A busy week one injury breakdown is not the way I like to start the season, alas, here we are. Injuries were already a big topic of discussion heading into week one, with multiple high-end fantasy players limited or inactive to start the season, and the list of injuries continued to grow after the full slate of games on Sunday and Monday.
Before we get into the breakdown, there is some key information that you need to know regarding injuries in 2020, most notably, modifications to injured reserve (IR). No longer is the IR solely a place for extended absences or season-injuries. In the world of COVID, changes needed to be made to ensure ample opportunities for teams to be as flexible as possible with roster decisions on a weekly and season-long basis. Therefore, the new IR rules are as follows: A player placed on IR must spend a minimum of three weeks on IR. At which point the player is cleared and able to resume practicing, that player then has 21 days to return to the active roster. What this means is players like Le’Veon Bell who have been placed on IR, are not done for the season but are out for a minimum of three weeks. Be sure to recall this information before making any hasty roster decisions when you hear a player has been placed on IR.
ONE MORE NOTE, next week, in addition to this text article, we will be further supplementing the injury analysis with a weekly injury podcast! The text article will get you ready heading into Thursday night (plus the weekend), and the podcast will get you ready with the most up to date injury information heading into the weekend. GET READY!
Now, let’s dive into the breakdowns!
Week 1 Injuries
Michael Thomas, WR, NO – Ankle
What was already shaping up to be a poor day statistically for the consensus number one fantasy receiver, was made significantly worse after suffering a high ankle sprain. Initial reports made it out to be not a big deal, but we are now hearing some concern regarding Thomas’ ankle. A high ankle sprain is always going to be a concern for skill players as their general explosiveness and cutting abilities are significantly affected due to this injury. Think 2019 Saquon, Kamara, Christian Kirk, three uber-talented players who played nowhere near their capabilities for large portions of the season. What always ends up happening in this situation is players are diagnosed with a high ankle sprain, sit out 3-4 weeks, come back, and don’t play well. Do you know why? These injuries take 8-12 weeks on average to fully heal and players NEVER give them that much time, which I get, they want to get back out there as soon as possible. All I have to say is temper your expectations when Thomas inevitably returns in week five and doesn’t have anywhere near the season anyone was expecting. I expect a strong close to the season, but the first two thirds will be tough for Thomas owners.
Prognosis: 8-12 weeks for a full recovery, likely returns in 4-6, will not be 100% healthy and won’t play like it. Temper expectations weeks 5-10.
DeVante Parker, WR, MIA – Hamstring
Dealing with a hamstring injury to close out the preseason, DeVante Parker was limited in week one as he only ended up being able to play 37% of offensive snaps. Bad news, Parker was unable to finish the game. The good news, Parker is already back at practice, participating in a limited fashion. Now, if Parker is unable to get in a full practice to conclude the week, I’d expect more of the same for week two, maybe a little higher snap percentage, but not in a range you’d be confident playing him. Parker, assuming active, has a TOUGH week two matchup against Tre’Davious White. Regardless of health, I’m personally rolling with other options if I can.
Prognosis: Monitor practice reports. The continued limited practice likely indicates continued limited availability come gameday.
George Kittle, TE, SF – Knee
An ugly looking hit to George Kittle’s knee knocked him out of a portion of Sunday’s game against the Cardinals. Thankfully, he was able to return and complete the game, though his effectiveness obviously took a hit as he did not register another catch. Based on the hit, initial concerns are always ACL and PCL due to the hyperextension of the knee. Evidently, Kittle was cleared of these two season-ending injuries with his ability to return to game action. So where does this leave us? Reports out of San Fran are now saying knee sprain, which is essentially a catch-all term for some type of ligamentous injury, but what I’m more concerned about is a potential bone bruise. With the violent hyperextension of the knee, this causes the fronts of the upper leg bone and lower leg bone to crash into each other causing trauma to the bones, hence bone bruise. This is a very painful injury that can cause a few weeks of missed time depending on pain tolerance. The good news is this injury can’t really be made worse (unless the same mechanism happens again by fluke chance). I’d be more concerned about a potential bone bruise than a catch-all term like “knee sprain”
Prognosis: No bone bruise, just “knee sprain”, I’d expect a full go for week two. Bone bruise? Potentially out 1-2 weeks.
James Connor, RB, PIT – Ankle
One of the players I was most concerned about heading into 2020 and have ZERO shares of, James Connor was quickly ruled out on Monday night with an ankle injury after about a quarter of game action. Connor’s potential this season was all about workload as his rushing efficiency dropped significantly last year from 4.5 YPC to 4.0. I personally, have never been a big believer in Connor as a talent. Regardless, Connor has once again shown the inability to stay healthy and quickly making Mike Tomlin look foolish for declaring him a bell-cow back at the end of the preseason. Connor was a DNP in Wednesday’s practice with reports not being very promising regarding his week two availability. Regardless, Benny Snell Jr. looked GOOD on Monday. He looked like a “bell-cow” back. Regardless of injury severity, James Connor has shown a consistent inability to stay healthy when receiving a majority of touches, and Benny Snell Jr. demonstrated that he deserves a greater opportunity in this offense. What’s the saying? Ahh yes, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Prognosis: Ankle injury/severity unknown at this point other than a “sprain”. Monitor practice reports. What is Connor’s upside without a majority of the backfield work?
Le’Veon Bell, RB, NYJ – Hamstring (IR)
Remember a few weeks ago when Le’Veon Bell tweeted “ain’t nothin wrong with my hamstrings”? I do because I retweeted it. Something is indeed wrong with Lev’s hamstrings as he is now on IR for a minimum of three weeks. To be placed on IR for a hamstring strain indicates at minimum a moderate strain, at worst a full tear (this doesn’t seem to be the case). Regardless, Bell will not be able to practice for at least three weeks. I don’t expect him to play for at least another 2-3 weeks after returning to practice in order to get up to game speed. Even then, will Adam Gase be willing to just hand everything back to a player he didn’t want to start, and hasn’t seen eye to eye with, like, at all? I don’t like this situation going forward.
Prognosis: Out 4-6 weeks. Will he get full workload once he returns?
Other Injury Updates
Deebo Samuel, WR, SF – Jones Fracture (setback)
After quite a bit of optimism to conclude the preseason and heading into week one, we learned that Deebo has suffered a setback in his recovery from his Jones fracture suffered in mid-June. If you read my piece in The Hateful 8 Draft Loadout, you knew that this was a distinct possibility as the recurrence rate with this injury is quite high even if all goes well. For that reason, I was out on Deebo heading into draft season. Heading into the rest of the regular season, Deebo will be out for at least another three games, likely longer. In my opinion, his best-case scenario, rest of season, will be 2019 Hollywood Brown, a player who had a few big games, but was on a snap count for most of the season and was not a particularly reliable fantasy piece.
Prognosis: Out 3-6 weeks. Will be on a pitch count to return.
Kenny Golladay, WR, DET – Hamstring
A late-week addition to the injury report is never a good sign heading into the weekend, and this sentiment rang true for the Lions’ top receiver as Golladay was inactive for their week one tilt against division rival Chicago. Heading into week two, Golladay was listed as a DNP during Wednesday’s practice report, a practice that was without pads. Unable to log even a limited practice over the first two days of the week does not bode well heading into week two for another division matchup against the Packers. If Golladay is unable to upgrade to full by the end of the week, he is too risky to be inserted back into lineups with a high risk of recurrence knowing the hamstring will not be 100% by Sunday.
Prognosis: Without clarification on strain severity, the best guess is an additional 1-3 weeks. Regardless, the longer time he has to heal now, the less chance of recurrence for the rest of the season.
Miles Sanders, RB, PHI – Hamstring
In what proved to be the worst call of my young career when I repeatedly pounded the table for Miles Sanders being healthy week one, despite reports to the contrary, only to have him ruled out on Saturday, I’m still reeling a bit. That being said, knowing this injury is obviously real, and that it has been lingering for the better part of a month now, I’m both optimistic and pessimistic about Sanders. Pessimistic on his short term outlook, next 1-3 weeks or so as I expect him to be active by week three (if not week two), but on a ramp-up program to prevent a setback. Similarly to Golladay, the longer Sanders has to heal now, the less this will be a problem rest of the season. Knowing the typical injury timeline of what seems to be a moderate (likely grade II) strain of 3-6 weeks, the full six weeks would put Sanders at a week three return. With the recent tumult of the Philly medical staff and how poorly they’ve handled situations over the last few years (think DJax last year), I doubt they want to mess this up considering how crucial Sanders will be to this team in 2020. I fully expect Sanders to be 100% upon his return to game action, but will still likely have a 1-2 week ramp-up period.
Prognosis: Week three return at the latest with a 1-2 week ramp-up. Expect a full load for Sanders around week 4-5.
Brandin Cooks, WR, HOU – Quadriceps
As I said in my pre-season roundup last week, Cooks would likely be on a pitch count heading into Thursday’s opening night and if you had a better option, use it. Hopefully, you took that advice as Cooks certainly did not see a full allotment of snaps (52.5%). Reports out of Houston have been saying, Cooks will be slowly ramped-up (phrase of the day) going into the season, so I would expect a bit of an uptick in week two (60-65% of snaps). Cooks continues to be limited in practice, so he should continue to be on your bench until he is fully healthy and sees his snap share near 75-80%, consistent with Will Fuller V’s snap count.
Prognosis: Assuming no setbacks, and continued monitoring of practice reps, expect a full allotment of snaps around week four.
Courtland Sutton, WR, DEN – Shoulder
Another stud receiver inactive for week one as Courtland Sutton was dealing with an AC joint sprain (where the clavicle meets shoulder). Sutton was apparently a true game-time decision on Monday night which tells me he was close to playing. At this point, approximately one week after injury, assuming a low-grade sprain, Sutton’s ability to play will be all about pain tolerance and range of motion, demonstrating an ability to make all necessary shoulder movements to make all the necessary catches. When we here Sutton is making overhead catches, that tells me its go time. Practice reports will tell us everything here as I fully expect him to be out there prior to the full healing time of an AC joint sprain. All this being said, he plays the Steelers this week. If active, drop your expectations to the basement for this week.
Prognosis: Should be another game-time decision, need to see the ability to make necessary overhead movements which are toughest thing to do with this type of injury.
Thursday Night IR Report – Cincinnati vs. Cleveland
Not much to see here other than Jarvis Landry as A.J. Green was able to get through week one without any injury hiccups. With all the talk of Landry’s availability heading into the season, he was able to play a comparable number of snaps to his running mate OBJ (71% & 75% respectively) demonstrating Jarvis is pretty much a full go. Not every matchup will be as putrid as the Ravens every week so I expect a healthy Landry and Beckham to have big bounce-back weeks heading into the second week of Thursday Night Football.