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Jets release TE Zach Sudfeld with torn knee ligament

6/15/2015

It was supposed to be a non-contact practice, but nothing is really non-contact in the NFL. In the end, it cost Zach Sudfeld his job and his season.

The third-year tight end suffered a torn ACL last week in a New York Jets minicamp practice and was waived/injured Monday by the team. Sudfeld caught only 10 passes in two seasons with the Jets but was a valued performer on special teams. In fact, he posted a team-high 20 special-teams tackles last season.

Sudfeld was injured last Wednesday in a red-zone drill. He caught a pass in the end zone, on the boundary, and safety Calvin Pryor lowered a shoulder into Sudfeld. It wasn't a crushing hit; it was more of a shove than anything else. But it was enough to knock Sudfeld off balance, perhaps because he didn't expect it. He landed awkwardly and blew out his knee.

Coach Todd Bowles wasn't happy. There's not supposed to be any contact in spring practices, according to the collective bargaining agreement.

"It was one play, but there were a couple of guys that got a little carried away," he said after practice. "There were about three of four incidents that happened on the field that we can't have happen and we'll address that."

The Jets feared the worst, as Bowles hinted it could be a severe injury. This explains why, a day later, they were one of 10 teams that submitted a waiver claim for tight end Tim Wright, who was released unexpectedly by the New England Patriots. He wound up going to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

To replace Sudfeld, the Jets signed free agent Steve Maneri, a New Jersey native who has played with the Patriots (twice), Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Bears. The 6-foot-7, 280-pound Maneri has six catches for 52 yards in five seasons.

It's a devastating break for Sudfeld, who would've had a very good chance of making the team as a backup. After an injury-riddled career at Nevada, where he had six surgeries on various body parts, he battled back and made the Patriots' 2013 opening-day roster as an undrafted free agent. He was released a month later, going to the Jets on waivers.

The Jets aren't perilously thin at tight end, but it's not ideal. They have starter Jeff Cumberland and former second-round pick Jace Amaro, although Amaro is regarded as an H-Back. Amaro was sidelined in minicamp with a back injury. Maneri is a traditional tight end, so he'll back up Cumberland.