Junior Seau will be among the subjects in a documentary about NFL players and head injuries.
The next several days are going to be big ones for the NFL. Sure, Thursday night's matchup between Buffalo and Cleveland wasn't exactly one that makes you hear John Fascenda in your head, but every game counts, right?
Beyond this and another Sunday of football (and injuries) is what we've seen on the field. And I mean down on the field.
The image of football this season is one of head-to-head hits, like the one that put Eddie Lacy on the shelf. It's Jake Locker locked up in pain after damage to his hip on a hit that many have questioned. It's Malcom Floyd taking a very scary axial load, then rolling off the field on a cart.
The NFL doesn't want those images in your head. They don't want people asking week after week about Rob Gronkowski. They want the image of Peyton Manning throwing touchdowns after many questioned whether he was ever going to come back. (Funny thing, Gronkowski and Manning shared a surgeon.) They want the deep passes, the long runs, the late comeback.
I've read the advance copy of the accompanying book, and having followed this story for years, not much of this is new information, but it's told in a compelling and often damning story.
I'm very curious how the NFL is going to handle this. It made a mistake pushing ESPN over this since it only drew more attention to the show. While a PBS documentary isn't going to draw nearly the audience of an NFL pregame show, they've already lost a lot of public opinion. My guess is the NFL will attempt to ignore this, but I'm not sure that they'll be able to. Again.
Let's look around the league:
DOWNGRADE: C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson
The Bills come in with major questions at RB.
Both C.J. Spiller (ankle) and Fred Jackson (knee) are questionable, though late word is that both should play. There's a fine line between playing and playing effectively, so both are downgrades for me. Either could be used as a flex play.
Spiller is still a home run threat, but lack of lateral movement hinders those chances. Jackson is a power back who could get a TD or two, but his sprained knee might not be the best thing to send into a pile. The Bills still have a lot of defensive depth issues, especially in the backfield, but not enough to be a significant D/ST downgrade.
Brandon Weeden will be back and active for the Browns, but he's lost his starting job to Brian Hoyer for now.
Josh Gordon was listed on the injury report with a forearm injury, but he's expected to play normally. Both Hoyer and Gordon have built a quick rapport and aren't the worst plays in most formats. Gordon is getting very open despite tight coverage, which implies he's getting better with technique. That's a big plus for everyone. The rest of the Browns listed injuries are minor and not fantasy-relevant.
OUTLOOK: expected to play Week 5, could be limited
Blisters sound like a weird injury to make the Injury Report, but reports out of Kansas City have Jamaal Charles dealing with severe and multiple blisters. We've all gotten new shoes and dealt with blisters, but few of us have relied on our feet the way a running back does.
Andy Reid called the blisters "extensive" (via Fox Sports) while sources told me that Charles' feet looked "chewed up." No one seems sure why this happened. Charles appears to be wearing different shoes in Week 4 (as seen above) than he did in previous weeks, so that's the most likely culprit. Even then, this sort of extensive blistering is unusual.
There are a lot of products available to deal with blisters, but few are designed for this specific set of circumstances.
A lot of this will come down to pain management and Charles' ability to deal with whatever pain or discomfort is left. Adrenaline might help, but might leave him dealing with this week after week. Look to see if Charles practices more on Friday. If not, he's likely to lose some touches, though he's still a must-play in most formats.
INJURY: strained hamstring
OUTLOOK: unlikely to play Week 5
It's no surprise that Darren McFadden is hurt. He's injury-prone and it's not hard to snark about his status. This hamstring strain builds on the other, chipping away at the talent he has. What's more intriguing is whether there was a symbiotic relationship with Terrelle Pryor, taking both some workload and some pressure off the talented running back.
I certainly can't prove it, but I'm inclined to say yes. It's impossible to tell in anything but retrospect, but there's something to chemistry and the way parts mesh with each other in any team sport. However, it's almost always an unintended consequence, a happy accident that becomes narrative when things go well.
McFadden's strain is not severe, but the location and depth of the strain are problematic.
Add in his history and the Raiders are going to have to be conservative with this. If he's not able to practice again on Friday, as noted by USA Today, look for McFadden to be out, which leaves the rushing load on a returning Pryor. See, everything's connected.
INJURY: unknown neck/spinal issue
OUTLOOK: out Week 5, unclear beyond that
I don't get angry much about injuries. They're part of the game to some level. I get why teams think that a level of secrecy is needed, but compare the information given about Jake Locker this week with what we're getting about Ahmad Bradshaw.
The Titans gave constant updates, even when they weren't sure, letting the media and fans know what was going on. When they finally had a solid diagnosis, they let people know along with the reasons why they believed he was coming back in just weeks.
With Ahmad Bradshaw, the Colts won't even acknowledge when the injury happened.
It's simply impossible for me to believe that it didn't happen on the play that caused this kind of reaction. The only other explanation is that the Colts knew Bradshaw had a previous injury and sent him back out there, making this an exacerbation that we're watching.
The Colts aren't giving any more details on the diagnosis or prognosis and for what? We'll know this is surely as every other injury in the NFL and for what gain?
For Bradshaw, this is worrisome.
The most likely scenario is that the hit caused damage to the nerves coming out of his spine, perhaps entrapping them. While most were focused on the fact that this had the appearance of a concussion (and he was not checked after that play), what we saw was also indicative of a spinal cord issue. The bundle of nerves can be shocked just like the brain, causing the "drunken sailor" motion.
This is serious.
It's definitely going to have Bradshaw out this week and for the foreseeable future, shifting much of the rushing load to Trent Richardson. Donald Brown will continue to play some, but his inability to pass-block will limit him as much with Andrew Luck as it did with Peyton Manning.
Long term, we'll have to see what doctors see and can do for Bradshaw. While I don't want to call this career-threatening without more information, this is certainly a major concern for Bradshaw.
INJURY: strained groin
OUTLOOK: possible to play in Week 5
Notice how the Patriots have stopped talking about Danny Amendola's injury as a "groin strain" and gone straight to the more complex "adductor?"
It's a bit of misdirection.
While they both mean the same thing, using the more technical term will confuse some element of fans, stopping further questions. It even works with the media when they toss out terms like "avulsion."
Amendola's groin strain is severe, one that pulled the bone off the muscle. At some point, it may need to be surgically reattached, but the body is redundant. If it's not painful and Amendola retains good function, surgery can be put off. It sounds painful and dangerous, but this is one of those situations where it's hard to do more damage than he's already done.
The key here is function. With reports like this one from ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss that Amendola is running well in practice, note that they're not reports of him running sharp routes, making hard cuts or doing the kinds of lateral movements that will really test the injured area.
Amendola may return as early as this week, but the uncertainty about the abilities he'll retain is enough for me to say that in many situations, there's probably better roster options, at least for this week.
OUTLOOK: both expected to play Week 5
The bye week came at the right time for the Packers. Both Eddie Lacy and Jermichael Finley were able to use the extra time off to clear their heads and clear the NFL's protocols. Finley's process was a bit slower than normal, but it appears that was more due to the schedule than any problems he had.
Both were back at practice on Thursday and should be back to their normal roles.
What normal means is a bit more of a question for Lacy. With James Starks hurting and Johnathan Franklin dealing with his own foot injury, it's very tough to tell what the run splits will be in the pass-first Packers attack.
Lacy won the job outright prior to his injury, and while both Starks and Franklin played well, talent usually wins. There are going to be questions about whether all three are "system" backs and there is an element to that. Lacy's a good play in an RB2 role while Franklin is a bit more speculative in a flex play. Finley is a good play in all formats and should be able to get enough targets to put up solid numbers in all formats.
INJURY: sprained knee
OUTLOOK: unlikely to play in Week 5
The Baltimore Sun has the details on Jacoby Jones' return to practice, but the key word is "limited." Jones comes back from his Football Follies-style injury, a Grade 2 MCL sprain, and isn't quite ready for full-go action. He's very fast in a straight line, but route running would have to be adjusted a lot. Defenses would pick up quickly that he couldn't cut.
Jones isn't the pure speed WR in Baltimore. That's Torrey Smith, though he's emerging as a more complete WR than many expected. Jones is a nice complement and a special-teams weapon, so it's more likely that the offense gives Jones at least one more week of healing while it continues to find its identity.
Adding Jones back in could free things up. The emergence of Marlon Brown as a valid WR option gives the Ravens a bit more depth and hopefully opens up more room for a rushing attack that hasn't found its normal footing. Some worry Ray Rice's hip injury was affecting him last week, but I saw no evidence of any limitations.
Megatron has a tendency to flip back into the toy car when it's not Sunday. He takes a lot of hits and gets banged up more than most know. He plays—and plays well—so it's hard to read practice reports and get too worried about Johnson given his history. Expect him to play, but have a good Plan B at the ready, though it's hard to replicate his value.
Pryor did not have more steps to go through with the NFL concussion protocol, but he also had no issues this week while being monitored by the Raiders medical staff. He's expected to start and play normally, and should have no further issues. I'm curious if he shows any reluctance to run or can use his as a learning experience.
The Vikings will use the bye to see just how much healing has gone on with Ponder's ribs. While the situation was real, it didn't hurt that he hadn't been playing well. It's a benching without the hard feelings. Ponder and Cassel might be on equal footing by this time next week, assuming Ponder is cleared to play.
Ridley missed Thursday's practice with what many are calling a knee injury. While not inaccurate, sources tell me it's a thigh bruise very low near the knee that is the problem. Missing practice isn't going to help Ridley get more touches, so playing him is a bit of roulette. LaGarrette Blount feels like a better play, though trying to guess the roles is a fool's errand.
Cushing is expected to be cleared to play after a concussion, though as of publishing time, he had not been officially cleared. If he plays, Cushing should play normally which makes the Texans defense and IDP leagues a must-start.