The Training Table: 2013 NFL Offseason Injury Notes
Trent Richardson, Rob Gronkowski, Arian Foster, and Michael Crabtree’s recent injuries or surgeries have caused turbulence in the fantasy football community. All of these players have designation of picks in the first four rounds in most drafts. I have included the reports of the initial injury and when the date that the injury occurred.
My take is based on my 14 years as a sports medicine professional in athletic training covering Arena football (Indianapolis Firebirds), College football (Indiana University), and high school football. I have dedicated much of my life in helping motivated athletes return from injury. One of my hobbies has always been fantasy football. I will be taking on the injury report this upcoming season for Pro Football Focus and I look forward to presenting you with invaluable information that may allow you to decide on how a player may be used in the coming weeks. Thanks for reading and if you have questions hit me up on Twitter at @Brian_Bulmer.
Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns
Injured on June 4 — Lower leg injury (Shin)
A report broke on June 4 by Will Burge, Browns Insider, that Trent Richardson had a lower leg injury that will keep him out up until the start of training camp. It was reported that the team is doing this as a precautionary measurement to prevent a possible stress fracture.
It was also reported by Nate Ulrich, Browns beat writer, that he has been taking migraine medication that has prevented him from lifting. It has resulted in Richardson losing weight during the offseason.
Fantasy prognosis: Richardson is a big powerful running back that needs to use the offseason to add weight and prepare his body for a 16-game schedule. His durability continues to be a concern. His power running style adds to those durability concerns. Richardson is a tough player that played much of last season with broken ribs. He also missed training camp due to a knee scope.
The team has decided to be cautious with Richardson and from a medical standpoint that is a good move. Monitor this situation closely as August approaches. As a fantasy owner the last thing you should do is over react to this injury. This is the type of injury that can heal with rest. I expect Richardson to have a big year with Norv Turner calling plays. He could easily finish as a top five running back.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
Surgical Date for Forearm: May 20 — Surgical Date for Back: Mid-June
Rob Gronkowski has been through a tumultuous offseason. The speculation for possible fourth and fifth surgeries on his forearm followed by surgery on his back has left fantasy owners wondering what Gronk’s stock is at this point. In a report by Adam Schefter on Gronkowski’s forearm, he stated that it was a successful surgery with removal of infection and the old plate in the forearm. They were able to successfully replace the old plate with a new piece of hardware that will allow the forearm to recover appropriately. This is followed by an early offseason of antibiotic regimens used to prevent the surgery. Due to the success of the surgery has diminished early speculation that a fifth surgery would be needed.
Adding to the resume of surgeries that Gronkowski has had since December is another surgery on his back. In an article by the Boston Globe, Gronkowski is scheduled for back surgery in mid-June. Although it is considered a routine surgery the injury does require a lengthy rehab and could cost Gronkowski the first six games of the season. The surgical procedure is called a microdiscectomy and requires twelve weeks of rehab. This is the same type of injury that caused Gronk to miss a full season in college at Arizona.
Fantasy prognosis: The fact that Gronkowski has missed much of the offseason on an antibiotic regimen followed by two surgeries does not bode well for the fantasy season. At this point I see him missing a minimum of twelve weeks following surgery. Barring complications Gronkowski could return to the field as early as late September. Gronkowski is a tough football player that some would joke and say he can play with a bloody stump for an arm if he had to. The fact that much of his offseason has been used to fix ailments from last season and prevented him from preparing his body for the next season becomes a major issue. Playing the tight end position requires him to block and also catch passes.
The work needed to be done to repair his body at this point makes him a wild card to draft. Keep an eye on his progress and be prepared to draft depth at the tight end position if you decide to use an early pick on Gronkowski. Currently he is being drafted in the fourth round and his draft stock continues to slide. I have him listed as my number two tight end behind Jimmy Graham and I am prepared to move Aaron Hernandez and Jason Witten ahead of him if he misses significant time. Monitor this situation very close.
Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans
Injured May 28 — Calf Strain
Foster strained his calf during a OTA practice and was carted off the field. In a story broke by John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. Fosters injuries were deemed not serious by his coaches and teammates. The speculation is a strained calf that will take a great deal of treatment. Head coach Gary Kubiak stated that it may have “ruined Arian’s summer” and followed it by saying “he will have to be here a lot’. Foster was placed on crutches and is expected to be brought along slowly.
Fantasy prognosis: Based on the information presented it sounds like a grade one or grade two calf strain. With both injuries rest is a big part of the treatment protocol. The worst case based on current information would be a grade two strain. That requires four to six weeks of rest and a lot of ice and rehabilitation. Foster is a veteran player and can be brought along slow. One of the primary issues with injuries in the offseason is that of conditioning. Foster needs to get his body into shape for the NFL season. This will reduce the amount to time he has to gain his conditioning. Expect his physical reps to be limited at this point for the preseason to prepare him for the regular season. He should still be taken in the first round of your fantasy drafts. Monitor his situation close during preseason camp.
Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Injured May 22 — Achilles Tendon Tear
In a report by ESPN, Crabtree ran a play in motion and when he planted to cut felt like someone kicked him in the back of the lower leg. Based on a USAToday article, Crabtree injured it during a 7-on-7 drill and had surgery shortly after to increase his chances of being available this season. Crabtree developed a nice report with quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the last eight games of the regular season and the playoffs.
Fantasy prognosis: Crabtree’s injury used to be a season ending injury. The return for Da’Quan Bowers and Terrell Suggs last season shows that there are possibilities of returning this year. It is a difficult determination to make at this point due to intrinsic/extrinsic factors. If there are minimal/no setbacks then it is realistic to believe that Crabtree makes it back near the end of the season. Based on advances in microsurgical techniques as well as accelerated rehab program Achilles tendon injuries keeping players out longer than six to nine months may be something in the past.
With Demaryius Thomas returning in six to seven months to play that may be the most optimistic timeframe for Crabtree’s return. That would mean he starts the season on the PUP list and then San Francisco may designate him as the player to return later in the season. In Dynasty drafts I expect him to be taken in the Round 9-10. He could be a late round flier or go undrafted in redraft leagues. Regardless of Crabtree’s return this season I would not expect much from him. It is too early in the recovery process to get a good idea on how he will progress through his rehab.