Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for These Injured NFL Players

Chris TrapassoAnalyst IAugust 20, 2013

Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for These Injured NFL Players

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    A handful of NFL players have suffered injuries that will keep them out all year, but there's a growing collection of those who are nursing less significant ailments and could be back when the regular season kicks off in early September. 

    Then again, a small setback in the rehabilitation process could mean those players may not be available until October or later. 

    Here's a look at the best- and worst-case scenarios for the currently injured players we know we'll see at some point in 2013. 

Rob Gronkowski

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    Injury: Back

     

    Best-Case Scenario: Week 2 return 

    Gronkowski had offseason back surgery, and according to a source of the Boston Herald's Karen Guregian, "Gronk is doing very well in his rehabilitation from back and forearm surgeries performed in May and June. He's 'right on schedule' for a mid-September return."

    The source also told her Gronkowski has "healed and advanced to the point where he would be close to playing Week 1 in Buffalo."

    Guregian concluded, "the more realistic time frame for him to be ready and in 'football shape' would be shortly after, right around Game 3 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers."

    A source of ESPN's Adam Schefter told him "it's a huge stretch to think he could play against the Bills."

     

    Worst-Case Scenario: Starts season on PUP list, misses first six games

    Gronkowski's reported progress is extremely encouraging, but the New England Patriots know he's the franchise's most viable long-term offensive weapon, so they'll likely proceed with caution while deciding when he'll return to the field. 

    If he suffers even the slightest setback, the Patriots may leave him on the PUP list—which would open another roster spot. If that's the case, Gronkowski won't be available to play until New England's seventh game. 

    At this point, a return on the road against the New York Jets on October 20 appears to be the worst-case scenario for Gronkowski. 

Arian Foster

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    Injury: Back

     

    Best-Case Scenario: Week 1 return

    Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle wrote the following about Foster's return:

    "Head coach Gary Kubiak said Monday he believes the team’s star running back will be ready for the Sept. 9 season-opener at San Diego."

    However, Kubiak was noncommittal about an official return date for his star running back. 

    Taking Kubiak at his word, the best-case scenario for Foster is a Week 1 return on the road against the San Diego Chargers. 

     

    UPDATE: Foster has been removed from the PUP list and returned to Texans practice on Aug. 21.

    Worst-Case Scenario: Remains on PUP list, misses first six games

    Foster is currently on the PUP list, and there's nothing definitive stating he'll be taken off when the regular season begins. 

    Longtime Houston Chronicle writer John McClain stated on Twitter that it's hard to believe Foster would be ready for opening day given his current condition, especially since he needs injections for pain. 

    Rotoworld.com astutely pointed out that "Foster has missed every timeline to return to practice the Texans' coaches and medical staff have set in front of him."

    Similar to Gronkowski, Foster's worst-case scenario is a PUP designation to start the year, which would hold him out until October 20 when the Texans will travel to Arrowhead Stadium to face the Kansas City Chiefs.

EJ Manuel

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    Injury: Knee

     

    Best-Case Scenario: Week 1 return

    No one in the media is exactly sure what happened to EJ Manuel's knee in the Buffalo Bills' second preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings, and until the morning following the game, the rookie quarterback didn't know either. 

    Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com wrote on Sunday that "Marrone was making an effort to classify EJ Manuel’s knee injury, which required surgery, as minor."

    When asked if Manuel could play in the season opener against the New England Patriots, the former Syracuse head coach said, "He could. There is a good chance of that and the problem I have with that is again, a lot of it is just how he comes back."

    Peter Schrager of FOX Sports reported via his sources that Manuel would be out two to four weeks after his "minor" procedure. 

    Therefore, the best-case scenario for Manuel is starting for Buffalo when the team hosts Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Week 1.

     

    Worst-Case Scenario: Available Week 3

    Because the Bills are exercising their right to be relatively vague about Manuel's injury, it's extremely difficult to peg a worst-case scenario at this point. 

    Starting the season on PUP seems unlikely, so using the end of the initial prognosis appears to be the most logical worst-case scenario for Manuel. 

    Actually, though, Manuel's injury came at an awful time, as he now could lose the starting quarterback job in Buffalo he was primed to win. 

Jason Pierre-Paul

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    Injury: Back

     

    Best-Case Scenario: Week 1 return

    Pierre-Paul is another NFL superstar who underwent back surgery this offseason, but there's been plenty of conflicting reports in regard to when the New York Giants defensive end will be back on the field.

    In early August, Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News tweeted that the Giants expect Pierre-Paul back for the opening game against the Dallas Cowboys. 

    However, Vacchiano wrote this blurb about JPP in a column before the preseason opener: "I remain very skeptical about whether Jason Pierre-Paul will be back in time for the season opener, or if he'll even be much help the first month of the season -- especially after listening to him last week."

    The absolute best-case scenario—although potentially a longshot—aligns with general manager Jerry Reese's hope that Pierre-Paul will suit up in Week 1. 

     

    Worst-Case Scenario: Week 4 return

    It doesn't appear that the Giants have any intentions on placing JPP on the dreaded PUP list, like the Bills did with Manuel, but with so much mystery surrounding how the 6'5'', 278-pound defender is feeling and how far along he is in his rehabilitation, a Week 4 return seems like the best guess at a worst-case scenario. 

Santonio Holmes

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    Injury: Foot

     

    Best-Case Scenario: Week 1 return 

    After an offseason of uncertainty for Holmes, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News said that the Jets wide receiver could return in time for the team's opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

    Mehta wrote in an article on Monday that "Holmes appeared sharp running routes at three-quarters speed and catching passes from fellow dinged-up teammate Geno Smith."

    While it's hard to say if Holmes will play in the preseason, he very well may play in the Darrelle Revis Bowl on September 8. 

     

    Worst-Case Scenario: Week 4 return

    As Rotoworld.com mentioned, "two weeks ago, Holmes wasn't even running." Therefore, it may be a little too early to be optimistic. 

    He seems less likely to start the season on the PUP list than he did in early August, so a Week 4 return on September 29 against the Tennessee Titans is the worst-case scenario for Holmes. 

Champ Bailey

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    Injury: Foot sprain

     

    Best-Case Scenario: Week 2 return

    According to Mike Klis of The Denver Post, X-rays were negative on the foot Bailey injured in the Denver Broncos second preseason game, but the Pro Bowl corner was on crutches. Lindsay Jones of The USA Today tweeted that his MRI report was also normal, but it's unknown how long he'll be out. 

    Ian Rapoport of NFL.com added more fuel to the fire of uncertainty, saying that Bailey could be out for several weeks.

    Via Rotoworld.com on ESPN's NFL Insiders TV show, Chris Mortensen said "They say it's not a Lisfranc. They just don't know if he'll be back for that September 5 opener."

    One bullet was dodged, and because of that, Week 2 against the Giants is a more likely prediction for Bailey's return. 

     

    Worst-Case Scenario: Starts season on PUP, misses first six games

    We've seen how foot injuries can nag players for long durations—talk to Maurice Jones-Drew—and at 35, Bailey may not be as quick to recover as he would have in the past. 

    If it's not a Lisfranc injury, the stud corner could return by sometime in September, but don't be surprised if the Denver Broncos place him on PUP to start the year if he's unable to show progress over the next two weeks. 

Ed Reed

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    Injury: Hip

     

    Best-Case Scenario: Week 2 return

    On August 5, NFL.com tweeted good news about Reed from their Around the League account. The Super Bowl-winning defensive back said he was close to being ready to return to the field. 

    Soon thereafter, John McClain of the Houston Chronicle said that he'd be "stunned" if Reed could play in Houston's first game against San Diego.

    Giving Reed a best-case scenario to return Week 2 against Tennessee is probably being kind at this point. 

     

    Worst-Case Scenario: Starts season on PUP list, misses first six games

    Reed is currently on the PUP list, and he could be there for a while.

    Even after Texans head coach Gary Kubiak told the team's official website that Reed is "ahead of schedule and responding well to the rehab process," Rotoworld.com echoed the sentiments of many plugged-in reporters when this was written about the future Hall of Fame safety: "there's plenty of doubt that he'll be ready Week 1." 

    Will the Texans be forced to place Reed on PUP in order to make room for another player to start the season? They could. 

    He would return on October 20 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Carl Nicks

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    Injury: Toe

     

    Best-Case Scenario: Week 2 return

    Rotoworld.com recently wrote that Tampa Bay Buccaneers' head coach Greg Schiano believes "there's a realistic possibility" guard Carl Nicks is ready for Week 1 against the New York Jets. 

    However, on ESPN's NFL Insiders, Adam Schefter said, via Rotoworld, Nicks "could miss about a month, based on what I'm being told."

    A month would put the mammoth interior offensive lineman back on the field Week 2 at home against the New Orleans Saints. 

     

    Worst-Case Scenario: Starts season on PUP, misses first six games

    Per JoeBucsFans.com, Nicks said "I will have to deal with it my whole life,” Nicks said. “Honestly, it is not 100 percent, yet." While the former New Orleans Saints road-grader said he plans to play in Tampa's third preseason game, there's no indication that he'll do so. 

    According to the Buccaneers' official Twitter account, Nicks "had a setback," as he "developed a blister on his foot that got infected."

    Although there are no substantiated reports of Nicks starting the year on PUP, it shouldn't be ruled out right now.

Quinton Coples

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    Injury: Fractured Ankle

     

    Best-Case Scenario: Week 2 return

    Coples fractured his ankle in the New York Jets' second preseason outing, and sources of Jane McManus of ESPNNewYork.com initially gave three to four weeks a timetable for the second-year defender's return.

    The low end puts Coples back on the field for Week 2's contest against the Patriots in New England. 

     

    Worst-Case Scenario: Week 4 return 

    NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported that Coples will be out indefinitely after undergoing a procedure on his ankle on Tuesday. 

    While the latest news doesn't help any predictions, it seems as though the worse-case scenario would put Coples back on the field September 29 in Tennessee against the Titans. 

Malcom Floyd

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    Injury: Knee sprain

     

    Best-Case Scenario: Week 1 return 

    After suffering what's been classified as a "severe knee sprain," Floyd is considered "questionable" for the San Diego Chargers' season opener, according to Rotoworld.com.

    On August, 17 Tom Krasovic of U-T San Diego tweeted that Floyd was doing light field work, including jogging and making practice catches. 

    A Week 1 return is still the best-case scenario for Floyd, who's already been ruled out for the remainder of the preseason. 

     

    Worst-Case Scenario: Week 4 return 

    Predicting an injury setback is impossible, but with their wide receiving corps already depleted, the Chargers were likely extra careful about putting Floyd back on the field. 

    At worst, the 6'5'' wideout should return for the September 29 showdown with the Dallas Cowboys at home.