Week 14 is in the books. Unfortunately for those of you still playing meaningful games this fantasy football season, your player options may have decreased yet again as more players were lost to injury.
The biggest injury news of the weekend centers on one Robert Griffin III, the exciting rookie quarterback for the Washington Redskins. He suffered a knee injury in Sunday's game while making one of his signature scrambles. The video of Griffin's leg whipping through the air looked frighteningly violent, causing many to fear he had suffered a significant injury. Fortunately, that was not the case. On Monday, Griffin underwent an MRI, which revealed his injury to be a Grade 1 lateral collateral ligament (LCL) sprain. Coach Mike Shanahan informed reporters of the injury, noting that Griffin's ACL, which he had surgically reconstructed in 2009, looked "great." Shanahan said Griffin will be evaluated "day by day," and the team is hopeful his knee will improve quickly with rehab.
As for the nature of Griffin's injury, given the mechanism of the hit, it's not surprising that he sustained an injury to the LCL, the outer-most primary stabilizing ligament of the knee. He took a hit to the body and thigh from Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata as he was in the process of falling, with his right leg whipping forward. The blow resulted in an abrupt stop to the forward momentum of his thigh, but the lower leg continued on its trajectory, snapping to a hard stop when the soft tissue restraints that guard the movement became taut. Perhaps Griffin is most fortunate that his leg was in the air when this happened. Had he absorbed a similar blow with his foot planted, the consequences would likely have been far worse.
The LCL can be injured when an athlete takes a blow to the inside of the knee; it also can be injured during a hyperextension or rotational injury. Griffin's knee was extending and slightly rotating at the same time he encountered the blow to his thigh. The biggest concern with these injuries is damage to any surrounding structures on the lateral and particularly the posterolateral aspect (the back outside corner) of the knee. Structures in this area that lie close to the LCL help control stability in that quadrant of the knee, an area that is subject to high biomechanical forces during normal movement. Any lingering instability can be threatening to the overall health of the knee. The best news in Griffin's case is that this sprain is of the most minor (Grade 1) variety.
An isolated minor sprain has a good chance of healing with restricted motion (via bracing) and rest to protect the ligament. Griffin also will engage in rehab to help with pain and swelling while restoring normal joint mobility. The criteria for his return will include his ability to demonstrate that he can perform at his position without significant compromise and without increasing the risk of more substantial injury. As a running quarterback, he will not be encouraged to return if he cannot run, change direction or decelerate normally. Beyond this aspect of his game being part of his DNA as a quarterback, a player who is thinking about accommodating his style of play to avoid injury suddenly becomes more of an injury risk, not to mention he's often less effective.
Shanahan says they will see how Griffin looks Wednesday but indicated that as of now, no decision has been made as to who will be the starting quarterback Sunday. It would not be surprising if Griffin is forced to sit out, given the rationale noted above. It's also worth remembering that everyone heals at different rates, and no two injuries are identical. And as the Redskins are no doubt appreciating this week, Griffin's case also serves as a reminder that no matter how nasty an injury looks at first glance on video, it may not always be indicative of how severe the injury actually is.
• Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey announced Monday that running back Fred Jackson is done for the season and has been placed on IR. Jackson suffered a Grade 2 sprain of the medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his right knee Sunday. Gailey noted that the recovery timetable for Jackson's injury is likely closer to 4-5 weeks, longer than the time left in the regular season. This is the same knee he injured in Week 1 when he sustained an LCL sprain and missed two weeks -- hmm, maybe RG III should chat with Jackson about what he did to return from that injury -- and this is also the same leg in which Jackson suffered a fractured fibula which prematurely ended his 2011 campaign.
With regard to his latest injury, Jackson shared the following thoughts with ESPN's Josina Anderson: "Technically it's a tear off the bone, because you tear the ligament away from the bone. So that's why some people say it's a tear, but the ligament itself is intact. It's just pulled away from the bone a little." We're sorry to see his second season in a row ended by an injury after playing all 16 games in each of the three previous seasons. In the meantime, C.J. Spiller will undoubtedly get a bump in his workload.
• Tight end Jared Cook of the Tennessee Titans also has played his last game of the 2012 season. Cook left Sunday's game with a right shoulder injury. Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean later reported that Cook had torn his rotator cuff and is done for the year. Cook had a left shoulder injury early in the season, an AC sprain which had him in a sling briefly, but he did not miss a game. Unfortunately, he will now miss the rest of the season, and coach Mike Munchak indicated that Cook will be placed on IR.
• Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe suffered broken ribs in Sunday's game and already has been ruled out for Sunday's game, according to the Kansas City Star. He may, in fact, be done for the season. The Star suggests that it also could signal the end of his time with the Chiefs.
As we head into Week 15 ...
• Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant suffered a fractured index finger in his left hand Sunday, an injury that could end his season. According to ESPN's Ed Werder, Bryant has met with a hand specialist. The decision comes down to whether Bryant requires surgery now, or whether this is an issue he can play through, allowing him to postpone the surgery. While a broken finger might not sound like the worst injury in the world, the reality is that a resultant deformity or lack of normal motion could impact a receiver permanently. This is not insignificant, which probably is the reason there has been no official decision made as of this writing.
• Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was again forced to leave a game early, this time because of a neck injury. Speaking on his weekly radio show on ESPN1000 Monday, Cutler described his neck as "stiff" and said he was "getting spasms" during the game. He is currently receiving treatment and said he expects to be able to play this week, "unless something drastic happens."
• New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw was in and out of Sunday's game because of a left knee injury. Coach Tom Coughlin said Bradshaw underwent an MRI and other tests Monday, but there has been no word yet as to the results. When Bradshaw injured his neck early in the season, the results of his tests were not immediately shared either. It was Bradshaw who later indicated he had an "inflamed disc" in his neck. Perhaps he will share an update on his knee later this week. In any event, don't expect Bradshaw to practice Wednesday since he usually sits out. Barring the emergence of definitive information to rule him out, Bradshaw's status could once again come down to a late-week decision.
• Concussions have forced the absence of several key players for the Philadelphia Eagles for a few weeks, and now they can add tight end Brent Celek to the list. Celek suffered a concussion during Sunday's game and will not play Thursday night. As for the health of quarterback Michael Vick and running back LeSean McCoy, it appears both are making progress. Both are engaging to a limited degree in practice, and according to Eagles head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder, Vick is now in the final phase (Phase 5) of the Eagles' concussion recovery protocol. Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports neither is likely to play Thursday despite not officially being listed as "out" yet by the Eagles. Both players still need to be cleared by an independent neurologist and both need to re-introduce contact. Burkholder has implemented a mandatory 24-hour waiting period to monitor whether symptoms recur after advancing within the protocol. Given the short week, it's likely that both will miss another game, though if all progresses well, both could be available in Week 16 (although in Vick's case it will be in a backup role, as Nick Foles has been named the starter going forward).
• Despite re-aggravating his ankle injury in last week's game, Raiders running back Darren McFadden was in practice Monday and moving well, according to Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times. He appears on track to play this weekend.
• Coach Mike McCarthy has hope that Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson will return from his injured hamstring this week. Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports McCarthy says Nelson is improving. That may be, but we know the true test comes with full-speed running. Keep an eye on practice reports this week to gauge Nelson's progress, but right now it's too early to realistically project his return. Remember this is the recurrence of a prior hamstring injury for Nelson, so it would not be surprising if the team is cautious.
• As the Florida Times-Union reported, coach Mike Mularkey was not available for his usual Monday news conference due to illness, so there was no update on the status of running back Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) or wide receiver Cecil Shorts (concussion).