By Dr. Matt Provencher AP Sports Injury & Performance Analyst
NFL training camps are well underway, the first weekend of preseason games is here and the 2022-2023 regular season is fast approaching.
We are back to cover team and player health, provide injury analysis, and give the fans the hard data behind those injuries.
Camp has, as usual, already produced a few player injuries that could impact their team's seasons. Let's take a look.
James Washington, WR, Dallas Cowboys - Jones fracture
Washington suffered a Jones fracture to his right foot in practice on Aug. 1. A Jones fracture is a fracture to the base of the fifth metatarsal or "pinky" toe. Washington had surgery to repair the broken bone and will be out 6-10 weeks as he recovers and rehabilitates the foot.
Operative treatment is not always necessary, but most athletes opt for surgery as they put a lot of pressure and force through the foot because of the twisting, push-off, cutting, and force their job requires.'
The good news is that fractures, once healed, are usually very strong, and we should see Washington back to full-go once healed. The tough news for Jerry Jones and the Cowboys is that this is another hit to a wide receiver group that will most likely already be missing Michael Gallup, who is recovering from a torn ACL last season.
Van Jefferson, WR, Los Angeles Rams - Knee surgery
Jefferson had to undergo surgery on the same knee he had operated on following the Super Bowl. Per coach Sean McVay: "It is the same knee, but it is a little different area."
It looks like a "clean-up" surgery which usually involves meniscus, cartilage, or scar debridement. Jefferson's availability for the season opener is uncertain, but what we can tell you is that athletes that usually undergo knee scopes do get back on the field quickly.'
Though I do believe he will get back on the field, swelling can affect snap percentage and increase the possibility of missed time during the season. The medical staff will have to do its best to decrease swelling, and Jefferson will have to focus on his strengthening to make sure he doesn't lose too much time due to the surgery.'
Jeremy McNichols, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers - Season-ending shoulder injury
McNichols was placed on IR by the Steelers last week due to a shoulder injury. The running back, who was with the Titans last year, was vying for a backup spot behind Najee Harris. The Steelers have picked up Master Teague III in his place.
The shoulder injury is severe enough that McNichols is out for the season. He has dealt with shoulder issues in the past, needing labral surgery during his rookie year with Tampa Bay. This could be a revision surgery of the labrum to repair another tear - either in the same area or a new tear.
The Steelers have been dealing with injuries and depth issues at running back and are already dealing with a Harris foot injury, so this only adds to the team's uncertainty at the position.
Training camp ACL tears
ACL injuries are already present in the preseason. With six and counting already, ACL tears have taken down skill position players and linemen alike.'
Denver Broncos receiver Tim Patrick and running back Damarea Crockett were the first two of the year, taking a toll on their offense right away.'
Since then, the following players have all suffered ACL tears:'
- Washington Commanders linebacker Drew White - San Francisco 49ers tight end Jordan Matthews - New Orleans Saints safety Smoke Monday - New York Giants guard Marcus McKethan
With their seasons over, they will now have to focus on rehabilitation following surgery, including motion, strength and stability. ACLs normally take 9-12 months to return from, if there are no complications, and can hinder performance upon return for certain positions. We wish those rehabbing well this season.'
Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Hamstring injury
Evans left practice with a hamstring injury last Friday. Coach Todd Bowles called him day-to-day, and the team is calling it a minor hamstring tweak.'
This is good news, but we know from the data that soft tissue injuries take time to heal (even "minor" ones). Evans has dealt with hamstring injuries in the past and missed a game last year due to one.'
Tampa will need to give him some downtime to allow the hamstring injury to heal, as you don't want it to turn it into a nagging season-long issue. Hamstring issues can plague a receiver's year if they don't take the proper precautions to ensure a full recovery. In fact, wide receivers have one of the highest re-injury rates we see in our data - about 19%-20%. The key for Evans to return for the season opener - or possibly in time for a preseason game - is rest and trips to the athletic training room for rehab.
Darnell Savage, S, Green Bay Packers - Hamstring
Savage injured his hamstring last Friday while in one-on-one coverage against Amari Rodgers. The injury doesn't seem to be too severe. Like Evans, Savage will have to be careful given his responsibilities on the field.'
The need for quick deceleration, jumping and change of direction are an absolute necessity for the secondary, and hamstring injuries can substantially reduce efficiency. If not treated correctly originally, they can hinder performance all season.'
Safeties have a 25% reduction in pre-injury snap percentage over the first four games back in a season as they return from these injuries. This means that the team may keep Savage off the field to give him a break when he returns to make sure he doesn't aggravate the injury.'
N'Keal Harry, WR, Chicago Bears - Ankle surgery
Harry had to go under the knife following his high ankle injury, undergoing what is known as the tightrope procedure to stabilize his ankle. This procedure uses a braided polyester to hold the tibia and fibula together when the syndesmosis (top of the ankle joint) is unstable. He will miss a minimum of eight weeks to recover and rehabilitate.
Harry has been benched by injury before and is no stranger to working to get back on the field. Shoulder, head, and previous ankle injuries have kept him sidelined in the past. Now he has more work to do to try and get back from this surgery to have a chance to help the Bears this upcoming season.
Renowned orthopedist Dr. Matt Provencher and his company, Proven Performance Technology (PPT), deliver data-driven injury insights to football fans. In this first-of-a-kind role as Athlete Injury and Performance Analyst for AP Sports' digital platforms, Provencher provides important predictive player health and recovery information about post-injury performance, the impact of weather, field conditions and more.