Despite a thorough beatdown of the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field Saturday, the Buffalo Bills came away with numerous injuries of varying concern. This is a strong reminder why starters should not play as this game did not matter and it could have had very real consequences that affected the season. Fortunately, none of these injuries are season-ending nor should they miss significant time. Below are all the injuries from Saturday’s game and updates following Sunday’s practice.
Harrison Phillips (left knee)
Phillips went down with a left knee injury with 9:49 in the 1st quarter as he got trapped between two Bears offensive lineman, getting tripped forward as he went down hard on his left knee. During the fall, his helmet got knocked off and as he got up to return to the play. While trying to get back into the play, he hopped over to the scrum, briefly grabbing his left knee.
He managed to play the next two snaps before exiting to have the training staff assess his left knee. At one point during the broadcast, they had removed the hinge bracing he has been known to wear under his pads to further assess. He was initially questionable before being ruled out, though at times observed walking around on the sidelines.
I had initially thought he had suffered a contusion to the area due to not being able to brace his fall as his knee as it hit the ground. However, during Sunday’s press conference prior to practice, it was announced that Phillips was week-to-week and that it would be a little bit of time. This is one of these cases where the injury is more severe than what was initially perceived.
Considering the mechanism of the injury in how he landed directly on the knee, possibilities include bone bruise, patella subluxation, or PCL sprain.
The bone bruise is an option simply because he landed so hard on the turf along with a Bears offensive lineman landing on him. However, it wasn’t reported that he had to leave for the locker room and I believe he would be in greater pain, unable to walk freely. These timelines can widely vary and would require MRI imaging to get a further look. I would think they wouldn’t be as forthright in their timeline if this were the case.
Another possibility could be a patellar subluxation. This could also occur due to the direct blow to the knee, especially with the knee bent into flexion. The patella could have partially slid out laterally and popped back on when he extended his knee. We did see Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes deal with a similar injury several years ago and return in a few weeks, but I’m not certain that this is the injury.
A likely injury could be a posterior cruciate ligament injury, the ligament that runs the opposite direction of the ACL. While the ACL tear is a serious injury and season ending, as Phillips has suffered twice in the left knee, the PCL is thicker and more resilient. This ligament prevents the tibia from sliding backwards under the femur and also prevents hyperextension, internal rotation, adduction, and abduction of the knee joint.
Considering he fell directly onto the knee with his foot pointed down and had the Bears offensive lineman fall on top of him, he could have hit with enough force to sprain the ligament. This injury is typically seen in motor vehicle accidents where the knee hits the dashboard, pushing the knee backwards.
They did remove his brace to likely perform all the special tests to assess the knee including the posterior drawer test for the PCL, but they would be checking the knee to do their due diligence.
Whether it is a bone bruise, patellar subluxation, or PCL sprain, all take several weeks to fully recover from. The best case scenario is the PCL injury and it heals on his own. I also believe this to be the case based on the information we currently have. If it is indeed the PCL, this carries a 2-to-4 week timeframe but has overall excellent outcomes with proper rehab as it can heal quickly. This fits the timeline set forth by the team and would also fit what NFL reporter Ian Rapoport stated in that it was a minor injury.
The one benefit is that he has time to rest during training camp and be closer to 100 percent for the regular season. I would expect the team gets an MRI for further confirmation, but testing for this injury is fairly accurate from a physical examination. It’s fortunate that Phillips avoided yet another serious knee injury.
Dane Jackson (stinger)
Jackson quietly left the game Saturday and it was announced that he suffered a stinger, ending his day. Looking back at the film, it’s not apparent when he suffered the injury, but the best guess is when he tackled tight end Jesse James with 2:48 left in the 1st quarter.
It was a fairly routine tackle, hitting him with his right shoulder and taking him down. Jackson stayed in several more plays up until the end of the 1st quarter and did not return. He also wasn’t physically involved in any remaining plays from what could be seen on broadcast. Either that was the hit that caused the stinger or it occurred out of the view of the camera.
We have seen how Antonio Williams’ stinger has been handled this past week, though each stinger is unique in presentation. It’s too soon to tell if he will play Saturday against the Packers, but the hope is that this is an isolated event and not a recurring issue.
Spencer Brown (left knee)
Brown’s exit was reported much later than his actual exit, but it appears that his knee injury occurred to the left side. This occurred when he was knocked down from behind on the Zack Moss touchdown run that wasn’t with 12:12 left in the 2nd quarter.
Brown did stay in the rest of the series until the two-point conversion following the Reggie Gilliam touchdown, but he did not come back out after and was replaced by Bobby Hart.
The play at 12:12 was the only time where it appeared that he did injure himself, though far from certain. Head coach Sean McDermott noted that the injuries weren’t severe and Brown would only miss a few days. Whether it’s a general contusion as one Twitter user noted that Brown had ice on his left knee or something more such as a minor MCL sprain, it appears he avoided serious injury.
Justin Zimmer (right elbow)
Zimmer briefly left the game with 9:29 left in the 3rd quarter after his right elbow got struck trying to tackle the Bears running back. He immediately grabbed his elbow in obvious discomfort, eventually getting checked out on the sidelines.
Based on the video, it appears he struck his ulnar nerve at some point, another term for hitting the funny bone. He returned shortly after and did not appear to suffer any ill effects of the injury. This is not something that typically lingers and is more pain limiting in the moment than anything. He typically does wear bracing on that elbow, possibly reducing the severity of the injury, but it certainly didn’t hurt having it either.
Cam Lewis (cramping)
Lewis went down shortly after Justin Zimmer with what appeared to be cramps in his legs. Trainers quickly tended to him, placing his feet into dorsiflexion to stretch the calves. He briefly exited but returned and did not have any further complications.
Marquez Stevenson (right foot)
Despite dazzling on special teams with a punt returned for a touchdown early in the 3rd quarter, Stevenson left immediately afterward with trainers to head into the locker room. He walked without his right shoe on and prior to that was observed having training staff look at his foot/ankle area on the sidelines.
I had initially thought he injured his foot on the punt return as he did stumble briefly around the goal line, but looking back several plays before possibly revealed the true injury. With 11:38 left in the 3rd quarter, Stevenson went out to his right for a pass that he could not secure, getting tackled by a Bears defender, tackling him low and catching the forefoot in the turf and bending the foot forward.
There’s a possibility this could be a turf toe injury, however it appears to be more of a midfoot sprain. This is due to how the foot turned inward with the top of the foot getting caught more than the great toe. The team initially classified it a foot/ankle injury before later classifying it as a foot. What’s interesting is that the team announced that x-rays were negative which is not something I recall them doing before for injuries in game.
Stevenson was later seen in a walking boot and no updates had been made regarding his status. Knowing they ruled out a fracture, the team is likely waiting to get an MRI at a local facility to determine any ligament damage within the foot. Based on the video, I suspect a midfoot sprain, but it appears as though he may have avoided a Lisfranc sprain due to his ability to bear weight on the foot afterward.
This is an injury that we need more information on before a timeline can be established. However, if this is the case, it not only shows his toughness in playing through an injury but incredible to get the touchdown like that before exiting.
Tommy Doyle (right knee)
Doyle was also another injury where his exit was reported much later than when the injury occurred. The injury appeared to occur with 11:45 left in the 3rd quarter when quarterback Jake Fromm was sacked. Doyle attempted to stay with his block and got turned around, eventually finishing behind Fromm.
When he finished behind Fromm, Doyle appeared to take an awkward step with his right leg, briefly buckling inward. It’s not clear if this was the injury, but the next series for the offense, Doyle came back in with what looked to be a white brace or taped up knee. He continued to play on it through the 4th quarter before getting replaced by Jamil Douglas.
The second instance where Doyle left also isn’t clear, but I believe Doyle suffered a minor MCL sprain that he attempted to play through. Like Brown, Sean McDermott had a favorable outlook on his return to the field. It is important to note that he was at practice Sunday, participating in some capacity.
Davis Webb (left shoulder)
Webb went down with a shoulder injury with 9:12 left in the 4th quarter with a fumble due to a bad snap. He fell forward with his arm turned out and fell directly onto his shoulder as the ball bounced behind him.
Besides a bruised ego and some localized pain to the shoulder, it appears Webb avoided serious injury. I can’t exactly say what he did other than he landed on it and it looked awkward, but I’m not certain a specific injury occurred. Considering this is not his throwing shoulder, there is little concern moving forward.
Other injury notes:
Stefon Diggs (knee)
Diggs returned to practice Sunday following an extended absence dating back to August 7th. Details regarding the injury have not been revealed but with the benefit of hindsight, it appears as though Diggs was dealing with some type of an overuse injury such as patellar tendinitis.
He did not have bracing on the area or appear to favor either side, but he appears to move without hesitation or pain. This may be an injury that is quickly forgotten once the regular season begins, but considering the extra game this year, any sort of injury they can rest at the beginning can only help later on in the year.
This will be something to watch from afar to see if this continues to give him further issues, but it appears that he is on track for Week 1.
While there were a ton of injuries, this is exactly why starters should not play during the preseason. Most of these injuries appear minor with the exception of Phillips and Stevenson. The team still has several weeks to prepare and heal up before hosting Pittsburgh in Week 1 on September 12th.
Overall, major injuries avoided with further information yet to come on Phillips and Stevenson. Things will take shape in the coming days as the Bills prepare to host the Green Bay Packers for their Saturday afternoon game at Highmark Stadium for the final preseason warmup.
Top Photo Credit: WIVB