Injury Report Insight: Week 11

A critical look at this week's injury report.

Right up until the Peyton Manning foot injury story broke, Week 10 was a relatively quiet week for injuries. Aside from the serious injuries to Julian Edelman and Justin Hunter, this was a week where big-name players seemed to be dealing more with, "piled-up," cumulative injuries than fresh, acute injuries. This is understandable given the physical toll players have taken already this season. Unfortunately, there is some evidence to suggest that the worst might still be to come, at least as far as concussions. PBS' Frontline has had the best concussion coverage for years now, and they've said that, according to their records, the number of concussions in the NFL tends to increase after about Week 9. You can read the details here (scroll down to #5), but the theory is that the smaller, sub-concussive hits that players sustain over the season lower their threshold for future concussions, thereby leading to more concussions as the season goes on. So while there may be relatively quiet weeks like we just experienced, there is a good possibility that the damage is simply unseen.

Quarterbacks

Peyton Manning, Plantar tear

I can't say that I was relieved to find out that Peyton Manning was injured, but it certainly explained at least some of what we were all seeing in that ugly game against Kansas City. On Monday, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Manning aggravated a foot condition known as plantar fasciitis, and that the inflamed ligament in his foot was now partially torn. (Note that Schefter later clarified it was to Manning's left foot, not his right as he originally Tweeted.) The plantar fascia is a ligament that runs the length of the arch of your foot, from your heel to your toes. The best injury breakdown I've found in regards to Manning is from the Denver Post's Troy Renck. As both that article and my own database show, Peyton Manning's brother Eli played through a plantar fascia injury in 2009 without missing any games, but it was a much lesser injury that did not involve tearing.

My favorite historical comp, though a pessimistic one, would be Chargers tight end Antonio Gates. Gates is no stranger to foot and toe injuries, and tried to play though a case of plantar fasciitis (the lesser injury like Eli Manning had) in 2010. The injury eventually worsened, and left him with a partial tear, similar to what happened with Peyton Manning. Gates took the next three weeks off before trying to play through the injury, but his body couldn't take it and he sat out the last four games of the year. As if that wasn't enough, the injury carried over into the next season, as the scar tissue in Gates' foot tore, resulting in him taking off another four week. This might seem like an extreme case, and obviously Peyton Manning does not need to run the same way Antonio Gates does. But Manning is also almost 10 years older than Gates was. Hopefully Peyton Manning will not face the same sort of uphill battle. Many other players have come back quicker and with less complications than Gates, but I think it's important to acknowledge how serious of an injury this can be.

Sam Bradford, concussion, AC sprain

Sam Bradford suffered both a concussion and an AC sprain in his left, non-throwing shoulder on Sunday. Reports indicate that the AC sprain is of moderate grade, but it would appear that the concussion is the more limiting injury at this point. On its own, a non-throwing shoulder AC sprain is not the biggest of deals. Matthew Stafford played through one without missing any games in 2009, though he later re-aggravated it and missed two games. Bradford did not practice on Wednesday, so there's no way to know yet whether we'll be seeing Bradford or Sanchez getting the start this weekend.

Brian Hoyer, concussion

There's no way to know Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer's status for Week 11 yet, but there are a few obvious clues that we shouldn't overlook. First, Hoyer suffered his concussion in a Monday night game, leaving him one less day to gain clearance before his next game. Second, the Texans signed backup quarterback Brandon Weeden. Neither of these is a good sign, and, taken together, it becomes easy to believe the Hoyer will not start Week 11, as Ian Rapoport reported.

Tony Romo, collarbone fracture

After sitting out the last eight weeks with a left, non-throwing collarbone fracture, Tony Romo should be ready to let 'er rip against the Dolphins on Sunday. In fact, Romo is no longer listed on the Cowboys injury report, so it appears he's back to 100%. You may start him with confidence that borders on hubris.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, thumb ligament surgery

Ryan Fitzpatrick had surgery on his left, non-throwing thumb on Friday morning, the day after his Thursday night game. He did not practice on Wednesday, but that was expected. We might not see Fitzpatrick practice at all this week, but Fitzpatrick himself has said that he will start Week 11. I have no reason to doubt him.

Aaron Rodgers, shoulder

Aaron Rodgers was limited in Wednesday practice due to a right, throwing shoulder injury. There are no details, but I suspect that this is just a sore arm from his 61-attempt game on Sunday. Regardless, be sure to check Thursday and Friday reports to make sure there's nothing brewing here.

Running Backs

T.J. Yeldon, foot

I'll just go ahead and admit right now that I cannot figure out if T.J. Yeldon will play on Thursday. On the one hand, Yeldon was seen with a boot on his right foot on Monday. He did not practice at all on either Monday or Tuesday. On the other hand, he was able to put in a limited practice on Wednesday, and has said that, "he'll be fine," as reported by Ryan O'Halloran. The Jaguars have listed him as questionable, and that's likely all the information that we're going to get up until 90 minutes prior to kickoff. I suspect that Yeldon will be active, but that he'll lose some carries to Denard Robinson, but that's just a reasonable-sounding guess at this point. In my defense, it might help if we knew absolutely anything about what Yeldon's exact injury is.

Ryan Mathews, concussion

Already playing through a lingering groin injury, Eagles running back Ryan Mathews suffered a concussion in his Week 10 game. It's always tough to predict concussion returns, but I suspect that Mathews will be held out this week. He did not practice on Wednesday.

Matt Forte, MCL sprain

Matt Forte has missed the last two games with an injury that he confirmed is an MCL sprain. Honesty like that won't win him any favors with head coach John Fox, who likes all injury details kept under lock and key. Interestingly, Forte admitted in that same Chicago-Sun Times interview that field conditions play a part in the decision of when he returns. The interview was before the Bears Week 10 matchup at St Louis, and he mentions that the artificial turf of the Edward Jones Dome would be a factor, as artificial turf could cause more stress on Forte's sprained MCL. As that article points out, Soldier Field, though natural grass, isn't known for being a great, forgiving field either. I'd take this grass vs turf angle with a grain of salt though, as Forte is still just over one week removed from a platelet-rich plasma injection, and those don't work overnight. Throw in the fact that Jeremy Langford is playing absolutely lights out, and I'd guess that the earliest we'll see Forte return is in Week 12, on the natural grass of Lambeau. For what it's worth, Forte had a limited practice on Wednesday, though he did so all last week as well. If he upgrades to a full practice this week, then I might believe he's back, but not until then.

Eddie Lacy, groin

Obviously, something is slowing Eddie Lacy down this season, but I can't tell exactly what that might be. The good news is that Lacy was a full participant in Wednesday's practice, so perhaps his groin injury is behind him, though those are notorious for lingering. If Lacy continues to practice in full this week, then he won't have any excuse not to wrestle some playing time back from James Starks. Well, at least not any medical excuse.

Carlos Hyde, foot stress fracture

Carlos Hyde is being talked about as though he's, "day-to-day," but I think it's safe to think of him as, "week-to-week," at best. His foot stress fracture is not likely to get better in a matter of a few weeks, and a more responsible choice might be to shut him down so that he can undergo surgery. At 3-6, this is already a lost season for the 49ers, and there's no point in dragging this out any longer. Hyde did not practice on Wednesday, and should be considered doubtful until he can string together multiple practices, even in a limited capacity.

Wide Receivers

Julian Edelman, foot fracture

Receiver Julian Edelman has a shot to return for the inevitable playoff run that the Patriots always show up for. When exactly he will return is impossible to know for sure, but, thanks to Dez Bryant, it's conceivable that Edelman could be back as early as Week 17. I credit Bryant there because, up until his own return after missing only six weeks (five games and one bye), I would've doubted such a quick return was possible. In fact, I'm pretty sure I doubted it with Bryant. Historically, a 5th metatarsal fracture such as both Edelman and Bryant had would've sidelined a player for a ballpark of 12 weeks. There's some variation there, but the 8-12 week range was typically a good starting point. It's easy to just expect Edelman to follow Dez's rehab, but that might not be fair. This situation reminds me of every player who has had to come back from an ACL tear after Adrian Peterson made it look so easy. In fact, Edleman fractured his other foot in at the beginning of December 2012, and it was still bothering him in training camp in May the following season. None of this is to say that Edleman, being the tough little bugger that he, won't return for the playoffs. But let's stop short of penciling him in for Week 17 so soon.

Allen Hurns, core muscle injury

Allen Hurns has returned to full practices and will certainly start Week 11. Beyond that, there are still some questions as to his health for the rest of the season. Earlier this week, Ryan O'Halloran reported that Hurns was seeing a specialist in Philadelphia due to an abdominal injury. "Philly," and, "specialist," mean only one thing to writers on the injury beat, and that's Dr. William Meyers, the leading doctor when it comes to core muscle injuries, or sports hernias as they're also known. Players don't tend to get Meyers' advice unless things have gotten bad, and a consult seems to inevitably lead to surgery. Historically, Dr. Meyers' surgeries tend to come with a return-to-play of about 5-8 weeks for NFL players. Luckily, it appears that Meyers has advised Hurns that he can play through his current injury. Hopefully Hurns doesn't aggravate it further, but I would suspect that he will have surgery after the season. Hurns has played through plenty of injuries this season, and has remained productive through them all.

Kendall Wright, MCL sprain

From where I'm sitting, it looks like Titans receiver Kendall Wright might've suffered a setback with his injured knee. After missing the last two games, Wright was able to put in a limited practice on Monday. However, he did not participate on Tuesday or Wednesday, and was ruled out for Week 11. Those missed practices are always alarming, and I'll be watching next week's reports to see if he's trending back in the right direction.

Michael Floyd, hamstring

John Brown, Hamstring

Both Michael Floyd and John Brown are suffering from hamstring injuries, and both missed practice on Wednesday. Brown has been dealing with this issue for weeks now, and I suspect he will again play through it on Sunday. Floyd's injury is new though, and I'm a little more concerned about his Week 11 status. Be sure to monitor reports throughout the week to get a clearer idea of what the Arizona receiver corps might look like this weekend.

Anquan Boldin, hamstring strain

With two missed games and coming out of a bye week, Anquan Boldin should be on track to play this week. His Wednesday practice was limited, but any practice is an optimistic sign in this case.

Emmanuel Sanders, finger, shoulder

Keep a close eye on this one. Emmanuel Sanders has been battling through both shoulder and ankle injuries lately, and he added a finger injury to that collection in Week 10. He was expected to, "have a normal week," of practice, but was held out on Wednesday. If he doesn't return for at least a limited practice on Thursday or Friday, you have my permission to be worried.

Brandon Marshall, ankle and toe

Jets receiver Brandon Marshall played through toe and ankle injuries the last two weeks, and will likely continue to play through them. His missed practice on Wednesday shouldn't sound any alarm bells, but it does make it difficult to know exactly what to expect from him this week. Hopefully the long week of rest will pay dividends and we'll see an entirely different Brandon Marshall than the one who struggled against the Bills.

Eddie Royal, knee

I wish I cold tell you a single insightful thing about Eddie Royal and his knee injury, but I cannot. All details are safely hidden behind the John Fox injury firewall, and we're all left on the outside guessing. Until we see Royal return to practice though, we can safely rule him out. He missed Wednesday's practice, so his Week 11 status is already looking more doubtful than questionable.

Vincent Jackson, knee

Speaking of wide receivers with knee injuries that lack any sufficient details, Vincent Jackson is still sidelined. He has sat out the last three weeks, and we still have no news on his exact injury or how close he is to a return. As with Eddie Royal, all we can do is watch the practice reports, but Jackson is certainly in the, "week-to-week," category by now.

Malcom Floyd, shoulder labrum tear

Chargers receiver Malcom Floyd suffered a labrum tear in his shoulder back in Week 9, and while he has stated that he will attempt to play through the injury, there is zero reason to think he will return this week. Coming out of the Chargers Week 10 bye, coach Mike McCoy admitted that Floyd has not been medically cleared to play yet. Also, in that same report from reliable Chargers beat reporter Michael Gehlken, McCoy said that he was optimistic that Floyd would play again this year. Is it just me, or does that actually sound worrisome? The very fact that this is an issue that McCoy is addressing makes me wonder what's happening behind the scenes. On top of that, the San Diego Union-Tribune had a story about Antonio Gates that stood out to me. In the piece, Gates talks about encouraging Floyd to play another year (Floyd had previously stated this would be his last year.) Gates says that he told Floyd, "Dude, you can't go out like this." Taken together, it seems like Floyd's situation might be more dire than we were initially led to believe. Either way, Floyd did not practice on Wednesday, which is obviously not a good sign for Week 11.

DeAndre Hopkins, knee

I always say that the Wednesday injury report brings at least one out-of-the-blue surprise, and this week it was DeAndre Hopkins missing practice with a knee injury. The good news is that Hopkins was seen during the early part of the practice that is open to reporters. He would not have been seen at all had he suffered a serious knee injury in Sunday's game. Hopefully this is just a day of rest and Hopkins will return to practice later in the week.

Tight Ends

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, shoulder

The saga of Tampa Bay tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and his alleged, "strained shoulder," just keeps getting weirder. Back in September, Adam Schefter reported that Seferian-Jenkins had a strained shoulder that would sideline him 4-6 weeks. That was a little more than eight weeks ago. Since then, Seferian-Jenkins has practiced, but has yet to gain medical clearance for contact. That is no strained shoulder, my friends. Fellow Footballguy Dr. Jene Bramel speculated on Twitter that perhaps Seferian-Jenkins suffered a collarbone fracture. That's a great call, as the 6-8 week mark would fit well with when a medical staff would typically clear a player to return from a fracture. I'd add that we could be looking at some other shoulder-ish injuries, such as a partial muscle tear or perhaps ligament tears, but the fracture angle fits too well for me to get it out of my head. At this point, my only real hope is that we get some sort of confirmation and clarity.

Ladarius Green, ankle sprain

Despite the fact that the Chargers had a Week 10 bye to rest, Ladarius Green is still not practicing. Week 11 will likely mark the second game that Green has missed, with that bye sandwiched in the middle. An absence like that suggests an injury that is more than mild, most likely a high ankle sprain. If indeed Green has a high ankle sprain, he has a good shot at returning for Week 12. In his absence, Antonio Gates should be increasingly effective as he continues to recover and improve after his MCL sprain.