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Injury Analysis: Downgrade Rodgers?

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.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers linemen won't be selected in fantasy drafts, but Bryan Bulaga's recent knee injury could have ramifications in most formats. Bulaga suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), leaving Green Bay vulnerable along the offensive line. The team is in the middle of revamping its frontline with multiple players shifting positions. Bulaga, a left tackle, was an integral part of the renovation and his absence will have a trickledown effect on the Green Bay offense, particularly quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers has proven resilient since taking over as the starting quarterback, missing just two games in five years. However, during that span he has been sacked 202 times, including a league-high 51 sacks last season. Rodgers has to avoid big hits if he's going to justify being drafted in the first two rounds, and losing a guy whose main focus was protecting his blind side makes that difficult. Factor in Rodgers' previous history of concussions and the patchwork offensive line becomes an even bigger issue.

While Bulaga is contemplating playing through the injury, there's no guarantee he will be effective. The stability in his knee would be compromised, even with a brace, and his ability to successfully hold off a defender would be reduced. He would also be susceptible to other knee injuries, including sprains and meniscus damage, meaning his inherent injury risk goes up and the chances of Rodgers having an intact o-line for the entire season goes down.

As the protection surrounding Rodgers goes into flux so too does the quarterback's primary targets. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson is out the remainder of the preseason after undergoing surgery on his knee. The procedure was carried out to correct a nerve issue, likely an entrapment, which has plagued Nelson since his days at Kansas State. Fellow receiver James Jones underwent a similar procedure and had good results, leading Nelson to address the issue now instead of letting it linger. The team is hopeful he will be ready for Week 1, but he may need an additional week or two to get back to a high level of productivity. Fortunately, his long-term outcome should be good and opportunistic fantasy owners could get a productive receiver at a discounted rate.

Randall Cobb is dealing with a biceps injury. The receiver was seen with a bag of ice on his shoulder, indicating the injury is to his biceps tendon and not the muscle belly. He could be dealing with a minor strain or even tendinitis but neither issue should be considered serious.

Darrius Heyward-Bey

Heyward-Bey's attempt to resurrect his career in Indianapolis has been temporarily put on hold as the former Oakland receiver is managing a left knee sprain. There has been some discrepancy about the specific ligament involved after Heyward-Bey denied report the injury was to his medial collateral ligament (MCL). He managed to make a surprise return to practice Tuesday but is expected to receive additional time off. However, a sprain in the knee, regardless of location, should be handled carefully. A weakened ligament puts undue stress on the other supportive structures, leaving them vulnerable to injury. For example, Washington's Robert Griffin III suffered his torn ACL when he attempted to play with a Grade I lateral collateral ligament (LCL).

Heyward-Bey likely will be slotted behind Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton and should be downgraded until the knee is no longer an issue. He still has upside but the inherent risk involved solidifies his spot as a WR3.

Ed Dickson

If Dennis Pitta's season-ending injury wasn't bad enough, Baltimore's remaining tight end crop took another hit as Dickson sustained a minor tear in his hamstring. Dickson's value wasn't skyrocketing, but it does provide a chance to review the severity of muscle injuries as plenty more are bound to appear throughout the preseason.

A Grade I strain or sprain means microfibers of the involved tissue were overstretched and torn. A Grade II injury is commonly classified as a partial tear as complete fibers of the muscle or ligament are disrupted. If the effected tissue completely tears or ruptures it receives a Grade III or IV classification and often requires surgery to fix, dependent on the location.

Based on reports it appears as though Dickson has a Grade II strain of his hamstring and will miss several weeks rehabbing and recovering. He will be evaluated soon but will be progressively brought back slowly to insure no reinjury or aggravation occurs.


Danario Alexander:
The San Diego receiver has battled numerous knee issues in his left knee, undergoing five surgeries throughout his time in football. However, a torn ACL in the opposite knee will cost him the 2013 season and could threaten his career. His absence will increase the value of Vincent Brown, but he's not without question marks either. The promising wideout missed the entire 2012 season after suffering a broken ankle.

Arrelious Benn:
Benn also tore his ACL and joins Jeremy Maclin as the second Philadelphia receiver to suffer a season-ending injury. It's worth noting that Eagles head athletic trainer Chris Peduzzi is in his first year after spending the last 14 season as an assistant AT for the team. Peduzzi replaced well-respected AT Rick Burkholder, who followed Coach Andy Reid to Kansas City. Philadelphia's medical staff has always been at the forefront of rehab, but Peduzzi's hands are already full before the season has even begun.

Arian Foster:
Just as Foster was set to return from a minor calf strain, the three-time Pro Bowler remained sidelined. This time a sore lower back was the culprit, keeping him out of practice for the weekend and into Monday. I'm still not downgrading Foster too much as I expect him to be ready sooner than later, but I'm keeping a much closer eye on the situation than before.

Rob Gronkowski:
It's looking more and more likely that Gronk starts the season on the PUP list, meaning he will miss the first six weeks of the season. He could come at a discounted price but I'm still recommending having a serviceable tight end on your roster before you reach for the former Pro Bowler.