I read an article last weekend saying that injuries are not up this year. I wish I could remember where, because while that point was correct, it led to an incorrect conclusion. The writer made that argument only to say that injuries are part of the game and we should just accept them. No, we should not. We should understand that the game is going to cause some injuries and be ready for them, but that there is something to be done to reduce the amount and severity of these injuries. Most important, we just have to take them seriously. The mockery that teams are making of the injury report is threatening to make it useless. In the cases of Kellen Winslow and Peyton Manning, the respective teams followed the rules, but still have managed to hide information in a manner that makes the integrity of the Official Injury Report break down. I've railed about this time and time again, and while the OIR is still serving a purpose, it's not enough in most cases. Worse, if the integrity of the OIR goes away, while it's good for my little niche of the football world, it's potentially very, very bad for the game. Let's get to this week's injuries:
Manning's case is the most troubling because it shows just how dangerous these injury report shenanigans can be. The Colts and Manning finally revealed that yes, he did have a second, more extensive surgery to remove infection from his knee after it had spread. While press reports are focused on "80 stitches," it's the lengths to which the Colts went to hide things that are stunning. In the offseason, there's no duty to report, largely because there are no games. But while Manning is telling people that he's "finally feeling healthy," people are looking back at the Week 2 OIR and noting that the unhealthy Manning wasn't listed. Mike Lombardi of the National Football Post deserves a tip of the cap because he -- and gamblers -- had some inside info. Manning is fine now, but the damage is done, and Roger Goodell is going to have to decide whether this kind of organized chicanery -- which included Manning wearing a large brace on the opposite knee publicly -- deserves repercussions. Many will argue that Manning's injury had no effect on the games, but having watched him play, I have a hard time saying that he wasn't affected and therefore, it's very difficult to say that the outcomes of those games were not affected.
While the case of Manning's medical black ops is a clear violation of the spirit of the rules, Winslow's is a shade of gray. It was widely reported that Winslow was in the hospital with swollen testicles. This can be a result of several conditions, like infection, trauma, or as a precursor to testicular cancer. The reason you cringed is the reason the Browns haven't released much information. This is perhaps the most personal injury, embarrassing, painful, and potentially life-threatening or life-changing.
While the NFL requires that we know the condition of a player in regard to this week's game and his likelihood of playing, there's really no need for us to know further specifics. Unfortunately, to maintain this, we need more information. It's a real catch-22. Gamblers work game to game, but the majority of fans and fantasy players want all the info they can get. There are Web sites and television networks built on that concept. Could it work for Romeo Crennel to come out and say "Winslow was hospitalized and will miss one game, with the potential for longer?" I'm not sure, in an era in which we know Vince Young may have been suicidal and what color panties Britney Spears is wearing on any given night. I have a bias to want more info, but we also have laws and should have some common decency. As for Winslow's status, he's the very definition of day-to-day and shouldn't be counted on for this week. Things are looking up toward the end of the week, but it's still hard to say how his stamina and speed will be affected.
It might have been the discussion with Brett Favre or it might just be the way his hand feels, but it looks as if Romo might play this weekend. A broken finger would seem to be the kind of thing that would keep a QB out a month, as we were told, and some even went as far as saying Romo's style and mechanics made it less likely that he would play. Romo disagrees and when it comes to injuries, pain tolerance is something we can never know. Now the question goes from can Romo play to should Romo play. There's no way to splint or protect the hand, so the Cowboys staff would have to trust that he's not going to reinjure it. If the fracture is stable, he risks de-stabilizing it and costing himself and the team more time. This is one of those big decisions that can make or break a team's season. With St. Louis coming in, my early read is that the Cowboys will be conservative and hold Romo out, but we won't know before gametime. It certainly looks as if he'll be on the extreme low end of estimates for his return.
The news isn't quite so good for Jones. His hamstring has a moderate strain (or Grade II) and will miss up to a month. We're not really sure how well Jones heals since he's been very healthy throughout his football career. Speed players normally need a month to avoid re-injury, and here's a place where the Cowboys definitely have the depth to cover the loss. Marion Barber will get even more carries with Tashard Choice providing more of a rest than a change of pace.
While most have focused on Manning's revelation this week, the big injury story in Indy is the loss of two of the top three running backs. Addai injured his hamstring early in Sunday's win and will miss up to a month. Addai isn't known as a speed back or a power back; he's something in between, which makes this tougher to read. The fact is, RBs in Indy's system are relatively interchangeable. There's a certain level of things they need to do, but past that, it's plug and play. The transition from Edgerrin James to Dominic Rhodes to Addai was seamless in large part due to the system. We'll see how switching back to Rhodes for a couple weeks will go. The loss of Hart for the season to an ACL tear really strained their depth, forcing the team to make a signing and call some guys up. Hart's injury was devastating, especially for a guy who already had questions about his speed. The Indy offense is likely to shift to more passing in the short term.
The Colts situation is reminiscent of what's going on in Pittsburgh as the Steelers have had to slide down the depth chart, losing Parker, then Rashard Mendenhall. Now with Parker due to come back from his sprained MCL in Week 7, the Steelers may need to look back down. Parker has re-injured the knee by stepping in some sort of hole in his first practice back, though it's not clear if it's a new injury, an exacerbation, or how severe the re-injury is in relation to the original problem. It's always the worst case scenario to come off and get reinjured, especially if it ends up being because that player was released to activity too soon. That looks to be the case here, though it should be noted that Parker was vocal about pushing his way back onto the field. Even if Parker is able to play, he'll lose some carries to Mewelde Moore and Najeh Davenport.
The Bengals are letting Palmer see some of the best doctors in the country as he searches for some answer to his elbow injury. Indications are that he's torn the UCL -- sometimes referred to as the MCL or "Tommy John" ligament -- but not enough to require replacement. Of course, a minor tear would be "structural damage," and there's some indication that Palmer might have another condition, ulnar neuritis. This is, again, something more often seen in baseball and related to Tommy John surgery. The ulnar nerve runs very near the UCL and can be irritated when the UCL swells or roughens. Having ulnar neuritis has been described as having your funny bone (which is the ulnar nerve) hit, over and over, all the time. That's not comfortable and certainly not something that's going to be good for a quarterback. As Palmer continues to search for answers on his elbow, the Bengals are tearing down their season and seem willing to let Palmer rest as long as is necessary to get a high pick in next year's draft.
The news keeps getting worse for the Seahawks. Hasselbeck's back problems and knee problems are now coming together, with his herniated disc sending pain down the nerves and into his injured leg. It's not a classic cascade -- a situation where one injury starts a series of events that leads to more or worse injuries -- but it's similar in spirit. The team has already ruled him out for this week as they hope to get the back under control, allowing the leg to get better. Back problems are tough to read, but with the Seahawks making the quick move, it's a coin flip here -- it's either going to work like they hope, costing him another week or we're looking at a long-term problem that may need surgery. The Seahawks think Seneca Wallace's legs might have healed up enough to get him the start, but Charlie Frye might get another week under center.
Betts is known as a high-effort player, one that doesn't do things halfway. His knee injury isn't halfway, either. He's torn his lateral collateral ligament in a way that has caused problems on either side. There is, according to sources, a muscle strain in both his hamstring and calf due to the hyperextension and forced varus (inward) bend that tore the ligament. It's not a complete tear, so Betts is hoping to avoid surgery, but with the complications, it's unclear whether he will or how long it will take him to recover. Some of my sources guessed on this and thought that two weeks would be the minimum, but this is going to have more to do with Betts' healing response than the diagnosis and averages. In the meantime, Shaun Alexander will back up Clinton Portis and remind people why he was out of the league.
Aaron Rodgers isn't practicing much, if at all this week, but he'll play come Sunday. Get used to that pattern over the next few weeks if not all season ... Eli Manning's chest bruise is similar to what Donovan McNabb dealt with. It should have the same effect: almost none ... Darren McFadden is expected to be more a part of the Raiders rushing attack as his toe continues to heal ... Calvin Johnson missed practice Wednesday. The Lions are easing him back in after his concussion ... Chris Chambers will be a gametime decision on Sunday, but he will be limited even if he does play ... David Tyree is back at practice, but don't get too excited yet. The Giants have options at WR and time before they have to activate Tyree ... Willis McGahee isn't on the OIR this week, which is odd given how banged up he's been and his knee injury last week ... The Lions aren't going to cut Jon Kitna, according to new team boss Martin Mayhew. He didn't lie; they put him on IR. Of course, Mayhew also said they weren't shopping Roy Williams, which I guess is true when you consider he only spoke with the Cowboys about the Texas native ... From the San Francisco Chronicle: "Wide receiver Ashley Lelie ruptured a blood vessel when his head hit the turf in the fourth quarter. He did not return to the game but was fine afterward." I don't know what blood vessel, but ouch! ... Brandon Stokely is out this week after suffering what he says is the 10th concussion of his career.