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The state of the Buffalo Bills’ Injured Reserve

HC Sean McDermott says there’s an outside chance DT DaQuan Jones could return this season

Cleveland Browns v Buffalo Bills Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills have battled the injury-bug for a second straight season, and this time it’s landed five key players on Injured Reserve (IR). During Friday’s press conference, head coach Sean McDermott updated the media on the status of three of those players.

Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, who was playing in his tenth season in the NFL — second in Buffalo, tore a pectoral muscle while the Bills were in London to play the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jones had surgery to repair the torn muscle and has been back at One Bills Drive for several weeks. During his latest press conference, McDermott said that it’s possible Jones could return to play this season.

McDermott also delivered the unwelcome, although not unexpected, news that the same isn’t true for All-Pro linebacker Matt Milano. Recall, Milano suffered a leg injury in the same game that Jones tore his pectoral muscle. While very little information has been available on the actual injury — other than a broken bone — Milano suffered, we do know that he underwent surgery and has recently been back in the building. In fact, linebacker Terrel Bernard, who took over at middle linebacker this year, said that the All-Pro has been helping the team by offering tips and advice and being “everything you expect a leader to be.” However, it looks like that leadership will have to continue to come from the locker room and the sidelines rather than the field — at least until next year.

Running back Damien Harris headed to IR after suffering a neck injury that sent him to the Erie County Medical Center on October 15. There were some very scary moments as Harris laid motionless on the field before being loaded onto a backboard, but before he was loaded into a waiting ambulance, the fifth-year running back, who was playing in his first season with the Bills, was able to give a thumbs up. After being released a day later, Harris entered the league’s concussion protocol before being placed on IR on October 20. While he technically could return to the team this week, there have been no reports of Harris being around the building like there have been with Jones and Milano. On Friday, McDermott said that he doesn’t think that 26-year-old is ready to “entertain” the idea of coming back from his injury.

Another key player from the Bills’ roster who was lost to IR this season was Tre’Davious White. The 27-year-old cornerback tore his Achilles in Buffalo’s Week 4 win over the Miami Dolphins. White had just returned 10 months earlier from an ACL tear that sidelined him for a full calendar year. This week we learned that White has been in California where he’s going through rehab in Los Angeles. While no timeline for his return has been given, it’s assumed that White won’t be back on a football field before next season.

That brings us to Dawson Knox. The 27-year-old tight end, who signed a four-year contract extension with the Bills last season, had surgery on his wrist last month. Knox first injured his wrist in London, but he played through two more games before admitting that the injury was making it difficult to compete effectively. Having been put on IR right before the Bills hosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 8. That means that his mandatory four-game absence will expire after Sunday’s game with the New York Jets. We haven’t heard much about how Knox is progressing, but it will be interesting to see if he’s back on the roster in the next week or if the Bills give him an extra two weeks and have him wait until after the bye to get back in action.

Buffalo also has cornerback Kaiir Elam, wide receiver Justin Shorter, and offensive tackle Tommy Doyle on IR. Doyle was placed on IR in August when he tore the ACL in his right knee in a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Doyle had just returned from an ACL tear in his left knee the year before. Because he was placed on IR before the start of the 2023 regular season, the 25-year-old who has spent more of his three seasons in the NFL not playing than he has playing, is not eligible to return this year.

Shorter was placed on IR the first day of the season, meaning that he can return to play this year. However, we haven’t heard anything about how the rookie wide receiver, who the Bills drafted in the fifth round of the 2023 NFL draft, is recovering from the hamstring injury that’s sidelined him.

Elam is in his second year in the NFL and found himself way back on the team’s depth chart to start the season and was what was thought to be a healthy scratch for all but two of the Bills’ first eight games. However, on November 2, Elam was placed on IR with an ankle injury. That means he isn’t eligible to return to the active roster until Week 13 — Buffalo’s bye week — but, like Shorter, we haven’t heard anything about how he’s progressing.

Before the Bills can bring anyone back from IR, however, they will have to make some personnel adjustments to create space on their 53-man roster. It will be an interesting next few weeks as we wait to see if Knox and/or Elam return, who is released — or moved to IR themselves — and how Jones continues to progress.