Black and Blue Report: November 24, 2009
by Will Carroll
The first thing to clear up is that it was Matthew Stafford that ran back on the field. It wasn't the coaches, but the medical staff didn't stop him either, so if this ends up being a bigger issue, there is some blame there. The result is good, but a meaningless win against a bad team really doesn't mean much in the longer term. Stafford's non-throwing shoulder is being described as "mangled" and it's clear that it was a dislocation. This is much like the situation with Sam Bradford, but on the non-throwing side. Stafford's time missed will depend on how much damage was done internally -- were ligaments, tendons, and the capsule stretched or torn? Early reports are that the shoulder didn't take much damage, but with a short week, it's unlikely he'll play against the Packers. There are other quarterbacks who have had problems with the off-shoulder and come back, but keeping Stafford upright is going to have to me even more of a priority if he comes back this season. Yes, that's a question right now.
Roger Goodell is playing the patriot card, bringing the U.S. Military in on the concussion discussion. Both the NFL and the military have a lot of problems with head injuries, and when you consider what the military is doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, I'm not sure that's a good comparison for the NFL: Safeties are doing the same kind of damage that bombs are. Warner's concussion -- and no matter what the nomenclature, he had some sort of concussion -- appears to be mild, though the Cardinals will be watching closely. With the division all but wrapped up, it's time for the Cardinals to protect Warner and figure out if Matt Leinart is anything besides fodder for Deadspin. While Warner is saying he'll play in Week 12, note that the Cardinals were very conservative with injuries at this stage last year.
Ben Roethlisberger and Charlie Batch
Mike Tomlin called Ben Roethlisberger's injury "concussion-oriented." While Goodell is moving towards the independent neurologist model I called for in Pro Football Prospectus a few years ago -- you're welcome, NFL -- Tomlin's off-hand comment shows us what might happen. As in Rugby, which also uses this model and had required time off after concussions, hiding the injury got to be a bit too popular. Roethlisberger's such an interesting case, given the problems he's had with his head on and off the field, plus descriptions of him as moody and forgetful from insiders. While he'll likely play this week, assuming he passes some cognitive tests, the Steelers are a bit worried that with Charlie Batch done for the season with a broken wrist, they don't have much in reserve. Dennis Dixon, who is perhaps better known for playing through a torn ACL in college than his quarterbacking, would be the backup.
Say it with me: He didn't get his "bell rung," as was said in the press conference. Marc Bulger suffered a concussion and will be monitored closely. Look, I'm as sick of talking about this, sounding like Debbie Downer every week, but this just keeps happening. Bulger's head will be tested Tuesday, but the more immediate problem is a leg injury that sounds pretty nasty. When you hear a player describing the injury as "burning" or "like a bite out of it," that's telling. I'm sure you're saying "Will, you always say players aren't credible sources on their own injuries." Let me clarify this. Players are terrible at diagnosing themselves, saying what's wrong or whether they'll play. They're great at describing or reacting to pain. No one knows more about Bulger's leg than Bulger. Watch any play -- one of my faves from yesterday was the great shot of Ray Lewis rolling his ankle and immediately grabbing at it, then looking around to make sure no Colts saw -- and you'll see reaction. Late word is that Bulger has a fractured leg, though no one seems to know exactly what's broken, or where. Remember, Steve Spagnuolo discussed a "groin-hamstring" strain. Kyle Boller may be getting more action over the rest of the season with Bulger likely headed to IR.
Ladell Betts and Clinton Portis
There's not much going right in Washington these days. Forget Harry Reid, I'm talking about the Redskins, where the running game is down to Rock Cartwright after a brutal, twisting knee injury gave Betts the full triad -- he's torn both his MCL and ACL, plus the associated meniscus damage. While an ACL injury takes about a year to come back from, with some variance between the time a player can play and the time he feels "full go," the triad tends to take even longer. At 30, the career backup may not be able to lose a step and continue. The Redskins don't expect Clinton Portis back soon, since he's still having severe vision issues and headaches as the result of his concussion. There's some discussion going on about the IR, though I'm told that move will only come if the team feels the need to sign another running back. There's not much depth or upside back there right now.
The Falcons are tipping that Michael Turner will be back at practice this week, with a chance of playing in Week 12. This after a solid performance from Jason Snelling. Not that there's a chance Turner isn't significantly better than Snelling ... or is he? Remember, it was LaDainian Tomlinson holding Turner back from showing that maybe, he was the better choice all along. Any high ankle sprain tends to take about four weeks to heal, but we've seen more and more players trying to come back before then. The case of Anquan Boldin is perhaps the best known and while the two players have different demands, it's hard to see how Turner will have better results here. He's not going to be 100 percent, and Snelling was relatively effective, so this move might make both poor fantasy options against Tampa.
Aaron Kampman and Al Harris
The Packers got the double whammy, losing two key defenders ahead of a short week. Both Aaron Kampman and Al Harris tore their ACL and will be done for the year. For Kampman, it could end his Packer career, given a lot of complex circumstances. In the immediate future, the team's just going to have to adjust, hoping that depth can handle things while the Packers cling to a playoff spot (They're tied for the last Wild Card spot in the NFC, though I didn't dig through the tiebreaker scenarios with six games left). Both players should be able to come back, even with Harris at 35, though it will be interesting to see how the new normal timeline of six to eight months for an ACL will play out here.
Bumps and Bruises:
Brett Favre's hip is about as serious as Eli Manning's foot. Annoying, yes. Debilitating, no ... Tony Romo had severe back spasms, necessitating a painkiller injection to "unlock him." This is said to be "not uncommon" by a team source and may speak to his longevity ... Marshawn Lynch's shoulder injury doesn't appear to be structural, but even if he plays, expect his workload to be down ... Brandon Jacobs was off the field at the end of Week 11, but made practice, so things look minor for whatever the knee problem was ... Cedric Benson's hip flexor is still an issue and his availability will be determined by Friday ... Steven Jackson has a lower back strain. While expected to play, this could affect his workload ... Ryan Grant had a stinger, but should be fine for the next game ... Reggie Bush gets an extra day to be ready for a huge Monday night game with the Pats. The Saints expect his knee to be ready ... Details are sketchy, but it appears Calvin Johnson injured his knee on that desperate last play of the game. Johnson has every skill but health ... Did anyone outside of Minneapolis know the Dome is now "Mall of America Field?" ... Sounds as if Chris Cooley is headed for the IR. He's not healing fast enough and the Redskins are going nowhere ... Chargers offensive tackle Jeromey Clary was playing on a bad right ankle. During Sunday's game, he tore ligaments in his left ankle. Now he's likely done for the season, though there's a possibility he could be back for the playoffs ... Ouch! Bills guard Eric Wood broke his tibia and fibula Sunday and had surgery. His season is done ... Skins guard Chad Rinehart broke his fibula and is done ... Brian Dawkins has a short week and a neck injury, a tough combo.