Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
05 Nov 2009
by Will Carroll
Quarterbacks get hit. Try as they might at the NFL to keep them healthy, it's that simple fact that keeps quarterbacks in this column. Not just hits, but big nasty car-crash level hits. Jake Delhomme took one to the sternum, a shot that was so hard, for a few moments he couldn't figure out exactly what hurt. The hit was so hard that the Panthers medical staff sent Delhomme to the hospital for a CT scan to make sure that his heart wasn't injured and to see if his sternum and chest/rib complex was still protecting his heart and lungs. The sternum is a strong bone for good reason, one that's seldom injured in anything short of a devastating trauma (or CPR, an odd quirk). So after that, how much time does Delhomme miss? A couple days. He'll have the area padded, but he's going to get hit come Sunday and with each one, we'll have to just hope the doctors were right.
If a Packer gets turf toe, is it tundra toe? I shouldn't be encouraging Chris Berman (hi Chris!) but Aaron Rodgers is pretty banged up after a tough, physical game against the Vikings last week. On one side, he has a mild sprain of his foot and on the other a "mild to moderate" toe sprain that has been described as "like turf toe." Oddly, almost no stories said which was which. The sprained foot is his right (back) foot and the toe is on the left. Rodgers is a mobile guy, so this will affect him there, but he's played with the foot sprain and it hasn't appeared to affect his throwing. The Packers will work to minimize the problem, allowing him to heal up, with the expectation that he'll play this week. Some suggest he could be pulled if the Packers can get a lead on the Bucs.
I'll skip today's lecture about football and head injuries, since everyone else is giving the same talk. That's good in the long run, but for individual players and teams, there's not much there for them. Brian Westbrook is expected back for the Eagles this week after missing last week's game. He's passed all the tests and the team seems comfortable with his return. The interesting thing inside this is that the team thinks the time off helped with his leg injuries. If you'll think back a couple years, a week off did seem to really help Westbrook, so maybe a re-charge is in order here. Andy Reid seemed to indicate that Westbrook would be practicing more, which would be a big shift in how they manage him.
If nothing else went right last year, the Lions kick-started their revival first by firing Matt Millen, then by trading away Roy Williams. While Williams struggles to find the right page in Dallas, the Lions have some picks and a guy that is a clear No. 1 wide receiver. Calvin Johnson has missed time with a sprained knee, but he's back with the first-team offense and could help a struggling Matthew Stafford, who's coming back from his own knee problem. Both players will be watched very closely and handled conservatively; the Lions aren't a contender, but if the team is going to be in the future, they can't risk either man. One thing to note is that knee injuries for wide receivers tend to linger a bit and limit them in ways that may or may not be able to be adjusted for. With his size, Johnson should be, at worst, a red zone target.
Hmm. Anquan Boldin doesn't read this column, I'll guess, since he tried to play through his ankle sprain and it didn't work out. That shouldn't have been a surprise. More surprising is that the team let him do it. A couple weeks of trying and failing leads us to Week 9, where the Cards seem inclined to hold Boldin out a week, missing the Bears and letting them gameplan around him. Given that he's played, he can't be too far off and a week should make a significant difference for him. The Cards have been up and down, but still lead the NFC West, so having a healthy Boldin for the second half of the schedule could be a difference-maker.
I struggle sometimes whether to put a season-ending injury like the torn ACL suffered by Owen Daniels up here or just to note it in passing down in the Bumps. Look, Daniels is done for the season and will have some questions heading into 2010, when he will be coming off surgery. There's no question about that. About the only interesting thing here is that Daniels did this before -- in high school -- and came back fine. The Texans will miss him, especially in the red zone, as they reconfigure their offense ahead of a trip to see the Colts. Joel Dreessen will be the "starter," but he's much more of a blocker, meaning that James Casey would be the better fantasy pick up ... except Casey had his knee scoped on Monday and is going to miss a couple weeks.
Last time Ryan Clark played in Denver, he left his spleen and gall bladder behind. This wasn't a big hit, this came from inside him. Like many African-American males, Clark has sickle cell trait, a genetic disorder that can lead to sickle cell disease. In certain conditions, like being at altitude and during exercise, the trait can "exhibit," causing pain, shortness of breath, and splenic distress. Simple answer? Don't play in Denver. However, Clark has been cleared to play, with Mike Tomlin cryptically saying that there was more to the Clark situation than just the sickle cell issue. In fact, Santonio Holmes also has the trait, but says he's never had symptoms worse than shortness of breath at altitude. It's a scary story, but one that the Steelers seem to have a good, informed handle on. They are taking this opportunity to talk about the condition, which is at least some good coming out of something bad.
So much for the iron man streak. Joe Staley has started every game of his career, until now. He started Sunday against the Colts, but was rolled up on the first play of the game and, despite a knee brace, he came out with a sprained knee. The Niners aren't saying what's sprained, but the mechanism and the six-week timeframe suggests the MCL is the issue. Staley could come back for the end of the season, but the Niners' record is going to have a lot to say about that. Assuming he could come back in Week 16 or 17, the team might elect to just shut him down if the playoffs are out of reach. If they are still in the race, the opposite could be true and Staley could be pushed for a return a bit earlier. Barry Sims did a nice job of containing Dwight Freeney, so Alex Smith shouldn't be too affected by the loss.
The right tackle is somewhat ignored in the NFL. No one's making movies about them. Still, they're important and the Broncos will see just how much they miss Ryan Harris against the blitzes of Dick LeBeau. Harris has a "serious" injury to his fourth and fifth toes on his right foot. This is the "out" foot and key to both pass blocking and some of the quick moves in a zone blocking scheme. Denver's line has been very good, especially to the right, so Knowshon Moreno might be the loser in all of this. I'm sure Kyle Orton will be fine.
Nice article from Alex Marvez. I agree with his premise and have often thought about a value adjustment for AGL ... While others told you, right up to game time, that Andre Johnson wouldn't play, you knew he would. I'm assuming you read this column last week. What we said then about padding held true and will again this week for the Texans' top offensive threat ... Brett Favre's groin strain? Not serious, but dramatic ... Trent Edwards is expected back at quarterback after missing time with a concussion ... Darren McFadden is back running, but unlikely to be back in the lineup this week. He's still recovering from having his knee scoped ... Both Brad Hoover and Tony Fiammeta are injured, leaving the Panthers without a healthy fullback for their matchup with the Saints. If Hoover isn't available, there's been some discussion that Jonathan Stewart could lead block for DeAngelo Williams ... Anthony Gonzalez is not expected back this week for the Colts. His PCL is slow-healing and the Colts seem to be in no rush with him, oddly ... James Hardy is expected to be activated. He's coming off ACL surgery, so don't expect him to be 100 percent this season ... Nate Clements lost his starting job, then broke his scapula. Bad week. He's done for the regular season ... The Colts have a lot of defensive injuries, but the one to Kelvin Hayden may be the biggest (assuming Bob Sanders is healthy). His knee and head look to keep him out this week, which would leave a couple rookie corners to face Matt Schaub ... Ankle sprains are tougher on big guys, for obvious reasons. Haloti Ngata is a really big guy ... Tim Dobbins had an interesting feat on Sunday. I can't remember a player getting carted off with a knee injury, then returning to the game later. His sprain was very mild and he's expected to be available in Week 9.
27 comments, Last at 10 Nov 2009, 10:37am by DeltaWhiskey