RotoWire Injury Report
RotoWire Injury Expert
Reps. Over and over, I hear NFL coaches telling me publicly and privately that reps are the key to football. Reps in practice, reps in games - doesn't matter, as long as the player is 'getting reps.' So how do you explain the prevalence of solid players who miss significant portions of practice, designed recovery periods that allow the various parts of their bodies to heal, but who then miss reps, only to come into the Sunday games and tear it up? Plaxico Burress doesn't seem to need practice too badly. Brian Westbrook didn't need to practice last year. Bob Sanders loses reps a couple days a week, and he still hits like a truck. Without channelling Allen Iverson, is practice really as important as NFL coaches want us to believe? Does any measure of the increase in injuries go back to the Lombardi-Halas era, where reps really counted, where you didn't drink water at practice, and you hit to find out who the real men were on Thursday? Maybe there's a John Gagliardi-type out there who's about to revolutionize football ... but probably not. I think that I'll have a job writing about terrible injuries and ruined careers for a while. So on to the injuries:
"Career threatening." There's two words I hate writing together. Unfortunately, the oft-injured Carnell Williams is facing career threatening surgery after a devastating patellar tendon tear. The way he was forced down on the knee is just a terrible mechanism for injury, and I'll be surprised if the tendon is the only damage - as if that weren't enough. The best comparable here is Correll Buckhalter, who came back from a similar rupture he suffered in 2004. It took him over two full seasons to come back to full function, though it's unclear if he's returned to his previous level due to role. He's a useful back, but hardly the talent that Williams can be when healthy. The Bucs have solid replacements in Earnest Graham and Michael Pittman, so the dropoff shouldn't be too severe in the short term. In the longer term, they'll have to watch the draft and free agent market for another running back. Waiting for Cadillac might take too long.
Luke Petitgout might pass in terms of positive thinking, but fails on self-awareness. "I won't be out too long," Petitgout's quote after Sunday's game only works if you define "too long" in decades. He's done for the season with a torn ACL, but should be back next season without too much consequence. The Bucs will be readjusting their running game due to his absence and the loss of Williams, so it remains to be seen just how much effect this will have. Don't be surprised if the changes mask any dropoff to the running game in the short term. Of course, Petitgout also protected Jeff Garcia's blind side.
Is there a positive side to Brian Westbrook missing Sunday night's "game" against the Giants? Not if you're Donovan McNabb, but for Westbrook's fantasy owners, there might be. First, the abdominal strain doesn't look serious enough to keep him out long term. Second, he got a week off to help his knee heal, much the same as he did last season, though for different reasons. After that rest last year, he didn't have nearly as many knee problems and racked up the yards in bunches. If there's any positive to be found here, it's in knowing that Westbrook will be back soon and that they only face Osi Umenyiora one more time.
The Indianapolis turf is hard. Some are quietly blaming the team's impending move to a new stadium. "I don't think it's being taken care of," one player told me two weeks ago. We're seeing the effects, both positive and negaitive for the Colts. While it is definitely fast, the lack of cushioning and loose substrate (the black substance you see "puff" up when a foot is dragged) is both causing some injuries and some caution. Marvin Harrison is perhaps the most notable victim. Few notice his knee braces, but even those couldn't protect him from being rolled up and having his kneecap smashed into that hard turf. As he rolled around the field in pain, we could tell a couple things. First, it wasn't a ligament injury -- not only was the mechanism wrong, it's not that painful. Trainer Hunter Smith saw that and didn't keep Harrison in one position. Second, it was extremely painful, but transient. Harrison was back out quickly, too quickly to have had painkillers take effect. If you've ever smashed your knee into something, you know that type of pain and how quickly its gone. Harrison and the Colts got lucky, though the knee did get stiff at halftime. Harrison's likely to miss a bit of practice, but indications are that he'll be ready for Week 5.
The second incident was with Joseph Addai. His shoulder got smashed into the hard turf and according to some sources, Addai said "it popped" or "it popped out." My sources heard it differently but in either case, the shoulder self-reduced or never came out, and Addai felt that it was stable after the game. The concern is that there was internal damage, reducing Addai's ability to use his shoulders as a weapon, but we'll have to wait on practice later this week. Kenton Keith looked solid in his stead and is worth having as insurance.
Of course, the biggest concern for the Colts might be that Bob Sanders didn't play in the second half. The official line is rib injury, though Tony Dungy wouldn't (or couldn't) give more details at his Monday presser. Sanders seldom practices, so it's tougher to get a read on him than most. Just don't be fooled into thinking he's THE difference maker for this defense. It's a system defense, and Matt Giordano is nearly as big a hitter. The Colts did lose Rob Morris for the season. His patellar tendon audibly snapped on a freakish play that didn't appear to be anything unusual. Some players are calling it a turf injury, though the replays don't give much indication why it happened.
John Clayton is taking a ton of heat for missing on Derrick Ward. He shouldn't be. The fact that Clayton let loose with what he believed to be true is all that he can do, much in the same way that I missed Sunday on Calvin Johnson. I'm not in Clayton's Hall of Fame ballpark, but the fact is that we both rely on trusted sources to get our information. Sometimes, those sources are wrong or we're even misdirected. I'm sure that Clayton noted who gave him that info and will be more cautious next time he gets a call. As for Ward, he played and showed no real effects. My sources tell me that Ward pushed the coaching staff to let him play because he realizes Brandon Jacobs will be back for the next game and knew he needed to make a statement, hoping to hold on to at least a portion of the team's touches.
For those of you that worried about Plaxico Burress last week, he did exactly what was expected. He finds ways to use his height and strength to get open, especially in the red zone. Eli Manning's confidence in him will continue to keep him valuable even as his targets go down slightly. The late bye doesn't help, but there's some talk of holding Burress out of the London game in a couple weeks that comes in front of the bye, giving him a couple weeks to heal up the ankle for a playoff push.
Why is Alex Smith going to miss a month and perhaps longer with a shoulder separation when Eli Manning came back the next week? Manning had a mild "sep" with no associated damage. Smith wasn't so lucky, suffering a Grade III separation with what sources call "significant swelling." While the team says there's currently no plans for surgery, it remains to be seen how Smith returns to function. The stretching and tearing of the capsule, labrum, and other structures is tough to see even on advanced imaging, so we'll get a truer reading once Smith begins throwing the ball. Just as we knew Manning would be okay when he made normal throws during practice the week after his injury, we'll know once Smith does the same. Ignore the semantics and focus on function. In the short term, it's a plus for Frank Gore, as long as Trent Dilfer can show some sort of passing attack to keep the safeties out of the box.
The Panthers are finally admitting that surgery is a possibility for Jake Delhomme. Given David Carr's performance on Sunday - yes, I was surprised he was that bad - they have to hope that the tendon problem isn't that significant. The decision now is between an unstable elbow that could get better, but would be at risk, or hoping that Carr just had an off week. The Panthers and Delhomme don't look to make any quick decisions, hoping that time and aggressive treatment can help. It's important to note that we now have a better indication of what the problem actually is. According to sources, Delhomme has a "significant strain of the distal biceps tendon" as the "result of an extreme loadbearing on his bent elbow." In other words, he tried to catch himself (and the weight of John Abraham), resulting in the tendon tearing. It's an injury one doctor told me was common in snowboarders. "They fall a lot," he said, though few have 300 pound men on their back at the time.
The Raiders got a big win from a rejuvenated Daunte Culpepper, but may need the bye in order to get LaMont Jordan healthy. While X-rays on his back came back negative, he's still in serious pain according to reports. He'll have additional testing done to try and determine the cause. Add in Justin Fargas' big performance and that Dominic Rhodes is coming off suspension, and there's definite loss of value for Jordan and reason for him to rush back to keep his job. It will be tough to get an immediate read on this due to the bye week and practice being thrown off.
During the Lions-Bears game - yes, that's what I watched - there was a disturbing play and call. Ernie Sims, the Lions hard-hitting LB, dropped his head and smashed Cedric Benson turning the corner. His helmet dropped way, way down and while he did impact the ball, that type of technique puts his cervical spine at risk. The problem I have is that Brian Baldinger, the Fox analyst, spent much of the next minute praising Sims for going for the ball. In essence, Baldinger was unintentionally teaching poor technique. Worse, he was unintentionally endangering players. Last Friday, I saw a similar highlight with a high school player missling headfirst for the ball. It was a vicious hit designed for the Sportscenter highlight, not the fundamental. We get what we teach and we're all guilty of loving the "ooh" hit and the "wow" replay. The problem is we don't often connect that and the guy carted off on a backboard. An interesting postscript to this is that Sims has a long-term history of concussion. My Seminoles source tells me that Sims' history of concussion not only caused him to need a special helmet, but his brother Marcus also has similar problems.
Bumps and Bruises: Yeah, I missed it on Calvin Johnson this week, but the back bruise he has shouldn't keep him out any longer ... Patrick Crayton is an injury prone player that had a monster week. If that doesn't scream sell high to you, you need a new hobby ... Javon Walker smartly avoided Indy's hard turf, but shouldn't miss much more time ... Kellen Winslow didn't show much problem or signs of pain last week. His shoulder, we assume, is fine ... Keep your eye out for Hines Ward at practice this week. Whispers that the Steelers may be covering up a significant knee injury are getting louder.
[Carroll is the author of several books, including Juice: The Real Story of Baseballís Drug Problems and Saving the Pitcher, writes the "Under the Knife" column for Baseball Prospectus and comes to us after serving as the injury expert for the short-lived The Fantasy Show on ESPN last season.]
Article first appeared 10/2/07