Eight weeks ago, the Vikings were undefeated and ranked No. 1 in DVOA. Now they're 6-6 and probably done. What went wrong?
14 Oct 2008
by Will Carroll
I read an article this 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 importantly, 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.
Manning's case is the most troubling because it shows just how dangerous this 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.
While the case of Peyton Manning's medical black ops is a clear violation of the spirit of the rules, Winslow's is a shade of grey. 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 where we know Vince Young was suicidal and what color panties Britney Spears is wearing on any given night. I have a bias to 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. At the same time, you can't count him out for the season.
Getting back to the Colts, they're also short in the backfield after a pair of injuries. They couldn't hide the fact that Joseph Addai strained his hamstring early in the game against Baltimore, and everyone saw Mike Hart blow out his knee on his longest run. Addai is expected to miss at least a week with a "significant" strain and Hart's likely ACL tear is said to be "significant." Gosh, Tony Dungy is a walking thesaurus in addition to a medical resource! While the Colts are going to smile and lie, here are the facts: Addai has a moderate, Grade II hamstring strain that will keep him out between two and four weeks. Given that he heals quickly and the location of the strain is in the belly of the muscle, Addai should be back towards the low end, though he'll likely share carries with Dominic Rhodes upon return. Hart's almost assuredly out for the season, a victim of the turf, but the Colts are awaiting imaging before pushing him to IR. The team is going to look at running backs to slot behind Dominic Rhodes and should bring in some no-names to try out for the one- or two-week stint.
Can Will Carroll resist making a joke involving Tony Romo's broken pinky and Jessica Simpson? Yes, but only because there's a comment feature here. Romo's fractured finger will prevent him from making accurate throws and will cost him a month, putting the Cowboys hopes for October firmly in the hands of Brad Johnson. If you quickly flip to Johnson's projection in PFP 08, you're not going to like what you see (unless you're an Eagles fan). Romo should be back in a month, maybe a week less, but his movement in the pocket is going to work against him. I spoke with a lineman in the NFL who said that they're all conscious of moving back towards the quarterback "so he doesn't smack us on the lid and do something like that. There's an invisible line where you just go down." Romo's finger will heal, but there will be some pressure on him to get back out there quickly unless Brad Johnson can hold the rope. We'll see. In addition, Felix Jones will miss at least two weeks after straining his hamstring. Jones was healthy through college, so there's no gauge on how he heels. Again, the state of the Cowboys will affect how aggressively they move him. Working in the favor of both men is the quality of the Cowboys medical staff and their relative lack of injury.
LaDainian Tomlinson had a nice Week 6, but then he gave us a "huh?" moment. "It felt the best it has all year," he said about his toe after the game. "The thing is, it was never getting worse." Um, L.T., last week, you said just the opposite. So knowing that we can't take Tomlinson's word for it, we have to just focus on his performance. The last two weeks show that he can be effective, if not fully effective, with the injury and that he'll surely play through it. I've been fixated on the bye week as where he might get past it, but the intervening games are each chances for him to re-injure the toe and make it bad enough that even two weeks of rest won't get him back to normal. If you're OK with the performance you've been getting from him the past couple weeks, that's what you're going to get at least through that Week 9 bye.
Willis McGahee left Sunday's game with a knee injury, and sources are again pointing to the Lucas Oil Stadium turf that also claimed Mike Hart and Marshal Yanda. The severity of the knee injury isn't known; the Ravens are awaiting imaging. Early word is that it's not "really bad, just bad." McGahee had offseason surgery on his left knee and knowing whether it's another problem with that knee or the other side is going to be key to understanding this. Either is bad, but the left would be worse. Given McGahee's inability to stay healthy in any way, shape, or form this season, it's safe to say that he's going to be in a committee going forward, though none of the committee worked well against the Colts.
The Bengals are letting Carson 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. 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 Saints teased us last week that Marques Colston could be back. While Jay Glazer 180ed us on Sunday, saying the Saints never intended to let Colston play, there was plenty of indication that it was not only a possibility, but that Colston had been cleared. There were caveats in the clearance, ones that Sean Payton came back to when he made his decision Sunday, but make no mistake about it: Colston could have played and was given gametime consideration. He and Jeremy Shockey, also coming back from surgery, are both expected back this week. Shockey will be more limited than Colston, but both will factor into the Saints' game plan as they prep for a big game with the Panthers, one where a slight edge or bad matchup could be key.
Willie Parker is expected back this week. I'll be watching the practice reports for confirmation ... Matt Hasselbeck is definitely out again next week. His knee isn't making progress ... In a bit of a surprise, reports have Jon Kitna heading to IR. I'll keep an eye on this ... Trent Edwards is expected back this week after his concussion ... Fred Taylor left after it was suspected he had a concussion, but he passed tests and returned to the field. This shouldn't affect him going forward ... Mike Walker will miss a couple weeks with an infected knee. It could be longer if it doesn't clear up and needs surgery, a la Manning ... Calvin Johnson took a big hit and said he had blurry vision. Who's to say, though suggestions he's soft are only going to be whispered louder. One insider tried to sell me on that this week ... I called Bernard Berrian a high-risk, high-reward play on Sunday. His connection with Gus Frerotte got you the reward if you had the guts to play him ... There's more going on with Laurence Maroney than just the shoulder, but the team doesn't seem inclined to push him ... Ladell Betts' knee issues have caused the Redskins to take a long look into Shaun Alexander. Yikes ... Sam Hurd is done for the year after re-injuring his ankle ... Ravens guard Marshal Yanda is done for the year after trashing his knee on the new Colts turf ... It's time to watch for PUP returns. Players on the PUP list can begin practicing this week. Some names to watch include Ryan Lilja, Cadillac Williams, David Tyree, Joe Jurevicius, Stephen Neal, and Justin Harrell.
24 comments, Last at 19 Oct 2008, 9:40am by Whatev