It’s Super Bowl week for the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots. I’ll take a look at those two teams in detail later this week, but there’s other injuries around the league as the offseason gets underway. This is a time for healing, for surgery and for trying to figure out timelines for when someone is going to be healthy enough to play football again. We’ll see lots of lines in the sand, figuring out who’ll be ready for OTAs, training camp and Week 1 of the season. The players may get time off, but the medical staffs don’t, so let’s look around at some key NFL injury situations:
Ryan Tannehill: A Dolphins player in Dusseldorf
The reports around Tannehill are getting a bit ridiculous at this point. His Grade II ACL sprain of his left knee — an incomplete tear somewhere shy of a 50 percent tear — is healing. At just a matter of weeks out, it is not completely healed, nor will it be for a while. That limits what he can and can’t do for the foreseeable future. It’s not unusual at all for this, and with the comparison last week of his MRI then and his MRI now, the lack of immediate surgery means that the doctors think things are progressing well.
The confounding variable seems to be that Tannehill and his team have elected to have a procedure called Orthokine. While it is not approved for use in the United States (yet), there’s nothing magical about the procedure. It’s much like PRP, in that blood from the patient is removed, spun down in a centrifuge, then injected back into the body. The difference is how long it is out and what is added. In the U.S., almost nothing can be added, but elsewhere it’s more open.
Many athletes, most notably Kobe Bryant, Peyton Manning and Troy Polamalu, have had the procedure, and the results are mixed. If it helps Tannehill, so be it, but its not likely to change his healing timeline specifically. (If you’d like to know more about the procedure, I wrote extensively about it here.)
Tyrod Taylor looking for a home
Taylor heads into free agency with a bit of a limp. He had surgery at the end of the season for “core muscle” issues, which is normally read as “sports hernia.” For a mobile quarterback that needs every bit of lateral quickness, this is concerning, but easily checked. Taylor’s surgery was done by the top surgeon in the field, results from this tend to be positive and the healing is very telling in a matter of weeks.
So if there’s a team out there that’s a fit for Taylor, they shouldn’t have to be too hesitant. A quick check of his medical records and a workout at some point in the not-too-distant future will show where Taylor is and where he’s going to be come September. But is there a team that fits? Given the teams that need a quarterback and the teams that need that type of quarterback, there’s little doubt that he’ll end up somewhere, but none of them seem a good situation.
The teams that might need a quarterback, either through draft or free agency, include his current team, the Buffalo Buffalo, the New York Jets, the Cleveland Browns, the Houston Texans, the Chicago Bears and the San Francisco 49ers. The Arizona Cardinals could be in the market if Carson Palmer retires, and there’s an outside shot that the Pittsburgh Steelers will have to replace Ben Roethlisberger. This doesn’t take into account any backup jobs, where Taylor would be an upgrade to most, but often not a system fit.
None of the before-mentioned teams are great fits with their current systems. The Jets had a mobile quarterback in Geno Smith, and we know how that worked out. Cleveland is the most intriguing, given their experiments with Robert Griffin III, who played a very similar style. If Taylor is forced to take a short-term contract, keep an eye on Jacksonville, where pushing Blake Bortles next season could set Taylor up well for 2018.
What’s up with Andrew Luck?
Chris Ballard is taking over the Indianapolis Colts as general manager, and much of the focus on why the Colts job was so coveted centered on the presence of Luck. Starting with an elite-level quarterback makes Ballard’s transformation of the underwhelming roster a bit easier, but that assumes that Luck is going to come back from shoulder surgery at the same level.
So let me ask you: Is everyone excited about the possibility of what Jay Cutler can do next season? Because Cutler had a very similar surgery to what Luck had.
I’ll be clear that there’s still a lot unknown about Luck’s injury and surgery. We don’t even know the basics of when it was done or who did it. We certainly don’t know what they found inside his shoulder or how they repaired it. Without that, it’s all speculation, but I believe that not knowing is the ultimate risk. I’d imagine that Ballard at least asked the question in his interview.
Labrum surgery has come a long way in the last 13 years, but an article I did in 2004 is still the most cited article about the subject, even though I’ve done an update! The surgery still has a poor success rate compared to many others, and even when a player does come back, few come back to the same level. Luck is a singular talent, young and in shape. He could make adjustments if he’s lost some arm strength, and rumors that he’s reached out to Peyton Manning and Jon Gruden for assistance with that adjustment ring true.
Don’t take this as too alarmist a position. We’re at least a few months from Luck throwing at any level, and I’d expect by then that we’ll know more about the facts we don’t know now. By June, the Colts at least will know exactly where they stand. One tell might come in the draft if the Colts use a mid-round pick to upgrade the backup QB slot with a “could step in” type rather than a project.
Jamaal Charles holding back the years
Charles is clear that he doesn’t want to retire. Despite an ACL reconstruction that didn’t help a pair of already degenerating knees, Charles wants to come back. “Wants to” and “can” are two different things, but Charles seems to be getting indications that what he’s had done and the time lost have actually helped.
Let’s ignore the ACL for now. Reconstructions like this are pretty standard, and while there were complications, obviously, the time is only going to help him. The degeneration is the bigger problem and what will be tough to maintain. The Chiefs medical staff, one of the best in the game, couldn’t get ahead of it, but with a known issue they’ll have the full offseason to figure out what works and what doesn’t with Charles.
I expected Charles to come back well this season, and if you listened to me, well, I’m sorry. However, I do think that he’ll be back and playing well. That said, I don’t think the Chiefs will give up on Spencer Ware. They’ll likely be in something of a role share, along with Charcandrick West, and while that could frustrate fantasy owners, it will give coach Andy Reid a lot of options.