Motivation as important as time in making quick return from injury
Brett Favre could return from ankle injury in 1-3 weeks with limited mobility
Cowboys unwilling to shut down Tony Romo for season until year is lost
Lions to use more max protect schemes to guard Matthew Stafford's shoulder
There's as much psychology that goes into injury management and risk assessment as there is fact. Teams ... well, teams lie about injuries, but when it comes to stars getting injured, especially in visible situations like national games, there's even more of a psychological factor. Fans and fantasy owners seem to go through the stages of grief, fueled by beer and the visions of what they planned to do with their fantasy winnings going up in smoke. I think that as much as I feel like a weatherman at times, talking you through the storms and changes of a fantasy season, we also need some sort of fantasy Zen guide. Just someone to tell you to breathe, to calm down and think before making some rash trade or waiver move. I'm certainly guilty of making the same kind of rash moves, but with injuries, the instant analysis that some people want isn't going to help make the smart, efficient move. Breathe, people. Breathe. But for now, let's take a look at the injuries:
Two fractures sounds like a lot, but as Peter King told you Tuesday, this amounts to "a glorified ankle sprain" when you get into the facts. Favre has an avulsion fracture and a stress fracture, so let's explain both of these. An avulsion fracture is where the ligament pulls away a part of the bone. Imagine putting a piece of tape on the wall. As you pull it off, some of the paint goes with it. That's what happens with an avulsion, where the paint is a small chunk of bone. In Favre's case, the talocalcaneonavicular ligament came loose ... yes, that's a real word which explains why most refer to it as the "spring ligament," which has some irony. Favre's ankle has had a couple surgeries which have changed the dynamics inside the ankle and can create an issue like this.
Dr. Philip Kwong, one of the top foot and ankle doctors in the country, assessed Favre's mobility thusly: "Mobility is affected by the resultant pain, swelling, stiffness and instability caused by ligament tears and muscle weakness. Impairment to run and cut are the primary manifestations. The ankle joint is a close tolerance gear, where the teeth must fit perfectly enabling smooth function and allowing muscles/tendons to pull the gear efficiently." Note that he didn't say anything about push-off, which seemed to be no problem at the end of Sunday night's game for Favre. In terms of recovery time, Kwong said that "provided his age and previous ankle injuries, recovery may be longer, but 1-3 weeks is possible with limitations and reduced mobility. Aside from the physical injuries, an athlete's motivation to play with and through pain can affect the estimated recovery time." To be clear, "motivation" is often code in the NFL for "will you take the painkiller injection?" Favre has done that in the past and likely will again. Expect a lot of drama leading up to Sunday, but as I sit here, I fully expect Favre to play.
Sometimes, injury ranges don't tell us anything. "Six-to-eight" or "eight-to-10" is the answer, depending on who you're listening to, when asked how long Tony Romo will be out with a fractured clavicle (collarbone.) The fact is those numbers are irrelevant as to how this will play out. The Cowboys are going to have to take a hard look in the mirror, which is not a strong suit for Jerry Jones' team. If they decide there's no chance that they'll play a home Super Bowl (which wasn't likely anyway), they could shut him down at any point, but sources tell me that the team will not make the move this week. They're using an internal range of six-to-eight weeks, with Jones pointing to a similar injury to Troy Aikman that cost him seven weeks. With modern techniques, pharmaceuticals and a clean break, Romo could meet that. As I said, the team's context will determine the course of this as much as Romo's rehab, so have a backup plan that's better than the one that Cowboys had.
Stafford was back under center at practice on Tuesday and seems headed for a Week 8 start against the Redskins. This is when the Lions were hoping to get Stafford back all along, after the bye and facing a weak pass defense, DeAngelo Hall's Week 7 not withstanding. Stafford's shoulder sprain shouldn't be an issue once the arm strength is back, but there is a recurrence risk. Since Stafford has had this injury before, it's reasonable to think that there's not only the normal risk, but also some laxity and scarring inside the shoulder. Like any QB, he's going to take some hits and he's going to land on his shoulders, but the increased risk is nominal. Look for the Lions to do more "max protect," keeping tight ends and running backs in to help keep Stafford from taking too many hits. This could reduce Jahvid Best's plays, since his size and experience might hurt a bit down there. Then again, Stafford will be looking for short passes and hot routes, which could get Best more targets.
Sometimes, things that happen in the NFL just make you sit back and go "Wow, really?" This is one of them. Jackson used his off-day on Monday to have surgery, putting two pins into his fractured ring finger. He's not expected to miss any time. Wow, really? It's all going to come down to how Jackson feels, how the medical staff is able to protect the finger and how he holds onto the ball with and without protection. After reading the stories from NFL Unplugged about what happens at the bottom of piles, I'd have to worry about Jackson, but the Rams seem confident enough in his ability to return. At worst, he misses a week, which given the Rams situation really doesn't change much.
Reports out of New Orleans have the team getting at least one of its star running backs on the field for Week 8. It could be two. Bush has been cleared to play and will practice this week after seven missed weeks with a broken fibula. This is, to borrow a term from the airlines, an "on-time arrival." Bush shouldn't have any limitations beyond conditioning, which we assume the Saints have been maintaining. Bush won't come back to the feature back role, but with Thomas still dealing with a lingering ankle sprain amid reports that he's firmly in Sean Payton's doghouse, Bush could see more action. In PPR leagues, Bush is a must grab if he's a free agent, which he is in a third of leagues. Granted, facing the Steelers in the first game back isn't an easy assignment, and Bush has proven to be injury prone.
(Late word via NFL Network's Jason LaCanfora that Bush's Wednesday practice did not go well and the Saints are much more pessimistic about his return now.)
As for Thomas, he's not yet ready to return. Once again, people have been misreporting that this is a high ankle sprain. He could begin running mid-week, according to sources, but Thomas' agent continues to insist that the ankle problem is keeping Thomas off the field. We'll see who wins this battle of wills, but my money's on Payton pushing Thomas back out there with the threat of losing his job.
The Colts never give straight answers about injuries, so let me try. Addai has a brachial plexus injury, a stretching/bruising of nerves in his shoulder. It's easier to think of this as a really bad stinger from a symptomatic view, since they match up. At the start of the Colts' bye week, Addai could not lift his arm above shoulder level due to weakness and pain. Reports from the Colts' facility this week have Addai making some progress, but not a lot. Putting him back on the field, where he's nearly guaranteed to take hits on the injured shoulder, ones that could set him back to square one or worse, doesn't seem to be the smart play. The Colts are hoping to have Donald Brown back from his hamstring injury this week, which would allow them to sit Addai. Doctors say this type of injury can take up to a month to heal, but can resolve itself faster. There's really no treatment for this besides rest, so we can only hope that Addai isn't pushed back in like he was last time.
One of the things that football fans have a hard time dealing with is the disconnect between pain and severity. Injuries can be horribly painful, but not have any real effect on a player once the pain is past. Getting kicked in the shin is a great example, or stubbing your toe. You scream, you hop, you curse, but just minutes later, you're walking around and have forgotten all about it. There are some injuries that are very severe that have little or no pain involved as well. Williams was lucky in that he doesn't have a severe mid-foot sprain. Instead, it just hurt, as was evidenced by his face while laying on the turf last week. It's not a nothing injury. Any sprain can be exacerbated, and the foot is a complex instrument with small moving parts. Williams is day-to-day, but expected to be ready. He'll get a chance in practice to show that he's fine, but it's likely that Jonathan Stewart will take some of his touches.
When Smith left Carolina's game last Sunday, it looked like it was a recurrence of his high ankle sprain. He was coming back fast and re-injury would have been a reasonable guess. But it wasn't. Smith was cramping up and was taken for an IV, not for a re-injury. The ankle is fine and he was back in the game shortly thereafter, a fact that many seem to have ignored. Smith's ankle didn't show any problems, according to one source who reviewed the game film. "He wasn't doing anything different that I could see," I was told. Each week that Smith gets away from the issue without a recurrence is better. Smith is injury prone, but heals very quickly, a very intriguing combination.
With Dallas Clark done for the season following wrist surgery, people panicked a bit about Keller's wrist sprain while the Jets were on bye. Keller came back to practice this week at "100 percent" according to observers. I doubt that 100 percent is true in the strictest sense, but it's definitely good to know that the wrist is stable and that Keller didn't show any obvious limitations early in the week. Bye weeks can be great for getting players back, assuming they're dealing with the type of injuries that are helped by simple rest. Keller and Darrelle Revis (hamstring, also back to near full-go) had just those types of injuries, meaning the Jets got a little help from the schedule fairies. Keller's a must start in most formats.
The Chargers are expected to be without Floyd. Reports have the Chargers keeping Floyd out through their bye in Week 10, which would cost Floyd two more games and give his Grade II hamstring strain nearly a month of healing time. That speaks to the severity of the injury pretty clearly, so make your plans accordingly. The return date seems safe, assuming no setbacks. Naanee's hamstring was much less severe and he's expected to come back this week. San Diego sources say that Gates "came out about the same as he went in." No exacerbation of the toe injury is good news, but his mobility was way down last week. Only the TD saved his owners, but expect similar performances for at least the next few weeks. Given the way that Philip Rivers spread the ball out in Week 7, there's no solid fantasy play besides Rivers here.
This kind of thing is just flat scary ... Michael Vick is on bye this week, but it looks like he'll have no problem being ready to go next time the Eagles take the field. Yes, he'll be the QB1, for now ... David Garrard has been cleared to play after his concussion. He'll start with both Trent Edwards and Todd Bouman banged up ... Alex Smith is out at least this week with a non-throwing shoulder sprain ... Vince Young is expected to practice this week, and if his ankle is fine, he'll be the starter ... Max Hall has been cleared after his concussion and is expected to start for the Cards this week ... The bye week helped Jahvid Best. Reports are that his turf toe symptoms are significantly reduced ... Sources are telling me that Austin Collie is very unlikely to play in Week 8 and that Week 10 is probably the "most likely return" after thumb surgery last week ... Donald Driver's quad strain kept him from getting any separation last week. Watch to see if he shows any improvement in practice this week ... Reports have Louis Murphy questionable for this week after suffering a bruised lung. Given his chest problems this year, caution's probably the smart play ... Eddie Royal re-injured his groin Sunday and isn't at Tuesday's practice ... Patrick Chung is walking normally and says he "feels great." We'll watch him practice this week before buying in ... Eben Britton tore the labrum in his shoulder and will need surgery. Losing the big man is bad news for both Garrard and Maurice Jones-Drew ... Be sure you're following me on Twitter and now About.