a frustrating RB in fantasy all year, but he saw over 50 percent of the offensive snaps last week for the first time since Week 8. Swift appears to be getting healthier towards the end of the season and should continue to have a bigger role in Detroit's backfield, but the problem is that Jamaal Williams has been a touchdown vulture and isn't going away anytime soon. But with added touches coming his way, Swift has been bumped up to the RB2 tier in fantasy.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Kalif Raymond (illness) missed his second straight practice this week on Thursday due to an illness. He'll need to get back on the practice field on Friday to have a shot at playing this Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. But even if Raymond is able to play in Week 14, he should be left on benches in deeper leagues. The 28-year-old caught both of his targets for just 12 yards in the Week 13 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, and he has fallen down the receiver depth chart with the returns of DJ Chark and rookie Jameson Williams. Raymond has yet to visit the end zone in 2022 and has 32 receptions on 46 targets for 382 yards in 12 games (five starts).
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins (hamstring) was added to the Week 14 injury report on Thursday and was listed as a limited practice participant. Higgins put in a full practice on Wednesday, so he may have tweaked something in Thursday's practice. His status will be worth keeping an eye on before Friday's official injury designations are released for Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns. Higgins has 19 catches (27 targets) for 297 yards and two touchdowns in the last three games and is a must-start WR1 in this offense when he's healthy. If he's limited or out this weekend, more targets will be coming for Ja'Marr Chase and Tyler Boyd, while Trenton Irwin would likely operate as the No. 3 wideout.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (illness) was held out of practice on Thursday due to an illness. Hopkins still has a few days left to return to practice with the Cardinals facing the New England Patriots on Monday night in Week 14. The 30-year-old should be ready to go by then and will continue to operate as quarterback Kyler Murray's favorite target through the air. When healthy, Nuk is a must-start WR1 in fantasy. Since making his season debut in Week 7 due to a suspension, he has 49 catches on 64 targets for 574 yards and three touchdowns in only six games played. The return of Marquise Brown takes a little shine off of Hopkins' fantasy ceiling, but he's still a must-start.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Greg Dortch (thumb) was back to a full practice on Thursday. Dortch had nine catches for a career-high 109 yards in Week 11, but he then missed the Week 12 game against the Los Angeles Chargers. The team's bye last week seems to have done wonders for Dortch, and he's tracking towards returning in Week 14 to face the New England Patriots on Monday night. With Rondale Moore (groin) potentially missing another game, Dortch could operate as the No. 3 wideout on Monday behind DeAndre Hopkins and Marquise Brown. The 24-year-old has had a couple spike games in 2022 for the Cardinals because of injuries to the rest of the receiving corps, but he'll need Moore to miss another game to have a shot at another against the Pats.
Cincinnati Bengals TE Hayden Hurst (calf) did not participate in practice Thursday, Dec. 8. WR Tee Higgins (hamstring) and DE Sam Hubbard (calf) were limited. OT La'el Collins (rest), D.J. Reader (rest), S Vonn Bell (rest), S Jessie Bates (groin) and RB Joe Mixon (concussion) practiced in full.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers S Mike Edwards (hamstring), S Antoine Winfield Jr. (ankle) and OT Tristan Wirfs (ankle, knee) did not participate in practice Thursday, Dec. 8. CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (quad) and NT Vita Vea (foot, shoulder) were limited. TE Cameron Brate (illness) practiced in full.