It's hard to deem one week of NFL action more or less violent than another -- they're all pretty rough and tumble -- but there were at least a couple of games Sunday that stood out as extremely hard-hitting. Namely, the Vikings' visit to Chicago and Green Bay's Sunday nighter with the Giants.
Both games featured multiple players making early visits to the locker room, and at least a couple of the injuries suffered could linger for weeks.
SI.com injury expert Will Carroll has the inside scoop on what to expect as a result of Sunday's key injuries:
• Matt Forte, RB, Bears (ankle): Forte hopped off in the third quarter Sunday with an apparent injury to the same right ankle that he'd hurt earlier in the year. He did not return.
SI.com injury expert Will Carroll: Forte isn’t injury prone per se, but you also can’t expect him to stay healthy or to recover within the normal parameters. Forte’s injury looks to be a simple ankle sprain, with the severity sounding mid-grade. His response to treatment early this week will be key to the timing of his return. Look for him to be on the practice field by Friday if he’s going to return and, if he is out there, look for reports that he’s cutting on that injured ankle.
Who takes his spot?: Michael Bush would take over the bulk of the carries if Forte misses a game or two. He had 60 yards on 21 carries, with two touchdowns, in Week 12. Armando Allen is another option.
• Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos; Brandon Weeden, QB, Browns; Dexter McCluster, WR, Chiefs; Devin Hester, WR, Bears; Kyle Rudolph, TE & Harrison Smith, S, Vikings (head): All of the above suffered head injuries, with Manning the only one who cleared a concussion test. The Chiefs remained vague about what other injuries McCluster may have suffered.
Carroll: After passing his concussion test and returning, Manning was given an x-ray, though it is not clear what the Broncos doctors were looking for and if it was in any way related to the concussion. Many jumped to the conclusion that the doctors were checking his neck, but the single-level fusion was solidly anchored and it would take a vicious, significantly damaging blow to damage that work. This kind of thing doesn’t “come loose,” as I heard suggested today.
McCluster’s size has always been a concern, but the kind of hit he took is similar to the one that knocked the much larger Jamaal Charles from the game a couple weeks back. As with many head injuries, there was a concurrent neck injury, but the worry now is the concussion. McCluster will be subject to the same protocols, but one report had McCluster fading in and out of consciousness during the sideline tests. That’s a sign that usually points to a more significant initial trauma, though it is not directly related to how a player can or will come back.
All of the concussed players will have to follow NFL protocol before being allowed to return to play.
Who takes their spots?: Manning looks good for Week 13, but Brock Osweiler and Caleb Hanie are next on the depth chart. Colt McCoy would replace Weeden. Healthy scratch Steve Breaston could get back into the lineup with McCluster out of action. John Carlson could fill in for Rudolph, while Robert Blanton or Jamarca Sanford would be next in line at safety. Eric Weems could fill Hester's role, both on offense and as a kick returner.
• Lance Louis, G, Bears (knee): Louis was another of the five Bears starters injured Sunday -- Forte, Hester, Chris Spencer and Charles Tillman the others. He came out after taking a huge hit from Minnesota's Jared Allen during an interception return.
Carroll: Lance Louis got absolutely cheapshotted by Jared Allen. Allen not only blindsided Louis, but launched himself headfirst. His shoulder did make contact, which will surely be his defense, but there was no need for the play at all, let alone for the often out-of-control Allen to leave his feet on the play. Louis’ left knee buckled under him and he was taken off the field for tests. The best case scenario is that Louis has a minor lateral sprain (LCL or MCL) and can play with a brace. The worst is surgical and a thinner O-Line for the Bears. I hope Louis was also checked for concussion.
Who takes his spot?: We touched on the impact of the offensive line injuries on Sunday. With both Louis and Spencer out, the Bears had to use Edwin Williams and Gabe Carimi as their guards. They'll no doubt sign a player or two if both miss Week 13.
• Andre Brown, RB, Giants (leg): Brown broke his fibula in the fourth quarter Sunday when he was rolled up on while being tackled.
Carroll: Breaking your leg in a football game is never good, but players have come back from fractured fibulas in 4-6 weeks. Reggie Bush is probably the best known example of this. Brown could be back just before the end of the season or early in the playoffs. One of the toughest parts of the comeback is keeping up conditioning. The Giants more than most teams could really use that first-round playoff bye.
Carroll: Mike Adams had one of the ugliest injuries on Sunday, but ugly and severe are actually two different things, especially with ankle sprains. I’ve seen some nasty ones, where the malleolus (the bony prominence on either side of the ankle) actually touches the ground, but the player responds as if he barely rolled it. Reports were that there was no fracture.
Who takes his spot?: Like the Bears, the Steelers were left scrambling Sunday. Kelvin Beachum replaced Adams, but Pittsburgh might need a different Plan B going forward.
Carroll: Parmele left the Jags game today in the second quarter, and what we saw over the next few minutes was a textbook case in what a medical staff can do on the sidelines. It appeared they were dealing with a hamstring strain, but it was definitely a muscular issue with his leg. After initial tests, Parmele was put on a stationary bike, to keep the muscles warm and loose. He went to the locker room at halftime and was given further treatment, enough that they got him back on the field. By the fourth quarter, the muscle tightened up again and he was removed. We’ll have to see whether that aggravation did more damage, but the initial injury was relatively minor.
Who takes his spot?: The inconsistent Rashad Jennings reclaimed the RB job with Parmele sidelined. He ran for 43 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries Sunday.
Carroll: Samuel closed the game laying on the ground, having just defended a Hail Mary and saved a win for the Falcons. Late-game reactions from players tend to be a bit more, not because Samuel or any player is a “drama queen,” but because that’s the farthest point from painkiller injections. Feeling the original injury, plus the trauma that the painkiller allows a player to add on, is often quite the shock. Samuel will be re-evaluated through the week and will be a tough read if he misses practice the way he did last week.
Who takes his spot?: Robert McClain would replace Samuel in the starting lineup, if Samuel has to sit.
• Kyle Williams, WR, 49ers (knee); Kendall Hunter, RB, 49ers (ankle): Williams immediately clutched at his knee after taking a hit, while Hunter had his ankle bent awkwardly underneath him late in the third quarter.
Carroll: Kyle Williams left with what looked like a nasty knee sprain, though details are sketchy at this point. Williams, who should be known for being more than a concussion target from last season’s playoffs, has come back well and established himself as a role player in Jim Harbaugh’s offense and special teams. Losing him won’t be devastating, but it will be disruptive if he is out for an extended period. Hunter has a garden-variety ankle sprain, but his absence could add to the workload on Frank Gore, who has looked a bit worn down at times of late.
• Kenny Phillips, S, Giants (knee): Phillips stayed down for a couple of minutes after a play in the second half and appeared to reinjure a knee that kept him out of action for several weeks in the middle of this season.
Carroll: Kenny Phillips came back from microfracture surgery only to injury his MCL. In his first game back after missing several weeks, he injured his knee again. Microfracture is an amazing procedure, but it is both new and brutal. The procedure is basically carving out a big scab over the knee to take the place of lost cartilage. The long-term studies, especially for elite level athletes, are just not there. It’s an intermediate step to something like stem cell regeneration or meniscal transplant, not a miracle. Who takes his spot?: Tyler Sash has plenty of experience stepping in for Phillips, and he did so again against the Packers.