Just as training camp was winding down at St. John Fisher, injury issues began to crop up, potentially affecting positional battles. Most of these are acclimation injuries which are typically soft tissue, but several of these can linger, affecting availability later in the season.
Fortunately, most of the injuries appear to be relatively minor as the Bills prepare for their first preseason game on Saturday against the Indianapolis Colts. Read about the latest updates and injury concerns following the final week of training camp.
DE Von Miller (Right ACL)
Miller continues to work back from his right ACL tear, rehabbing off to the side. Interestingly, we haven’t seen much of Miller since late last week working through his rehab.
To have a setback such as a strain or knee soreness wouldn’t be surprising, but could affect his timeline in trying to return from PUP. If he did have a setback, it’s not an indication of the training staff or rehab, more so a result of ramping up to full activities.
LB Tyler Matakevich (Right calf)
Matakevich continues to work off to the side as he rehabs from a right calf strain suffered prior to training camp. I had expected that he would return this week, but the injury may have been more significant than expected or they are waiting to get through the first preseason game.
I do expect him to be activated sooner than later, but it remains to be seen how much longer he will be on PUP.
OT Dion Dawkins (Right thumb/hand)
Dawkins left practice Monday with the training staff after getting his hand “banged up” per the team. He returned with a brace on the right hand with extra support around his thumb area, not finishing practice.
He had a well-time day off on Tuesday before he was able to return on Wednesday, practicing with a brace on.
The immediate concern is that he suffered some type of thumb sprain if his thumb got caught in a jersey or bent backward on a block. We may get additional details that may help us identify any concerns in the coming days and weeks. Immediate concerns are the ability to grab and block edge rushers as they try to collapse the pocket. Considering this is his right hand, Dawkins could become vulnerable to a defensive end getting to the inside after a stunt move. However, there is enough time from now until the regular season that he can rehab the injury without it being an issue.
QB Josh Allen (Right elbow)
Another scare for Allen on Monday was when he left practice as trainers checked out his right arm/elbow area, but not missing any reps. Offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey noted that Allen needed to be stretched out before returning.
I do not believe the elbow is still bothering Allen after his injury last season, but anything he feels in his throwing mechanics should warrant a closer examination. Whether there was any soft tissue mobilization in the elbow or shoulder, it’s better to get ahead of any discomfort before it begins to linger.
Anytime QB1 is talking to training staff or goes down, we regrettably hold our breath.
FB Reggie Gilliam (Groin)
Gilliam went into the medical tent on Friday during the Return of the Blue and Red at the stadium. At the time on Friday, details were not available about the exact issue. On Sunday, the team announced that he suffered a groin strain, missing four practices.
While his roster spot is virtually assured, there have been several other groin strains this training camp, forcing players to miss time. I don’t expect this injury to linger, but it’s possible that he returns to practice sometime next week.
DT Ed Oliver (Back soreness)
Oliver has been working through back soreness after entering the medical tent late Friday during the stadium scrimmage.
He was able to practice on Sunday, suggesting there wasn’t an issue, but later missed Monday and Wednesday’s practices due to the soreness. He returned to practice Thursday and was not limited.
Considering how injured Oliver was last year and it still being early in training camp, it’s best to give these guys rest when they need it.
S Cam Lewis (Groin)
Lewis suffered a scare when he went up for a pass deflection on Sunday, colliding with X and coming down, hitting his head. Initial reports suggested a concussion but team updates indicated he suffered a groin injury.
He was unable to practice all week and is not expected to play in the preseason game.
RB Damien Harris (Right knee)
Harris left practice on Monday with what has been described as right knee soreness. There were not any reports of an injury during practice, but he missed Wednesday and Thursday’s practices, wearing a leg sleeve according to Alex Brasky.
Harris has had his share of injuries throughout his career, but last season’s injuries were to the left knee and thigh, not his right.
LB Leonard Floyd (Right Leg/foot)
Floyd missed a rep during Thursday’s practice when he appeared to work out his lower leg/foot area, per Matt Parrino. The side was not specified but he was able to return after the brief break.
LB Terrel Bernard (Hamstring)
Bernard left with the training staff early during Thursday’s practice with a hamstring strain, not returning to practice.
He has had his share of injuries during his collegiate career and with the competition at middle linebacker, this is an ill-timed injury. He could be looking at least at a week or two of time missed as he rehabs with a roughly 30 percent chance for it to reoccur later in the season. Fortunately, the Bills have been good about managing these issues with proper rehab and rest.
WR Bryan Thompson (Concussion)
Thompson suffered a concussion on July 30 and missed the following week, returning on 8/6. According to his publicly reported injury history, this was his first concussion and he took the normal amount of time to return that we typically see with NFL concussions.
WR Isaiah Coulter (Right knee)
Coulter has missed practice with a right knee injury originally sustained on July 31. According to Ryan O’Halloran of The Buffalo News, Coulter got his knee tangled up on a blocking drill. Depending on how his knee got twisted dictates the injury, but he was seen wearing a brace on his right knee on the sidelines.
He was able to return to practice on Wednesday, August 9 with no further updates. He likely still is not 100 percent but will need to gut through the injury during the preseason games to secure a roster spot.
DT Jordan Phillips (Right rotator cuff/labrum tear)
Phillips returned to practice on August 6, a week prior to six months removed from his shoulder surgery to repair his labrum and rotator cuff tear. Ryan O’Halloran of The Buffalo News detailed the extent of the damage in the linked article below, but it’s promising to see Phillips return.
He even highlighted how difficult the rehab was and it is a long rehab, especially with the damage in the shoulder. He is expected to return to full practice on August 16, barring setbacks. Considering he is in a defensive rotation, hopefully, this will allow him to ramp up to an acceptable level of play.
RB Nyhiem Hines (ACL)
Hines underwent surgery on August 8, several weeks following his jet ski accident that saw him tear his ACL, ending his 2023 season.
The Bills are starting to get banged up as training camp trudges on, but these acclimation injuries are unfortunately part of the game. No team will get through the preseason unscathed, but most of these injuries are relatively minor and may have no impact on the regular season.
The Indianapolis Colts come to Buffalo on Saturday for the first preseason game of the 2023 season. We should get a strong feel for how guys look against live competition and how the in-game injuries may affect the training camp battles. The hope is that guys escape without significant injury and allows the coaching staff to identify weaknesses to address.
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