Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

18 Dec 2017

Injury Aftermath: Week 15

by Andrew Potter and Zach Binney

Thanks to staff writer Zach Binney's analysis of NFL injury data, we are now able to provide more detailed injury return (number of games missed) and recovery (number of weeks limited in practices or games) estimates based on historical data for select injuries. These estimates also consider the position of the injured player. Details of our methodology are available here.

As the potential playoff field narrows, we begin to shift our focus toward the teams remaining in contention.

Raiders Left Tackle Donald Penn -- Foot (IR)

Raiders offensive tackle Donald Penn was injured in the first half when teammate Kelechi Osemele rolled onto his leg, and did not return to the game. Ian Rapoport reports today that Penn will have foot surgery this week, and will miss the rest of the season. Though the exact injury is not specified, it should not affect his offseason -- but Penn's first missed game since 2007 is a bitter end to a disappointing season in Oakland. We have stated before in these articles that foot injuries are a mixed bag, and Penn is unfortunate that his injury falls into the very small group (under 20 percent) severe enough to cause significant missed time.

Steelers Receiver Antonio Brown -- Calf

Antonio Brown's first-half injury against the Patriots was the subject of much concern and conjecture last night. Variously reported as a bruise or a tear, Brown's hospital visit raised concerns about more serious ailments (such as compartment syndrome) which might require surgical intervention. Instead, Brown's injury appears to be a relatively straightforward calf strain, though it is odd to see it reported as a partially torn calf muscle. While technically correct -- all strains and sprains are degrees of tearing in the fibers of the muscle, tendon, or ligament concerned -- the "tear" wording is usually reserved for more severe injuries than Brown's purported two-week absence would suggest. The Steelers expect to have Brown back for the playoffs.

Our numbers concur. Only about a third of calf injuries to wide receivers cause them to miss any time, but Brown's injury (worse than a minor strain but not as bad as a full tear) appears to fall into that group. Only about 10 percent of calf injuries keep wide receivers out for more than three weeks, so assuming the Steelers get a bye Brown should be back for their first playoff game. Typical recovery times are one to three weeks, so those reports of Brown being back and fully ready for the playoffs also seem justified.

Backup running back James Conner suffered an MCL sprain, with the severity to be determined by MRI scan. The vast majority of running backs with an MCL sprain miss at least one game, and about a third miss more than three weeks. Typical recovery times are four to six weeks. Assuming the Steelers secure a bye, their first playoff game will be four weeks from now; if Conner's sprain isn't too severe it's quite possible he'll be back at 100 percent for that game.

UPDATE: In a surprise move, the Steelers have announced that Conner will have knee surgery this week and placed him on injured reserve. The Steelers are expected to sign a replacement this afternoon (Tuesday), but no specific replacement has been named.

Chargers Linebacker Denzel Perryman -- Hamstring

Inside linebacker Denzel Perryman strained one of the tendons on his hamstring against the Chiefs, and is currently considered "week to week". It is unlikely that Perryman will be able to return during the regular season, but a playoff return is possible if the Chargers make it into the postseason. Unfortunately our database does not differ between hamstring muscle and hamstring tendon injuries, so our forecasts here might be off. About half of hamstring injuries to linebackers cause them to miss a game, and about a quarter keep them out three or more weeks. Combine this with the not-encouraging "week to week" label and it's possible Perryman could miss the start of a Chargers postseason run. Typical recovery times are one to four weeks.

Defensive lineman Corey Liuget suffered a Grade II PCL sprain, and is in the same situation: his regular season is probably over, but he might be able to return if the team advances. We do not have enough known PCL sprains in our database to add projection information here, as isolated PCL sprains are quite rare relative to other knee ligament sprains.

Reserve halfback and special teamer Austin Ekeler has a broken hand, and will be placed on injured reserve.

Patriots halfback Rex Burkhead -- Knee

Rex Burkhead suffered a knee injury during Sunday's game against Pittsburgh, but initial fears of an ACL tear proved unfounded, and his injury is being treated as a knee sprain. The most common knee sprain in our historical data is to the MCL, so we'll assume this is Burkhead's issue. About one-third of players miss more than three weeks and typical recovery times are four to six weeks. With the Patriots on a bye, their first playoff game will be four weeks from now, so if Burkhead's sprain isn't too severe it's quite possible he'll be back at 100 percent for that game. This accords with the general consensus that Burkhead may miss time over the next couple of games, but should be healthy for the playoffs.

Jaguars Receiver Marqise Lee -- Ankle

Marqise Lee apparently suffered a mild high-ankle sprain against the Texans, but the team reportedly expects to have him healthy for the start of the playoffs. Ankle sprains are a bit trickier for wide receivers than other positions. Typical recovery times are one to five weeks. Around two-thirds of sprains cause receivers to miss at least one game, while about a third cause them to miss three or more weeks. Lee also suffered a high-ankle sprain back in August, so that history adds some concern here. Assuming the Jaguars don't secure a first-round bye, at this point it's simply unclear whether he'd be fully fit for their first playoff game. An MRI may clarify the details of Lee's injury, and with it his postseason chances. Even if the sprain is mild, expect Lee to miss a week or two before the playoffs to rest the injury.

Edge rusher Dante Fowler left the game with a sore hamstring, but was able to return.

Monday Night Update

Buccaneers linebacker Adarius Glanton suffered a horror double leg break -- displaced fractures of both his tibia and fibula -- and will require surgery. He should be able to make a full recovery during the offseason, but will obviously not play again this year.

Receiver DeSean Jackson, tight end O.J. Howard, and guard J.R. Sweezy were all in protective walking boots after the game, with Jackson also aided by crutches. All three suffered ankle injuries, as did rookie safety Justin Evans. Tight end Cameron Brate suffered a knee injury. Safety T.J. Ward was evaluated for concussion symptoms and removed from the game, with no further update yet on his status.


The following players were removed from their respective games with concussion symptoms and enter the league protocol:

  • 49ers receiver Aldrick Robinson
  • Eagles cornerback Patrick Robinson
  • Giants receiver Tavarres King
  • Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams
  • Packers receiver Davante Adams
  • Saints guard Larry Warford
  • Seahawks linebacker D.J. Alexander

Other Injuries

Bengals safety George Iloka and offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi both left Sunday's blowout defeat with shoulder injuries, while backup linebacker Jordan Evans left with an arm injury. Ogbuehi was listed on the injury report with a shoulder injury prior to the game, so his ailment may be an aggravation of an existing condition. No news is yet available for any of these players.

Bills cornerback E.J. Gaines injured his knee against the Dolphins and was replaced by Shareece Wright. The exact nature of the injury is not yet public, but it will probably be subject to an MRI scan today. Receiver Kelvin Benjamin has been playing through a meniscus tear, and news broke today that he will have surgery at the beginning of the offseason.

Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian suffered a partial dislocation of his left shoulder on Thursday night, and has been placed on injured reserve. The team would prefer to replace him with Paxton Lynch, but that depends on Lynch's own health after he suffered an ankle injury during his previous start in Week 13. If Lynch cannot play, Brock Osweiler would return to the starting lineup.

Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea left Sunday's game with a knee injury, returned, then left again for good. Linebacker Karlos Dansby suffered a calf strain. Backup receiver and punt returner Brittan Golden fractured his arm, and will be placed on injured reserve.

Cowboys offensive tackle Tyron Smith suffered a knee sprain on Sunday night when a Raiders defender rolled into his leg during a play. The severity of the sprain is not known, but Smith may be able to finish out the season if it is relatively mild. Defensive end Benson Mayowa injured his back.

Dolphins safety T.J. McDonald injured his shoulder against Buffalo, and will have an MRI scan on the injury today. Initial reports indicate that the injury is probably mild.

Giants safety Landon Collins played on Sunday despite aggravating his nagging ankle injury in Week 14. He did not finish the game, and may be held out of the team's final two games to avoid further injury. Linebacker B.J. Goodson has also been battling an ankle injury, and also did not finish the game after aggravating his injury. Goodson has only played two games in the past two months due to the injury, and also looks likely to miss further time.

Lions guard T.J. Lang was listed as questionable ahead of Saturday's game against the Bears, and was unable to finish the contest. The Lions have a slightly extended week ahead of their game against the struggling Bengals, so Lang is slightly more likely to play this week than he would otherwise be.

Packers linebacker Nick Perry injured his ankle against the Panthers and did not return. The severity of the injury is not yet public, but Perry's status for Week 16 may hinge on tonight's Falcons-Buccaneers game. A Falcons win would eliminate the Packers from the playoffs, and reduce the incentive for Perry (and others) to play through existing injuries.

Panthers backup receiver and special teamer Russell Shepard injured his shoulder and did not return against the Packers.

Rams linebacker Mark Barron injured his knee and did not return against the Seahawks. Some early reports suggest that the score was a factor in the decision to keep Barron out of the game, and that he could have returned if required. He is not currently expected to miss further time.

Ravens receiver Jeremy Maclin injured his knee against the Browns. Though head coach John Harbaugh stated after the game that the injury did not look serious, Maclin will have an MRI scan today as a precaution.

Redskins linebacker Ryan Anderson sprained his knee against the Cardinals and did not return. Anderson was already listed on the injury report with an ankle injury, and the former might be a consequence of the latter. Anderson will have tests today to determine the injury's severity.

Seahawks special teamer and nickel cornerback Justin Coleman injured his chest on punt coverage and did not return to the game. Tight end Nick Vannett suffered a shoulder injury. Pete Carroll usually addresses the team's injuries on his Monday radio appearance, but until then no news is available on either.

Titans cornerback Logan Ryan injured his ankle in San Francisco. Receiver Rishard Matthews was also hurt on a collision while making a third-quarter reception, but did return to the game.

Vikings receiver Jarius Wright hurt his foot against the Bengals and did not return. As noted above, foot injuries are a real grab bag. Historically 40 percent of these injuries have caused wide receivers to miss at least one game; about 20 percent cause them to miss more than three weeks. Typical recovery times are one to six weeks. Assuming the injury isn't too severe it seems likely Wright will be able to play in the Vikings' first postseason game, but it's harder to guarantee he'll be 100 percent.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 18 Dec 2017

15 comments, Last at 19 Dec 2017, 6:25pm by jtr


by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 6:24pm

Not directly related to this week's games, but there was a report the other day Andrew Luck was going to be facing biceps tendon surgery. I find this particularly interesting, as I had that exact surgery 32 days ago.

I can carry an empty mug in that arm now, but, if I fill it up, it's too heavy to carry along any distance. So, good luck with your rehab, Andrew.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 6:51pm

What the hell is going on with Luck? Has this injury been there the whole time, or is this something that was done in a rehab period gone spectacularly bad?

by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 10:44am

The shoulder is a complex place, and I'm guessing he's been beaten up enough behind the tinfoil strips the Colts have referred to as an "offensive line" that there are loads of things going on. They probably diagnosed his shoulder injury as one thing and discovered later there were other issues; the rotator cuff is a bunch of various muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and I could see it being easy to miss your diagnosis if you worked for a team that appears to be spectacularly incompetent.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 12:19pm

It just slays me that a Stanford grad, whose dad was very familiar with the downside of an NFL career spent with a lousy owner, risked a career with 300-500 million in earning potential by being hitched to an owner whose idea of fun is drving around intoxicated with a briefcase full of cash and illegally obtained narcotics, without Bill Polian as a buffer. E-freakin'-gads.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 1:07pm

The thing about the whole idea of a mis-diagnosis is this should be easy. I went to the doctor, got an MRI, and the doctor showed me the result and the next appointment. The bicep has two connecting tendons, a long one and a short one. He showed me the long one and the dark mass on the scan that he pointed out was a good tendon. Then he showed me the short one, and jagged white lines running through it where it was ruptured. I could easily see what the problem was, because there was a clear point of comparison.

Sure, the biceps connects at both the elbow and shoulder, but, if you had an issue at the elbow, you wouldn't be able to bend your arm, as that's really what the biceps does primarily. It has to be the shoulder connector, which, while it's far less important, should be incredibly easy to diagnose via a simple MRI. The only thing I can think is either they missed that there were issues in the shoulder bone that eventually caused a tendon issue by rubbing across it improperly, or a surgeon nicked it fixing something else. Either way, it's something the team doctors should have caught easily.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 1:17pm

It reads like a story from the dark ages of orthopedic medicine, back when x-rays and surgery which approximated work done in a butcher shop was the standard.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 1:41pm

It may not be a misdiagnosis. It could be that biceps loading is aggravating his labrum repair (the biceps tendon runs from the humerus to the scapula over the superior part of the labrum). So, you could have a situation where you need to remodel the biceps tendon to stop aggravating the labrum repair -- the biceps itself may not be torn.

Or maybe his surgeon was as bad as his owner and his GM and missed it during the initial workup.

by RobotBoy :: Mon, 12/18/2017 - 7:15pm

How do you tear a bicep? Hyper-flexion? Or does it tear from trying to do something like curl too much weight. My confusion is due to the fact that the bicep is a fairly protected muscle.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 10:43am

Gerald McCoy has torn a bicep a couple times, and the best guess is he's trying to arm tackle strong guys or something and it's putting an odd stress on it. For me (and, presumably Mr. Luck), it's actually one of the tendons connecting the bicep into the shoulder and rotator cuff. That's a repetitive stress injury typically, and it's a common injury for tennis players, pitchers, or QBs. I'm an IT guy who types a lot and doesn't even know how I got it, but I would like to believe this injury makes me just as cool as an NFL quarterback in at least some way.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 10:59am

I'd add that some muscles work in pairs (agonist/antagonist) and that biceps/triceps are one such example along with hamstrings/quads. When one muscle is active, the other needs to be relaxed or they'll work against each other.

I'm guessing it's quite possible to tear the bicep while using the tricep to extend the arm or push something away if the force produced is sudden or violent enough and the bicep wasn't relaxed.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 5:42am

Antonio Brown's injury was strange. There was hardly any contact there yet he ended up in hospital getting checked.

Of course players do get tears/strains from just pushing off, we saw Ben Roethlisberger limping around for a while with an apparent hamstring problem and he's not shown on the injury list.

by ChrisS :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 12:01pm

It looked like the leg got hit very hard by the passing defender. When he stayed down I thought the most likely injury (based on no medical training) was a fracture in his lower leg.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 12:56pm

Yeah. At first I though the injury was to his right leg from coming down on it weird and rolling the ankle. But then when I watched the replay closer I saw the defender's leg just hammering Brown's left calf. I'm amazed nothing broke.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 5:51pm

GB put Rodgers on IR

by jtr :: Tue, 12/19/2017 - 6:25pm

I'm glad. Romo re-broke his in his second game back a few years ago. No reason to subject Rodgers to that.