In close playoff matchups like what we had last week, injuries can be the difference. The hits seem bigger, the players seem faster and the margin for error gets smaller and smaller. There were lots of injuries — some widely noticed and some less so, but while it still remains impossible to say just how much any one injury or physical deficit costs a team, I’m sure it’s higher than most think. Let’s take a look around the league at who’ll be dealing with what in the second weekend of the NFL playoffs:
Jordy Nelson, Green Bay (fractured ribs)
The Packers finally released that Nelson had fractured at least two ribs and stayed overnight in the hospital. While they said no more about anything else, most doctors I spoke with believed that Nelson would have stayed in the hospital to make sure there was no internal damage beyond the fractures, and that there must have been some concern to lead to that decision. While fractured ribs can be a pain management issue, it sounds like there’s more going on, and that makes putting Nelson back out on the field a much more complex problem. It appears that it’s going to be very difficult for Nelson to return given what we know now, though the coaching staff is keeping the door open. If the Packers make it beyond Dallas, Nelson will be a game-to-game decision as he heals, though this is normally not an issue that has any long-term consequences.
Ty Montgomery, Green Bay (sprained right ankle)
This is one of those injuries that looked really bad at the time, but somehow, Montgomery escaped with almost no issues. Montgomery was down, with weight on him and was pinned and twisted. He reacted with obvious pain, even dropping the ball, and stayed down. The word from the Packers is that he sprained his ankle, but Montgomery was back out quickly after having his leg checked and his ankle re-taped. It’s “re-taped” that I hear there in the discussion. If Montgomery had his ankle taped and it held just enough to keep the injury from being worse, then it worked. The twisting might have given enough to allow the ankle to sprain and need a re-tape, but at that point, it had done its job. Montgomery will get treatment all week, I’m sure, but he should be on track to start and play as normal.
Matt Moore, Miami (bruised jaw)
Moore wasn’t knocked out; that’s the key fact in the situation on Sunday. Moore was hit in the jaw, went down, but never lost consciousness. In the seconds between the hit and the time the medical staff got to him, Moore wasn’t showing any signs of concussion. One source from Miami tells me that Moore thought he was bleeding and complained that his jaw hurt, but nothing else. The medical staff saw no signs that he was altered, but in one play, they also didn’t go through the entire concussion protocol. Moore had no symptoms and didn’t take a hit later that could have not only made the situation worse, but also could have complicated whether he had a concussion in the first place. Remember, concussions are diagnosed by symptoms, not evidence. Moore had, and continues to have, no symptoms, no matter what the optics are for the NFL.
Julio Jones, Atlanta (sprained toe)
Jones has spent the last quarter of the season dealing with the effects of turf toe. A week off isn’t going to magically heal it, but it should help, since it’s a simple extension of time. Time is what heals turf toe more than any therapy. Jones hasn’t been able to find much in the way of relief, and while he played in Week 17, he didn’t play much or answer all the functional questions we have. That makes him something of an unknown going into this week and he’s a key to the offense matching up well with Seattle’s defense. Look to see if Jones is getting good acceleration and is able to get burst off of cuts. That’s what Falcons coaches will be watching for all week in practice as well.
C.J. Prosise, Seattle (fractured scapula)
There’s almost no history on Prosise’s injury. There’s a couple documented cases in the history of the NFL, including Donte Moncrief this year. There’s a couple cases in MLB, including Brandon McCarthy. No one’s really sure of the cause, but once back, there doesn’t really appear to be much in the way of after effect, but again, everything on this is a near unknown. Prosise, like Moncrief, should be able to play once the bone is healed and the arm is fully functional, which is reportedly close. Once a bone heals, there shouldn’t be significant pain, and the likelihood of re-injury is relatively low. Prosise will practice this week and the Seahawks staff will be watching him closely.
Spencer Ware, Kansas City (sore ribs)
Ware has to feel for Jordy Nelson, but he’s not feeling what Nelson felt. His rib soreness has alleviated over the last couple weeks and the Chiefs feel like Ware will play normally. He does split running back time with Charcandrick West, so West is in place to take over if Ware’s pain returns. Recurrence is a risk here because we’re dealing with soft tissue. It’s simply never as clear as with bone. An X-ray usually tells about bone quickly, but even advanced imaging doesn’t give a definitive picture, especially in small injuries like this. I mean small in terms of physical size, not pain or importance. All signs look positive for Ware and the Chiefs, who should be very close to full strength.
Ladarius Green, Pittsburgh (concussion)
Contrast this with Moore’s situation in Miami. Green made it through not one, but two practices, but was not cleared to play. That means he’s either having symptoms with activity, or that the independent neurologist is seeing something that is unclear to everyone else. It’s a very odd situation, at least from the outside. Green is expected back at practice, and if he can’t clear the protocol, he won’t play, simple as that. He still has a clear path to return if the symptoms do clear up.
Bumps & bruises:
Derek Carr and Ryan Tannehill won’t be needed now, but both will continue their rehabs as if there was something to come back to. Both are expected to have no issues come OTAs. … As I stated on Monday, Ben Roethlisberger is dealing with a simple sprained ankle. While I’m sure the MRI did show some activity at the site of an old fracture, it’s the sprain that’s the proximate issue. He’ll play and neither the sprain nor the old fracture site should be an issue. … Reports were confusing during Saturday’s game, but Tom Savage was cleared to play and remains so after his concussion, though Brock Osweiler will start again this week. … Theo Riddick had his wrist in a type of brace that indicates he had surgery on his injured wrist. If so, he will heal in plenty of time for OTAs. … Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie suffered a significant quad strain on Sunday. He tried to play through it, but was losing function with every push. … J.J. Watt was seen running and doing drills before Houston’s game on Saturday. He even indicated that maybe he could have played if he wasn’t on IR. Houston sources tell me that there’s no way they would have allowed that. “His days of declaring when he’s ready ended,” said the source.