NFL NOTEBOOK: Saints WR Dez Bryant might have torn Achilles -- in 2nd practice

Frank Cooney

Wide receiver Dez Bryant might have sustained a torn Achilles tendon in his second practice with the New Orleans Saints on Friday, NFL Network reported.

Bryant, who signed a one-year free agent contract with the Saints on Wednesday and practiced with the team for the first time on Thursday, was helped off the field after suffering the non-contact injury and reportedly was undergoing an MRI.

ESPN reported that the injury occurred on the last play of practice.

"(He) just went down," a Saints source said. "Freak deal. No contact."

Bryant posted this message on Twitter: "Things was just starting to heat up for me... I won't question the man upstairs... this is the ultimate test.. thank you everyone for the prayers."

The 30-year-old Bryant is hoping to resurrect his career with the Saints and was looking forward to teaming up with quarterback Drew Brees. Even if he was healthy, the Saints were not expected to play him Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, but would have him make his debut the next week against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Bryant was released by the Dallas Cowboys in April after his on-field productivity slipped in 2016 and 2017. The once-dominant receiver has not surpassed 900 receiving yards in a season since signing a lucrative contract extension in 2015 after being named first-team All-Pro in the season before.

Bryant caught 88 passes for 1,320 yards and a career-high 16 touchdowns in 2014, the third straight year he surpassed 1,200 yards. From 2012 to 2014, he caught 273 passes for 3,935 yards and 41 touchdowns.

For his career, Bryant has 531 catches for 7,459 yards and 73 touchdowns in eight seasons, all with Dallas.

Bryant's last game with the Cowboys was the 2017 regular-season finale on Dec. 31, when he caught three passes for 24 yards.

If the injury is as bad as the Saints fear, Bryant would be the fifth New Orleans wide receiver to go on injured reserve this season, joining Ted Ginn Jr., Cam Meredith, Tommylee Lewis and Travin Dural.

--CALIFORNIA FIRES: The NFL issued a statement on Friday saying that games set to be hosted by the Los Angeles Rams and Oakland Raiders on Sunday will be played as scheduled despite the wildfires burning in California.

The Rams are slated to host the Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, with the Raiders facing the Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland Coliseum.

"We are monitoring conditions in California and are in close communication with the clubs and local authorities," the NFL said in its statement. "At this point, both the Los Angeles Chargers-Oakland Raiders game and the Seattle Seahawks-Los Angeles Rams game will kick off as scheduled."

The southern California wildfires forced 45 Rams employees to evacuate their homes, coach Sean McVay said. About 20 players and coaches were affected, including defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and defensive line coach Bill Johnson.

When the fire crossed Highway 101, a mandatory evacuation was ordered for Malibu and "all areas south of 101 Freeway from Ventura County line to Las Virgenes Road."

The Rams, who train at Cal Lutheran in Thousand Oaks, canceled practice on Friday and are scheduled to practice on Saturday at USC in Los Angeles.

"Everybody (in the Rams organization) is OK," McVay said in a statement issued by the team. "I knew that there was going to be a bunch of guys that ended up having to leave their houses just based on the way that those fires spread and that are living in those areas that were affected by it. ... I don't think anybody's houses have specifically been affected in terms of (burning down), but they did have to leave the areas.

"For us, which is all the things that are considered knowing that how some of the road closings, the quality of the air potentially, we just felt like most importantly was for the guys to be with their families, their wives, their kids and kind of be that support structure and do things the right way and not have them come in, be totally distracted, like I know I would be if I was in their role."

The Hill Fire and the Woolsey Fire burning in southern California are a second blow to the area this week after the mass shooting at a Thousand Oaks bar late Wednesday night.

The Rams plan to honor the victims and survivors of that tragedy on Sunday.

"I think, if anything, the last couple days give you perspective," McVay said.

The Camp Fire in northern California, which killed at least six people near the town of Paradise, is located about 200 miles north of the San Francisco Bay Area, but winds have driven smoke south.

The Raiders' practice was affected on Thursday and Friday and they cut back on their practice schedule because of poor air quality.

Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that some Raiders dealt with "occasional coughing, eyes burning, headaches in the past two days."

Raiders coach Jon Gruden said the team will "react to whatever the circumstances are" and his main concern is for the people impacted by the fire.

--All-Pro safety Kevin Byard of the Tennessee Titans has been fined $10,026 by the NFL for celebrating an interception with a dance on the Dallas Cowboys' star at the 50-yard-line during Monday night's game at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, according to media reports on Friday.

Byard picked off a pass by Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott in the end zone and then raced to midfield to celebrate on the star for about 15 seconds before he was pushed off it by Dallas defensive back Byron Jones. Although Byard was not penalized by game officials, NFL rules on taunting forbid "acts or words that may engender ill will between teams."

"Some people loved it, some didn't, but the main thing is the head coach (Mike Vrabel) didn't like it, and that's the most important thing," Byard told reporters. "I am more concerned with the trust and the way my head coach and my teammates view me. Those guys know that I am not a selfish person, and I understand that act looked selfish and that's why we had a talk about that.

"I don't want to be in the doghouse, or end up in the doghouse over a celebration. But we're good. We're good."

Byard's dance on the star was reminiscent of wide receiver Terrell Owens celebrating in a similar way on the Cowboys logo twice during a game against Dallas in 2000.

--Running back Leonard Fournette is expected to play for the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts after missing the last four games because of a right hamstring injury. Fournette practiced without limitation all week.

"We'll see on Sunday, but he has done everything that we have asked him to do," Marrone said on the Jaguars' official website in Friday. "No setbacks. No nothing. Right now, he's completely healthy -- today, at this time."

Barring a setback, Fournette is expected to be in the starting lineup on Sunday because the Jaguars (3-5) need him after losing all four games during his absence. The 6-foot, 228-pound Fournette has only 71 yards in 20 carries this season after rushing for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns on 268 carries last season as a rookie while adding 36 receptions for 302 yards and a score.

The Jaguars made Fournette the fourth overall pick of the 2017 draft out of LSU.

--The Indianapolis Colts activated defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis, their second-round pick in the 2018 draft, and elevated linebacker Skai Moore to the roster from the practice squad in a series of roster moves on Friday. To make room for Lewis and Moore on the 53-man roster, the Colts waived wide receiver Steve Ishmael and running back Robert Turbin.

The 6-3, 269-pound Lewis, the 64th overall pick of the draft, has been on injured reserve because of a right foot injury he sustained during training camp in August. He went on injured reserve Sept. 3. Lewis finished fifth in Ohio State history with 23.5 sacks and also had 112 tackles (63 solo), 36.5 tackles for losses, five passes defensed and five forced fumbles in 63 games for the Buckeyes.

The 6-2, 218-pound Moore, signed by the Colts in May as a rookie free agent out of South Carolina, has played in four games for Indianapolis this season, including one start, and made two tackles.

Turbin signed with Indianapolis as an unrestricted free agent in 2016, played in 21 games in his first two seasons with the Colts and scored eight touchdowns, but has seen action in only two games this year.

Ishmael, another rookie free agent, was among the Colts' final roster cuts on September and was signed to the practice squad and later elevated to the roster.

--Starting running back James Conner of the Pittsburgh Steelers was injured in the fourth quarter of Pittsburgh's 52-21 romp over the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night and was placed in the NFL's concussion protocol. Conner rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries and added one reception for eight yards.

"He is in the protocol," coach Mike Tomlin said. "I don't know to what extent. I am sure we will have more information for you next time we come together."

Pittsburgh does have extra time before its next game to allow Conner to recover, but his injury adds another layer of intrigue with holdout running back Le'Veon Bell back in town. Bell, who has yet to sign is $14.5 million franchise tender, faces a Tuesday deadline to report to the club if he hopes to play at all this season.

Conner has played superbly in the absence of the perennial Pro Bowl running back, rushing for 771 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also had 39 receptions and a score. A third-round pick out of Pittsburgh in the 2017 NFL Draft, Conner has scored eight touchdowns (seven rushing) during Pittsburgh's five-game winning streak, a span in which the Steelers have amassed 177 points.

--Quarterback Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens played the entire game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday despite being injured early, but even the bye week might not have him ready to face the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 18.

Flacco, who reportedly is undergoing tests for a hip injury, was hit by Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who drove Flacco to the ground on the sixth play of the game. On the next play, Cameron Heyward also hit Flacco, who remained in the game and completed 23 of 37 passes for 206 yards in a 23-16 loss to the Steelers, but he seemed to be bothered by the injury.

Flacco did not sit on the bench but remained on his feet, walking the sideline and occasionally stretching when the Baltimore defense was on the field.

The Ravens (4-5), third in the AFC North, have lost three straight games and Harbaugh has been asked if he might give rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson a chance to start, but as recently as early this week the coach reiterated that Flacco will remain the starter.

Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner at Louisville, has played 86 offensive snaps this season and has completed 7 of 12 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown, in addition to rushing 28 times for 139 yards and a touchdown.