With nearly two weeks in the books in the 2012 NFL season, no result has been as surprising as Arizona's 20-18 upset win over New England on Sunday. To make matters worse for the Patriots, tight end Aaron Hernandez left the game with a high ankle sprain and is likely to miss a significant amount of time. Here are the details on Hernandez's injury, some other key injuries from the week so far and their potential impacts:
Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots (ankle)
The Patriots' tight end, part of the team's dynamic duo alongside Rob Gronkowski, suffered what has been preliminarily diagnosed as a right high ankle sprain. The term "high ankle sprain" is usually used to describe an injury to the syndesmotic ligaments of the ankle, which hold the lower ends of the tibia and fibula (lower leg bones) together. Injuries to these ligaments are usually more serious than to other areas of the ankle, causing significant pain and difficulty bearing weight. The severity of and prognosis for recovery for ankle sprains are often a source of confusion, primarily due to misunderstanding over what exactly the different "grades" of sprains actually mean. In brief:
- A Grade 1 sprain is a mild sprain that occurs when there is slight stretching and some damage to the fibers of the ligament. Individuals can usually place pressure on the foot and walk afterward.
- A Grade 2 sprain is a moderate sprain where a partial tearing of the ligament occurs. If the ankle joint is examined and moved in certain ways, abnormal looseness (laxity) of the ankle joint occurs.
- A Grade 3 sprain is a severe sprain in which a complete tear of the ligament occurs. If the examiner pulls or pushes on the ankle joint in certain movements, gross instability occurs.
A Grade 1 sprain could require anywhere from 1-4 weeks of recovery time; a Grade 2 or 3 sprain, in which there is some degree of looseness of the ankle joint, could take longer and even require surgery if the tear is complete. According to PFT's Mike Florio, Hernandez is expected to miss six weeks, which would suggest he suffered a Grade 2 or 3 sprain. Hernandez's specific prognosis for a return to action will not be clear until further testing is performed, but it is safe to say Gronkowski may have to go without his partner in crime for some time.
Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants (neck)
The Giants' running back suffered a neck injury in the second quarter of New York's thrilling 41-34 win over Tampa Bay, causing him to exit the game. While preliminary X-rays taken after the injury were negative, Bradshaw is scheduled for an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of the injury. In somewhat of a surprise, Andre Brown -- and not David Wilson -- took over at running back for Bradshaw and performed well, rushing 13 times for 71 yards and a touchdown. Given the fact that the Giants have a short work week in advance of their next game on Thursday night against Carolina, it is distinctly possible Brown may find himself carrying the bulk of the carries again just four days from now.
Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars (leg)
Gabbert, who had shown some signs of improvement following a dreadful 2011 rookie campaign, left the Jaguars' 27-7 loss to Houston with hamstring and toe injuries, and is set for MRI exams of both on Monday. The Jaguars' quarterback left in the fourth quarter on a day when Jacksonville mustered a franchise-worst 117 yards of total offense, and remained on the sideline with his thigh heavily iced following the injury. Backup Chad Henne finished the game for the Jaguars and would be in line for the start next week when the team travels to Indianapolis, assuming Gabbert can't play.
Shonn Greene, New York Jets (head)
Greene left in the first half of the Jets' 27-10 loss to Pittsburgh with a head injury, only to return in the third quarter and finish out the game. Greene, who was hurt on a tackle by the Steelers' Ryan Mundy, did not appear to be suffering from ill effects upon his return, although he was limited to 23 yards on 11 carries. Although the Jets did not offer much information on the nature of the injury, if Greene suffered from any symptoms suggestive of a possible concussion, it is likely he will be evaluated throughout the week by the team's training staff for lingering effects. Bilal Powell took over briefly at RB in the second quarter and would be next in line if needed when the Jets play at Miami next week.
Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles (hip)
The Eagles' wide receiver, listed as questionable entering Sunday's win against Baltimore with a hip pointer, was carted off the field in the third quarter after aggravating the same injury. A hip pointer occurs when a traumatic force, commonly due to a hard tackle or fall, is applied to the iliac crest (hip bone), resulting in bruising, swelling, and significant pain. This is a particularly common injury in football due to the relative lack of padding in the area. On occasion, bleeding can extend into the hip and abdominal muscles, causing decreased range of motion on top of the pain and swelling. Treatment is conservative, with rest, ice, compression, and anti-inflammatory medications. Given that this is a worsening of a pre-existing injury, it is likely that Maclin will again be questionable at best for next week's game against Arizona.
Brian Orakpo, Washington Redskins (pectoral)
Orakpo, who had offseason surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle suffered in Week 17 of 2011, injured the same muscle early in the Redskins' 31-28 loss to St. Louis and was unable to complete the game. The Redskins, who struggled to generate a consistent pass rush against the Rams' Sam Bradford all day, are bracing for the likelihood that they will be without Orakpo for some time, pending further tests. OLB Rob Jackson played admirably in Orakpo's absence and is likely to start in his place next week against Cincinnati.