RotoWire Injury Report
RotoWire Injury Expert
I've been watching for something specific in all the preseason football I've been viewing. Maybe it's because I've been watching Marvin Harrison for so long, but I've been looking to see what players are willing to take a hit and which will "hit the turf." Harrison's been taunted for being soft during his career, but he could point to the record book to show that the strategy has been effective. In the MNF game, Roddy White took a short five-yard out pass and turned upfield, gaining an extra yard, but also taking two solid hits, the second one from the safety after White had already been slowed down. The extra one wasn't an "ooh" hit, but it was big enough, and it gained a yard, maybe two. Finding that "hit to yards" ratio isn't something that's been tracked (I don't think), but there's a definite cost to it for the player. To me, it looks as if unless it's a big, high-leverage play, it's better to get low or step out of bounds. Of course, it's not going to work that way, and we'll be talking about injuries all season, so let's get to it...
The Lions are a sleeper team for a lot of people, but injuries are already starting to sap some of their talent. Essentially, they're following the Rams/Colts model of using their offense as the defense, outscoring the other team and hoping the defense is just good enough to slow down or make a big play. Losing Jon Kitna would be bad, and if last weekend's game is any sign, it'd be nearly as bad as the Colts losing Peyton Manning. Kitna's back spasms are a worry, but given two weeks, they should clear up. The problem of course is that he's going to get hit by large men once a week, and any recurrence would be a major issue for the Lions. The RB situation is also a big deal. Tatum Bell left the game with what looked like a knee problem, but what the Lions reported as a bruised shin. Looking back at the play, I can't get a clear read on either, so we'll have to watch for practice reports (Bell is unlikely to play in the last preseason game, injury or not.) The other option at RB, Kevin Jones, appears to be headed for the PUP list, though a final decision has not been made. With TJ Duckett and a healthy Bell, the Lions appear to want to hold the roster spot and make sure that Jones is back 100 percent. This obviously will hurt his value, but Jones could still be a nice late middle-round play in drafts. On the defensive side, the Lions lost DB Daniel Bullocks to a torn ACL. Sources blame the Indy turf, so this is something to watch for, especially in the dome's last season. Bullocks isn't much of a cover guy, so don't upgrade opponents too much.
The story of Eagles camp has actually been a non-story. Donovan McNabb looks like Donovan McNabb. I'd rather he wore more of a protective brace, but that's his decision, and he's certainly seemed comfortable. The question now moves from "can he get back" to "can he stay healthy?" That's a tougher one. We've known that McNabb can rehab well, but we haven't seen him exhibit the ability to stay healthy over the last couple seasons. There's no real pattern, so it's not as if he's in a deficit or plays in a manner that amps his injury risk. Without those factors but with his injury history, we have to assume that something's at work that we haven't quite pinpointed. Many will say age. McNabb's an injury risk, slightly moreso than most QBs, but he also has more upside than most. One of his favorite targets, L.J. Smith, is out for the preseason with a Grade II (moderate) groin strain. There's some question about whether Smith will be back to full-go by Week 1, so drop him slightly on your draft lists.
Lots of guys pick sleepers, but I like watching teams that look ready to melt down. Sure, it's a bit sick and twisted, but that's how I roll. The Giants are my team this year, from the Strahan drama to the media-pecking of Tiki Barber and the always-near-mutiny with the Captain Queeg stylings of Tom Coughlin. Add in injuries to the mix, stir, and instant mess! The offense is a bit banged up already, with Plaxico Burress starting early with his back problems. These are related to his past problems, both in his back and his hamstrings. Note that Eli Manning has a tendency to throw the ball high, something that doesn't affect Burress quite as much due to his height and jumping ability. If Burress is out, Manning is likely to struggle. The back problem isn't serious, but it's chronic, meaning the Giants medical staff could have its hands full during weeks when it flares up. The Giants are also without fullback Robert Douglas, having lost him to a meniscus tear that should cost him about six weeks. The G-Men are using Ruben Droughns some at fullback, but don't mistake this for a two-back set. Droughns isn't likely to see too many extra carries even if this does get him on the field more.
One of my favorite sleeper picks after watching him at the NFL Combine is Michael Bush. "If he's healthy" led off every comment about him, and the problem is, he's not. If he were, I think he'd take over quickly in a confused Oakland offense, but instead, the debate is over whether he's headed for the PUP or the IR. The Oakland staff has been jokingly referring to this season as a "redshirt" for Bush, and that's honestly what it would amount to if they IRed him. The question isn't whether he'll be good if healthy, it's if he'll ever be healthy. The surgically repaired leg just might not allow him to ever get back to the level he was prior to the injury. Unless you're in the deepest of keeper leagues, Bush isn't a good pick at any stage.
Concussions are, to me and to many inside the game, the biggest problem that the league faces. Bad nachos at the game are a close second. We all see players getting the "ooh" hit and laying on the turf, but we don't notice the cumulative-effect hits, and we never see the damage done in practice. You'd think that the intensity would be turned down when teams are hitting their own teammates, but even so, the violence at practices would surprise you (especially late in camp when players are trying to make the cut.) Brandon Jackson, the inexperienced rookie RB, got what many describe as a "severe concussion" on Sunday during practice. He was on the field for several minutes, though none of my sources knew exactly how long he'd been unconscious. Jackson, in a battle for carries with Vernand Morency, will likely be out a while while his head clears. It seems like we could have a shuffling backfield in Green Bay, especially if the Packers are scanning the waiver wires as expected.
Randy Moss has yet to practice, though no one seems terribly concerned. I have absolutely no real read on what's going on here, so I'll go back to last year's Terrell Owens saga, which seems very similar. Lets hope that Moss can avoid the subsequent drama and just get back on the field. As always, even with the hamstring injury, he can have value if he can just get out on the field due to his reach in the red zone. The other big injury to watch might not be an injury anymore. The Pats gave Laurence Maroney a load of carries, as likely to see how the shoulder held up under a heavy load as they did to give him preseason work. It held up, and while he's not likely to play in the team's last game, that's standard and not due to the shoulder. Maroney's risk is still there, but its less now that we've seen some of the proof.
There are a lot of people grabbing Michael Turner in drafts, based on his talent and also the idea that LaDainian Tomlinson will come out late in games when the Chargers have a big lead. We saw this a bit early last season, but not down the stretch. Turner's talented, yes, but Tomlinson's occasional scraps are not enough. It doesn't appear Turner will be traded, either, absent a major injury in the first six weeks to another elite back. And now this is all complicated by a sprained ankle, one that could affect Turner into the first couple weeks of the season, though it's not a long-term concern.
The Cardinals line is the big story of camp, but losing Oliver Ross isn't as bad as it sounds. Levi Brown stepped in quickly and ably, making Ross' IR move due to a torn triceps muscle one for depth rather than function. Don't let this injury downgrade the Cards offense.
Bumps and Bruises: Peter King says Roger Goodell's next task is concussions. I can only hope so, because it's only getting worse ... They use the term "expert" loosely when it comes to me, but I'm pretty happy with this draft... Travis Henry will be ready for week 1 after the mild MCL sprain. He'll be near full-go ... Kevin Kolb's name is pronounced "Cobb." Really? I'll admit I missed this, but I like having another decade of an inexplicably pronounced QB name ... Jonathon Ogden was returned to active status after being PUPed all summer. He'll be out there in week 1, a big plus for Steve McNair and Willis McGahee ... Dexter Jackson versus Alge Crumpler. That's just not fair. No late report on how Jackson came out, but it was a nasty (legal) hit ... Joey Porter is back on the field, but there's no way to judge his impact on the Miami defense yet.
Article first appeared 8/28/07