Which was worse, watching the season premiere of “The Walking Dead” or seeing Derek Newton get fitted with double air casts before being carted off the field?
About 24 hours after watching one of the most brutal things ever on TV, I saw one of the most brutal injuries I’ve ever seen. Newton ruptured both patellar tendons and there could be more damage inside his knees. It’s an injury that, until this year, no one had ever come back from. I’m sure Newton will get some comfort that Jimmy Graham and Victor Cruz are doing well, that surgery and rehab can at least give him a chance to return, but that probably doesn’t change how he feels today.
At a time when injuries feel like they’re even more devastating to a game, it feels like teams aren’t doing enough to prevent or reduce them, which leaves us watching the ATs putting on air casts and calling for the cart way too often. It’s time for some team to make a big leap if the league won’t do it. For now, let’s take a look at the injuries around the league:
LeSean McCoy, Buffalo (strained hamstring)
Hindsight is easy, but the Bills have to be kicking themselves over allowing McCoy to play. McCoy was pushing to play, according to his agent Drew Rosenhaus, because he wanted to stay even in the rushing title race. That’s something you want in a player, but the medical and coaching staff is there to protect players from themselves at times like this. The drop off to Mike Gilislee wasn’t thought to be a major factor, especially ahead of the key game with the New England Patriots this weekend.
Now, the Bills find themselves back in exactly the same position as last week. McCoy’s hamstring is a problem, but will a full week of treatment have him ready to go for the game and will they risk the same kind of outcome? They might have learned their lesson last week, but circumstances have changed as well. Beyond the Pats, the Bills have one more game (Seattle) before the bye. The medical staff is going to have another tough call, but it will be pretty thorough with McCoy right up to game time.
Beyond this, there’s some concern about whether McCoy will have enough time to heal up, even with the upcoming bye. By pushing to keep up, he may have set himself back enough to let Ezekiel Elliott pull away.
Tevin Coleman, Atlanta (strained hamstring)
Coleman has a simple hamstring strain, but he’s precisely the type of player that is going to have more trouble with this than most running backs. Coleman is almost a pure speed/burst runner and makes for a nice pair with the more powerful Devonta Freeman. Coleman doesn’t have to take the bruising hits between the tackles, but if his hamstrings don’t stay intact, that burst is going to vanish. Coleman has dealt with this going back to his college days, and perhaps further. The tightness of his hamstrings is a symptom of his speed, so the Falcons medical staff has a maintenance task with him. While Freeman and Coleman seem to work well in combination, Freeman has shown he can handle more touches. If Coleman is out this week, the Falcons will have almost no RB depth, so Freeman will have to take on a much more expanded role.
Dez Bryant, Dallas (fractured knee)
Five weeks, not two. A fracture, not a bruise. Those are easy to say now, but the smokescreen that the Cowboys put up around Bryant is still as much about what happens internally at The Star as it is those of us that are forced to cover it. Bryant is back at practice and is expected to return for Sunday’s game against the Eagles. The question now is whether his knee will hold up and whether he has any limitations. The latter will be easy to see at practice this week, but it should tell us some about the former as well. If Bryant is limited in any way in terms of what he can do, it’s safe to assume that his knee is still having some pain or swelling after activity. The Dallas offense is working pretty well, so using Bryant on a snap count wouldn’t be unexpected or even a major negative. We’ll have to see how this plays out over the course of the next two weeks, especially considering there’s another situation in Dallas …
Tony Romo, Dallas (fractured back)
The timeline for Romo’s return is a bit less sure than Bryant’s. That’s entirely on Dak Prescott and the coaching staff, not on Romo’s back. The burst fracture has healed and Romo won’t need any real adjustments in order to play. He’ll obviously wear some sort of protection, but there’s no real brace that could be worn in-game for this type of injury. Protecting him is much more important, which comes down to the line and a flak jacket. Romo is slowly amping up his physical activity, but the team won’t have him back at practice until at least next week. A good performance against the Eagles and we could see that stretch even further as the team tries to avoid a quarterback controversy, but it’s coming.
Arian Foster, Miami (post-surgical Achilles)
Of all the names I’ve written about in my decades of doing this, I’ve often wondered who I wrote about most. In baseball, I’m convinced it was Moises Alou. In football, I’d guess Foster. Foster’s talent was undeniable, but he was nearly the definition of injury prone at the same time. It went all the way back to high school. Foster was more talented, but less durable, always leaving him just outside of the greats, but tantalizing enough that he got chance after chance.
He’s walking away from the game, not because he’s injured this time, but he doesn’t have one more rehab in him, according to his press statement. With Jay Ajayi stepping forward in Miami, Foster’s opportunities may have come to an end regardless, but it’s clear that he was able to return from his latest major injury, an Achilles rupture and repair. Someday, we may be able to determine why someone like Foster can’t seem to hold up under the NFL workload, but for now, it’s just a guessing game.
John Brown, Arizona (strained hamstring)
It’s somewhat surprising that Brown has been a big-time athlete since high school, but managed not to be diagnosed with sickle-cell trait until recently. Brown does have a history of hamstring and other muscle strains, so it could have disguised symptoms, but the test itself is not that hard or even expensive, so it’s a bit surprising that it was never run. It gives the Cardinals a solid fact to build around when dealing with his legs. Keeping those healthy is key and this new fact should help them. He might not miss less time, but the process is more understood now, so the hope is they can build a new program that should help prevent or at least reduce the instances.
Thomas Rawls, Seattle (fractured fibula)
It took Reggie Bush seven weeks to come back from a fractured fibula a few years back. That’s the best comparable for Rawls as he tries to return from the injury he suffered in Week 2. That puts Week 9 right in the crosshairs with Rawls beginning to turn things up in his return. Rawls isn’t practicing yet, but he is running and cutting, so getting back into the mix isn’t far off. The Seahawks don’t have to rush Rawls back given the play of Christine Michael, and his presence is going to complicate expectations for Rawls. That Week 9 return is likely to be very light, with the hope that he can build up and have two healthy runners come the playoff push.
Geno Smith, New York Jets (sprained knee)
The injury to Smith wasn’t the classic ACL mechanism. Doctors on the sideline didn’t think there was a significant structural issue. The MRI? It disagreed, showing a near rupture of Smith’s ACL and necessitating reconstructive surgery. Smith will head for surgery and miss the better part of a year rehabbing, which means this is likely the end of his stay with the Jets. There’s no reason to think that Smith will have a difficult time with the rehab. ACL surgery is pretty cut-and-dry at this point and even situations like Jamaal Charles’, where there’s some setbacks, don’t seem to have long-term issues. The question for Smith is really about opportunity now and a major knee rehab won’t help.
Bumps & bruises
Ben Roethlisberger was very limited in his return to practice, doing nothing more than some light tosses to tight ends. He’s still very much on track to return in Week 9, after the Steelers bye. That he’s up and moving like this just a week after surgery is a very positive indicator. … Russell Wilson is still showing some mobility issues after high ankle and knee sprains. It’s the high ankle that appears to be more of an issue as he still seems to shy away from hard cuts. … Cody Kessler is in the concussion protocol, but has experienced little in the way of symptoms after his diagnosis on Sunday. There’s also a chance Josh McCown is cleared to play after his fractured collarbone, so the QB slot in Cleveland is about to be crowded. … Hunter Henry was diagnosed with a concussion after the Chargers game this week. Symptoms like that tend to be a sign of a more severe issue, where the player feels compelled to self-report. Keep an eye on Henry’s progress. … The Ravens expect Steve Smith to be ready to return after their Week 8 bye. … The Colts expect to get both Donte Moncrief and Philip Dorsett back at practice this week. Moncrief’s injury is much more uncommon, so how he practices will be more telling than his mere presence. … Antonio Brown took a helmet to his hip. The Steelers’ medical staff couldn’t just reach down his pants, so they took him back to the locker room to get the heating balm on. It wasn’t a painkiller or an IV as many speculated, just an issue of how things looked.