Injury Report Insight: Week 15

A critical look at this week's injury report.

This might seem like a double standard, but I'm far more likely to believe bad news than good news when it comes to reports regarding a player's health. In the NFL, the default, at least as reported by the teams and players, seems to be that everyone is fine, all injuries are mild, all surgeries went well, and all rehabs are ahead of schedule. Due to this bias, when I read that an injury is worse than expected, it tends to stand out, and I find myself believing that the report is likely accurate, as it probably came from sources other than coaches and front-office personnel who have every reason to lie. I mention this now because this week seemed to be marked by plenty of rosy injury reports that are already turning a little gloomy by mid-week. From returning players such as Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning to new injuries such as those to Jonathan Stewart, T.J. Yeldon, and DeSean Jackson, the news isn't quite as optimistic as we were once led to believe.


Andy Dalton, thumb fracture

In an odd turn of events, I find myself optimistic about an NFL injury. When it was announced that Andy Dalton fractured his right thumb in Sunday's game, it was logical enough to think that his season was over. Jay Cutler suffered a fractured thumb in 2011 that required surgery and came with a, "6-8 week," timetable. That injury ultimately caused him to miss the last six weeks of the season. But the good news so far is that Dalton will not require surgery. This indicates that the fracture is not displaced, and will likely shorten his recovery significantly. Although the details are still scant, I'd be more likely to compare Dalton's injury to that of Ben Roethlisberger in 2011, when he avoided surgery on a fractured thumb and returned after rehabbing during a bye week. Roethlisberger is notoriously tough, so I'm not saying I'd expect Dalton back under center in Week 16. What I am saying though, is that it's too soon to rule Dalton out for the remainder of the regular season. It might be prudent for the Bengals to hold him out until the playoffs, but that might not be necessary. We'll have a better idea of his timeline in another week or so when we see how Dalton approaches practice.

Brian Hoyer, concussion and neck strain

As I mentioned in the introduction, I'm almost always likely to believe bad news when it comes to injuries. In the case of Brian Hoyer, ESPN's Ed Werder reported that Hoyer's latest injuries, "could cause QB to be out for a while. I'm told player is concerned." Certainly not a rosy outlook, but entirely understandable, as this is Hoyer's second recent concussion, having suffered one back in Week 10. Hoyer's previous concussion was severe enough that he suffered memory loss. That doesn't necessarily mean that this current concussion is as severe or that Hoyer will experience the same symptoms, but it indicates to me that the medical staff might be especially conservative with his current recovery due to that history. I think that there is a very real chance that Hoyer will not return this season, though obviously that's more of a guess at this early stage. Hoyer has already been ruled out for Week 15.

Andrew Luck, kidney laceration and abdominal strain

Matt Hasselbeck, rib and back injuries

With the case of Andrew Luck and his kidney laceration, Wednesday brought the first good news, as he was able to put in a limited practice for the first time since his Week 9 injury. While that is great news, we still don't have word on whether Luck has been cleared for contact, which makes it hard to know how close he really is to a return. He has already been ruled out for Week 15, and hopefully another week of practice will give us more clarity on his progress. Luck is now six weeks into what the Colts originally claimed would be a, "2-6 week," injury. As for Luck's backup, Matt Hasselbeck was unable to practice on Wednesday with rib and back injuries. For a better idea of Hasselbeck's status, we'll need to check back later in the week.

Peyton Manning, plantar fascia tear

As with Andrew Luck's rehab, it was a great sign that Peyton Manning was able to get in even a limited practice on Wednesday. But Manning has already been ruled out for this weekend, marking the fifth game he will miss. I'm hopeful that Manning will avoid any setbacks and return to full health next week, but it should be noted that he's not out of the woods yet, as this is an injury that has lingered in other players.

Matt Schaub, chest and shoulder injuries

After sitting out Week 14 with shoulder and chest injuries, it looks like Matt Schaub might be on track to start Week 15. He was able to put in a limited practice on Wednesday, which is a great start to the week. Even if Schaub doesn't progress to full practice this week, I would expect that three consecutive limited practices would mean that he'll get that start.

Running Backs

Jonathan Stewart, foot sprain

The severity of Jonathan Stewart's foot sprain seemed to be very fluid early in the week. Coach Ron Rivera initially said that Stewart was fine and that he did not return to the Week 14 game simply out of an abundance of caution. By Monday though, Stewart was wearing a walking cast, which is never a good sign. He was held out of Wednesday's practice, and the team has already said that he will not play Week 15. I have no knowledge of the severity of Stewart's sprain, but it's a little alarming that he was ruled out already on a Wednesday. This situation will bear watching next week to see if he has a shot at a Week 16 return.

T.J. Yeldon, MCL sprain

Despite coach Gus Bradley calling T.J. Yeldon, "day-to-day," an MCL sprain should put Yeldon solidly in the, "week-to-week," category. The fact that Yeldon did not practice on Wednesday means he's probably out this week, and historical injury comps would indicate he'll likely sit out Week 16 as well. This is the same injury that sidelined Matt Forte for three games earlier this year, and a ballpark of two to three weeks is a good place to start.

C.J. Anderson, ankle

Something is still wrong with C.J. Anderson's ankle, as evidenced by the fact he did not practice on Wednesday. He dressed and was active as an emergency backup on Sunday, but didn't step onto the field. The most likely ankle injury to sideline a player for more than a few days is a high ankle sprain, so I would suggest that's probably what Anderson is attempting to battle through. Unless he can put in at least some limited practice later in the week, I can't see him taking any substantial workload in Week 15.

Andre Ellington, turf toe

Arizona head coach Bruce Arians has stated that he expects Andre Ellington to return for Week 15, but Ellington isn't off to a good start, as he did not practice on Wednesday. Unfortunately, turf toe is an injury that can linger for weeks or even months. Arians has stated that Ellington's status will hinge upon his pain tolerence, but that's at least a little unfair. It's true that turf toe is painful and can sometimes be played through. But if it causes so much pain, it's fair to wonder how effectively a running back would be able to preform, even should he be determined to, "tough it out."

Karlos Williams, shoulder

Bills backup Karlos Williams was able to practice for the first time in weeks, putting in a limited practice while recovering from a shoulder injury. It's too early in the week to call this one, so be sure to check back and see whether he completes his first week of practice.

Chris Thompson, shoulder labrum tear

Chris Thompson has been dealing with shoulder injuries for a few weeks now, but it was announced that he missed Week 14 with a shoulder labrum tear. Thompson has some history with this injury, having missed the last seven games of 2013 with the same injury, though it's unclear if it was to the same shoulder. Thompson was able to return to a limited practice on Wednesday, but that doesn't do much to alleviate my concern. In order for me to be optimistic about his return, I'd need to see a full practice. One of the problems in trying to break down an injury situation like this is that there's a chance that Thompson is limited because he hasn't been medically cleared for contact. A full practice would convince me that he's actually considering suiting up for Week 15.

Spencer Ware, Bruised ribs

There is both good and bad news in the case of Spencer Ware. The good news is that he does not have any fractured ribs. According to Ian Rapoport, Ware is, "bruised, swollen, and in pain." No, that's not the bad news. The bad news is that Ware didn't practice on Wednesday, meaning he's not looking great for Week 15. If he is inactive though, it's a good bet that the bruising and swelling is markedly improved by next week, so at least there shouldn't be any concern for a long-term injury here.

Lamar Miller, ankle

There has been no official announcement about Lamar Miller having any injury, but he was held out Wednesday's practice due to what the team called an ankle injury. No further details are available, so be sure to monitor this one throughout the week. Miller is likely just getting a day of rest, though it's fair to wonder if an ankle injury led to his light workload after the half last week.

Wide Receivers

Vincent Jackson, MCL sprain

Vincent Jackson can't seem to catch a break with his knees this season. After missing three weeks earlier this season with an unspecified knee injury, Jackson suffered an MCL sprain that Ian Rapoport reports might cause Jackson to miss the rest of the year (or at least the regular season). I should note that Rapoport was correct earlier this year in regards to that first knee injury, so his source is believable. Jackson has already been ruled out for Week 15's Thursday night game, and a three game absence would be very much in line with what we could reasonably expect from an MCL sprain.

DeSean Jackson, patella contusion

Patella contusion is the fanciest way I know to say, "bruised kneecap," and it was refreshing to hear such a specific diagnosis. Thankfully for DeSean Jackson, this is an injury that will be dependent on pain and swelling and shouldn't have any long term effects. Unfortunately, this means that we might not have any clarity as to his Week 15 status until later in the week. Jackson himself has said that he will be ready, but that should be ignored, especially since he was held out of Wednesday's practice. Be sure to check back on his status later in the week.

Dontrelle Inman, neck strain

After a scary hit that resulted in getting stretchered off the field, Dontrelle Inman might be on track to return after sitting out last week. He was able to return to a full practice on Wednesday, indicating that he is very likely to play this weekend.

Stevie Johnson, groin

It's a good thing that Dontrelle Inman could return, as it looks like fellow Chargers receiver Stevie Johnson will likely miss another week with a groin strain. Johnson sat out last week's game, and then was held out of Wednesday's practice. With the Chargers having been eliminated from the playoff picture, there's no reason to rush Johnson back. I wouldn't be surprised to see him end the season on injured reserve.

Rishard Matthews, fractured ribs

Miami receiver Rishard Matthews has missed the last two weeks with multiple fractured ribs. He was able to return to a limited practice on Wednesday, meaning he at least has a shot at playing Week 15. This two game absence was likely enough time for Matthews' ribs to partially heal, but I would still like to see him with at least one unlimited (meaning full contact) practice before I trust that he's really ready to return.

Jordan Matthews, back

I'm having a tough time reading the situation surrounding Jordan Matthews and his back injury. On the one hand, Matthews was able to play through the injury last week. But on the other hand, Matthews himself has sounded pessimistic about his health, and that's pretty rare for a player. Eagles beat reporter Tim McManus tweeted on Tuesday, "Jordan Matthews said he probably wouldn't be able to play if game was today, sounds like back has been lingering a bit, got worse last week." Matthews was able to put in a limited practice on Wednesday, so there is some optimism that he'll be fine for Sunday.

Donte Moncrief, toe

Donte Moncrief is already looking doubtful for Week 15. He was unable to practice on Wednesday with what the Colts listed as a toe injury, and he was seen in a walking boot. This is likely a toe or foot sprain, and he should be considered doubtful until we see him return to practice.

Allen Hurns, Thigh injury

This one is probably nothing, but Allen Hurns missed Wednesday practice with an unspecified thigh injury. It's likely that the Jaguars are just resting Hurns, who played through a thigh injury last week. Be sure to check back later in the week to make sure he didn't suffer a setback.

Amari Cooper, foot

Much like with Allen Hurns, the injury to Amari Cooper is likely nothing serious. Cooper was nursing a foot injury last week, and he was held out of Wednesday's practice with what we can assume to be the same foot injury. He should return to practice on Thursday or Friday, but be sure to do your due diligence and follow up.

Tight Ends

Greg Olsen, knee

Greg Olsen suffered a knee injury in Week 14, but it sounds like he has avoided anything too serious. ESPN's Ed Werder reported that Olsen's MRI results showed that he, "dodged any major damage to the knee." Olsen has said he expects to play on Sunday, but I don't make a habit of believing players. Without having an exact diagnosis, all I can really do is watch practice reports, and it's notable that Olsen did not practice on Wednesday. If the injury is as minor as has been reported, I would expect Olsen to get in at least one limited practice this week.

Tyler Eifert, concussion

Fresh off his return from a stinger, Tyler Eifert suffered a concussion that knocked him out of his Week 14 game. He did not practice on Wednesday, and I suspect that he will be held out of his Week 15 game, though this situation bears monitoring.

Crockett Gillmore, back

Crockett Gillmore missed Week 14 with an unspecified back injury, and it sounds like that could be just the start of an extended absence. John Harbaugh has already said that Gillmore will not play Week 15 and is probably done for the year. Given that severity, I suspect that Gillmore suffered a fracture or requires surgery. 

Jermaine Gresham, knee

It would appear that Jermaine Gresham might miss another week due to a knee injury. Gresham was inactive last week, and missed Wednesday's practice. He should be considered doubtful until he can put even a limited practice.

Vance McDonald, concussion

Vance McDonald missed week 14 due to a concussion, and he has yet to be cleared for contact. Hopefully he can gain medical clearance and put in a full practice either Thursday or Friday.

Charles Clay, back strain

Bills tight end Charles Clay pulled a back muscle in Week 14 and couldn't return to the lineup. He did not practice on Wednesday, leaving us to guess as to his Week 15 availability. At this point, I'd say he's looking questionable at best for this week, but be sure to check back later in the week to see if he has improved.