Andre Johnson and Hakeem Nicks
Hamstring strains seem to be the popular injury this NFL season. No one seems immune either as running backs, receivers, and even kickers seem to be sidelined on a weekly basis with the ailment. Let's delve a bit deeper into the issue.
The hamstring isn't a lone muscle but instead a group of muscles that work synergistically to move the knee and hip. They aid in bending the knee (knee flexion) and bringing the hip back (hip extension). However the role of the hamstring is more complicated than these primary motions. They contribute to knee and hip rotation and aid the groin in pulling the leg inward. Furthermore, the hamstring is the antagonist to the powerful quadriceps muscle group, helping decelerate the leg when the knee is straightened. Basically it helps swing the leg while walking, running, and jumping. Unfortunately this position makes the muscle vulnerable to injury as it's being loaded with force just as it begins to extend. This results in the muscle being overloaded and causes a strain to occur. This motion happens most commonly when sprinting and with sudden starts and stops. Knowing this, it becomes a little bit easier to understand why receivers, running backs, and defensive backs seem to be the most prone positions to hamstring strains.
Other factors, like tightness, previous injury, or a muscle imbalance, can contribute to the hamstring being hurt. I would love to see a study on how these injured players spent their prolonged time off during the lockout and see if improper workout techniques, a shortened preseason, or just plain laziness is a factor in what seems like an apparent increase in hamstring strains. Still given what you now know, it's easy to see how limiting the injury can be and why Johnson remains a question mark for Week 9 even though it's been almost five weeks since the injury occurred. Johnson did practice Monday and Houston remains hopeful he will be back against the Browns. He continues to have problems accelerating indicating the muscle is still not a full strength. Fantasy owners itching for his return should play close attention to his progress in practice on Wednesday and Thursday. If by then, the tightness remains Johnson would be in line to miss his fifth straight game.
New York received better news on their top-receiving weapon as a MRI performed on Nicks' injured right hamstring showed no significant damage. The strain is likely a mild or Grade I strain and the team is currently calling him day-to-day. It sounds like he'll make a serious attempt to play against the Patriots but it would be wise to scale back your expectations.
The Giants are also optimistic Bradshaw will be in uniform to take on New England as he nurses a sore foot. Bradshaw briefly left the team's win over the Dolphins to get x-rays on his surgically repaired right foot. In early 2010 Bradshaw had a surgical screw inserted into the fifth metatarsal of his foot. This procedure is generally carried out to help a condition known as a Jones fracture to heal. X-rays on Sunday were negative and Bradshaw returned to the game, however there is some risk here. Refractures of the fifth metatarsal are common and occasionally, dependent on the size of the screw, the surgical screw can fail. Bradshaw said he was just a bit sore and he felt the head of the screw was causing him pain. While it appears Bradshaw may have avoided serious injury this time, look for the Giants to perform a more extensive exam to insure the screw has not shifted or another crack has occurred. If Bradshaw were to miss any time Brandon Jacobs, still recovering from an injury of his own, would be in line to see an increase in carries.
With starter Peyton Hillis suffering from the Madden Curse as well as a balky hamstring, Hardesty was slated for a big day in Week 8. However he lasted just two carried before exiting with a calf strain. A subsequent MRI revealed a moderate or Grade II strain of the gastrocnemius muscle and Hardesty is expected to miss at least two weeks. The calf, like the hamstring, is a muscle complex. The gastrocnemius is the bigger, meatier of the two muscles responsible for planting the toes and helping the hamstrings flex the knee. A Grade II strain means there is significant damage to the individual muscle fibers, resulting in a limitation of movement. The Browns are being a tad optimistic with a two-week recovery window even if the injury occurred in the leg opposite his surgically repaired knee. I wouldn't be surprised to see Hardesty out at least a month. With Hillis still hamstrung, fantasy owners would be wise to take a good, hard look at Chris Ogbonnaya.
LeGarrette Blount: Head coach Raheem Morris sounds pretty confident that Blount will return against the Saints. The bye week apparently allowed him enough time to adequately rehab his sprained medial collateral ligament (MCL).
Dallas Defense: Cornerback Mike Jenkins will miss several weeks with a strained hamstring while the team's leading tackler, Sean Lee, could be inactive with a dislocated left wrist. Lee will visit a hand specialist to determine if season-ending surgery would be required.
Julio Jones: Jones is another receiver looking to bounce back from a hamstring strain. He returned to the practice field Monday and should be in the lineup when the Falcons travel to Indianapolis.
Kevin Kolb: Kolb is wearing a walking boot on his right foot to help protect his big toe. The quarterback suffered a turf toe injury and his availability for Week 9 is unknown. He has dealt with turf toe before and barring any setbacks should play against the Rams.
Ryan Mathews: Add groin strain to the always-growing list of injuries for the San Diego running back. With teammate Mike Tolbert still banged up, San Diego could be forced to turn to Curtis Brinkley. Still Tolbert reportedly looked good prior to the Monday night game and could be a strong play if healthy.
Darren McFadden: McFadden did not practice Monday and continues to rest his sprained foot. The team is hopeful he will suit up against the Broncos but he needs to practice and test out the foot before fantasy owners can be comfortable about his availability.
Jeff Stotts is a Certified Athletic Trainer, MAT, PES and the Injury Analyst for Rotowire.com. You can follow him on twitter @RotoWireATC.