How to approach preseason injury reports
The NFL began padded practices last week. While the strength and conditioning phases included full-speed positional workouts, padded practices are the first time players face contact situations at speed. Not surprisingly, there was an increase in reports of injury.
And, as is always the case during the preseason, teams will pull important players from practice at the first sign of trouble and have no incentive to provide details to those covering the team.
Most of these injuries will be minor and missed practices will be precautionary. You can tie yourself in knots over-analyzing the little information teams provide or patiently wait for players to return to practice.
My recommendation: Use 10 days from the first regular-season game as your signpost. If it's not absolutely clear whether a player has a serious injury from the initial reporting, teams will begin reconditioning players for Week 1 within 7-10 days of that date. Coaches need to know a player's status to game plan for upcoming opponents and medical staffs know the highest risk of aggravation occurs within 10 days of the initial injury.
If a player hasn't returned to practice or remains limited as we approach the first practice participation report for Week 1, it's time to be concerned about their availability and workload.
I'll have player-specific thoughts in a soon-to-be-released stand-alone article to guide your draft decisions. For now, focus on the when (date of injury, expected recovery, date of return to practice) than the what (specific injury).
***The Eagles reported a lower-body injury to Miles Sanders after a practice last week. Without video of the injury or specifics about the diagnosis, we're left to speculate on what Doug Pederson means by "day-to-day" or what reports of "should be ready for Week 1" might mean for Sanders.
There are two pieces of information I find very reassuring: Sanders reported had a compression sleeve on his lower leg while watching practice -- suggesting a muscle strain rather than a joint or bone condition. And Adam Caplan, a well-positioned reporter with a strong understanding of injury reporting, has no concern for Sanders' Week 1 status. Should Sanders remain limited heading into Week 1, his early-season outlook will become more cloudy. But I wouldn't advise major changes to your draft strategy yet.
***Tyreek Hill and A.J. Green both suffered hamstring strains during practice last week. Neither is believed to be a higher-grade injury but both warrant observation. Both receivers have missed time with muscle strains in past seasons.
Green's injury is to the right leg -- his higher-grade hamstring injury in 2016 was to the left leg -- but any injury to Green is a red flag. Green reportedly wanted to return to practice the following day but coach Zac Taylor was not interested in risking Green's health any further. While he has resumed running full-speed routes on the side, it's likely Green won't return to practice until absolutely necessary, regardless of the severity of his initial strain.
Hill's hamstring strain is to the same leg as last year's injury. Andy Reid expressed no concern about this injury. All indications are Hill's injury is minor and the Chiefs are holding him out as a precaution. Tuesday note: Hill has returned to individual drills.
***Reports on Deebo Samuel were more positive this week but his outlook hasn't changed. Expect him to be limited during the first 2-3 weeks of the regular season if he starts the year on the active roster.
***Images of Kerryon Johnson in a bulky knee brace aren't very reassuring. The brace cannot fully protect against injury and its presence indicates Johnson isn't comfortable without it. Johnson tried to play off questions about the brace by saying "me and the brace are one." Running back is arguably the position with the highest competition in the league. Any decrease in athleticism puts a player's career at risk. While this may prove to be nothing, it's not inspiring for Johnson's 2020 durability.
***Kenyan Drake was spotted wearing a walking boot on Monday. The decision to immobilize a joint in the foot or ankle doesn't always mean there's a serious injury. While a walking boot can be indicated for severe ankle sprains or foot fractures, sometimes players use a boot for comfort rather than a wrap and crutches.
There were no reports of a specific injury on Monday. Kliff Kingsbury told reporters Drake's boot was precautionary for "normal nicks and bruises." Drake himself minimized concern in the locker room. For now, it appears that Drake is not dealing with anything that could threaten his Week 1 availability.
***Tom Pelissero is reporting Mike Williams will miss 2-4 weeks with his shoulder injury. His Week 1 status is in doubt.
***Tyrell Williams has a torn labrum in his shoulder and will try to play through the injury. Labral tears limit range of motion and leave athletes at higher risk of shoulder dislocation. It will be a tough injury to play through effectively.
INJURED PLAYERS ON ACTIVE ROSTER
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