RotoWire Injury Report
RotoWire Injury Expert
I had a different look at the NFL this week, watching games from Baseball Central. I've been working at MLB.com's Baseball Channel through the playoffs (and will be here up to the World Series), so instead of my comfy couch and big screen, I watched mostly via Gamecast and Rotowire updates. I've always said that with my mobile phone and laptop, I could work from anywhere, but now I know it's true. In a terrible week - yet again - for significant fantasy injuries, I think I actually made more calls this week than in previous ones. Because I didn't *see* the injuries in many cases aside from highlights, I relied more on my sources and observers than before. I think you'll like the results, so let's get to it:
Jason Taylor said it best: "One more hit and he could be scrambled eggs." Let's hope it's better than that, but let's also hope that Trent Green realizes just how close he came to being those eggs. Green is - like every player - taking his life into his own hands. He was brought in to buy time for a team that could have, if everything went right, been mediocre enough to sneak into the playoffs. By Week 5, we know they're not. Green is playing for pride and a paycheck now, and I'd hope that Green - as smart and as personable as they come - doesn't need either anymore. Green may have only lost consciousness briefly, but a concussion is a concussion, and the cumulative effects aren't worth the risk. Green is technically under the new procedures the NFL has in place, but why then wasn't Jon Kitna under this? We'll see how it plays out, but anyone who has Green or a Dolphin WR has to be shifting to Plan B.
So much for a QB controversy. Matt Leinart fractured his collarbone and no one "rides or dies" with a guy who's in a sling. The break will certainly sideline Leinart for at least two months, and more likely he's done for the season. As a guy who's already been questioning the team's commitment to him, there are already growing questions about how Leinart will approach his rehab. For the first month or so, there's not much to do except avoid re-injury, but down the line, will Leinart actually work towards a late season return or put it on autopilot and hope that next year, there's no Kurt Warner problem for him to deal with? If you're trying to decide whether to dump Leinart this year, I'd say yes. It's a tougher call for keeper leagues, where Leinart still has a chance to be a solid NFL QB.
First, the Panthers are liars. I'll try to leave that there and move on to facts independently confirmed. Jake Delhomme will have Tommy John surgery (as first reported by the NFL Network's Adam Schefter) and will miss a full year. Much as with a baseball pitcher, he'll need to have the ulnar collateral ligament replaced, correcting a SPRAIN - not strain, as they lied - that was, according to my source, a 50 percent tear. So you ask how I got it wrong last week, saying it was a biceps strain. The easy answer here is that it is also torn and will be replaced in the same surgery. They knew this and well within the bounds of injury reporting rules, they were outside the truth on Delhomme's elbow. Rob Johnson came back (and yes, I use the term loosely) from TJ in 18 months, though it's difficult with football's long offseason to know exactly when he could have come back. Still, betting the "over" on this injury time frame - which the Panthers say could be seven months - is the smart play.
Here's a scary line from the Charlotte Observer about David Carr: "The quarterback alternated between praying, taking painkillers and pleading with the training staff to make it hurt less. He described it like this: "I took everything they had in the training room. Swallowed it, shot it up, did everything." Is that what you want to hear from your now-starting QB? Is this what it really takes to play in the NFL? The answer to the latter is yes, and in the NFL, coaches will tell you that the answer to the former is yes as well. Carr swallowed, shot, and then came ... back ... on ... the ... field. For a guy who's taken more than his share of shots, I won't question his toughness at all, but I will question his common sense. Carr's back injury is one to watch in practice this week because any loss of arm strength or mobility is brutal for Carr and the Panthers.
Your fantasy team might be helped by Nerf. Yeah, you remember the squishy ball your mom would let you play with in the house. That's what Alex Smith is using to help his rehab. He's actually lightly thrown a real ball, a good indication that he's making good progress from his shoulder separation and could be back as soon as the Niners next game. Smith will need to continue progressing over the bye week and get back into full swing as they prep for their game against the Giants on October 21. Note that the next game is against a team that can have a great pass rush, so expect Mike Nolan to be a bit conservative here. Smith doesn't need to play the part of Donovan McNabb in his first game back.
The Bucs aren't having an easy go of it. Just a week after losing Cadillac Williams, Michael Pittman will miss two months with a broken fibula. A comeback this season is possible, though I wouldn't go as far as calling it probable. The break is, according to sources, very low in the leg, enough so that there may be some effect on the ankle. Once Pittman heals up, we'll have to see if he's lost any lateral movement. Given the timeframe for healing up the fracture, the ankle should be better as well, so this shouldn't extend the problem too much, if at all. We'll have to look for Pittman to make a return to the practice field sometime in mid-November, though this gets into the time frame where a team's record comes into play. If the Bucs are out of the playoff chase, they're less likely to bring Pittman back. Earnest Graham now becomes the feature back, like it or not, though the Bucs will look for help. (Amazing how only the Colts seem to find the Kenton Keiths of the world, isn't it?)
The Browns' Jamal Lewis was a preseason favorite of many, looking in shape and having something to prove to his old teammates in Baltimore. He can't do that if he's hurt and right now, he's headed for an MRI on his sprained right foot. Watching the play, I can't see where anything happened, but the medical staff, even after re-taping Lewis, wouldn't let him back on the field, which indicates they saw something, perhaps significant swelling, that tipped them off to something inside. The MRI results should be back Tuesday and between that and practice reports, we should have an early indication on Lewis' prospects for the upcoming weeks.
Congratulations to Mack Strong. Not only did he have a great career, he'll exit at the right time. The herniated disc and spinal stenosis could have ended things much worse, but the most important thing for Strong is that he hasn't yet lost any quality of life to a quality career. We won't know how much of himself he left on the field; there are seldom 10-year follow-ups for players who leave and fewer still 25-year reports since all too many don't make it that far. The Seahawks hope that Deion Branch has as long a career. His injury - a mid-foot sprain with whispers that it could be the dreaded Lisfranc sprain - will keep him out at least two weeks. That's about the same timeframe that the Seahawks are hoping to get D.J. Hackett back in, making this a tough period for the Seahawks passing attack. Watch for them to go to shorter passes and rely even more on Shaun Alexander.
We have to wonder if it's more than a simple bruise for Calvin Johnson. His back "tightened up", something a bruise doesn't often do, early in Sunday's loss. This is sounding more like some kind of low-level problem that could be a chronic concern. The Lions need to make sure that the bye week is a productive one on a lot of fronts, but getting Johnson to a healthy state is one of the biggest ones. According to sources, the team is looking for their first round pick to "assert himself" in the offense.
There's not much worse for a medical staff than clearing a player and seeing him re-injure himself quickly. That happened with the Chiefs this week, putting Eddie Kennison back on the field and then seeing him hobble off early on Sunday. Sources tell me that Kennison's more to blame here, insisting he was fine, though it's the trainer's job to see past the player's protestations. We'll know more on how serious the hamstring re-injury is and how long Kennison will miss by mid-week, so keep your eyes on the practice reports. It will also be interesting to see if Dwayne Bowe, who has emerged in Kennison's absence, has the same sort of connection with Brodie Croyle as he does with Damon Huard, who has a shoulder problem. The Chiefs are calling it a bruise, though it's likely something more involved than that as Huard's a long shot to play this week.
Did Dallas Clark have a near-death experience after taking that brutal hit on Sunday? He said "I saw lights" and couldn't breathe for nearly a minute after one of the hardest hits I've seen, but still came back later in the game. Clark should have no problems going forward, though the bye week comes at an ideal time for most of the team. That bye week is the reason that Marvin Harrison and Joseph Addai didn't play, giving them a real three weeks of recovery time before starting back into a very difficult schedule. Aside from injuries, there's not much that can derail the Colts, but they're not proving that they can stay healthy so far.
Bumps and Bruises: How long before the NFL uses this? ... Tom Nalen is out for the season, which will tell us if Broncos linemen are as replaceable as Broncos running backs ... Congrats to Casey Wiegmann of the Chiefs. He and my pal Danni Boatwright welcomed their son into the world this week ... Clinton Portis left the game with a minor knee injury after he hit his kneecap on something hard. It's a painful but transient injury, and he returned later. Note that this is not related in any way to the tendinitis ... Brandon Stokely took what the Broncos are calling a "head injury" and what everyone else would call a concussion. He could miss some time ... Tarvaris Jackson thinks he's ready. Practice this week will tell us whether the Vikings agree and will put him back with the starters ... Joe Jurevicius escaped serious knee injury, but we'll see if the 'wear and tear' keeps him off the practice field this week.
[Carroll is the author of several books, including Juice: The Real Story of Baseball’s 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 10/9/07