Bills Preseason Injury Preview- Vikings

Breaking down the latest injuries heading into the preseason finale.

The Bills close out their preseason schedule with the possibility to go 4-0 for the first time in franchise history. While preseason success is not indicative of regular & postseason accolades, the fact that the Bills are able to take their depth and stay competitive is excellent to see. The 4th preseason game is where guys make their last push to show the coaching staff why they need to make the roster and may benefit only several guys. Today’s post will review all injuries but focus on guys who are on the bubble that could likely play Thursday.

Ruled out: C Mitch Morse, DE Jerry Hughes, OL Ty Nsekhe, CB Taron Johnson, OL Quinton Spain, CB Tre’Davious White

All those listed above are likely starters and would have no benefit to playing in a meaningless game.

Morse is still working through the concussion protocol.

Hughes is dealing with a right hand/wrist injury.

Nsekhe is dealing with a knee injury.

Johnson has had a groin strain.

Spain has a foot/ankle injury.

White a quad contusion.

All of these would likely not cause problems during the regular season. However, the spotlight is brighter during the preseason & concerns are heightened. All should be ready for Week 1.

Questionable:

Conor McDermott: concussion

McDermott still appears to be working through the concussion protocol with no official word that he has been cleared. He has been participating in full padded practices which is always a good sign. If he plays Thursday, then that will indicate that he’s cleared & his one last shot to show why he needs to be on the final 53.

CB Cam Lewis- concussion

Lewis suffered a hard hit in the win over the Panthers 2 weeks ago & was removed from the sidelines with a neck immobilizer. He has since returned to practice in a red jersey but like McDermott, if he is not cleared, he may be forced to sit on the sidelines and wait for an IR designation or injury settlement.

TE Kyle Carter- knee

Carter suffered a knee injury in the win over the Lions last Friday. There was not a clear play when it happened, but he may want to play through in order to have a shot to get some extra game film out there. I am unsure whether he is eligible for practice squad still, but tonight will be possibly one last shot for him.

RB Senorise Perry- quadriceps

Perry, once a virtual lock for his special teams prowess is now looking outside in at the 53. He was dealing with a minor ankle injury that he played through in Friday’s game but was later limited by a new quadriceps injury. Like the others, it isn’t clear when this occurred, but he has been unable to practice since then. Depending on the severity of the injury, it is unknown if he will suit up tonight.

WR Robert Foster- turf toe

Foster has been battling a turf toe injury all spring & summer which was confirmed recently. He was limited with mandatory mini camp, appeared to be full go during the early parts of training camp before being hobbled again by the toe. Turf toe is notoriously difficult to fully heal and can linger all season at times. I believe that Foster was fully healthy coming into training camp and then tweaked it 2 weeks ago. He should make this team but may play tonight to ensure his spot.

TE Dawson Knox- hamstring

It appears Knox has his hamstring issues behind him as he was able to play last game without issue. He also did not appear to have any setbacks this past week during practice. He may play tonight to get the reps which I believe will be beneficial in his development but should only see the early part of the game and get out after the 1st quarter.

TE Jason Croom- hamstring

Croom dug a hole that he just can’t get out of with his hamstring issues from the past few months. Recent information came out indicating that he tore his hamstring back during spring practices, worked his way back before re-injuring himself at the beginning of training camp. At times, he has looked awesome in practices, but appeared to have a setback last week which prevented him in playing Friday. Whether he plays tonight is anyone’s guess; his best chance may be to play tonight and get some game film out there in the hopes that someone takes a chance on him or that he comes back to the Bills practice squad.

Released/Injured Reserve

P Cory Carter- knee

Carter was dealing with knee soreness which put him behind in the punting competition over the past 2 weeks. Ultimately, he fell behind too far and was cut. As he had knee soreness and not an outright injury, the team did not owe him an injury settlement and he was free to pass through waivers to find a new home.

OT De’Ondre Wesley- knee

Wesley was injured late in the win over the preseason, he was able to return but was out for the Lions game. There is not clear video available indicating what he injured, but it was enough that the team gave him an injury settlement to go elsewhere when he is ready to play.

DE Mike Love- pectoral

Love appeared to injure his pectoral muscle sometime during Lions game. He was able to play most of the game up to about 7 minutes left in the 4th quarter. There was no clear mechanism of injury which makes identifying his injury difficult. As of now, he will be on the Bills IR for the season unless he reaches an injury settlement before cut down day on Saturday. I have no idea which way the team will lean, but his salary is guaranteed if he’s on IR, so it’s likely he stays with the Bills and focus on himself for next season.

Overall, the Bills have most of their roster filled out with several roster spots up for grabs. It may not be the prettiest game, but it’ll be one last audition for most of the players on the field. Regardless of tonight outcome, we will have our 53 man roster Saturday.

Bills Preseason Injury Preview- Lions

The Bills may be cautious with injuries, but they are on the mend heading towards Week 1.

Friday marks the 3rd preseason game of the 2019 season against the Detroit Lions. The team continues to improve the overall health but remain cautiously optimistic on several players.

The 3rd preseason game is typical the dress rehearsal for the presumed starters, but time on the field may be abbreviated. Considering the number of star players around the league going down with senseless injuries, the Bills may keep it to several drives to minimize the risk. Below is several players to watch for in Friday’s game.

Ruled Out:

C Mitch Morse- concussion

The fact that Morse is not playing is not a surprise. The Associated Press’ John Warwow has reported that the team has been precautionary in dealing with his concussion.

What this implies is that the team and Morse jointly decided that he would take his rehab slow despite the possibility that he could have come back to full practices sooner. I am not certain this approach would be available in the regular season, but considering that this is his 4th documented concussion, this is the right approach now. They had the time available to ensure his health & prevent a second concussion that could prematurely end his season.

OL Conor McDermott- concussion

Like Morse, McDermott is dealing with his own concussion. Thankfully, he appears to be moving through the protocol quickly. No announcements have been made whether he has been cleared, but considering the depth issues on the offensive line, not playing Friday may be his best chance to make the roster if further injury along the O-line occurs.

CB Cam Lewis- concussion

Lewis is still working through his own concussion that appeared to be much worse than originally anticipated. If you recall, he was placed in a neck immobilizer following his hit in Friday’s game. He has not been seen at practice which indicates he is likely in Stage 1-2 of the protocol. The Bills could still place him on IR if they wanted to, but may wait to see if he recovers to play in the 4th game.

P Cory Carter- knee soreness

Despite working back from last year’s traumatic ACL tear in the preseason, Carter will miss Friday’s game. The team has described knee soreness as the reason for his absence. It is not known which knee is bothering him. My hope is that it is his kicking leg, but if it is his plant leg, that could be concerning as this was where the ACL tear occurred. Once more information is known, a better prognosis can be identified.

OT De’Ondre Wesley- unknown

Wesley continues to be dealing with an injury that has not been divulged as of Friday. The original injury was sustained in last Friday’s game but he was able to return shortly after. Looking at video, he walked off with about 2:30 left in the 3rd quarter appearing to shake out his right wrist/arm. Watching the play before, he didn’t appear to do anything out of the ordinary which makes identifying an injury extremely difficult. Without further information, he will remain an unknown.

Questionable:

CB Taron Johnson- groin

Johnson suffered what appears to be a minor groin strain following the first preseason game. He was able to play in the 2nd game without issue but considering the nature of the injury, the team may keep him out to keep him healthy for Week 1.

WR Robert Foster- toe

Foster appeared to jam his toe during practice on Monday. He was seen applying ice to the area following practice according to The Athletic’s Matthew Fairburn. If this was his big toe, this may prevent him from effectively pushing off, reducing his explosiveness during running & cutting. This isn’t exactly described as turf toe, but if he continues to work through the injury, it could worsen into a turf toe or another ailment. He may sit as a precaution, but if the injury was truly minor, he may play.

TE Dawson Knox & Jason Croom- hamstring

Knox is already cleared to play Friday according to reports. He had said on One Bills Live that he felt that the training staff took him real slow with his recovery. However, he feels great and ready to go. There is always a chance he could re-injure the right hamstring but far from a guarantee.

Croom on the other hand, continued to sit out practice this week despite getting into pads last week. It is unknown if he had a setback, but missing a 3rd game would certainly sink his chances to make the roster.

DE Jerry Hughes- Hand/wrist

Reports indicate that Hughes was practicing on a limited basis due to injury. Specifically, he was observed wearing a brace on his right hand during practice. Looking at film, there were several instances that he had fallen down to the ground or roughly engaged with offensive lineman. There was not any specific play that pointed to exactly what is going on. As he is a veteran player and he is wearing something that is supportive to an injured area, this may be precautionary and quickly forgotten. It is difficult to identify whether he will play Friday night.

Remember, this is the preseason, teams don’t have to identify specific injuries, they don’t have to play players if they don’t want, they have more flexibility to preserve the health of players, which leads to overblown worries about player’s health.

Continue to check back for the latest updates and news coming out of One Bills Drive. Follow Banged Up Bills on Facebook, on Twitter @BangedUpBills, on Reddit at u/BangedUpBills, and online at www.bangedupbills.com. Make sure to follow my work over at Buffalo Rumblings for deep dives on specific injuries throughout the season.

Bills Season Injury Review- Special Teams

Reviewing the injuries at the special teams unit & what the 2019 version may look like.

Training camp is here! After nearly 8 months of waiting, the Bills break for training camp on Thursday & we are one step closer to having meaningful Sunday’s again. Today’s article marks the finale of the positional reviews for the 2018 season. Special teams bringing up the rear and rounding out the remaining Bills players on the roster.

First up is LS Reid Ferguson. The now veteran snapper has made a nice home for himself in Buffalo, appearing in every game the last 2 seasons while not missing a snap and avoiding injury. While there are not many stats for long snappers, he did accumulate 3 total tackles, 2 solo, 1 assisted. He will be coming back this season as the most consistent special teams player and look to improve on their performance from last season.

P Matt Darr appeared in 5 games this past season, punting the ball 20 times for 809 yards. He also did not suffer any injuries but his time with the team was solely due to the injuries and inconsistencies at a normally stable punter position. Darr has since moved onto the New York Jets for the 2019 season.

P Colton Schmidt had two stints with the team, winning the job coming out of training camp before getting cut in favor of Bojorquez. However, Schmidt did get re-signed to the team for 3 games after Bojorquez went down with injury. He was able to make 16 punts for 676 yards during his brief time in Buffalo and avoid injury. He is currently a free agent but unlikely to return to Buffalo this coming season.

P Cory Carter missed all of last season with a torn ACL suffered in the Browns preseason game. This was the result of a Browns player running into Carter’s leg after he got the punt off, he was unable to land safely on his plant leg, the knee hyperextended and the ACL tore. Carter spent all of last season on IR but the team appeared to like him enough to bring him back to compete for the starting job this season. To note, he was the only Bills player to suffer an ACL tear last season.

Moving onto P Corey Bojorquez, he suffered a torn labrum during the Tennessee Titans game in which he attempted a botched fake field goal. While he was attempting to throw the ball, he was tackled and the force of his fully flexed arm led to a labral tear. He was able to play several more games before being shut down and sent to IR. Bojorquez appeared in 8 games, totaling 45 punts for 2028 yards & 1 block. He appears to be fully healthy coming into this season and should have a healthy competition with P Cory Carter for the starting job.

Next man up is RB Taiwan Jones. While he is listed as a running back, his mark was made on special teams. He appeared in 6 games, mostly returning punts until he suffered some sort of neck injury against the Houston Texans. I have reviewed film countless times and was unable to identify what the injury was. Whatever he was diagnosed with, he was sent to IR for the season but has since signed with Houston to bolster their special teams in 2019. To note, he did suffer a rather gruesome gash on his head as the result of a muffed punt against the Chargers where he took a direct hit from a helmeted player. Thankfully, he did not suffer a concussion and as far as we know, no lasting issues with the head wound.

Finally, K Stephen Hauschka rounds out the special teams unit. He appeared in all 16 games finishing 22/28 for a 78.4% FG percentage completion which is an all time low for the veteran kicker. He also made 25/26 extra point kicks for a 96.2% completion. However, to provide context, Hauschka was not the same kicker after he got blindsided by Jets DE Henry Anderson after a blocked FG on the last play in the 2nd half of the first meeting with the Jets. I had originally thought he suffered a hip pointer injury which could make kicking very difficult & painful which certainly affected his effectiveness the rest of the season. Looking back, there is reasonable questions on whether the Bills should have brought a different kicker in while Hauschka healed. But, as Hauschka is a veteran, he has learned how to take care of his body and with time and rest, this should not affect him going into this season. However, if he starts to slip, they team may want to move in a younger direction.

Overall, I expect Hauschka & Ferguson to be on the 2019 Bills roster with a fierce battle at the punter position taking place. Technically, Hauschka does have competition with UDFA K Chase McLaughlin, but it would take a horrendous preseason for McLaughlin to unseat the veteran. This should be a much improved unit with new ST coach Heath Farwell taking the reins and improving the overall special teams units in order to overcome the shortcomings that cost the Bills games last season.

Continue to check back for the latest updates and news coming out of One Bills Drive. Follow Banged Up Bills on Facebook, on Twitter @BangedUpBills, on Reddit at u/BangedUpBills, and online at www.bangedupbills.com. As always, thank you for reading and GO BILLS!!

Phase 3 OTA Week 1 Recap

Assessing the latest injuries following the first week of Phase 3 of OTA’s.

In an offseason that appeared to be going well for the Bills with lots of new faces, a promising outlook, and possible long lasting stability, a jarring reality set in on Day 2. Tuesday brought a wide variety of injury news, some good, mostly bad that puts worry into every Bills fan even though it is May.

The most serious injury of OTA’s came in newly signed TE Tyler Kroft (foot). Unfortunately, he suffered a foot fracture on the first day which will require surgery. Regrettably, this is the same foot that he fractured last year that cost him 11 games. According to Ian Rapaport, this will sideline him for up to 3-4 months. While this is bad news, it’s not totally awful. The 3-4 months recovery timeline tells us several things. This tells us that this injury wasn’t as serious as it could have been. This rules out a Lisfranc as a conservative recovery would be 6 months.

We know that it’s not trauma or a stress fracture as trauma most likely would have been reported and a stress fracture wouldn’t require immediate surgery. This leads us to several possibilities. He could have had an avulsion fracture in where a portion of the bone is pulled away from the bone. He could have a metatarsal fracture in any of the long toe bones of the foot. Or he could have a Jones fracture.

Considering he injured the same foot last year, had surgery, and then fractured again, I am leaning towards the Jones fracture. It’s a surgery that requires stabilization with a screw, it has a known failure rate after the first surgery, and the timeline fits with the reported recovery time. The mechanism of injury is similar to an ankle sprain which can be rather innocent when dealing with positional drills, someone tweaks their ankle, steps funny, pushes off differently. Kroft most likely woke up the next day having issues, had imaging, and found out the bad news.

While he is still a near lock to make the roster, losing him for 3-4 months will allow some of the younger tight ends to get more reps and make the roster. Kroft will likely start the preseason on the PUP list, possibly paving the way to allow someone to get some playing time in place during the preseason. If he is on PUP at the start of the regular season, he wouldn’t be able to return until Week 6 when he is eligible. By then, there could be corresponding roster moves such as injury or insufficient play from other players which may prevent having to cut another TE before the regular season. This designation would also not count against an IR-to-return spot.

Others coming off injury are RB Frank Gore (foot/ankle) and RB TJ Yeldon (groin). There has been a documented injury for Gore at the end of last season which sent him to IR. There has been no known surgeries, but considering that Gore is ancient in NFL terms and these practices are voluntary, it’s an easy out to not participate in drills.

As for Yeldon, he may have tweaked something early on and decided to avoid making things worse rather than trying to go through meaningless drills. For both backs, there is no concern moving forward unless new information comes to light.

Many became worried with the revelation that both newly signed C Mitch Morse and WR Cole Beasley required core stabilization surgery, better known as a sports hernia repair. This is the same type of injury that infamous Bills CB Vontae Davis suffered 2 seasons ago. I detailed his injury when he originally signed with the team, make sure to click the link above for more information. While there is concern that they may not be ready for Week 1, it was revealed that they had their surgery several weeks ago with a general recovery timeline of roughly 12 weeks.

Both could certainly come back sooner than that based on the amount of damage in the region, but having surgery in April gives them a return to full ability in July. These injuries do unfortunately happen considering the positional requirements throughout the season but are able to play through. While there is always concerns for complications, the return to play rate is ~90% for NFL players, I do not expect anything less for Morse and Beasley.

Others nicked up include S Rafael Bush (groin/shoulder) and CB Taron Johnson (shoulder). Bush was seen wearing a red non-contact jersey alongside Johnson, but considering these workouts are voluntary, he may be just be cautious as he was dealing with a groin injury last season, according to research by Nick Wojton. Bush also did suffer a shoulder injury last season that may have lingered to the point where he didn’t want to risk anything and could be the true cause of why he was sitting out OTA’s.

Johnson is coming off his labral repair and has made excellent progress to this point. Considering he is 5.5 months out from surgery, he is able to participate in drills but contact is not advised yet, he’ll be ready come training camp. To read more, please check out the article here from Buffalo Rumblings.

Rookie WR David Sills V (hamstring) suffered a hamstring strain in rookie mini camp, these injuries occur despite the best preventative methods out there. He just needs rest and rehab. TE Jason Croom (undisclosed) was seen walking with a trainer, dealing with something, but no further information has come out regarding what he injured.

Finally, C Russell Bodine (shoulder) did not participate in OTA’s as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery. I had noted last year that he was wearing a compression sleeve later in the season. He most likely had a shoulder debridement, possible subacromial decompression. This would be similar to what Panthers QB Cam Newton had recently. The procedure would smooth down any arthritic changes in the shoulder or trim back the acromion which could cause impingement leading to weakness, pain, and possible further complications with the rotator cuff if left untreated. He is also coming off a broken fibula requiring surgery that appears to fully healed. Regarding both injuries, he will be fine for camp and this is not worth any further words.

Players that suffered injuries last season that practiced in full were LB Matt Milano (ankle), P Corey Bojorquez (shoulder), and P Cory Carter (knee). Milano is coming off his gruesome fibula fracture with dislocation practicing in full. He appears to be on schedule and working back into football shape as expected.

Bojorquez suffered a torn labrum last season on his bonehead fake FG attempt, he was practicing in full and his shoulder won’t give any issues as he likely had surgery in October and he doesn’t take the regular contact or use the shoulder in a way that Taron Johnson would.

Carter is coming off his ACL tear that cost him all of 2018 due to a direct blow to the knee. He is roughly 9 months out from surgery and should be cleared to resume full activities. There is less concern for him returning from the injury than we saw last year with DE Trent Murphy.

Despite all the doom and gloom of Tuesday, there are still positives to take away as they still have 3 months before a meaningful snap is taken. All will be fine. We will also get to see more action on the 28th which will give us some glimpses into what the mandatory minicamp participation will be like. I believe most of these injuries will not be mentioned in June.

Continue to check back for the latest updates and news coming out of One Bills Drive. Follow Banged Up Bills on Facebook, on Twitter @BangedUpBills, on Reddit at u/BangedUpBills, and online at www.bangedupbills.com. As always, thank you for reading and GO BILLS!!

Preseason Injury Review- Browns

Analyzing the latest injuries following the preseason win over the Browns including AJ McCarron, Kyle Williams, and Cory Carter.

The Bills got their first win of the preseason with a decisive 19-17 win over the Cleveland Browns Friday night. While we saw some good things including the continued emergence of RB Marcus Murphy and darts thrown by QB Josh Allen show that there is some talent on this team and should be a force to reckon with this coming season. However, with all the good also comes the bad. The Bills have been relatively healthy over the course of this preseason, getting some bumps and bruises along the way but avoiding serious injury. Unfortunately, the Bills luck ran out Friday night on the shores of Lake Erie. Today’s post will review injuries sustained Friday and what this means going forward.

Prior to the game, DE Trent Murphy and WR Brandon Reilly were ruled out prior to the game with groin and rib injuries respectively. Hopefully both will be able to return to full health very soon and bolster depth going forward. The biggest injuries sustained Friday night with regards to name recognition were QB AJ McCarron and DT Kyle Williams. The former Alabama QB came from Cincinnati in the off season and was expected to compete for the starting job. Regrettably, McCarron reportedly sustained a hairline fracture in his collarbone towards the end of the 1st quarter.

The play that McCarron potentially suffered his collarbone fracture seemed pretty innocuous. He was tackled hard with most of his weight coming down onto his right shoulder but was able to finish the series. He did not appear to have any initial discomfort or favoring the injured area. Reports do not state which collarbone he fractured but my guess is the right side which is his throwing arm. However, after today’s press conference, there is question regarding the severity of the injury as McCarron is getting a second opinion which may change his availability. Once we have confirmation one way or another, I will be able to elaborate more.

DT Kyle Williams suffered what appeared to be a season ending injury early in the 2nd quarter. This occurred when he was getting blocked and a Browns offensive player fell into his right leg and he went down immediately in pain. The initial fear when a knee is bent like that with an outside force on the knee is an ACL tear. Thankfully, he avoided the dreaded injury and only sustained a MCL tear. The MCL is the ligament on the inside of the knee and is a commonly injured ligament during knee sprains. It appears as though Williams suffered a Grade 2 sprain which should heal on its own and will not require surgery.

Had Williams foot been planted in the ground when he got hit, he would have most likely torn his ACL and ended his final season. This is an injury that will take 4-6 weeks to heal which means he should be able to come back for Week 4 against the Packers. If things go well, Week 2 against the Chargers. As he is older, he will most likely be on the slower side of this timeline and lets face it, Kyle Williams is a national treasure when it comes to Bills fans. Training staff will not rush him back to the field unless he is truly ready to play. Once he returns, he should have no performance issues with the exception of some pain/swelling initially after playing.

One player who was hit hard by the injury bug was P Cory Carter who suffered a torn ACL after a collision late in the 3rd quarter. His plant leg was fully extended as he came down and the Browns defender rolled into his leg, preventing him from landing safely, causing his knee to hyper extend and tear the ACL on the second small hop in the above posted video. Prior to this injury, reports were coming out that he was having a solid camp and really challenging for the starting position. I have detailed ACL tears in a previous article, please check it out. Carter will be out for the entire year. I wish him the best of luck in his recovery. To note, this is the first ACL tear for the Bills since TE Chris Gragg tore in the preseason in 2016.

Another player that has had a very strong camp and warrants a roster spot is TE Jason Croom. The WR turned TE injured what appeared to be his left ankle on a punt return play the next play after Carter was injured. On the play, Croom went downfield and changed direction quickly to tackle the punt returner and LB Tanner Vallejo attempted to do the same thing, missed, and rolled into Croom’s ankle. He was able to walk off under his own power with a noticeable limp and was done for the night. It appeared as though he may have a low ankle sprain at worst. However, he was able to practice today according to reports which is something to watch for as the week progresses.

Others injured Friday include S Siran Neal, CB Taron Johnson, and OT De’Ondre Wesley. Neal was injured after a hard tackle and appeared to have the wind knocked out of him but was able to return later in the game. Johnson suffered a crackback block at the hands of WR Jarvis Landry who infamously ended the career of former Bills S Aaron Williams, thankfully no long term issues. Finally, OT De’Ondre Wesley appeared to tweak his ankle and came off the field but was able to return. I don’t see anything that warrants further concern. Also today, S Kelcie McCray was not practicing but film did not reveal any injuries at first glance.

Finally, QB Nathan Peterman appeared to sustain an injury in the last series of the game. Upon review, he took a low tackle which appeared to hit his knee but when he came up, he was hopping on his right leg and favoring his left. He was able to walk it off and finish the series but when he kneeled down to run out the clock, he did a reverse lunge and appeared to stumble backwards. It appeared as though he injured his left ankle. He may have twisted/tweaked it but as he was practicing today, it does not appear to be serious. Further reports will be made available if this becomes a problem.

Overall, the Bills escaped Cleveland without major losses.  They also have 9 days before their next game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Unfortunately, there are two more preseason games which mean two more possibilities for players to get hurt before the regular season. While all injuries cannot be prevented, preventative measures such as exercises/practice and limiting playing time appear to be the only way for now.

Continue to check back for the latest updates and injury analysis as the season progresses. Follow on Twitter @BangedUpBills, on Facebook at Banged Up Bills, online www.bangedupbills.com and on reddit at u/BangedUpBills. As always, thank you for reading and GO BILLS!!

Buffalo Bills Season Injury Review- ST

Evaluating the injuries (or lack thereof) of the 2017 Bills special team unit.

I hope everyone continues to enjoy the summer as we inch closer and closer towards training camp on July 26th! Today’s post wraps up the positional injury reviews for the 2017 season. Today’s article may be the briefest due to an overall lack of injuries, however without the special teams unit, the Bills struggle mightily! This article will review the kicker, punter, and long snapper positions.

First up is LS Reid Ferguson. The talented long snapper finished his first season after spending the 2016 season on the practice squad. Ferguson was able to take over the incumbent LS Garrison Sanborn last season who moved onto the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While there is no official statistics for a long snapper, the body of work for a long snapper is evident with the effectiveness of the kicker and punter. Though a long snapper is only on the field for field goals and punts, they are still at risk for injury just as much as any other player. During punt returns, they still have to go block and tackle the returner. Unfortunately, special team plays like this can cause serious injury such as last year to the Bears and Jaguars. Thankfully, Ferguson avoided injury and is looking to build off a strong 2017 season. If you don’t hear his name again this season, this just means he’s doing his job very well.

Moving to the next position, P Colton Schmidt arrives on the list. The 4th year pro has been a steady presence in the backfield on 4th down after some inconsistency following the release of longtime punter and fan favorite Brian Moorman. Schmidt had 79 punts with an average of 44.7 yards/punt with a season long of 60 yards. Out of those 79 punts, he was able to place 28 inside the 20, good for a 35% rate. Along with Ferguson, Schmidt avoided injury this season and appears to continue his productive career in 2018.

Finally, we round out this article with K Steven Hauschka. The 10th year pro continues to make his mark in Buffalo after stops in Baltimore, Denver, and Seattle where he had his greatest success culminating in 2 Super Bowl appearances with one championship. Hauschka found his way to Buffalo and continued his high level of play in which he was 29/33 in FG’s made, going perfect at 20-29, 30-39, and going 7/9 at both 40-49 and 50-59. This was good for a 87.9% FG completion and was perfect on extra points. The veteran kicker was the only special teams player to suffer an injury this past season. Hauschka suffered a right hip injury following the Saints game which caused him to miss some practice that week but did not cause him to miss any games. Reading further into his injury, it did not appear to be anything more than a possible muscle strain as he was able to play through the discomfort and it did not land him on the injury report the rest of the season. As he is right footed with regards to kicking, the ability to swing his kicking leg through effectively pain free is vital to his ability to perform.

While the NFL has at times been criticized for making the game “soft” through rule changes, these changes are the reason the Bills special team players were able to remain healthy with penalties. Each position has been afforded special rules to ensure their safety. Rules for punter/kicker, and long snapper can be found here. Overall, these rules make the game safer and allow these world class athletes perform their craft avoiding serious injury.

Competing for roster spots are K Tyler Davis and P Cory Carter going into the 2018 season. While I do not believe that they will seriously threaten the above mentioned roster spots, other teams will be watching in the event they are not satisfied with their special team games. Both of these players may find their way onto the practice squad, however I believe that the front office would rather place other positional players on the practice squad for greater depth. Look for this special teams unit to be incredibly effective going into the 2018 season and help keep the Bills in games if the offense fails to move the ball.

This wraps up the 2017 season positional injury reviews. I hope you enjoyed looking back at this memorable season and reflect on how valuable healthy starters are along with effective depth is to a team. This series also demonstrated how the Bills avoided serious injuries this year which led to proper player development rather than inserting players who are not ready or are ill suited for the position/scheme.

Continue to check back at Banged Up Bills on Facebook and on Twitter @BangedUpBills. Look for the latest injury news coming out of training camp, general injury explanations, and anything else that can be reported on. As always, thank you for reading and GO BILLS!!