Week 7 Injury Impact: Several teams lose key players for the season
Here’s the latest on Sunday’s most prominent injuries.
Jermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay Packers (head/neck): Finley took a slant pass from Aaron Rodgers in the fourth quarter of the Packers’ win over the Cleveland Browns at Lambeau Field, and went to the ground after a hit to the head from Browns safety Tashaun Gipson. Finley was lowering his head as Gipson moved in to tackle, and the tight end was motionless for several minutes before team trainers immobilized him and took him off the field on a stretcher. He suffered a neck injury, and was transported to a local ICU. He retained movement and feeling in his extremities, and according to reports from FOX Sports’ Mike Garafolo, was walking around the hospital a bit on Monday.
That said, it was a frightening injury less than a month after Finley suffered a concussion that had his young son asking him to stop playing football. Several of Finley’s teammates talked after the game about how distressing the scene was.
“Oh man, it was tough,” tight end Andrew Quarless said. “It was tough to see something like that. You could just look in his eyes and he had this look. It was a pain or something, it was one of those looks that was tough to see.”
According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today, it could be weeks before the Packers know if Finley is ready to return to the field. The team is obviously taking all protocols very seriously at this point, and it could be a while before Finley knows about his football future.
Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams (knee): As first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Bradford suffered a season-ending torn ACL against the Carolina Panthers when safety Mike Mitchell took him down at the sideline on Sunday. Bradford was having his best season to date, and he’s due more than $14 million in base salary in 2014. St. Louis’ front office had expressed interest in giving Bradford a contract extension to ease some of that potential salary cap hit, and it’s obviously unknown how this injury affects those plans. Kellen Clemens finished the game against Carolina, and he could be the starter next Monday night when the Rams welcome the Seahawks defense to the Edward Jones Dome — an inhospitable welcome for any signal-caller.
Brian Cushing, LB, Houston Texans (leg/knee): For the second straight year, Cushing will miss a large part of a season due to a leg injury. He was lost in Week 5 last season against the New York Jets after guard Matt Slauson hit him low with a block that changed the NFL’s rules, and in Houston’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, Cushing tore his left LCL and broke his leg. Albert Breer of the NFL Network reported a three-month recovery timetable for Cushing, and with the Texans at 2-5, that means yet another early end to a season for a key player who signed a lucrative contract extension in the offseason. Against both the run and pass, Houston’s defense is far less effective without Cushing.
Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (shoulder): The winless Bucs took another in a series of seemingly endless hits to their franchise with the torn labrum that will keep Martin out for at least several weeks, and more likely the remainder of the season. The second-year back has been the one bastion of consistency in an offense that has struggled this season, and he’s carried most of the load on the ground for the Bucs through his time in the league. Rookie back Mike James will take Martin’s place alongside fellow rookie quarterback Mike Glennon.
Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis Colts (knee): As was confirmed Monday, Wayne was lost for the season after suffering a torn ACL in the fourth quarter of the team’s win over the formerly undefeated Denver Broncos. Wayne is the second most important player in Indy’s offense behind quarterback Andrew Luck, and he’s not easily replaceable because he does so many things so well — from blocking at the line of scrimmage to short and intermediate routes to confusing enemy defenses along with young speedster T.Y. Hilton. The 5-2 Colts are very well-coached and well-run, but as head coach Chuck Pagano said on Monday, “You just don’t replace guys like No. 87.”
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears (groin): Multiple reports on Monday indicated that Cutler tore a muscle in his groin as he was sacked by Washington Redskins lineman Chris Baker in the second quarter of Chicago’s loss. The Bears confirmed the report on Monday, saying that Cutler will miss “at least” four weeks. Chicago has a bye upcoming, and next faces the Green Bay Packers on Monday, Nov. 4. The Bears then have the Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens at home, before traveling to St. Louis and Minnesota. Career backup Josh McCown performed reasonably well in Cutler’s absence against Washington’s weak secondary, and he does have the basic skillset to win with the West Coast-style of offense preferred by head coach Marc Trestman.
Lance Briggs, LB, Chicago Bears (shoulder): Bad day for the Bears, as Briggs suffered a shoulder injury against Washington (as first reported by Pro Football Talk) and will miss 4-6 weeks. It’s a big blow to a Bears defense that has been shuffling linemen in and out all season and has had to juggle cornerback Charles Tillman’s injury woes as well.
Trestman talked on Monday about how his players need to be in the right places at the right times — especially on defense — and losing Briggs for any time won’t help that process at all.
Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles (concussion): Foles, subbing in for Michael Vick who was struggling with a hamstring injury, was concussed at the end of the third quarter and replaced by rookie Matt Barkley, who promptly threw three interceptions. Foles was 11-of-29 for 80 yards against the Cowboys, one week after putting up the best performance of his career against the Buccaneers.
Head coach Chip Kelly hopes that Vick can return this upcoming week. As for Foles? “I saw Nick after the game, he seems like he’s doing well,” Kelly said. “There’s a protocol and a system you go through before he’s cleared. He says he feels good so we’ll see how it goes as the week progresses.”
Kelly also said that if neither Vick nor Foles could go against the New York Giants, the team would look to acquire another quarterback in the short term.
“I’m not a scenario guy,” Kelly concluded. “I’m not getting into all that. We know exactly where Matt has to be, where Nick has to be, and where Mike has to be.”