Injury Report Insight: Week 9

A critical look at this week's injury report.

I don't need to point out what a brutal week it was for injuries. But beyond the league-wide culling, we seemed to see one injury in particular do some significant damage. Le'Veon Bell, Reggie Bush, Matt Forte, and Kendall Wright all suffered MCL injuries. Add that to the recent MCL recoveries of Marcus Mariota, Tyrod Taylor, Ben Roethlisberger, and Antonio Gates, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that we're experiencing an uptick in MCL injuries. My database shows otherwise, though I'm hesitant to torture those numbers until they tell a story. I think the problem here is in our perception, in that we've seen so many MCL injuries within a short period of time. Furthermore, the players who have suffered this injury this year seem to be larger names, making us take notice differently than we would if the player was not a well-known name. I wrote more extensively about my thoughts on this subject if you'd like to explore it in depth.

Since we're seeing so many MCL injuries right now, we might as well tackle that injury here in the introduction rather than repeat it below until we're all sick to death of it. As with all sprains, the time missed will often (though not always) correlate to the severity of the strain. As a ballpark figure, Grade 1, (aka "mild") sprains often cause a player to miss anywhere from zero weeks to two weeks. Grade 2 sprains can lead to a player missing two to four weeks. Grade 3 sprains, (aka full tears) will usually cause a player to miss at least five weeks, often more. Thankfully, MCL sprains, even severe ones and full tears, generally do not require surgery. This is why some, myself included, were surprised to see the Steelers move Le'Veon Bell to injured reserve so quickly. Many people suspected that Bell must've damaged more than just his MCL, such as other ligaments or his meniscus. Sure enough, there is at least one report that Bell's PCL was also damaged. We will likely hear of additional damage to Reggie Bush's knee as well, as he was also immediately moved to injured reserve due to his MCL. But enough dwelling on one injury, let's get to all the injuries.

Quarterbacks

Ryan Fitzpatrick, thumb ligament

Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick tore a thumb ligament in his left, non-throwing hand during Sunday's game. Coach Todd Bowles has already said that Fitzpatrick will require surgery, but he also said that Fitzpatrick might play through the injury and delay the surgery until after the season. ESPN's Rich Cimini made the comparison to Carson Palmer's 2009 thumb injury. I hate it when people beat me to good comparisons, but Cimini trumped me this time. In Palmer's case, he injured his left thumb with what was only referred to as a sprain, finished played out the rest of the year, and then had surgery in the offseason. As Cimini points out, Palmer wore a glove on his left hand and had to execute his right-side handoffs with his right hand, making for some awkward exchanges. I can't speak to how similar the two injuries are, but it stands to reason that Fitzpatrick could have similar hurdles as he tries to play through his ailment. Fitzpatrick was able to able to practice and throw on Wednesday, and afterwards, Bowles said that Fitzpatrick will get the start on Sunday against the Jaguars.

Marcus Mariota, MCL sprain

Marcus Mariota has missed the last two games with an MCL sprain, but it's reported that he's close to a return. Former head coach Ken Whisenhunt, hours before he was fired, said that he expected Mariota to get in a full practice on Wednesday. Sure enough, Mariota practiced in full on Wednesday, so it seems he's on track to start this weekend. If Mariota does start this weekend against the Saints, it's entirely possible he'll be a step slower, though that's impossible to know for sure until we see him in action.

Tyrod Taylor, MCL sprain

Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor's MCL rehab mirrors that of Marcus Mariota, except that Taylor has had an extra bye week to get fully healthy. Rex Ryan has already said that he expects Taylor to be 100% for the Week 9 game against the Dolphins. This is backed up by the fact that Taylor practiced in full on Wednesday. He should be all-systems-go for his matchup against Miami this weekend.

Josh McCown, ribs

Another week, another injury to Josh McCown. To McCown's credit, he has been durable enough to play through ankle and shoulder injuries already this year, but he will sit out this week due to a rib injury. McCown has declined to say whether or not he's dealing with a fracture, so we really have no clue as to how much time he might miss. Cleveland has a short week as they play on Thursday night, and Johnny Manziel has already been named as the starter.

Andrew Luck, fractured ribs

Jay Glazer reported that Luck fractured multiple ribs, presumably back in Week 3 when he also injured his shoulder. It caused a bit of an, "a-ha!" moment, as plenty of people wanted to use that as a possible reason for Luck's recent struggles. I wouldn't be so quick to jump to that conclusion. While Glazer's news is a bombshell, it doesn't explain all of Luck's problems. Historically, a lot of quarterbacks bounce right back from rib fractures, some even playing through the injury without missing any time. Even those that do sit out don't usually miss more than two or three weeks. Luck sat out two weeks with what we thought was just a shoulder injury, but that would've been enough time to mostly heal a rib fracture as well. Perhaps Luck's ribs were still bothering him in Week 6, maybe even Week 7. But by Monday's Week 8 game, Luck would've been five weeks removed from any rib injury. Given that amount of time, it's doubtful that he would still be in discomfort. Of course, there's still the possibility that playing through the injury changed Luck's mechanics, but that's a different argument altogether. Going forward, I have no reason to think that a rib injury is limiting him.

Running Backs

Matt Forte, MCL sprain

Not the faintest of whisper of a detail has passed through the lips of Bears coach John Fox as to the severity of Matt Forte's MCL injury, though he was kind enough to tell us that he didn't think Forte would need surgery. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that Forte was likely to miss, "at least two weeks." The Bears don't play until Monday night, so they did not hold an official practice on Wednesday. Still, it seems safe to rule Forte out for at least this week, and probably Week 10 as well.

Carlos Hyde, foot stress fracture

The 49ers backed down from their earlier words and chose to sit Carlos Hyde so that his foot would have a chance to heal from a stress fracture. With San Francisco's Week 10 bye looming and the signing of veteran running back Pierre Thomas, I would expect Hyde to sit until Week 11 at the earliest. Hyde did not practice on Wednesday, so he should be considered doubtful for this weekend.

Wide Receivers

Brandon Marshall, toe and ankle injuries

Jets receiver Brandon Marshall is ailing with what coach Todd Bowles called a sore big toe and a sore ankle. Marshall was able to play through the injuries and finish his Week 8 game, but he was unable to practice on Wednesday. As of now, there is no clarity on Marshall's Week 9 status, so keep a close eye on this situation.

Eddie Royal, knee

Similar to the situation with Bears running back Matt Forte, head coach John Fox refused to provide any useful information about Eddie Royal's injury. At this point, all we know is that Royal suffered a knee injury and that Fox does not expect him to need surgery. Thanks coach. Since the Bears don't play until Monday, their first official practice report does not come out until Thursday. That will likely be the first clue as to Royal's likelihood of suiting up this weekend. If Royal does not practice, I would not expect him to play.

DeSean Jackson, hamstring strain

DeSean Jackson has missed the last seven games with a severe hamstring strain, but it appears that he's getting closer to a return. He was able to put in a limited practice on Wednesday. Jackson himself has said that he will be active for Week 9's game against the Patriots, but it would still be worth checking his practice reports later in the week, as he has experienced setbacks with this injury before.

Vincent Jackson, knee

While we still have no details on what exactly is wrong with Vincent Jackson's knee, we can be pretty sure he won't be active this weekend. After missing Week 8, Jackson also missed Wednesday practice. Unless he can reverse the trend by practicing on Thursday and Friday, I can't see him playing this week.

Kendall Wright, MCL sprain

Kendall Wright was one of the players I mentioned at the top of this article as having suffered an MCL sprain in Week 8, and it sounds like he's trending towards the doubtful side for Week 9. On Monday, Wright admitted that his knee felt, "horrible," which is actually sort of refreshing to hear from an athlete. He was unable to practice on Wednesday, and I'm guessing he will not play this weekend. Harry Douglas should be active after missing the last two weeks due to a rib injury.

Ty Montgomery, ankle sprain

Ty Montgomery put in a limited practice on Wednesday, and seems to be on track to return from an ankle sprain that limited him the last two weeks. As with so many other players, be sure to check back on his Thursday and Friday practice reports to get a better idea of his availability.

Nelson Agholor, high ankle sprain

When Nelson Agholor was injured in Week 5, he insisted that he had a, "shin muscle strain," and that he would play Week 6. Turns out it was a high ankle sprain that kept him out the following two games, plus the bye week. This is why we shouldn't listen to players when they tell us how minor their injuries are. The good news is that Agholor was able to practice in full on Wednesday, so he will almost certainly play this weekend.

Stefon Diggs, Hamstring strain

Now here's a murky situation. According to ESPN's Ben Goessling, "Wide receiver Stefon Diggs, whom coach Mike Zimmer said would practice, was seen running receiver drills during the first part of practice. The Vikings listed him as a non-participant with a hamstring injury." So on the one hand, Diggs was running. But on the other hand, he is injured and was listed as not having practiced. I have no idea what to make of this, but at least we have Thursday and Friday to figure it out. My guess is that Diggs will be fine to play through a minor hamstring strain, but again, that's just a guess at this point.

T.Y. Hilton, Foot sprain

T.Y. Hilton was injured in his Week 8 game, and has since undergone an MRI for what is being reported as a foot sprain. He was held out of practice on Wednesday, and Ian Rapoport referred to Hilton as, "day-to-day." Details are still non-existent, but I've got to say, this one worries me a bit. As with all sprains, there are varying degrees of severity, and this could well be nothing. But historically, foot sprains often cause a player to miss two or three games. Some players are able to play through them, but others miss up to six games. The fact that Hilton underwent an MRI makes me think this is probably not the most minor of sprains. There's also the ugly specter of a possible Lisfranc injury looming over this. I have zero reason to believe that this is the case, but I can say that a great deal of devastating Lisfranc injuries start out with an early diagnosis of, "foot sprain." Hopefully this is not the case, and Hilton will be back quickly. Be sure to check his practice reports later in the week for more clarity on his Week 9 status.

Anquan Boldin, hamstring strain

Anquan Boldin missed Week 8 with a hamstring strain, and he might be on pace to miss Week 9 as well. Boldin did not practice on Wednesday, which is not an optimistic way to start the week. Unless he can practice on Thursday or Friday, he will likely remain inactive.

Willie Snead, knee

This was the practice report surprise injury of the week. There are no details yet, but Willie Snead did not practice on Wednesday due to a knee injury. Hopefully Thursday and Friday injury reports will let us know if this is a true injury or just a day of rest, but this bears watching.

Tight Ends

Ladarius Green, ankle

It's a good thing Antonio Gates is getting healthy, because Ladarius Green might be about to miss some time. Green was injured in Week 8 with what Dr. Jene Bramel speculates might be a high ankle sprain. Dr. Jene is usually damn good at diagnosing injuries by video, so I trust his opinion on this one. Depending on severity, Green could be sidelined 2-4 weeks, though that's obviously just a premature estimate. Green did not practice on Wednesday. I would like to hear more details from the Chargers, but I will be monitoring Green's practice status the next few days. Luckily for the Chargers, Antonio Gates emerged from his limited Week 8 game without any setbacks to his MCL sprain, so he remains healthy.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, shoulder strain

Tampa Bay tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has missed the last six weeks with a shoulder strain. He practiced all last week, and was able to get in another limited practice on Wednesday. All signs point towards Seferian-Jenkins getting the start against the Giants, who have been giving up some huge games to opposing tight ends.

Larry Donnell, neck

It appears that Giants tight end Larry Donnell has avoided serious injury and escaped with what has been called both, "neck muscle spasms," and, "a sore neck." Regardless of the exact diagnosis, we'd need to see some improvement in practice to believe Donnell will play Week 9, as he missed Wednesday's practice. Hopefully we will have more information in the coming days.

Other positions

Josh Norman, illness

Carolina's impressive cornerback Josh Norman missed Wednesday's practice with an illness. In general, illnesses don't tend to affect a player's status for the coming game, but this one is worth monitoring since the Panthers can't afford to lose an asset like Norman when going up against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers receivers.

Jason McCourty, Groin

One missed practice due to a groin injury wouldn't usually warrant a write-up from me, but this one stood out to me. Tennessee cornerback Jason McCourty underwent a sports hernia surgery back in August. He returned to play in Week 5, and has not been listed with a groin injury on any practice reports since. But on Wednesday, McCourty did not practice due to a groin injury. Hopefully this is just a case of a team being conservative and not a true setback. The Titans will certainly need all hands on deck in order to have a shot at beating the Saints this weekend.