Reports began to surface Sunday night that the Bills would try out TE Jace Sternberger on Monday. Following a successful workout, it was reported that he would sign with the team prior to training camp.
His roster spot was opened due to the recent left ACL tear to RB Nyhiem Hines last week as the result of a jet ski accident. Sternberger’s signing brings the tight end room to six players, offering extra depth to the position as training camp kicks off.
Sternberger comes to Buffalo after multiple stops around the NFL and USFL, suffering several injuries. Below are the publicly reported injuries and their impact heading into the season.
2019 Green Bay Packers
Concussion/jaw injury, preseason, missed two weeks of practice.
Sternberger suffered a concussion and jaw injury as the result of suffering a hit from Lonnie Johnson of the Texans during joint practices earlier that August. He was forced to sit out and recover, passing through the concussion protocol before returning. He missed six practices and two preseason games.
Left ankle injury, preseason, missed 8 games.
Sternberger suffered a left ankle injury after getting tackled from behind with the defender hitting his right leg, forcing his left ankle to plant and twist awkwardly.
He even said later in an interview the ankle should have broken which suggests he may have suffered a high-ankle sprain. He made the initial roster before being placed on injured reserve for a minimum of eight games.
When he returned, he was used sparingly in the offense, seeing most of his game action on special teams.
Sternberger contracted COVID early in training camp, missing a significant chunk.
Concussion, Week 13, missed 3 games.
He then suffered a concussion against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 13 that forced him out of the next three contests. When he was cleared to play, he lost his playing time to fellow TE Dominique Dafney in the playoffs.
2021 Packers/Washington Commanders/Pittsburgh Steelers
No publicly reported injuries, was released from both teams before signing a futures contract with the Steelers.
2022 Pittsburgh Steelers
No publicly reported injuries, was released.
2023 Birmingham Stallions
No publicly reported injuries.
Buffalo Bills Injury Outlook
Sternberger has demonstrated the talent necessary to compete in the NFL. Injuries and a stint in the NFL substance abuse program in 2021 have stunted his development as a player.
Two concussions and a significant ankle injury have seen him miss extended time early in his career before bouncing around. He did see success in the USFL, leading the league in touchdown catches as Birmingham rolled to the league championship. Looking at his injury history, the concussions are something to be mindful of, but not overly concerning. His ankle injury appears to be a one-off issue.
He has shown he can play, the only concern I have is how truly healthy he is after playing all spring in the USFL. I could not find any reports of injury during the spring season, but the USFL season just ended at the beginning of July after starting in April. His body has not had a lot of time for rest as a result.
Opportunities are fleeting in the NFL so Sternberger would be unwise to pass up this chance at a roster. I have to wonder if he will hit a wall or if any unknown nagging injuries from the USFL season flare up on him. As long as his body can withstand the abuse it took from the USFL season and he can parlay being in shape heading into the NFL season, then this is a solid pickup.
This signing has the potential to be something if Sternberger can show his worth on special teams which could translate into a TE3 position or at least a practice squad spot. We’ll see how this plays out in the coming weeks.
Photo by Justin Ford/USFL/Getty Images for USFL