Fantasy Football Week 7: Latest Injury Roundup and Analysis
I'm a bit later with this column than usual, but I have an excuse. Two, actually. I was waiting to get more info on Jimmy Graham and Cecil Shorts—and the info changed what I wrote about them—and I was also out pretty late last night watching the Colts play the Chargers. I'm sorry you had to wait a little bit for info on Randall Cobb, DeMarco Murray and more.
Sometimes, I get to do really cool things. Last night, I watched Monday Night Football with NBC's Joe Posnanski, who's one of the best writers around. Along with Zak Keefer from the Indy Star and Bleacher Report NFL editor Collin McCullough, we watched the game and told stories about players, coaches, writers and Twitter.
Absorbing knowledge from a mind like Joe's, the one that spawned one of the greatest sports books of the last decade (The Soul of Baseball, about Buck O'Neil), is one of those things I wish everyone had the chance to do.
We're going to try to get Joe back to the annual NFL Combine Tweet-Up that I run with Peter King of Sports Illustrated. We had an incredible panel last February, and with the slight changes in the NFL's timeline, we're gearing up for the biggest event yet.
But you're here for the injuries, so let's get to them ...
Randall Cobb/James Jones
INJURY: fractured fibula
OUTLOOK: Cobb out "multiple weeks"
Mike McCarthy clearly doesn't like talking about injuries, but if so, why not let the Packers medical staff talk to the press so that McCarthy doesn't have to? It's a very simple solution, and one that more teams are doing. Watch how the Titans, Eagles and Chiefs have dealt with things in a very factual but transparent manner for the example I'd like to see. It's a sharp counter to what teams like the Packers and Colts do with injury management.
Of course, no Green Bay fans want to talk about the devastating injury to my Fantasy Live colleague. Randall Cobb has a complete fracture of his fibula near the knee, first reported by Ty Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Other players have had fibula fractures, but almost all have had them near the ankle rather than near the knee.
This is a tougher one to get a read on because of the location, but it's reasonable to think that Cobb will be out closer to eight weeks than the low end. That means he would be out almost to the fantasy playoffs. Focus on your own situation as to whether he's worth keeping.
James Jones is also out with a knee sprain, which makes Jordy Nelson a must-play and Jarrett Boykin a nice pickup target in most formats. Boykin's going to cost some FAAB, but could be worth it in an offense where Aaron Rodgers likes to spread the ball around.
INJURY: strained hamstring
OUTLOOK: unclear for Week 7
Playing through an injury is difficult. It slows the healing by having minor setbacks along the way and breaking the rest process as well. Teams are very hesitant to do it, knowing that the risk of a major setback could be significant.
For a player like Larry Fitzgerald, it's even tougher. The difference between a star like Fitzgerald and even a good WR3 or WR4 on the depth chart is huge, so the coaching and medical staff have to balance the risk of re-injury with the talent differential. Add in that Fitzgerald will be pushing to play and pressure from the fans, and you see why the player is often on the field.
Fitzgerald has been able to play reasonably well through this hamstring strain, even finishing off a nice touchdown catch-and-run Sunday, but reports after the game have a significant issue on the opposite side now, the dreaded compensatory injury. There were worries before the game, and with a short week, it's unlikely that Fitzgerald will be as ready as he has been on Thursday as on Sunday.
This is sure to be a true game-time decision with all the complications I detailed above looming large. Practice reports will be largely meaningless, but I would plan my roster for the week based on having Fitzgerald out, with a plan to put him in if he plays and there's no credible option.
INJURY: Grade I MCL sprain
OUTLOOK: out for Week 7, expected back in Week 8 or 9
This video is going to give you a lot of info about DeMarco Murray's injury, but since it was recorded before the severity was known, it's good you're reading this.
Murray suffered a Grade I sprain of his medial collateral ligament. That's the mildest grade, but he could play through it.
The question is, how effective he will be? Can he make lateral moves? Can the offense adjust to keep him from needing to cut in that direction? It's quite possible that treatment will help him get out there. A brace is unlikely due to comfort.
The MCL is not usually repaired, even in more significant sprains, because the body has other secondary stabilizers. Murray's other ligaments and tendons, as well as the muscles surrounding the joint, will have a bigger load, so there is some risk. The medical staff will watch him closely to see if there's any sort of compensation.
If Murray plays, he should be at or near full go, so don't hesitate to play him. This is one of those all-or-nothing injuries that will tip on his response to the treatments.
INJURY: unknown foot injury
Even though I waited a while for news, there's still no solid information on Jimmy Graham. The Saints haven't even acknowledged the MRI that Graham was supposedly headed for on his injured foot. It's left a lot of people guessing.
Some of those guesses are based on the little we saw. Graham walked gingerly off the field late in the game and previously had been seen being re-taped on the sidelines. Some think it's a mid-foot injury, but to me, all signs point to a possible plantar fascia tear.
The fact that the medical staff let Graham walk off is one clue. A suspected fracture to any player, let alone one of the size and importance of Graham's injury, is more likely to bring out the cart. There's no reports that I've seen that Graham was in a walking boot, which would be the immediate response for a possible fracture. Also, X-rays available at the game could have guided that diagnosis.
The Saints are on bye this week, so Graham will get some extra time to heal up, no matter the injury. Hopefully by the time I get Thursday's column up, we'll have more information. For now, check your Plan B in case this is an extended absence.
INJURY: inflamed knee
OUTLOOK: expected to play Week 7
Calvin Johnson, like Larry Fitzgerald and Roddy White, pushed to play, but once out on the field, it was clear that they were at best a decoy. This is, of course, coach-speak for "they had no business being out there."
I'd love to see some of the sharp knives out there test the "decoy" theory and whether it actually changes defenses.
Johnson's knee kept him from cutting, accelerating and jumping. While he didn't show a significant limp, it seemed that Johnson didn't have a sense of where he was. He was always a step back, and even just a ball coming off his fingertips showed that the injury was affecting his abilities.
The Lions kept him on a snap count, which led to Reggie Bush and Kris Durham getting more looks while Joseph Fauria got the red-zone looks. Three catches and three touchdowns is a fantasy dream, and as long as Johnson's limited, Fauria is going to get those kinds of looks. The hope now is that Johnson had no setbacks and that we'll see more activity from him Thursday and Friday leading into this week's game against the Bengals.
OUTLOOK: unclear for Week 7
The way Danny Amendola looked, I hope that the doctors waved off the early concussion screen and immediately sent him back to the locker room for observation and evaluation. It didn't take a doctor to tell you that Amendola was knocked out and clearly altered. That's a concussion in the clearest sense, even if teams are reluctant to say it out loud.
Amendola will take some knocks from fans who say he's injury-prone, but there's no substantive research on this that shows that concussions are anything but a mechanical response. While every concussion is unique, a brain is more or less a brain, and enough force will cause a similar response. The difference is in the recovery time.
Amendola does have a history of concussions, but the most recent I can find was 2009. His proclivity for other injuries should be put aside for now. Ironically, it was Austin Collie, who is returning from severe concussions and a knee issue. that came into the game for Amendola.
Cecil Shorts III
INJURY: sprained clavicle (sternoclavicular joint)
OUTLOOK: unclear for Week 7
It always looks bad when a player comes out of the locker room in a sling or a walking boot. Crutches have gone the way of the dodo, but remember that appearances aren't always reality. Slings and boots have become tools of "just in case" as much as tools of need.
Original reports had Cecil Shorts leaving Jacksonville's surprisingly close loss with a shoulder separation, which is by definition a sprain to the AC joint. The shoulder itself doesn't move out of joint—that's a subluxation or dislocation—but instead is separated from its anchoring ligament. It's seldom a full rupture since there's a lot of supporting muscles and other structures in the shoulder.
However, late reports have the injury on the other side of the clavicle. John Oehser of Jaguars.com is reporting that the injury is a sprained sternoclavicular joint. There isn't much movement in that joint, but there is a ligament that can be damaged, and when it is, it is usually very painful. There have been cases in the NFL, such as Danny Amendola, when he dislocated his clavicle. Ben Roethlisberger and Kevin Kolb also had the injury,
The Jags still think Shorts could play this week. That would be surprising, but would indicate a very low-grade sprain and an effective pain management program.
Gronkowski's situation has gotten even more complex. He still hasn't been cleared by Dr. James Andrews, and reports from Adam Schefter indicate that one of Gronkowski's surgeons isn't clearing him either. Dr. Jesse Jupiter is one of the top fracture experts in the country, with a specialty in non-union, which is part of Gronkowski's issue.
The Pats are in a tough position here, with their own doctor in the crosshairs and questions about their medical staff rising. Confidence is a major issue here, not just for Gronkowski but for other players, though the frustration about the lag between Gronkowski's apparent ability to practice and play is also getting some voice.
Schaub left Sunday's game to boos, which is never a good thing. His ankle and foot injury could be enough to keep him out. The trainers taped him up as if it were a high ankle sprain, but it looks like he has minor injuries to multiple structures. His response to treatment and healing will determine if he's back, though Gary Kubiak may have to go with TJ Yates, or even Case Keenum, as Kubiak shifts into job-saving mode.
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports that David Wilson won't need surgery for his neck issue, at least for now. The bulging disk can be controlled, though as Peyton Manning can tell him, the issues tend to linger. Wilson could be back in three to four weeks, which could be key with Brandon Jacobs wearing down and Andre Brown's impending return coming about the same time. This week, the Giants could be left with Da'Rel Scott behind Eli Manning.
Lewis looked pretty good running the Bills offense until he was forced out late with a foot sprain. The injury is mild enough that Doug Marrone thinks Lewis will be back this week. He's certainly given the team some hope while EJ Manuel is out, but note that Matt Flynn has been brought in just in case. Buffalo is definitely going to be conservative with EJ Manuel's rehab from an LCL sprain, so Lewis has some value in coming weeks if he can stay healthy.
The Cowboys get another hit as they lose Ware for the next month with a significant quad strain. This will impact him greatly and there's simply no way for a speed/power player like Ware to play through this with any effectiveness. The Cowboys medical staff will have to work hard on this one to make sure that he's ready when he does come back. This type of injury has a tendency to lead to recurrences or cascades.