I avoided talking about the Kris Dielman incident last week because of two things. First, I don't want to be too shrill, yapping about every incident and causing the reader to tune out. Second, I had hoped that others would take up the fight.
For those who may have missed it, Chargers lineman Dielman suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter of San Diego's Oct. 23 loss to the Jets. Dielman was seen staggering back to the huddle after a collision with Jets linebacker Calvin Pace but stayed in the game to completion. On the plane ride home Dielman had a seizure and was hospitalized. According to reports, Chargers personnel did not see Dielman's struggle to return to the huddle but an official did.
Mike Florio of NBC has offered both reasonable coverage and interesting suggestions, but inside the game, there's been quite a bit of pushback. Instead of using their bully pulpit to rally for change to how we treat injuries, ex-players like Merrill Hoge and Mike Golic are against any changes. They go to "back in my day" stories, calling players that come out of games "quitters." That Hoge, a player who had his career ended early due to concussions, takes this position is amazing. Hoge was cleared to play just five days after a severe concussion and when he suffered another, he ended up being resuscitated on the way to the hospital. He never played again. Would those things have happened under current rules? Probably not, but Hoge isn't willing to work to make sure that someone doesn't go through what cost him so much (or brought him so much in the suit against the doctor that cleared him.) Perhaps the self-reflection or irony part of his brain is what was damaged. What's clear is that these kinds of views are damaging the game itself, pushing it closer to that line where it cannot police itself and will be viewed, as Malcolm Gladwell suggested, as human dogfighting by some. It doesn't have to be this way and it's time for some ex-players -- I'm looking at you, Troy Aikman -- to step up. Let's get to the injuries:
The hard part about injuries is often separating the trees from the forest. As I've said here for the past couple of weeks, the issue with Johnson isn't running, but acceleration. At six weeks post-injury, it's clear that on average, all the mysterious procedures didn't affect the return time for Johnson. Of course, averages don't tell the whole tale. The Texans have been whispering that Johnson is actually ahead of schedule given the severity, but that's more damage control. There's an element of the team that wants to wait with Johnson, given the upcoming bye week. I asked Mike Ludwikowski, certified athletic trainer and coordinator of Outreach Athletic Training Services at Susquehanna Health, what the medical staff there would be looking for and he talked about a range of specific physical tests and close observation, but he did mention one interesting thing I hadn't heard. "[A] good athletic trainer will ask the other players involved with the returned athlete. Talk to the DBs he will be up against. Talk to the QBs throwing to him, everyone working together will provide great information." We should know by the end of the week if Johnson will be able to play, but temper any expectations.
A few years back, a star pitcher had headed off the mound and to one of the top doctors in the game. After an examination showed a major shoulder injury, I spoke to the doctor and he commented that health was everything for an athlete. "Right now, I'm as useful a pitcher as this guy." That statement stuck with me as one of the clearest ways to show the value of injuries.
Right now, I'm as useful a RB as Ryan Mathews. Mathews is very talented and has shown it in bursts this season for the Chargers, especially when he's in a role-share with Mike Tolbert. Keeping the workload down on Mathews appears to be the right move. But in Tolbert's absence, the Chargers didn't have much of an option. Mathews' strained groin is likely to keep him out at least this week and perhaps longer. The data shows he's a slow healer and they tend to be careful with returns. With Tolbert back and some other options -- though Curtis Brinkley's concussion is going to be an issue -- the Chargers will shift to even more power runs and short passes in the near term.
The Giants have a big game coming up and two big injuries to deal with heading into it. Both seemed minor, but both will end up affecting the game plan. Nicks has a history of leg injuries, so even a minor hamstring strain has to be taken very seriously. He'll be a GTD at best, and with Mario Manningham dealing with an illness, Victor Cruz could become the de facto WR1. Nicks isn't ruled out quite yet, but the Giants tend to be very conservative. Bradshaw looked to be much more likely to play. Initial reports were that his foot problem was nothing more than irritation from the combination of a screw in the foot and turf that hardened up in the cold. (The Giants and Jets are both looking into it since it wasn't cold enough to have predicted it.) Instead, a second scan showed a small fracture. It's not clear if this is a traumatic or stress fracture and frankly, it doesn't matter. The Giants will be without Bradshaw for at least a few weeks while it heals up and potentially longer.
The Falcons face the Colts and shouldn't need Jones' help to beat a terrible defense, but getting him back would help cause all sorts of matchup issues. Jones would likely be on a reduced play and target count with a short leash, but getting him back into the game flow would help him going forward, help free up Roddy White and help make for an early, quick-strike attack to get the lead and keep the Colts from going into their full pass rush mode. If Jones is able to make it through the week's practices, he'll play, but don't look for him to be a great fantasy option. His points will rely more on TDs than catches or yards this week.
The hope was that McFadden would rest through the bye week and be ready to go when the team came back in Week 9. It hasn't worked out that way. He was still on crutches as of Monday and missed practice on Wednesday, leaving him very unlikely to be ready come Sunday. The Raiders aren't ruling him out just yet, but they want to maximize the time Carson Palmer gets with the first team personnel, so even if McFadden is able to go, he'll likely be in more of a split with Michael Bush than normal. Keep your eye on this one, but whatever Plan B you had in place for McFadden is going to have to be put into action.
Turf toe is painful. It's also a bit convenient for Kolb, who's been a real disappointment through the first half for the Cardinals. Kolb wasn't able to practice, and in side work was having severe pain when trying to get any sort of push on throws. Add in the problems with mobility and it's looking less and less like Kolb will be ready for Sunday. Worse, turf toe tends to linger, especially if a player is rushed back. Kolb has some advantage playing on real grass, but turf toe can happen anywhere. Look for John Skelton to get the start as the Cardinals look to see if they can save their season and just how much of the problem is Kolb, as as it is healing him up.
A sideline shot of Gabbert from Week 8 was instructive. He was standing in the open, shirtless, while the medical staff wrapped a large bandage tightly around his ribs. He put his flak jacket back on, then his shoulder pads and helmet, and ran back into the game. Gabbert's injury was a bit of an oddity, a torsion injury as well as bruising, and the best a qualified medical staff could do on the sidelines was wrap him up tighter and hope. Brian Cushing hit him so fast and so hard that his body twisted a bit, putting some of the force onto the small muscles of the back. It's important to note that Gabbert was wearing a flak jacket, like most QBs and RBs these days. But that couldn't prevent the force of the hit and how Gabbert was positioned at the time. With more time, it's likely that the Jags will try and get Gabbert a more advanced protective device, such as the one that Tony Romo is wearing. The question is, why isn't everyone?
Manning is on the active roster for the Colts for one reason: control. As long as Manning is active, he's required to be available for all team functions and to report to team medical staff for his treatment. If he were placed on the IR, he would have the option to take over his own treatment. Granted, Manning says that his inability to work with team rehab head Erin Barrill was one of the reasons he had setbacks and he would be likely to stay in-house, and the Colts do need to assess his situation as they consider the future. But the Colts don't need to see Manning in practice any more than they needed to see Bob Sanders last season. This is simply, like most issues for the Colts, one of control. On the physical front, Manning is falling further and further behind the normal schedule for this recovery. His timeline is not one of "not being rushed" but rather one of still being unable to run or throw, even lightly, at a stage where it should be expected in a normal recovery.
Sam Bradford is out of his walking boot, but not yet back at practice. He'll need to be out there, in full, by Friday, to get the start ... Beanie Wells' knee problem is causing him problems with quick cuts more than straight runs. The Cards should be able to adjust ... The toe injury for BenJarvus Green-Ellis isn't getting worse, but it isn't getting better. He's going to be a tough read all the way to game time ... Willis McGahee was back at practice Wednesday. He should play if his grip strength is good ... With Peyton Hillis still dealing with a strained hamstring and the team not willing to play him at anything less than 100 percent and Montario Hardesty out with a calf strain, we'll all have to figure out how to spell Chris Ogbonnaya ... Felix Jones hasn't been ruled out yet, but with a good matchup, the Cowboys seem inclined to give DeMarco Murray one more shot with the feature workload ... I mentioned Mike Tolbert in the Mathews section above, but all indications are that he was very close last Monday and is "no doubt starting" next Sunday ... LeGarrette Blount will be ready to go Sunday after the bye week and is expected to take a heavy load as the Bucs shift back to a power offense ... Of all the teams to claim Tashard Choice, it just had to be the Redskins. Choice will need a couple more weeks to heal up before getting into the confusing RB committee there ... Wes Welker missed practice with a sore neck, but it's not thought to be anything more than a rest day for him ... Hines Ward was limited at practice while Emmanuel Sanders was out. Antonio Brown could be a solid pickup and is available in most leagues ... Mike Pouncey is out after his "spinal concussion" last week. The Dolphins are unsure if he'll play and taking all precautions for both head and neck injuries ... The Steelers could be without three starting LBs this week. James Harrison is at least a week away in recovery from his eye fracture, James Farrior's calf isn't healed, and LaMarr Woodley's hamstring strain could cost him much more than just this week ... Sean Lee's wrist dislocation has caused further problems in the wrist and may require surgery. The team and Lee are waiting to see if it can be avoided, but he's likely out at least this week ... Closer. That's all the Giants will say about Prince Amukamara. Look for late week practice reports for more indication, but early whispers have him as a big part of the Giants hope of re-creating the Wes Welker shutdown from last week's Steelers D ... Despite some early worries, it looks like Sebastian Janikowski recovered better than Darren McFadden. Janikowski is expected to be back at kicker in Week 9, but there's some question as to whether he'll be asked or could kick his long ones.