Black and Blue Report: December 17, 2009

Black and Blue Report: December 17, 2009
Black and Blue Report: December 17, 2009
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Will Carroll

Larry Fitzgerald

As Tom Petty said, the waiting is the hardest part. Things are seldom worse than that period between an injury to a star player and the MRI. It's like waiting for a baby. Fortunately, everything came out okay for the Cardinals, their fans, and for Fitzgerald. Instead of a torn ligament, the imaging found nothing more than bruising. There was likely some low-grade stretching (mild sprain, in medical terms) of the ligaments. Both the mechanism and the initial manual testing gave the Cards' medical staff reason to worry that Fitzgerald had a significant injury. Like most injuries this time of year, the record and the playoff chances will be a big factor in when Fitzgerald comes back. The Cards have hope and Fitzgerald has indicated he thinks he can play this week. The Cards have a good record of handling this type of situation and holding back players -- I'm looking at you, Anquan Boldin -- so the decision is going to be handled by the medical staff properly. It will also come very, very late so keep your options open.

Brian Westbrook

The Eagles have gone through all the right steps with Brian Westbrook, followed all the rules and new regulations, and haven't made a final decision about whether he'll return this week or at all after a pair of concussions. Still, the Eagles showed that the NFL still doesn't get concussions yet. First, a player coming back from multiple concussions after just a few weeks sends a bad message, even if the Eagles are playing for playoff position. Second, a press release discussing Westbrook's "special new helmet" was designed to show just how seriously this was being taken. The special helmet? It's a Schutt DNA, a helmet that has been in use in the NFL since 2005. It's a fine helmet, but hardly "special." It's new to Westbrook, but not new. The NFL's new policies are about winning the PR war, not real change, but they're failing at even finding good spin.

DeMarcus Ware

Speaking of multiple injuries, DeMarcus Ware is "50-50" to play this Sunday, according to Wade Phillips. Ware had what appeared to be serious neck injury last Sunday, but came out of it with nothing more than a sprain. He had a similar injury in the season opener and blames not wearing a neck brace -- a so-called "Cowboy Collar" like this one. I did an image search on Ware and didn't find any pictures where he was wearing a collar. That's hardly scientific but it's odd that he'd suddenly need one and worse that it didn't prevent a recurrence. Ware has played the whole season banged up, with a stress fracture in his foot and a fractured wrist, but has remained productive. The macho culture is certainly in play in Big D and Ware's lucky that he just had a scare last week and not something that left him unable to do important things like this.

Bruce Gradkowski

Essentially a backup, Gradkowski normally wouldn't rate more than a mention in "Bumps," but what he did last Sunday is so singular that it bears discussion. Gradkowski tore ligaments in not one, but both of his knees. Gradkowski injured his left knee while being sacked in the first quarter, then injured his right knee on the last play before halftime. Both injuries were MCL sprains, but it was the first injury that is the more severe. Gradkowski will avoid surgery -- most MCL sprains aren't repaired under current medical practices -- but it's unclear if he'll be able to play. He's definitely out this week and the Raiders will make a decision based on "the team's best interest" in the last few weeks of another season without the playoffs in Oakland. At just 26, Gradkowski should be able to heal up and come back, though his value is already marginal.

Kevin Smith

I hate writing about young players tearing an ACL. It's not that they don't come back; they do and predictably well. It's just that there's not much to add in most cases. With Kevin Smith, it's telling how the Lions have reacted. In saying they're worried about Smith being ready for the start of next season, they're telling us that it's more than just the ACL. It's likely an O'Donoghue's triad, which still puts Smith back before next season. Sure, he might not be 100 percent at the start of the season, but talk of him missing the season or being less than 100 percent all season seem a bit off-base. It's more likely he'll come back slowly with the normal "ramp up." People panicked when I talked about Marques Colston being less than 100 percent at the start of 2009, but he's not only gotten better, he was still productive at that point. Until I hear a reason why Smith won't follow that pattern, I'll expect to see him out there and for the Lions to not overreact when acquiring a backup.

Jeremy Maclin

The word "tear" continues to be the most confusing in sports medicine. People use the word without acknowledging that there are degrees of tearing, or worse, use the word "tear" and "rupture" interchangeably. I don't even mind if we standardize on "complete tear" but please, start noticing and calling people on this one. Jeremy Maclin is case in point when Andy Reid said in his press conference that Maclin had torn his plantar fascia. Actually, Reid said he'd torn more of his fascia, but the reporting was all about tear, without any modifier. A ruptured fascia would have been a season-ender without question because the foot would have been non-functional. More tearing is bad, though a podiatrist tells me that he thinks it's more likely that Maclin tore the scar tissue where the previous tear had been healing, leading to the initial pain reaction. While everything sounds like Maclin is out for this week, the dire predictions that came after the injury show that some simply don't understand the physical demands of football or make the effort to talk to people that do.

Justin Gage
Kenny Britt

The injuries to Justin Gage, who has returned from a fractured vertebrae after just a couple weeks off, and to Kenny Britt, who limped out of last week with a back injury of his own, have more to do with Vince Young than with them. Young has improved in many facets of the game, but he continues to throw a high ball, one we used to call a "medicine ball" in high school. Young doesn't seem to have the vision to predict when placing the ball is going to run a wide receiver into the path of danger and often makes his receiver extend for the ball. Young, according to a couple scouts, often makes the receiver turn or spin, leaving his back exposed for a hit. It's not intentional and there was some debate about whether it's even a learnable skill, but maybe the Titans might consider a bit more padding for their receivers if things don't change. Both are expected to play this week, with some limitations.

Colts Defense

Not to take anything away from Brandon Marshall's record-setting day on Sunday, but he did it against a Colts secondary that is more than banged up. Already shy three starters, the Colts took more injuries, even considering whether Reggie Wayne would need to go in at corner late in the game. (There's more proof for those wondering about Wayne's foot, by the way.) With Steelers fans blaming their fall on the loss of Troy Polamalu, I'd posit that the Colts are succeeding against greater adversity. With a short week, things don't set up well. Worse, the secondary might get more taxed with both Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis banged up. Less of a pass rush might lead to more coverage needed and that seemed to be the problem on Sunday. The Colts on the field simply couldn't keep up with either a really good wide receiver in Marshall or four- and five-wide sets, where someone would be able to come loose. Freeney's abdomen/groin/sports hernia issue (depending on the source) and Mathis' strained quad leave little in the way of rush. The injuries to pretty much everyone else in the secondary make going with a nickel or dime alignment nearly impossible. The biggest concern is with Antoine Bethea, who has a foot sprain, though it doesn't look as if Jerraud Powers will be back after suffering a moderate hamstring strain. Literally every defensive back on the depth chart is on the injured list, so how Larry Coyer compensates remains to be seen. One unexpected answer coming from a Colts source is more running in hopes of keeping the defense off the field.

Bumps and Bruises

Things look good for Vince Young. His mild hamstring strain plus a blowout game kept him from going back in, but early word from Tennessee has him back for Week 15 ... Things are much less clear for Mark Sanchez. His knee -- which I initially thought would be worse than the Jets have been letting on -- is iffy after missing a week ... Matt Schaub had a pretty nice day despite needing an injection in his non-throwing shoulder before the game. He's good, but always only one hit away from being out ... Matthew Stafford is out this Sunday as the Lions look to give his body, especially his shoulder, a break ... Jake Delhomme didn't return to practice on Wednesday as expected. Look for him to make it through a full practice before he gets his job back ... Mike Bell is expected back this week and should get his third of the carries back ... Jonathan Stewart has a toe injury to go with his Achilles issue. If it's turf toe, as rumored, he'll lose a lot of value ... Correll Buckhalter's ankle injury is "more serious" than the one he had one the other side earlier this season. We'll see if Knowshon Moreno gets the carries -- though he has an ankle sprain of his own -- or if Josh McDaniels will split them up among the masses ... Should I feel bad that almost no one missed me last week when my father did B&B, or proud? ... Late word out that Nate Burleson will be unavailable with an ankle injury ... Derrick Mason made a highlight play, staying up after taking a big hit and going for a long touchdown. He did it with a shoulder injury suffered on that hit. Watch to see if he practices later this week ... Zach Miller suffered his second concussion of the season on Sunday. We'll see how the NFL handles this situation ... We decided not to address Chris Henry's death in this column; if you wish to discuss his auto accident, the place to do that is here. Thanks.


35 comments, Last at 18 Dec 2009, 9:11am

#1 by chemical burn // Dec 17, 2009 - 11:05am

With Westbrook, I'm genuinely curious what you'd recommend - he's missed 7 weeks since his second concussion (I generally think of "a few" as you describe it as being three or four week) and, while they've intimated he could play the last couple weeks, they've kept him off the field.

I'd love to see him play, but I really like and respect him too much for them to rush him back and risk serious life-long complications. He hasn't played since October and he's not showing symptoms - what do you think is the best course of action?

Points: 0

#18 by Will Carroll // Dec 17, 2009 - 4:12pm

I'm not there and not a doctor, so I wouldn't recommend anything. I'm assuming that the Eagles doctors will advise what's best, but the inherent conflicts between player health and team needs are why I think this needs to be taken out of the team's hands.

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#22 by chemical burn // Dec 17, 2009 - 4:42pm

Oh - okay. Just the way your bit on Westbrook was written sounded like there were some red-flags about his return that made it seem inadvisable or hasty. I guess multiple concussions are the only red-fag necessary...

I've personally felt like the Eagles have handled Westbrook's return as well as possible, but maybe that only proves the need for independent doctors to be the ones making the final call...

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#2 by Paul R // Dec 17, 2009 - 11:24am

The Colts game this evening will be very interesting and fun to watch. Larry Coyer will certainly earn his paycheck tonight.

I'm iffy on the concept of the Colts running the ball to keep the defense off the field, although they have been running well lately. "Well" for the Colts, that is.

Perhaps another strategy would be to allow the game to become a shootout between Manning and Garrard. Regardless of how many points the Jags score, I'd put my money on Peyton.

Points: 0

#14 by Bobman // Dec 17, 2009 - 2:24pm

Interesting idea about the shootout, but I think it might hurt D morale--or literally hurt the D more to get caught up in a track meet. Yes, I think Peyton wins that shootout as well.

But if they slow the game down it doesn't have to be all runs. Manning can change his reads to look for the short route first on pass plays and just use it as an extended running game, 5-7 yards a shot. Chews up about the same clock, and if they DO need to go long for a score here or there, you'd have the Jags playing up all game against the short passes for Garcon to slip behind the coverage.

Now... if management decides to help individual O players pad their stats, like they have done in the past once the post-season is set, the shootout might become reality. Reggie, Dallas, Pierre all cross the 1,000 yard plateau, Reggie and Dallas hit the century mark for recs.

Damn, anything can happen, I guess. If only I could see it better than on a little window of my laptop in 2-minute clip increments!

Points: 0

#23 by doktarr // Dec 17, 2009 - 5:51pm

Yeah, color me skeptical as well. If the goal is to minimize the number of downs the defense has to play in a contested game, and your choices are:

1) Run the ball, lots of punts
2) Run the Colts' patented slow-down no-huddle, snap the ball with a couple seconds left every time, complete 75% of your passes, make lots of first downs, build a big lead

... I think the better option is self-evident.

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#3 by bingo762 // Dec 17, 2009 - 11:25am

Mike Sims Walker?

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#4 by Mansteel (not verified) // Dec 17, 2009 - 12:21pm

When I first read the phrase "O'Donoghue's triad", I thought, "Wow, I don't rememeber Neil O'Donoghue ever blowing out a knee. That's weird, especially with him being a kicker...and one who didn't celebrate like a Gramatica." Then I clicked on the link, saw that the reference was to a doctor, and decided that I should get out more.

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#5 by widderslainte // Dec 17, 2009 - 12:41pm


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#29 by Steve (not verified) // Dec 17, 2009 - 9:48pm

Indeed...he was the main reason I clicked on this article.

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#6 by moe // Dec 17, 2009 - 1:07pm

Dealing with migraines must be awful. Not knowing when they will strike or how long they will last.

Two aspirin and call me in the morning doesnt quite seem to cut it.

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#8 by bingo762 // Dec 17, 2009 - 1:16pm

WTF?!? Who has migraines for 3 straight weeks? Does he have a brain tumor or something

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#13 by Marcumzilla // Dec 17, 2009 - 2:00pm

It happens. If I only had headaches (in my case "chronic migraine variant with cluster features") for three weeks at a time I would be so happy I wouldn't know what to do with myself. I can usually deal with it well enough to work... but I'm sitting at a computer and don't have linebackers hitting me.

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#17 by Will Allen (not verified) // Dec 17, 2009 - 3:01pm

I've heard some people chronically afflicted with these sorts of headaches say that marijuana helps more than other treatments. If that is why Harvin tested positive, and he now has the treatment unavailable to him due to the NFL's policy, that would really, really, suck.

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#19 by Not Verified (not verified) // Dec 17, 2009 - 4:15pm

I believe LSD works for cluster headaches and migranes, too.

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#21 by Will Allen (not verified) // Dec 17, 2009 - 4:18pm

That might explain Hunter S. Thompson....

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#24 by anotherpatsfan // Dec 17, 2009 - 6:29pm

I have a hard time seeing how Harvin's inability to smoke dope sucks, but I guess I don't buy the medical necessity premise. To the extent that test found evidence of a dope "treatment", I am sure that would have come out before it was speculated in this thread. This bong-injected "treatment" is unavailable to him because marijuana is illegal in Minnesota or Florida or Indianapolis whether for medical or home entertainment reasons (it is legal for certain medical uses in about a dozen states); the only thing the NFL drug policy adds to the legal restriction is testing and conditions of employment. If the collectively bargained drug policy offends any player, they don't have to play -- it is a small price to pay to make that much coin, and there are legal alternative treatments. In any event, I cannot imagine either Harvin or any other NFL player has been prescribed marijuana for medical reasons.

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#25 by Anonymous234 (not verified) // Dec 17, 2009 - 7:01pm

Are you a doctor? Do you have constant migraines? No? STFU.

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#26 by anotherpatsfan // Dec 17, 2009 - 7:19pm

Wow, you must be a migraine suffering doctor. I think you will find medical opinion differs widely on the efficacy of marijuana for migraines. You might do some research on Harvin though. Harvin has reportedly had migraines since middle school (a fact of which the Vikings were aware), missed a couple of college games because of them, and has been treated for migraines -- presumably without medical marijuana but probably with pain medicine -- since middle school. Speculating that Harvin smokes dope to treat his migraines (or even does so on any regular basis)is just that -- speculation.

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#27 by Anonymous234 (not verified) // Dec 17, 2009 - 7:41pm

You're not qualified to do a literature review, but I'm qualified to point out that you're not qualified. Apparently this logic is lost on you.

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#28 by Anonymous234 (not verified) // Dec 17, 2009 - 7:44pm

(Also, excellent application of De Morgan's laws with your first sentence there.)

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#31 by Will Allen (not verified) // Dec 18, 2009 - 1:47am

Yeah, that was my point; when medical opinion differs, I have this plumb-crazy notion that people who are afflicted should have the option to try something that they think may relieve their pain, without having their chances for employment affected by a collective bargaining agreement.

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#7 by Paul R // Dec 17, 2009 - 1:07pm

From the FO front page:

Black and Blue Report: December 17, 2009
Will Carroll (the younger) retakes the reigns of Black and Blue, chastising the league's faux-stance on concussions and marveling at the adaptability of Indianapolis' defense.

Should be "reins," shouldn't it?

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#15 by Bobman // Dec 17, 2009 - 2:30pm


I applaud your unbridled enthusiasm for spurring FO on to greater proofreading.

I'd try to saddle you with more bad equine puns, but that would be tacky. I have to harness those punning urges just a bit. But hay, don't look so baleful, that wasn't the last straw.

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#9 by PatsFan // Dec 17, 2009 - 1:39pm

The buzz in the Boston media is that Brady is hurting a whole lot more than he's letting on. Any tidbits on that?

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#10 by pmiller42 (not verified) // Dec 17, 2009 - 1:41pm

Migraines can put you on your knees, and if he has cluster migraines, think of them as waves coming one right after another for days or weeks. Over the counter doesn't touch them, and most prescription medications make you drowsy, lethargic, and dizzy. I certainly would not want to have someone out there trying to catch a fast ball from the Minnesota quarterback when he isn't sure if he's even standing upright or not.

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#16 by Dr. Mooch // Dec 17, 2009 - 2:53pm

Migraines and cluster headaches are different conditions, although they may share some causes. There's really no such thing as "cluster migrainse," except in rare cases like the previous poster who has migraine headaches with some cluster features. Otherwise, yeah, most migraine meds would probably cloud the ability a bit - not to mention what the headache would do. If he's got cluster headaches, though, he should probably show up to the game. I know for a fact they keep the most effective treatment readily available on the sidelines.

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#33 by NRG // Dec 18, 2009 - 8:35am

The most effective treatment is a hot dog with mustard?

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#35 by peterplaysbass… (not verified) // Dec 18, 2009 - 9:11am

No, beer.

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#32 by AFireSnake (not verified) // Dec 18, 2009 - 6:04am

RE Ware: Cowboys Saints on Saturday, so Ware is 0-100 to play on Sunday. Well, here in Europe it is technically Sunday ...

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#34 by Jim Haug (not verified) // Dec 18, 2009 - 8:36am

Knowledgeable Steeler fans point more to the loss of Aaron Smith than the loss of Polamalu as the worst one for their defense. Smith is just as unique a talent, with considerably less notoriety. The pass rush lost significant inside push,and the run blocking has been able to exploit his replacement fairly well, especially in long yardage. The combination of losing the two special players on defense is the biggest reason why the Steelers are, like Wesley/Dread Pirate Roberts, mostly dead.

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