The NFL has taken notice of the helmet to helmet and "devastating" hits, but as we always ask around here, "What does that mean for my fantasy team?" It's unlikely that anything, even suspensions, will be able to stop the ingrained and instinctual explosive, head-down tackling methods that the league's big hitters have used. Tony Dungy's pronouncement on last Sunday night's pregame show that he "could teach other methods" gives some indication that over time, given enough of a cost, there could be less of those highlight film hits and maybe a bit more offense. Just as changes to the pass defense rules have made some WRs real fantasy scoring threats, this could further tip the fantasy balance towards the WR (and, of course, the QB who throws to them.)
Let's start with a couple very simple things that could be done right now, with no changes in the rules. First, players could switch to any approved helmet, such as the Xenith or Schutt DNA, that is designed more to prevent concussion than just skull fracture, which is what the modern plastic helmet was originally designed to do. (Of course, it's not enough. We need a complete redesign of helmets.) Second, all players could wear a fitted and visible mouthguard. Why visible? I'd like to see referees empowered to stop play and ask a player to put in the mouthguard if they haven't. It would not only help prevent concussion -- not eliminate, as we saw Todd Heap's fly into the sky when Brandon Merriweather crushed him -- but it would be a visible reminder to youth sports that their heroes are taking this issue seriously. If a player chooses not to wear either, he can sign a waiver, get a special sticker for his helmet ... and be removed from eligibility for medical assistance, such as the "88 Plan," if they have head-trauma related issues down the line. That might seem a bit harsh, like giving someone a ticket for not wearing their seatbelt after an auto accident, but this is as much about symbolism as results right now. Let's take a look at the concussions ... and the rest of the injuries:
The Eagles said on Monday that DeSean Jackson was "unlikely" to play. That's not an official designation, but one more likely to make Tennessee at least address Jackson in their game planning. It's gamesmanship, because in any reasonable world, Jackson is not just out for this game, but until he has no symptoms. The Eagles have been quiet about that since announcing Jackson's concussion was "severe." That designation as well is not official and not really informative. What does "severe" mean? I think anyone that saw the hit, saw how long Jackson was down and how he looked coming off the field could agree that "severe" was the right term, but in terms of symptomology, it's tougher. Jackson suffered some memory loss, though it's unclear if that means he couldn't answer simple questions on the spot ("Where are you? Who's the President?") or if he couldn't remember the play itself. We don't know if that was momentary or whether it lingered. We don't know how long the loss of consciousness was or if he is still having headaches. I'm not calling for a release of all that since there is a valid right to privacy, but Jackson and the Eagles could use this as a test case for the best practices the NFL has to offer. The Eagles are on bye in Week 8, so sitting out the Week 7 matchup would give Jackson three real weeks to heal up. We can only hope this takes that short a time to heal and doesn't expose Jackson to a third concussion in less than a year.
Concussions to both Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi were well documented. Cribbs was hit while carrying the ball, while Massaquoi took a shot that, to me, was as cheap as they come. Steelers linebacker James Harrison launched himself, hands back, as if he was a swimmer diving into the pool. His helmet became a weapon, smashing into Massaquoi with forces similar to being hit in the head by a sledgehammer. No, that's not an exaggeration at all. Cribbs did not practice on Wednesday and seems unlikely to play in Week 7, especially since the Browns' bye comes in Week 8, allowing more time for his brain to heal. Let me say that again for emphasis: ALLOWING MORE TIME FOR HIS BRAIN TO HEAL. That's what we're really dealing with here. The same holds true for Massaquoi -- he didn't practice and is likely out through the bye for the same reasons.
Explaining the Joseph Addai situation is difficult because of the terminology. I've had discussions with several people, including spinal doctors and orthopedists on this one and short of the Colts coming out and saying exactly what's wrong, we're left trying to explain a very complex situation in laymen's terms. What you need to know is this: Addai has a really bad stinger, one that's recurrent, painful, and causing problems in his neck, shoulder, arm, and hand. You can best compare this to the situation last year with Steve Slaton. In Addai's case, it's not yet affecting his grip on the football. The problem is that Addai keeps having his brachial plexus, a collection of nerves, stretched by hits. Some of this is that his shoulder has some mild instability and some is just the way he gets hit, forcing his head away from that shoulder at the same time the shoulder is forced down. This is exactly what happened in the Redskins game. Addai's healing time would come with a shoulder shrug, if that didn't hurt him right now. There's simply no way to tell and worse, no real way to prevent this from happening again. He could be out as little as no time due to the bye or miss as much as a month. Calling it career threatening would be a bit melodramatic, but repeated instances could be just that. This is a situation where the long term is much more problematic than the short term.
The news leaked out on Dallas Clark in a way that some will find more interesting than the injury itself, but that's another story. The wrist sprain for Clark is, to use the technical term, "really bad." Clark's sprain is both painful and has caused structural issues, which means he's facing surgery and/or a lengthy recovery period. Clark was at a charity event Monday night with a wrist brace on, but didn't appear to be in any real pain, but that's not much of a tell. If he can't use the hand to catch and hold the ball, the Colts have a real problem. Clark functions as much as a WR as a TE, but due to the position, he's as valuable as any in fantasy. Right now, Clark is heading out for tests and for second opinions, but the best case is that he misses several weeks. The easy replacement for him in the offense would be Jacob Tamme, but the Colts like roles, meaning Brody Eldridge could actually end up getting some of Clark's targets. The probability is that those targets now go to Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie, but there's late word from Adam Schefter of ESPN that Collie has undergone hand surgery. He'll be out a couple weeks. A team source had indicated to me that Collie had a hamstring issue, but it was a smokescreen. With Blair White injured as well (neck injury that he played through last week), the Colts couldn't have had their bye week at a better time."
Andy Reid has changed his mind before, but Michael Vick's rib injury allows Reid enough wiggle room to keep Kevin Kolb in the lineup without a full-on QB controversy. Rib cartilage takes a while to heal and then becomes a pain management issue. Vick was at that tipping point last week and was even dressed as the emergency starter, but sources tell me that even if Kolb and backup Mike Kafka had gone down, Vick wasn't a sure thing to go in. His dressing was more a reward for his work and to keep him engaged, something the team is worried about. Vick's done everything possible to keep himself at the front of the coaching staff's collective mind and it's worked. Giving him one more week to heal up before really getting him back into the flow during the bye week is smart management of this injury.
Sunday, Antonio Gates left the stadium in a protective boot, telling the press about the two instances where his ankle was injured. He was very specific in his examples and his description. On Monday, the Chargers announced that Gates had a toe injury. This is the kind of disconnect that the NFL often has, and yet they get away with it time and again. I can't find a single article where someone asked Gates or the Chargers about the change. The Chargers insist that Gates has a sprained toe, but not turf toe. This is the same foot that gave Gates problems in 2008, ending in surgery, so there's a history here. I'm not going to beat my head against the desk on this one, but it's the ultimate example of the absolute arrogance of some teams and their ability to twist the media to their whims. While the Pats and Colts often get cited as the examples, the Chargers should be near the top of the list. Gates is expected to practice, so we'll keep an eye on him through Sunday.
The Chargers are already down several big name players so losing Malcolm Floyd isn't going to help anyone. Floyd's Grade II hamstring strain will keep him out through Week 7 and potentially longer. The strain is said to be "deep and right in the belly" of the muscle. Leg strains of any type aren't good for anyone, but Floyd's size will help. Like Gates, he's not reliant on speed as much as he is size and his ability run routes in a way that puts him in good position. That latter part isn't the same as "crisp route running," which is the more common usage by scouts. Instead, it's more a body position thing, utilizing curls, post-ups, and "jump balls". One NFL observer told me that Floyd's physicality is his biggest plus tool -- "He'll body up guys, run into them more than around them, and any loss of that makes him pretty ordinary. He already takes forever to get to speed." This is definitely an injury that could linger and cause more problems due to style as much as severity.
A QBs thumb is a big deal, even when it's not on his throwing hand. While the Cowboys and much of their media tried to minimize this, the fact is that any hand injury to a QB comes into play on virtually every down. First, the QB takes the center snap. This can be gameplanned around by shifting hand position or by putting the QB into the shotgun. Second, the QB hands the ball off with either hand. Any pain or loss of grip strength can be an issue there. Finally, the QB is often hit while passing and has to either hold the ball so as not to fumble or is forced down, often in awkward ways that could re-injure the hand. Romo practiced without much issue on Wednesday, but even so, don't think this is going to be "no issue."
Colt McCoy's performance against the Steelers will give Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace another week's rest to heal up their ankles. Maybe longer ... Vince Young is back at practice after being forces out with a sprained knee last Monday. It's minor and he should play this weekend ... David Garrard missed Wednesday's practice while being tested after a concussion. Worse for the Jags, Trent Edwards injured his thumb. This might only be good for Maurice Jones-Drew ... Shaun Hill had surgery to fixate his fractured arm. He could be back in around a month, believe it or not ... Jason Campbell is likely to start this week over Kyle Boller. Campbell's knee sprain is minor and he dealt well with a brace ... This might be your last week to try and steal Reggie Bush in a trade, if you still believe in him. He's probably back in three weeks but will begin running soon ... Knowshon Moreno didn't have a great game Sunday, but he didn't have any setbacks either, which is as important. Expect him to get more touches starting this week ... Ryan Torain's not listed on the OIR this week, but that knee isn't nothing ... Darren McFadden is "more likely" to play this week, but he's also still Michael Bush's backup if he plays ... Early reports had Eddie Royal's injury as a hamstring, but the Broncos listed it as a groin. He didn't practice Wednesday, no matter which it was. This one bears watching, especially if you own Kyle Orton ... The Cards should be getting Early Doucet (groin) and Steve Breaston (knee) back this week, though both looked tentative early in the week. Temper your expectations ... Chris Cooley had a concussion this week and is iffy for Sunday ... The Niners aren't too worried about the bruise on Vernon Davis' knee. They're holding him out of practice to let it heal, but are sure he'll be available Sunday ... Ed Reed is back at practice for the Ravens, but very iffy for this week ... Clay Matthews is making good progress from his hamstring strain. Let's call him a GTD, but signs point to him playing ... I'll have more on concussions, including a discussion with Dr. Robert Watkins, on Sunday. What you'll hear will make the concussion problem even scarier.