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A torn knee ligament ended rookie inside linebacker Reggie Ragland’s season before it started, the latest hit to a heralded draft class for the Buffalo Bills.
Ragland was injured in practice Friday and the Bills confirmed Wednesday the Alabama product will have surgery for a torn ACL and he is expected to miss the entire 2016 season.
Buffalo was already going to play at least half the season without its No. 1 draft pick, Shaq Lawson, and now Ragland, drafted in the second round, is off the depth chart until 2017.
Ragland was pursuing running back Reggie Bush out to the sideline during a drill in practice and he seemed to get his leg stuck in the turf and his knee buckled. It was a non-contact play, and center Eric Wood trotted over to help Ragland up with no idea he was seriously hurt.
Ragland was slated to start on the inside along with Preston Brown, and the Bills were counting him to be a three-down player. His injury could be a colossal blow when coupled with Lawson, who had shoulder surgery in the spring and won’t be available until perhaps midseason.
The Bills addressed the anticipated loss of Ragland by signing inside linebackers Brandon Spikes and David Hawthorne.
Spikes played one season with the Bills in 2014, then was out of football in 2015. Hawthorne is a ninth-year veteran who has split time in the NFL with Seattle and New Orleans, and he played for defensive coordinator Rob Ryan with the Saints from 2013 until Ryan was fired as defensive coordinator midway through last season.
Spikes began his career with the Patriots as a second-round draft pick in 2010. He was primarily a run-stuffing two-down player who started 39 of the 51 games he played for Bill Belichick. He signed with the Bills as an unrestricted free agent in 2014 and played well as the middle linebacker in Jim Schwartz’s 4-3 scheme. He made 54 tackles and one sack.
When Rex Ryan took over the Bills in 2015, Spikes opted to leave via free agency, perhaps thinking he wouldn’t be a fit in Ryan’s 3-4 scheme. Obviously, he and the Bills aren’t too concerned about that right now because both sides need each other.
Spikes re-signed with the Patriots prior to the 2015 season, but he was involved in a hit-and-run crash in Massachusetts. He pleaded guilty to a number of violations, and the Patriots released him. He was levied a four-game suspension by the NFL, but that will not carry over to this season because he was out of the NFL last year.
“That whole year off, it helped me get my chip back on my shoulder — that desire, that burning fire to be great — what I had when I came into the NFL,” Spikes said