Buffalo Bills Phase 3 OTA Injury Updates

Buffalo Bills Phase 3 OTA Injury Updates

The first week of OTAs Phase 3 has concluded with the first real look of what the 2024 Buffalo Bills will begin to look like. Participation is nearly perfect among the 91 players on the roster with the exception of Rasul Douglas and DaQuan Jones not present for personal reasons. 

During this time of year, everything is voluntary which means players are not going at full speed, contact and instruction is limited, and many of these players are present for workout bonuses. Several players are working through injuries with varying levels of information and severity. 

Below are the current injuries for the Buffalo Bills.

WR Bryan Thompson (Undisclosed)

Thompson missed Tuesday’s practice when the media was available due to an undisclosed injury. He spent all last season on the practice squad which suggests this is a new injury during training. 

S Mike Edwards (Shoulder)

After signing in March, Edwards has been appearing to participate in OTAs before missing Tuesday’s practice with a shoulder injury. There wasn’t anything that suggested that this was a lingering injury from last season or that he underwent surgery. 

Its interesting that they placed a timeline on his shoulder injury at 3-4 weeks, but that could indicate a wide variety of injuries. The first thought is an AC joint sprain, but to this point, they have not had any contact which makes this suspicious. 

It’s possible he injured the shoulder somehow during weightlifting or training, but without further information, it is difficult to speculate whether this will linger into training camp despite the initial timeline given. 

OT Tommy Doyle (Left ACL)

Doyle is still not participating in OTAs as he continues to rehab from his left ACL tear sustained in the preseason against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Besides the ACL tear, he also suffered a tear to his LCL and also suffered drop foot which is nerve damage. 

If you check out the article at the end of this segment when Doyle suffered the knee injury, it provides timelines and a discussion regarding his drop foot. He is currently wearing a brace on his foot called an AFO or ankle foot ortho. You can see a picture below. 

Credit: Instagram

He could be a PUP candidate heading into training camp considering the length of recovery multiligament knee injuries require. This would allow him to continue to rehab and stick on the roster. While he will be a step slower as he has not played extended football since early 2022, regaining his form will be no easy task. The drop foot is not doing him any favors by limiting his ability to have crisp footwork, especially playing tackle. The drop foot, even with the AFO, will limit his ability to dorsiflex or lift up the foot. This could affect running, lateral movement, and keeping his feet moving to avoid tripping. 

If Doyle does play, I could see a move inside to guard as there is less space for him to move and overall less footwork. At this point, I’m actually more concerned about the drop foot than his ACL recovery and what this means for his long term career outlook. There are prior players that have played with the AFO, but it certainly won’t help his chances.

OT Spencer Brown (Right shoulder)

On Tuesday, it was revealed that Spencer Brown underwent off-season shoulder surgery. He was able to participate in limited individual drills but otherwise stayed off to the side. While the team did not disclose this, I was informed that he injured his right shoulder in the playoff loss to the Chiefs, specifically a torn labrum. You can see the play below. 

I detailed out in an article earlier this week how he suffered the injury, what surgery he underwent and what the timeline to return may look like. 

TE Dawson Knox (Left leg)/OT La’el Collins (Left leg)

Both are highlighted for similar reasons. Knox is seen wearing a compression sleeve on his left leg suggesting a hamstring or quad issue. He wasn’t reported to be limited, but this may have also been precautionary.

Collins on the other hand is seen wearing his hinge brace on his surgically repaired left knee. This is the first action that I’ve seen him in since the initial injury. I have not seen on video how he moves, but this is a step in the right direction.

LB Matt Milano (Right knee)

Per the team, Milano is “on schedule” as he continues to recover from his right tibial plateau fracture against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London in Week 5. To read more about the initial injury, make sure to click below.

However, two pieces of information came to light recently which may suggest the injury was more severe than originally thought. Joe Miller of the Overreaction Sports Network on his show had been informed that Milano required an IM nail to be inserted into the tibia to assist with healing. This is a rod inserted into the long bone portion of a tibia or femur to help provide stability at the top and bottom of the bone as it heals. This would suggest that there is more damage than I had anticipated. Originally I had anticipated that he required plates and screws to stabilize the tibia as seen below.

Credit: OTA.org

This leads into the second portion of if there is more significant damage, this could lead to articular cartilage breakdown and damage. This is the outer surface of the bone which allows them to glide over each other. The loss of articular cartilage leads to arthritic changes and a general decline in joint performance. 

During the same show, former Bills OL Jerry Ostroski revealed that this exact injury was what led to his retirement. He returned in 10 weeks following the injury but his knee was never the same and continued to stay angry due to the irritation from the sudden increase in activity within the bone. He noted that he required the knee to be drained often so that he could play.

The idea that the Bills are taking Milano along slowly to avoid any flare ups is smart. This may further support the idea that the level of severity is increased which means a higher risk for those arthritic changes due to the joint surface being disrupted. The Bills will never tell us the extent of the damage, but some of this information and clues can help us better understand the timeline and what is expected as the season nears. 

I had previously stated that Milano could return to a prior level of performance and that could still happen. But the greater level of severity may lead to Milano initially being a step slower with regards to speed, demonstrating decreased lateral mobility, and overall a greater degree of difficulty in pivoting towards the right. He will have to rely on his technique and positioning rather than athleticism in order to make up the loss. 

Matt Milano’s availability will be closely watched as training camp nears and as the season progresses. Expect more updates and analysis in the coming months. 

S Micah Hyde (Neck)

Continued speculation persists regarding the status of Micah Hyde and whether he returns in 2024 coming off his repeated neck stingers. During the media availability for his charity softball event, he noted how he will only play for the Buffalo Bills or retire. 

Considering he is coming off the fusion and then had known additional issues indicates he is dealing with adjacent segment degeneration. Hyde confirmed this is going on during Eric Wood’s Centered on Buffalo podcast. You can go listen for yourself but towards the beginning of the episode, he noted how he had issues at multiple levels but he had only fused the more severe level. Had they fused multiple levels, he would not have been able to return to football as 2+ segment level fusion is usually a relative contraindication to return to contact sports. Exceptions can be made but the room for error decreases.

The stingers were the result of stenosis or narrowing around the cervical nerves coming out of the neck. A return to his prior level of play was observed but he was unable to maintain consistency due to the repeated stingers. The adjacent segment degeneration was the root cause of the stenosis leading to the stingers. 

Hyde went on to say that he still wakes up sore at times in his neck indicating that there are further continued chronic issues in there. 

For a comparable player, this was a concern for new Indianapolis Colts Laitau Latu coming off his neck injury in college. You can read more in the link provided. 

Looking at everything as a whole, should Micah Hyde return to play? I had stated earlier this off-season that I didn’t think he would return. Based off the information that we have available, he probably shouldn’t return. But this is all about risk management. Hyde knows that if he retires, he likely won’t be able to return to play if he changes his mind. 

The idea that he can skip OTAs and training camp and sign when he is needed is something afforded to many veterans. He may be able to squeeze one more year out of his body if there is a strong chance that he can win a championship. He has some of the best doctors available to him and knowing how he feels will determine ultimately what he does moving forward. 

Whatever Micah Hyde does, I will understand and support the idea. There are risks with each decision but ultimately it is his decision and what is best for his family, his health, and career. 

Final Thoughts

Every off-season, there are injuries that guys deal with that were previously unknown. Injuries during training will alter a player’s trajectory for this season and potentially beyond. There will continue to be injuries and more updates as OTAs progress and transition into minicamp. Be sure to check back for the latest updates and analysis as more information is provided. 

Top Photo Credit: Matt Durisko – freelancer, ASSOCIATED PRESS


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