I don’t like problems without solutions, but in the past few weeks we’ve seen the NFL have a couple that seemingly don’t have any good fix. The concussion protocol continues to be an opaque issue, one where opening it up and making it more objective would clear things up quickly. On the other hand, the shoulder problem is one of anatomy and game evolution. In Wednesday’s column here I’m going to offer a solution — actually a series of solutions — that could help with this and another problem that the NFL has. That’s the tease, but for now, we have plenty of injuries to look at:
Trevor Siemian, Denver (sprained shoulder)
Reports that Siemian is dealing with a complete rupture of his acromioclavicular ligament would mean that his shoulder and collarbone are not physically attached. While the structure doesn’t implicitly fail since the body tends to have redundant systems, it’s clear that this would not be something that would be prudent to play through. The worry is less about how it will affect his throwing motion, but what it would do if he took another hit to that shoulder area. Without the structural integrity, the force would be distributed and could do significant damage to other structures, including the labrum, rotator cuff and even the capsule itself.
All that leaves the Broncos in a quandary. Do they risk further injury to Siemian to keep Paxton Lynch on the bench? It could force them to use Lynch now, giving Siemian the “long week” after the Thursday game, which could also help minimize the playbook changes. We should know more ahead of game time, but don’t count on Siemian being back just yet. There’s a lot of risks.
Cam Newton, Carolina (concussion)
Newton couldn’t play on Monday night, but he was close. Newton passed the fourth stage of the concussion protocol, so as long as he stays symptom free this week, he’s very likely to be cleared well ahead of Sunday. Newton was seen before and after the game on the field and he’s on track to be back at practice without limitations by the end of the week.
There’s clearly some concern here about not only how Newton was concussed in this most recent instance, but the number of hits he’s taken altogether. Newton’s size forces defenders to go for a big hit, just to register him. The hit he took that led to the concussion is a perfect example of this, both in how teams are forced to go at him and his willingness to put himself in a position to be hit. While Newton has been durable and productive, this could as easily been a knee or something like Andrew Luck’s lacerated kidney, given the force of the hits.
Carson Palmer, Arizona (concussion)
Palmer couldn’t make it back on the short week from his concussion, but all signs are that the extra time he’s had since then has him ready to go. While Palmer hasn’t been officially cleared (yet) through the final stage of the protocol, all indications are that he’ll step back in this week as Arizona takes on the New York Jets on Monday. If Palmer is cleared as expected, he’ll have a full week of practice. There are no expected lingering issues for Palmer and he shouldn’t be limited in any way. As with any concussion, he’ll be watched closely for any recurrence of symptoms, but this looks like Palmer has been relatively lucky in the short-term. The long-term? That’s much more of a scary unknown.
Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati (sprained shoulder)
We’ve seen more and more shoulder injuries for quarterbacks, but running backs have the same anatomy. A back the likes of Hill is more likely to have his pad level low and not get knocked directly over onto the shoulder itself the way quarterbacks do, but it can happen. Hill originally injured himself on a play where his momentum was stopped — he was “stood up” — and then he went over sideways with a big pile on top of him. Some of that weight transferred and did some damage. It’s not clear exactly what, but the symptoms seem to match up with an AC sprain. If it’s a bone bruise or a stability problem inside the joint, the issue is much the same, though it would be more impacted with each hit.
The issue then is a bit of pain management and a bit of prevention. A running back doesn’t need as much range of motion in the shoulder as a quarterback does, so he can be harnessed. Devices such as this one or this one can be used, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see Hill out there and wearing one. There are other ways of protecting the shoulder, so if he doesn’t use one of the before-mentioned devices he may just have tape, a shirt-style brace, or maybe just more padding between his shoulder and the pads.
Eddie Lacy, Green Bay (sprained ankle)
Lacy sprained his ankle, but it seems that with any ankle injury these days, there’s some debate externally about whether this was a classic low sprain or a high ankle sprain. To clear that up, this is a low ankle sprain — the ankle, not the syndesmosis. With Lacy having a history of ankle sprains, we do have to wonder a bit about his anatomy, but this injury is on his left ankle, with his history of previous sprains being on the right.
Assuming that Lacy progresses as the Packers expect, he would be available this weekend, but they’ll look at him closely to see if he can make his normal moves. Mike McCarthy has shown a quick trigger with Lacy, pushing him aside for James Starks with the slightest provocation. This one may not end up being about the injury itself, but the reaction that the injury catalyzed. Even cleared and normal, Lacy might lose some touches.
Randall Cobb, Green Bay (stinger)
Cobb took one heck of a hit at the end of the game on Sunday night. It was a helmet-to-helmet hit, it torqued his neck, and he landed on it with a rollover. That’s a bad combo, and Cobb is lucky that all he got was a bit of a stinger. “I thought I had died” is always a scary quote to hear from anyone, but Cobb was actually checked on field for both spinal damage and for concussion and cleared both despite that initial symptom and reaction. Cobb is having no issues, even just after the game, and should play normally.
One thing many don’t understand is what is termed a “spinal concussion.” If the hit is hard enough that the spinal cord itself is impacted or just jolted, the nervous impulses can be thrown off for a period lasting from seconds to a few hours. Players that are boarded and carted off, as we often see, but who have almost no symptoms later are almost always experiencing this. Even neurologists don’t fully understand what’s happening, so it’s a very scary injury. But like brain injuries, there are mild ones that have no short-term effects.
Oh, the stinger? I don’t think I’ve explained those here, so I’ll leave you this great link to learn more about this common injury.
Charles Sims, Tampa Bay (sprained knee)
In a surprise move, Sims is heading to Injured Reserve. He missed the game on Monday with a sprained knee, but all reports had it as a minor sprain. By placing him on IR, the team must have thought that either he will need surgery or that they needed the roster spot. While Sims could return under the new rules, we’ll have to wait to see exactly what the next steps for him are. Sims’ production was good both this year and last year, and with Doug Martin out with a severe hamstring strain, the Bucs are left very shorthanded in the running game.
Cody Kessler, Cleveland (bruised chest/ribs)
Cody Kessler took one of the biggest hits you’re going to see, a full “decleater”. The initial worry was shoulder and head, but this one was as simple as can be. He got hit in the chest and is very sore there, but landed on his back and has some bruised ribs. This is a simple pain management issue and Kessler is likely to be back out on the field this week.
There’s no issue with his shoulders or throwing motion at all, so as long as Kessler is pain free (or close), he should have no problem. This is really an issue of impact, where the car-crash level hits really test how much force the body can take. Unfortunately, this is one of those hits that was not only forceful enough to do damage, but that the defender had a clear run to Kessler. These are normally seen more on running backs and on kickoffs.
Bumps & bruises:
There are reports out that Tony Romo may stay out past the bye. While possible, the progression on Romo’s return from a spinal fracture has already been measured and conservative … The Cowboys still don’t seem to agree internally about what’s going on with Dez Bryant‘s leg injury, so we’ll have to watch for signs of how he’s progressing functionally. My advice is to ignore anything Jerry Jones says on this issue. Not because he’s lying, but because whatever he says doesn’t matter if Bryant’s not back on the field and running … Steve Smith‘s ankle sprain is minor and unrelated to his Achilles repair. He should be back for this week, but watch him at practice … There’s starting to be some rumblings out of Miami that even when healthy, the team’s moved on from Arian Foster. We’ll have to watch to see how much he practices this week, coming off his leg injury … The Raiders are sounding positive about Latavius Murray‘s return, but turf toe tends to linger. If he practices well, I still think he ends up splitting carries with DeAndre Washington … Stefon Diggs is still having issues with his groin strain. His status for this week is in doubt, so plan now and I’ll check back on him later in the week … Even with the extra day, it looks like it will be another week for Eric Decker. There’s no clear timeline on when he should be back from his torn rotator cuff … Gary Barnidge has a moderate ankle sprain, so he’ll bear watching during this week’s practices.