Fantasy Football Week 8: Latest Injury Roundup and Analysis
Wow, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast.
Sometimes, injuries are a victim of perception. A star player goes down or your fantasy stud hits the IR, and it can seem like there are more injuries than normal. This happens every preseason. In Week 7, however, it was massive. The numbers are staggering, and in some cases, there's nothing to be done. In others, there are things that must be done, and quickly.
It's more than just season-ending injuries to Sam Bradford and Reggie Wayne or devastating injuries for the Bears and Bucs; it's the very core of the game that's being tested as much as ligaments and bones. Another devastating neck injury? Another line outside James Andrews' office door? This shouldn't be an every-week occurrence.
The confusing rules of helmet-to-helmet hits, the increase in low hits and the continued failure of the concussion protocol can't wait until the offseason to be addressed. It's not just how they affect the NFL, but also how football is perceived in the amateur ranks. At a time when the safety of football is being actively questioned and parents are wondering whether their children should play at all, the NFL needs to take the lead.
So I'll wait. In the meantime, let's look at the injuries around the league...
Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Injury: Sprained knee (ACL)
Outlook: Done for season
Reggie Wayne stopped, turned and crumbled. The mechanism of injury was clear, with the tibia twisting as it decelerated. By the time Wayne got to the sidelines, Dr. Arthur Rettig was able to tell with certainty that Wayne had severely sprained his ACL. Wayne was visibly upset and insisted that he walk off the field so as not to distract from the team's efforts.
Wayne had an MRI Monday morning, which only confirmed the manual tests. The Colts' No. 1 receiver has a torn ACL and some assorted damage inside his knee that will force him to have surgery. He will have it shortly, though he will likely check with doctors and do some prehab.
There's a long list of players who have come back from ACL injuries, including Wayne himself. Wayne tore his ACL in college and came back to be a week-in, week-out elite performer. There's no reason he can't return to that level just as many others have.
The Colts will shift their focus now and hope that T.Y. Hilton continues to emerge, while Darrius Heyward-Bey also will need to step his game up. Andrew Luck has lost his safety net, but enough weapons remain to keep the Colts moving forward.
Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams
Injury: Sprained knee (ACL)
Outlook: Done for season
Sam Bradford hasn't had much luck, aside from signing one of the last big-money rookie deals, which, when you think about it, isn't too bad. Bradford's 2013 is done after he sprained his knee. It was an odd mechanism, as he collapsed awkwardly while barreling out of bounds. Watching the play, it's painfully clear how he was pushed and twisted at the same time.
Bradford was tested quickly and then the news was confirmed by MRI. The sprain will require a reconstruction, costing him the next nine-to-12 months to rehab. Bradford is more in the Tom Brady mold of QB rather than Robert Griffin, so the mobility shouldn't be too much of an issue. The face of the Rams franchise should have every chance to come back and resume his career without missing a beat.
The Rams aren't so lucky. They're hitting the street in search of a QB to back up or even take over for Kellen Clemens. The rest of the offense takes a big hit, making almost all of the players significant downgrades. The Rams seem to have taken a step back this season after improving under Jeff Fisher in his first year. We'll have to see whether a better draft pick helps.
Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans
Injury: Strained hamstring
Outlook: Bye week, expected to return for Week 9
So much for the IPO. Arian Foster barely made it past the kickoff before his hamstring gave way, a significant setback for the Texans running back. His nonchalance about the injury afterward seemed to rub some the wrong way, but that's how Foster has always been.
Foster was playing with a mild strain, so the chance that this could happen was there. The hope was he'd be productive without causing a bigger issue that would cost him more time. Foster appears to have not done too much more damage, and with the bye, he'll have time to heal up. Of course, it might have been better to bench him altogether, which would have also helped fantasy players who took a zero for their top pick.
The Texans have said in the past that they want to use Ben Tate more, but given the chance, they learned that's not the best option. While Foster should be back in Week 9, so should Matt Schaub, though Case Keenum played pretty well in his first start. The Texans continue to be a mess, and with Gary Kubiak's job on the line from week to week and what could be a tough matchup with the division-leading Colts coming up, there are a lot of moving parts beyond one mildly strained hamstring to consider.
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Injury: Torn labrum, shoulder
Outlook: Out for Week 8, return in 2-4 weeks
Doug Martin took a powerful shot to his shoulder as he dove for the end zone. It was clean, but man, that was as big a hit as I've seen in a while. Pads weren't enough, as Martin's shoulder couldn't withstand the force. The end result was damage to the glenoid labrum, an injury that's uncommon among running backs and more often seen in baseball pitchers.
The mechanism of injury is clear. The humeral head was forced into the shoulder by the hit, and the labrum either moved or was crushed underneath the movement. The tearing is significant, but the stability of the shoulder is not compromised. What this means is that the Bucs' first order of business will be strengthening everything else around the damage so as to prevent this from being reinjured on a less forceful hit.
The labrum will eventually need to be repaired, as it will not heal on its own, but if the Bucs medical staff can stabilize the shoulder and manage the pain, Martin will be able to return in as little as two weeks. The range of the recovery period is tentative because they are very early in this process and we don't know how things will progress.
A lot of this will come down to pain tolerance. One worry is that Martin might alter his running style, going a bit more upright to avoid taking direct shots on the shoulder. Doing this could expose his legs more and reduce his effectiveness by raising his center of gravity.
Once he does have the surgery, the road back should be easy and have him well before training camp, even if he waits until February or March. In the long term, this isn't a big deal for Martin, but in the short term, it's a huge loss for the Bucs.
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears
Injury: Strained adductor
Outlook: Will miss at least one month
Here's how bad Jay Cutler's groin strain was: Normally, a player often guards or grabs the area that's affected. It's an unconscious, primal reaction to severe pain, and at times (as we saw with Jake Locker), it can be very defensive and positive. Cutler did not grab the inside of his thigh, but instead above the iliac crest, the point of the hip.
It wasn't propriety that kept Cutler from grabbing there, but instead, according to one NFL physician, it's a typical reaction to a severe adductor strain, one I'd never seen before.
"When the adductor gives that much, the whole pelvis can shift and feel like the leg is going to detach. You saw him pull in on the hip, trying to tilt it and then bending over, again trying to take the pressure off the damaged area," the doctor said.
In other words, Cutler looked that bad for a reason.
But was the injury truly severe? Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers has played for nearly a month with a Grade II+ strain, while New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola, hardly Mr. Healthy, was able to return from a complete tear in just a few weeks. The Bears' suggestion that Cutler would miss a month indicates a Grade II strain. Yes, that's less.
Pain tolerance varies among individuals, and there have certainly been questions about Cutler on those fronts before. We'll have to see how he manages the healing and rehab process here, while the Bears try to figure out how to handle the next month without him.
DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys
Injury: Sprained knee (MCL)
Outlook: Likely to play in Week 8
DeMarco Murray made it clear that he considered the RB1 slot his, knee injury or not. He launched a tweet-storm with Joseph Randle (whom many expected to use Murray's absence as an audition), and he pushed hard to play last week despite the instability in his knee. The Cowboys smartly held him out, but now the fight to rein in their back begins again after reports that the team is souring on him.
Murray was always an injury risk from the time the team drafted him, and like Darren McFadden, he's shown incredible talent in between health issues. The MCL sprain he is dealing with this time around is minor, but functionally limits Murray. He could be a straight-line runner, but his skill is in his acceleration and lateral motion.
Murray might take it as an affront, but he'd do well to have someone—whether it's Randle, Phillip Tanner or someone else—assume some of the workload. As a 20-carry back, he'd be more likely to stay healthy and put up numbers. In the meantime, the Cowboys just have to hope that he doesn't push too hard and put himself back on the shelf.
Watch for Murray to practice early in the week, but don't be too confident in his abilities if he remains limited leading up to game day. His stops and starts are likely to be the best sign of health, so watch for any related analysis in practice reports.
Jermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay Packers
Injury: Spinal contusion
Jermichael Finley spent the night in ICU, always a scary-sounding piece of news. Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel showed just how scary it was for Finley's teammates as well.
I asked Bleacher Report's Dr. Dave Siebert why Finley might have been kept in the ICU.
"When someone sustains significant head or neck trauma, doctors may decide to admit the patient to an ICU for closer monitoring. In the ICU, patients are frequently closer to the nurses and doctors taking care of them, and they are also usually hooked up to continuous heart monitoring," Dr. Siebert told me.
In other words, it seems like Finley's doctors were worried enough about him to warrant constant monitoring—likely due to concern for increasing swelling within the neck that could compress the spinal cord. By being in the ICU, doctors could use the extra staff to frequently check for changes or new deficits in his neurological exam, which, if any showed up, could have made interventions up to and including surgery necessary.
That is even scarier, but smart. Finley is just a couple of weeks removed from a concussion that led his son to be quoted as saying he didn't want his father to play football anymore. Finley's going to have to think about that after a scary neck injury that saw him carted off.
Finley's injury is officially a spinal contusion, though that's hardly the final word on this. There will be more tests to make sure that everything is structurally sound and healing, and that there are no other issues like a spinal stenosis that have increased Finley's risk. There's also some question as to whether Finley was concussed on the play, though that is secondary to any neck trauma. There is no timetable on his return, but Finley and his family will have as much involvement in the decision as the medical staff.
Brian Cushing, LB, Houston Texans
Injury: Fractured fibula, sprained knee (LCL)
Outlook: Done for season
Compare the hits that took out Brian Cushing and Randall Cobb. Both were low but legal. Both came just below the knee. In two weeks, there were two similar injuries that I can't remember ever occurring in the NFL prior to this. That's worrisome.
Like Cobb, Cushing has a fracture just below the knee on the fibula, which is the smaller of the two bones of the leg and takes significantly less of the body's weight. It's necessary for stability, but because of its function, it takes less time to heal.
Unlike Cobb, Cushing did damage the lateral collateral ligament, which stabilizes the knee and connects to the fibula. That repair was done by James Andrews on Monday. It is the same knee that Cushing had reconstructed last year after damaging his ACL, but doctors and therapists I spoke with said that since Cushing had come back healthy and was showing no physical deficits, it's unlikely that the previous injury will complicate this recovery.
Cushing is done for the season, but his time frame for a return should be quicker than it was for the ACL. That puts him back in action in plenty of time for training camp and gives him another chance to reestablish himself as a top linebacker.
Percy Harvin, WR, Seattle Seahawks
Percy Harvin has returned to practice for the Seahawks in Week 8. His hip labrum has progressed well after preseason surgery, but he is still considerably below the expected return timetable for this kind of procedure. Admittedly, there's a very small sample size of NFL players from which to draw comparisons, especially those similar to Harvin. Watch to see if he does anything more than running. Making hard cuts, stopping and absorbing contact will be the next tests for playmaker before he's activated. I still don't expect to see him back before Week 10.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
Calvin Johnson showed once again that the Lions medical staff just needs a week. Johnson showed all the acceleration that he lacked in Week 6, plus he had hops enough to "dunk" on the goalposts after his touchdown. Like Reggie Bush, the signs are very positive for Johnson going forward, though the maintenance issues always have some recurrence risk.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
Does his return mean I don't have to write about him anymore? Thank you.
C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills
C.J. Spiller remained very limited by his ankle injury. With Fred Jackson reinjuring his knee, Spiller should get more touches, but that's not a good thing if he can't do anything with them. Until he shows any sort of lateral mobility and burst, he's got to be kept on the bench, and that could be a few weeks.
Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Nick Foles' concussion and Matt Barkley's...well, everything bad...give way to the return of Michael Vick. For a player who looked good in both preseason and Week 6, Foles looked plain awful on Sunday. He'll be following concussion protocol until cleared, but there are real questions about how his performance will affect future plans. It's clear that Vick gives Chip Kelly the best chance to win now.
Leon Hall, CB, Cincinnati Bengals
Leon Hall went up to defend a pass and when he came down, his Achilles buckled. The tendon ruptured and he's done for the season. He'll need surgery and will face a six-to nine-month recovery, which gives him time to be back for next season's edition of Hard Knocks.