15 Injured Players to Watch When Training Camps Open

By Matt Schauf 1:06pm EDT 6/28/17

Are you ready?

No, not for your draft. We’ll all stay busy preparing for that right up until it starts.

But no matter how hard you work in your draft prep or which players you pick, injuries will step in at some point. In many cases, we can’t be prepared. But these 15 guys aren’t those cases.

As you head toward fantasy football draft day, keep track of these key existing injury situations.

Andrew Luck, QB, Colts

Injury to watch: shoulder

Luck had surgery on his right (throwing) shoulder back in January to repair an issue he’d been dealing with since 2015. Early reports pegged his rehab at 6 months. We’re about 2 weeks from the end of that span as of this writing.

On June 27, Luck told the Indianapolis Star that his shoulder is “feeling better and better every week.” But he also has yet to resume throwing. The QB had previously refused to commit to an on-field return date.

Until Luck gets back onto the field, he’ll carry more risk than other guys around him atop the 2017 QB rankings. But there’s also time for him to calm any worries before late-August and early-September drafting.

Cam Newton, QB, Panthers

Injury to watch: shoulder

Newton had surgery March 30 to repair a partially torn rotator cuff in his right (throwing) shoulder, an issue he played through over the final 2 games of last season. His rehab stands ahead of Luck’s.

The Carolina QB resumed throwing in late June and cited stiffness as the only issue. He also said there’s “no doubt” he’ll be 100% by the start of training camp.

Along with watching for any lingering shoulder issues, we’ll need to watch out for any further shots to the joint. Newton’s high-volume running adds obvious risk. Let’s also not ignore that the Panthers sport 2 new starting OTs vs. the beginning of last year. That includes LT Matt Kalil, a former 1st-round pick whom the Vikings gave up on at the end of his rookie deal.

Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers

Injury to watch: groin

HC Mike Tomlin conceded after the AFC Championship Game aggravation that he knew Bell had been dealing with some groin trouble late in the year but said it hadn’t been bad enough to affect the team’s game plans. A sports hernia knocked him out in the 1st quarter of that loss, though, and eventually required surgery.

Fortunately, sports hernia repairs are pretty common and generally not a lingering issue if done outside of the season. Bell posted video in late June of him playing basketball — certainly not an activity a contract-year RB coming off surgery would be doing if he were worried about his core.

We’ll all be watching Bell closely this summer, especially considering the bothersome history of lower-body issues. But don’t worry too much about the fantasy stud until/unless he gives you reason to.

Eddie Lacy, RB, Seahawks

Injury to watch: ankle

The media focus has been on Lacy’s weight this offseason, but his repaired left ankle fracture matters a lot more to his 2017 fantasy outlook.

Lacy had the operation in October and has yet to get back onto the field as of this writing. According to ESPN, he’s expected to be fully cleared for training camp. We’ll see how the ankle looks then.

In the meantime, Thomas Rawls has gotten extra reps in Lacy’s absence. The Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta said his “best guess” is a “fairly equal share of the basedown carries” between Lacy and Rawls this season.

Of course, the Seahawks probably wouldn’t have signed Lacy if they didn’t consider him an upgrade over Rawls. The workload split will almost certainly depend heavily on the health of Lacy’s ankle (and an absence of surrounding/compensatory issues).

Theo Riddick, RB, Lions

Injury to watch: wrists

Riddick had surgery on both wrists after the season. And that’s about as much as anyone outside of Lions headquarters knows.

The PPR maven didn’t participate in spring workouts and hasn’t shared any info on his recovery or return timetable. It’s nice that he’s not returning from surgery on some load-bearing joint, but we’ll all need to wait until late summer to make sure he’s ready to go.

Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals

Injury to watch: knee

The good news: Bernard has come back from an ACL tear before. He ripped the right one back in 2010 at North Carolina. Last November, it was the left side’s turn to pop.

The bad news: His outlook might have lost some optimism recently.

Back in February, Geoff Hobson reported on the team website that Bernard was expected to avoid the regular-season PUP list. In mid-June, Hobson said that Bernard could miss the “first couple of regular season games.”

Granted, Bernard could miss some early games while also avoiding the PUP. So the message here is that we’ll have to see what his participation level is this summer. Bernard worked only on the side during May OTAs.

Latavius Murray, RB, Vikings

Injury to watch: ankle

The recent headlines have Murray talking big about his opportunity to lead the Minnesota backfield. But his 1st hurdle – before competition with rookie Dalvin Cook – will be overcoming his spring ankle surgery.

Murray has yet to practice with his new team. HC Mike Zimmer said in mid-June that he expects the RB to be ready around the start of training camp. Murray, however, said earlier in the month that his “goal is just to try to be available during training camp at some point.”

That opens a pretty large window, especially considering that Murray will face significant competition for touches whenever he takes the field. The longer his wait, the more time for Cook to impress.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Broncos

Injury to watch: knees … and surrounding

Keeping your beard trimmed regularly is a good thing. Your meniscuses? Probably not so much.

Nevertheless, Charles had that procedure to the meniscus in each knee within a 2-week span last fall. He didn’t play at all after that. On the open market, several teams said “nah” before the Broncos signed him to a non-guaranteed contract in May.

HC Vance Joseph said they hoped to get him to “full speed by training camp” but conceded that Charles arrived with a weak quad. The veteran back put in only “light” work in spring drills. And, of course, this all traces back to the 2nd ACL tear of Charles’ career, which ended his 2015 early.

There will be a lot to watch with him this summer. There’s also opportunity if Charles can prove that both legs are rejuvenated.

Julio Jones, WR, Falcons

Injury to watch: foot

We fantasy owners don’t ever want to hear “Julio” and “foot surgery” in the same sentence. Fortunately, though, his March 6 procedure wasn’t nearly as serious as any previous.

Jones merely had surgery for a bunion on his left foot. He was still rehabbing as of early June and merely jogged at spring workouts. But we haven’t seen any signs of concern from the player or team.

We’ll watch for any camp reports on issues with the foot – or surrounding areas – but there seems no reason to worry right now.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills

Injury to watch: foot

We fantasy owners don’t ever want to hear “Sammy Watkins” and “foot surgery” in the … you get it.

In Watkins’ case, the January 20 operation on his left foot was more significant. He had hoped to avoid a 2nd procedure on the foot he fractured last offseason, but it has become the common path for NFL wideouts who suffered the same injury. Most recently, Dez Bryant and Julian Edelman each had 2nd surgeries on their repaired feet in winter 2016.

Buffalo declined the 5th-year option on Watkins, who obviously comes with a worrisome history of lower-body injuries. His foot will bear (lots of) watching this summer.

Eric Decker, WR, Titans

Injuries to watch: hip and shoulder

Decker endured a rough autumn, following hip surgery in October with rotator cuff repair in November. In early March, ESPN’s Rich Cimini reported there was a “good chance” the WR would miss training camp.

Instead, Decker returned to the field in OTAs and reportedly looked good. He was healthy enough for the Jets to cut him, and the Titans didn’t wait too long before scooping him up.

Before the release, Decker told Newsday in early May that he expects full clearance for football activities in time for training camp. Let’s see if things stay on that strongly positive path.

Corey Coleman, WR, Browns

Injury to watch: hamstring

Coleman’s “sore hamstring” from OTAs could be a non-issue this summer … or a big problem.

The former 1st-round pick took the rest of spring off after suffering the sore hammy and another unspecified injury to his midsection following a “tough spill” in practice. It sounded like the kind of situation he’d probably play through in the regular season, but reports also indicate that the Browns could ease him into training camp.

The hamstring is particularly bothersome because it follows a history of issues in that area. Coleman redshirted as a college freshman because of hamstring trouble, which recurred the next year (2013). He lost 2 preseason games last August to a bum hammy but made it through the rest of the year without reported recurrence.

We’ll watch those legs closely through camp and the preseason.

Mike Williams, WR, Chargers

Injury to watch: back

Williams already faced the challenge of a crowded passing game when he arrived via the #7 pick in the NFL Draft. A spring back injury further clouded his early outlook.

Williams suffered a mild disc herniation in the 1st practice of rookie minicamp and hasn’t seen the field since. HC Anthony Lynn told ESPN in mid-June that “the hope” is the rookie will be ready for the start of training camp. That’ll be particularly important, given that the coach conceded earlier in June that Williams was “getting behind” thanks to the lost reps.

Fantasy drafters aren’t discounting the rookie wideout nearly enough to make him a target at this point.

John Ross, WR, Bengals

Injury to watch: shoulder

Ross hit the Scouting Combine knowing that he would need surgery afterward to repair a shoulder labrum. That has kept him from taking the field so far with his new team, and we don’t really know yet when he will.

The team website reported in mid-June that Ross might return to action in “early August or so.” That would be tough timing for a rookie hoping to knock Brandon LaFell out of the starting lineup. We’ll see how physically ready the diminutive Ross is then.

Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals

Injury to watch: back

You might be mentally correcting that to “Injury to watch: everything.” But the back is the latest issue for Eifert.

He had surgery in late December, capping off 26 games lost to various ailments over the past 3 years. In mid-April, Eifert told ESPN that he doesn’t know if he’ll be ready for the start of training camp, adding that he has “lost a lot of strength” because of nerve and related issues surrounding the injury.

Needing to rebuild that strength on top of avoiding injury setbacks just adds bumps to Eifert’s latest return road. We’ll just be wincing out of habit whenever his name comes up in the news. Of course, an active Eifert has continued to remind us why we should still care about his health status. He still belongs in starter territory in the 2017 TE rankings.

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