The NFL injury reports for Week 3 are here, and I hate to say I told you so.
So the Giants lied about Saquon Barkley? You know what? That's not a violation. The Official Injury Report is about availability, not injury. Ankle, high ankle, an RX-7 Wankel ... doesn't matter. By calling him questionable, the Giants said Barkley was 50/50 to play. Whether they believed it or not doesn't matter. Coming out at the end of the season with their questionable and doubtful in the normal range counts. As always, I hate to say I told you so, but as James Taylor, a bit lighter, less dramatic of an artist says, "That's why I'm here." Now, let's go through the rest of the injuries and make sure I don't have to have you watch The Hives again. Though they're awesome. Let's get to it:
BRYCE YOUNG, QB CAR (sprained ankle)
Bryce Young is a known, at least in the sense that he's out, for at least this week. His replacement is also a known, in that Andy Dalton has been around, if not with this team and a Frank Reich style offense. A team has a guy like Dalton for one reason - stability. If Young hadn't been ready to start, Dalton can be an NFL QB. When Young was, Dalton becomes the steady hand in just this kind of situation. For everyone else but Young, things should be roughly the same.
With Young, everything else is a bit of a mystery. He didn't play well in Week 2, but we don't know exactly when the ankle injury happened. I've seen at least three guesses, with video to match - cause, re-injury, who knows? Ankle sprains tend to be relatively minor in terms of time missed with low grade sprains. The Panthers are going to be cautious with their 1-1 young QB, but they also ruled him out early in the week, which is an indication this is something more along the lines of a Grade II sprain. If he's back at practice by Thursday of next week, it will be positive for his Week 4 return.
JOE BURROW, QB CIN (strained calf)
"Joe Burrow exacerbated his calf strain in Week 2" .I hate to be pedantic, but the term used - exacerbated - implies that the calf strain he had six weeks ago and played through in Week 1 was not healed. I'm not sure that's what was meant, that Burrow didn't re-strain it or at the very least had some of the scar tissue that creates the healing gave way. That's not uncommon, though it's certainly not good. It's unlikely we'll know until inactives are announced 90 minutes before game time. The extra day to the Monday game may be determinative.
Burrow's not overly reliant on his legs, but there's a floor for being able to move enough not to get killed back there. We're also not clear on what gives Burrow problems. The biomechanics of throwing do involve the calves on both sides, so running may not even be the key issue here. The Bengals will be conservative with Burrow, but at 0-2 and with not much behind him, the decision gets tougher if the medical doesn't make it clear.
The Bengals lost Will Grier and they brought in Reid Sinnett, who knows the offense, in his place. It's still Jake Browning as backup, whether Burrow plays or has an issue in-game. The recurrence risk with the calf strain has already been seen, so without having much indication on just where Burrow's calf is, your fantasy team and bets should be very wary of Burrow and the Bengals.
ANTHONY RICHARDSON, QB IND (concussion)
RYAN KELLY, C IND (concussion)
Concussions are always difficult to monitor. It's worse when it started with a missed impact, compounded by a rookie quarterback that's key to a rebuild. Questions immediately came about sitting Anthony Richardson, regardless of whether he clears the protocol. Unlike other injuries, concussions aren't immediately visible, nor are their symptoms. If this were any other injury - a broken bone, a strained hamstring - no one would ask if an NFL player should sit once cleared by doctors. It shows how much the consciousness around concussions has changed, no pun intended.
If Richardson clears the protocol — and as of Friday, the Colts ruled him out, which is different than the steps of the concussion protocol — then it becomes a football decision. Gardner Minshew was just fine in relief of Richardson and offers the Colts a reasonable option. Add in the weather, which could be awful, and Shane Steichen is going to be facing a lot of decisions as the Colts visit their original home. We don't know whether Richardson is still having symptoms, which is key for next week and beyond.
Richardson's concussion has taken all the attention of Ryan Kelly, who also was concussed. Either Richardson or Minshew would miss the center, and if Kelly is out, it might impact Richardson's status as much as his play. The lack of Jonathan Taylor and an established running game makes the choice at QB more important. Kelly's status should at least be known earlier, as no one seems to be suggesting he should sit out if he clears.
JAYLEN WADDLE, WR MIA (concussion)
TYREEK HILL, WR MIA (sprained ankle)
The Dolphins were expected to have a big offense in 2023 and they've certainly played up to those expectations through the first week. We may be about to see whether they have depth, with Jaylen Waddle in the concussion protocol and Tyreek Hill dealing with a minor ankle sprain.
Waddle is making his way through the protocol and has a chance to clear it by gametime. He practiced on a limited basis on Friday, signaling that the doctor's clearance is all that he needs. That could come Saturday or even Sunday, so we may get a gametime note on his availability. Without Waddle, River Cracraft and Braxton Berrios could see increased roles. If you're looking for TE or even RB involvement, that just doesn't seem to be on the roster with the changes and top-heaviness of this team. It's looking more and more positive that he'll play, so all that might be moot.
Hill was limited early in the week, but was back for full practices on Thursday and Friday. There's no expectation that he won't play or that his speed will be affected. Hill's not a route-reliant receiver (say that three times fast), so the impact will be minimal as long as he can stay on the field. The bigger worry is that Waddle is out and teams can focus almost solely on Hill, with doubles, brackets, and a safety over the top to negate his speed. Adjust accordingly, though Hill TD anytime is a nice looking wager. Again, if Waddle plays, Hill becomes even more dangerous.
DERRICK HENRY, RB TEN (inflamed toe)
Derrick Henry is The Last True Back. Yes, Barkley is in the discussion and there's hope Bijan Robinson might be a thing, but it's early. Henry is the workhorse, the guy the Titans and fantasy owners could count on, putting up numbers and touches and yards and bulldozer touchdowns. He's an all-down back because of dominance, not a multi-skill hybrid like Christian McCaffrey. Of course, the Henry kind of back is "devalued" because most can't handle the workload and the physical abuse of it. Henry could.
Or has. He's been durable above all else, with only one major injury along the way. The worry with this one is that it's turf toe. You say "he played on grass last week!" In reality, turf toe is just a sprained great toe. It got the name when the original artificial turfs exacerbated a problem. Grass gives, so the toe doesn't bend up too much. Turf doesn't, or at least the old kind, which was basically bad 70's carpet over concrete, didn't. To be clear, the Titans haven't said what the issue actually is; turf toe is the worst case.
Turf toe is painful and lingers without enforced rest. It can be treated in a number of ways, with the most common being a steel or carbon insole that keeps the toe from bending much. That also keeps a power runner like Henry from really digging in and pushing the pile. If Henry plays, he may not get his usual goal line touches if it appears to be an issue. More than anytime since Henry took over the RB1 gig, he's sharing some of the load and Tyjae Spears may get more run this week than expected.
AUSTIN EKELER, RB LAC (sprained ankle)
Austin Ekeler has a sprained ankle. It's not complicated, but it's problematic enough that he's out for Week 3, his second straight miss. Ankle sprains come in Grades and a source tells me that Ekeler's sprain was severe enough that he still had swelling at the beginning of this week. He's responded to treatment and is making progress, but the Grade II sprain hasn't been tested with cuts or stop/starts, which would be necessary to play. There's even some question internally about whether Ekeler will be ready for next week, though the IR is not being considered.
As with any sprain, this is damage to the ligaments. The body reacts with inflammation, protecting the ankle by signaling to stay off it and there are theories that the swelling acts as a brace, reducing movement. A cave man would have hobbled back to his cave, with only time to help heal a sprained ankle, but Ekeler and the Chargers medical staff have a lot more tools at their disposal. They'll be using all of them, but the expectation is that Joshua Kelley will once again get almost all the rushing looks and could well stay more involved in Week 4.
TREVON DIGGS, DB DAL (sprained knee)
The Cowboys came out of their Thursday practice up in Frisco with one of their key players on crutches. He stayed in The Star for his MRI but they didn't like what they saw. A sprained ACL ends Trayvon Diggs' season and he's not going to be an easy player to replace. He'll have surgery in the coming days, likely there in the Dallas area. It's unfortunate, but not unusual. ACLs tend to be random, but we're seeing injuries shifting back into the season due to less contact. That doesn't make Diggs or the Cowboys feel any better.
The timing is bad for '23, good for '24. Diggs has plenty of time to make it back for next season, but a standard surgery to reconstruct his ACL puts him out for this season. Even with a later trade deadline, it's unlikely that anyone like Diggs will come available, meaning the Cowboys will have to adjust to what they have on hand. The Cards and Pats might not be a big test, giving the Cowboys DBs two weeks to figure out what they can do with the 49ers (especially if Brandon Aiyuk is back.)
Bumps and Bruises
Amon-Ra St Brown has turf toe. Lingering. Painful. We'll see whether he can play through it. Most can't ... The weather may make the run game key for the Ravens. Justice Hill remains very questionable and is likely to be a gametime decision, but won't be 100 percent regardless ... Christian Watson didn't practice Thursday, but the Packers pitched that as "workload management". Maybe the Catapult told them that, but at best, Watson is a GTD. The same is true for Aaron Jones, though he has a few more positive indicators than Watson ... CJ Stroud has been playing through a "sore shoulder". A source tells me that the soreness is nothing more than that, with the Texans' already checking the shoulder regularly to make sure ... Odell Beckham is out for Week 3. The ankle alone probably would have done it, but the weather does factor in ... DeVonta Smith was limited again this week in practice. He's likely to play, but the Eagles have almost no depth on their chart at WR behind him ... DeAndre Hopkins didn't practice ahead of playing in Week 2. That looks like the plan again as the Titans go to Cleveland ... David Montgomery is very unlikely to play this week, but don't think Jahmyr Gibbs gets all the carries. Craig Reynolds was much more involved in practice this week, per reports ... Isiah Pacheco will have his status determined ahead of game time. With limited practices due to his hamstring strain, he's unlikely to play and if he does, unlikely to get his normal touches ... The Chiefs are one of the most transparent teams about injuries, but there's no specifics about Kadarius Toney's toe issue. He's likely out, or at least lower in the Chiefs WR rotation ... If Burrow isn't problem enough, Irv Smith Jr was a late add to the Bengals report with a hamstring issue ... Logan Thomas won't make it through the concussion protocol and will miss Week 3 ... Derek Stingley is out with a severe hamstring strain. An IR move could come before Sunday's game if the Texans decide they need secondary help ... Joey Bosa will be a true gam-time decision. The hamstring will have him on a play count if he does play.
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