Generally speaking, coaches care about losing preseason games, mostly because quite a bit is revealed about the inner workings of their team. What coaches really hate losing in the preseason, though, is players. It's never a good time for an impact player to suffer a major injury, but the preseason seems especially wasteful for such a thing to happen. Sadly though, it's inevitable in football.
Here are the major injuries of note following the first full slate of preseason games, and what those injuries mean to the teams involved.
Jacksonville signed the prolific former Broncos tight end to a five-year, $46 million with $24 million guaranteed so that he could be the epicenter of an offense that has struggled (to put it kindly) in recent years. That process was put on hold when Thomas broke the top of his right hand in the team's first preseason game against the Steelers.
For now, Thomas's hand is casted, and he has opted to not have surgery. Coach Gus Bradley recently said that he thinks Thomas will be ready for the start of the regular season.
“The blood supply to that area of the hand is pretty good and the bone in that area tends to heal very quickly,” Dr. Steven Shin, Director of Hand Surgery at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles, recently told the Florida Times-Union. “By that point [when he returns to the field], hopefully he’ll be able to not have to wear anything but the soft padding. If he were to have to wear a hard cast across the knuckle joint, that would be very difficult for him to have any flexibility and catch passes.”
Jacksonville already lost first-round pass-rusher Dante Fowler, Jr. to a season-ending ACL injury. They can't afford many more major losses if they hope to climb the ladder in the AFC South.
In 2014, Washington went with two or more tight ends on 24% of their plays, which ranked 25th in the league, and don't expect an uptick this season.
Paul suffered a fractured and dislocated ankle early in Washington's Week 1 preseason win over the Browns, and Paulsen has been dealing with a toe issue for a while now. Paul is definitely out for the season, and the word is not yet out as to whether Paulsen will need surgery. Jordan Reed, who caught 95 total passes in his first two NFL seasons despite missing 12 total games, is hoping to make it back for the start of the regular season, but he's battling a hamstring issue. Washington's passing game is taking hit after hit right now.
White didn't go down in a preseason game, but the news here is big—and controversial—enough to mention. The No. 7 pick from West Virginia, who was supposed to redefine Chicago's passing game with his physicality and explosiveness, has missed training camp and the Bears' opener against the Dolphins with what the team has called a shin injury suffered in the offseason program. In truth, White has a stress fracture in his shin, and the surgery to repair the injury—inserting a rod into his leg to stabilize the tibia—could cost him the entire 2015 season.
The Chicago media, already apoplectic over the newly restrictive media policies put in place by the franchise, are crying foul over what they believe to be a deliberate misrepresentation of the severity of White's injury.
“Later, part of OTAs we all noticed it on the same day, ‘Hey, he’s limping.’” general manager Ryan Pace told the media on Saturday. "And as we looked into it further, there’s a small stress fracture down there,” Pace told reporters. “When we found that, it’s like sometimes these things heal on their own. A lot of times they do. So that was our hope and that was our plan and unfortunately this is where we’re at now.”
Coach John Fox didn't help matters when he insisted that teams are only required to give a body part on injury reports as opposed to the severity of the injury.
Whether the outrage over this matter is legitimate or an overspill from other policies (I think it's both), the larger issue is clear—White will miss at least the first six games of the 2015 regular season on the Physically Unable to Perform List, and the news could be worse in time. It's a bad sign for a Chicago passing game that will not have Brandon Marshall after trading him to the Jets, and is still waiting for fellow receiver Alshon Jeffery to return from a calf injury. Pace has said that Jeffery's injury is not severe, but nobody in the Chicago media is buying that at the moment.
Loadholt is out for the season after suffering a torn Achilles tendon in the preseason opener against the Buccaneers. The Vikings will put rookie T.J. Clemmings from Pitt in Loadholt's place, who will be something to watch through the season.
Clemmings switched from defensive to offensive line before the 2013 season, so he's still learning the subtleties of the game on that side of the ball, but he has as much athletic potential as any tackle in this draft class. His relative inexperience at tackle, along with a hairline foot fracture that he first discovered in medical checks at the scouting combine, caused Clemmings to drop all the way to the fourth round in the draft. The fracture hasn't affected Clemmings to date, and the Vikings don't have other options anyway—they're still hoping left tackle Matt Kalil can bounce back from a horrid 2014 season.
Demar Dotson (MCL), RT, Buccaneers
That Vikings-Buccaneers game was a bad one for starting right tackles. Tampa Bay's already-shaky line lost Dotson for roughly six weeks with a sprained MCL—bad news for an offense led by rookie quarterback Jameis Winston, who will need front-side protection to roll out and throw. Dotson wasn't dominant last season, but he was consistent; he allowed six sacks, two quarterback hits and 20 quarterback hurries at right and left tackle in 1,007 total snaps. In the short term, the Bucs are giving Gosder Cherilus, who was cut by the Colts last month, the once-over as a possible replacement.
Jarius Wynn (knee), DL, Bills
Buffalo's starting front four may be the NFL's best, especially with Rex Ryan coaching, but the depth took a fairly major hit when Wynn suffered a torn ACL against the Panthers on Friday. Wynn signed a two-year, $2.2 million contract in the offseason. Last season, he amassed two sacks, one quarterback hit and 15 quarterback hurries in just 322 snaps.