Our offseason Four Downs series continues with a division-by-division look at each team's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. In the NFC North, quality wide receivers and defensive backs are in short supply.
28 Sep 2005
I'm focusing on injuries, which is a good thing. You wouldn't want me talking about my fantasy teams. In my key league, I'm 0-3, having run into the top-scoring team two out of the three games and taking an absolute pounding at the hands of LaDanian Tomlinson last Sunday. I'm not losing faith quite yet, knowing that I drafted well and am just the victim of that combo of bad luck, bad scheduling, and good opponents so far. At least my team's not injured yet. Crap, I just cursed it, I bet.
Enough jabbering â€“ you're here for the injuries. I do want to talk a bit about the NFL's public service announcement on steroids, however. The NFL has gotten a free ride on its drug policy thus far, so it's smart that they beat baseball to the punch with a PSA. Still, this one makes about as much sense as some of the more opaque anti-smoking ads that seem created by Philip Morris. â€œDon't get caught in the dark?â€? Honestly, I had no idea what this commercial was for, why it had vanishing students in a school hallway, or if it was even supposed to be effective. It's a missed opportunity to educate and enlighten, as well as making a better public relations stance against performance enhancing drugs. That said, let's get to it:
Maybe we can replace the â€œJâ€“Eâ€“Tâ€“S, Jets, Jets, Jetsâ€? cheer with another one. I'd suggest â€œOâ€“Uâ€“Câ€“H, ouch, ouch, ouchâ€? or some other four letter word that â€¦ well, I'm sure Jets fans are quite familiar with those words this week. Let me start with another four-letter word â€“ O-V-E-R. As in, the season and perhaps career of Chad Pennington is over. Pennington came back in a matter of months from having his rotator cuff repaired by Jim Andrews. Now he's headed back to Birmingham after the surgery was torn apart by a pair of vicious tackles. Pennington came back into the game later â€“ after backup Jay Fielder was injured â€“ and showed that there was nothing left. He played on guts, and sometimes, even in football, guts aren't enough.
There remains a chance, ever so slim, that Pennington could return this season, and the Jets will resist putting him on the IR. Conservative treatment could improve him enough to play some, though it's clear that he's headed for another visit with Andrews's scalpel at some point. Rotator cuff injuries, especially those as messy as this one promises to be, are often career ending. Quarterbacks are not only left with weaker arms, but tend to lack the touch and feel necessary to succeed in the modern passing game. It looked like modern advances might have given Pennington a shot, if only he'd been given a bit more time.
As for Fiedler, he's got shoulder woes of his own. In the game only a short time, Fiedler replaced Pennington nearly perfectly â€“ he was ineffective and injured. A torn labrum, the thin tissue that lines the glenoid fossa, will likely need surgical intervention. Since backup QBs are a dime a dozen and there are freely available QBs like Jeff George and the once and future Jet Vinny Testaverde, Fiedler's more likely to return to the NFL as a coach than a QB.
Respect is done. Rodney Harrison ended his 2005 with a knee injury, something that we may see as an exit. Harrison was nonchalant about returning with a couple Super Bowl rings this season, and a year long rehab for a knee might be more than the 32 year old safety wants to go through. Most reports have the injury as a torn ACL; while that's the truth, it's not the whole truth. Harrison has the dreaded O'Donoghue's Triad, a tear of the MCL and meniscus as well as the ACL. That injury â€“ one of the five you meet in football hell that I wrote about in the book â€“ will make the rehab longer, cost Harrison just a bit more of his quickness, and make repeating that much more difficult for the Pats.
Losing Mr. Respect would be enough, so the Pats have to set themselves up as an underdog even more. Matt Light, the tackle that covers Tom Brady's blind side like no metaphor ever could, has a fractured bone in his lower right leg. The injury would be devastating to most teams, but at least through one game, Nick Kaczur played effectively enough to keep Brady upright and healthy. Light's fracture could be one of two bones â€“ the tibia (shin) or fibula. The tibia is load-bearing and would cost Light the rest of the season. If it's the fibula, modern techniques such as bone stimulation and pharmaceuticals could have him back by November. Light's right leg is the â€˜push leg' that allows him to get outside on speed rushes, so any problem there would force a change in the blocking scheme, cheating Corey Dillon over or shading the tight end.
We'll have a couple instances of â€œsubstitute fieldsâ€? on Sunday. New Orleans's situation is well known, and the Alamodome has hosted football several times. The conditions in Mexico City aren't as well known, so we called down to a friend, a sports medicine physician near Mexico City, for a report. â€œThat stadium should be fine,â€? he told us. â€œIt's used for soccer all the time, so I wouldn't expect any turf issues there. Mexico really wants this to look good.â€? That's good to know. Kurt Warner won't be testing the turf, however. He'll be watching from the high altitude sidelines, out at least a week after a Grade II strain of his groin forced him from the game on Sunday. Groin strains are not only painful, but for QBs, the most debilitating. QBs put more stress on their groins during dropback, need quick lateral movements for dodging rushers, and use the muscle in their deliveries. The injury also has a tendency to linger, especially if it is not allowed to fully heal. Josh McCown could do to Warner what Warner once did to Trent Green.
Isaac Bruce and the Rams seem to think that he can play through a turf toe injury. A painful, lingering injury, turf toe normally takes at least a month to come back from, especially for a player that will be stopping and starting on a turf field. Bruce initially reported feeling a â€œpopâ€? at the time of injury, something that suggests a significant tearing inside the toe. While the official line is still â€œdoubtful,â€? put me on the list as incredulous that Bruce would be able to go and that the Rams would take that kind of chance with a player at a position where they have depth.
The Jaguars are becoming endangered through a continued thinning of the herd. The latest Jag to roam the training room rather than the playing field is DE Reggie Hayward. Hayward was seen limping off the field, but the injury is not to his leg. Instead, Hayward aggravated a previous lower back injury and the swelling causes weakness and pain to radiate to his legs. Hayward, a free agent acquisition, was expected to increase the team's sack totals. Now, he'll be increasing the team medical staff's workload, one that's already among the highest in the NFL. The Jags season now rests on the shoulders of Mike Ryan and his team of trainers, therapists, and the associated team physicians and consultants.
Jay Glazer of FOXSports.com reported on Sunday that the groin injury suffered by Donovan McNabb was in fact a sports hernia. This confusing term â€“ more accurately called athletic pubalgia â€“ refers to a tear in the sheath that surrounds the muscle or to a tearing away of the muscle from the bone. Yeah, it's that painful. Men everywhere will flinch when I tell you that the main symptom is a radiating pain to the scrotum. The injury may be new to you, but only because of increased precision in diagnosis, not because these didn't happen before now as some have stated. Depending on McNabb's tolerance for pain, he could play through it, as it is unlikely to get worse. The fix is actually relatively simple, though surgical and something the Eagles hope could wait until the end of the season. The Eagles continue to deny any definitive diagnosis has been made, but team sources say that while McNabb insists he could play, they might sit him until after their bye week to see if rest and treatment can help him make it through a season that the Eagles hope to play deep into.
Unlike most sports leagues, the NFL doesn't have a multi-tiered injured reserve. You go on the NFL List and we'll see you next year, maybe. Even if there was a lesser length available, Takeo Spikes would still be out for the season. A ruptured Achilles tendon will push him out for the season as he has it reattached, then rehabs it in hopes that he won't have the recurrence that is seen occasionally, as in the case of Ronald Curry. Spikes is a pursuit linebacker so any loss of speed or quickness will diminish his effectives. The ascending salary he's assigned may have the Bills' capologists working overtime.
Just how bad are cramps? Anyone who has ever had one knows that for a moment, there's nothing else in the world. The muscle goes tight, almost hard and tends to lock up two joints, such as when the hamstring affects the hip and knee or when the calf locks up the knee and ankle. The causes tend to be multivariate, involving fatigue, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance. At risk of annoying my friends at Gatorade, the one most ignored factor is flexibility. Look at even speedy receivers like Chad Johnson, slowed regularly by leg cramps. They have become increasingly muscular and chiseled yet few do more than the half-assed stretches that football players have done since Pop Warner days.
Bumps and Bruises: David Akers is out for next week with a strained hamstring. I'm sure Andy Reid is kicking himself over sending Akers out for that kickoff, but not quite hard or accurately enough to activate himself â€¦ I have no idea if Michael King could survive a play in this condition. Can't you see the injury report listing â€œKing â€“ Out. Squished Like A Bugâ€? â€¦ Jeff Garcia is out of his cast and about a month away from the practice field â€¦ The whole left side of the Jags offensive line â€“ Mo Williams and Chris Naeole â€“ strained their MCLs and are likely to miss a week or two â€¦ Kyle Boller, Byron Leftwich, Trent Dilfer, and Boomer Esiason. That's the Jeopardy answer to the question â€œWho is upset about John Teerlinck's coaching?â€? â€¦ Anyone else wondering what Travis Henry popped positive for? â€¦ Is it Ben Roethlisberger's shoulder that's injured or is his lower back acting up again? â€¦ Poker players have a word for what the Steelers were doing putting Duce Staley in the game last Sunday: bluffing.
As always, feel free to email me, comment at FootballOutsiders.com, or just make faces at me in the comfort of your own home. Back to you, J.B. (Wait, that only works on TV.)
36 comments, Last at 03 Oct 2005, 3:41pm by Bob