It's mid-June and there's still time for NFL players rehabbing from injury to ready themselves for the 2013 season. However, many players are six months (or more) into their recovery. So, while it's too soon to overreact to every snippet of injury news reported, there are times -- see Chris Wells and Jahvid Best this time last year -- where I can't keep a favorite line from an old cartoon from popping into my head.
I've already had that feeling three times this week. Each instance involves a complicated injury and rehab process and all three players may be ready for camp and produce on opening weekend. But you should associate klaxons with each name until we hear more positive news.
MAURICE JONES-DREW (Lisfranc)
Jones-Drew injured his foot last October. Mike Mularkey said then that the injury was to the mid-foot and that a Lisfranc injury couldn't be ruled out. Jones-Drew spent the rest of the season trying to get ready to play before finally going on injured reserve and having surgery in late December. He continued to deny that his injury was to the Lisfranc joint in January, saying "it wasn't what people thought it was." Then, in March, SI's Jim Trotter reported that it was a Lisfranc injury.
Does the distinction matter?
Absolutely. The sooner a Lisfranc sprain or fracture is stabilized surgically, the better the outcome. Jones-Drew didn't have surgery until more than two months had passed. And there may already be reason for concern.
Rehab following Lisfranc surgery generally takes six months. In April, Jones-Drew told NFL Network he expected to be full speed by the beginning of June. In May, he told Jaguars' beat reporter Ryan O'Halloran his goal was to "resume full-scale training for the month leading into the start of training camp" -- i.e. early July. Last week, Jones-Drew confirmed that he was hoping to be cleared for the start of training camp.
If Jones-Drew is cleared for the start of camp -- seven months after surgery -- that would be a very good sign. He has made very strong recoveries from cartilage repairs in this knee in the past. But it's difficult to trust in his optimism right now. His injury was severe, he hasn't been truthful with reporters when asked, his delayed surgery increased the difficulty of his recovery, and he's already reset his return to full speed expectation once.
His progress between mid-July and mid-August should give us enough objective information to plot a more specific timetable.
PIERRE GARCON (TORN PLANTAR PLATE)
The reports on Garcon's injured foot have been uninspiring since the end of last season.
Garcon first started having pain in his foot during training camp last year. He tried to play through what was later revealed to be a torn plantar plate -- part of a ligament that connects the toes to the ball of the foot. He's repeatedly refused surgery, saying that doctors tell him the procedure would not guarantee a full recovery. He's frequently hedged when asked if he'll be ready for the 2013 season, saying he'll be "healthy enough" or that he could play if there was a game this week.
That doesn't sound like a player confident that he'll be able to return to full form. Were it 2-3 weeks after the injury, those comments might not be as worrisome. But Garcon is now ten months removed from the first time and six months removed from his last game action.
Last week, he revealed he is being fitted for special shoes this season and has to "learn a lot about my foot and how I run."
Special shoes and taping to brace his toe will help, but expect Garcon to continue to struggle to push off the line of scrimmage and get out of his breaks without pain. Rest will help, but not fix his condition. He may continue to perform, though likely inconsistently, and will be at risk of dislocating the toe and missing additional time.
Expect the Redskins to limit his practice time early in training camp. It would be reassuring if Garcon can handle consecutive practices in camp, but in no way guarantee that the foot condition is behind him.
AHMAD BRADSHAW (FOOT SURGERY)
After choosing a bone marrow injection over surgery in January 2012, Bradshaw finally elected for a more definitive surgical replacement of the screw in his right foot to stabilize two different fracture sites in January 2013. Though he did get some feelers around the league -- most notably from the Steelers around the NFL Draft -- Bradshaw remained unsigned until the Colts added him this week.
That would seem to be a very promising sign. But Bradshaw showed up at minicamp practice in a walking boot. Head coach Chuck Pagano, who told reporters that the team has "no need to rush" him. Bradshaw himself said there's "no concern."
While it's absolutely true that the Colts shouldn't rush Bradshaw back from this latest injury, it's odd that Bradshaw would still be in a walking boot six months after surgery. Bradshaw's surgeon, noted foot and ankle specialist Dr. Robert Anderson, published a study in 2011 detailing the recovery of 21 athletes who underwent revision of their surgical screw due to a poorly healed or re-fractured fifth metatarsal. Twelve were football players. Sixteen of the 21 returned to their sport within 12 weeks. Bradshaw's teammate Hakeem Nicks had a fifth metatarsal fracture surgically fixated by Dr. Anderson last summer and returned to play in 14 weeks.
Bradshaw is still in a boot five months after his surgery.
It should be noted that Bradshaw's injury involved multiple fracture sites and a larger screw, which might necessitate a slightly longer period of healing. And there's no doubt that Bradshaw will take all the time he needs to heal and not risk another setback by accelerating his rehab too quickly. But there's good reason to question why his foot remains immobilized so long after the procedure.
Bradshaw had to pass a physical exam and he has played effectively through his chronic foot issues in previous seasons. But don't dismiss the walking boot as precaution unless and until we see him back on the practice field without concern.
Footballguys will update these injury situations throughout the summer. You can also follow me on Twitter @JeneBramel for the latest injury news and commentary.
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