Fantasy Football Week 3: Latest Injury Roundup and Analysis

Will Carroll@injuryexpertSports Injuries Lead WriterSeptember 17, 2013

Fantasy Football Week 3: Latest Injury Roundup and Analysis

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    Injuries will not be mocked. At the mere suggestion that things seemed to be down a bit in Week 1, injuries came back strongly and quickly.

    All you need to do is see names like Ray Rice, Larry Fitzgerald and Steven Jackson to realize what the effect can be. Those names look more at home in the first round of a draft than listed on an injury report.

    Of course, the peaks and valleys of injuries remind us how unpredictable they are. Larry Fitzgerald's hamstring could have given way on any play—this week, next week, last week—and that it did what it did doesn't even give us much insight into how the Cardinals medical staff managed it. From the outside, it's hard to say if they got more or less out of him than could be expected.

    That's why any one week and any one injury has to be put into context. Overall, the efforts at maintenance and rehabilitation get more attention. It's easier to say "miraculous recovery" than to give full credit to the doctors and therapists. Few see the hours that the athletic trainers put in to get a player out on the field safely. 

    The NFL's "next man up" philosophy belies the problem. While there is a necessity to depth and to the opportunity that injuries bring, there is still a major loss anytime talent is shelved. The way to win is to collect talent and keep it on the field. Anything less reminds us that we're not seeing the game at its best. 

    For now, the injuries are with us, so let's take a look around the league.

Steven Jackson

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    Reports are conflicted on how serious Steven Jackson's thigh injury is. Most reports are saying that the injury is a thigh bruise, though multiple sources have told me that the injury is a strain. Given Jackson's style of running, either is going to cause him problems in the short term, but a more significant strain could keep him out much longer.

    The best case for a bruise would be something like Jamaal Charles', where a week of rest and treatment should be able to have him return in most situations. Even a low-grade strain would put his Week 3 in question. And depending on the severity and location, it could reach up to six weeks.

    As of now, NFL's Ian Rapoport is reporting, "RB Steven Jackson (thigh) may miss 2-4 weeks, source says."

    Strains come in three grades just like sprains, but location is also key to determining severity. Many muscles are redundant in function, though they will lose strength and be at greater risk. Injuries in the thickest part of the muscle (the "belly") can be more severe, though injuries at either end can also be problematic.

    Yes, that whole previous paragraph is one big equivocation. The fact is that we just don't have enough information to do much more with Jackson, down to knowing the specific injury yet. This is one we'll have to monitor the rest of the week. 

Eddie Lacy

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    Eddie Lacy was knocked out. The video of the hit is everywhere, clearly against both the spirit and the letter of the law. And yet, according to the Washington Post, Brandon Meriweather has avoided suspension, largely because his technique resulted in concussing himself later in the game. It's poor logic and a worse message, leading many to wonder whether the concussion settlement is going to take the NFL's eye off the ball.

    Watch the Lacy video again and see if you can see the "fencer's response." That's a natural reaction to head trauma where the arm(s) goes stiff, directly in front of the body. Lacy appears in some angles to show this response, but he was quickly up and struggling to get to his feet. The players around him knew immediately, with several players waving for trainers. 

    As with any concussion, it is impossible to tell anything from the apparent severity and immediate reaction. Concussions have an individualized response that can only be judged in retrospect. The standard of care moves in steps, with the player's recovery coming as he passes each step. It is possible that Lacy could be ready to go for Week 3 or possible he never plays again. We can only hope for the best. 

    Concussions can probably never be eliminated, but it is precisely this kind of collision that the league can easily legislate out of the game. It's a worthwhile step, if only to make sure that players like Eddie Lacy don't have promising careers derailed because one rogue player can't keep his dadgum head up. 

Ray Rice

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    A hip flexor strain isn't a good thing, but for the Ravens and Ray Rice, it's not the worst news. The hip flexor itself is key to running. It's the muscle responsible for raising the leg, and I don't know of many ways to run without using it. (Even the Australian Shuffle favored by ultramarathon runners is keyed by the hip flexors.) 

    The Baltimore Sun reports that the injury is not considered serious, likely a Grade I sprain, and it's possible that rest and treatment will have him ready to go by Sunday. Rice is not likely to practice this week, but head coach John Harbaugh is keeping the door open to him. That means at best, Rice will be a GTD on Sunday, so make sure you have a Plan B ready.

    With Bernard Pierce banged up as well, the Ravens will be deep in the depth chart if Rice is not able to go. Shaun Draughn is a good change of pace but not so much as a starter. It's my expectation that Rice will be ready, but that he'll be on a count, probably around half. The Ravens had planned to reduce Rice's workload to keep him healthy and productive, but this shifts that. 

Maurice Jones-Drew

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    It's easy to wonder if the ankle strain that Maurice Jones-Drew is dealing with is connected in some way to last season's Lisfranc problem. 

    Let's be clear here. This is a strain or damage to the tendon and not the more common ankle sprain. Tendons tend to be a bit stronger than ligaments, but in the ankle, it's more even due to the small nature of the muscles around the area. Aside from the Achilles tendon, which is very thick and strong, the rest of the tendons in the area are smaller and attached to more minor muscles.

    While we don't know exactly which tendon is the problem, the injury, MJD's history and a very difficult matchup against the Seahawks make it a smart play for the Jaguars to hold Jones-Drew out unless they're absolutely sure this is not going to become a lingering foot issue. That means Jordan Todman is going to be considered around the league, but that's not the best idea outside of the deepest of leagues. 

    The biggest issue is figuring out if this is just the latest unfortunate incident for a back who's now teetering on the edge of the fantasy elite, or if this is connected to his previous foot problem. If it's the latter, it's time to get Jones-Drew off your roster at the earliest opportunity. Packaging him in a two-for-one deal along with a decent WR for a solid RB is a good play. 

Reggie Bush

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    When you hear the Lions say "no structural damage" for Reggie Bush, you should hear it as "we're worried about the cartilage." The mechanism of Bush's injury isn't clear, but with Bush's history, something like a meniscus tear wouldn't be surprising. The "medium term" quote that USA Today gave us from Jim Schwartz is in line with that possibility. 

    The workload is a problem for Bush, who, while talented, is quickly overexposed. This type of injury is not really one of fatigue but simple exposure. Think of this as the flip side of opportunity. On any given play, each player has a chance to do something good and is exposed to a risk of injury. With some it will be simple fatigue, but with others, it's flipping the coin of luck another time.

    Having escaped any traumatic ligament issues, getting Bush back on the field will become about comfort, pain tolerance and making sure that any residual trauma is minimized. In the best case, the Lions will not be forced to keep Bush on a snap count, and will put him in the situations where he will likely succeed. 

    There's no question that Bush is talented, but finding a way to combine those talents with the rest of the Detroit offense is key to Jim Schwartz leading this team to the playoffs. I think Week 3 is going to be the start of figuring that balance out—beginning with the decision of whether Joique Bell is the right back to pair with Bush. 

Larry Fitzgerald

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    The great part of my Monday injury videos is that I can just link them in here in case you missed them. I'll wait while you watch.

    With Larry Fitzgerald, the worry is how much additional damage he did by trying to play through it. It could have been a significant setback, though the early indications are that Fitzgerald had good self-awareness and got himself out before he did too much damage. 

    Hamstring injuries are tough for any speed-based athlete, but Fitzgerald isn't a pure speed player. He could, in essence, jog and still be productive. Tall and wide receivers retain their ability to be red-zone targets, as we saw with Antonio Gates a few years back as he battled foot problems.

    The Cards medical staff will work hard to make sure Fitzgerald gets a chance to be a GTD this week, but taking a game off seems the likely course here. It would chain together two weeks of rest and hopefully give the hamstring enough healing to keep it from becoming a problem that lingers all season. 

Andre Johnson

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    Andre Johnson suffered a concussion late in Sunday's game and immediately went into the concussion protocol, as noted by the Houston Chronicle. If the NFL wants something to counteract the problems it showed with the Eddie Lacy hit, it should point to how everything worked properly in Johnson's case.

    Johnson's concussion was noted by the observer, checked by the independent sideline personnel and then immediately tested off the field on the new iPad-based system. Johnson was kept away from loud noises and bright lights, which should help. When treated properly, concussions have a high rate of return. And in using best practices like this, the time of healing can be reduced as well.

    Johnson is already having some physical activity on Monday—a good sign that he could make it back and be cleared to play on Sunday. While all concussions are serious, treating them properly can minimize their effect. Reducing the amount of them is going to take more work, starting with the players themselves. 

The Others

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    Malcom Floyd

    Neck injuries are the scariest things on a football field. Seeing a player braced and rolled off is tough no matter how many times we see it. Floyd was lucky. The axial loading could have been much worse, as Dr. Dave Siebert explains.

    Despite it being called a sprain, the danger to the spinal cord is the key. Floyd will see a specialist this week, but he's going to be out a while. Two miraculous recoveries in a season might make me take things slow.


    Danny Amendola

    Reports that Amendola has a sports hernia are confusing. The adductor (groin) attaches just below where the obliques attach, and pain in that area is often non-localized. But it's seldom that both happen. A sports hernia would mean surgery that would keep him out six to eight weeks, but the groin strain might be a bit less, as long as it's Grade II as originally thought. 


    Ryan Clady

    Ryan Clady may have a Lisfranc injury. The severity and involvement is yet to be determined, but this is a tough blow for a Broncos team that looks as good as any in the NFL.

    His absence would be felt most in pass protection, which means that Knowshon Moreno may get more snaps. He's the one back who Peyton Manning seems to trust right now, and his running was solid last week. Clady could miss the season if this is as severe as it seems the Broncos think it is.


    Russell Okung

    In this era of specialization, isn't it surprising that linemen wear the same cleats that the runners do? The light shoes are great for someone who needs to be quick, and research has shown that even small drops in weight can have big consequences.

    Unfortunately, the lack of protection and stability in these new shoes isn't good for linemen. Russell Okung has a severe ligament sprain in his foot. Think of it as the worst case of turf toe ever.

    The only upside is that if he can play through it, he's not going to do more damage. We'll know more by the end of the week, but things don't look good here—his absence could impact how effectively the Seahawks are able to run the ball.