Injury Report Insight: Week 12

A critical look at this week's first practice injury report.

After a quiet, dare I say relaxing, Week 11, Week 12 roared through with a vengeance, ending the seasons (or at least the fantasy seasons) of players like Zach Miller, C.J. Prosise, and Giovanni Bernard. Others, such as Jay Cutler, Cody Kessler, Ryan Mathews, A.J. Green, and Luke Kuechly suffered serious injuries that have clouded what we might reasonably expect from them the rest of this season. There was no shortage of what are hopefully short-term injuries as well, making this one of the more devastating weeks I can remember recently. If that all sounds depressing, hey, at least we have the best holiday of the year coming up, where we can gorge ourselves then argue with our family about what the Cowboys should do with Tony Romo. Honestly, I can't wait.


Andrew Luck, concussion

Well, there's no mystery to this one, as Andrew Luck has already been ruled out for the Colts Thanksgiving game against the Steelers. Concussion recoveries don't always follow predictable paths like other sports injuries, so I try to steer clear of predicting return to play estimates with them. One notable fact though is that this appears to be Luck's first concussion. While that doesn't necessarily mean that he will immediately bounce back, it's certainly better than if Luck had a history of brain injuries. For now though, we'll have to simply wait and see. Hopefully Luck is doing well in his recovery, and would've had a shot to play had the Colts not played on Thursday.

Cody Kessler, Concussion

As is the case with Andrew Luck, Cody Kessler has already been ruled out for Week 12. The similarities end there however, as Kessler's history makes this a volatile situation. Kessler suffered a previous concussion less than a month ago, in Week 7. There's no way to predict how long it might take Kessler to clear the NFL concussion protocol, but I would expect the Browns to be very conservative in how they handle this.

Robert Griffin III, shoulder fracture

With Cody Kessler out this week, it's good timing that Robert Griffin III has been designated as Cleveland's player to return from injured reserve. Wednesday marked his first practice with the team since his Week 1 injury. Until Griffin is moved to the active roster though, we'll have no official word on whether his practices were limited or full. For now, we're left scouring the Twitter feeds of beat reporters to see how Griffin looked and what he was seen doing in practice. Most reporters feel confident that Josh McCown will be the Week 12 starter, but it sounds like Griffin might soon get another shot.

Jay Cutler, shoulder labrum

Forgive me if this comes off as crass, but the injury to Jay Cutler's shoulder might've been the best thing for both Cutler and the Bears. It's widely believed that this is Cutler's final season in Chicago, though the last time I thought that, the Bears responded by digging deep and giving Cutler gobs of money. As is often the case, Cutler's season was, let's just say, inconsistent. After Sunday's game, Ian Rapoport reported that Cutler has a shoulder labrum tear. The typical treatment for such an injury is season-ending surgery, and I'd expect no different in this case, unless the diagnosis were to change radically. In terms of Cutler's health, this surgery shouldn't cause any future problems. Cutler should have plenty of time to recover before training camp picks up again in the spring, wherever that may be for him.

From the, "for what it's worth," department, coach John Fox denied that Cutler's shoulder injury is season-ending, and called Cutler's status, "day-to-day." Fox is well known to either fudge his injury information or outright lie about it. On the other hand, Ian Rapoport is one of the holy trinity of reliable NFL reporters (Schefter and Glazer being the other two) and his reports rarely turn out to be incorrect. At best, I would guess this is a case of interpretation, and at worst, outright deception. Either way, Cutler did not practice on Wednesday, and the Bears signed David Fales off of Baltimore's practice squad to back up Matt Barkley. These are not the actions that typically revolve around day-to-day injuries.

Tom Brady, knee

There are no specific details on this at the time of press, but Tom Brady was held out of Wednesday's practice with a knee injury. This is likely nothing serious, but obviously this is a situation to monitor. Hopefully Brady returns to practice later in the week and we can add this to the collection of injuries the Patriots tack onto Brady's injury reports without actually affecting his Sunday status.

Running Backs

Mark Ingram II, concussion

All news regarding Mark Ingram II seems to be good, though it's also a bit weird. In last Thursday's game, Ingram took a hit to his head, then remained down, appearing limp and unresponsive. He was removed from the game, but Sean Payton was cagey and stated that he wasn't sure whether Ingram had suffered a concussion or not. That odd tone continued this week when Payton said, as I understand it from Mike Triplett's Tweet, that he wasn't sure whether Ingram was ever in the concussion protocol, but that if he was, he's not any longer. As was the case with the Chiefs and Alex Smith earlier this year, I don't understand this. Ingram either was or was not concussed. The medical distinction should be quite clear, and the head coach should be very much in-the-loop with this information.

To make matters even more confusing, Ingram himself said later on Wednesday that he is indeed still in the concussion protocol. ESPN's Mike Triplett had more on it here, and it's worth a read. Of particular interest to me is that Ingram, like many concussed players, didn't even realize at the time that he had been knocked unconscious. At any rate, Ingram returned to practice (though I haven't been able to verify his level of participation) and looks like he's on track to play this week. Between Ingram's noted progress and his long week to recover, there doesn't seem to be much doubt that he will play this week.

LeSean McCoy, thumb dislocation

Although the term, "dislocated thumb," sounds serious, it's actually not that bad of an injury, at least as far as things go in the NFL. LeSean McCoy dislocated his thumb on Sunday, but it couldn't be reduced on the sideline, so he was held out the rest of the game. He had surgery to reduce it on Sunday night when the team returned to Buffalo, but it's mostly thought that he'll play this week. Surprisingly, that's not unrealistic. Reggie Bush and Marcedes Lewis are both players that didn't miss any time with similar thumb dislocations, though I have no details on whether those two required surgery. McCoy was able to put in a limited practice on Wednesday, and while I'd be more comfortable if he was able to practice in full at some point, even a week of limited practices would indicate that he'll likely play this weekend.

Mike Gillislee, hamstring strain

With LeSean McCoy's status being (slightly) up in the air, I need to point out that Mike Gillislee felt some tightness in his hamstring in Wednesday's practice. This is probably nothing to be concerned about, but both McCoy and Gillislee should be checked back on later in the week.

Ryan Mathews, MCL sprain

Oh, Ryan Mathews, when will you cease to darken the door of injury-beat guys like myself? Never. The answer is never. Mathews suffered an MCL sprain in Week 11 and Wendell Smallwood took over. The Eagles don't play until Monday night, so their first official practice report won't come out until Thursday. However, there was a Wednesday practice, and Mathews did not participate. So far, coach Doug Pederson has referred to Mathews as, "day-to-day."

Before you read too much into this early optimism though, I'd like to highlight one particular example of Mathews' extensive injury history. In 2014, Mathews sprained his right MCL, the same knee as his current injury. His initial timetable was set at, "4-5 weeks," but Mathews ended up missing 8 weeks. Now obviously, the reports so far don't indicate that this latest MCL sprain is anywhere near as severe as that previous one. I'm not even suggesting that Mathews is looking at a multi-game absence, though of course that is a possibility. I'm just saying that his history with both this particular injury, and injuries in general, makes me hesitant to believe any timeline until I actually see him return to play.

Darren Sproles, rib fracture

If the injury to Ryan Mathews wasn't enough, the Eagles are also dealing with an injury to Darren Sproles, as he fractured a rib in Week 11. So far, it sounds like this injury isn't a big concern, though there's always the chance that he sits out Week 12 just to be safe. Coach Doug Pederson stated that the fractured rib is in a, "safe area," meaning that there's no real risk of aggravation or having the injury snowball into something more serious. For now, it sounds like Sproles' return is mostly a pain-management issue. Sproles didn't practice on Wednesday, but the Eagles don't play until Monday, so he could conceivably return to the lineup this week. If I had to call it today, I would expect Sproles to be close to a game-time-decision, but with the Eagles likely holding him out. But it's important to note that that's just an early guess on my part. Later reports are bound to be more accurate.

T.J. Yeldon, ankle

There are still no details on the ankle injury that knocked T.J. Yeldon out of Sunday's game, but he didn't practice on Wednesday, so it appears he might already be questionable at best for Week 12. If this were a common low ankle sprain, I'd say Yeldon has a good chance to play. If it were the more serious high ankle sprain, I'd say he's almost certain to sit. But as it stands, there aren't any details, so I can't make a reasonable guess. In absence of details, we'll just have to rely on the practice reports as the week goes on.

Tevin Coleman, hamstring strain

All signs point to Tevin Coleman returning this week after missing the last three games (plus a bye week) with a hamstring strain. Coleman was able to practice in full on Wednesday, and in the NFL injury world, you're never going to get a more optimistic sign than that. Barring a practice setback, Coleman should be ready to roll against the Cardinals.

DeMarco Murray, foot

DeMarco Murray has been playing through what has been described as both a toe and foot injury for weeks now. He has regularly missed Wednesday practices, but has always played effectively on Sunday when it mattered. Due to this history, I'm hesitant to even point out that Murray missed this week's Wednesday practice as well. As of now, I see no danger of him sitting out Sunday, though of course owners need to confirm this later in the week.

Wide Receivers

A.J. Green, hamstring strain

Fans and fantasy owners feared for the worst when A.J. Green had to be carted off the field with a hamstring injury on Sunday. Given what was seen on the field, and the early reports that followed, it sounded as though Green might have suffered a hamstring rupture, or full tear. Without a doubt, that would've required surgery and ended Green's season. By Monday though, things were looking more optimistic, as coach Marvin Lewis said that Green did not suffer a full tear, and that Lewis expected Green back before the end of the season. While that sounds promising, I think it's important to dig a bit further here.

In my opinion, this is a story that has differing degrees of optimism depending on your own motives. If you're simply a Bengals fan, or a fan of Green specifically, this latest news is great. Even if Green ultimately doesn't return and make an impact this season, the fact that Green's injury wasn't severe enough to require surgery is as good as you could've hoped when you saw him carted off. Everything so far indicates that this is an injury that in no way should plague Green into the future. Again, this is all awesome news. 

But, if you're a fantasy owner, I'm not convinced that the latest details really change anything for you. A good ballpark on a normal, mid-grade hamstring strain would have the player missing 3-4 weeks. That's what we saw earlier this year when Jonathan Stewart missed three weeks. Tevin Coleman missed three weeks plus a bye, and that's with the expectation that he returns this week. Doug Martin missed three weeks as well before suffering a setback that kept him out another four weeks. That three-week mark is a pretty good low-end estimate on normal, mid-grade hamstring strains, with maybe the high end being something closer to 5 or 6 weeks. But there are a few troubling signs that perhaps Green's hamstring strain might be on the severe end of a mid-grade (also called Grade 2) strain.

As our own Dr. Jene Bramel pointed out, Green reached high up on his leg, which is never a good sign. Coupled with the obvious distress of Green, the fact that he was carted off the field, and some of the early pessimistic reports, it's probably safe to say that Green's injury was a "mid-grade-plus," strain. Yes, I just made that up, but you get my point. It's great that it wasn't a full tear (Grade 3), but there's still reason to think that maybe the low end of the usual timetable isn't applicable to this injury. With that in mind, my gut tells me that Green could easily miss four games. My gut isn't what you should be going by, but at least I'm trying to show you the math on how I got there.

If you start to think of a possible four game absence, you see the larger problem here. By my hunch (and again, just an educated guess) Green's first chance to return might not come until Week 16. For most fantasy owners, that's the final week of their playoffs. Should owners keep Green in the hopes for a Week 16 return? I can't answer that. Owners will have to weigh that themselves, taking into consideration their wide receiver depth, their available bench slots, the level of talent on the waiver wire, and of course their own risk tolerance.

Brandon LaFell, knee

Brandon LaFell isn't usually a hot commodity in fantasy football, but his name has been thrown around as someone likely to pick up more work in the absence of A.J. Green. Before adding him to your roster though, you'll want to check up on his health. LaFell missed Wednesday's practice with a knee injury. It's too soon to tell if this is a serious injury, but it's certainly worth keeping an eye on.

Stefon Diggs, knee

Stefon Diggs is officailly questionable for the early Thanksgiving game, but Adam Schefter reported that Diggs is unlikely to play. That's not too surprising, given that Diggs didn't practice this week. Until we hear a specific diagnosis of Diggs' injury, it's impossible to predict when he might return.

Robert Woods, knee sprain

Robert Woods looks unlikely to play this week, as he missed Wednesday's practice with what has been reported only as a knee sprain. In my experience, "knee sprain," usually means specifically an MCL sprain. Regardless of the exact injury, a sprain of any ligament in the knee could result in a multi-week absence, though it's possible that Woods might miss just this one week. We should know more later in the week.

Sammy Watkins, foot

Sammy Watkins played through soreness in his surgically-repaired foot for the first two weeks of this season before the Bills wisely shut him down. Since then, Watkins has been able to avoid a second surgery, and there has been growing optimism that he could return to the lineup soon. On Wednesday, Watkins returned to a limited practice, the first he's participated in since his injury. While this is all great progress, general manager Doug Whaley was quick to point out that the true test will be in how Watkins' foot responds to practices, and that he still has plenty of hurdles to clear before getting a shot at even a limited role in this week's game against Jacksonville. So while all signs appear to be pointing in the right direction, this is still very much a situation that will need to be monitored closely.

Jeremy Maclin, groin

Jeremy Maclin has missed the last two games with a groin injury, and it appears he might miss Week 12 as well. He did not practice on Wednesday, which is never a good sign. I have no specific details on Maclin's groin injury, but it's now safe to wonder whether he might be a candidate for core muscle surgery (a.k.a. sports hernia surgery). Such a procedure so late in the season would almost certainly land Maclin on injured reserve, as it would come with a 5-8 week return timetable, which might make even a post-season return difficult. But again, I have no details on Maclin, I'm just thinking out loud here based on how long he's already been out.

Travis Benjamin, PCL sprain

Travis Benjamin has been dealing with a PCL sprain since Week 7, but it looks like his Week 10 absence and subsequent bye week might've done him some serious good. He was able to practice in full on Wednesday, which is a very optimistic sign that he's ready to return to the lineup. Barring a late-week downgrade, I would expect him to start and play effectively.

Donte Moncrief, hamstring strain

Donte Moncrief wasn't injured coming out of Week 11, but it appears he suffered a hamstring strain in Wednesday's practice. He wasn't reported to have any injury for Monday or Tuesday practices, but was listed as a limited participant in Wednesday's practice. As is the case with all practice downgrades, this is troubling. He is officially questionable for Week 12, a Thanksgiving game, but I think he's likely closer to doubtful.

Dez Bryant, back

Julio Jones, shoulder

Don't panic. Both Dez Bryant and Julio Jones have been limited at practice this week, but neither appears to be a true injury thus far. I hate even listing cases like these, but I've already seen a few headlines mentioning Bryant's questionable status, and we might see similar with Jones later in the week. Until proven otherwise, both are fine and must-start players if you're lucky enough to own either.

Tight Ends

Rob Gronkowski, chest

The situation around Rob Gronkowski is still pretty murky this early in the week. After missing last week with what the Patriots are calling a chest injury (others say possibly a punctured lung), Gronkowski returned to a limited practice on Wednesday. ESPN's Dianna Russini, however, reported that Gronkowski is not expected to play this week, and that the Patriots are preparing for his absence. With all due respect, Russini is not one of my go-to sources for injury information. In Russini's defense, her report seems reasonable and she does mention, "sources," meaning multiple people. For now, I would treat this as a case where Gronkowski is out until proven otherwise.

Julius Thomas, back

There are no details on Julius Thomas' health, except that he missed Wednesday's practice with a back injury. Thomas has played much of the year a little banged-up, and it remains to be seen if this latest back injury will be enough to affect his Week 12 status. Be sure to check practice reports later in the week for a clearer picture.

Jimmy Graham, knee

I hate seeing knee injuries listed with Jimmy Graham on practice reports, as he's having an amazing season after coming back quickly from a torn patella tendon. Thus far this year, Graham has missed plenty of Wednesday practices as the Seahawks have taken the conservative approach of managing his practice reps. There's no reason to think that his absence on Wednesday was anything different, but as is usually the case, be sure to check again before finalizing your lineups.

For more of my NFL injury thoughts and opinions, be sure to follow me on Twitter. I will try to answer all questions and am always happy to add my two cents to any injury conversation.