If you're a New England Patriots fan, you're likely keeping very close tabs on wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and his potentially exploding knee.
Wait, exploding knee?
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 4, 2023
Yeah, that sounds bad, but let's be clear: knees don't just explode. They're not flammable and even in a weird, multi-structure injury like Ryan Jensen had, there weren't any pyrotechnics, just pain. So what is the deal with JuJu Smith-Schuster and his knee? I reached out to my sources to figure out what's going on.
That Smith-Schuster has a bad knee is not news, or new. At just age-26, Smith-Schuster's knee issues go all the way back to college, but were relatively minor until 2019, when a knee injury cost him several games. Since then, he's had issues with inflammation and pain, requiring therapy and maintenance both before and after games as well as limiting his practice time. This was an issue last year in Kansas City, though he's remained productive.
The knee was clearly an issue in his free agency. Kansas City passed despite his success and their questionable depth, with JJSS eventually taking a below-market deal with the Patriots. The Pats are no stranger to players that need maintenance, though this is hardly the vet-laden team from a decade ago. It's still a very solid medical staff, but it's also a very hard FieldTurf surface at Gillette Stadium, especially in colder weather.
While I couldn't confirm the nature of his knee issue, two sources told me that he has meniscus and cartilage issues inside the knee and if exacerbated, Smith-Schuster could well miss time, if not asplode. One key here is that Smith-Schuster had a very minor procedure on the knee done after the Super Bowl. Termed a "clean up", the knee was visualized by the surgeon and nothing more was noted to be needed at the time. A doctor literally looked inside his knee and said "nothing more to be done here."
The original report by Albert Breer stands on its own and when I reached out to him, he declined further comment on the record. While "exploding knee" makes for good headlines, I guess, it's not the case. The worry, as per Breer's original report, is that Smith-Schuster's knee will cost him time and necessitate the Pats to keep additional depth behind him in case it happens. For his kind of talent, a lot of teams are willing to carry an extra wide receiver on the roster or practice squad as insurance.
Truly, all players in the NFL are one play away from a terrible knee injury. We've seen the ACL count up near 20 before we even get to Week 1 games, which is about average for the last few years. While the human body simply wasn't designed for football, the knees often take the worst of it. For Smith-Schuster, he's no different than most, with painful, aching knees that swell up with activity and will likely need replacement somewhere down the line.
Before that, however, Smith-Schuster likely has a couple more seasons of being a very talented receiver and part of Mac Jones' offensive weapons in a make-or-break season for the quarterback. The Pats knew what they were bringing into the locker room — and into the training room — when they signed Smith-Schuster. The only thing explosive he brings is his speed.
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