Injury mailbag: Exploring what ails Javonte Williams, Mike Evans’ recovery timeline and more

In this week’s column, Greg Scholz explores the nature of Javonte Williams’ lower body injury, lays out the return timeline for Mike Evans, explains how Derek Carr can play through his shoulder injury and more.

First, here’s a quick glossary of terms commonly used by Inside Injuries:

  • IRC = Injury Risk Category (three designations: “Low,” “Elevated,” “High”) — the overall likelihood a player will get injured
  • HPF = Health Performance Factor (Peak, Above Average, Below Average, Poor) — our metric to predict player performance
  • ORT = Optimal Recovery Time — the amount of time a player needs to fully recover from an injury (not the same as how much time they will actually miss).

Q: How do you expect the Broncos to handle Javonte Williams’ hip issue? It’s not a great look for a young player to have hip troubles, especially if it’s compensatory. How much time could/should he miss? — Trevor M.

Reports are conflicting on if the issue is with his hip or his quad. Originally, the team believed it was a hip flexor issue. On Wednesday, however, the injury report cited Williams’ quad for the reason he missed practice. I’m going to go through both possibilities -—hip and quad — but given the Broncos are calling it a quad issue, that’s what we’ll be categorizing it as, too.

Hip issues at a young age are indeed not a great look, but hip flexor injuries (what Williams was originally diagnosed with) don’t fall into this category. Most any athlete is going to battle a minor strain to their hip flexors at some point in their career. Heck, if you grew up playing sports you probably battled one without even knowing it.

Moving onto the quad, there aren’t any specifics at the time of writing, but he was able to practice on Thursday in a limited fashion. This points to the injury likely being soft tissue, so either a strain or a contusion. Either way, we’re considering it a Grade 1.

Despite the low injury grade, Williams was carrying a High IRC entering this season, so tacking on a quad injury doesn’t do him any favors — in short, it will remain High. His HPF took a small hit as well, dropping into Below Average territory. The IRC won’t improve too much with a full practice Friday, but it would improve his HPF.

While we don’t think it would hurt to give Williams the week off, there isn’t anything right now that indicates he sits out Week 5.

Q: Do you see Derek Carr’s injury limiting the potential of Chris Olave? Is this going to be a lingering issue all season? Because 1.4 points is not what I signed up for with Olave. — Big D.

Yeah, I’d be keeping my expectations for Olave pretty low — at least for the next week or so. A lot of quarterbacks play through AC sprains and the results are mixed. Some guys put up their average numbers, while a lot of others have to rely on short, quick passes to be most effective.

If a team schemes for this properly, there is plenty of potential to generate offense but you can’t scheme for which throws hurt and which throws feel fine. Olave can do well in the slot, but the Saints also use Michael Thomas and Rashid Shaheed in that role.

As for the injury lingering, yes, it is a concern. Fellow Saint, Jameis Winston, battled an AC joint sprain back in 2017 while he was with Tampa Bay. He played decently for two weeks before re-aggravating it, which forced him to sit out Tampa Bay’s next three games. This is going to be the concern with Carr.

Carr’s IRC is High but his HPF remains in Above Average territory. He’ll likely be battling symptoms for the next 29 days before he reaches ORT. If he wants to continue to play through it, he will have to protect the shoulder and avoid landing on it.

Q: What’s Mike Evans’ injury recovery timeline? It didn’t seem all that serious. Will he be ready Week 6 after the bye? — Wesley C.

That’s the thing about hamstring strains, they don’t sound serious but almost always lead to time missed. Evans also has a long history with hamstring injuries, dating back to at least 2015. Since then, we’ve cataloged seven separate strains. The surprising thing with Evans is that he rarely suffers setbacks, so he has a history of treating them well.

Given Evans’ treatment history, we expect he will be ready to play in Week 6. That being said, his IRC is High right now and will be High when he returns. There’s no avoiding that — it will probably remain High until around Week 10. His HPF right now is Below Average, but it should creep up slowly over the next week until he crosses into Above Average range around Week 6 or 7.

Q: Can Joe Burrow’s calf heal while he continues to play each week? — Mike M.

Yes, but it won’t be quick. Calf strains are similar to hamstring strains in the sense that you can feel no pain while recovering from one. This sort of lulls players into a false sense of security. Thinking that the strain has healed, they start to ramp up quicker than they should, which tends to lead to aggravations. They’ll know immediately too, because it goes from painless to painful real quick.

The good thing about calf strains is that they generally don’t aggravate as quickly as the hamstring — this is how Burrow can continue to play. The concern is there, but the risk can be mitigated by limiting excessive movements. Burrow said he feels fine throwing, but he can’t be as mobile inside and out of the pocket.

This is reflected by our metrics, which give Burrow a High IRC and a Peak HPF. Basically, he can do most of what he’s supposed to do, but the risk is still very present. Playing with the calf strain is kind of like taking two steps forward and one step back. Progress is being made, but it’s not going to be as quick as him sitting for a few weeks to allow it heal fully.

Q: What is the prognosis for Jonathan Mingo and Treylon Burks? My WR corps is decimated! — Juan W.

Oof, sorry to hear that! I’ve got some good news and some less good news.

Mingo is looking like he will return this week after sitting out Week 4 due to a concussion. These injuries are so individual that we don’t like to use our metrics (IRC, HPF, ORT) to predict anything. That being said, ever since the NFL amended their concussion protocols last season, nearly every player who has been diagnosed with a concussion missed the following week — just a little trend to keep in mind.

Burks, on the other hand, is dealing with a nonspecific knee issue that more than likely is related to the LCL sprain he suffered towards the end of training camp. He was a non-participant in practice on both Wednesday and Thursday, meaning it’s unlikely he practices Friday (chance for limited availability) or plays in Week 5.

Assuming the injury is LCL-related, Burks is looking at another 18 days before reaching ORT. The Titans’ bye week is in Week 7, so we wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t return until Week 8. On the bright side, LCL injuries tend to be seen as less complicated than ACL or PCL injuries because the LCL is outside of the joint capsule (extracapsular) and can be treated more conservatively.

Burks’ metrics aren’t great right now. His IRC is High and his HPF is Below Average, but if he does sit this week and in Week 6, ahead of the Week 7 bye, he should return in Week 8 with a slightly Elevated IRC and a Peak HPF.

Q: How concerned are we about Rico Dowdle’s injury? Even if he doesn’t miss time, is this something that could linger? — James F.

There is some concern here considering Dowdle fractured the same hip in 2021, which ultimately required surgery. Despite this, he’s reportedly dealing with a contusion, which is a fancy word for a bruise. Generally, a minor injury like this isn’t going to raise too many red flags, but let’s look at a few of the worst-case scenarios for consideration.

Even after a fracture heals, there is no guarantee the bone will return to its original bone density. If this were to be the case, the differing densities could allow for that fracture site to be more susceptible to injury. Similarly, when bones break, the muscles around the fracture location may function differently in an attempt to avoid re-injury. When this happens, they may no longer be properly equipped to handle a significant impact.

Beyond that, surgery tends to create scar tissue, which tends to be more rigid and lacks the elasticity that healthy tissue has. As a result, scar tissue doesn’t respond as well to trauma as healthy tissue does, which means inflammation or tearing can occur.

In extremely rare cases, surgical hardware (if installed during surgery) can move around or even break. There is a near-zero percent chance this occurred, as imaging would have revealed this.

In conclusion, there isn’t much immediate concern. These were just some scenarios that I’m sure Dallas’ medical staff has already considered. Yes, this could linger, but right now it’s just a bruise. His Injury Risk is just on the edge of being considered High and his Health Performance Factor is right about Average.

(Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports)

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