Pats injury update

Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Rob Gronkowski

It’s officially that time in the season when teams start to feel the drain of 12 weeks of hard hits and tackles building up. Tom Brady acknowledged this when asked about his health during Friday’s press conference “It’s just bumps and bruises like everybody else. It’s a tough time of year. A lot of guys have been going for a long time – a lot longer than me. Everyone is dealing with something. It’s part of football.” Here’s a list of the Patriots’ current injuries.

QB Tom Brady (knee) – Tom missed two practices early Thanksgiving week with a knee injury and was limited in practice on Friday. It is unclear if this is related to the Kam Chancellor hit to his lower thigh 2 weeks ago. We haven’t heard about another injury since then. Brady had an ACL reconstruction in his left knee in 2008. Having this injury history puts him at risk of knee pain related to degeneration in the knee. We’re not really sure why young patients with ACL injuries get earlier knee arthritis, but some studies suggest that as many as 80% of ACL injured knees may demonstrate osteoarthritis at 5 to 15 years after initial injury, especially if they had a meniscus tear (which Brady reportedly did not). I am not saying that Tommy Terrific has arthritis in his knee! I’m giving you a glimpse into what a sports medicine doctor thinks of when an athlete with history of ACL injury complains of knee pain with no obvious injury. Tom has an amazing mental toughness and has demonstrated time and time again that he can perform even in the setting of significant physical pain. I would expect to see him on the field this weekend. A report today from Dianna Russini of ESPN indicates it may be a game-time decision:

WR Matt Slater (foot) – Early in the 2nd half of last week’s 49er’s game, the special teams captain cut hard to his left and pulled up lame on his left foot. He struggled to the sideline and sat immediately, in obvious pain. He did not return to the game and was seen leaving the stadium in a protective boot on crutches. You could not see the injury well on replay, but given the fact that he was put on crutches in a boot and did not practice all week, it looks like a significant injury that could take weeks to heal. Possibilities for that general mechanism of injury include significant sprain or fifth metatarsal fracture. If it was a Jones fracture I would expect that we would have already heard about surgery, but who knows with this team…

WR Chris Hogan (back) – Brady’s new long-ball target missed last week’s game with a back injury that he tried to play through the week before. It’s been 3 weeks since the injury showed up on the Patriots injury report and it sounds like he is improving although he was limited in practice all week. Back injuries can range from muscle spasm to disc issues that require surgery (as was the case with JJ Watt). Given that he has been limited for 3 weeks, it’s likely that Hogan’s injury is more than a muscle spasm. I’m hopeful we’ll see him this week against the Jets and that his timing with Brady is better than it was against Seattle two weeks ago.

TE Martellus Bennett (ankle, shoulder) – Bennett sustained a right high ankle sprain back in week 5 against the Browns. See my blog post about high ankle sprains here for more info. He showed superhero grit when he returned to the game and scored a career-high 3 touchdowns. The tight end has continued to practice and play on that ankle, at times being seen limping on and off of the field. This week he was listed as having a shoulder injury. He did not practice on Thursday and was limited in Friday’s session. Bennett has shown that dependability is something important to him. I would expect him to play on Sunday.

TE Rob Gronkowski (chest) – It has never been officially confirmed, but the sports world believes that Gronk is recovering from a punctured lung (see my post on Gronk’s injury here). There is a possibility that he is also dealing with a broken rib. Although Gronk was able to practice this week, he was seen leaving Friday’s practice in a red no-contact jersey. Reports today indicate Gronk is making progress and has a chance of playing:

The decision on return to play in the case of a punctured lung (pneumothorax) would be resolution of air collection on x-ray, no respiratory symptoms, and pain tolerance (in the setting of simultaneous chest wall injury).

WR Julian Edelman (foot) – The wide receiver broke his left foot in week 10 of the 2015 season and did not return until the divisional round of the playoffs. He required 2 surgeries and suffered a setback in training camp this year. Edelman has been limited in practice all season but has not missed a game. His play seems to be steadily improving and he continues to be Tom Brady’s most comfortable and reliable option when plays break down. I wrote about Edelman’s injury  (“What’s up with Julian Edelman?”) here. As a side note, Bills WR Sammy Watkins also has been dealing with a nagging fifth metatarsal fracture. He was activated from IR today and is reported to be doing well, unofficially probable to play tomorrow.

CB Cyrus Jones (illness) – Jones missed Friday’s practice due to illness. The team seems to be putting an emphasis on keeping sick players away from the facility this season. If Jones is not feeling better in time to make the trip to NJ, the Patriots may rely more heavily on Amendola and Edelman in the punt return game. (Update: Jones did not make the trip and has been ruled out for today’s game)

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