2020 UDFA: Buffalo Bills S Josh Thomas injury analysis

Newly signed S Josh Thomas arrives to the Bills with minimal injury issues, can he make the team?

Bills S Josh Thomas comes from familiar territory in North Carolina for both GM Brandon Beane & HC Sean McDermott. Playing for Appalachian State comes with the underdog mentality, having knocked off Michigan all the way back in 2007 as an FCS team at the time. Since moving up to FBS in the Sun Belt Conference, Appalachian State has always had the ability to shock a Power 5 conference team. During that rise to the next level, Thomas has been a part of the rise of that team and a key contributor to a program that has won 5 bowl games in one 5 year class, a feat only matched by 4 other NCAA schools in history. 

On top of that, Thomas has minimal injury concerns listed below. 

2015

Appeared in 13 games in a mostly reserve role, acclimating to the college game, but appeared to avoid injury. 

2016

Appeared in 12 games, increasing his playing time and not appearing to suffer any injuries. There were 13 games played that season, but I cannot find any record of why he did not play against Tennessee in the season opener. 

2017

Thomas began to round into shape, starting 3 games at free safety and playing in 4 overall before suffering a season-ending fibula fracture as the result of a player falling on his leg against Wake Forest. The article does not specify which side was fractured and does not state whether he had surgery. It does state that he had a cast on which is expected, but details are scarce. 

As a result, he received a medical hardship waiver preserving his eligibility, missing the remaining 9 games.

2018

Thomas was able to come back to full health and regain his starting job rather quickly, appearing in all 13 games starting at free safety. He was named a captain of the team and All-Sun Belt Second team. He did not appear to have any struggles coming off the previous seasons’ injury and was able to resume his high level of play.

2019

Appeared in all 14 games as a team captain and first-team All-Sun Belt Conference selection. Following his injury in 2017, he made 27 consecutive starts and did not appear to suffer any further injuries. 

Bills Injury Impact

Thomas is yet another UDFA that shows promise but will be limited only by his talent and the overall depth at the position. The fibula fracture is so much in the rearview mirror, it is simply history and not a concern moving forward. 

Like any player currently on the Bills roster, Thomas has a chance to play in the NFL. He may be a numbers casualty but he may also be a developmental player if he continues to improve his game and maintain his health. 

2020 UDFA: Buffalo Bills CB Ike Brown injury analysis

Will Brown’s collarbone fracture pose problems in 2020?

New Bills CB Ike Brown found a home with Buffalo shortly after the draft as he attempts to find a role at the next level. Coming out of FIU, he was able to appear in 41 games out of a possible 51 over his career accumulating 108 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 5 interceptions, 29 passes defended and 1 fumble recovery. 

Brown did suffer some injuries during his time as a Panther which are listed below. 

2016

Appeared in 11 of 12 games. There isn’t any record of injury during his freshman year, he missed the season opener against Indiana and then proceeded to appear in every game after that.

2017

Appeared in 5 games before suffering a left collarbone fracture as the result of a hard fallresult of a hard fall after getting tangled up with an opposing wide receiver. He missed the remaining 8 games of the season as he rehabilitated for the next 4 months. 

2018

Appeared in 13 games with 2 starts. Records indicate that he did not suffer any injuries and able to fully return following his left shoulder injury from the previous season.

2019

Appeared in 12 games, missed the Middle Tennessee game with no specifics on why he did not play. 

Bills Injury Impact

Overall, Brown has little concern injury-wise going into 2020. The broken left clavicle in 2018 isn’t a concern as the risk to re-fracture the bone is very slight. Literature indicates that re-fracture rates are under 10% and typically occur shortly after returning to activity, which is not the case with Brown, having been nearly 3 years removed from the injury.

Brown has a deep cornerback room to overcome, but in a truncated offseason, there is always a chance for any player to make the roster with strong play, injuries, and some luck. He may be simply a camp body, but the Bills have taken UDFA’s and turn them into effective players on the 53 man roster. 

2020 UDFA: Buffalo Bills RB Antonio Williams injury analysis

Does Williams have any injury concerns going into 2020?

New Bills RB Antonio Williams had a college career that was not quite he envisioned as he stepped on Ohio State’s campus back in 2016. The 4-star product from North Carolina never really got off the ground in Columbus, seeing occasional play over two seasons. After getting passed on the depth chart by RB JK Dobbins & RB Mike Webber, Williams found himself as an odd man out after 2017 and transferred to North Carolina.

During his time in Chapel Hill, he began to get playing time with 504 yards and 5 TD’s in 2018, followed by 322 yards and 3 TD’s his senior year. Though he did not get drafted, the potential is still there for Williams to make his mark at the next level. 

Collegiate Injury History

Between Williams’ time at both Ohio State and North Carolina, the only known injury that Williams suffered was a pulled hamstring during spring practices in 2017. There is little information on the specifics, but this did not help his chances going into the 2017 season which ultimately pushed him down the depth chart and searching for a new home. 

During his time closer to home, he did not appear to suffer any known injuries, appearing in 22 games over 2 years. While he is not immune to injury, his power running style could lend himself to injury if he finds himself in the backfield for the Bills in 2020.

Bills Injury Impact

Williams appears in the same position as he was at Ohio State. He has RB’s Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, TJ Yeldon, and Taiwan Jones all ahead of him for playing time. There is little concern for any re-aggravation of a hamstring injury, but considering Williams does not have the ability to go through live reps at OTA’s and must train on his own for if and when training camp starts, this does not bode well for him.

Williams may also be a developmental piece at best, but considering the top two backs are on rookie deals, it seems as though Williams is a long shot to make this roster. He is one player that must get solid preseason tape out there in order to find himself in an NFL facility come 2020. 

2020 UDFA: Buffalo Bills OT Brandon Walton injury analysis

The Bills continue to add to the offensive line depth.

The offseason continues with injury breakdowns of each and every Buffalo Bill. One of the newest Buffalo Bills, OT Brandon Walton, is the latest addition to the team following a solid career at Florida Atlantic University, alma mater of current Bills RB Devin Singletary. Walton helped keep those holes open for Singletary to make the magic happen as he became a 3rd round pick last year. 

FAU Career

Unfortunately for Walton, he did not hear his name called over the NFL Draft weekend. Instead, he became a priority undrafted free agent, signing with the Bills shortly after the 7th round ended. During his time at FAU, Walton appeared in 44 games over 4 years. His redshirt freshman year he appeared in only 4 games, but after that, appearing in 40 games over the next 3 seasons. He did not appear to suffer any reported injuries and was a valuable player in the trenches, garnering All C-USA first-team honors in 2019 after an honorable mention honor in 2018.

Bills Injury Impact

Walton has a ways to go to make this roster. He played both right and left tackle during his time at FAU, but the quality of competition is significantly lower than what he will see at the NFL level. Add in the fact that the offensive lineman group is already deep indicates that Walton better show some stellar play come training camp. Unfortunately, he has lost the ability to participate in rookie minicamp and OTA’s to acclimate to both the team and coaches due to the pandemic. 

His lack of injury history may benefit him if others around him go down, but even with a strong preseason, he may find his way to the practice squad as he adjusts to the NFL level. For now, I consider him a camp body that could become a project for future seasons.

Buffalo Bills & NFL Draft Recap

Recapping the past two months worth of work for your reading pleasure.

Hey there Bills fans! After a long hiatus at Banged Up Bills, I am back with content as we continue to navigate this offseason during the pandemic. As I had said in a previous article, I would only be posting if there was breaking news. During that time, I had been feverishly working with Cover 1 writing up injury draft analysis. I have also been writing up injury reviews for Buffalo Rumblings post draft for our newest Buffalo Bills. 

As I write for my own site, Cover 1, & Buffalo Rumblings, it can be hard to track all the work I did unless you scour the Twitter feed on the side of the webpage. So to make it easy, below are all the newest Bills draft picks and free-agent signings for your reading pleasure. I have also included all my Cover 1 articles, two of the current Bills in TreyAdams & Zack Moss. 

Buffalo Rumblings 

DE A.J. Epenesa 

RB Zack Moss 

WR Gabriel Davis 

QB Jake Fromm

K Tyler Bass

WR Isaiah Hodgins

CB Dane Jackson

S Garrett Taylor

OT Trey Adams

FB Reggie Gilliam

 

Free Agent Signings

OL Garrett McGhin

OL Evan Boehm

CB E.J. Gaines

OT Daryl Williams

DT Vernon Butler

DE Mario Addison

DT Quinton Jefferson

LB Tyler Matakevich

LB A.J. Klein

WR Stefon Diggs

RB Taiwan Jones

CB Josh Norman

 

Cover 1

QB Tua Tagovailoa

EDGE Anfernee Jennings

EDGE Terrell Lewis

OT Trey Adams

CB Bryce Hall

OT Netane Muti

RB Zack Moss

S Antoine Winfield Jr.

LB Justin Strnad

LB Markus Bailey

OT Lucas Niang

WR Bryan Edwards

TE Jacob Breeland

WR Laviska Shenault

 

Podcasts

All Things Buffalo Bills Ep.9 

Locked On Bills 4/1/20

Rockpile Report Episode 189

Continue to check back for more injury history reports on the newest Bills signings as we slog through the offseason. Also, continue looking for position injury recaps as training camp approaches. 

 

Bills Offseason Injury Updates

Get the #Bills latest injury news during these long lulls in the offseason as we inch closer to OTA’s Phase 1

Talk about some offseason doldrums! Mock draft after mock draft, continuous speculation about what player goes where. On top of that, the underwear Olympics are coming up at the end of February which will take the draft season to a whole new level of madness.

To make matters worse, there has been little to no updates regarding anything Bills content outside of DT Star Lotulelei’s restructuring of his contract. That and TE Greg Olsen signed with the Seahawks after meeting with the Bills.

But there’s still love for you Bills fans over here at Banged Up Bills. It’s been about a month since any major news was released regarding offseason surgeries. While there has been little new information, I still feel it’s beneficial to provide updates on the surgeries. This is to attempt to further identify what each player is dealing with and any possible updated timelines.

Jerry Hughes

Jerry got the Bills in some hot water over his tweet below right after the season ended. To recap, he announced that he was playing all season with torn wrist ligaments in his right wrist.

I attempted to speculate what type of injury he may have been dealing with right after the news broke. Make sure to go check it out if you haven’t already. Since then, Jerry had surgery about two and a half weeks after the news with this picture below.

Fortunately, Hughes did not get the Bills in trouble and no fines were assessed due to the injury.

While we won’t know the specifics of the wrist injury, social media does allow us to gather some information on specifics based on rehab timelines. While this is not conclusive, it appears that Hughes still has some type of cast or splint on his wrist that he attempts to hide under the table during the picture.

Click to access scapholunate-ligament-repair.pdf

If that is indeed the case, then this points more towards the theory that he had a scapholunate ligament repair as the timeline for rehab protocols indicate that he is to be in the cast/bracing for six weeks. At the time of this article, he will be a few days shy of four weeks. At this point in rehab, he will be performing any range of motion activities with his fingers, elbow, and turning of the forearm, known as pronation and supination.

He will still likely be limited for most of OTA’s, but he should be active and present as he gears up for yet another season. There should be no limitations come training camp.

Ed Oliver

Oliver’s rookie season progressively got better as he adjusted to the demands of the NFL. He began to show why the Bills selected him ninth overall in last year’s draft. Despite the improvement during the season, it was a surprise when Oliver announced that he had core muscle surgery back on January 14th.

Bills fans got some details with news stories detailing the exact reason he got the surgery later on. But these did not detail the exact area, when he injured it, how he injured it, and the severity. To get some background information on core muscle injuries, check out my article.

Since then, it has been nearly radio silent with little information. The only indication that Oliver is doing alright is that he made it down to Houston at the beginning of February. Based on general rehab guidelines, Oliver is still working on flexibility and reintroducing strengthening exercises, progressing the level of difficulty and resistance as tolerated.

He may also be limited during part of OTA’s, but should be able to participate during Phase Three when there is actual contact. He should also be fully ready for training camp.

Jon Feliciano

Feliciano continued the trend of players requiring surgery after the season, specifically for a left rotator cuff tear. He had noted that he was playing all season with the tear that dated back to the scrimmage at New Era Field in early August.

Feliciano is about five weeks out from surgery which means he has either just begun or will begin to get his arm out of the sling more. He will be progressing his range of motion, careful to not stress the healing tissue and possibly begin working on isometrics based on the doctor’s protocol. For more details regarding a rotator cuff repair, read this article I wrote last month.

Feliciano will take his time to get through the rehab and will not be available for OTA’s. Thankfully, he should be ready for training camp this summer.

Levi Wallace

Wallace was the most recent surgery added to the list, requiring shoulder surgery back on January 28th.

Unfortunately, outside of what Jay Skurski stated, there has not been any other information released. It is known he suffered a shoulder injury back against the Philadelphia Eagles, but the specifics are not available. Unless details are released, I believe he may have had a general cleanout of the shoulder arthroscopically.

It is too soon to tell if he will be able to participate in any fashion during OTA’s. But I remain hopeful that he can participate and be ready for training camp.

Cody Ford

Finally, we get to the last player who required surgery this offseason. Ford was a surprise announcement that he required surgery on his right shoulder. Like Wallace, details are scarce, but there is some information to be interpreted from pictures.

Based on the picture below, Ford is dealing with either a torn labrum in his right shoulder or a rotator cuff repair, both of which would take four to six weeks in the sling. Based on the most recent picture, he would be four weeks out.

Details may emerge later with the exact injury, but seeing updates such as this helps narrow down what the player could be dealing with. If he is dealing with either injury, range of motion is vital early on and performing isometrics to take his rehab to the next stage for strengthening is key. Regardless of the injury repair, he should be fully cleared in either case for training camp barring any unforeseen complications.

While this doesn’t get into the nitty-gritty details that people want to know, it does establish several injury timelines. This also provides updates on how the players are responding to surgery and if anything seems out of the ordinary.

I expect that more details will emerge regarding some of the injuries, but not a given. The Bills are still on track to bring nearly everyone back onto the team to maintain the culture the coaching staff strived to establish. As fans, we can only hope that the Bills are maximizing the quality of starters at each position. If any go down, it’s important to have a capable backup who can carry the torch until the starter returns.

For the latest up-to-date content, check out @BangedUpBills on Twitter and here on the website. Make sure to also check out Cover1.net for my draft injury analysis on prospects as the NFL draft approaches.

Jon Feliciano’s Rotator Cuff Repair

How did Feliciano manage to play all season with a torn rotator cuff?

The injuries continue to pile up! The latest injury comes Wednesday afternoon when a tweet dropped from OG Jon Feliciano. The tweet shows him in a recovery room with a brace on his left arm with bulky padding on the shoulder. Considering it was at a lower angle, it was initially hard to determine if there were other telltale signs that could be observed signifying the specific procedure. 

This surgery is another in a line with DT Ed Oliver Tuesday with his core muscle surgery & Wednesday morning’s tweet of OT Cody Ford with a right shoulder surgeryShortly after the Feliciano tweet, Matt Parrino from NY Upstate reported that Feliciano had a rotator cuff repair Wednesday & that the original injury occurred during the Blue & Red scrimmage on August 2nd.

I noted back in August that he suffered an injury during the scrimmage after I attended, but the actual injury was unable to be observed due to the vantage point of the stadium & the multitude of activity going on at the time. What wasn’t known at the time was that Feliciano suffered a rotator cuff tear to his left shoulder that he managed to play for  5 months. 

To understand why he was able to play that length of time, the anatomy & function of the rotator cuff must be understood. The rotator cuff is made up of 4 muscles that include the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, & subscapularis. These muscles assist in shoulder abduction, internal & external rotation. These motions are vital for a variety of activities that we perform daily from washing hair, putting a shirt on, throwing objects, reaching behind the back, & general overhead activities. The rotator cuff also helps keep the humeral head depressed and against the labrum so that it can create enough space within the joint for the humerus to move & not ram into the acromion during elevation. There are other muscles that assist with all these functions, but these are primary movers for the above-mentioned functions. 

301px-Muscles_Rotator_Cuff
Credit: Physio-pedia.com

We tend to hear more about rotator cuff injuries in baseball but they can & do occur in football at a variety of positions. The mechanism for injury to the rotator cuff can happen in a number of ways. It can occur as a result of landing on your arm outstretched, jamming the head of the humerus into the scapula. It can occur with a fall directly onto the shoulder area, throwing an object either with increased frequency or if the object is too heavy. It can also occur from an overload of the area such as a sudden pull on the area. Finally, it can occur over a period of time with impingement due to weakness in the area with altered biomechanics leading to a wearing down on the tendon insertion.  

There are two types of rotator cuff tears that can affect any of the muscles in the cuff area: Partial-thickness and full-thickness. Based on the names, the partial-thickness is a partial tear to the tendon that can be small & can even heal on its own at times. Full-thickness is when the tendon tears completely through & there is a significant loss of function noted in the area. Any of the muscles in the rotator cuff can tear but the supraspinatus is the most commonly torn muscle. It is anchored at the top of the humerus head & is more likely to bear the brunt of an injury or become worn down. 

Size-of-Rotator-Cuff-Tear-do-I-need-surgery-or-can-physical-therapy-help-300x138
Credit: physioworkshsv.com

There are also varying grades of partial vs full-thickness tears which further indicate the severity as seen above. The tear is measured in both size & depth. So it’s possible that there could be a big superficial tear that could be managed conservatively or there could be a tear that is deep that requires surgery as seen below. Most surgeries are indicated for tears medium & above.

full-thickness-rotator-cuff-tears-value-of-clinical-tests-2-638
Credit: Google Images

Feliciano likely suffered a partial thickness tear to at least the supraspinatus & possibly others as the rotator cuff covers the humeral head like a blanket. The injury could have started out as a partial thickness tear, potentially progressing towards closer to a full-thickness tear as the season wore on. The other possibility is that the partial-thickness tear just never got better, requiring surgery.

I don’t believe that he initially had a full-thickness tear as he would have missed some time due to profound weakness in the area and positive signs of several special tests. In the clinical setting, a full-thickness tear is quite apparent & even the toughest of people have difficulty moving the shoulder. If his shoulder were to be assessed during the season, there would have likely been a painful arc noted in the picture below. This is due to the activation of the rotator cuff muscles assisting in elevation of the humerus during the range of motion from 60-120 degrees

sh5-243x300
Credit: pivotalphysio.com

There was likely pain during every movement that Feliciano encountered throughout the season due to this tear. Between rehab, strengthening of the surrounding muscles & medications, he was still able to suit up for every game & at times play center. Thankfully, he didn’t have any issues with snapping the ball due to being right-handed. 

Feliciano’s glaring weakness would have been forcing to move his arm in abduction and external rotation, both of which would have been more difficult as a tackle, trying to keep the defensive end from bending around the edge. Thankfully, he was able to play inside & keep his arms closer to his body, taking stress off the cuff. Despite the rotator cuff not directly assisting with shoulder flexion, he still would have likely had pain with a general elevation of the arm due to the imbalance of the rotator cuff due to the injury. This could cause impingement where the rotator cuff gets pinched between the acromion & greater trochanter due to decreased space during shoulder elevation.

It will be curious to see if he did get beat more often on the left side when the pocket broke down & he was forced to use that shoulder more. It would also be interesting to note if Feliciano’s punching ability when engaging with his block was decreased due to not being able to put as much power through the left.

Either way, to play through this injury isn’t unprecedented in the NFL, but it is difficult. Cam Newton, Drew Brees, Kawaan Short, Alshon Jeffery & Johnathan Abram are just some of the examples that have torn their rotator cuffs & either tried to play through it or had their seasons end as a result. However, most of the names on this list continued to have incredibly productive careers, indicating that the injury alone isn’t a game-changer. 

To add insult to injury, the rehab for a torn rotator cuff isn’t fun either. It’s roughly a 4-6 month recovery & in some cases, take up to a year with severe tears. This is a tough surgery due to the variety of movements of the shoulder. In addition, the area where the rotator cuff attaches to the humerus contains a poor blood supply which means that it does not receive the needed nutrients to heal as quickly as other parts of the body. Reports indicate that Feliciano will take between 4-6 months which further supports the partial thickness tear that I had mentioned earlier.

The surgery is typically done arthroscopically unless there is a massive tear & they need to open up the shoulder to fully address the issue. Once inside, the tear can be further assessed, cleaned out & repaired. The repair is done by placing anchors that reconnect the tendon back to the bone to allow for proper healing of the area. Based on the severity of the tear will determine how many suture anchors are required.

449px-Rotator_cuff_high
Credit: Physio-pedia.com

Rehab protocols dictating the specifics of the timeline for rehab can be accessed here & here, but to simplify it, it is tedious having worked on a number of these during my career. The first 4-6 weeks are spent in a sling with PROM initiated to work on the motion but avoiding any strengthening directly to the shoulder area. Motion is slowly progressed to stretch the tissue but not place stress on the healing area with range of motion limitations set by the doctor.

Once the patient has been cleared to begin strengthening, isometrics are initiated which is when the muscle tensed up but is not actively moving, like pushing with all your might against a wall. As strengthening progresses, higher-level activities are incorporated to increase stability in the joint. The rotator cuff has to improve with strength, but the surrounding muscles also have to strengthen in order to help move the scapula up and out of the way in order to allow the humerus to elevate. 

Eventually, the muscles are all moving properly with scapulohumeral rhythm, there is full ROM/strength and no pain, this allows the ability to return to sport-specific strengthening & activity. Rotator cuff repairs do have overall good outcomes, up to 95%, but they need a lot of patience to get there. Fortunately, delaying surgery does not appear to have negative outcomes, hence why Feliciano likely chose to play the season with the injury.

Risks for re-tear are as high as 26% in the literature, but is relatively lower in younger patients as the quality of the tissue is improved compared to older patients with more chronic tears. Furthermore, there is a correlation that for every 1 cm the initial tear increases in size, the risk to re-tear increases two-fold.

As a PT, these repairs are rewarding to observe the improvement, but there is a distinct process to them. There may be areas where a patient progresses faster & can shave some time off the overall recovery time, but you can’t speed up the biology & healing portion of the surgery. These can be successful surgeries, but they just require a lot of time & patience in order to maximize the results. 

Feliciano will be around during OTA’s but expected to be limited. He should be able to perform cardio activities & perform non-contact drills as long as he’s cleared by the MD, which is very possible. There is a chance he would be able to perform at mandatory minicamp in June during Phase 3 of the OTA’s but may be held out as a precaution as he is a veteran. Barring any setbacks, he should have no concerns going into training camp for 2020.

This sort of injury is just the reality of the game of football & is a look into how tough these guys really are when it comes to suiting up every week. The only benefit to having an early exit to the playoffs is that these injuries can get addressed sooner. However, I believe most, if not all of the players in that Bills locker room would go through hell if it meant hoisting that Lombardi trophy in February. With how this team is built, the chances for that increase daily. 

Top Photo Credit:

Kiss985.radio.com