Offseason Injury Update Part One: Who Will Be Available Week 1?
Here at 4for4 we are committed to football year round, so although it's only April, it's never too early to discuss injuries heading into 2016. Last year was a pretty brutal year for season ending injuries, as many star players are currently rehabbing in order to be ready for the start of the new season. With offseason workouts right around the corner, we're going to discuss some of the major injuries you should keep an eye on.
Timetables or projections of injured players are estimates based on the idea that everything will go smoothly in recovery which can sometimes be unfair to the athlete, but that's how we can best measure when players could potentially return. Expectations can be tough to predict when it comes to injuries, as setbacks are always something that you need to consider. We also need to consider secondary issues that could arise from the main reason they are rehabbing, which could also potentially delay the process (e.g. Victor Cruz's calf strain as he was recovering from his patellar tendon rupture last year).
Projecting injuries is always fluid, with situations constantly changing, so we'll do our best to keep you up to date with the current status of each injured player. I'll help you figure out whether or not a player should be a full participant in training camp, which starts in mid July, and whether you should feel confident in their ability to be ready for the start of the regular season. This column will be broken up into two parts, with this portion covering wide receivers and tight ends, and part two covering running backs and quarterbacks.
Editor's Note: Be sure to check out Part 2 where Russ covers injured running backs and quarterbacks.
Bottom Line: Misses training camp AND will be limited Week 1. Considering Graham tore his patellar tendon at the end of November, he'll be around 10 months removed from surgery at the start of the season. If we look back at some of the skill position players who have suffered a patellar tendon rupture, they all have taken longer than 10 months to return to game action. Cadillac Williams took 14 months before he was able to return to the Buccaneers, Victor Cruz has yet to return due to a calf strain that he suffered making his way back from patellar tendon that he tore in Week 6 in 2014, and although Austin Collie was signed to practice squad teams after hurting his knee in Indianapolis, he never played another game in the NFL. The last example of Collie could be more due to timing and opportunity with the teams he signed on with than injury, but nonetheless it goes to show that this type of injury can take some time even if the knee is considered "healed." The thing Graham has going for him is that he doesn't necessarily have to rely on his speed to be effective and has big enough size to still make an impact even at less than 100%. If Graham starts the season on the active roster, I would temper expectations as the Seahawks will most likely bring him along slowly in hopes that he'll get stronger and more confident in the knee as the season goes on. The other concern that is not related to Graham's knee is how the Seahawks plan on utilizing him once he does return. If last year was indication, fantasy owners might want to look elsewhere. My gut tells me that they won't put him on the PUP unless he suffers a setback or he just doesn't progress as quickly once he starts initiating jumping and explosive activities. His injury is definitely something to keep an eye on as the season approaches and we'll be updating his status often.
Expectations: Limited in training camp, ready for Week 1. Nelson will be close to a year removed from his left knee surgery when training camp starts. I still see the Packers taking things slow to prevent any setbacks and to make sure he feels as close as possible to 100% once the season rolls around. Nelson will be 31 this season, so his age could concern people, but he still is playing with an elite QB that can get him the ball if he's able to create separation down the field.
Bottom Line: Limited in training camp, ready for Week 1. Benjamin is in the same boat as Nelson in that they both suffered their ACL injuries prior to the regular season. Benjamin should be as close to full health when the season starts, and with Cam Newton playing at an MVP level, Benjamin could be in for a big season if he can stay healthy.
Bottom Line: Possibly limited in training camp, ready for Week 1. Returning early from foot surgery as a wide receiver usually yields ineffectiveness and that proved to be true when Bryant tried to return after only eight weeks. He was clearly not 100% when he returned and played with ineffective quarterbacks which made 2015 pretty much a nightmare for fantasy owners. Dez was put on IR in Week 17 and had further foot/ankle surgeries after the season from which he is still working his way back. The Cowboys will probably bring him along slowly, especially because foot injuries can be tricky, but I don't see there being any issues once Week 1 arrives.
Bottom Line: Full participant in training camp and ready Week 1. Hurns had his surgery at the end of January, with normal recovery being 6-8 weeks. He should be all systems go when training camp rolls around and should continue to build upon his successful 2015 campaign.
Shin Stress Fracture
Bottom Line: Full participant in training camp and ready Week 1. Fantasy owners have kind of forgotten about White as he didn't play a snap last year due to a stress fracture in his shin that eventually required surgery to address the issue. All reports state that White has been progressing nicely since surgery last year, and that he does not feel limited at all so far this offseason.
Expectation: Full participant in training camp and ready Week 1. Perriman is another player that owners were anxiously waiting for last year but his knee just never recovered. I wouldn't expect restrictions on Perriman as long as he doesn't suffer any setbacks, but nothing can be guaranteed at this point so it would be nice to see him doing everything possible to make a big impact.
Expectation: Full participant in training camp and ready Week 1. Luckily with internal injuries like the one Allen suffered, as soon as the injury is completely healed, there are no limitations or restrictions needed. Allen was on his way to having a big season before getting hurt, and with Ken Whisenhunt back as offensive coordinator, continue to expect big things from Allen.
Steve Smith Sr.
Expectation: Limited in training camp and ready Week 1. Although he seems like he's an ageless wonder, it's fair to wonder how much this injury will affect Smith Sr. The additions of Ben Watson, Mike Wallace, and the return of Breshad Perriman will help reduce his overall workload, so that should be baked into his value on draft day. With that being said, I don't see there being any way he isn't ready to roll come Week 1. He'll be 10 months removed from surgery at the start of the season, which isn't far off from the normal recovery which is around 11 months, so as the season progresses he should feel stronger. Regardless, it'll be fun to watch him play one more season and I wouldn't be surprised if he exceeds expectations like he has for much of his career.