Monday, November 28 2022

By Dr. Matt Provencher
FOX Sports Injury & Performance Analyst

After one week of the NFL season, we’ve already seen some crucial injuries pop up around the league.

We are back to cover team and player health, provide injury analysis and give the fans the hard data behind those injuries.  Remember, in the NFL, health matters!

Let’s take a look at what we’ve seen so far.

T.J. Watt, OLB, Steelers

The reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Watt went down against the Cincinnati Bengals with a pectoral tear on a near-sack of QB Joe Burrow. Watt came up holding his left pec area in obvious pain on the play. He walked around the sideline with the medical staff and was not able to return to the game. 

Monday, he received multiple opinions and imaging on the pec. It was revealed that he tore the muscle but not the tendon, causing Watt to opt — at least at this point — for rehabilitation over surgery. When the injury first happened, I discussed how this recovery could play out for Watt and the Steelers.  

Dr. Matt: T.J. Watt could miss 3-4 months

Dr. Matt Provencher discusses the pectoral injury suffered by Steelers star T.J. Watt.

While it’s a good sign that Watt is not immediately undergoing surgery, it’s important to remember that there is a high risk for re-injury, and continued symptoms could keep him on the injury report and out of additional games this season. Watt will be out a minimum of six weeks, but I expect that once he returns, he could miss additional games intermittently due to this injury.

Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys

Prescott suffered a Bennett’s Fracture of the thumb on his throwing hand near the end of the Cowboys’ Sunday night loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He had surgery Monday, and the prognosis has been pretty positive since then. 

Jerry Jones said he does not plan to place his franchise quarterback on IR, as he thinks he may be able to play as soon as Week 5 at the Rams (on FOX and the FOX Sports app). 

This would not be unprecedented. In 2020, then-Rams QB Jared Goff returned two weeks after thumb surgery to play in the playoffs. Last season, Russell Wilson returned in Week 10 after injuring his thumb in Week 5 with the Seahawks. Recovery progress, including Prescott’s grip strength and pain levels, will ultimately dictate his return time. For now, the Cowboys will look to Cooper Rush to lead their offense in his absence.

Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers

Allen had four catches for 66 yards before a hamstring injury knocked him out of the Chargers’ win over the Raiders on Sunday. Allen was Justin Herbert’s top target prior to the injury, which he suffered while making a cut at the top of his route. He has dealt with hamstring injuries in the past but has never missed more than one game for the injury. The Chargers, however, have a short week, with a Thursday night contest at Kansas City, which Allen will likely miss. 

The Chargers’ medical staff will not want to push Allen, as hamstring injuries that aren’t given proper time to heal — especially with skill position players — can turn into year-long issues. Most hamstring injuries keep guys out for 1-2 weeks, and players tend to see around a 35% decrease in snap percentage their first game back.

Damien Williams, RB, Falcons

Williams left Sunday’s loss to the Saints on Atlanta’s second drive due to a rib injury. He returned to the sideline in the fourth quarter but did not play. Williams said Monday that he has soreness but did not break any ribs. In Williams’ absence, Atlanta turned to Cordarrelle Patterson, who carried the ball 22 times for 120 yards and a touchdown.

Atlanta’s medical staff should be able to pad the injured area. Williams shouldn’t miss time, but ongoing symptoms of soreness could result in a limited snap count. The Falcons do have Tyler Allgeier at the position. They might have him ready to go after he was designated as a healthy inactive last week.

Elijah Mitchell, RB, 49ers

In a big loss for San Francisco, Mitchell suffered an MCL sprain in Sunday’s loss to the Bears. The running back will not require surgery but is expected to miss 6-8 weeks. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said Mitchell will be placed on IR, meaning he’ll be out for a minimum of four weeks. 

During the recovery period, the focus will be on reducing pain and swelling while allowing the ligament to heal. The team will then focus on building strength and adding proprioception exercises to get the knee ready to return to football activities. When Mitchell does get back on the field, data from The Predictors shows that athletes see a 30%-40% decrease in productivity through their first three games back.

Najee Harris, RB, Steelers

Harris had a tough game Sunday against the Bengals, carrying the ball 10 times for only 23 yards. He also left the game with a foot injury with 1:51 left on the clock and did not return. Harris also missed the majority of training camp with a Lisfranc injury, so Sunday’s injury was a scary one for Steelers fans to watch. The running back has said that he plans to play, though, and will be ready to go Sunday against the Patriots.

Mike Tomlin said that while he is optimistic, Harris will have to prove in practice that he is good to go. The chance of re-injury will be higher if he plays, so I would expect Harris to suit up, but for his snap count to be limited by the coaching staff. 

Donovan Smith, LT, Buccaneers

Smith left Sunday’s win over Dallas with a hyperextended elbow and did not return. Reports coming out of Tampa Bay suggest that the injury is not serious and that Smith’s pain tolerance will determine his availability for Week 2. This is good news for a team that has already lost center Ryan Jensen and guard Aaron Stinnie to injury. The team will follow Smith’s progress this week, and we will follow the practice reports to see how he is trending as game day approaches. 

Renowned orthopedist Dr. Matt Provencher and his company,, deliver data-driven injury insights to football fans. In this first-of-a-kind role as Athlete Injury and Performance Analyst for FOX Sports’ digital platforms, Provencher provides important predictive player health and recovery information about post-injury performance, the impact of weather, field conditions and more.

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Source: FOX Sports


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