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Injury Analysis: Injuries and Monday Night Football

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.

Andre Ellington and Antonio Gates
In Week 1, Ellington and Gates provided two perfect examples of what happens when poor health and a Monday Night Football game collide. Both players were questionable for various reasons and their unsure availability left fantasy owners in a precarious position. Do you start an unproven or bench player with good health over a backbone of your team who could be a late scratch? I always err on the side of caution and go with the player that is guaranteed to play but sometimes it's not that easy. Make sure if you are heavily invested in an injured player suiting up on Monday night that you have a fall back plan in place. Looking forward Chicago, Washington, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and the New York Jets all have multiple Monday Night games scheduled and precautionary moves may be in order to protect your team down the road.

While both Ellington and Gates did manage to play but neither made much of an impact on the box score. In Arizona, Ellington's injury is a foot ailment in which very few details have been revealed. It was initially believed that the left foot injury was significant enough to confine Ellington to a walking boot and keep him off the field for multiple weeks. However a week's worth of rest allowed him to reach a point where he could play. Less than 100 percent, Ellington managed to finish Monday night's win with 13 carries for 53 yards and five receptions for 27 yards. Postgame, Ellington admitted to being a bit rusty and that his foot limited in his lateral movement. He also divulged that the injury is in fact to a tendon in his foot. The specifics remain under wraps but this does rule out a significant sprain to the Lisfranc area, an injury that has been a major issue for NFL running backs in recent seasons. Ellington will likely be limited during the week and be a game time decision for the immediate future. Fantasy owners should still consider adding Jonathan Dwyer in case the injury worsens or is once again aggravated.

A hamstring strain suffered late in the week was the cause for concern surrounding Gates. San Diego's Pro Bowl tight end was reportedly "50-50" entering Monday but Gates was able to take the field. He received with a team-best 10 targets from quarterback Philip Rivers and finished the night with six receptions and 81 yards. Gates has a length history of lower leg injuries that includes chronic plantar fasciitis, ankle and toe problems, and previous hamstring strains. He will always have an elevated amount of injury risk and could see a dip in production with the emergence of LaDarius Green. However he still has value at a shallow position and should still be owned in all formats.

Jordan Reed
Gates isn't the only tight end battling hamstring problems with Reed exiting his team's Week 1 loss to the Texans after straining his hamstring in the first quarter. Washington sounds prepared to be without Reed for at least a few weeks but are currently awaiting the results of a MRI. The images provided from a MRI allow medical personnel to determine the extent of the damage to the soft tissue in the area and apply a grade base on severity.
A Grade I strain is diagnosed when microtearing of the muscle or tendon occurs and the athlete experiences pain but little to no loss of function. A Grade II strain occurs when actual muscle or tendon fibers are damaged or torn and is often referred to as a partial tear. A Grade III injury is considered severe and means the tendon has ruptured or the muscle is completely torn. Any Grade 3 injury or higher results in a significant loss of function and surgery is often required to repair the associated damage.

Generally when the term mild is used it means the injury is a Grade 1 strain. However given that Washington is set to workout tight ends, I suspect it's closer to a Grade 2 injury. The team should make an announcement within the next few days, revealing the findings of the MRI. In the meantime, Reed owners should begin seeking suitable replacements. A viable option may be available in house as Niles Paul led Washington in receiving yards with 86 and was targeted four times for four receptions.

Turf Burns

Javeon Clowney: The number one overall pick will miss the next four-to-six weeks after undergoing surgery on a torn meniscus in his right knee. The injury was initially believed to be a MCL sprain. A meniscus tear often accompanies MCL injuries as fibers of the ligament entwine with the medial fibrocartilage disc. Based on the estimated timeline it appears Clowney underwent a meniscectomy to remove the damaged area. It will allow him to return faster but could be an issue in the long-term. Downgrade Houston's defense for the immediate future especially with explosive offenses like Dallas and Indianapolis on tap.

Toby Gerhart: A sprained ankle is expected to limit Gerhart throughout this week's preparation for Jacksonville's Week 2 game against Washington. He played through the injury against the Eagles and finished Week 1 with 42 rushing yards on 18 carries. Ankle injuries are problematic for running backs as they limit side-to-side movement, decreasing their ability to elude tacklers and find holes. Downgrade Gerhart even if he plays.

Alshon Jeffery: Jeffery's is another player dealing with a hamstring strain. The Bears have been conservative in the approach and with good reason. Hamstring strains can be more problematic for speedster and protecting Jeffery from himself is key to preventing this from becoming a reoccurring issue. Keep him in your lineups if he is active but scale back your expectations for Week 2.

Eddie Lacy: Lacy is progressing through the league concussion protocol after sustaining a head injury in the season opener. He has yet to be cleared by the league's independent neurologist but remains on track to play in Week 2, barring any setback.

Doug Martin: After missing most of the 2013 season with a shoulder injury, Martin once again finds himself back in the athletic training room. This time it's for an undisclosed leg injury. The Buccaneers have not provided much information but have hinted that Martin could play against the Rams on Sunday. Monitor this situation for more info and better insight has to if and when he will return to the field.

Ben Tate: Cleveland is also playing it tight-lipped with Tate's medical information and has yet to provide an update on the knee injury that forced him out of the team's loss to Pittsburgh. Tate rushed for 41 yards on six carries before exiting the game with an injury to his left knee. Isaiah Crowell played well in his absence but Terrance West remains in line to start should Tate not be available.