Let’s start our dive into injury issues that can affect games this season. We will start with quarterbacks today. Soon we will follow with running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends.
Here are the top five quarterback health issues this preseason: Andrew Luck and his calf, Cam Newton and his shoulder, Jimmy Garoppolo and his ACL, Carson Wentz and his knee and back, and Aaron Rodgers and his collarbone and knee.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
Despite lots of questions about his throwing shoulder coming into 2018, he led the Colts to the playoffs. Many wondered if he would ever return after missing all of 2017, but our confidence in him paid off as all along we expected a solid year. Now that the shoulder injury is behind him, questions surfaced on his calf after he was held out of mini-camp. That seems to have been just as an overabundance of caution. The concern is raised as he said he “felt pain in the ankle” and has missed some practices. Given the June calf issue, the fact he plays a non-explosive position and his experience rushing pack from the shoulder, I think he will be fine. There was even talk of wanting to be extra careful due to the Kevin Durant situation. They are different athletes playing different sports and I see Luck finally entering a season with no real health question marks with little chance of setback.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
From the outside, the Panthers’ quarterback’s throwing shoulder is by far the Panthers’ biggest injury concern. Newton had a noticeably weak and inaccurate arm as the last season progressed and he was replaced on “Hail Mary” attempts before being shut down in Week 16. He had a second consecutive offseason shoulder surgery. The first procedure dealt with his rotator cuff while the second one removed scar tissue and cleaned up cartilage damage. There may be some long-term concern due to arthritis in his throwing shoulder, but Newton’s throwing shoulder should be much better off this season than last. I have optimism about his shoulder despite the surgeries. It will make people nervous as he works his way back to full but medically, I have confidence his shoulder will be much healthier this year.
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers’ quarterback was coming into his own when he tried to extend a play instead of stepping out of bounds and tore his ACL in Week 3 last year. His recovery from surgery has gone smoothly and he was cleared for training camp. I hope he learned his lesson to stay in the pocket where all of the rule protections for a quarterback are in place. If he does run out of necessity, it is ok to step out of bounds after the first down. He is likely to wear a brace for extra protection and will get stronger as the year goes. Given the position he plays, his knee will get stronger as the year progresses but he can have a good season even though he is just coming off the ACL surgery.
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles
The future of the Eagles franchise was awarded a big contract but Wentz has not played a full schedule the last two seasons. In 2017 he had an ACL and LCL tear, and missed the start of 2018 but rushed back only to suffer a back stress fracture. He has a history of back stress injuries from college and likely his altered throwing mechanics placed enough stress on his back to stir up the old issue. He passed his physical and is full go now but is being monitored. His knee should finally be close to 100 percent and the stress fracture will need to be monitored as to not become symptomatic again. Last year, Wentz did not have a fair shot at a healthy year, but he does this year. This should be the first healthy year in three seasons barring bad luck.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Green Bay’s signal-caller had a lackluster season after a knee injury suffered in Week 1. When he left on a cart before the half, fans thought lightning had struck again. He was carted off the field before with a clavicle fracture. Rodgers returned from the locker-room to rally his Packers from a 20-point halftime deficit to beat the Chicago Bears in the opener. By video, he suffered an MCL sprain and continued to play in a limited fashion (out of shotgun with reduced mobility) with a knee brace. A re-injury to the same knee further set Rodgers back in Week 5 and hampered his mobility for most of the season. He did not miss a game and did not need surgery this offseason. Offseason reports said it was a tibial plateau fracture and sprained MCL. Although technically correct, there is no way to play on such a fracture. Likely it was a bone bruise that medically can be termed a fracture that can only be seen on MRI. Despite this injury, the knee having a previous ACL injury in high school and a 2015 knee scope, there is little reason to worry. The recovery from a bone bruise and MCL is straightforward. Indeed, Rodgers has practiced this offseason and there should be no worries about the knee or the previous year’s collarbone. This lines up to be Rodgers’s first healthy season in three years.
Next up: running backs health including Todd Gurley, Phillip Lindsay, Leonard Fournette, Sony Michel, Jerrick McKinnon, and more.