Injury Report Insight: Week 3

A critical look at this week's injury report.

As I should've suspected, I'm now paying the price for declaring last week to be relatively light in injuries. Week two brought a deluge of injuries, taking down plenty of important starters in the process. In addition, there are still some notable players who returned to play over the weekend, but we need to make sure that they didn't overdo it and suffer any setbacks. Due to the volume of injuries this week, I'll be breaking them up by position. Most notably, there are some key quarterback injuries to monitor, so I'll just jump in and start with those.

Quarterbacks

Drew Brees, rotator cuff bruise

We know for certain that Saints quarterback Drew Brees banged up his shoulder in Sunday's loss to Tampa Bay. Beyond that, there's still mostly just speculation and rumor. ESPN's Ed Werder has been all over this story, and he has provided some of the clearest details so far. Werder said that Brees' injury was to his rotator cuff, but that there's a, "reasonable chance," Brees still plays on Sunday. In a later Tweet, Werder said that Dr. James Andrews confirmed that Brees does not have a tear in his rotator cuff. Finally, on Wednesday, Brees spoke about the injury and confirmed that it is indeed a roator cuff bruise. The good news is that this is a condition that will likely heal on its own, without surgery. The bad news is that we have no idea of how long that could take. Despite anything I've heard, I share Dr. Jene Bramel's skepticism about Brees playing this weekend.  It could happen, but we'd need to see one impressive recovery first. Judging by the fact that Brees did not throw at Wednesday practice, I wouldn't say that's likely this week. Beyond that, I don't have much to add. My injury database is not great at at rare-yet-specific injuries like this one, and I have no record of similar injuries and recoveries. Just to make this interesting though, Brees has said that he thinks he will play Sunday, and that the decision is entirely up to him. One thing we should all be able to agree on though is that, if Brees does play on Sunday, he likely won't be airing it out.

Jay Cutler, hamstring strain

I think that Bears coach John Fox is lying about Jay Cutler's injury. Trouble is, I can't prove it. Cutler was injured trying to make a tackle on Arizona safety Tony Jefferson, who was in the process of returning an intercepted Cutler pass for a touchdown. In the attempted tackle, it appears Cutler hit his head or shoulder awkwardly against Jefferson. In fact, early reports were that Cutler might've suffered a concussion. But after the game, John Fox told the media that Cutler had a hamstring strain. It's possible that is true. Just like it was technically true when Fox said that Kevin White had, "shin splints," even though a more honest diagnosis would've been, "a tibia stress fracture." In fact, you can see a screengrab of Cutler holding his hamstring here, so the hamstring strain is probably legit. But, as with all Bears injuries this year, I'm not convinced that we're getting the whole truth, and perhaps there is a head or shoulder injury lurking in the grass here as well. Adam Schefter reported that Cutler would be out, "at least two weeks," and Schefter is about as dependable as they come. For now, all we can do is watch the practice report and hope that detailed news somehow leaks out from behind this injury iron curtain. Cutler did not practice on Wednesday due to what was listed as a hamstring injury, so if nothing else, we can be confident that he won't play this weekend. Predicting anything beyond that is risky with the Bears being so protective of injury details.

Josh McCown, concussion

McCown was unable to pass the final test to clear the NFL's concussion protocol last week, so Johnny Manziel started in his place. Today, however, the Browns announced that McCown had cleared the concussion protocol and will start on Sunday. I can almost guarantee that we'll see plenty of Cleveland quarterback yo-yoing this year, but hopefully it will have little to do with health. Both Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel are fully healthy for the time being.

Matthew Stafford, ribs

It seems that Stafford has taken a beating lately, and in just the last two weeks he's been listed with arm, chest, and rib injuries. Beyond those vague terms though, we have scarce details. Piecing together bits from multiple sources, we can tell that Stafford is in a lot of pain, and that the plan is for him to play through it. In Wednesday's practice report, Stafford was listed as a full participant with a ribs injury. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk outlined the situation here, and points out that a banged-up quarterback versus the Denver defense could be a scary recipe.

Geno Smith, jaw fracture

The Jets seem to be in no hurry to rush Geno Smith back, and that's understandable. Up until recently, it was mostly thought that Smith might have a chance to return after the Jets Week 5 bye. In what can only be called a mild surprise, head coach Todd Bowles basically said that Ryan Fitzpatrick will remain the starting quarterback even when Geno Smith is healthy. Unless something changes, we can stop reading too much into the practice reports of Smith, as the starting quarterback job is no longer his to return to.

Tony Romo, collarbone fracture

After fracturing his left, non-throwing, collarbone, the Cowboys placed Romo on the inured-reserve, designated-for-return list. This means that the absolute earliest Romo can return is for a Week 11, November 22nd game. Thankfully for us, this spares us multiple weeks of speculation about when Romo will return. Historically, this eight-week recovery timeline is a good place to start for his injury, so there's at least a decent chance he comes back fully healthy for that Week 11 game.

Running Backs

Carlos Hyde, thigh bruise

Hyde got off relatively easy this week, as he originally left Sunday's game with a suspected concussion. The doctors determined that he was not concussed, but kept him out the remainder of the game, presumably because his thigh was bothering him after taking a huge hit. Most people seem to think that he'll play this Sunday, and his participation in Wednesday practice seems to back up that theory.

Reggie Bush, calf strain

Bush missed Week 2 with a calf strain, and there has been no news about him since. That all changes with today's practice report. Today, Bush was held out of practice, meaning that he's anything but a sure-bet to return on Sunday. He will need to get at least limited practice in on either Thursday or Friday to have even a chance of playing.

DeMarco Murray, Hamstring strain

According to early reports, Murray left Wednesday practice early after suffering a hamstring injury, and is scheduled to have an MRI. At the time of publication, nothing else is known about this situation. Obviously, this is not a good development, and even a minor strain this late in the week makes Murray doubtful to play against the jets this weekend. Be sure to monitor this story for more developments throughout the week.

Lamar Miller, ankle sprain

Nobody seems to be worried about Lamar Miller's ankle injury that caused him to leave last Sunday's game. Miller himself said that he considered returning to the game, and that the injury is minor. That's all well and good, but Miller did not practice on Wednesday, which might indicate that this is not a minor injury. Owners will want to keep a close eye on Thursday and Friday's practice reports. If Miller does not practice at all, he will surely be out for Sunday. If he gets in only limited practices, expect him to be either part of a committee or a dreaded, "game time decision." For what it's worth, the Dolphins promoted running back Jonas Gray from the practice squad on Wednesday, so it would appear that the team is not convinced that Miller will play.

Andre Ellington, PCL sprain

As we've discussed before, PCL sprains are difficult injuries to slap a timetable on. Some people play right through them, while others miss extended time, such as notoriously slow-healing Todd Heap, who missed eleven games with a PCL sprain in 2012. This is an injury rehab that doesn't really follow a logical, charted course the way that we would like. While Ellington himself has said that this injury could cost him, "2-3 weeks," we still have no idea if that's an accurate goal. Historically, 2-3 weeks is a good guess. In fact, it's probably the best guess you could throw out there. But it's just a guess. The only way we'll know that Ellington is close to returning is when we see that he's practicing. On Tuesday, head coach Bruce Arians told SiriusXM's NFL Radio that Ellington was running, and that they were hoping for a Week 4 return. As of today, Ellington is still not practicing, so it's safe to assume he will not start this weekend. Beyond that is anyone's guess.

Eddie Lacy, Ankle sprain

We know that Eddie Lacy injured his right ankle in Sunday's game. We also know that x-rays came back negative, meaning that there is not a fracture. Beyond that, we don't know much. So far, this has mostly been talked about as a minor injury, and there's a chance Lacy plays on Monday night. But the trouble with a Monday night game is that Lacy has not had an official practice yet.  His first practice will come on Thursday, and he is supposed to test his ankle out then, according to coach Mike McCarthy. Even before seeing Lacy's Thursday practice report, I would guess that he will be, at best, a dreaded, "game time decision," for Monday night. If Lacy practices in full Thursday, Friday, or Saturday though, I'd expect to see him play in at least a limited role on Monday.

Tevin Coleman, rib fracture

After Atlanta rookie Tevin Coleman left the game with a fractured rib, I was surprised to read Adam Schefter say that Coleman was expected to miss, "a couple of weeks." This surprised me because a lot of players, even running backs, chose to play through rib fractures. Fred Jackson, Chris Rainey, and Trent Richardson are all recent players who missed zero games with fractured ribs. That's not to say that they should have played through the injury though, as this can cause great pain and, consequently, ineffectiveness. But isolated rib fractures are usually simply a pain-management issue, and there is no real risk of causing greater damage. Because of all this, I find it either refreshing or odd that Coleman wouldn't return for such a long time. Hopefully this is just a case of a team playing it smart. Coleman did not practice today, so he can safely be ruled out for this weekend.

Denard Robinson, MCL sprain

If you were ever worried about Jaguars rookie T.J. Yeldon not getting a full workload of snaps this week against the Patriots, you can stop your worrying now. Denard Robinson has an MCL sprain, and did not practice on Wednesday. Barring an incredible recovery, there is roughly zero chance that he practices this week or starts on Sunday.

Toby Gerhart, abdominal injury

Jaguars backup running back Toby Gerhart was a limited participant in Wednesday's practice, but this is a huge improvement over his mostly missed practice from last week. Depending on how he practices the rest of the week, we might see Gerhart mixing in snaps behind T.J. Yeldon this weekend, though I wouldn't be too worried about a true timeshare there.

Arian Foster, core muscle surgery

Every few days, we seem to hear better news about Foster and his recovery from sports hernia surgery. Foster hit an important milestone last week when he began practicing again. It looks like that trend is continuing this week, as Foster was listed as a limited participant in Wednesday's practice. But before you rush to hail his return, I should point out two things. The first is that reliable sources such as Adam Schefter and John McClain have downplayed the notion of a quick return. The second is that Foster has a history of soft-tissue injuries, so the Texans seem to want to make sure he's really 100% before they hand him the reins. Head coach Bill O'Brien has said all along that he refuses to rush this process. In fact, O'Brien said this again on Wednesday, indicating that Foster will likely sit this weekend. Ian Rapoport went on to speculate that, due to the short turnaround time between Week 4 and Week 5, there's still a good chance Foster plays only one, but not both, of those games. 

Todd Gurley, ACL rehab

Aside from the specific injury, Todd Gurley's rehab has some similarities to that of Arian Foster. Just as with Foster, the Rams head coach has made it abundantly clear that Gurley will not be rushed back early, no matter how urgent the needs of the team at the running back position. Also similar to Foster, notable journalists have downplayed the chances of Gurley's gameday activation. Unlike Foster though, Gurley is practicing in full, and has been doing so since late last week. This makes it hard to believe that the Rams can hold him back much longer. I can't tell you if this is the week that Gurley finally makes his debut. What I can tell you though is that head coach Jeff Fisher has been refreshingly honest and forthcoming about his thoughts on Gurley, so we might actually be able to trust that he'll let us know when Gurley is coming back.

Chris Ivory, Groin and quad injuries

Here's something worth keeping an eye on. Chris Ivory did not practice on Wednesday due to groin and quad injuries. He was known to be playing through a groin injury, but the quad injury is news to me. As Rotoworld pointed out, this might not be anything serious, as the Jets are coming off a Monday night game, so this might be a planned day of rest. Be sure to check Thursday and Friday's practice reports to get a better idea of how serious or mild these injuries might be. As of Wednesday, it's simply too soon to tell.

Lorenzo Taliaferro, Foot

I'm dying to know what's going on here. Taliaferro finally returned from an MCL sprain to play in Week 2, but he did not participate in Wednesday's practice due to a foot injury. This is new, and I have no clue what it's all about. We will have to watch the practice reports in the next few days to see if this is something serious or just the Ravens managing his reps. At this point, this is nothing but a huge question mark, possibly followed by an exclamation point.

LeSean McCoy, Hamstring strain

McCoy dealt with a nagging hamstring strain throughout the preseason, and his playing status for both Week 1 and Week 2 was very much debated and scrutinized. After a solid Week 2 performance, it appears that McCoy is fully recovered from this injury. Still, it was a little alarming to see Mike Rodak report that McCoy did not practice Wednesday. This seems very much like a conservative day of rest rather than an injury concern. As long as McCoy practices later in the week, I won't doubt that he's fully recovered.

Wide receivers

Alshon Jeffery, hamstring and calf strain

Alshon Jeffery is a mess. First he missed the entire preseason with a calf injury that the Bears claimed was minor. Then he missed last week with a hamstring strain that is believed to be compensatory in nature, meaning that it's related to his rehab from the calf strain. Because this is the Bears, there have been precisely zero updates. The closest thing we'll get to clarity from the Bears this year is what we'll find on their practice reports. Jeffery did not practice on Wednesday. Unless Jeffery can get some serious practice in later in the week, he should be considered doubtful for Sunday.

Eric Decker, PCL sprain

It's Wednesday, and I'm still trying to figure out exactly what Decker's knee injury is. It was first reported as a suspected PCL sprain. Then on Tuesday it was reported as a knee sprain, and that Decker is day-to-day. Here's where it gets confusing. A PCL sprain is a knee sprain. But a knee sprain is not necessarily a PCL sprain. The term sprain indicates that the injury is to a ligament, but I'd like to know exactly which knee ligament Decker has sprained. If this is even a minor PCL sprain, I would be dubious of that, "day-to-day," status (think Andre Ellington and Breshad Perriman). If, however, Decker sprained his MCL or LCL, then we might be dealing with a different situation. In fact, in the world of NFL injury talk, "MCL sprain," and, "knee sprain," are often used interchangeably (and incorrectly so). An MCL or LCL sprain could lead to much less missed time than a PCL sprain. No matter what the specific injury is though, we can see that Decker did not practice today, which means that he will likely sit this weekend.

Breshad Perriman, PCL sprain

Finally, we have a piece of concrete evidence that Perriman is progressing after missing the last six games with a PCL sprain. Yesterday, Perriman was spotted running routes at practice. Oh, but the routes were at half-speed, so that's not totally awesome. But it's a start. ESPN's Jamison Hensley wrote about that here, and he speculates that October is the most likely month to see Perriman make his debut. As I've outlined with Andre Ellington, PCL sprain rehabs are tricky, and we need to be careful not to read too much into this latest news on Perriman, even if it does sound like a noticeable improvement. The true test, as always, will come when we see how Perriman responds to full practices, and that won't be for at least another week.

Victor Cruz, calf strain

Perriman wasn't the only long-absent receiver showing signs of life this week. Victor Cruz was spotted running full speed in agility drills on Tuesday, marking the first time Cruz has practiced with the Giants since suffering his late-August calf strain. The fact that it took Cruz nearly a month to participate in practice of any sort indicates how severe of a strain this was. Cruz has already been ruled out for this week's Thursday night game, but there is a chance he practices enough next week to make a Week 4 return a possibility. Due to his history, Cruz still faces increased odds of yet another compensatory injury or setback though, so he's far from out of the woods.

DeSean Jackson, hamstring strain

After DeSean Jackson suffered a hamstring strain in Week 1, Adam Schefter was quick to report that Jackson would miss 3-4 weeks. Jackson was inactive for Week 2, and has not yet practiced this week. He will not suit up for Thursday night's game against the Giants. Looking ahead to next week, I would like to see Jackson putting in some serious practice time before I believe he has a shot to return for Week 4, and that seems unlikely.

Jerricho Cotchery, High ankle sprain

Panthers receiver Jerricho Cotchery left Sunday's game with a high ankle sprain. He did not practice on Wednesday, which should come as no surprise, so we can safely rule him doubtful at best for this week. High ankle sprain rehabs obviously vary depending on the severity of the injury, and we have no specific details that would help us guess as to the grade of sprain that Cotchery has. But, historically, a great deal of high ankle sprains require two to four weeks of missed playing time. I'll be sure to check in on Cotchery from week to week, but it's safe to assume that he's out until you hear otherwise.

DeAndre Hopkins, Concussion

Hopkins missed Wednesday practice due to a concussion, but further details aren't known yet. If the concussion occurred in Sunday's game, there is a chance Hopkins could still be cleared in time to play this weekend. If the concussion is from a practice injury, especially one that happened on Wednesday, it would be nearly impossible for Hopkins to be cleared in time to play this weekend against Tampa Bay. Monitor this situation closely for more details.

A.J. Green, knee

This one was a surprise. A.J. Green did not participate in practice on Wednesday due to a knee injury. Up until this report, there was never any talk of any sort of injury to Green. Be sure to check Thursday and Friday reports to figure out whether this is a true injury or simply a day of rest.

T.Y. Hilton, knee bruise

Hilton was obviously not 100% in Monday's game in which he played through a bruised knee. But the fact that he played at all indicates that was a fairly mild injury, at least as far as football injuries go. Hilton was absent from the Week 3 practice injury report, so we can go ahead and consider him healthy enough to play going forward.

Mike Evans, hamstring strain

Evans was on a bit of a snap count for Week 2, playing on only 40 of 66 offensive plays. He emerged from that win without any setbacks though, and he is expected to get a full complement of snaps going forward. Evans was a full participant in Wednesday practice.

Marqise Lee, hamstring strain

It would appear that all the celestial bodies have aligned perfectly, and Marqise Lee (a.k.a. "The Albino Tiger") is fully recovered from the hamstring strain that kept him sidelined through the whole preseason and Week 1. Lee played sparingly against Miami last week, but is expected to get a full workload going forward. As with any player who has suffered nagging soft tissue injuries, I would advise everyone to continue monitoring practice reports to make sure there have been no setbacks. Lee was limited in Wednesday's practice, but that's probably just the team being conservative due to his injury history.

Brandin Cooks, Ankle

Saints wide receiver Brandon Cooks popped up out of nowhere on this week's report as having sat out of practice with an ankle injury. I have no clue what this is all about, but I will be watching reports later in the week to try to get a better handle on this situation.

Tight Ends

Jordan Cameron, groin

Miami's Jordan Cameron left Sunday's game with a groin injury, and there have been no detailed updates since then. What we do know is that Cameron did not practice on Wednesday, and that's always a troubling sign. As of now, I have no reason to think this is a long-term injury, but without seeing at least a limited practice from Cameron on either Thursday or Friday, I'd assume that Cameron will not start Sunday against the Bills.

Dion Sims, concussion

With the status of Jordan Cameron in doubt, the health of Miami's Dion Sims takes on added importance. Sims sat out last week's game due to a concussion. He was a limited participant in Wednesday's practice. Players must be fully free from concussion symptoms before they can practice in any form, so it's safe to assume that Sims has cleared at least the first steps of the concussion protocol. As long as Sims does not have a recurrence of concussion symptoms, he has a shot at playing Sunday if Cameron sits.

Jason Witten, ankle and knee sprains

Witten is reported to have, "two sprained ankles and a sprained knee," but most signs still point to him playing this weekend. On Wednesday he put in a limited practice, and stated that his swelling has subsided and he'll be fine for Sunday. Obviously, it's fair to wonder how effective Witten will be at gametime, but he's likely to start.

Jordan Reed, Quad and hamstring strains

Perhaps it would be more economical if I only mentioned when Washington tight end Jordan Reed is fully healthy. Such seems to be the case this week, as Reed has been removed from the team's injury report, indicating that he is completely recovered from his lower-body soft tissue injuries. He plays on a short week and will start tomorrow against the Giants.

Dwayne Allen, ankle sprain

Don't count on Dwayne Allen to play in this week's game against Tennessee. Allen injured his ankle in Monday's loss to the Jets, and he did not practice in any capacity on Wednesday. Head coach Chuck Pagano is calling Allen, "day-to-day," and Allen seems optimistic that he will be able to play Sunday. But I remember that same song and dance last year, when Allen suffered a high ankle sprain and ended up missing two games (and playing poorly upon his return). I have no evidence that Allen's latest injury is a high ankle sprain. In fact, I haven't even been able to confirm which ankle is currently injured. But I'm always more inclined to believe what I see in practice reports than what I hear from players and coaches, and the fact he's not practicing tells me he's doubtful to play this weekend. Obviously, this could change if Allen practices on Thursday or Friday.

Delanie Walker, Wrist sprain

Walker sat out Week 2 due to a wrist ligament sprain, but he put in a limited practice Wednesday. As long as he continues to practice on Thursday and Friday, it's safe to believe he will start on Sunday against the Colts.

Ladarius Green, Concussion

Ugh. This is ugly. Chargers tight end Ladarius Green suffered a concussion in Sunday's game and was limited in practice Wednesday. The scary part is that this is Green's second concussion in three weeks, and his third concussion in ten months. I would consider Green doubtful to play on Sunday, and perhaps well beyond. This is a situation worth monitoring more as the weekend gets closer.

Brandon Pettigrew, hamstring strain

Brandon Pettigrew still isn't practicing after sitting out last Sunday with a hamstring strain. Check Thursday and Friday practice reports for a clearer picture of whether Pettigrew might be back on Sunday.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, shoulder strain

Here's one that smells fishy to me. Seferian-Jenkins injured his shoulder in last week's upset of the Saints. On Tuesday, Adam Schefter reported it as a shoulder strain, and that Seferian-Jenkins would be sidelined 4-6 weeks. Historically, few shoulder injuries (much less shoulder muscle strains) set a player back 4-6 weeks. Shoulder dislocations or shoulder labrum injuries might result in that sort of timeline. Same with partial tears of the deltoid, biceps, or pectoral muscles. Depending on how fast and loose you want to play with terminology, those partial muscle tears could be called a, "shoulder strain." Doing so wouldn't even be deceptive, it just wouldn't be as precise and forthcoming as we'd like. Until we know more about Seferian-Jenkins' exact diagnosis, this is a tough return-to-play to predict. For now, we're left to simply monitor the practice reports. Until we hear otherwise, it's safe to rule Seferian-Jenkins out until after Tampa Bay's Week 6 bye.