The turf at MetLife Stadium received much of the blame for the injuries sustained during the Thursday night NFL matchup between the Denver Broncos and the New York Jets. However, inspectors have cleared the new turf of any responsibility, determining that it is no more dangerous than natural grass.
There is evidence to support this assessment. While there were many stoppages in play during the game, three of them were for cramps and two for hamstring injuries unrelated to the turf. The field was also unfairly blamed for Broncos tight end Noah Fant leaving the field on a cart due to a mild ankle issue. The turf may bear some fault for Lawrence Cager’s awkward open field fall, but he did not tear his ACL, as was widely supposed. Fortunately, he suffered only a hamstring strain.
The new turf might be more “sticky” than natural grass, which has more give, but most of the issues that occurred last night were not related to the turf change.
Here is a run-down of the top ten potential injury issues that may affect fantasy picks as we head into the weekend:
1. George Kittle – The 49ers tight end was always slated to miss two games after suffering a hyperextension injury and bone bruise in his left knee, just as he had last season. He has been out two games and now seems poised to return. Kittle will hit the ground running and should be 100%.
2. Michael Thomas – The Saints tight end suffered a high ankle sprain at the end of week 1, and I previously predicted that he would be probable this week. Video from early practice shows he is moving well but is not 100% yet. I believe he could play and contribute, but coaches and staff may choose to rest him an extra week since he is still not 100%. The Saints have high expectations this season and don’t want to risk losing Thomas for an extended period of time.
3. Julio Jones – The winless Falcons really need their star wide receiver as they take on the undefeated Packers. A loss this weekend would make them 0-4. The last team to make the playoffs after starting the season 0-4 was the San Diego Chargers in 1992. Jones still appears to favor his hamstring, but he seems to be moving well enough to give it a go. As a pass catcher, he doesn’t rely solely on separation to be successful. I believe that Jones will want to play and will be pressed into service. Teammate Calvin Ridley missed the first practice leading up to the Monday game due to an ankle problem, but there is no indication of significant injury.
4. Davante Adams – The 3-0 Packers can afford to continue resting their No. 1 wideout. Adams has said he wants his hamstring to be 100% before he returns, which likely means another week in the inactive column and a return in Week 5.
5. Chris Carson – the controversial “gator roll” that injured the Seahawks top running back’s knee was never significant, and I believe he was more “hurt” than “injured” when I saw it happen. Pete Carroll has projected that Carson will miss a week or two, but that may have as much to do with his unhappiness over the defender hanging on and twisting the ankle than the severity of the injury. Carson has been limited in practice, but I am optimistic that he plays and plays well.
6. Jimmy Garoppolo – At this point, it would be a surprise if the 49er QB returned this week. I think he could push through, but the team clearly has a long-term vision and wants players ready for another Super Bowl run. Garoppolo has yet to practice this week. Unless he suddenly does, I doubt he plays on Sunday. I believe he will practice and return to the field next week.
7. DeAndre Hopkins – There is very little information and no video on his ankle injury. Despite two straight “did not practice,” I still have the feeling that Hopkins will suit up on Sunday.
8. DeSean Jackson – The Eagles continue to be hit hard with injuries and likely will be without their top three wide receivers. Alshon Jeffrey is still recovering from Lisfranc surgery, Jalen Reagor just had thumb surgery and Jackson is unlikely to play with a hamstring strain. As a speedy, undersized pass catcher, Jackson relies on separation to be effective, and thus the hamstring is much harder for him to play through. Expect him to be absent for several weeks.
9. Chris Godwin – The Buccaneers wide receiver just returned from a concussion and now has a mild hamstring strain. Look for another short, one-week stint on the sideline.
10. Kareem Hunt – The Browns will likely rely on Nick Chubb for at least this week. With Hunt’s style of running and cutting, the groin is likely to sideline him this week and maybe longer. He has yet to practice this week at all.
Up/down bonus: D.J. Chark should be up after experiencing chest and back issues, and John Brown is down with a calf injury.
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