Adjust expectations for Bradford; more Week 7 injury updates
If Sam Bradford can drop back, he should be able to start against the Cowboys
While Matt Schaub is likely to play, Andre Johnson's return has been pushed back
Plus, the latest on Peyton Hillis, Felix Jones, Antonio Gates, Jahvid Best and more
Remember what I said about there being so few fantasy relevant trades? Never mind. There were a couple of trades that will shift things in fantasy -- and one that got reversed because of a physical - and all of them have at least something to do with injury.
Hue Jackson was clear that the Raiders wouldn't have gone after Carson Palmer if Jason Campbell hadn't had his season ended by a fractured collarbone. Ronnie Brown wouldn't have been needed in Detroit if Mikel Leshoure hadn't popped his Achilles early in camp, but now he won't be since James Harrison didn't pass a physical. Brandon Lloyd is the biggest stretch, since he's not exactly filling Danny Amendola's slot, but I think we can agree that the Rams need someone that Sam Bradford can trust.
The truth is that injuries have costs, both in days and dollars lost, but it often goes beyond the player. These are two clear examples where a team was forced to pay a higher cost to make a replacement than if they could have somehow managed to keep that player healthy.
Of course, traumatic injuries make it tougher on medical staffs, but it's possible to reduce and diminish the effect of injuries. One way we might see very soon is DNA testing. One English Premier League team is already doing it on players, attempting to use genetic information to determine if tendons were weaker in certain players. The club is unsurprisingly using it in part to assess risk for contract extensions, but also hopes to use it to drive the way the team apportions medical staff time and effort. I don't think it will be long before we see NFL teams doing this on their own, and not much longer before we see it at the Combine and beyond. For now, without any advanced data like which genes are responsible for fumbling, let's get to the injuries:
Damon Hack has a nice piece in this week's SI, talking about the effects of "Black Sunday," the week last year where circumstances finally forced the NFL to start making changes as the result of terrible concussions, huge hits, and a fan base that was beginning to learn about the real effects. In that piece, NFL discipline czar Ray Anderson is quoted as saying the game is safer today, with the rule changes, fines, and the new kickoff specifically cited. That's all well and good, but the facts don't match up. Dustin Fink, an athletic trainer who follows the concussion issue at The Concussion Blog, provided an update on numbers. According to Fink's data, there were 52 concussions at this point last year (60 if you include the preseason games). This year, there have been 55 during the season and another 36 in the preseason. There has been, in essence, no real change. Three teams -- Kansas City, Cincinnati and Miami -- have no concussions so far. Defensive backs are the most as risk, as before, and defensive players are seeing 56 percent of the concussions. With this data and continuing situations like the "dirt in the eye" incident with Michael Vick not being evaluated after a possible concussion, there's still plenty more for the NFL to do on this issue.
In boxing, they often say "styles make fights." In sports medicine, styles make rehabs. What position a player plays, the skills he uses to do his job, and the body type he has are some of the things that will affect the rehab and how he comes back. Bradford has a high ankle sprain, but it's mild enough that the Rams think he'll start this week. The walking boot he was seen in isn't an indication of severity. The smart thing for the medical staff to do is boot him, taking some of the pressure off, and assessing it once the swelling and initial tenderness is down. We saw this earlier this season with Cam Newton. The key will be Bradford's ability to drop back, which is a lateral move. If he can do this in practice by Saturday, he should have no real issues playing. Bradford is not much of a scrambler, so it shouldn't create much of an issue. Even if he's slightly limited, the Rams could shift to short drops or shotgun. Adjust your expectations down a bit for Bradford this week, but only a bit, once you know he can drop back.
"He's just beat up." That's never a quote you want to hear from a coach about his starting QB. With Schaub, it's the truth. The vaunted line in Houston has been failing the last couple weeks, not only at opening holes for Arian Foster but at keeping Schaub intact. Hit after hit after hit has Schaub with no single injury issue, but with an accumulation of small ones -- his shoulder, his knee, his back. This isn't something that is going to help Schaub succeed. He's likely to play this week, but he's becoming a QB that you need to have a solid backup behind.
Worse, things are looking more negative for Johnson. The timeline shifted from three to six weeks suddenly, an indication of either a setback or that the procedures done on Johnson's hamstring didn't make much difference. A significant strain like this is normally a four-to-six week injury, so Johnson's not outside the norm. That early return date may have been fool's gold all along. Watch to see if Johnson is doing less activity this week as he continues his rehab.
The Lions thought there was some help on the way for Best. His concussion last week was just another sign that he was wearing down under the workload of an RB1. Ronnie Brown would have been the perfect match for him, a good replacement for Mikel Leshoure's power that could take on the short yardage and power carries. Now, Best is left in the same situation, which hurts the Lions and even Best. Sure, he would have lost a few carries, but trading those for a better chance at health was a good one for Best, the Lions and his fantasy owners. The concussion is a worry since he had the significant one back in college on that dramatic TD play. He was not at practice on Wednesday, and word came Sunday that Best had been advised by some (but notably not doctors) to shut it down after his second concussion in two months. On top of the shocking news about Jerome Harrison having a brain tumor found during his physical, the Lions have to be reeling a bit.
There was a lot of confusion regarding Hillis' hamstring strain. Just after the team announced the injury, Hillis was back in the game. It led to a lot of speculation that Hillis had pulled himself or that Pat Shurmur had done so. In fact, Hillis had been forced back into action to protect Colt McCoy. On back to back plays, Montario Hardesty had missed his blitz pickup and the coaching staff had to ask Hillis to risk his leg a bit in order to keep McCoy intact. Hillis had an MRI that confirmed a mild strain, but there's not much hope that Hillis will play this week. The Browns will give him every chance and hopefully will use this week to work on Hardesty's blocking. Hardesty is a decent pickup in the short term after last week's showing in Hillis' absence. Hillis is still the starter in Cleveland, so don't give up too much to get Hardesty. It's not a curse, people. It's a hamstring strain.
Hillis' Arkansas teammate just can't seem to stay healthy. As soon as Jones was past his shoulder injury, he suffered a high ankle sprain that will keep him out as much as a month. Jones isn't known as a quick healer and estimates that he could miss only a week seem to indicate the sprain is mild, but it's also the type of lingering injury that Jones has a hard time dealing with. The Cowboys used to regularly be atop the adjusted games lost (AGL) rankings done at Football Outsiders, but as they get further and further from their brief Bill Parcells era, it appears that it was Parcells, and not the medical staff, that should get credit. Parcells has an unexplained knack for reducing injuries at his various stops, though one former player told me a couple years ago that it was more about the players being scared to face the fiery coach, who was very hands on with injury management. With Jones out, DeMarco Murray appears to be the choice over ... well, Tashard Choice. I'd expect there to be something of a split, which reduces Murray's overall value.
Gates is being a bit philosophical about his foot. He's not putting too much stock in his ability to do things on Sunday because he could or couldn't earlier in the week. It's smart, but it's also telling. Gates is still feeling some "tightness" according to reports, which isn't a good sign after being rested for as long as he has been. Gates is never going to get back to 100 percent, but he can be useful at a level far below that due to his size and positioning. I'm not encouraged about his long term possibilities, so the best case for fantasy players is a decent week where he gets a couple catches and a TD, so you can sell high.
The Seahawks aren't ruling out Jackson for this week, but you should. Jackson has thrown lightly, giving us some insight into how serious his pectoral strain is, but he hasn't done much this week. Pete Carroll and staff are prepping Charlie Whitehurst as the QB1. Jackson's injury appears to be one that he can come back from in the short term, but since it would be stressed by a number of activities and facing a possible setback, the smart thing to do would be wait. The Seahawks had hoped the bye week would be enough for Jackson to heal up, but it doesn't look like that's the case right now.
Cooley hasn't had an easy season. His knee has been problematic since the start of camp and has needed to be drained. Now, he's having surgery to repair a severely broken finger. Pictures were circulating showing just how swollen the hand was, so there's some speculation that the surgery plus the knee could be enough to push him to the IR. Fred Davis has been an adequate TE for the offense and with the more mobile John Beck appearing to be in at QB, the TE could become more important. Cooley's future is very up in the air, so for fantasy players, it's time to look at options if he's on your roster. If you're Jimmy Traina, you might have a new co-host for the podcast.
Peyton Manning is still not throwing. While some will say there's no rush to get him back, there's also no reason to not have a normal rehab progression. The big worry is that the neuromuscular weakness in his shoulder and triceps was not cleared up by the fusion ... Joseph Addai is very unlikely to play this week, though signs are the Colts are aiming at a Week 8 return. "Delone Carter didn't do much against the Bengals. If he had, Addai's rehab might have slowed a bit" said one source ... Mike Tolbert has been cleared to play after his concussion. He should factor into the offense normally ... Mike Shanahan's backfield decisions are usually unclear, but saying that a player needs to come back at "100 percent" before playing is usually an indication that a coach wants time to assess the other options. That's bad news for Tim Hightower ... LeGarrette Blount is expected to miss Week 7 as his knee continues to heal ... First, why is the guy in the Pizza Hut ad so excited that he drafted Reggie Bush? Second, the neck injury that Bush sustained on Monday could keep him out this week ... If so, Daniel Thomas looked OK against the Jets and didn't seem to aggravate his hamstring. He's still not going to be a great fantasy play with the QB issues in Miami ... Speedster with hamstring strain? It's a mild one for Mike Wallace, but you know how I feel about injuries like this ... Julio Jones is looking doubtful for this week as his hamstring continues to heal ... Lovie Smith said Devin Hester should be in the Bumps and Bruises section because his chest injury is notable, but not serious. We agree and thank Lovie for the shout out ... Drew Rosenhaus started calling teams after he said that Terrell Owens was cleared to play. Owens is at a stage where he should be running, but there's still no timeline for an actual return to play, nor is there any indication of any sort of objective testing done on the knee. That's something any team is going to want to do (or more likely do themselves) before he'd be signed.