Adding a veteran presence to the backfield, the Buffalo Bills signed Latavius Murray to a one-year contract Monday. This signing was in the works for several weeks as Murray met with the Bills in mid-April.
The well-traveled running back has had stops in Oakland, Minnesota, Denver, Baltimore, and New Orleans with production at nearly every stop. Murray has never been the bell cow back, but he has always been available to step up when called upon.
Though it should come as no surprise, Murray has had his share of injuries. Despite several significant surgeries, he has managed to come back as effective as he was prior.
Below are Latavius Murray’s publicly reported injury history and concerns.
2009 University of Central Florida
ACL tear, side not specified, missed entire sophomore year.
Murray tore his ACL in an off-season pickup basketball game. He was unable to recover in time to play his second year at UCF, instead redshirting.
Shoulder, side not specified, missed 3 games.
Murray injured his shoulder in the season opener, forced to miss the following three games before returning to play in early October. Details are scarce, but this appeared to have been a significant AC joint sprain.
2013 Oakland Raiders
Foot soreness/Left ankle surgery, missed the entire season.
After getting drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the sixth round, Murray began having issues with his feet, having to sit out during OTA’s.
He later underwent surgery on his left ankle to repair a ligament, spending the entire season on injured reserve.
Concussion, Week 12, missed 1 game.
Murray initially felt good after his concussion against the Rams but was unable to pass the final stage of the concussion protocol, sitting out Week 12.
Shoulder injury, Week 4, missed 0 games.
Concussion, Week 9, missed 0 games.
Turf toe, side not specified, Week 4, missed 2 games.
Murray suffered a turf toe injury against the Baltimore Ravens where he had eight attempts for 19 yards before exiting the game. Due to the injury, he was forced to miss the following two games
Right ankle injury, Week 9, missed 0 games.
Murray suffered a right ankle injury against the Broncos that season and lingered on the injury report until Week 13, never missing a game.
2017 Minnesota Vikings
Right Ankle surgery, completed late March, started training camp on PUP.
Days after signing a free agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings, Murray underwent surgery on his right ankle, knocking him out of all of his off-season workouts. This surgery was needed to repair a ligament in his ankle. During interviews, he noted that this was the same procedure he had to get on his left side during his rookie year.
He also was not well enough to pass a physical at camp, starting the year on PUP, though getting cleared not too long after camp broke. This injury was directly related to the ankle injury suffered against the Broncos the previous year in Week 9.
Despite getting the surgery and coming back in six months, he still complained of soreness in the ankle into October.
2018 Minnesota Vikings
No publicly reported injuries.
2019 New Orleans Saints
No publicly reported injuries.
Knee injury, Week 13, missed 0 games.
Murray showed up on the injury report limited at practice prior to Week 13 but did not miss the game.
COVID, Week 17, missed 1 game.
Quadriceps injury, side not specified, Wild Card, missed 1 game.
Murray injured his quadricep in the Wild Card win over the Chicago Bears that season. It’s unclear whether this was a strain or a contusion, but he was unable to practice all week other than a limited practice that Friday. New Orleans lost the game to Tampa Bay and their season was over.
2021 Baltimore Ravens
Ankle injury, side not specified, Week 6, missed 3 games.
He suffered an ankle injury in Week 6 against the Los Angeles Chargers after getting tackled by LB Amen Ogbongbemiga. The exact specifics of the ankle injury were not revealed, but considering the timeline, it’s very possible he suffered a high-ankle sprain. Looking back at his game logs, he was rather unproductive even with a start until almost two months after the injury.
2022 Denver Broncos/New Orleans Saints
Wrist injury, side not specified, Week 11, missed 0 games
Foot injury, side not specified, Week 15, missed 0 games.
Missing eight games since 2014 is impressive when you consider the physical abuse that a running back takes. Keep in mind that they also have some of the shortest career lengths of any position in football making Murray’s longevity all more impressive. Despite missing 24 games total, 16 of those came in his rookie year trying to get fully healthy.
Looking back at his injuries as a whole, the only significant injuries were the two ankle surgeries, two concussions, turf toe, ACL reconstruction, and ankle injury in 2021.
His ACL reconstruction was 14 years ago and he has been able to have a full NFL career up to this point. Knee issues have been minimal according to the injury report which makes this a non-factor.
The concussions happened early in his career with him bouncing back relatively quickly each time. He also has not had one since 2015.
While the turf toe and 2021 ankle injury caused him the most extended time missed in-season, they appeared to be more of an issue at the time rather than long-term. His production did expectedly dip following these injuries, but it did not appear that they carried over from season to season. These injuries may as well be listed in the job description for not only a running back but a football player in general.
Finally, looking at the two ankle surgeries he underwent in his rookie year and in 2017, those are the most notable. Murray stated that both ankles required the same procedure to repair a ligament in the ankle. Reports never indicated what took place, but it’s possible that he underwent the modified Brostrom procedure. This addressed chronic ankle instability due to residual laxity.
While there may be different structures involved during repair due to the severity of the injury, the general approach is to address the anterior talofibular ligament imbrication with reinforcement of the inferior extensor retinaculum.
Research shows that it is a fairly successful surgery in both the general and athletic populations. Within the general population, the procedure successfully returned 54 percent of athletes to their prior level of function with 88 percent satisfied with the outcomes. However, this study included men and women of different activity levels.
Getting specific to elite athletes, return-to-play numbers vary between 89 percent and 83.3-100 percent based on the article and the time is taken to return. It appears to be a relatively successful surgery and Murray has shown the ability to return both times. Considering he was a rookie in 2013 with a minimal chance at making the roster, it made sense for the Raiders to put him on the shelf for the season to rehab. He would not have been ready to play based on the timeline outlined in the articles with a return to play taking at least four months.
This also explains why he was able to return quicker from his second surgery due to familiarity and timing in 2017.
Buffalo Bills Injury Outlook
Murray is incredibly durable despite some of the more serious ankle injuries and other issues listed above. There aren’t really any major injury concerns other than him being older and making sure there is some juice left to squeeze.
This contract is only for one year and he has the potential to not only teach some of the younger guys in the room but actually make the roster. The clip from Cover 1 below strongly indicates that Murray still has something left in the tank on some of those runs.
While Nyhiem Hines and James Cook don’t have a lot of injury history, new Bills back Damien Harris does. This means that Murray could make the team if Harris goes down with another injury or something happens to the others. There isn’t really anything to hate about this signing as it’s low-risk, moderate reward. They aren’t getting an All-Pro back on the cheap, but someone that can produce when called upon.
Despite the idea that veterans don’t want to do off-season workouts and training camps, there is value in getting guys in now rather than when injury strikes. This was a solid move for the Bills and could pan out nicely as a depth option during the season.
Top Photo Credit: Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images