Another week, another set of circumstances that shows the NFL has a long way to go before every team is on the same page in handling injuries in a responsible manner.
I'm having a hard time with the Kolb benching. I'll leave it to other writers to explain the football reasons, but not only did Andy Reid change his mind very quickly, he also did it after Kolb's mind was altered by a big hit. If Michael Vick does go on to have a comeback season for the ages, the announcement that came on the same day that "The Lost Dogs" was released will be forgotten. Kolb will be a footnote. Yet inside the ongoing discussion about the handling of concussions in the NFL, it's significant. Kolb essentially lost his job because he was held out. Reid was steadfast in saying Kolb was his QB1 ... until he wasn't. Vick had a great game in Week 2, no doubt, but there's a player somewhere seeing this, wondering if the guy behind him might not take his job if he reports the headache he's having on Monday morning. Kolb is cleared to play and may yet see action, but the message that Reid is sending is counter to the one the NFL is working to send.
On the other side of this issue is Witten. He was seen arguing with the medical staff after they pulled his helmet and didn't allow him to come back into last Sunday's game. His words -- "We could lose if I'm not in there" -- are precisely why NFL teams need strong trainers and doctors. Witten could have been much worse than he was and still had that athlete's arrogance that he had to be in the game. Instead, it's possible that keeping him out was not only the right thing to do but the best. Witten is back at practice, cleared and symptom-free after a clear concussive event. It's simple: by holding him out, the medical staff protected his brain and made it possible for him to play in Week 3 and beyond.
The question I got most this week was variations on "How do you come back in six weeks from a broken leg?" Well, the leg isn't a bone. There are four major bones of the leg: the femur in the upper leg (thigh), the patella (kneecap), the tibia (shin) ... and then there's what Bush fractured. As you can see in this picture, the fibula is the smallest of the bones and also the weakest, but it also doesn't have as much weight-bearing function either. (It does have some weight-bearing, just not as much.) Its function then is what allows Bush, or anyone that fractures the fibula in isolation, to come back so quickly.
This is serious -- a fracture is a fracture -- but a bit lower and Bush could have had much more of an issue with his ankle, where there are smaller bones, ligaments and tendons. With modern techniques, including bone stimulators and pharmaceuticals, players can come back from fractures much more quickly than just a decade ago. For Bush, the question is function. He's as pure a speed player as there is at RB and losing even a bit of that will cost him some value. With a series of leg injuries, Bush is potentially showing some sort of injury cascade, where one problem leads to another. Did his knee issues make him just a bit more likely to do this? Will this problem lead to another? It's impossible to say with any certainty, but we've gone from seeing where Bush could get back to being what the Saints drafted him to be, to being back where he was in 2008.
The idea that Bush could come back in four to six weeks is true, but ... what will he be in six weeks? Looking back to early last season gives us some indication. Over the next two months, the Saints will need to find some way of replacing Bush's targets and touches, but Chris Ivory really isn't that guy. It appears the Saints will give Pierre Thomas more of the touches and shift Bush's passing game out to the WRs. Devery Henderson would probably be the player that benefits the most.
The Chargers really downplayed the injury to Mathews after Week 2, which allowed everyone to focus more on his early fumbling issues. By Wednesday, when Mathews wasn't practicing, concern went up. When he admitted on Thursday that he had a high ankle sprain, things became outright troubling. A high ankle sprain, even a low-grade one as Mathews apparently has, gives a few separate problems for a player and a medical staff. It tends to linger, is very tough to read, and has a high recurrence rate. While Mathews' injury is a low-grade sprain, it is going to be an issue even if he does get ready for Sunday. We'll have to watch the practice reports and question whether Mike Tolbert is the best fantasy option available.
The Texans look like real contenders after two big wins in the first two weeks of the season. The keys, of course, will be keeping Johnson and Matt Schaub healthy at the same time now that there's sufficient talent around them. They've only been healthy together for just about a season's worth of games over the last several years. Johnson came out of Week 2's overtime win with a ton of yards and targets, as well as a mild ankle sprain. By mid-week, Johnson was still feeling the effects, but has seen significant progress as well. He looks likely to play on Sunday and has to be considered a must start in all formats. The Cowboys are likely to try and blanket Johnson and force him to test that ankle more, but with a week to gameplan, I doubt that Gary Kubiak is going to overexpose his WR1. Johnson should be a solid fantasy play, but expect a few more looks for Kevin Walter, Jacoby Jones and Owen Daniels as well.
Yes, players who don't go to camp do have a higher rate of injury. It's small, but it's real. Of course, that comes from an older study, one that might not mesh up with the 12-month schedule, personal trainers and all the accoutrements of the modern NFL player. Revis coming up lame with a mid-grade (I/II) hamstring strain has many looking for the cause, but it's not really available. Revis' strain was a known quantity going into Week 2 and seemed most taxed by explosive activities. On the one-handed TD catch by Randy Moss, Revis both stopped and jumped, then ended up grabbing high on his leg. Stops, cuts, jumps -- those are precisely the things Revis does so well. The Jets are selling this as caution, which is true up to a point, but without those abilities, which will be affected until the hamstring is sound in a week or two, the Island is voted off.
Harvin is already dealing with a strained hip, so the re-emergence of his migraines on Wednesday just complicates things. Harvin's problems focus on the hip flexor, but there's concern about whether the structure is sound. In Week 2, Harvin was involved in a tough-to-read situation that saw his foot hit as he was in the air, which whipped the foot out and put a lot of pressure on the hip joint. Harvin reportedly also had a direct hit to the area, but in re-watching the video of that play, slow motion shows just how quickly the forces stopped in the hip. That kind of movement can be as devastating as the one that ended Bo Jackson's career. Harvin's injury isn't nearly that serious, but for a speed player with other issues, it makes him a very difficult read. Watch to see if he returns to practice this week from the migraines and take a hard look at your other options when setting your lineup.
Dixon's season is effectively over, but not because of his injury. The now-former Steelers starter suffered a tear to the lateral meniscus and likely some associated sprains of the knee, and will be out around a month. The estimates are three to six weeks, but with Dixon's history and the return of Byron Leftwich and Ben Roethlisberger, the window has effectively closed on Dixon's opportunity. He'll be back to be the backup, but Roethlisberger will be back from suspension. Barring an injury to him, Dixon won't see meaningful fantasy opportunities. I think the injury counteracts whatever good he did himself in camp, since injuries are the one big knock on Dixon.
Someone asked me on Tuesday -- while I was flying -- why Faulk couldn't come back if Wes Welker came back. Quick -- get a calendar and see if you can figure out a date seven months from now. That's why. Faulk's ACL sprain ends his season, but apparently, not his career. Faulk has always had an odd combination of skills, but there's no reason to think that he can't come back from this type of rehab and be a similar player. Just as we're seeing with Welker and others across the league, once a player shows he's back 100 percent, you can pretty much forget about the surgery. There's some who have a harder time coming back, but once they do, even if it's months past the "normal" timeline, they're pretty much back.
Trent Williams is very questionable heading into Sunday. His absence would be a big problem for Donovan McNabb ... Luke McCown tore his ACL at the end of Sunday's game. He did the same thing to the same knee in 2006, so he can come back from it. It does solidify David Garrard's position the week after he got pulled ... Ray Rice showed no problems with his ankle in practices this week. He's a must start, as always ... Reports out of Atlanta have Michael Turner missing practice as a precaution, but I'm telling you that there's more here. I'll be watching this one closely this weekend ... Michael Bush is practicing this week, wearing a glove to cover whatever splint that's protecting his thumb. While he's likely to play, no one has any idea how much ... Chris Wells is practicing, which is better than he's done the last few weeks with his knee issue. He's still the RB2 and at best will be getting the lesser share of a split with Tim Hightower ... Carolina's Steve Smith was on the OIR with a thigh bruise, but no mention of the wrist injury from last week. I'm not sure this is very telling ... Byron Leftwich's next couple practices will be very interesting. If healthy, he'll get the start ... Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@injuryexpert) for bursts of news and questions.