Monday Injury Debriefing

The war of attrition continues across the league. Another week, another handful of serious injuries for contending teams and the league’s most high profile players.

Multiple sources have reported that Rob Gronkowski broke his forearm yesterday and will have surgery. Television replays didn’t show the injury clearly, but it appeared that Gronkowski had his arm twisted around his back while blocking during the Patriots’ final extra point attempt. The location of the fracture, which bone(s) are fractured and the rate of healing all play a role in setting a timetable for a return from a broken forearm. Though an earlier return to action is possible, it can take 8-10 weeks for certain types of forearm fractures to heal. Early reports suggest Gronkowski will miss 4-6 weeks. While there are examples of NFL players who went on injured reserve much earlier in the season (safety Roy Williams in Week 7, 2008 and Paul Posluszny in Week 3 in 2007), there are multiple precedents for a return within six weeks. Posluszny was back in five weeks from his second forearm fracture in 2009, Chris Hope (6 weeks in 2011) and Jason McCourty (5 weeks in 2010) both returned within the six week timetable after surgery for forearm fractures. There’s no way to know whether those injuries are comparable and I think history suggests six weeks is more likely than four. But there’s a good chance we may see Gronkowski play before the NFL playoffs, but I would expect he’ll be limited in both snap count and effectiveness.

Julio Jones looked healthy enough during pre-game warmups to convince the team to activate and allow him to play yesterday. The team certainly knows that running routes during pregame warmups doesn’t come close to approximating live game action and contact and knew they were taking a risk. The risk of aggravating a syndesmotic (high ankle) sprain that’s less than full strength is similar to the risk of aggravating a muscle strain. Unfortunately, that may well be what’s happened with Jones, who was clearly limited throughout the game then left grimacing in pain after a late third quarter tackle. At best, Jones delayed his recovery and will be another game-time decision this week. At worst, we may see him shut down for multiple weeks if his (presumably) low grade sprain has become a higher grade injury.

LeSean McCoy was reportedly still fatigued and not himself some time after his concussion yesterday. That doesn’t guarantee that he’ll have trouble progressing through the return-to-play algorithm in time to play next Monday, but it does mean the training and medical staff will err on the side of caution in the early stages of that clearance process. Consider him questionable at best to play in Week 12.

Willis McGahee injured his right knee early in yesterday’s game and didn’t return. I haven’t been able to find the footage on Game Rewind this morning, but I thought I saw a replay showing the Denver medical staff doing a pivot shift test on McGahee on the sideline. Multiple types of ligament examinations are routine while checking a player out on the sideline, but that suggests there was some concern about McGahee’s ACL. I thought McGahee looked a little limited coming out of his cut behind the line of scrimmage on the same play, but the mechanism of injury looked to be a direct blow to the front of the knee during the tackle. Ligament injuries are possible but contusions, bone bruises and other less concerning injuries are also common with that type of mechanism. We should hear more from John Fox after McGahee’s MRI today.

Dwayne Bowe reportedly suffered a neck injury yesterday. The Chiefs are saying it’s not a head injury and Bowe didn’t appear shaken up initially. However, he looked to be a little wide-eyed on the bench and later returned to the field without a helmet. There isn’t anything obvious to suggest that he won’t play in Week 12, but his practice participation is worth monitoring.

I’ll have lots more on Ben Roethlisberger, DeMarco Murray, Darren Sproles, Pierre Garcon and others in this week’s Footballguys Insider column on Wednesday. My sincere thanks to all those following on Twitter, reading the blog and the Insider column. Safe travels to those of you visiting family this week and a Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

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