BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Bills have lost a key special teams and offensive player before training camp even gets started. Running back Nyheim Hines suffered what is expected to be a season-ending injury to his left ACL while away from the team's facility, a source said.
Hines, 26, sustained the knee injury when he was struck by a jet ski and will at some point require surgery, according to ESPN and multiple reports. He was sitting on a stationary jet ski when he was struck, per ESPN and multiple reports.
Hines suffered no life-threatening injuries, such as to his liver or kidney, according to the source. The expectation and goal will be for him to return to football for the 2024 season.
It was not immediately known when and where Hines was hurt.
Hines was set to go into camp as the team's primary kick and punt returner and compete for opportunities at running back with Damien Harris and Latavius Murray, who were both acquired this offseason. The Bills traded with the Colts for Hines at the deadline last year in exchange for running back Zack Moss and what turned into a fifth-round pick.
During the 2022 season, Hines was rarely used on offense, finishing with 13 total touches.
"I think it will be easier in an offseason to get in the whole playbook, get the feel," general manager Brandon Beane said of Hines' lack of touches at the end of last year. "You kind of install a lot more things than you do in season. So, yeah, I mean, in a perfect world, would have loved to get him more touches and hopefully that will happen next season."
He had 16 punt returns and 19 kick returns in the regular season. Two of those returns will be remembered for a long time in Bills history, with Hines returning two kickoffs for touchdowns against the New England Patriots in the final game of the regular season and the first since Damar Hamlin suffered cardiac arrest in Cincinnati. Wide receiver Deonte Harty is in line for the returner job, while Khalil Shakir also has some experience.
The running back room was revamped this offseason, with second-year back James Cook set to get an increased role as the previous leading back, Devin Singletary, is now with the Houston Texans. Without Hines, the options behind Cook, with Harris and Murray, are bigger backs outside of undrafted free agent Jordan Mims, who could now get more of an opportunity in camp. It would not be a surprise to see the team add to the group with Hines' injury, as there are now only four backs on the roster for camp, especially one with pass-catching abilities.
Veterans are reporting to camp Tuesday, with the first practice set for Wednesday at St. John Fisher University in Rochester, New York.
Hines' contract was restructured this offseason to reduce his cap hit this year from $4.79 million to $3.5 million, saving the team about $1.3 million. In the restructure, he also received a $1 million signing bonus, spread out over this year and next, with a total of $2 million guaranteed on his contract.
Hines' injury was first reported by the NFL Network.