Monday Injury Rounds: Preseason Week 2

Discussing what the NFL's new injury report rules mean and making rounds on Dion Lewis, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Jones, and others

On Sunday, we finally got an update on what's been keeping Dion Lewis from practicing.

More on Lewis in a minute. His wasn't the only surprising report in the weekend news cycle.

Changes to the NFL's Injury Report Policy

Seemingly out of nowhere, the NFL has decided to make two major revisions to its Injury Report policy. You can see the full explanation to the right, which I've pasted from a tweet on Ian Rapoport's timeline.

First, the NFL is removing the "Probable" designation from the Game Status Report released on Friday. It's been deemed unnecessary, as only 5% of players listed Probable in prior years missed that week's game. The "Questionable" (i.e. uncertain to play) and "Doubtful" (unlikely to play) categories will remain unchanged.

Second, the NFL will no longer require teams to include players who do not fully participate in Friday's practice on the Game Status Report.

The implication here is the NFL would like to greatly limit how many players are listed on the injury report each week. However, the revision statement includes the following line, "If there is any question concerning a player's availability...he should be listed as "Questionable." It also says if a player not listed on the Game Status Report is deactivated, "the club will be required to provide an explanation...and subject to possible discipline."

One of two outcomes is assured here.

The first scenario: 32 teams choose to leave players who missed parts of practice but who are expected to play on Friday morning off the Game Status report. Fewer players than ever are listed on the injury report and we learn exactly which players with minor injuries will be active 48 hours in advance. If you believe that, Bill Belichick has a first round draft pick to sell you. 

The second scenario: The vast majority of teams list nearly every player who would have formerly been given the "Probable" designation as "Questionable."

You've seen teams and coaches manipulate the injury reports for years. Belichick and others have bloated the "Questionable" designation on their injury reports to almost farcical proportions. Teams are absolutely going to take advantage of these revisions.

What's this mean for fantasy owners and fans?

Coaches may be annoyed by the additional questions they'll get in the Friday and Saturday press conferences, but ultimately won't care. They can just say, "We're unsure of his gameday availability," and skip back to the meeting room laughing. There's no penalty for players who are listed as "Questionable" but still play that week.

We're all going to have to do extra detective work this year. Matt Waldman likes to refer to me as the Lester Freamon of injuries for Footballguys. While I love The Wire and am flattered by the comparison, I'm probably a little closer to Columbo.

Player availability for interviews on Friday will be more important than ever. Close attention to which teams allow veterans to play despite limited participation will be crucial. And the Sunday updates of Adam Schefter, Ian Rapoport, and Jay Glazer will be more welcome than ever.

I'm looking forward to reading between the lines of the injury report with my wandering eye.

(Actually, I'm really not. See what I did there, NFL.)

I'm certain it's just the calm before the storm, but it was another week of good fortune for the league's skill position players. As teams begin to trim their rosters from 90 players and give their starters more practice and preseason game reps, we'll likely begin to see more injuries.

For now, the major stories continue to be about players returning from last year's major injuries.

Which brings us back to Dion Lewis.

Dion Lewis | Pending Knee Surgery | Week-to-Week

There's been a smoldering fire around Lewis for three weeks now. Ben Volin suggested Lewis was ticketed for the inseason PUP list two weeks ago, but was promptly met with opposing editorials from many of his fellow beat writers. But Lewis wasn't seen working on the side at camp like his fellow PUP-mates Julian Edelman (now active) and Danny Amendola) were. That was odd because Lewis had been cleared to do similar conditioning and individual work this spring.

On Sunday, Mike Reiss -- arguably the most trusted New England voice -- postulated that Belichick may be planning to keep Lewis on the inseason PUP for roster flexibility. Shortly after, there was a report that Lewis showed up in the locker room and was walking without a limp.

A few minutes later, the other shoe dropped. Lewis needs arthroscopic surgery on his injured knee. Reports further implied that the procedure is a "cleanout" and will not involve Lewis' new ACL graft. There's been one report of an 8-10 week recovery timetable. Adam Schefter and others countered by tweeting Lewis would be out indefinitely.

Like all things Patriots, this is clear as mud. Which means there's a third shoe to drop.

I'm not aware of any "cleanout" procedure with an accompanying 8-10 week rehab and recovery timetable. Recovery from meniscus trim and/or removal of loose bodies or scar tissue in the knee usually takes 3-6 weeks. That's usually what "cleanout" means. Repairing a meniscus injury requires 4-6 months of rehab and recovery time. Cartilage injury and microfracture surgery takes 6-9 months or longer to recover from.

There may be a kernel of truth in each of the timetables.

It may well be that Lewis' procedure is minor and will require only 4-6 weeks of recovery. However, subtract the 3+ weeks left in the preseason from the 8-10 week timetable posited by Curran and you get around 6-8 weeks. Not coincidentally, that's about how long Lewis would be stuck on the inseason PUP list before eligible to return.

But there's a good argument to believe Schefter's indefinite timetable. It's possible Lewis' condition is known to his surgeon, but treatment decisions and thus prognosis (i.e meniscus trim, meniscus repair, microfracture, assessment of graft integrity, etc.) won't be known until direct visualization during surgery.

So...stay tuned.

Larry Fitzgerald | MCL Sprain | Day-to-Day

Fitzgerald suffered a "slight" MCL sprain during practice last week according to Bruce Arians. This implies a low-grade sprain and 0-2 week timetable in most cases. Every MCL injury is a little different, however. Late Sunday, there were reports Fitzgerald was back at practice. Fitzgerald returned from a mid-grade sprain in three weeks during the 2014 season, so he's had experience with recovery from MCL injuries. Hopefully, there will be no setbacks or compensatory injuries this week.

Matt Jones | AC Sprain | Week-to-Week

Jones fell hard onto his shoulder during the second preseason game last week. Varying reports suggest Jones' AC sprain is minor, which means his return will depend on pain and range of motion. I have him listed as week-to-week, but Jones could return this week if the injury is low grade and his recovery progresses quickly.

Jordy Nelson | Knee Tendinitis | PUP>Active

Jamaal Charles | ACL Repair | PUP>Active

Thomas Rawls | Ankle Surgery | PUP>Active

Jimmy Graham | Patellar Tendon Repair | PUP>Active

Nelson, Charles, and Rawls are all very close to a return to full practice participation. Rawls reportedly worked in pads last weekend, Charles has been cleared to do more work in practice each day, and Nelson will start individual workouts with Aaron Rodgers this week. While Pete Carroll was unreservedly optimistic on Rawls in a Sunday press conference, there was more caution in his comments on Graham. That's to be expected. 

All four players are still at risk of reconditioning injuries, but their return from the PUP list has been smooth thus far.

Minor Notes

John Brown -- Cleared to return to practice this weekend after missing multiple weeks in the concussion protocol.

Matt Forte -- Hopeful to return and take a few snaps in this week's preseason game.

Jeremy Langford -- Reportedly stepped on, briefly in walking boot. If I can get GamePass to work, I'll review and discuss on Twitter.

Victor Cruz -- Expected to attempt another return to practice after missing nearly ten days with a groin strain.

Tyler Eifert, Breshad Perriman -- Still in rehab, without a clear timetable for return.

Check back for more injury analysis throughout training camp and follow on Twitter @JeneBramel for breaking injury news, commentary and analysis of injury news around the NFL.

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