There are several key NFL players, like Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Hakeem Nicks and Rob Gronkowski, heading into this fantasy season with injuries. Let's find out how their off-season rehab has gone and what the fantasy football owner can expect to see from these players as training camps kick into gear.
Jay Cutler, CHI - Fractured Thumb
Bears’ QB Jay Cutler, who suffered a fractured right (throwing) thumb during Week 11 against the Chargers last year, has fully recovered from the injury and he will be a full participant in the team’s training camp that begins next week. According to reports Cutler had pins surgically inserted into his thumb to stabilize the joint. But the pins were removed in late December and he was cleared to participate in the team’s off-season conditioning program. By all accounts his recovery went well and he hasn’t suffered any setbacks so don’t expect his thumb to be an issue this season.
Peyton Manning, DEN - Multiple Neck Surgeries
Broncos’ QB Peyton Manning is still rehabbing from neck surgery and while he will be ready to play when the regular season begins, there is concern that his arm is weaker than it was before the neck problems and that it will affect how he throws the football. After undergoing a couple of neck surgeries prior to the start of last season Manning was on his way to returning to the field, but he suffered a major setback in his recovery the day he was cleared to resume practice and he has since undergone at least one more surgery to repair the damage. According to reports Manning underwent a single level anterior fusion in which a defective disc that was impinging on a nerve was surgically removed and two healthy vertebrae were fused using special bone grafts. The fusion has reportedly healed fine and there is little concern that it will break or cause additional problems from here on out. However the pinched nerve remains an issue. It created weakness in his right (throwing) arm, specifically in his triceps, and as with all injuries to nerves it takes a long time to heal (if ever). Some who have observed him throwing including head coach John Fox have commented that he seems like the Peyton Manning of old. But others have said that his throws, especially on those 20+ yards downfield, lacked zip and velocity. Manning recently admitted that he wasn’t 100% and that his goal was to get as close to that as possible for the start of the regular season. So he’ll definitely play when the regular season begins, but we just don’t know how this reduced arm strength will affect how he plays.
Matt Schaub, HOU - Lisfranc Ligament Tear
According to reports Texans’ QB Matt Schaub has been given clearance for the start of training camp and team officials believe that he will be at full strength when the regular season begins. Schaub tore the Lisfranc Ligament in his right foot during Week 10 last year and there was so much instability within his midfoot that he needed to have pins and screws surgically inserted to help repair it. The hardware was removed in April and by all accounts his recovery has gone as scheduled. He was held out of off-season workouts and practices as a precaution, but he did participate in passing drills with his teammates in late June and early July and by all accounts he looked good. Schaub might be a limited participant in the early stages of training camp, but team officials expect him to be a full strength very soon and he will be the team’s starting QB when the regular season begins.
Jahvid Best, DET - Severe Concussion
Lions’ RB Jahvid Best, who missed 10 games last season after suffering what turned out to be a severe concussion, was a full participant in the team’s off-season conditioning program and barring a setback team officials expect him to be their top running back when the regular season begins. Best suffered from post-concussion syndrome after getting hurt last year and symptoms lingered for several months afterwards. He reportedly saw 5 separate specialists in an attempt to find a speedy solution to the problem. Head coach Jim Schwartz told reporters during the summer that Best did the same things his teammates did during the off-season and that it appeared that he was back to full strength. However his biggest test will be contact and he might be limited to non-contact drills and activities at the start of training camp . Even if Best has completely recovered there is concern that another concussion could keep him out of action for an extended period of time.
Jamaal Charles, KC - ACL Surgery
Chiefs’ RB Jamaal Charles tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee at the beginning of last season and according to reports his recovery has gone well and he should be cleared for the start of training camp. Charles had reconstructive knee surgery in early October and although he was limited during the off-season Charles told reporters that he has been running and cutting for several months. He’s scheduled to be examined prior to the start of training camp and he expects to receive full medical clearance. Keep in mind that with all ACL injuries it usually takes 12 - 18 months after surgery for the injured person to returns to their pre-injury form. So even if he is cleared it will likely take at least another 2 months before he’s back to full speed, which means there’s a good chance that he will be limited throughout the pre-season.
Tim Hightower, RB - ACL Surgery
Cardinals’ RB Tim Hightower, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Week 7 last year, has suffered no setbacks in his recovery and according to reports he should be able to participate in portions of training camp, Hightower participated in individual drills during mini-camps in June and while he looked sharp head coach Mike Shanahan cautioned that he was only cleared to participate in conditioning drills and that he was still awaiting clearance for football activities and contact. It isn’t clear if he will be allowed to practice when training camp begins, but team officials expect him on the field at some point during the pre-season. Barring a setback he should be cleared to play when the regular season begins. He likely won’t be at full strength until a month or so into the regular season so don’t be surprised if his playing time is limited early on.
Mark Ingram, NO - Arthroscopic Knee Surgery and Toe Surgery
Saints’ RB Mark Ingram is recovering from two off-season procedures, one on his left knee and one and his big toe, but it looks like he will be ready for the start of training camp. Ingram suffered through a chronic turf toe problem last year and he missed the end of the season as a result. An MRI showed a significant amount of damage to the ligament in his big toe and he had it surgically repaired in January. It appeared that he made a complete recovery, however during conditioning he began to experience swelling and soreness in his left knee. The discomfort lingered and he underwent what he called a “minor” arthroscopic procedure in early May to fix the problem. According to reports he probably won’t be a full participant when training camp begins, but if all goes well he should be able to play during the pre-season.
Felix Jones, DAL - Arthroscopic Shoulder Surgery
Cowboys’ RB Felix Jones was limited throughout the off-season because he was recovering from arthroscopic shoulder surgery, but head coach Jason Garrett is confident that Jones will be ready for the start of training camp. According to reports Jones suffered through an undisclosed right shoulder problem last season. The surgery and subsequent rehab reportedly went well and after losing some weight during the off-season he’s apparently in great shape. Garrett believes that Jones will be cleared for all football activities sometime next week, but he’ll still have to battle DeMarco Murray for playing time.
Rashard Mendenhall, PIT - ACL Surgery
According to reports Steelers’ RB Rashard Mendenhall still has a long way to go in his recovery from ACL surgery. Not only will he miss the start of training camp there is also concern that he could open the regular season on the reserve PUP list. Mendenhall tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in early January and although he’s anxious about getting back on the field the medical staff does not want to push him to return before he’s ready. There were unconfirmed reports that he was running and cutting on his own in May, but he was officially cleared for full-speed straight-line sprints in June. Information on his recovery has been scarce since then but there is a growing concern within the organization that he will not be able to participate in team activities during training camp and that he won’t be cleared for contact in time for the start of the regular season. Even if things go exceptionally well over the next month and he’s cleared to play in Week 1 he probably won‘t be at full strength until after the 2012 season. We’ll keep you posted on his recovery throughout training camp.
Knowshon Moreno, DEN - ACL Surgery
Broncos’ RB Knowshon Moreno, who missed the end of last season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, is reportedly ahead of schedule in his rehab and the team’s medical staff believes that he will be ready to play by Week 1. Moreno participated in Broncos’ OTAs, and although he was limited he did look sharp. He still isn’t back to full strength and he might be placed on the active PUP list when training camp begins. But team officials expect him to be cleared for practice at some point before the start of the regular season and unless he suffers a setback he should be available to play in Week 1. Unfortunately for Moreno he won’t be any higher than second on the team’s depth chart. Willis McGahee is the team’s unquestioned starter and there are reports that Moreno will have to fight to be his backup.
Adrian Peterson, MIN - Surgery to Repair Torn ACL, MCL and Meniscus
Vikings’ RB Adrian Peterson, who is about 7 months removed from major reconstructive knee surgery, will likely start training camp on the active PUP list. And even if he is cleared to play when the regular season begins, his touches will be limited and he might have to split carries with backup Toby Gerhart for the entire 2012 season. Peterson tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments as well as damaged cartilage in his left knee in a game at the end of last season and he required major reconstructive surgery to repair the damage. AP began running in early April and he was cleared for full-speed running and cutting in June. He’s been pain-free for several months, however according to recent reports he still lacks strength in his left leg and he might not be ready to practice until sometime in August. Peterson has told reporters that he wants to return at some point during training camp and his goal is to be cleared for contact before Week 1. But even if all that happens, he won’t be strong enough to carry the load. Right now we are looking at a best case scenario that involves him splitting carries with Gerhart. We’ll keep you posted.
Beanie Wells, ARI - Arthroscopic Knee Surgery
Cardinals’ RB Beanie Wells is still working his way back from off-season knee surgery and he recently admitted that he may not be “full-tilt” when training camp begins. Wells tore cartilage in his right knee in Week 7 last season and although he played through the injury he was held out of a number of practices and head coach Ken Whisenhunt acknowledged that Wells was in a tremendous amount of discomfort. The troublesome knee was surgically repaired in January and his recovery since then has been slow, but steady. Wells did not take part in team activities during the off-season, but he was seen working on the field with the team’s medical staff in May. As expected he was held of mini-camps in June and according to reports not only is his leg strength still an issue, but he still has an issue with soreness. Don’t be surprised if he placed on the team’s active PUP list when training camp begins, but team officials are hoping that he will be able to make it all the way back in time for the start of the regular season.
Kenny Britt, TEN - Surgery to Repair Torn ACL, MCL and Meniscus / Additional Arthroscopic Knee Surgery
Titans’ WR Kenny Britt, who had torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments and meniscus surgical repaired in is left knee last October, has since undergone an additional arthroscopic procedure and it looks like he will begin training camp on the active PUP list. Britt’s recovery from major reconstructive knee surgery was going well, but he began to experience a “little clicking” in the same knee during workouts in late April and early May. There were also reports that the knee began swelling immediately after his workouts. According to local media he underwent an arthroscopic procedure to remove problematic scar tissue on May 16 and while the surgery went as expected the setback has altered his recovery timetable. He began running and cutting drills in June and he hopes to practice at some point during training camp, but as with all players recovering from ACL surgery Britt probably won’t be back to full speed until sometime after the start of the regular season.
Andre Johnson, HOU - Arthroscopic Knee Surgery
Texans’ WR Andre Johnson has already completely recovered from off-season knee surgery and he should be ready for the start of training camp and the regular season. Johnson reportedly complained swelling and mild discomfort in his left knee in April and he underwent a routine arthroscopic procedure in early May to fix the problem. He sat out OTAs in May and mini-camps in June as a precaution, but he recently told a reporter that he is “100 percent” and that he will be “ready to go with no restrictions” when training camp begins.
Stevie Johnson, BUF - Groin Surgery
Bills’ WR Stevie Johnson has almost completely recovered from groin surgery and according to reports he should be ready to practice when training camp begins. Johnson underwent what the team called a “minor” procedure to repair a problem that bothered him throughout the 2011 season. The exact nature of the issue has not been made public, but there was speculation that he had a sports hernia repaired. Fortunately it looks like the speculation was wrong and after sitting out OTA’s in May he was back on the field with teammates during the mini-camp in June. Johnson told reporters at the mini-camp that he was about 90 percent at the time. So he should be close to 100% heading into training camp.
Hakeem Nicks, NYG - Fractured Foot
Giants’ WR Hakeem Nicks will likely start training camp on the active PUP list and hew will likely miss all of training camp and a large portion of the pre-season while he continues rehab on his surgically repaired foot. But he plans on returning to field at some point before the regular season and team officials are optimistic about his chances of playing in Week 1. Nicks fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot while running a route during practice in late May. Screws were surgically inserted into his foot to help stabilize the injured area, but he claimed he was pain-free just a couple of weeks after the procedure. According to reports he’s begun to do some light running and his foot is holding up well to the increased activity. We’ll keep a close eye on his recovery and we should know more about his status when training camp begins.
Sidney Rice, SEA - Bi-lateral Shoulder Surgeries / Concussions
Seahawks’ WR Sidney Rice, who is still recovering from arthroscopic surgery on both shoulders, will reportedly start training camp on the active PUP list. However he hopes to practice with the team at some point in August and team officials think that he will be ready to play in time for Week 1 of the regular season. Rice has dealt with pain, stiffness and weakness in both shoulders for several years and missed a number of practices and games during that time as a result. An MRI on his more problematic right shoulder after the 2011 season revealed a significant amount of labral damage. Prior to having it repaired he asked the team’s medical staff to check out his left shoulder which had bothered him in the past. According to reports the MRI on that shoulder also revealed damage to the labrum. So he had both shoulders surgically repaired 6 weeks a part. Rice is currently pain-free on both shoulders, but he continues to work on improving his strength. His shoulders aren’t the only area of concern. Rice’s 2011 season actually ended because of a concussion. After suffering his third concussion in a 12 month span the medical staff decided to shut him down for the remainder of the season as a precaution. By all accounts he’s made a full recovery, but he’s become a concussion risk and if he suffers another concussion this season he could be forced out of action for an extended period of time.
Nate Washington, TEN - Arthroscopic Knee Surgery
Titans’ WR Nate Washington underwent arthroscopic surgery in early April to remove a piece of chipped bone and team officials expect him to be ready for the start of training camp. According to reports Washington made a quick recovery and he was back on the field for OTA’s in May. He hasn’t practiced at full speed since the surgery, but Washington said that he expects to be 100 percent when training camp begins.
Brent Celek, PHI - Arthroscopic Hip Surgery and Sports Hernia surgery.
Eagles’ TE Brent Celek played through the entire 2011 season with pain and discomfort in his hip and groin area but despite the lingering issues he rarely missed a practice and he didn’t miss a game. As it turns out Celek’s problems were more serious than anybody expected. According to reports not only did Celek have a torn labrum in his left hip but he also had a sports hernia. Both were surgically repaired (concurrently) in early January and while he isn’t practicing at full speed yet, he has been a limited participant in every OTA during this off-season and team officials expect him to be a full participant at some point during training camp. Celek is as tough as nails so there’s no reason to think that he won’t be ready to play when the regular season begins.
Rob Gronkowski, NE - Ankle Surgery
Patriots’ TE Rob Gronkowski, who suffered a severe high ankle sprain during the AFC Championship game last season, is on schedule in his rehab and he should be ready in time for the start of the regular season. But according to reports the team wasn’t to bring him along slowly and there is a chance that he could begin training camp on the active PUP list. Gronkowski actually played in Super Bowl XLVI, but the injury limited his mobility and he later admitted to being used as a decoy. He had surgery in February to repair multiple ligament tears and although he did not take part in team activities during OTAs and mini-camp, he did work with trainers on the side and participated in supervised individual drills. Hopefully he will be cleared for the start of training camp, but even if he doesn’t pass next week’s physical it will only be a matter of time before he does. He will be in the starting lineup for Week 1.