AJ Green has a lot riding on this season.
The Bengals wide receiver turns 31 this week and he is in the final year of his contract. He missed seven games in 2018 with a toe injury. He missed plenty of time with a hamstring injury before that. And on Saturday, in his very first training camp practice of the season, Green went down with a left ankle injury that could sideline him for significant time.
So the time part is very important to Green – exactly how much time?
There is very limited video of the training camp injury. The video below is the clearest that I have seen. Green goes up to try to recover a short ball from QB Andy Dalton as it is nearly grabbed by CB Dre Kirkpatrick. From this angle, I can’t tell if he gets tangled up with Kirkpatrick or if his left foot simply sticks awkwardly on the field.
Green was visibly frustrated after speaking with medical personnel that day and was carted off of the field. He was later seen in the locker room in a boot on crutches. After initial positive reports that the injury was a low ankle sprain, Green quickly had an MRI which reportedly revealed “torn ligaments.” He is currently in the process of gathering medical opinions from specialists, but the estimated return to play is now being reported as closer to 6-8 weeks, putting the first regular season game in jeopardy.
What does all of this mean?
With very limited video, it’s tough for me to say if this is a low or high ankle sprain. When distinguishing between the two types of sprains, video is very telling.
This is a right low ankle sprain (Ryan Tannehill):
This is a right high ankle sprain mechanism (Martellus Bennett):
The distinction between a high and low ankle sprain is significant in terms of return to play. A low ankle sprain involves the ligaments of the lower ankle and rarely requires surgery, even for significant tears. A high ankle sprain, on the other hand, involves the ligaments that hold the lower leg bones (tibia/shin and fibula) together. Full rupture or instability of those ligaments can require surgery, especially in quick, cutting athletes like AJ Green.
The reported timetable of 6-8 weeks and the gathering of multiple opinions, combined with the fact that Green was spotted off of his foot on a scooter today, leads me to believe that his injury is most likely a significant high ankle sprain. As a general rule, with low ankle sprains, I try to have my athletes bear weight on their ankle as soon as possible. The fact that Green is now on a scooter suggests he may be off of his ankle for a little while.
Not a great thing for a guy trying to work out an extension on his aging contract. The one saving grace? It’s EARLY. The season hasn’t started yet. If AJ Green’s injury is stable and he can avoid surgery, it is possible that he could return by week 1 or 2 of the regular season.
The real question is – how quickly can a 31 year-old receiver work back from a significant left ankle injury after missing almost the entire 2018 season with a right toe injury? That question, unfortunately, can only be answered by AJ Green.