October 23, 2008

Another week of injuries and we have another week of data points for how much injuries can affect a fantasy season. Have you been scrambling since drafting Tom Brady in the first? Trying to figure out why you picked LaDainian Tomlinson over Adrian Peterson? How many of you had Aaron Rodgers or Clinton Portis in the first round? Is it worse to draft high and lose someone, or see what I saw a couple weeks ago, with Joseph Addai going out on the first series, producing a zero for me at my RB1 slot?

There are so many ways that injuries factor in that it's a good thing this isn't turning into a game for wimps. Of course, if Troy Polamalu had his way, we'd be seeing a lot of backups on the field, and the waiver wire would be the most important thing in the game. Let's get to this week's injuries:

Romo's gone from "almost ready" to "out a month" in the space of a week, leaving Cowboys fans to ask "what happened?" The answer is nothing. Reality set in for Romo, who simply couldn't play safely and comfortably with the brace on his throwing hand. Without the brace, he was having a difficult time gripping the ball, something a QB has to do on every play. Sources tell me that while the Cowboys "played along" with Romo for the sake of his psyche, he wasn't as close to playing as they let on last week and that the team had no intention of letting him get on the field. That seems a bit like spin, and maybe it is, but the record of the Cowboys medical staff is such that I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt here. They're a smart group and they get players back on the field without setbacks in most cases, so we'll have to watch Romo over the next few weeks to get a better hindsight on how this went down. Romo's out until after the bye week, at least for now.

There's a lot of talk about Brady's second surgery, and now even a third. While it's easy to dismiss this as similar to what happened with Peyton Manning, there's an additional danger for Brady. That is that the infection is "in" the hardware -- the screws used to fixate the new ligament replacement. If that's the case, then Brady will possibly need a re-do of the ACL repair. That sounds harsh, but in fact, it isn't. It's a setback, to be sure, but given the time that Brady has to rehab, it's not likely that it would cut into his 2009 season. This type of sequencing would be hard on anyone, and it's not easy on Brady, especially the stress of additional surgery, but it's hardly a real threat to his football future.

Of note in the discussion about the infection is that Brady had a patellar tendon graft, meaning they took a piece of his own healthy tendon and used that to replace the ligament. That makes it a bit less likely that the graft will be attacked. Had it been a cadaver graft, as is more common these days, it would be a "weak link," just the type that an infection tends to go for. One final note is that Wendi Nix of ESPN is reporting that the Pats are upset that Brady used his own doctor rather than the Pats doctors. Brady used Neil ElAttrache of Kerlan-Jobe, one of the top orthos in the world, so I have to say that Brady made the smart move here.

I don't want to take anything away from Matt Cassel, but he got good about the same time Bailey got hurt. Call it a coincidence if you like, but be aware of it at least. With Denver on bye, we won't get to see immediately if anyone can take advantage, but Bailey looks to be out at least a month. That means that Chad Pennington will be the next QB to test a Champ-less secondary. The Grade II groin strain is bad for Bailey or anyone in the secondary who has to have "swivelling hips" and who makes sharp, lateral cuts. There's no record to know how well Bailey will heal up, but usually groin strains for DBs tend to gravitate toward the long end of recoveries according to my database.

It was a bad week for the Baileys as Champ's brother Boss also went down. He'll need microfracture surgery to repair his damaged knees and could be seeing the end of the line for his career. This type of surgery, using drills to create a "blood bed" and promote healing, is getting better, but is still the last resort for players who's knees are down to their last cartilage.

It's just stupid that the Browns have suspended Winslow for speaking about his staph infection. Maybe they're hoping to use the money to re-clean their facilities, since it seems that whatever they've done the last few times hasn't worked. Even opposing teams have had issues, so the problem is not contained. The fact is that while it's understandable for the Browns to be upset about Winslow's comments, he's exactly right. This is Winslow's second time dealing with an infection and the sixth time a Browns player has gone through it, so speaking out seems his best line of defense. It's hard to say how this will affect Winslow's play going forward. All you guys out there will understand when I say he'll need to be sure everything's OK after a "procedure" to relieve pressure in his scrotum before he gets back on the field. Winslow has appealed his suspension, though there's no clue what Romeo Crennel might do on Sunday. With Steve Heiden injured as well, the Browns have issues.

Jim Andrews is the medical director for the AL champion Tampa Bay Rays. He didn't get to join in the champagne celebration Sunday night, though, because he was prepping for surgery on Reggie Bush Monday morning. Bush had a minor knee surgery done to correct the small tear in his lateral meniscus, which in itself is a cascade from his PCL strain. The laxity in the knee led to a bit more sheer force being put on the knee. Bush will miss this Sunday's game in London, but not much more. The rush to get him under the knife has a lot to do with getting him back after the bye week and trying to get the Saints back on track for a playoff spot. Bush's carries will go to Deuce McAllister, with a couple nice matchups coming up, but the real effect will be on the passing game, where there's simply no way to replace Bush's versatility out of the backfield.

We knew that Boldin had broken sinuses, and anyone with a reasonable level of wakefulness knows that he had a concussion, but the broken jaw he was speaking through on Sunday was a bit of a revelation. It surprised me, largely because I focused on the impact (no pun intended) of the concussion on his comeback and because breaking the jaw is so difficult with modern helmets and mouthpieces. Actually, I was able to determine that the jaw didn't break; Boldin had to have the jaw realigned using wires, so initial reports of a fracture were overblown. I can't tell from video if Boldin had his mouthpiece in on that play or even in general, nor can I tell how the jaw was involved. I'm also surprised that this could be kept silent, but I will admit that the Cards did a good job doing so. If this kind of damage can be done with a hit -- and Hines Ward put a nasty one on someone last weekend -- it's time to look again at enforcing mouthpiece rules. Boldin was back at practice this week, and despite the plates and wires, it looks like he'll play on Sunday.

Jackson was a fantasy hero on Sunday, but didn't come out like Superman. Jackson left late with a quad strain that has some, including Rams coach Jim Haslett, worried about his availability for Sunday. Jackson's not likely to practice this week and is doing most of his running in the pool, to keep the weight off hsi quad as it heals. While he's going to be a gametime decision, all the signs are that he's going to play, though it's clear that the Rams will dial his carries back a bit and that he carries some risk going into this week. I'd expect something more like a timeshare rather than the big burst.

Speaking of burst, that's where Jackson will be limited. The quad is biomechanically involved in burst acceleration and in "pushing the pile." Not being able to do that, two of Jackson's key skills, will hurt his value even if he plays. He's going to be one of the players I have a close eye on Sunday morning.

The Eagles have been looking to the bye week for a while, knowing that they were getting healthier and that Westbrook really needed the week off. Now that they're past it, was it as much of a key as they'd expected? It looks like it was, at least heading into the next game. Curtis is finally full-go after hernia surgery (and his timeline tells us a lot about Jeremy Shockey as well) while Westbrook was back at practice, showing no deficit with his knee. With all their weapons in place, the Eagles will finally be in the position they expected to be in at the start of the season and none too soon as the NFC East still hasn't sorted itself out. Both should be solid fantasy starters this week, though with both, their injury history has to temper your enthusiasm some.

While it's nice to see Cadillac Williams back on the practice field, don't get too excited. No one's come back to level from this type of surgery, though with medical technology, it's possible ... That hip injury sure didn't hold Clinton Portis back last week. The general soreness that held him out of practice will be less of a problem ... Jay Cutler didn't break his finger, but he's glad he has the bye to heal up after it affected his throws ... Rodney Harrison's torn quad could end his career. It's a bad injury, even for the tough but injury-prone Harrison. No one seems to talk about how the PED-riddled players, even the good ones, tend to be injury prone ... Matt Hasselbeck will miss at least another week as he continues to heal up ... Despite some positive reports, don't expect Joseph Addai back this week or next ... Willis McGahee's knee kept him out of practice, but he'll be the lead in the running back committe on Sunday ... The Chiefs put their QB1 and QB2 on IR. Brodie Croyle is out with a torn MCL, and Damon Huard has a broken hand. The Chiefs brought in Quinn Gray, who had a positive writeup in this year's Pro Football Prospectus ... LaMont Jordan was able to go all out at Wednesday's practice, while Sammy Morris couldn't. Expect Jordan and Kevin Faulk to get most of the backfield action this week in New England ... Michael Pittman isn't holding up well as Denver's feature back, opening the door even more for Ryan Torain's return.

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