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NFL Week 9 injury updates

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Week 9 of the NFL season is here, and there has been some huge injury news this week.

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry is out indefinitely after undergoing surgery for a foot injury he suffered in Week 8 against the Indianapolis Colts. The Green Bay Packers are without quarterback Aaron Rodgers for their showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs after Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19. Green Bay will, however, get its top receiver back this week, as Davante Adams was back at practice after missing last week because of a positive COVID-19 test.

There’s good news for quarterbacks, specifically in Texas. Dak Prescott is set to start for the Dallas Cowboys after missing last week’s game with a calf injury. Tyrod Taylor was named the starter for the Houston Texans after missing the previous six games with a hamstring injury. In another positive development, Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey designated him for return from injured reserve. If activated, he could take the field for the first time since Week 2.

As you prepare for the weekend of NFL football, our reporters have the latest updates on key players and their health entering Week 9.

Quick links:
Schedule | Depth charts | PickCenter

Injury: Groin

The Ravens listed two of their top three wide receivers as questionable: Bateman (groin) and Sammy Watkins (hamstring). It looks like Bateman is the safer option to play against the Vikings. After he didn’t practice Friday, coach John Harbaugh said the rookie first-round pick “has a real good chance” to play. Harbaugh was more vague about the status of Watkins, who has missed the past two games. Bateman could put up some significant numbers against the Vikings, who allowed 100-yard games to two Cowboys wide receivers a week ago. — Jamison Hensley


Injury: Ribs

Beasley is questionable for Sunday’s game, but coach Sean McDermott expressed optimism when it came to his status vs. the Jaguars. He did not participate in practice Wednesday and Thursday, but he was limited Friday while wearing a noncontact jersey at practice. It’s trending up for him to be available this week.

Injury: Hand

Knox will miss a second straight game with a hand injury suffered in the team’s loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 6. He did not practice this week. Tommy Sweeney filled in well as a blocker in Knox’s absence and will do so again this week, but he has not been much of a receiving threat.

Injury: Shoulder

Poyer, part of the Bills’ dominant starting safety duo, suffered a shoulder injury in practice Wednesday. He didn’t participate Thursday but was limited Friday. McDermott said that they would need to see how he did during practice Friday, but he is officially questionable for the game. — Alaina Getzenberg


Injury: Concussion, shoulder

The shoulder is just as much a concern for Darnold as the concussion. If he is cleared from the concussion protocol, there’s a good chance he’s at least the backup to P.J. Walker this week. Darnold could possibly start if cleared, but there is real worry over the strength in the shoulder. Walker has also gotten most of the first-team reps. In addition, running back Christian McCaffrey will be evaluated Saturday to determine if he comes off injured reserve after missing five games because of a hamstring injury. Even if he comes off IR, the final decision on him will be at game time, and even then he’d likely be on a pitch count. — David Newton


Injury: Dislocated elbow

Cleveland’s All-Pro right tackle will miss the first of several games because of the elbow dislocation he suffered Sunday vs. Pittsburgh. Blake Hance will get the start in his place in Cincinnati. — Jake Trotter


Injury: Ankle

Smith has been ruled out because of an ankle injury he aggravated last week at Minnesota. Terence Steele, who started the past six games at right tackle, will side into Smith’s role and La’el Collins will go back to his familiar right tackle spot. Dak Prescott will be back after missing a game with a calf strain, but the Cowboys do not feel compromised without Smith because of how well Steele has fared on the right side. And there’s this: Denver traded Von Miller this week. Receivers Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb are questionable but both are expected to play. — Todd Archer


Injury: Hip

The Broncos traded Von Miller on Monday and Bradley Chubb is on injured reserve, so any injury to Reed, the guy who has filled in for each Miller and Chubb in the past three seasons, is going to cause a ripple in the defense. Reed was held out of Friday’s practice, and the Broncos want to see how he moves in Saturday’s on-field work before they go to Dallas. If Reed can’t play against the Cowboys, get ready to see plenty of rookie Jonathon Cooper and Stephen Weatherly, whom the Broncos acquired in a trade two weeks ago, at the two outside linebacker spots. — Jeff Legwold


Injury: Heel

Coach Urban Meyer said Robinson would move around a bit on the practice field on Friday and the team will see how his bruised right heel responds on Saturday and Sunday. Robinson, who got hurt last week in Seattle, did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, though he was out on the field. — Michael DiRocco


Injury: Knee

This comes with a caveat as Simpson and defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins (neck) were the only two Raiders players listed on the team’s injury report this week, and neither had a game status designation after being full participants all week. Physically, it is the healthiest the Raiders, who are coming off their bye, have been all season. But if Simpson tweaks his injured knee again, expect Jordan Simmons to spell him. Same with Darius Philon when it comes to Hankins. — Paul Gutierrez


Injury: Hamstring, shoulder

Dolphins coach Brian Flores said Friday that Parker recently suffered a setback to an injury that kept him out of three of Miami’s past four games. The wide receiver apparently reaggravated the injury in practice this week and was placed on the injured reserve list Friday. — Marcel Louis-Jacques


Injury: Elbow

Pierce didn’t have a setback in practice, according to coach Mike Zimmer, but he won’t play against Baltimore after being downgraded from limited to DNP on Thursday and Friday. Against the Ravens’ potent rushing attack, which is averaging the league’s third-highest output at 149.4 rushing yards per game, Minnesota will need to rely on backup nose tackle Armon Watts in Pierce’s place and could also be without linebacker Anthony Barr, who is questionable with a knee injury, as is cornerback Cameron Dantzler (ankle). — Courtney Cronin


Injury: Illness

Jackson, who is tied for the team lead with three interceptions, missed the first two practices of the week because of illness. The Patriots are already thin at cornerback — a hot topic this week because they face Stephon Gilmore, whom they traded to the Panthers on Oct. 6. If Jackson can’t play Sunday, it would likely thrust 2019 second-round pick Joejuan Williams into a starting role opposite Jalen Mills. — Mike Reiss


Injury: Knee

This isn’t exactly breaking news since Winston suffered a season-ending ACL tear last Sunday. But this will be the Saints’ first game without him. Coach Sean Payton announced Friday that veteran backup Trevor Siemian would get the start against the Atlanta Falcons, with Taysom Hill also playing a role on offense after returning from a concussion this week. Siemian did an impressive job of filling in during last week’s win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But the Saints (5-2) will continue to rely most heavily on their defense and run game — as they have all season while ranking 31st in the NFL in passing yards. — Mike Triplett


Injury: Calf

Kittle has been on injured reserve for the past four weeks, missing three games in the process. But he returned to practice this week and made it through the three days without any issue. The Niners are activating him from injured reserve, which means he will play against the Cardinals. How much? Well, coach Kyle Shanahan doesn’t like the idea of limiting Kittle if he’s healthy and available, which it appears he is.

“When a guy’s not healthy, you’ve always got to [manage them],” Shanahan said. “But I haven’t heard of people managing a tight end, especially one like Kittle. Tight ends go. They play every play usually.”

Injury: Calf

Samuel has been the focal point of San Francisco’s offense all season but played through his calf issue last week in Chicago and came out the other side a bit worse for the wear. This week, Samuel has been limited in practice and is listed as questionable for Sunday against Arizona. Samuel struck an optimistic tone when talking about his injury on Friday, but it remains to be seen if he’ll be able to play.

“As days went by, it kind of gets better day by day, so we’ve just been taking it slow and just see how it goes,” Samuel said.

Injury: Ribs

Mitchell suffered the injury during his 137-yard outburst last week, and it has been painful enough to keep him out of Wednesday’s practice and limit him on Thursday and Friday. Mitchell wore a blue no-contact jersey in both of those sessions. He’s officially listed as questionable for Sunday, and Shanahan indicated that Mitchell’s status is uncertain enough for Sunday that running back Jeff Wilson Jr. could be activated from the physically unable to perform list earlier than the team hoped.

“That is only three practices, but he looked as good and ready as he could be,” Shanahan said of Wilson. “So, from a health standpoint and everything, there’s no question on that. Ideally, in a perfect world, we could give him a couple more practices, too. But with Elijah being questionable and the way he looked this week, that’s why it’s an issue.” — Nick Wagoner


Injury: Knee

Brown didn’t practice on Friday and is listed as questionable because of a knee injury. Brown was in and out of the Iineup last season because of knee injuries. He had a procedure done on both knees during the offseason and missed some of training camp. The Titans will continue to manage the pounding on Brown’s knees going forward. — Turron Davenport

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Notable Bets – November among worst months ever for betting public

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The proud and confident American betting public just turned in the worst month of NFL gambling that veteran bookmakers can remember.

Entering Monday Night Football, underdogs have covered the spread nearly 60% of games in November. Twenty-three underdogs pulled outright upsets during the month, and heavily-bet primetime favorites seemed to go down on a weekly basis.

“From week to week, things appear to change dramatically,” Chuck Esposito, a veteran Las Vegas bookmaker with Station Casinos, said. “Dominant teams earlier in the year have come down to earth, and dogs have been covering at a much higher clip. There are 24 teams that are still fighting for playoff spots.”

Public bettors have struggled to figure it out and got crushed in November.

“There was one week where the players had only one game that they won, and another week they only won two games,” Jeff Stoneback, a 30-plus-year Las Vegas bookmaker, who oversees BetMGM’s sportsbook in Nevada, said. “We did have big wins, yes, but the number of wins, percentage-wise for us, was unbelievable. I was shocked.”

Sportsbooks’ net profit or loss on bets is known as the “hold,” as in the amount of money that bookmakers hold onto after everything is settled. Over the last three decades, Nevada sportsbooks on average have held around 5.5% of the money bet. The SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas was on pace to hold around 6.25% this November.

“It looks like it will wind up being one of our best hold months in Nevada on record,” John Murray, executive director of the SuperBook, told ESPN.

For the betting public, the unfortunate November came directly after a hot streak. In October, sportsbooks endured three consecutive losing Sundays. But all that did was plumpen bankrolls in time for a bookmakers’ Thanksgiving feast.

Jay Croucher, head of trading for sportsbook PointsBet, said Week 9 was when the season turned against bettors, pointing to the Jaguars’ upset of the Bills as two-touchdown underdogs as “especially notable” for his book.

Murray said Nov. 7, the Sunday featuring the Jags’ upset of the Bills, was the SuperBook’s best day of the season by far.

“There were some terrible Sundays for NFL favorites this month and that meant great returns for the house,” Murray said.

November also brought a string of heavily-bet favorites losing in primetime. The Titans and 49ers each beat the Rams on primetime in consecutive weeks, and the Dolphins upset the Ravens on a Thursday night, producing books’ biggest wins in November.

“It’s been an excellent November so far for the book,” Croucher added.

NFL notables

• Home teams are 77-101-1 against the spread) this season, which is on pace to the worst ATS mark in the Super Bowl era.

• Underdogs are 99-77-1 against the spread, which is on pace to be the best mark since 1980.

• With fewer games, betting handle on Sunday was lighter than in previous weeks, and there not many big decisions. Multiple bookmakers described Sunday’s results as “insignificant.”

• BetMGM offered a proposition wager on the Bears-Lions game on Thanksgiving: “Will both teams score 40 or more points?” A bettor placed a $227,026 bet on the “No” at -10,000 odds and won a net $2,270, with the Bears’ 16-14 win.

• Biggest reported bets at Caesars Sportsbook:
$445,000 on Packers money-line +115 vs. Rams (Win)
$402,500 on 49ers -3 (-115) vs. Vikings (Win)
$385,000 on Browns +3.5 vs. Ravens $220,000 on Titans +7.5 vs. Patriots (Loss)

College football notables

• Sunday opening conference championship game lines at Las Vegas sportsbook Circa Sports:

Conference USA: Western Kentucky vs. Texas-San Antonio PK, 71.5

Pac-12: Oregon vs. Utah -2, 59.5

Big 12: Baylor vs. Oklahoma State -5, 46.5

MAC: Kent State -3, 72 vs. Northern Illinois

MWC: Utah State vs. San Diego State -5, 51.5

Sun Belt: Appalachian State -3, 53.5 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette

AAC: Houston vs. Cincinnati -12, 54.5

SEC: Georgia -6, 49.5 vs. Alabama

ACC: Wake Forest vs. Pittsburgh -3, 72.5

Big Ten: Iowa vs. Michigan -11, 41.5

• Georgia was around a 4-point favorite over Alabama before the weekend’s games. But after the Crimson Tide struggled to pull out a win against Auburn, the SuperBook reopened Georgia a 6.5-point favorites. The early action on the game was relatively even, with 56% of the money bet on the game as of Sunday on the favored Bulldogs.

• Michigan’s upset of Ohio State on Saturday produced the biggest win of the college football season to date for PointsBet.

What were the odds?

30-1: Alabama’s odds to beat Auburn late in the fourth quarter, trailing 10-3. The Crimson Tide would tie the score on a late Bryce Young touchdown pass and win the game in the fourth overtime. [odds via Caesars Sportsbook]

-200: Bryce Young’s odds to win the Heisman Trophy. Young is the odds-on favorite at Caesars Sportsbook, followed by Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud (4-1) and Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson (15-1). Hutchinson was not listed last week, but caught the attention of oddsmakers-and bettors-after his three-sack performance in the Wolverines’ upset of Ohio State on Saturday. He now has the third-best odds.

-9: Duke closed as a 9-point underdog to Gonzaga in their college basketball showdown on Friday. It’s the first game the Blue Devils were more than a 7.5-point underdog, when ranked in the top 5, since at least the 1993-94 season. Duke won 84-81.

+14: The New Orleans Pelicans beat the Utah Jazz 98-97 as 14-point underdogs on Friday. It’s the largest upset, point spread-wise, of the NBA season so far.


Q&A with a bettor

Cal Spears is a Tennessee-based entrepreneur in the fantasy sports and betting space, who hit a $1,000, six-leg same-game parlay on the Raiders-Cowboys game on Thursday that paid $266,566.27. Talk about a fulfilling Thanksgiving!

The six legs were:

•DeSean Jackson any time touchdown scorer
•Ezekiel Elliott over 19.5 receiving yards
Josh Jacobs over 19.5 receiving yards
Michael Gallup over 100 receiving yards (alternate line)
Tony Pollard over 16.5 receiving yards
•Elliott any time touchdown scorer

Spears communicated with ESPN’s David Purdum this week about his improbable win. The interview has been organized and edited for clarity.

Q: Take us through your process when creating this parlay. What was the thinking behind it?

While looking at late swaps for my DFS lineups during the Bears game it dawned on me Desean Jackson’s chances of catching a bomb were underestimated. I opened Fanduel to check his yardage prop and they didn’t even offer one. So I bet him to score a TD at +700 and then added on the other legs I liked. I actually hit another parlay that didn’t include the Zeke TD and the Pollard Over for $91,000.

Q: Were you at Thanksgiving dinner when it all played out?

My girlfriend and I had plans to do Thanksgiving with my family in Madisonville, Kentucky, but we both came down with colds. We got negative COVID tests on Wednesday but still did not feel well Thursday morning. So we scrapped our plans and ended up laying on the couch all Thanksgiving watching football. I would not have made this bet if we made the trip to Kentucky; betting is not yet legal there.

Q: Takes us through the sweat, please.

The sweat couldn’t have started any better with a DeSean touchdown just a few minutes into the game. Three quarters later it looked completely dead then Gallup came to life with catches of 41, 32, and 17 to cross 100 yards. Going into overtime I just needed one catch each from Zeke and Jacobs. I watched in disbelief as things fell exactly how I needed and then triple sanity checked stats to make sure.

Q: How did you celebrate and what will you do with the winnings?

The endorphins kicked in immediately and I was ready to celebrate but then I remembered it was Thanksgiving night and I had a cold. A proper celebration is pending.

The first thing I did on Friday morning was donate $10,000 each to five non-profits that make an impact locally here in Nashville. I was unbelievably lucky to hit this and am very happy to share my good fortune. Not sure what we will do with the rest but there will definitely be a big Christmas for friends and family.



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Suzann Pettersen to captain European team at 2023 Solheim Cup

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FINCA CORTESIN, Spain — Suzann Pettersen, who won the Solheim Cup for Europe in 2019 with the last shot of her career, will captain the team four years later for its second straight title defense.

The Norwegian’s 7-foot putt for birdie at the final hole at Gleneagles saw Europe reclaim the biggest prize in women’s team golf and she retired immediately afterward.

Pettersen was vice captain when the Europeans retained the title at the Inverness Club in Ohio in September, also under Catriona Matthew, and now she has taken over as captain.

“This is the biggest honor of my career,” Pettersen said.

The next edition of the Solheim Cup will be played at Finca Cortesín in Andalucía from Sept. 18-24, 2023.

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Washington’s Jamin Davis motivated by former teammate Chris Oats, who suffered stroke in 2020

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ASHBURN, Va. — When Kemberly Gamble watched the 2021 NFL draft at the urging of her son, one thought raced through her mind: My baby should be there. Instead, her baby, Chris Oats, was beside her in their two-bedroom apartment, fighting to regain full control of his body after a stroke he suffered in 2020.

And it was Oats’ University of Kentucky teammate Jamin Davis hearing his name called in the first round instead of Oats. Davis had replaced his close friend and teammate in the lineup and turned himself into the 19th overall pick by the Washington Football Team.

As Oats works to do things like walk, talk and regain the use of his left side, Davis works to become a quality starter in the NFL for Washington, which plays the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN).

“The only thing Jamin could have done wrong,” Gamble said, “is messed it up. You don’t have to honor my son, just please remember him. That’s what Jamin stands for. He doesn’t owe my son anything. All he has to do is keep working. This is an opportunity that can be taken away at the drop of a hat.”

Nobody knows that better than Oats. Nobody feels that responsibility more than Davis. They are tied together by friendship and the opportunity created by Oats’ misfortune.

“The way the situation unfolded is just heartbreaking,” Davis said.

In truth, Davis would have received an opportunity for more playing time his junior season after finishing strong as a sophomore. In his final three games of the 2019 regular season, he finished with a combined 19 tackles, including two for a loss. He’s been steadily developing as a rookie starter for Washington.

“He’s made a lot of progress,” Washington linebackers coach Steve Russ said, “especially when it comes to keying and diagnosing and trusting his keys and responding quickly to what he knows. … He’s headed in the right direction. Very accountable; wants to be really, really good, has good work habits.”

Dreaming of the NFL

Oats, a four-star recruit out of high school, was outstanding at times in his second season at Kentucky and the clear leader for one of two starting jobs available for the 2020 season. Oats’ and Davis’ close friend, DeAndre Square, was expected to win the other starting job. In one three-play sequence at the Belk Bowl vs. Virginia Tech at the end of the 2019 season, Oats shot through the line for consecutive tackles for a loss and then made an open-field tackle on third down.

“You’re like, OK, this kid is about to take off,” said Jon Sumrall, Kentucky’s inside linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator. “Chris was uniquely gifted. He’s long, rangy, could run really well. In coverage, he did some stuff very easily because of his length and athleticism.”

Said Davis: “We can talk for hours about how good a player Chris was. I remember the Belk Bowl. … It was like, man, this mofo is going to the league.”

That was Oats’ dream since he was young, he said via text. In fact, Davis said he, Oats and Square — a senior at Kentucky — used to discuss becoming first-round picks. Right before the 2020 draft, the three were on a group text vowing to have their name called in future years.

Sumrall called them the three amigos.

“I wasn’t out at the bars and partying or anything like that, so when I came across someone extremely similar to me in a lot of ways, I instantly clicked with Chris,” Davis said.

They would talk, play video games (Fortnite, Madden and NBA 2K) and go to Buffalo Wild Wings once a week. Davis would order the boneless wings with barbecue sauce, mostly to provide more choices to the table. Oats would order barbecued chicken and potato wedges with cheese and bacon. Square opted for the garlic parmesan.

“I get memories on my Snapchat all the time,” Davis said, “from when we were sitting in the locker room laughing or playing videos of Square dancing and me and Chris making fun of him. Outside of ball, all just going over to his house and playing video games or watching film together. Things like that made us closer.”

Which made their next chapter more difficult.

Making Oats proud

The stroke occurred two days before Mother’s Day in 2020, while Kentucky’s players were at home because of the coronavirus pandemic. Sumrall informed his players, dispensing whatever information he could that Gamble OK’d. Players eventually realized the severity of the situation.

“I thought it was a sick joke,” Davis said. “Then my thought was, ‘Is he OK? Is there any way we can see him?'”

Sumrall noticed an almost immediate change in Davis when they returned to campus. His practice effort was never in question, but he started watching more film — sometimes arriving a half-hour or 45 minutes early before meetings.

“It became like a snowball rolling down a hill,” Sumrall said. “Every day he came into the meeting room with more intentional focus than ever before.”

Davis felt it, too.

“It was like a reality check,” he said. “Going forward we knew [Oats] wouldn’t want us to sit around bummed out about the situation and feel pity or anything like that. So in my mind it’s like you’ve got to step up and make him proud.”

Square told Davis: It’s your time now.

“He knew what he had to do,” Square said. “We all knew Jamin was probably the best linebacker on the team. He had freakish athletic ability. We always said if he mentally gets the plays down, he’ll probably start over any of us. We were just waiting for him to show it.

“He was ready for the moment.”

Last season, Kentucky would rotate having a defensive player wear Oats’ No. 22. Before a game against Mississippi State, Davis saw the 22 jersey in his locker. He looked to the locker next to him — Oats’ old nook that contained a picture of Chris.

“I said, ‘I’ll do my best to represent you tonight,'” Davis said.

He finished with 11 tackles and an interception.

Kentucky discontinued that practice this season — it became difficult for the Oats family to see the No. 22 on the field. Instead, the team breaks down every practice with a “22!” Everyone has Oats Strong T-shirts made by Gamble; they’re selling hoodies now, too.

Davis wears a 22 Oats Strong band on his wrist, leaving it on for some games. Sumrall said when Oats attends games, he takes the freshmen over to see him; he wants them to know someone who he said “will forever be a Wildcat.”

‘This is not your end’

While it’s a constant battle for Oats, he isn’t jealous of his friend. He watches Washington’s games when he can and seeks out YouTube highlights. He will text Davis reminders to play fast, play smart. They text weekly; sometimes Davis checks in with Gamble. Oats said Davis’ effort is there and “he just needs more time on that level.”

“I’m not the selfish type,” Oats said. “He got there because he is a freak athlete and his talent, and what I’ve learned during this hard time is that I will get there. It will just take time.”

Oats was the one who pressed his family to watch the draft. They wanted to support Davis.

“We talked to Jamin before the draft,” Gamble said. “We’ve always been supportive of everything, so [Chris] never felt, ‘Man, that should have been me.’ When Chris was able to talk after his stroke, or text, he told him, ‘Go out and ball, this is your time.'”

But there is a definite understanding of his own situation.

“He knows where he could have been to change all our lives,” Gamble said. “But I explained to him: As a mom, you being here and being able to touch you and not being six feet under — because we’ve lost so many people this year — that’s all I need. He’s an awesome kid; never in trouble. He went to school, got his scholarship and went to class and to be a year away from your dream and something like this happens, he doesn’t understand what he did wrong for this to happen to him. That’s where we encourage him and let him know, ‘This is not your end; you have a bigger testimonial in your life.'”

Oats has 100% control of his right side and has increased his left side to 50% — it was 40% just a month ago. He’s able to stand on his own and they’re working on strengthening his core to help him walk again. For now, he’s doing occupational therapy twice a week, allowing him to slowly regain independence. They would like to get him into a physical therapy facility that deals mostly with athletes, key for his 6-foot-3, 227-pound frame.

He attended Kentucky’s home games this season and saw the Wildcats play Georgia last year. His mom found it too tough to attend last year, but has gone this season. She reads her son for clues as to his emotions.

“I make sure I pay attention to his eyes and facial expressions,” she said. “I can tell when it’s too much. He does this thing with his eyes, they get real big and he bites on his fingernails. He’s been like that since he was a kid. That hasn’t changed since the stroke. When he’s getting ready to tear up or holding back tears, his eyes get big.”

He’s constantly watching games, whether of Kentucky or other teams, and he attends high school games on Friday nights. Oats said he tries not to cry while watching games, “but I do get in my thoughts.”

When that happens, he said he turns to a prayer from the book of Isaiah: “No weapon formed against me shall prosper.”

He needed that prayer the first time he watched an NFL game after the stroke. He told his mom: “I should be playing.” She said: “Just get healthy; it’s a blessing you’re alive. Football is just a job; it’s not who you are.”

The simple things

Gamble needed to quit her $11-an-hour florist job to take care of her son full time. She also moved the family into a larger apartment, though that increased her rent by $400. Her 26-year-old daughter, KeAirra, also helps, and Davis has chipped in. Insurance pays some of Oats’ medical costs and a GoFundMe has raised more than $150,000 that helps with living expenses and allows them to buy a custom-made van.

Gamble proudly says they live within their means. But she does splurge for him once a year when it comes to sneakers. She would take some of her tax return money and buy him a pair of size 15 LeBrons, something she did again this past spring for $189. Though he’s still on scholarship and gets shoes from Kentucky, he uses these in therapy.

“I don’t spoil him or give everything he wants,” she said, “but the simple things that people take for granted is joy for him.”

Oats wants to become an announcer or a coach; he wants to stay around the game. He wants to get back to himself.

“Football is his first love, and it hurts,” Gamble said. “I tell him to talk it out. He has anxiety over things. It was rough. This is a rough season for us, but he’s making it.”

Last month, Oats posted a picture on Twitter of himself, Square and Davis from a practice. Oats is sitting on the ground, his boys on either side. They are smiling. Sometimes he posts photos of the past; sometimes it’s of the present.

But Davis said he doesn’t need the photos to remember Oats’ impact. He thinks of Oats, whether it’s at practice or even on game day: “All the time; literally, it’s all the time.”

“It’s a constant reminder that this could be taken at any given moment,” Davis said. “There’s no reason why you shouldn’t go out and play like every snap will be your last. You should be early to meetings, doing whatever you can to go out and play ball and have fun. … The only thing you can do in this situation is make him and his family proud. We’ll always be close.”

Oats said football remains a part of him. Right now, though, his proudest moments aren’t about his tackles but rather something basic yet profound: “That I will be able to walk and talk again.”



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