Analyzing Tony Romo, Brett Favre injuries
So I'm heading into Sunday night thinking, "Hmmm, relatively speaking, it was a light week when it comes to big injury news ..." It was all downhill from there. Two huge quarterback injuries have dominated the football headlines in the past 24 hours and will no doubt keep our attention for the near future. Meanwhile, a top fantasy running back quietly underwent surgery this week, and another may be on the verge of returning to your fantasy roster.
Here are the big stories we're talking about after Week 7.
This is what we said last week in this space: Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo suffered a bruised left (nonthrowing) thumb. He is not expected to miss any practice time.
This is what we're reporting this week: Dallas Cowboys' quarterback Tony Romo fractured his left (nonthrowing arm) clavicle (collarbone). He's expected to miss at least six to eight weeks.
Yep, the news is indeed worse this week for Cowboys fans and fantasy owners. Romo should be off your fantasy team at this point because there's no assurance that he'll make it back in time to be useful, so you're better off using the roster spot on someone else. How does this news affect your Cowboys wide receivers? My colleague Matthew Berry says that Miles Austin goes from a No. 1 to a No. 2 fantasy wide receiver but remains an every-week start. Roy E. Williams continues to be a flex play, and rookie Dez Bryant remains a matchups play. (Berry loves the rookie's skill and upside, but Bryant is still not on the field in two-receiver sets and, as I note, is a regular on the injury report.)
And what about Romo's injury? ESPN's Ed Werder reports that the Cowboys have determined Romo will not require surgery. Even though he is not going under the knife, it takes approximately six weeks for the fracture itself to heal, assuming that proper, uneventful healing occurs. Clearance to return to collision or contact sports typically takes two to three months, give or take, depending on the progress of the patient. According to Werder, the Cowboys are projecting a six-to-eight-week absence for Romo and are leaning toward the latter.
The good news for Romo is that the injury is to his nonthrowing arm, as an injury to his throwing arm would have lengthened the rehabilitation process and increased the concern. Nonetheless, there has to be confidence on the part of the medical staff that he is at low risk for reinjury before he returns. Given the sport that he plays, Romo is more than likely to experience more hits similar to the one that resulted in Monday night's injury. That concern might extend the timetable for returning, as in not returning at all, especially if the season appears beyond repair.
Brett Favre, QB, Minnesota Vikings: Favre came into the season with an ailing left ankle. It has endured three surgeries, the most recent being this year in advance of Favre's decision to return to football. The ankle certainly isn't feeling any better after Sunday night's game. Now diagnosed with a couple of fractures in the calcaneus (heel), including an avulsion fracture (where a tendon or ligament pulls away from the bone, taking a small fleck of bone with it), Favre has seen his limp worsen, and his status is very much up in the air.
Favre went down hard on a leg tackle from Green Bay Packers linebacker Brad Jones with his foot pointing sharply downward, the weight of the defender coming down on top of him, jamming the joint. That may well have been the most range of motion Favre's ankle has seen in months, and it came at a price. Although there's no way of knowing for sure that the damage seen on Favre's latest MRI occurred at that moment (remember, this is a chronically injured ankle), it clearly was a turning point in the game. Favre came up limping and struggled with his passes as well as his mobility throughout the remainder of the game. But he never left.
The fact that Favre was not forced out of the game is a positive consideration when evaluating the potential for his return in Week 8. After all, he has not been medically ruled out of competition and is currently resting his ankle in a walking boot in the hope that it will alleviate some discomfort. Not all fractures are created equal, either. There may be cracks or loading fractures in Favre's ankle that are due, in part, to the already weakened condition of the bone in the area. Often an avulsion injury, which is generally caused by the same mechanism as an ankle sprain, may simply heal on its own. This is not the same type of injuries as, for example, Romo's clavicle fracture, where he is exposed to significant risk by playing. This is not meant to minimize Favre's discomfort but rather to point out that it may be a matter of pain, more than anything else, that determines Favre's status. And Favre has played with pain.
In outlining the criteria for Favre's availability, Vikings coach Brad Childress said in his Monday news conference, "Once he's functional, he can play." Childress also pointed out, however, that Favre needed to prove he could perform. "He needs to be able to do all the things a guy in his position does," Childress said. "You can't put a guy that's a sitting duck out there." The point Childress appeared to be making was that Favre not only needs to make plays but also needs to be able to protect himself from further injury by escaping the pass rush.
Can Favre play? It will be challenging. His mobility will be hampered, and his pain and stiffness might affect his performance. If he can't step into his passes and throws off his back foot, the ball will have a tendency to sail, something we saw after his injury Sunday night. But he can make some adjustments. Favre can operate primarily from the shotgun, avoiding the need to drop back and putting some distance between him and the defense. The Vikings can opt to go run-heavy, and Favre can certainly hand the ball off repeatedly to Adrian Peterson. Medically, Favre can get a pain-relieving injection before the game and have the ankle heavily wrapped. It will be a balance between providing stability and pain relief for his injured ankle while permitting him the necessary mobility and feel to perform at the position.
So will Favre play? Ah, that is the question that will no doubt go unanswered until late in the week, perhaps even Sunday morning. It's hard to imagine the guy who has started 291 consecutive regular-season games -- through a broken thumb, sprained knee ligaments, a torn biceps and numerous other ailments -- sitting idly on the sideline. He seems to will himself to perform in ways that are unique to him, even when he's not at his physical best. Favre may not finish Sunday's game against the New England Patriots, but it wouldn't surprise anyone if he's out there at the start.
Other notes heading into Week 8:
• St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson underwent surgery to pin his ring finger on his left hand. (A pin holds the joint in place while it heals.) This guy is so tough, we had no idea he broke a bone en route to more than 100 yards rushing last Sunday. For his part, Jackson said via Twitter on Monday that he "shouldn't miss a beat." Naturally, we'll need to see what he does in practice, but there isn't huge concern at this point.
• New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush is returning to practice Wednesday with the hopes of getting back to competition shortly. Bush, who suffered a broken right fibula in Week 2, has not stressed the leg with directional movement or live practice. How he responds to these new activities will determine whether he's available for Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers or whether he will need a little more time.
We will continue to update these injuries and others as the week progresses with much more to come on Thursday.