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Injury Analysis: Jeff Stotts' Column on Player Health

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.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills

The Bills rookie receiver has been shooting up draft boards after impressing in training camp and preseason action. However Watkins took an awkward hit in Saturday's preseason loss to the Steelers forcing him to miss the remainder of the game. He is currently listed as day-to-day after suffering what is believed to be bruised ribs. However, Buffalo has not officially released a diagnosis, remaining tight-lipped about the injury. While Watkins has had multiple tests performed, the club could be seeking additional information before allowing their top pick back on the field.

When a rib injury occurs an x-ray is often the first set of images taken. However given the small size of each individual rib and several limitations with the machine itself, rib fractures are sometimes missed. In certain cases an x-ray will only uncover a fracture after the healing process has begun and new bone growth is visible. Buffalo could instead opt for a CT scan. CT scans have several advantages over traditional x-rays, including the ability to view the affected area in multiple planes and at a higher contrast resolution. As a result the physicians are provided a more detailed image and may be able to pick up on fractures that weren't visible on x-ray.

Regardless of the final diagnosis Watkins will likely return to action wearing additional padding on the area. Multiple options exist, including specially designed gear infused with Kevlar. Players like Michael Vick and Tony Romo have all sported this equipment following rib injuries and were able to play through the associated pain.

Fortunately the injury isn't as limiting for receivers as it is for other positions. Flak jackets and other rib projectors can be troublesome for running backs as they increase the bulk of their midsection. As a result, backs can become more susceptible to fumbles since they are unable to properly secure the ball close to their bodies. Furthermore, Watkins doesn't have to twist and torque as much as a quarterback, limiting the stress put on the injury site. He could still have some trouble adjusting for certain catches but he should be in line for a quicker recovery.

Keep an eye on the situation to see if Buffalo provides more insight but it appears Watkins should be fine moving forward. The injury could actually help opportunistic fantasy owners that can now draft the promising rookie at a discounted price.

[Update: Watkins returned to practice Tuesday, though he was held out of team drills.]

LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles

McCoy missed practice on Sunday with what is being called "a small version of turf toe." Turf toe occurs when the big toe is hyperextended, spraining a joint known as the metatarsal phalangeal joint. Turf toe can be very painful, specifically when trying to push off the foot. The injury limits the affected individual's mobility and ability to make sharp cuts. The athletic training staff of the Eagles ran McCoy through a barrage of tests and feel the injury is not severe. Philadelphia is going out of its way to downplay the significance of the injury and even hinted he could play Thursday in the team's preseason game against the Steelers. Until then the medical team will treat any associated symptoms and could elect to place McCoy in a stiffer shoe that will not allow for excessive movement at the toe. Turf toe can be a nagging injury, but if McCoy looks healthy and spry against Pittsburgh then this minor setback should not affect his draft stock.

Turf Burns

Montee Ball, RB, Broncos: The Broncos top option at running back met with team physicians on Monday seeking medical clearance to return to practice. Ball has not taken the field since undergoing an appendectomy two weeks ago. It's not crucial for his Week 1 availability that Ball play again this preseason, but it would give him a chance to shake off any accumulated rust. It could also help him get his legs prepared for game action and reduce the chances of a lower extremity strain.

Odell Beckham: The Giants receiver can't seem to move past a hamstring injury this preseason, aggravating the injury on Monday. He did not participate in Tuesday's practice, and his status for New York's final two preseason games remains unknown. The 12th overall pick has yet to establish himself and isn't in a position to make much of an impact to start the year.

Jamaal Charles: The Chiefs have dodged a bullet, as Charles' foot injury appears to be minor. The official diagnosis is a foot contusion that he sustained while moving out of his training camp dorm. While the team opted to sit him for their most recent preseason game, the move was purely precautionary and Charles remains an elite option in all formats.

Darnell Dockett: The veteran defensive end will miss the entire 2014 season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The injury will negatively impact a Cardinals defense many were expecting to be a viable fantasy option. It could also come into play for opposing teams as running backs and quarterbacks won't have to worry about the three-time Pro Bowler wrecking havoc.

Robert Griffin: RG3 appears to have regained confidence in his surgically repaired knee. However with the improvement in mobility comes the risk of a big hit downfield. In Monday's preseason win over Cleveland, Griffin was knocked down multiple times before finally opting to slide. One of the hits resulted in a thigh contusion that may not cost the former Heisman winner any time, but should serve as a reminder of the perils of absorbing contact. If Griffin is going to have the big year many are anticipating, he's going to have to stay on the field. Protecting himself would be a good start.

Isaiah Pead: The season is over for Pead who, like Dockett, suffered a torn ACL in St. Louis' preseason loss to Green Bay. Surgery will be required, and Pead will be in line to return next year.