With the kickoff to the NFL Regular Season now just a month and a week away, let’s wrap up our two-part updated Injury series with the NFC, a conference with more luck than the AFC.
Let’s see where some of the major names in the NFC now injured or recovering from a past injury currently stand, and speculate whether or not they’ll be ready for September 14th and Week 1. And, as always, a couple of Picks stemmed from the findings for you loyal Sportsbook Review readers.
Whereas the AFC has a number of big name players either injured or suspended to start the 2015 NFL Regular Season, the NFC isn’t half the circus the former AFL has been pretty much from last year’s AFC Championship game up until this very minute. How else could the NFL become a 365/24/7 league without inundating you and me with Tom Brady news smack dab in the middle of May when some of us used to care about the Indianapolis 500? Suspensions and Rookie injuries are the big news in the AFC, as we discussed with the NFC in Part 1 of this two-part injury series, but in the NFC it’s a mystery shin injury, a couple of serious fireworks injuries and the usual minor issues the conference’s 16 teams are dealing with. And there are few things worse than seeing a professional athlete injure the thing he or she needs to make a living (their Bodies) by doing something dumb off of the playing field but these are young men playing a game suddenly thrust into Fame and Fortune and losing a finger or two because of Fourth of July celebrations has apparently become part of the big picture now. And the sadness in actually having to lose a phalange or two because of fireworks is only overpowered by the Talking Heads saying that particular finger (New York Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul’s right index finger) wasn’t that important or wouldn’t really affect what he was doing. C’mon man. All fingers matter and the right index finger might be thought to be the most important by some writers, guitar players and great chefs. And probably a number of NFL Quarterbacks, although the right thumb knows in reality that he’s The Man. Anyway, let’s look at some Injuries what are worth knowing about as the NFL Preseason officially gets underway this weekend on Sunday with the Hall of Fame Game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Pittsburgh Steelers at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio (NBC, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT; NFL Odds: Vikings -3, Total: 38, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook).
WR Kevin White, Chicago Bears (Shin)
The Chicago Bears (66/1 to win Super Bowl, bet365) had the #7 Pick in Round 1 of the NFL Draft so they took highly regarded WR Kevin White out of West Virginia and everything seemed about as good as it could be with QB Jay Cutler getting another nice target in the Windy City, right? But alas, this is the Bears, and a mysterious Shin injury said to have happened 6 weeks ago has now sidelined the speedy Rookie (4.35 40-yard dash at Combine), and in true NSA fashion, the Bears are saying nothing about it and telling local reporters nothing. And if you think I’m kidding or being sarcastic about this, just read the words of Chicago Sun-Times reporter Rick Morrissey:
“The Bears have everything and everybody on lockdown at training camp. TV cameramen can’t shoot tape of team drills, bureaucratic restrictions have been placed on player interviews for all media and don’t even think about tweeting about someone getting injured during practice if you’re a reporter.”
So, maybe the 23-year-old White (6-3, 215 pounds) did something silly and hurt himself and his new employer is hiding the truth in order to protect him for some reason. Who knows. Not us, not now, that’s for sure. But whatever the Bears goofy posture is, it’s definitely not a good look, especially with fellow WR Alshon Jeffery also nursing a sprained AC joint injury. The more you hear about the Chicago during Training Camp—which has been open for over a week now—the more you think they are truly destined to finish in last place in the NFC North and endure another troubling season. Sportsbook operator 5Dimes currently has White lined at 12/1 odds to be the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year this coming season.
DE Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants (Right Index Finger Amputated)
New York Giants (40/1 to win Super Bowl, William Hill) talented DE Jason Pierre-Paul had to have his right index finger amputated after a fireworks accident on the Fourth of July, with the procedure reportedly supposed to increase his recovery and allow him to play within two months after the amputation and other related surgeries (July). And like the Bears Kevin White situation with the media getting little, if any information on the Rookie’s shin injury, the Giants themselves have gotten nothing from Pierre-Paul until today (Tuesday), when General Manager Jerry Reese reportedly said he finally spoke with the DE, who is still unsigned and the biggest news in G-Men Training Camp. And that’s not good. Reese said he wasn’t annoyed with the Giants inability to communicate with the 26-year-old South Florida product and former Round 1 Draft Pick Pierre-Paul, which means that New York was, and probably still is annoyed with this reality. My, how times have changed. The Giants have yet to release any details of Pierre-Paul’s injury as they have not yet been allowed to examine him. Expect that examination and some progress in the next couple of weeks as without the 6-foot-5-inch, 275-pound Pierre-Paul (42 career Sacks)—whose contract situation remains in a stalemate—the Giants Defense will have another unwanted problem at the worst possible time and much less depth at the position than anticipated in March. And you thought having kids was difficult.
CB CJ Wilson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Right Middle and Index Fingers Amputated)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (150/1 to win Super Bowl, Sky Bet) also had a Defensive player injured on the Fourth of July in a fireworks incident, theirs’ DB CJ Wilson, who announced in July that he was taking a hiatus from the NFL after losing his right middle and index fingers in the accident while holding a canister of exploding fireworks. Like Pierre-Paul, the 25-year-old Wilson—who has one year left on his contract—had to have an amputation and multiple surgeries on his hand. Tampa Bay placed the CB on the reserve/Retired List and if Wilson can pass a Physical in the future, the Bucs will reportedly have the option of activating him although a source close to Wilson—an undrafted Free Agent out of North Carolina State—said that he may be gone for good. Time will tell if Wilson, but taking a hiatus may end up being the best move he could have made right now. Kids, pay attention to all of this stuff. Hands matter.
WR Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints (Undisclosed Injury)
Let’s get away from right fingers lost on Holidays celebrating independence from the British Empire and back to the Mysterious Stuff, this time New Orleans Saints (40/1 to win Super Bowl, William Hill) and veteran WR Marques Colston who was removed from the Saints PUP List last week. But the specifics of Colston’s Injury were never, and still haven’t, been disclosed. So there. Is “getting old” an Injury? Saints Head Coach Sean Payton has reportedly said, “We need to be smart with where Marques is at,” almost an acknowledgement that maybe the 32-year-old Slot Receiver’s best days are behind him or that maybe the 6-foot-4-inch, 225-pound Hofstra product isn’t in the best of football shape right now. The latter sounds more feasible. Expect Colston to get back into better football shape and back on the gridiron for New Orleans at his familiar starting (left) WR spot as one of QB Drew Brees’ favorite targets. Saints RB Mark Ingram (Foot) is also dealing with an issue and was sidelined during OTA’s last Thursday.
FS Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks (Left Shoulder)
The defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks (+450 to win Super Bowl, Sky Bet) and its Legion of Boom Defensive Backfield may be without one of its members for the their Week 1 opener against the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis (Seahawks -3, Total: 43, Pinnacle), FS Earl Thomas (Shoulder), who underwent surgery in the Offseason for a torn labrum in his left shoulder he injured in the 2015 NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers. The 26-year-old, 4-time Pro Bowler was not expected to be cleared for Training Camp and was actually put on the PUP List Friday, and, his running partner, Strong Safety Kam Chancellor is holding out now in terms of leveraging a new contract, like a couple of his teammates like LB Bobby Wagner have successfully done lately. For Seattle to be as effective and as dominant as it has Defensively over the past two NFL seasons, the team will need both Texas product Thomas (5-10, 202) and Chancellor back at their starting Safety spots behind All Pro CB Richard Sherman and CB Cary Williams, even in the Regular Season opener (Sept. 13) against a St. Louis team, which has shown it can its NFC West rival Seattle, no matter how big it gets.
Other Notable NFC Hurts, Recoveries and Injury News
There are other players in the NFC with different, more normal Injury realities and improvements than some of the above players. Arizona Cardinals (33/1 to win Super Bowl, Sky Bet) QB Carson Palmer (Knee) is back at Training Camp and ready to go, with Head Coach Bruce Arians reportedly saying that the 35-year-old USC product’s arm looks much stronger than before. And Cardinals teammates RB Andre Ellington (Hamstring) and WR Michael Floyd (Hamstring) continue to recover, so Arizona could have a healthy and improved Palmer, Ellington and Floyd on its Offense to start the new season if all goes right in the Valley of the Sun. The team which plays in the city—St. Louis—the Cardinals used to call Home (1960-1987), the St. Louis Rams, also have some Injury concerns, but for them it’s more of a matter of going slowly with some of their hurt guys. Rookie RB and Round 2 Draft Pick Todd Gurley (Georgia) and WR Brian Quick (Shoulder) are both at Training Camp—with Gurley (9/1 to be Offensive Rookie of the Year, 5Dimes) reportedly in limited drills so far—but proceeding with caution according to reports, so we can likely expect both to be ready by Week 1 and a meeting with the aforementioned Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints (Cardinals -2½, Total: 47, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook). The Rams also have a mystery injury of their own, in SS TJ McDonald (Leg) whom Head Coach Jeff Fisher said was dealing “...with an ordeal.” The 24-year-old DB, 6-foot-2-inch, 217-pound McDonald was sidelined with an injury the team refused to go into depth on an had been dealing with the effects of a leg injury suffered against the San Francisco 49ers back in 2013. Who knows with this one.
The Philadelphia Eagles (25/1 to win Super Bowl, Paddy Power) have new QB Sam Bradford (2 ACL tears in career)—they traded QB Nick Foles to the Rams for Bradford in the offseason—and they will now play him without his knee brace according to Rotowire and expect him to start in their Preseason Week 1 opener (August 18) at Home against the Indianapolis Colts. And former Eagles deep threat and now Washington Redskins WR DeSean Jackson (Left Index Finger Dislocation) missed practice on Sunday but will take precautions with his injury until it fully heals. And with 5 weeks until the NFL’s Regular Season kicks off (Sept. 10), Jackson will have plenty of time to get it to or near 100% but needs to make sure it doesn’t worsen in Training Camp or the coming Preseason.
Both starting WRs for the Giants, Odell Beckham Jr. (Hamstring) and Victor Cruz (Knee) are also dealing with their own issues, but both returned last week and Beckham was on the end of a 60-year Eli Manning TD pass in practice on Monday, so he is obviously no worry and good to go. On the other hand, the 28-year-old Cruz, a former Pro Bowler, is being nursed back along very cautiously after tearing the patellar tendon in his right knee last October.
For the Detroit Lions, Joique Bell (Achilles/Knee) has been recovering rapidly from his injuries, but Lions Head Coach Jim Caldwell said that there is no timetable for the 29-year-old RB from Wayne State who is on the PUP List and has not begun practicing with the team as of yet, but Bell has reportedly been on the sideline at practices. And, also noteworthy, Atlanta Falcons WR Roddy White (Knee) and WR-KR Devin Hester (Personal Reasons) are dealing with different issues but both should be ready by Atlanta’s Week 1 meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles at the Georgia Dome on the Monday Night Football (ESPN) opener on Sept. 14 (Pick ‘Em, Total: 53½, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook), while Dallas Cowboys RB Darren McFadden (Hamstring) is on the PUP List and Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Louis Murphy (Ankle) is out of action.
AFC Breaking News Injury Update: Houston Texans Thomas Tears Groin on Monday
The Houston Texans suffered a massive blow when it was revealed on Tuesday afternoon that star RB Arian Foster suffered a torn groin during a pass play in practice on Monday and would require surgery, likely forcing the starter to miss the beginning of the NFL Regular Season. Speculation was that the 28-year-old Foster could be put on the short-term Injured Reserve List which would allow the team to bring the 6-foot-1-inch, 227-pound University of Tennessee product back for practices after Week 6 and ready for game action in Week 8 if all goes well. With Houston still working a new QB (Brian Hoyer, Browns) into its team plans and the lowly Tennessee Titans (2-14 in 2014) and Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13) in the AFC South, this division may have been won (again) by the Indianapolis Colts when Foster was injured on Monday. This is a massive blow for the team and any sports bettors who may have taken the Texans to win the Super Bowl (50/1, bet365) or the Texans Over in the Season Team Win Total marketplace, although one never knows. But without Foster and team legend Andre Johnson—who signed as a Free Agent with the Colts—at WR, Hoyer, or Ryan Mallett maybe if he can win the job, will be working with much less talent and experience at the skill positions. Losing Foster really hurts.
NFC Futures Book Season Team Win Total Picks: New York Giants Regular Season Team Wins Total Under 8½ -115; Chicago Bears Regular Season Team Wins Total Under 7 -150 (Bovada)