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» Factors: Andre Johnson

One of the NFL's best receivers notched a -2.3% DVOA last year. Does a target-by-target breakdown show he was better than that?

03 Dec 2009

Black and Blue Report: December 3, 2009

by Will Carroll

Jamal Lewis

This one's scary and, perhaps, symbolic. Jamal Lewis was placed on Injured Reserve, not because of the ankle injury that sidelined him and not even because of the serious concussion he suffered when he came back last week. Instead, Lewis' MRI showed "changes" in his brain, the result of previous concussions. Anyone that's seen Lewis run knows that he's the prototype "pads down" runner. He's a bulldozer with legs, one that sticks his head out front and gets hit a lot. It looks as if all those hits and one last big one has ended Lewis' career. Lewis is 30 years old and with all the notice about head trauma going on, he's likely to be one that people watch closely. Is he going to be what John Kerry would term "the last man to die for a mistake" or the shuffling, mumbling symbol that the NFL waited too long to solve a problem that is fast turning into their equivalent of baseball's drug issues?

Brian Westbrook and DeSean Jackson

I'm really trying not to grind the concussion story into the ground, but week in, week out, it is the story in the NFL this year. As the league contemplates an 18-game schedule, they need to get the injury problem solved first or the only person that will really gain out of it will be me. Thanks, but I don't really need that much more to write about. Both Westbrook -- who is still experiencing symptoms and is getting closer to being shut down -- and Jackson are out for next week, but it seems like Jackson's symptoms are a bit less distinct. He describes "blacking out," which is an odd way of saying it. The hit from London Fletcher was hard (but legal) and "knocked out" would seem the much more common phrasing. Is Jackson trying to tell us something here, in that it was more like he was drunk? (I'm assuming here that Jackson, a young, successful male who went to a big state school, is familiar with drinking to excess on occasion.) Westbrook is easier to deal with, as he's simply slowly recovering from the cumulative trauma of multiple, second-impact concussions. That the team hasn't shut him down and that he hasn't done it himself tells you how much further we have to go.

Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger

Kurt Warner's still "foggy" while Ben Roethlisberger is still being watched for headaches. In other words, as late as Tuesday, both were experiencing symptoms from concussions after nearly two weeks. Warner made the mistake of being honest, saying that he would have hidden symptoms if he knew it would cost him time. Again, this shows the mentality of players and I'm not saying it's wrong, just that we don't appreciate the damage they're taking, even in return for cash by the barrowful. Roethlisberger's situation is more interesting. While it seemed that the Steelers held him out as a precaution after he experienced exercised-induced symptoms (headache and nausea, in this case), reports have it that Roethlisberger was not cleared to play. Both players will be monitored closely this week, but both have been called out publicly even while experiencing symptoms. You'd think that the atmosphere would be more tilted towards caution, but both teams are fighting for the playoffs.

Matt Ryan and Michael Turner

Thanks to CBS, there's no question about what's wrong with Matt Ryan. I wish I could thank the cameraman who got the shot of Assistant Trainer Michael Blankenship working a tape job that's done for turf toe. Worse, it appears that the ligament might be compromised and that surgery could be on the horizon. Ryan headed to Charlotte to meet with specialists early this week, though it appears that the Falcons think surgery can be avoided for now. That significant sprain doesn't augur well for Ryan's quick return. Turf toe lingers, even when it's a mild case, so no matter the tapings, the special shoes, the metal shanks, or whatever other voodoo that the team's medical staff can conjure up, it's still going to come down to a function and pain management issue. We're looking at weeks. Complicating the issue as well as informing it is the re-injury of Michael Turner. His high ankle sprain was not only re-injured, but sources tell me "it's worse, a lot worse." Turner didn't practice Wednesday, though the team is still saying Turner could play this week. His return quickly would indicate that the team is willing to risk him to make the playoffs. Without Ryan and Turner, the team is going to struggle, one would think, and their playoff status could end up as the most significant factor in their return timelines.

Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott

Notice the name that's not up there? That's right, Larry Johnson might end up the healthiest back that the Bengals have, making the move to pick him up on the cheap a savvy move by the maligned Mike Brown. Johnson's not a long term answer, but look back at the Cedric Benson signing and you might have said the same thing. Johnson's workload wore him down, while Benson at least had the talent left in him. Benson's not a star, but he's good enough when Carson Palmer is healthy enough. Late word is that Benson not only practiced on Wednesday, but that he did so without any limitations. The bruised hip -- which is really the best description of his issue -- appears to have cleared up for motion, though there's still some worry about how it will respond to direct contact. At the same practice, Bernard Scott was still on crutches and in a walking boot with a severe case of turf toe. He's out for this week, leaving the backup role and some carries for Johnson.

Eli Manning

When it came out this week that Eli Manning had a stress reaction in his cuboid bone, I said on twitter that it's a common injury in ballerinas. People took that as an insult or that I was calling Manning soft.* No, it's a fact and when it comes to foot injuries, few know more than ballerinas. More confusing is the fact that a stress reaction is something new, seen more with modern imaging techniques. It's essentially the start of a stress fracture. Imagine if you were standing there looking at a board with weight being put on it. Eventually, you'd see some changes, some cracks, and then failure. Manning is at that early stage, which tells you how closely the team is monitoring his foot. The stress reaction is clearly caused by changes in his gait as he tried to compensate for the plantar fasciitis. There's a delicate balance - not unlike ballet - between keeping him healthy and keeping the team effective and in the playoff chase. The medical staff is going to have to be en pointe with this one through the last five games.

(*They also pointed out that I was comparing Manning to females. Fact is, I wasn't sure what name refers to a male ballet dancer, aside from "male ballet dancer." Turns out there isn't one.)

Bumps and Bruises:

Jake Delhomme is likely out next week and perhaps beyond. The broken finger saves a little face for him ... Julius Jones will be back at practice, but he's still unlikely to play this weekend ... Clinton Portis has not been cleared to play yet. He'll need independent clearance before the NFL allows him back. Yes, that means what you think it does ... Then again, Jason Campbell "blacked out" and there's no talk of his being treated under new concussion guidelines ... Reggie Bush's knee is still a problem, but Saints sources say his work ethic in dealing with it is the bigger problem ... Noticed anything different about Dallas Clark this year? I wouldn't have known he was wearing the new Xenith helmet if I hadn't been told ... Here's a scary note on just how hard players are hitting. One injured player was recently noted to be two inches shorter than he had been at the Combine. An exam showed "severe compression of spinal discs" though he was asymptomatic ... Don't forget: The Carroll Guide to Sports Injuries would make an excellent stocking stuffer for the people in your life that deal with sports.

Posted by: Will Carroll on 03 Dec 2009

37 comments, Last at 05 Dec 2009, 10:16pm by PatsFan

Comments

1
by DGL :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 1:28pm

The article you linked on Ben doesn't say he wasn't cleared to play, but rather Dr. Maroon "suggested" he not play. Another article in the Trib says that he "recommended" that Roethlisberger not play; I would think that if Dr. Maroon categorically did not clear him, the articles would have said that he "did not clear him to play," rather than using the more-fuzzy terms. (Given that Dr. Maroon is the Steelers' team neurosurgeon, I would think he would have the authority to not clear him.)

ISTM that your first statement -- the Steelers held him out as a precaution -- is closer to what happened.

16
by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 5:08pm

Seriously, the guy's named Doctor Maroon? Did they find him in a Bugs Bunny cartoon?

17
by Will Carroll :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 5:09pm

Except that's not the case. The Steelers are playing word games, but did not have clearance to put Roethlisberger in.

21
by DGL :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 5:26pm

If it's true that the Steelers didn't have clearance to put Roethlisberger in, then bully for the independence of the team neurologist, holding out the starting QB in an important game against a division rival. But if that's the case, then I have to agree (crosscommenting) with the Scramble guys giving Tomlin the Martz award for the week -- because "does not have clearance to play" should mean "is standing on the sidelines in street clothes", not "is suited up and will go in if both Dixon and Palko are hurt."

2
by White Rose Duelist :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 2:59pm

Actually, both danseur and ballerino are valid terms for a male ballet dancer.

7
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 3:49pm

I believe Kramer once fed a large can of ballerino to a horse named Rusty, causing the horse to have horrible gas.

10
by NRG :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 4:14pm

That was Beefarino, which might actually be a good name for male ballet dancers too.

12
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 4:40pm

It's also a delicious cuisino, fit for a king and a queeno.

24
by Bobman :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 6:19pm

I wonder if they serve this at the Beefstro, the "restaurant" at the DE gambling complex Tanier went to a few weeks ago....

8
by Paul R :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 3:53pm

With all of the dry, tongue-in-cheek humor in sports commentary, it's natural that people would take a comparison between Eli Manning and a ballerina as a shot against his masculinity.
With respect, "danseur" isn't much more macho, and "ballerino" sounds like an Olive Garden entree.
Perhaps "ballet dancer" would have been best.

Better yet, maybe a stress reaction in the cuboid bone is an injury common to ninjas! Fearless ninja assassins who strike terror into the hearts of their adversaries!

11
by Joe T. :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 4:20pm

Unstoppable? Super-Bowl Champion Ballerino Eli Manning is. Except when he gets a boo-boo in his widdle footsie.

28
by The Ninjalectual :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 7:18pm

HAHAHAHA!!!

"Just look at that pumpkin."
-John Madden, looking at the moon.

31
by Swann (not verified) :: Fri, 12/04/2009 - 3:02am

Danseur is the most-used term though it is old-fashioned.

In a 1992 study, Hamilton and Hamilton concluded that of 61 common sports only Football is more physically demanding than Ballet. I cannot find the original citation, so I don't know what metric they used, but I suspect it is injury rate. In large professional companies, 50% of dancers miss at least one performance per season. In the New York City Ballet on any given day, 17% of the company cannot rehearse, perform or take class because of injury. I have performed with herniated disks in my back and neck, torn ligaments in my ankle and once in a cast 10 days after breaking my fibula. If you don't, you are carrion. Most dancers retire in their early thirties. I left at 29. My body hurt and there were plenty of healthy young vultures who wanted in.

Now, imagine what do you have to do to your body to support this rate of injury without ever once being run over by an armored, 250 pound opponent running full bore. Ballet is f****** hard.

To me, the ballerina analogy is pretty apt.

(Interesting stat I found. In jumping sports, the rate of ACL injuries is generally between 1% and 8%. In Ballet the rate is 0.2% to 0.4%. See

http://www.eorthopod.com/public/patient_education/9982/ballet_dancers_at...

for the article. Why? "Ballet dancers perform more than 200 jumps in a daily 90-minute technique class. The rigorous training is enough to prevent ACL injuries. This is true even though load on the knee during jump landings in dance can put up to 12 times the dancer's body weight in force on the knee joint." And no one is buckling your knee from the side.)

I did find two wives in Ballet class. They are both beautiful, as are all the girls in class, with ugly, battered feet.

3
by andrew :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 3:13pm

Still no return for Antoine Winfield?

4
by peterplaysbass (verified?) (not verified) :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 3:16pm

It's hard for me to believe that a player compacted two inches. Not that I don't believe you to be honest, just that it's amazing that that can happen.

Is Winfield healthy, or not? Reports keep conflicting.

18
by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 5:12pm

On the other hand, it'd be very easy to believe a player was two inches shorter than his college advertised him as.

29
by dmb :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 7:27pm

Sure, but Will wrote "at the Combine," not "in the programs from his college games."

32
by Will Carroll :: Fri, 12/04/2009 - 11:04am

Yes, to be clear, this is from the Combine height to a current, pre-surgical measurement.

5
by andrew :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 3:17pm

RIP Foge Fazio, longtime NFL assistant including two stints as defensive coordinator with the Vikings ('96-'99) and Browns ('01-'02). He was also head coach at Pitt from '82 to '85.

6
by zlionsfan :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 3:40pm

I think it's amazing that there are so many concussions around the league now and there is still serious talk about expanding the schedule.

Then again, the NHL still thinks that two- and three-game suspensions are deterrents, and the last I knew MLB still let you put a suspension on hold until your team traveled to New York so that your appeal could be heard then, so it's not like the only league in a cloud of wtf is the NFL. (To be more accurate, the NHL generates so much wtf that it should actually be packaging it and selling it to the other league in case they run low. Even if we're only talking about injury-related wtf.)

9
by drobviousso :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 3:58pm

1)I saw the ballerina comment and responses when you posted them. I think those offended by the gender implications are particularly silly. If an male NFL'er was diagnosed w/ breast cancer and you said it's common to middle aged women, that wouldn't (shouldn't) be offensive, and this is sort of the same thing.

2)I've had multiple concussions and never lost consciousness. I have experienced short term memory loss that is probably like blacking out from alcohol. I remember making fun of the bump on my best friend's forehead, and then I was aware I was sitting on a bench in a different part of the room. I was told he head butted me, but I didn't have any memory of it. Strangely, I've never had memory loss from drinking, or a hang over, even though I have on many occasions drunk enough to get really plastered.

3)Do people think the concussion injury rates are up this year, or is it just a case of the reporting rates going up this year with the increased scrutiny?

13
by reinhard (not verified) :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 4:48pm

Blacking out from alcohol is associated mostly with the highest RATE your BAC increased by, not the highest level of BAC

15
by dryheat :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 4:55pm

Any chance you could e-mail that to me 20 years ago?

19
by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 5:16pm

You probably would have forgotten it by now, anyway.

"Here's to beer...the cause of, and the solution to, all of lifes problems!"
- Homer Simpson

22
by nojo :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 5:51pm

Nice Simpsons quote, but this one is more applicable:

Homer: Oh! And how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain. Remember that time I took a home wine making course and forgot how to drive?
Marge: That's because you were drunk!
Homer: And how!

20
by Error (not verified) :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 5:22pm

Blacking out from alcohol is also a inherited genetic trait. If you have never blacked out in spite of drinking chances are you can't.

23
by BostonHawk (not verified) :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 6:03pm

I got a concussion playing football when I was 12. I don't think I lost consciousness, but there's a permanent 60 second gap in my memory. One minute I was lining up for the kick off, the next I was kneeling on the ground with people standing around me. I don't remember the in between. I would certainly describe this as a blackout.

25
by Bobman :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 6:29pm

That was a blackout. The fact that it was so small yet you still remember that it happened is interesting. I am guessing you have a pretty good memory in general and so this stands out as a real blip. For me too.

Shiiiiit, 21 years later I am still trying to figure out how I woke up in a CAT-scan machine early one morning in a NYC hospital. I lost about 6 hours memory in total and even hypnosis never brought it back. (Funniest part: I recall the neurologist asking me who the president was. I had no idea and knew that was a bad sign. But I told him I knew who the veep was and that it was embarrassing, but couldn't quite say why: Dan Quayle. We both laughed at that, but he was the only one in on the joke at the time. I could rattle off phone numbers, SSN, addresses, etc--stuff that was embedded in my LT memory, but had no idea what day it was.) At this point, who gives a damn, but I am still pretty curious about what happened. You see, my groceries got home okay, my watch and wallet were still on me, but my knuckles were bloodied beyond belief (as well as my head).

27
by Still Alive (not verified) :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 6:57pm

When I was 16, maybe just 17? I took a apparently nasty hit in a hockey game. Laid concussed on the ground for a few seconds, got up and skated back to the bench and played the rest of the game. Even got a goal. Then I drove home and did god knows what before going to bed.

When I woke up in the morning I remembered almost nothing after the moment I got hit. It was like I had fallen asleep the second I had gotten hit and I was fairly confused as to why I wasn't still at the arena and the game wasn't still going on.

Scary stuff, though at the time I didn't think twice about it and went on my merry way, concussing several others over the years.

14
by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 4:52pm

I was very glad to see the Straight Dope get linked.

26
by Bobman :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 6:35pm

Will,

Are you suggesting collisions have shortened a player by two inches via "severe compression of spinal discs"? That does not sound right to me. I say it was primarily due to extreme weight lifting. In the course of a 2-hour workout, a big man can put 10,000 lbs of pressure on his spine mainly with dead-lifts, squatting, and mil presses. Do that daily for a couple years, in-seasonand out, and I imagine it makes you shorter. Could explain why he was asymptomatic (I assume you refer to concussion symptoms). Hell, enough head-on collisions to shorten a man by two inches would probably render his brains into mashed potatoes.

That, or they made a mistake at the combine. I know somebody f-ed up when they measured Flutie at 5-9.

33
by Will Carroll :: Fri, 12/04/2009 - 11:05am

Good point on weights. The asymptomatic reference was to his back.

30
by PatsFan :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 11:35pm

Anything on Vollmer (or any of the other 17 players on NE's "questionable" list)?

34
by EagleDad (not verified) :: Fri, 12/04/2009 - 2:15pm

My daughter is a competitive gymnast, and was just diagnosed with a stress reaction in her foot caused by flipping and landing incorrectly on the beam. Her treatment is 3-4 weeks in a boot (rigid sole to support the foot). I suspect that Eli will need at least that long for his foot to heal, but won't get to rest until January.

For concussions, I don't think that there are more concussions this year, but rather more reporting and awareness by the league and the media.

35
by Subrata Sircar :: Sat, 12/05/2009 - 5:03am

EagleDad opines:
-----
I don't think that there are more concussions this year, but rather more reporting and awareness by the league and the media.
-----

It's not clear to me if that's better or worse. On the one hand, it's scary to think that this many brains have been getting scrambled every year. On the other hand, if there really have been more this year, there's some chance that it's going to keep getting worse, as players get faster, stronger and have more money on the line pushing them to go back out when they're hurt.

36
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Sat, 12/05/2009 - 8:09am

I've never seen a response to someone else done that way, but I think it's very elegant.

Back to the task at hand, I think it's more likely the case that, as you said, this many brains have been getting scrambled all along. The bigger/faster/stronger issue might also be at play, but just from a gut feeling, it seems like nobody really gave a crap about concussions in football until a few years ago, when guys like Mike Webster started showing up with severe brain damage. That right there tells me this was going on at least as far back as the 1970s (when Webster played).

I'm inclined to agree with EagleDad that the rise in detection is at least partially what's fueling a perceived rise in cases. That would be similar to the mysterious rise in autism in the past few years.

37
by PatsFan :: Sat, 12/05/2009 - 10:16pm

Pats have released their "out" list:
WR Julian Edelman
FB Fred Taylor
DB Sean Springs
DB Brett Lockett
OT Sebastian Vollmer