Here we are, at last, with Week 1 of a new NFL season behind us. There were amazing individual performances (here's looking at you, Tom Brady) and outstanding team performances (the Houston Texans delivered). And yes, there were injuries. Some teams (ahem, the St. Louis Rams) seemed to amass more than their fair share. Now comes the time when fantasy owners start scouting the waiver wire or considering trades to fill the roster gaps created by injury. Every Tuesday we will have a blog entry in which we'll share with you the latest updates involving notable fantasy-relevant players and how their status is shaping up early in the week. The emphasis is on the word "early," since no official NFL injury reports are due until Wednesday, and much can happen between now and the next slate of games.
To revisit some of the oft-asked questions surrounding injuries and fantasy football, I revive an excerpt from a piece I posted a couple of years ago.
Following is a compilation of injury guidelines to help fantasy owners navigate the maze of injury-related information that emerges each week. Although injury information may emerge in bits and pieces, swathed in insinuation and innuendo, there are some hints fantasy owners can use to help them stay on course when assessing injury impact on their fantasy teams.
1. No two injuries are identical.
• Injuries often can be graded according to severity. Even then, subtle differences often dictate different healing times.
• Players heal at different rates, so just because one guy recovers from an ankle sprain in two weeks doesn't mean the next guy will recover at the same rate, even when the injury involves the same structures.
2. Player position must be considered when evaluating the impact of an injury.
• Any given injury will affect different position players differently depending on the demands of that position. A classic example is the MCL sprain, which can be more debilitating for a running back, who has to cut frequently, than for a quarterback. It often translates to different amounts of time missed.
3. A player's overall injury history is worth considering, especially if it is a repeat injury.
• A player who has been healthy for years and has his first injury often will return faster than a player who has sustained multiple injuries. This is especially the case when it comes to repetitive muscle strains in the same region. In other words, a guy who is on his fourth right-side hamstring strain should not be expected to heal as quickly or as fully as the guy with his first episode. There are of course exceptions to this (which always should be listed as the first rule of medicine).
4. The severity of an injury cannot always be determined by how it looks on the field.
• Appearances can be deceiving. Just because a guy gets up and walks off the field doesn't mean he's not injured. Sometimes the full nature of the injury is not appreciated until a day or two later. The reverse is also true. An injury can appear devastating because it is initially very painful but then turns out to be not so bad.
5. Beware of the following overused phrases:
• He's "100 percent healthy." No one is 100 percent healthy once the season starts. Usually it means that an athlete has been fully cleared and returned to play, but it doesn't mean there are no underlying long-term changes (such as cartilage damage for instance) that won't crop up again.
• It was a "mild concussion." A concussion is a brain injury. Brain injuries are always serious, so we should acknowledge them as such. We can't determine the true severity until we see how long it took for an athlete to fully recover. Period.
• That guy is "injury-prone." There is bad luck, and then there is bad tissue. Although there is never likely to be consensus on what constitutes injury-prone, it seems that if a player misses time with more than one injury in his career, he gets the label. Football is a contact sport. Injuries happen, and most often they are due to a series of random events. The average career playing time is just a few years for a reason. The term is unfairly overused, and in fantasy, people may be steering clear of a player who is highly valuable but labeled. That player could be a great waiver-wire pickup.
And now, on to the key Week 1 injuries:
Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams: Fantasy owners were no doubt excited to see Jackson scramble for a 47-yard touchdown play right out of the gate. As I watched the play, however, Jackson's last few strides looked suddenly labored, as though something was holding him back. Turns out, a strained right quadriceps was the culprit. Jackson remained in the game for one more carry but then was done for the day. Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo has not offered any specifics as to the degree of Jackson's thigh injury but has called him week-to-week and indicated he is likely to miss the Rams' Monday night contest in Week 2. Unfortunately, Jackson is no stranger to soft-tissue injuries, as he has missed time with quad, hamstring and groin injuries in the past. Although there is no way to predict at this moment just how much time he could miss, fantasy owners should plan on his absence for Monday and potentially a couple of weeks beyond. Cadillac Williams came into the game when Jackson left with the injury and finished with 140 total yards of offense.
Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams: Bradford hurt his index finger in the fourth quarter Sunday, and the report of numbness had many worried. A fracture was ruled out when Bradford had his finger X-rayed. The team is referring to his injury as a bruised finger, and he expects to play Monday. The key will be for any swelling to subside and any nerve irritation to quiet down so that Bradford can grip the ball as needed to be effective. Naturally, how he progresses during the week is worth watching, but this could have been far worse.
Danny Amendola, WR, St. Louis Rams: The Rams are really being forced to follow the mantra of "next guy up," as they watched so many starters get injured Sunday. Amendola had perhaps the most visually disturbing injury of the day when he landed awkwardly and dislocated his left elbow. Although some said his season would end almost immediately, it's worth noting that the spectrum of damage resulting from an elbow dislocation has a wide range. As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted, Amendola did not suffer a fracture (which can happen during the process of the dislocation), and head athletic trainer Reggie Scott did not believe Amendola would require surgery (suggesting there was not major ligamentous disruption, either). Nonetheless, this is a painful injury (look at the still photo of the injury if you're not sure), and there is bound to be a fair amount of swelling around the joint. The elbow will need to be protected in a splint for comfort, and treatment will focus on controlling inflammation while the soft tissues heal. Then there's the matter of getting range of motion back in the elbow and normal strength in the arm. It likely will be several weeks before Amendola could be ready to play, but the team is issuing no timetable. The positive news is that it does appear he will be able to avoid IR.
Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants: Nicks did not speak of a knee injury after Sunday's game, but his coach, Tom Coughlin, did on Monday. According to ESPN New York, Coughlin did not elaborate on the injury, explaining it was being checked out, but he did indicate Nicks had swelling in his knee. Citing a source, ESPN New York indicated the MRI on Hicks was negative, but the swelling alone may be enough to limit him. If his knee is significantly swollen, the muscles around the knee will be limited in their capacity to contract, so he cannot be at full strength. It would not be a surprise if Nicks is out for a good portion of this week's practice, as the team will not play until Monday night. I sense a tough fantasy decision approaching for Week 2 when it comes to Nicks' status.
Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints: Colston suffered a broken collarbone in Thursday night's game and will be out at least a month. Clavicle fractures can be highly variable depending on the location and size of the break. Saints coach Sean Payton has indicated he will not update player status until he needs to on Wednesday. Plan on Colston being out at least four weeks but perhaps longer.
• The San Diego Chargers did not emerge from Sunday's contest unscathed in the injury department. Kicker Nate Kaeding was lost for the season to a torn ACL on the first play of the game as he tried to make a tackle during a kickoff return. The team is currently trying out kickers, but Kaeding will be tough to replace. Meanwhile, the Chargers got better news on running back Mike Tolbert, who appeared to injure his right knee late in the game after delivering one rushing and two receiving touchdowns. As reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune, Tolbert was cleared by doctors Monday to return to practice and is expected to play in Week 2. Fantasy owners can exhale.
• Another team with several players of interest to fantasy owners is the Houston Texans. Running back Arian Foster and his much-discussed hamstring sat out Week 1, a wise move given that the team proved it could manage without him. Foster had increased his running workouts throughout the past week but had not formally practiced with the team. He reportedly worked out hard again on Monday, but it remains to be seen whether he will return to practice. His progress last week was encouraging, but so was the performance of his teammates in Sunday's game, so the team can afford to be patient.
Those teammates include Derrick Ward, who started in place of Foster on Sunday. Ward was faring well but exited early with a right ankle sprain, opening the fantasy door for Ben Tate. Ward said his removal from the game was precautionary, and coach Gary Kubiak seemed to downplay the injury as well, calling Ward "day-to-day." Wide receiver Kevin Walter has a bruised collarbone (not broken, as was widely reported Sunday) and according to the Houston Chronicle, Walter has not been officially ruled out of anything yet. Kubiak said of Walter's injury, "It's being treated as a bad bruise. He's probably going to miss a few days, and we'll see where he is [Wednesday] and at the end of the week." It would come as no surprise if Walter missed at least this week. A severe bruise can make it difficult to raise the arm overhead, and landing on the area can easily aggravate it.
• On Monday night, the Denver Broncos added a couple of fantasy players to the injury mix in running back Knowshon Moreno and wide receiver Brandon Lloyd. The Denver Post reports that MRIs are scheduled for both Lloyd (groin) and Moreno (hamstring), and it's worth mentioning that both have a history of these injuries in their past. Although neither seemed to be in extreme pain, all fantasy owners know how these minor-appearing things sometimes can turn into bigger ones.
We will continue to update these injuries and others as the week progresses.
See you at the injury chats (Tuesday, 3 p.m., and Friday, 11 a.m.), and we'll have further updates with blog entries on Thursday and Saturday (and as news warrants).