Patriots Injury Report – updates on the QB situation, Hightower, and Gronk

 

NFL: AUG 18 Preseason - Bears at Patriots

After days of speculation and reports, today we finally got a glimpse into how close Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett are to being game ready. It was good sign when there were no TJ Yates sightings at Logan, but even “Walt Petulski of the Buffalo News” was starting to wonder whether Julian Edelman would be starting quarterback on Sunday against the Bills.

Here’s what we know about our quarterbacks:

Jacoby Brissett can hold a binder and tie his shoes. Jacoby Brissett is not wearing a thumb brace. Jacoby Brissett is sporting an ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) tape-job and, at the minimum, tossing a football. As I discussed in my previous post, Is there a quarterback situation?, Brissett most likely injured the UCL of his right thumb. I won’t bore you with the anatomy again – if you want more info take a look back at that post. In summary, if Brissett had sustained a full thickness tear of his UCL with retraction he would have needed surgery immediately. If he had a partial tear I would expect him to still be in a brace and resting from throwing footballs. Therefore, a UCL sprain is the most likely injury. The fact that he is throwing a football with a taped thumb is a good sign that he could, at the very least, be used in an emergent back-up situation. I suspect he can do more.

Jimmy Garoppolo, who is recovering from a grade 2 AC joint injury, was spotted throwing a football today at practice. Initial footage showed short, easy passes. Later footage from Joe Giza of WBZ-TV shows Jimmy throwing a longer ball with a little bit more pep.

This video clearly demonstrates that Jimmy has good range of motion of his shoulder. I’m not saying he isn’t in pain. In fact, I can imagine he’ll probably be a little bit sore tomorrow. Barring any unforeseen setbacks, however, I anticipate that he will be available to play in a somewhat limited capacity this weekend.

With two quarterbacks possibly available to play this weekend, what major injury-related weaknesses could the Buffalo Bills exploit at that position? Obviously ball security is something at the top of Jacoby Brissett’s mind. With a sore thumb and possibly compromised grip strength look for the Bills rush to go for the strip sack and if he runs you can be sure that they’ll be doing their best to get that ball out of his hand. Brissett’s power and accuracy could also be affected by his injury. Garoppolo’s main limitation would likely be power. He may not be able to throw bullets like the touchdown pass he threw to Amendola against Miami or thread the needle down the center for Edelman. He may not be able to chuck it deep downfield to Chris Hogan. It all depends on how much progress he makes over the next three days.

hi-res-a463324b7cb6e49a8f13e5a407b6b193_crop_north(Photo credit: Bob Leverone/Associated Press )

An injury that I’m a bit more concerned about today than I was yesterday belongs to Dont’a Hightower. Today Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reported that Hightower’s knee injury is a “slight” meniscus tear. This injury was the result of a play against the Cardinals in the first quarter of the season opener. Hightower rushed off of the right defensive edge and, as he came around, his right foot stuck in the turf, twisted, and dragged. He was held out of practice all of week 2 and returned to practice last week in a right knee brace. He was limited all week and did not play in last week’s game against the Texans.

There are two menisci (not meniscuses) in the knee, the medial meniscus and the lateral meniscus. They are cartilaginous discs which provide shock absorption and stability to the knee. The menisci in the  diagram below are shown in blue.

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A tear in a meniscus, no matter how “slight,” can result in pain, swelling, and mild instability of the knee. Since the meniscus is inside the knee joint, it is surrounded by joint fluid. This fluid prevents the tissue from healing if it is injured. Therefore, a meniscus tear, like an ACL tear, does not heal by itself. If a tear of the meniscus is symptomatic, it can only truly be repaired surgically.  The meniscus is a structure that has very little bloodflow. This makes actual repair (stitching back together) of even very small tears in the meniscus challenging.  In many cases, the torn section of meniscus is simply trimmed away. The good news is that not every meniscus tear needs to be treated surgically.  There are some good studies showing that meniscus tears can be managed with physical therapy to strengthen and stabilize the knee. These studies were not conducted in NFL players, however. Hightower seems to be showing progress since a week ago when he returned to practice. The real test will be how the linebacker performs in game situations at full speed. We’ll have to wait to see if this meniscus tear becomes an issue that requires surgery later in the season.

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And finally, I have reviewed film from the podium and conclude that Rob Gronkowski is dying to get back to his full game reps after a hamstring tear he sustained in mid-August. He reports that he is progressing every day this week and has had no setbacks. Although we always want to see more Gronk, let’s hope the Pats don’t need to work him too hard on Sunday.

Follow me on Twitter @jessdeede.

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