Arizona Cardinals rookie tight end Troy Niklas has a broken right hand and will be out until the team's training camp gets underway.
Kent Somers of AZCentral.com reported the news on Tuesday:
Te Troy Niklas suffered broken bone in rt hand last week. Out until training camp in July. #AZCardinals— Kent Somers (@kentsomers) June 10, 2014
provides more details and comments from a disappointed Niklas:
Rookie TE Troy Niklas is sidelined again. He had actually returned to the practice field following his hernia surgery that kept him out of the first few OTAs but then got a finger caught and twisted in a jersey last week and broke his hand. And so Niklas goes back to the mental reps, although Arians said Niklas should be ready for training camp.
“It kind of sucks I’m missing out of the reps,” Niklas said. “It’s frustrating. … I feel like I know the offense and I know what to do. Now it’s about teaching my body how to do it.
While there's never a good time for a player to suffer an injury, it's better for this to happen now than during training camp, the preseason or even the regular season. There should still be enough time for Niklas to recover and dig into the complex playbook drawn up by coach Bruce Arians.
Josh Norris of NBC Sports felt that Niklas was the best pick the Cardinals made in a deep 2014 draft, even comparing Niklas favorably to New England Patriots superstar Rob Gronkowski:
Favorite #Cardinals pick: TE Troy Niklas. He is exactly what Arians was talking about during his pre-Combine presser. Some baby Gronk traits— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) May 13, 2014
Unfortunately, injuries have plagued Gronkowski in recent years, and are already doing so for Niklas, who also underwent sports hernia surgery after the NFL Scouting Combine, per Somers:
TE Troy Niklas, 2nd rd pick, didn't practice. recovering from hernia surgery post-combine. should be ready for second part of minicamp.— Kent Somers (@kentsomers) May 20, 2014
Niklas, 21, was selected No. 52 overall in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft. General manager Steve Keim seemed to make a point of choosing big-bodied athletes with high upside. That was evident with Niklas, who measured in at the combine at 6'6" and 270 pounds. The same was true for raw but intriguing quarterback project Logan Thomas, along with sizable first-round safety Deone Bucannon.
Keim has likened Niklas to a former Arians pupil in Pro Bowl Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Heath Miller, per AZCentral.com's Bob McManaman:
It's been extremely hard to find the tight end that is a dual threat; that can do both things (block and catch) and do both things well. That's what this guy is. There are a few of those players left in the NFL, guys like Heath Miller and those sort of players. This is, to me, a guy who could really transcend into being one of the top all-around tight ends at some point in his career.
Arizona fared rather well in its first season under Arians last year in notching 10 wins, but in the deep NFC West division, it needs to take a big step forward in 2014. Presuming he's healthy, Niklas should be part of that equation. Arians' offense likes to stretch the field, which Niklas can do, showing his pass-catching ability in his final year in South Bend with 32 receptions for 498 yards and five touchdowns.
It is pivotal that the Cardinals be cautious with Niklas in the early going. An explosive tight end that can win jump balls is a valuable commodity for modern NFL passing attacks. One could argue that Niklas, in lieu of other tight ends on the roster stepping up such as John Carlson and Jake Ballard, is the offensive X-factor for the team.
As long as Niklas can use his massive frame to his advantage and remain on the field, he figures to fulfill his exciting potential as a cog in Arians' system.