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.

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