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Injury Analysis: Back to Work

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.

At long last football is back. The players and owners agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement, insuring fantasy owners world wide can spend the upcoming season competing in their various leagues. While the primary reason for the work stoppage was financial, the latest CBA did have provisions that will affect player safety and health and should have a positive effect on the fantasy world.

In the new deal, specific guidelines for the duration and opportunities for practice during the preseason and throughout the regular season have been detailed. In the spring, teams will see the number of organized team activities (OTAs) reduced from 14 to 10. Veterans will not report until the third week of April, and an entire spring program can last no more than nine weeks. This will be extremely important for players who suffer injuries during the season and need time to rehabilitate or recover from surgery. NFL medical staffs keep a close watch on their players before releasing them to participate, but a defined limitation will take the pressure off individuals to play through injuries to garner favor in the eyes of coaches and teammates.

During training camp, grueling two-a-day practices have been outright eliminated, and the maximum number of hours the players can spend on the field has been limited to four and a half. During that time, the players can be in full pads for no longer than three hours. These new restrictions may infuriate those of the "old-school" mentality, but it is sound in design. The risk of heat-related illnesses will be reduced, and players will be able to keep their bodies fresh. For fantasy owners this is huge. A lighter workload on players will help decrease the odds of a fantasy producer entering the regular season fatigued or nursing an injury. No one likes to draft a player, only to lose him before the first snap of the season.

The new CBA will also have a carry-over effect during the season. Once the season begins, coaches will be able to practice in full pads only 14 times for the entirety of the regular season. Eleven of the practices must come within the first 11 weeks of the season. These padded practices will also be limited to three hours. The bye week brings additional requirements, as the players will receive a mandatory break of five straight days. These new regulations will again help players rest and recuperate and should help their availability for fantasy owners.

These new rules, coupled with the ever-evolving concussion protocol, will help protect the players' short-term and long-term health. Likewise fantasy owners can rest a little easier, knowing their fantasy investments are better protected and less likely to miss time.

Enough with the legal jargon and onto some of the nicked up players set to report to their teams' medical facilites in the next few days.

Peyton Manning

As discussed last week, the lockout has had a negative effect on Manning's recovery from offseason neck surgery. Unfortunately the early reports are casting a more negative light than initially expected, and many believe Manning will be sidelined for a large portion of training camp. His absence could have a trickle down effect on all Colt offensive players, particularly Dallas Clark and Austin Collie, who have their own medical hurdles to clear.

Robert Meachem and Marques Colston

Two Saints receivers appear to be progressing well, as both Meachem and Colston have been feverishly rehabbing with an independent strength and conditioning facility. Meachem has had foot and ankle problems dating back to 2010 when he needed surgery to fix torn cartilage in his big toe following his breakout campaign in 2009. He needed another operation this past February to address a lingering ankle problem but has declared himself ready to go. His speed and cutting ability are back, making him a potentially sneaky draft option if he can re-establish his role in the Drew Brees-driven New Orleans offense.

Colston thinks he too can perform at a higher level, saying his surgically repaired knee is much improved. Colston underwent microfracture surgery on his left knee prior to the 2010 season and then needed the same procedure on his right knee after the season was over.

The procedure most people know as mircofracture surgery is an arthroscopic surgery carried out to repair damage to the articular cartilage of the lower two leg bones, the tibia and fibula. This surgery is the one that has gained notoriety among NBA players, including Amare Stoudamire and Greg Oden. However, another similar procedure can be carried out on the kneecap when the cartilage surrounding the patella is damaged. This is the surgery Colston has now undergone on each knee. The recovery time for a patellar repair is slightly less and is generally around four months. Colston put up good numbers following the surgery to his left knee, proving he can bounce back from injury.

Terrell Owens

Owens enters free agency with a great deal of uncertainty. After proving he still had some gas in the tank with a fantasy friendly season in Cincinnati, he is once again without a team. The issue is complicated because it was recently revealed that TO needed surgery in early April to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee. The knee has been an area of major concern as he needed an earlier surgery to repair a torn meniscus that held him out of the final week of the season. While players are coming back more quickly from this procedure, even the best timeline wouldn't have Owens ready until October. New England's Wes Welker tore his ACL and underwent surgery in February of last year. He participated in preseason and was on the field for the start of the season seven months later. However Welker admitted he was less than 100 percent for a majority of the year, and his subpar numbers backed that up. Even a physically gifted athlete like Owens will need time for the injury to adequately heal and for the graft to successfully take hold. Don't expect much from Owens to start the year but should he latch on with a decent quarterback later in the season, he could help bolster your team.