Injury Rounds: 6 QB Injuries to Watch

Can Joe Burrow be ready for Week 1? Where are Dak Prescott and Patrick Mahomes in their recoveries? Updates on Tom Brady, Trevor Lawrence, Matthew Stafford, and more.

What You Need to Know

  • Joe Burrow is ahead of schedule but still has work to do to be ready for Week 1
  • Dak Prescott had a second surgery in December on his injured ankle and continues to rehab
  • Patrick Mahomes II elected to have surgery to address turf toe and should be ready for Week 1
  • Tom Brady likely had a meniscus repair and may not be ready until training camp
  • Trevor Lawrence had surgery on his non-throwing shoulder and may have limited offseason reps
  • Matthew Stafford's thumb surgery will not affect offseason preparations with his new Rams' teammates

Joe Burrow | Left ACL reconstruction / MCL sprain | Early Dec 2020 | 9-12 months | Week 1-3 Return

Recovery from ACL reconstruction in 6-9 months is possible in elite athletes with isolated ligament tears.

Burrow’s case is more complicated.

At a minimum, Burrow also sustained an MCL sprain. That delayed his surgery until early December. In addition to the ACL and MCL injuries, Adam Schefter reported Burrow had “other structural issues” to contend with during his rehab. While Schefter wasn’t specific, it’s likely Burrow suffered meniscus or cartilage damage to the joint.

Nine months from an early December surgery would put Burrow’s return in early September and provide a stiff challenge for him to be ready for Week 1.

Reassuringly, Burrow says his rehab is progressing well. In January, Burrow told reporters his surgeons believed his knee was about 4-6 weeks ahead of schedule. While a smooth start to physical recovery is critical, Burrow will also have to prove he is comfortable with his front leg in a crowded pocket. And he’ll need time in game conditions to regain confidence in his plant leg and show the velocity and accuracy to be effective.

Expect Burrow to begin training camp on the PUP list. I believe there’s a chance Burrow will make enough progress to be moved to the active roster and be ready for opening weekend. That’s Burrow’s expectation, too. But until it’s clear the Bengals – a team not known for transparency with injuries – plan to take him off the PUP list in camp, consider him questionable for Week 1.

Dak Prescott | Right ankle fracture/dislocation | Mid-October 2020 | 4-6 months | Ready for Training Camp

Prescott has had two surgeries since his October 2020 ankle dislocation. The first, immediately after the injury, was to fix fractured bones and repair any significant ligament damage and stabilize the joint. The second, two months later, was reportedly to “strengthen the ankle joint and clean up other previous issues.”

The follow-up procedure is not considered a setback. Tightening up ligaments and cleaning up minor joint issues does not necessarily mean Prescott’s recovery is in doubt. And Prescott’s big contract extension suggests the Cowboys have no concern about his long-term health.

An additional surgery does mean a longer rehab, however. Although Prescott was said to be “getting close” in March, a recent video of his throwing workouts shows his range of motion and lateral movement to be limited.

It’s very unlikely we’ll see Prescott participate in team drills during offseason workouts but Prescott should be fully recovered and ready for training camp. Expect him to start on the active roster and be ready for Week 1.

Patrick Mahomes II | Left plantar plate repair | Early February 2021 | 3-4 months | Ready for Training Camp

Mahomes finished the season despite a high-grade turf toe injury. His limited mobility was sometimes disguised by his superhuman quarterback play but surgery was necessary after the season.

Dr. Robert Anderson, Mahomes’ surgeon, generally expects players to return to activity after two months of rehab and return to play within 3-4 months. Thus far, Mahomes is meeting his rehab goals and was cleared to come out of his walking boot in early April.

Mahomes should be cleared for football-related activity well in advance of training camp. While he’ll likely continue to play with an orthotic this season, Mahomes will be full strength in Week 1.

Tom Brady | Left arthroscopic knee surgery | Mid-February 2021 | 3-4 months | Ready for Training Camp

Brady had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in February.

The team hasn’t reported specifics but Ian Rapoport reported the procedure was a “little more extensive than a cleanup.” Rumors abound Brady played through more than a minor injury during the second half of the season and he was seen moving very stiffly six weeks after his February scope. Bruce Arians recently told reporters Brady was expected to return in June.

It’s not Sherlock Holmes-level detective work to suspect Brady had a meniscus repair. These procedures require 3-4 months of rehab, are associated with relatively good recoveries, and are better for the long-term health of the knee.

Brady had his left ACL reconstructed in 2008 and it’s likely he has some cartilage damage in the joint. He may experience flare-ups and swelling during the season but can be expected to be ready for training camp and play on Thursday night in Week 1.

Trevor Lawrence | Left shoulder labrum repair | Mid-February 2021 | 4-6 months | Ready for Training Camp

Lawrence elected to have labrum surgery on his non-throwing shoulder in February.

I have not seen any specific reports of chronic shoulder issues but players commonly have labral surgery if they’ve already experienced a dislocation or multiple subluxations (i.e. partial dislocations) of the shoulder. Surgery doesn’t guarantee a player will not have further issues but it greatly lessens the risk.

Players need 4-6 months of rehab before being cleared for contact after labral repair. Lawrence has recently been cleared to throw and should be cleared for contact in training camp. The expected top overall pick, every rep is important for a rookie quarterback to prepare for Week 1.

Matthew Stafford | Right thumb ulnar collateral ligament repair | Mid-March 2021 | Week-to-Week | Ready for Training Camp

Stafford did not miss time with a ligament sprain to his throwing thumb. His surgery was described as more clean-up than repair, and the Rams do not expect him to miss any spring workouts.

Expect him to be practicing fully in training camp and ready for Week 1.

Injured Players on Active Roster

Player/Team Says
FBG Expects
Left ACL reconstruction / MCL sprain
Target Week 1
Questionable Week 1
Right ankle fracture/dislocation
Ready for training camp
Ready for training camp
Left plantar plate repair
Ready for training camp
Ready for training camp
Left knee arthroscopic surgery
Ready for training camp
Ready for training camp
Right thumb ligament repair
Ready for OTAs
Ready for training camp
Left shoulder labrum repair
Ready for training camp
Ready for training camp
Left ankle fracture/dislocation
Ready for OTAs
Ready for training camp

Follow me on Twitter @JeneBramel for breaking injury news and analysis throughout the off-season.

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