Injury Report Insight: Week 12

A critical look at this week's injury report.

If I was too gloomy with my introductory paragraph last week about the impending uptick in late-season concussions, I'll try to make up for it a bit this week. If I'm being honest though, I'd probably point out that we did seem to see a lot of concussions last week, but that's purely anecdotal. Perhaps I'm getting sentimental in my later years, but I'll admit that I'm actually looking forward to not watching football on Thanksgiving. By that I mean that I will not be watching football the way I typically do, which almost always includes me logging injuries and adding them to an ever-expanding database while simultaneously Tweeting things both snarky and helpful. Instead, family and food will be the main events, and football will play only a supporting role. Aside from possible food-borne illness, injuries will not take center stage for at least this one day, and I will enjoy that contrast. Come Friday, I'll go back to being neck-deep in injuries and coach-speak, but I'll be taking that one day off, and it will be fantastic. Now let's take a look at what's on tap for Week 12.

Quarterbacks

Tyrod Taylor, Shoulder injury

Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor was able to play through what was most likely an AC sprain to his right, throwing shoulder. Though Taylor was suffering obvious discomfort, he stayed in the game and was still able to throw downfield. This suggests that either Taylor is a cyborg that doesn't feel pain, or that his sprain was relatively minor. If the injury is minor enough, it's entirely possible for a quarterback to play through it, and even to do so effectively. Blake Bortles did just that earlier this season. Taylor did not throw at practice on Wednesday, but according to ESPN's Mike Rodak, Taylor has stated that he will throw during Thursday practice. Quotes like that always make a situation like this easier to read, because we now know that if Taylor does not throw on Thursday, it wasn't part of the plan. Until I hear otherwise, I suspect Taylor will be fine to play this weekend, but obviously this situation bears monitoring.

Joe Flacco, ACL and MCL tears

One of the things that I really dislike in injury reporting is when the media projects an optimistic return entirely too prematurely. Such seems to be the case with Joe Flacco right now. Flacco tore his ACL and MCL in Week 11. Days later, I was already seeing reports that Flacco is expected to be back by Week 1 next season. Reports like that irritate me because they overlook the volatility and possible complications in a situation like Flacco's. Yes, it is entirely possible that Flacco starts Week 1. In his favor is the fact that he has a little over nine months before the 2015 season opens. But Flacco also has to deal with the complications from an accompanying torn MCL. On it's own, that not an awful complication. But doctors will wait until the swelling from the MCL goes down before reconstructing the ACL, and that could take weeks. Just because players like Adrian Peterson and Robert Griffin have come back from ACL rehabs at about the eight-month mark, doesn't mean that Flacco will be so lucky. To be clear, I hope Flacco does return in time for Week 1, but at this point, so early in the recovery process, I think it's premature to say that he, "should start Week 1." It's likely we won't have any useful information until summer training camp at the earliest, but the possibility of Flacco starting the season on the PUP list or sitting out the first few weeks can't be ruled out yet.

Case Keenum, concussion

Everyone seems to agree that Rams quarterback Case Keenum should've been pulled from Sunday's game for a concussion test, but nobody seems to really know who to blame. Personally, I think there are some serious flaws with the wording of the NFL rules in regards to the ATC spotter (aka, "the eye in the sky"), and I dove into that in more detail here. As for Keenum, all signs point towards him getting more starts, though his status for this weekend is very much up in the air. He did not practice on Wednesday, and I'd guess he's unlikely to gain full clearance and start on Sunday, though we should know more by Friday.

Brian Hoyer, concussion

After suffering memory loss due to a Week 10 concussion, it appears that Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer is on track to start this weekend. He was able to practice in full on Wednesday, meaning that he has completed the concussion protocol.

Sam Bradford, concussion

Sadly, it sort of feels like we're living in the golden age of quarterback concussions. Sam Bradford suffered one in Week 10, and he is still questionable to play Thursday's Thanksgiving game. He has cleared the concussion protocol, but he is also dealing with an AC sprain to his left, non-throwing shoulder. Regardless, he was able to practice in full on Wednesday. This is a difficult situation to read, and the Eagles have done nothing to clarify it. Personally, I get the feeling that if Bradford is ultimately declared inactive, it will be based more on his recent performance than his recent injuries. We probably won't have an answer on this one until Thursday, though luckily the Eagles play the early game.

Running Backs

Marshawn Lynch, core muscle surgery

With the exception of Jaguars receiver Allen Hurns, it seems that nobody who visits Dr. William Meyers for a consultation ever leaves without undergoing surgery. This makes sense, as Dr. Meyers is the best doctor in the business when it comes to core muscle injuries, a more accurate term that covers a wide range of abdominal, groin, and sports hernia injuries. After trying to play through a nagging abdominal injury, Marshawn Lynch visited Dr. Meyers, and it was reported by Ian Rapoport that he underwent a sports hernia surgery on Wednesday. Rapoport, as well as other outlets, have reported that Lynch will miss about one month. Unlike I see with other injuries, that's not a bad estimate. Still, I'd point out that historical comparisons of similar surgeries done by Dr. William Meyers indicate that players usually miss between four and eight weeks. On the fast end of the core muscle surgery spectrum, we have Zach Ertz, who returned quickly this season (despite my pessimism) after missing only 4 games. A more realistic comparison for Lynch though might be Arian Foster, who missed seven weeks earlier this season after a similar surgery. Foster's surgery might've been a little more complex than that of Lynch, but the two players are similar in age and workload. Foster has a history of lower body injuries which led the Texans to be conservative with Foster's return-to-play. Due to the late-season timing, Seattle might not be as conservative as Houston was with Foster, but it's notable that Lynch does have a history with calf, hamstring, and especially back injuries. This is understandable given Lynch's workload, and he has usually played through these injuries quite well, but the history is there and shouldn't be ignored. If I were to guess, I would say that Lynch will miss more than Ertz's four weeks, but less than Foster's seven weeks, so somewhere in the, "5 or 6 week," range.

Looking ahead, I would guess that the absolute earliest, best-case-scenario return date for Lynch is December 27th, Week 16 against the Rams. Depending on how Seattle's playoff picture looks, and how Lynch's very-capable backups Thomas Rawls and Fred Jackson are playing, I would expect that a more likely return date would be Week 17, or even the playoffs if Seattle is so lucky. Upon his return, I would expect Lynch to play a complementary role and be mixed in among the running backs, rather than immediately taking on anywhere close to a full workload. This committee approach would likely be more pronounced the earlier Lynch returns.

Ryan Mathews, Concussion

Eagles running back Ryan Mathews suffered a concussion back in Week 10, and has not practiced since. He has already been ruled out for Thursday's matchup against the Lions. Hopefully Mathews will be able to return to practice next week and be healthy for Week 13.

Matt Forte, MCL sprain

Bears running back Matt Forte has missed the last three games with an MCL sprain. I've previously pointed out that, in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Forte made a point to talk about how field condition played a factor in figuring when he'd return to action. I advised that this should be taken with a grain of salt, but that there might be something to it. If indeed this is the case, the natural grass at Lambeau would be a great place for Forte to make his return. After getting in a week of only limited practices though, this is still a difficult situation to read. More than likely, Forte is active but shares touches with rookie Jeremy Langford. Fellow Bears running back Ka'Deem Carey has already been ruled out for Week 12 with a concussion, so the load will likely be split two ways.

Darren McFadden, groin strain

If Darren McFadden's groin strain was bothering him in Week 11, it sure didn't affect his stat line, as he was able to play effectively through the injury and carry the ball 29 times. There's no reason to think he's not in line for another heavy workload, as he was able to put in a full practice on Wednesday, despite the short week. Barring a setback, I don't see any reason McFadden shouldn't be trusted on Thanksgiving against the Panthers.

Devonta Freeman, concussion

Devonta Freeman deflated a lot of fantasy lineups when he exited Week 11's game early due to a concussion. Mike Garafolo reported that, as of Wednesday, Freeman is still in the first stage of the NFL's concussion protocol. Since there are five stages in the protocol, it's obviously not a good sign for Freeman's Week 12 status. Concussion recoveries are always tough to read though, so be sure to check back on Freeman either Friday or Saturday for a clearer picture.

Frank Gore, quad/knee/ankle injury

Here's one that I'm having a tough time reading. Frank Gore suffered an injury to either his quad or his knee, depending on the source, in Week 11. Gore has downplayed the injury, but then was held out of practice on Wednesday with what was listed as an ankle injury. What makes this especially difficult to figure out though is the fact that the Colts have routinely limited Gore's practice, especially on Wednesday. This early in the week, it's too soon to know if Gore has a truly limiting injury or if the Colts are just being conservative with an aging veteran. I'm not sure I would be bothered if he was held out of practice again on Thursday, but a missed Friday practice would be alarming enough to make me doubt his status for the weekend.

Charcandrick West, hamstring strain

Charcandrick West left Week 11's game with a hamstring injury, and early signs point towards him missing Week 12. He was held out of practice on Wednesday, which is never an optimistic sign. Unless he can return to practice on Thursday or Friday, he can be safely benched.

Alfred Morris, ribs

Alfred Morris has been nursing an unspecified rib injury that he sustained in Week 10, but it appears that he will be fine for Week 12. Morris was able to practice in full on Wednesday, and should be healthy for his matchup against the Giants.

Carlos Hyde, foot stress fracture

In the case of Carlos Hyde, no news is bad news. Hyde continues to be held out of games and practices as he attempts to let his body heel the stress fracture in his left foot. It was ridiculous that he attempted to play through the injury in the first place, and perhaps it's equally ridiculous that the 49ers, fully in control of the NFC West basement, don't simply put Hyde on the shelf for the rest of the season. At this rate, it would be difficult to imagine them activating him for a stretch in December, but of course we can't rule that out completely.

DeAngello Williams, foot injury

Whatever the foot injury was that was bothering Steelers running back DeAngello Williams, it appears to be behind him now. Coming out of Pittsburgh's bye week, Williams is not listed on the injury report, indicating that he is back to full health.

Wide Receivers

Eddie Royal, knee

Another week, another lack of details on what exactly is wrong with Eddie Royal's knee. Royal has missed the last three games, and has been ruled out for Thursday's Thanksgiving game. Until we get some better details, we're left simply to watch for Royal to start practicing.

Alshon Jeffery, shoulder and groin injuries

In typical Bears fashion, it's impossible to do anything more than guess at the status of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. After missing Week 11 with unspecified shoulder and groin injuries, Jeffery has been able to put in a week of limited practices. With most teams, I would expect this to mean that the player is ready to return, but Jeffery had a similar routine and then was often declared inactive earlier this year when dealing with a hamstring injury. I wish I had something more to offer here, but I feel like the only clear signal we get will likely come 90 minutes before kickoff on Thanksgiving evening.

Ty Montgomery, high ankle sprain

Green Bay's Ty Montgomery suffered a setback with his high ankle sprain recovery, and has been ruled out for Week 12. He's now sat out the last five games (plus a bye) and doesn't appear to be any closer to a return, as he hasn't been practicing in any capacity. Hopefully Montgomery returns to practice next week and we get a better idea of where he is in his rehab.

Danny Amendola, knee

The Patriots have been predictably silent on the exact diagnosis of Danny Ammendola's knee injury, but CSNNE's Tom Curran has reported that it is a knee sprain. Nothing against Curran, but that's a diagnosis that isn't all that helpful, as it leaves us not knowing precisely which ligament within the knee is injured. From the way Amendola grabbed the outside of his left knee on an ensuing punt, I speculated that it might be an LCL sprain. ProFootballDoc David Chao felt it was likely a PCL sprain, and I'd be crazy not to defer to him on this one. Everyone seems to agree that the fact that Amendola played through the injury, even if only briefly, indicates that it might be on the mild side. It would be easier to pin a return-to-play estimate on this if we had more details, but a mild PCL sprain would likely sideline Amendola for one or two weeks. Amendola was spotted at practice on Wednesday, but the Patriots listed him as a non-participant, so it's likely that he did very little. If he does not get in at least a limited practice on Thursday or Friday, I would doubt he plays this weekend.

Emmanuel Sanders, high ankle sprain

Denver's Emmanuel Sanders spent has been trying to play through a high ankle sprain he suffered in Week 9, which would explain his poor performance in Week 10 and his subsequent inactivity for Week 11. He was able to put in a limited practice on Wednesday, but it should be noted that he did the same last week before ultimately missing Week 11. Based on historical examples of high ankle sprains, I would not be surprised if Sanders misses another week. Hopefully Sanders can be upgraded to full practice soon and give us a better idea of when to expect him back.

Doug Baldwin, ankle sprain

Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin exited Week 11 with an ankle sprain that coach Pete Carroll has has called minor. Carroll went on to say that Baldwin will play Week 12. That's all well and good, but I'd feel at least a little better about this if Baldwin hadn't been held out of Wednesday's practice. Most likely, Baldwin will return to practice on Thursday or Friday and be fine for Sunday, but be sure to check back.

Kendall Wright, MCL sprain

Kendall Wright has missed the last three games with an MCL sprain, but most people expect him to play this week. He was able to put in a limited practice on Wednesday, and a three-week absence is very much in-line with what we might expect from a mild-to-moderate MCL sprain.

Michael Floyd, hamstring strain

John Brown, hamstring strain

Looks like we might be in for another long week of speculating about the status of Arizona's wide receiver corps. John Brown and Michael Floyd have both been plagued by hamstring injuries, and it doesn't look like the problems are in their rearview mirror yet. Floyd, after sitting out Week 11, put in a limited practice on Wednesday. Brown, after playing through his hamstring injury (again) was absent from practice. Both are worth checking up on later in the week.

Malcom Floyd, Shoulder labrum tear

San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Michael Gehlken reported that Malcom Floyd was, "leading Chargers wide receivers in stretches," in Wednesday's practice. You know who else could lead a team in stretches? Me. Or you. Or a kitten. Certainly it's great to hear that Floyd is back practicing in any capacity, but we need to make sure we don't get ahead of ourselves on this one. Indeed, Gehlken later pointed out that Floyd hasn't been cleared for contact yet, so his return to the field is anything but imminent. When and if Floyd is cleared for contact, we will see him participate fully in practice, which will be our best clue as to his return. Until then, we shouldn't get too excited.

Jarvis Landry, knee

This one was the surprise of the week, and it's likely nothing. Jarvis Landry was held out of Wednesday practice with a knee injury, but there are zero details available so far. Only Thursday and Friday practice reports will tell us whether this is anything more than a day of rest, so be sure to check back on this one.

Tight Ends

Zach Ertz, concussion

Eagles tight end Zach Ertz left Week 11's game with a concussion, and has been ruled out for Thursday's Thanksgiving game. As is the case with former Eagle Ryan Mathews, hopefully we will see Ertz practice next week and return to the lineup.

Martellus Bennett, ribs

Martellus Bennett suffered what was thought to be a minor rib injury in Week 11, but he has been ruled out for Thursday's Thanksgiving game, despite putting in a limited practice on Tuesday. This should serve as your friendly reminder for the week that Chicago's John Fox is not to be trusted with injury clarity, a fact he himself has mostly acknowledged.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, shoulder

There's a lot that we still don't know about Austin Seferian-Jenkins' shoulder, such as what exactly the injury really is. More importantly though, we know that Seferian-Jenkins still hasn't been cleared for contact, according to Lovie Smith. Seferian-Jenkins has missed the last nine weeks, and this weekend will most likely make that ten weeks. Until we finally hear some positive news on his medical clearance, he can safely be ruled out.

Jordan Reed, MCL sprain

Despite early reports of Jordan Reed having suffered an MCL sprain in Sunday's game, it appears that Reed is on track to play this weekend. He was able to put in a full practice on Wednesday, and wasn't even listed on the team's injury report.