By Chris Burke
September 17, 2012

Aaron Hernandez has 59 yards and a touchdown so far this season. (Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE)

It was a tough week for team doctors, who were called into duty over and over again Sunday (especially in the NFC East). Several teams lost starting players -- some of them for extended periods of time. injury expert Will Carroll helps break down the key injuries …

Aaron Hernandez, TE, Patriots (ankle): The Patriots suffered a huge blow during their upset loss to Arizona on Sunday when Hernandez had to be helped to the locker room. While he was being taken down on a tackle, Hernandez's right ankle rolled awkwardly, and he was on crutches before the game ended. injury expert Will Carroll: With X-rays negative, the worry is that this is a high ankle sprain (syndesmotic sprain). Hernandez isn't a speed guy, but certainly uses lateral motion when it comes to routes and especially in blocking. High ankle sprains can cost a player between four and six weeks, depending on severity.

Who takes his spot?: The Patriots have a ton of tight ends, but there's not a backup available that does what Hernandez can. The more likely solution will be what we saw Sunday, which involved Wes Welker seeing the field more frequently and Julian Edelman out there are well -- essentially replacing Hernandez's tight end role with an extra slot receiver.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants (neck): Bradshaw left Sunday after taking a high hit and was scheduled to go for an MRI Monday to determine the severity of his injury. The Giants, after having extra time between their Week 1 and Week 2 games, now face a short week with a Thursday contest against Carolina looming, so Bradshaw has less time to recover than he normally would.

Carroll: He did it while blocking, dropping down and having his head shift awkwardly. He was tested on the sidelines and seemed to have both pain and some weakness in his arms. If this is a simple muscle strain from having his head shifted too far, its painful, but should resolve relatively quickly. If it's something more or a severe strain, Bradshaw will miss weeks.

Who takes his spot?: The obvious choice was rookie David Wilson, but it was actually Andre Brown who stepped up in Bradshaw's absence Sunday. Consider that a fluid situation for as long as Bradshaw is sidelined.

David Diehl, T, Giants (knee): Diehl headed to the locker room after getting hurt on a play near the Tampa Bay goal line and he did not return. Tom Coughlin did not know the extent of Diehl's injuries Sunday, but the Giants found out more on Monday.

Carroll: Dave Diehl was in a lot of pain and with good reason. An MRI showed a Grade II tear of his MCL. He won't need surgery but he will miss a couple weeks as it heals, probably about four. His effectiveness when he returns will be based on how well he adjusts to the knee and any limitations. Diehl wasn't wearing a brace when injured, but surely will be when he returns. I still don't understand how players and teams don't use them more to avoid injuries like this.

Who takes his spot?: Sean Lockler was Diehl's replacement on Sunday and he would no doubt be in the starting lineup Thursday, should Diehl have to sit.

Brian Orakpo, LB, Redskins (pectoral): Orakpo needed surgery after injuring his pec in Week 17 last season, and he may have re-aggravated that issue on Sunday.

Carroll: Orakpo was attacked by Neanderthals ... no, wait, he re-injured the pectoral muscle that was fixed surgically and will head back to Redskins team doctor James Andrews. (Yes, that James Andrews). The pectoral is the chest muscle, but the injury has been where the pectoral attaches to the shoulder, so thinking of this as a shoulder injury will help. Orakpo would be limited both at the push and with his arms outstretched, trying to "catch" a runner. Depending on the severity of the re-injury, Orakpo could be out for an extended period of time. (Update: Mike Shanahan announced Monday that Orakpo will require surgery and is out for the season.)

Who takes his spot?: Rob Jackson filled in for Orakpo Sunday, and he would be first up to take a starting job if Orakpo is out for an extended period of time -- as it sounds like he will be. The drop-off from Orakpo to Jackson is big, though, so the Redskins may have to scout other options.

Adam Carriker, DE, Redskins (leg): More bad injury news for the Redskins, as Carriker went down with a knee injury just two plays into Sunday's loss to St. Louis and did not return.

Carroll: It looked like a knee injury for Carriker, but it turned out to be worse. Carriker tore his quadriceps, with the strain coming very low, near the knee. This is a bad injury at best, but doctors tell me this is a bad location on top of the significant muscle tearing. He'll need surgery and is done for the season.

Who takes his spot?: Veteran Kedric Golston would slide into the starting lineup at a defensive end spot, but he does not have the same ability to get after the quarterback that Carriker does.

Jason Kelce, C, Eagles (knee): The already-struggling Eagles line was dealt a huge blow Sunday when Ed Reed crashed into Kelce's knee, bending it inward and sending Kelce to the ground in a heap. Kelce immediately grabbed for the knee in pain.

Carroll: The Eagles center sprained his MCL and ACL and is done for the season. The MCL is a near-rupture, but there's also a significant sprain of the ACL. In isolation, neither might have needed surgery, but together -- and there's likely also some meniscus damage, completing the "terrible triad" knee injury -- they could require reconstruction. Kelce may elect to try and rehab with a best-case return of six weeks, but it's very unlikely to work.

Who takes his spot?: Dallas Reynolds, who spent the past three seasons toiling on Philadelphia's practice squad, is the next center on the depth chart. Like Washington with Orakpo, though, the Eagles may have to consider other options. With Michael Vick getting pummeled through two weeks, having an overmatched center would not help.

Blaine Gabbert, QB, Jaguars (knee): Gabbert was limping after he was pulled in Sunday's 27-7 loss to Houston, due to what was originally reported as a thigh injury. Later, the Jaguars revealed that Gabbert had played through both hamstring and toe injuries.

Carroll: Gabbert left Sunday's game with a hamstring strain. The severity is unknown, but there seem to be some questions about whether he'll be ready to play in Indianapolis next week. That game will be on turf, which adds some issue. Gabbert does use his speed at times, but the left hamstring strain shouldn't affect his passing mechanics much.

Who takes his spot?: Chad Henne relieved the ineffective and hobbled Gabbert in the fourth quarter. He's in Jacksonville for just this purpose -- to take over the show if Gabbert falters.

Shonn Greene, RB, Jets (head): Greene took a shot to the helmet in the second quarter Sunday and appeared to be woozy heading off the field. He then headed into the locker room with team trainers, only to surprisingly take the field again in the third quarter.

Carroll: Greene suffered what Arkansas would call an "injury above the shoulders." He was tested on the sidelines for concussion and returned, meaning he must have passed the tests. We'll have to watch to see how the Jets and Greene deal with this over the next few days.

Who takes his spot?: Bilal Powell

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