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Injury Analysis: Injuries Muddle Miami Backfield

Jeff Stotts

Jeff Stotts works as a Certified Athletic Trainer (MAT, ATC, PES, CES). He won the 2011 Best Fantasy Football Article in Print from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

While a time of excitement and anticipation for NFL fans and fantasy football owners, the start of training camp is a reminder of the dangers of playing in extreme temperatures. Fortunately, the amazing work of the Korey Stringer Institute has helped educate athletes at all levels about how to prevent sudden death in sports. Named in honor of Korey Stringer, the Pro Bowl offensive tackle who died from an exertional heat stroke in 2001, the KSI has helped lead and fund research in areas such as hydration, heat conditions and injury prevention. In partnership with the NFL, the KSI has helped protect the lives of professional players and helped shape the safety protocols utilized by teams league wide. It might be an organization overlooked by fantasy owners, but it deserves a considerable amount of praise and applause.

On to the injuries ...

Arian Foster, Jay Ajayi

Foster signed with the Dolphins less than a month ago but has already worked his way up the depth chart. He started camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list but has since been activated. Foster, who turns 30 in late August, is working his way back from a ruptured Achilles he sustained in the first half of last season. Miami is limiting his reps to slowly build up his workload, but the progressive approach won't significantly reduce Foster's risk. The number of red flags in his medical history remains high, and it is particularly difficult to come back from a torn Achilles' tendon. Foster could produce at points during the season but he is too unreliable to be considered a top running back option.

Foster also has benefited from an injury, as his new teammate Ajayi has been limited to riding a stationary bike because of a bone bruise on his knee. While the injury might seem a bit trivial, bone bruises of the knee can be slow to heal as the biomechanics of the patella (kneecap), resulting in a prolonged recovery. Fortunately Ajayi's injury appears minor, and he isn't expected to miss much time. Still, he does have a history of knee problems and every snap of practice Ajayi misses provides Foster an opportunity to earn the starting running back role.

Stevie Johnson

The San Diego wide receiver appears to be the first player to suffer a significant injury in camp after he tore the meniscus in his right knee on the second day of practice. Surgery will be performed, though multiple variables will shape his return.

Blood flow to the inner portions of each meniscus is limited and even nonexistent in some cases. A lack of blood makes natural healing extremely difficult, which is why surgery is often necessary. How a tear of one of these fibrocartilage disks of the knee is fixed is dependent on the location of the damage.

When surgery begins, the doctor has two options, a repair or a removal. A repair is only done if the tear occurred in a specific region and manner. Only then can the pieces of the damaged tissue be surgically sutured together. Option No. 2 is a removal, or meniscectomy, in which the injured tissue is simply excised.

A meniscus repair is generally accompanied by better long-term results than a partial or full meniscectomy. However, the recovery time following a repair is often much longer. A recovery of three to six months is common following a repair and could cost Johnson a portion or all of the 2016 season.

However, a meniscectomy remains the more common of the two procedures and carries a much quicker return-to-play timeline. A player with a meniscectomy can usually return to activity within six weeks. Meniscectomies have their own set of risks and complications, but Johnson could be back in time for the start of the regular season if he is willing and able to utilize this option.

Keep an eye out for emerging details on Johnson's procedure over the next week. Focus more on the estimated timeline than the actual terminology, as meniscus surgeries are often all labeled repairs, even when a removal is performed. If the window suggests a quick turnaround, he likely had a meniscectomy.

In the meantime, Chargers receivers Dontrelle Inman and Tyrell Williams receive small bumps in value. San Diego's top receivers, Keenan Allen and Travis Benjamin, should also be slightly upgraded as their targets could increase if Johnson misses any significant time. The same goes for PPR machine running back Danny Woodhead. Johnson had 65 targets in 10 games last season.

Turf Burns

Odell Beckham Jr.:
The dynamic receiver is nursing a sore left leg and ankle after a tangle up with teammate Janoris Jenkins. While the description of the injury is vague, the issue appears minor, and Beckham returned to practice Tuesday.

Dez Bryant:
The Cowboys' receiver is reportedly dealing with a blister on his heel but the issue is considered minor. Bryant hopes to return to top form after playing in just nine games in 2015 due to foot and ankle problems.

Tony Romo:
Bryant's quarterback also hopes for a bounce-back season. Romo played in four games last year after twice fracturing his left collarbone. He's reported some early stiffness in his back but should benefit from a restful offseason.

Matt Forte:
I expressed my concerns about Forte several weeks ago, citing his age, injury history and career workload as potential red flags. Now with Jets camp well under way, Forte remains a spectator due to a hamstring strain. He's listed as day-to-day, though it is apparent New York plans on handling his recovery conservatively. He remains a top-20 option but there are younger, more durable options to draft ahead of him.

Jordy Nelson:
The Packers' wideout has tendinitis in his left knee and could be limited throughout training camp and the preseason. The flare-up has been attributed to overcompensation during his recovery from a torn ACL in the opposite knee. This is fairly common and shouldn't have too much of an impact on his overall value, though I would like to see him on the field at game speed before I invest heavily.