An entire regular season's worth of injuries came to a close on Sunday, and all eyes are turning to the playoffs and the NFL's Wild Card Round. On Saturday, the Kansas City Chiefs visit the Indianapolis Colts in the early game, and later on, the Philadelphia Eagles host the New Orleans Saints.
Not surprisingly, by November, December and the postseason, wins and losses often depend just as much on health and durability than on talent.
Additionally, players may also try to play through injuries that would otherwise hold them out earlier in the year.
2013 is no different.
Which injuries will come into play on Saturday?
Let's take a look, starting with the early game. A review for Sunday's games will come later this week.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Dwayne Bowe, WR (concussion)
According to Kansas City Chiefs insider Reid Ferrin, wide receiver Dwayne Bowe will practice on Tuesday. He continues to recover from a concussion he suffered sometime during the week preceding Week 17’s loss to the San Diego Chargers.
By practicing Tuesday, Bowe will start the fourth of five stages of the NFL’s concussion return-to-play protocol: noncontact practice. If all goes well, he will likely then proceed with full-contact practice on Wednesday and receive medical clearance shortly thereafter.
On the other hand, any symptom recurrence will delay the process. With a Saturday game this week, time, while not yet short, can become so if any setbacks occur.
That said, Bowe’s health will always reign above all else—even the playoffs.
Tamba Hali, LB (knee)
Per the Chiefs injury report, linebacker Tamba Hali did not practice during the week leading up to Week 17’s matchup due to an unclear knee injury.
Fortunately, Reid Ferrin mentions the inflammation is improving.
“Knee inflammation” is a very general phrase that can imply anything from a minor ligament sprain to cartilage damage or bursitis.
At this point, reports sound positive, and cautious optimism remains an appropriate outlook for now.
Vontae Davis, CB, Indianapolis Colts
Antoine Bethea, S (ankle)
According to George Bremer of The Herald Bulletin, safety Antoine Bethea played through an ankle injury in Week 17.
Most likely, his injury is very minor—such as a Grade 1 low ankle sprain.
As long as supportive taping can stabilize his ankle, he can continue to play through it—assuming good pain control. However, an injured ankle is a weaker ankle and can worsen on any given play.
Vontae Davis, CB (groin)
In other words, at worst, the former Fighting Illini likely suffered a minor Grade 1 strain.
Grade 1 strains involve only minor muscle overstretching and microscopic tearing. A Grade 2 or Grade 3 strain—or a partial or complete muscle tear, respectively—usually shows up on MRI.
Very mild Grade 1 injuries may not necessarily affect a player if treatment can provide adequate pain control and normal function.
On the other hand, they remain at risk of further, more serious injury until fully healed and, therefore, cannot be completely dismissed.
Davis' practice status throughout the week will shed some light on the severity of his injury. Participation in two consecutive practices bodes well for Saturday, whereas anything less casts at least some degree of doubt.
Cory Redding, DE (shoulder)
According to Yahoo! Sports, a shoulder injury sidelined defensive end Cory Redding on Sunday.
Fortunately, according to Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star, head coach Chuck Pagano stated Redding is "good to go" for Tuesday's practice.
Details remain scarce for now, but like Davis, if Redding can complete at least two consecutive practices, he may very well return for Saturday. Time will tell.
- According to the same Yahoo! Sports report, the Colts rested linemen Ricky Jean-Francois (foot) and Mike McGlynn (elbow) last week.
Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
Before Week 17, the New Orleans Saints injury report listed nine players, but all carried the "probable" tag—implying at least a 75 percent chance of playing.
Even better, the NFC's sixth seed suffered no major injuries on Sunday, boding well for the start of the playoffs.
Fans should keep an eye on quarterback Drew Brees' knee this week, but it did not affect him in his regular-season finale. Nothing yet suggests it will factor in this weekend, either.
Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Similar to their opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles boast a relative lack of recent major injuries heading into the postseason.
That said, safety Earl Wolff aggravated a prior knee injury before Week 17, and he missed the game as a result.
Nevertheless, as of now, the Eagles will enter Saturday's game against the Saints with a reasonably fresh squad—something of which the other playoff teams are certainly envious.
Dr. Dave Siebert is a resident physician at the University of Washington and medical analyst for Bleacher Report. He plans to pursue fellowship training in Primary Care (non-operative) Sports Medicine.