Sometimes, players come back well. Adrian Peterson comes to mind. Sometimes, players struggle. Robert Griffin comes to mind. The fact is that either way, ACL injuries aren't career enders any more, but they do take a long time to recover from and can alter a team's season as much as the player that suffers the injury.
But are ACL injuries a part of the game and if so, do they have to be as big a part? Traumatic knee injuries are always going to happen, but prevention of ACL injuries isn't something most fans have considered. The downside here is that most NFL teams aren't doing much either.
I've talked to several doctors, athletic trainers and physical therapists that work in this field and the research is fascinating. Once again, European football—you know, soccer—is miles ahead on this, but the techniques aren't being widely used here in the US.
Like concussions, this isn't going to ever get to zero, but especially at youth and scholastic levels, the effects are amplified. Sports science could easily give a team a real advantage and the gap is there to be exploited now. This is something I hope to write about more in the very near future, but I'll leave you with this one thought:
We could reduce ACL sprains by 25 percent, right now.
Think about that next time you see your player writhing on the turf or standing on the sidelines in a brace. It's not only doable, it's something the NFL and lower levels must start doing soon. For now, there's plenty of injuries to talk about around the league ...
Larry Fitzgerald's increased (and early) participation in practice is a good sign. The hope is that he can make it through this Thursday game and benefit from the extra rest. He's a must-play given his ADP and his value in the red zone, though he's riskier than normal.
The only other relevant question mark is Calais Campbell, who would be instrumental in controlling Russell Wilson if healthy. After his neck injury last week, even if he plays, he'll have a tougher time with that. If Wilson has more room and sees the ball-hawking Cards backfield, he's going to be much more inclined to run this week.
The Seahawks are like the Texans in one sense. They talk about taking some of the load off their feature back, but neither of them do it. Marshawn Lynch is playing through a sore hip, but there's no sign Robert Turbin will do much more than give Lynch a lower snap count. Lynch is still getting all his touches. Chris Clemons is a game-time decision but it's unlikely he plays or at least plays fully. Zach Miller should play normally.
INJURY: unknown foot injury
OUTLOOK: on bye Week 7, unknown beyond
Jimmy Graham limped off the field last week after being shut out. The injury was insult on top of a blueprint, difficult as it might be, for shutting down Graham and the Saints offense. With a bye to rest, will it be enough?
Graham's foot injury still hasn't been given a specific public diagnosis, but there's a wide range of possibilities. His reaction, ability to walk and the fact that he was allowed back into the game after the original injury indicate that there wasn't point tenderness or severe swelling at the time. There was pain, but not an indication of fracture.
It could have been as simple as having his foot stepped on or cleated to something more problematic like a strain or plantar fascia issue. It's the latter that I'm focused on given the known facts. That the Saints medical staff was seen taping his arch is the best clue we have for that.
The Saints are saying the injury is "not serious" and with the bye, we probably won't get much in the way of clues this week. The delay in the MRI could be for a lot of reasons and isn't necessarily meaningful, but everyone will need to go with Plan B this week anyway. Make sure it's a good one, just in case it goes beyond the bye.
INJURY: post-surgical forearm and back
OUTLOOK: possible to play in Week 7
Are we waiting on the plane again this week or the game? Rob Gronkowski has not yet been cleared to play in games and his practice is getting confusing. While Gronkowski is able to go and go well in practice, he's not going full contact if you use the standard definition. He's hitting and showing a lot of the things you want to see from a rehabbing player, but he's still not taking the shots that will really test his back.
Funny thing is, the extra time that has been given in the confusion of the last few weeks is likely to have helped his back more than anything. The holdup is the integrity of the forearm, yes, but the back is the bigger concern in the long term. As Ben Volin of the Boston Globe points out, money is a factor here. Gronkowski makes a minimum salary this season and much of the contracts later years are predicated on health.
There's still some confusion about when Gronkowski will meet with Dr. James Andrews for clearance or even if he will. It's possible that this is simply a consultation for Gronkowski's confidence, which could be done by phone. It would surprise me, but it's possible.
The Pats haven't been cagey about whether Gronkowski is going to play. They've left him home when he's not and by Friday, I expect we'll have clarity on the issue. As always, I'll be watching on Sunday morning if necessary on both the Med Check and Fantasy Live.
UPDATE: Gronkowski's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told the media that Gronkowski has now been cleared by all three of his doctors. This was a pointed statement, leaving out the Patriots team doctor. There has been no clarification from the Patriots as yet, but it's certainly possible that the Pats will use Gronkowski this week.
INJURY: inflamed knee
OUTLOOK: expected to play Week 7
Calvin Johnson played through a knee inflammation last week and was very ineffective in doing so. After missing practice on Wednesday, there's little to indicate that he'll be much better this week. If so, we may be looking at missing Johnson for a few weeks.
The Lions have their bye in Week 9 with this week's game against the Bengals and next week's against the Cowboys between them and that off week. With division rival Chicago on the other side, Johnson's opportunity to have the knee scoped and cleaned up might be coming there. Now, it's unclear what the cause of the inflammation actually is, but this is the window for fixing a meniscus or cartilage problem, with minor surgery costing between two and four weeks.
They could try to keep Johnson available for the next two weeks in hopes that the bye will give him enough healing time to get productive. The Lions are taking a big gamble if that's the route they take. Nate Burleson's absence complicates things, but the medical and coaching staffs are going to have to take a long-term view here. If Johnson is as bad again this week, they'll have to get a bit more aggressive.
INJURY: sprained knee
OUTLOOK: out Week 7, expected back Week 8
DeMarco Murray has a low-grade MCL sprain and while there was some initial speculation that he might not miss any playing time, the Cowboys keeping him out of practice this week all but assures that he'll miss at least one week. That might be it, but with MCL sprains, it's more about function than grading.
The question is going to be less about how severe the sprain is than about how functional the secondary stabilizers allow Murray to be. If he can cut, he'll be fine. If not, the Cowboys will have to decide how much of an adjustment to make to his running style is both safe for him and effective.
In the meantime, they'll go with Joseph Randle, who is third on the depth chart but next man up with both Murray and Lance Dunbar out. Randle was an able back at Oklahoma State who's style contrasts with Murray's. He lacks the burst and speed, though if he can stay healthy, he'll have opportunities behind Murray. Don't use all your FAAB on Randle, but he's a safe bet for production this week.
INJURY: high ankle sprain/quad strain
OUTLOOK: unlikely for week 7/limited in Week 7
It's always narrative when the bye week comes. "Just the right time!" you'll hear over and over, no matter where it is. The Falcons have had injuries for a while, so the fact that their bye came in Week 6 is really no better than 5, 7 or any of the other possibilities. It just was. Whether that gets Roddy White and Steven Jackson back remains to be seen.
The expectation was that Steven Jackson would be back from his quad strain after the bye, but he hasn't practiced yet, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That's not a good sign.
(And yes, quad strain. It's variously described as quad and hamstring. The location of the strain is on the side, near where the muscles meet. If you want to get technical, sources tell me Jackson's strain is distal on the vastus lateralis. It's only important because the quad is an extensor, meaning Jackson won't be able to 'push' with his running, which is key to his style and strength.)
Jackson may try to practice later this week, which could allow a limited use of Jackson, but if he can't push, another week of rest is likely better, leaving the runs to Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling.
Roddy White remains out as well. Beyond the high ankle sprain that has held him back, White added a hamstring strain. It's a common cascade and while not serious in and of itself, it's definitely a bad sign. White missing practice doesn't give a lot of hope on healing, though it's unlikely that White will be out this week. He's an even riskier play this week than normal, even if you see him back at practice Friday.
INJURY: strained hamstring
OUTLOOK: unclear for Week 7
Michael Vick isn't officially ruled out for Week 7, even after he said the hamstring was worse than he had expected. A week off for Vick was a good week for Nick Foles on the field, which makes it less likely that the Eagles will rush Vick back. Of course, Vick may have other ideas if he thinks he's losing his grip on the starting job.
Vick needs a healthy hamstring to effectively run the offense and just plain run. While Vick is known to be injury prone, it's mostly the result of his size and getting hit, not injuries like this. In fact, even in traumatic cases, Vick has a tendency to come in at or under the normal range for similar injuries. He may get hurt more, but he heals well.
With Vick out this week, the hamstring should have more time to heal, which will give Chip Kelly more options, though Nick Foles is certainly a solid start this week. The offense is the same in theory, but not in practice, so look for LeSean McCoy and the TEs to continue getting more work.
James Jones: Jones will not test his sprained knee until Friday. It's unlikely at this stage that he'll play, as even a low-grade PCL sprain usually needs a couple weeks to recover. That leaves Jordy Nelson as a regular target for Aaron Rodgers, though Jermichael Finley could shift out some, looking for mismatches.
Matt Schaub: Schaub isn't losing the locker room by working hard to rehab from an ankle injury. He's got an outside chance of being ready, but the speculation is that the coaching staff would rather give the fans a week off, especially with a tough matchup. Schaub's not a good start even if he plays and neither are TJ Yates or Case Keenum (who was named starter), which knocks down pretty much everyone else on the offense as well.
Jake Locker: It's a bit of a surprise that Jake Locker is out on the field, even in a very limited fashion, with as bad as his hip injury looked. The sprain was the best possible scenario and the time line for his return could be even quicker. This week isn't officially out, but the Titans will go with Ryan Fitzpatrick for at least one more week. Look for early-week participation in Week 8 for guidance on Locker.
Stevie Johnson: Johnson made progress with his strained back, going from limited on Wednesday to full practice Thursday. Backs are tricky and can tighten up, so Johnson is likely to be a true game-time decision. The trend is positive, though with Matt Flynn the likely starter in Buffalo, the whole offense becomes a tougher read. UPDATE: With Thad Lewis practicing Thursday, there's more to like about the Bills offense.
Eddie Royal: Royal was an early-season stud, but he may have turned into a pumpkin. Pumpkins don't have bad toes, which Royal does. He was in a walking boot rather than cleats on Thursday, which makes him a GTD on Sunday. Keenan Allen's emergence could have more room to go if Royal is limited.