Fantasy rosters are already challenged with bye week rotations and mounting injuries around the league. That didn't stop the injury toll from rising in Week 6, with some players sustaining their second major injuries of the season, and we're only one-third of the way through.
The biggest news is the fractured collarbone suffered by Oakland Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell. While Campbell's injury is significant, perhaps more so is the deal to acquire Carson Palmer from the Cincinnati Bengals. Campbell underwent surgery Monday to repair the fracture and was hoping for a possible return in six weeks. Such a timeline would presume full healing and a full return to normal throwing, a lofty ambition and certainly far from guaranteed. By acquiring Palmer, it appears the Raiders are indeed moving forward with the goal of "trying to win now." At least that was coach Hue Jackson's response to the question of whether Campbell would be placed on injured reserve, according to Vittorio Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. If Palmer helps the Raiders continue to move forward without missing a beat, Campbell will have all the time he needs to recover.
Week 6 also marked a first with two coaches suffering major injuries during a game (there's a reason players recovering from injury are not immediately cleared to be on the sidelines). New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton was in the path of his own tight end, Jimmy Graham, as Graham was being tackled, and Payton took a shot to his left knee. The injury, a tibial plateau fracture with concurrent soft tissue damage, required surgery, and Payton will be non-weight-bearing for nearly two months. He'll be undergoing his own lengthy rehab well beyond the regular season. Across the field during the same game in which Payton was injured, Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant coach Jimmy Lake ruptured his patellar tendon while jumping up to celebrate an interception made by one of his defensive backs. Not a quick rehab on that front, either. Neither will be on the sidelines in the immediate future.
• The Dallas Cowboys finally had all their top offensive playmakers on the field for the first time since Week 1, but it lasted less than half a game. Running back Felix Jones, who was already nursing a sore shoulder after dislocating it in Week 2, suffered a left high ankle sprain and is expected to be sidelined for several weeks. The Dallas Morning News cites a source as saying Jones is expected to miss between two to four weeks. The reality with high ankle sprains is that the timetable is highly variable, depending in part upon the degree of the injury as well as the demands of the position.
The most serious high ankle sprains with complete ligament tears typically require surgery and are season-ending. The most mild, with no significant ligament damage and no measure of instability, can resolve within a couple of weeks. A key issue is whether there is enough ligamentous injury to cause a widening of the space between the two lower leg bones where they form the roof of the ankle joint. Gapping in that region can lead to chronic instability and arthritic changes. In essence, the area has to be allowed proper healing to allow for normal function of the ankle joint and to prevent long-term issues. The primary stress to that area is full weight bearing (every time the athlete takes a step). Cutting toward the inside can add further strain, but the biggest risk of aggravation comes from another player landing on the foot while the athlete is trying to rotate toward the inside (which is how Jones was injured in the first place). Running backs who have tried to return too quickly have struggled and often suffer setbacks (see the Atlanta Falcons' Michael Turner in 2009). It is impossible to state with certainty how long Jones will be sidelined, but fantasy owners should be prepared for a window that extends into November.
• St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford also is nursing an injured ankle. Coach Steve Spagnuolo referred to Bradford's injury as a high ankle sprain when speaking to reporters Monday. Bradford is in a walking boot, and his status is in question for Week 7. While he does not have the same mobility demands as a Felix Jones, he still needs to step into his throws to be effective. Spagnuolo perhaps best summed up how the injury could affect Bradford: "In my experience with the high ankle sprains, you just never know how long they're going to take. Fortunately, it's not the plant foot, so that helps a little bit. But my limited knowledge about throwing the football quarterback-wise is, it is from the bottom up. So you still need your legs and ankles to throw the ball effectively." Truth. The quarterback also needs them to protect himself from sustaining further injury. Don't be surprised if Bradford is out.
• Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis is the latest fantasy starter to suffer a hamstring injury. Or so it seems. According to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Hillis exited early Sunday after he strained his hamstring by overextending his leg on the Browns' second drive of the game. Hillis ultimately came out in the second quarter and remained out for much of the game (no injury announcement was made by the team until the third quarter, adding to the confusion about his absence), yet tried to return in the fourth quarter to try to help his struggling team. A bit puzzling to be sure, but according to Hillis, he felt like he had to do something. He quickly realized he couldn't play. Hillis told the Plain-Dealer, "Yeah, it probably wasn't the smartest thing to do," hoping he had not made the injury worse. So far there is no indication as to what the Browns expect from Hillis this Sunday, but the good news is that the injury is not severe enough for the team to rule him out at this stage. We'll see whether he can get any practice time in this week, but fantasy owners should prepare for his potential absence.
• Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best suffered his second concussion of the year Sunday (his first came during the preseason). Coach Jim Schwartz said Best's symptoms did not appear until after the game, not an entirely unusual occurrence. While the Lions have not ruled out Best for Week 7, he will have to go through the same routine (resolution of symptoms, return to baseline of neurocognitive testing, return to exercise without a return of symptoms, clearance by an independent neurological consultant to return to play) before he can take the field. We could see more of Maurice Morris or potentially Ronnie Brown, whom the Lions acquired Tuesday for Jerome Harrison.
• The San Diego Chargers had Mike Tolbert (concussion), Ryan Mathews (calf) and Antonio Gates (foot) back in practice Monday, but no one is declaring game status just yet. Vincent Jackson was not in practice early in the week but hopes to return by Wednesday, according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
We will continue to update these injuries and others as the week progresses.