Wisconsin almost exploded when the Packers selected Wisconsin linebacker Vince Biegel in the 4th round.
The fire died down when Biegel banged up his hand and foot in his first orientation practice (which provided predictable insights), but the media was assured that they were not serious injuries.
It was announced yesterday that Biegel had surgery on his foot to repair a Jones fracture, which was the same injury he had last year that cost him two games.
Early reports are that he could be ready for training camp on July 27th, but most media injury speculation is usually just nonsense babbling to fill a word quota. Injuries are difficult to properly diagnose and recovery times are dependent on a number of things including:
- The player’s body, including healing rate and unique dimensions
- The course of treatment
- The training staff
- How the surgery went
The media rarely actually has any insights on any of these things and secrecy is a trademark of the TT-MM Packers. In fact, even though the surgery was announced yesterday, it happened last week. That should let you know how much anyone who does not work for the Packers actually knows about when he will be back. Even information that comes from the Packers may not be true (think “pad level”). Realistically, the doctors themselves truly have no idea how things will go at this point. They will just monitor and test.
Here are some things that we do know:
- Bones heal slow: You need calcium to build up a bond around the break to hold the pieces together and then fill in to the core of the bone. That’s a lot of calcium and calcium is never in a hurry.
- Re-breaks of bones heal weaker: Despite popular opinion (and fake news!), bones that break do not actually get stronger after they heal. If this is the same Jones fracture that he previously had, this could actually lead to a long-term weakening of the bone (plus arthritis and compensatory injuries or conditions) and become a career-long problem.
- Rehab sucks: When you break your foot, it makes it hard to work out and exercise. Not only will his foot and leg become weaker during the healing time, but his core will weaken and his upper body will suffer even if he keeps up on his workouts because it’s harder to exercise when you have a cast on your foot.
- Rushing back impairs healing: When he broke his foot last year, he just got a screw and came back in a couple weeks. He may have had a structurally sound foot, but there is no way that bone was fully healed. Working out, playing football, even just walking around all day, put stress on that weakened site and it culminated in a re-break. Usually when a player comes back from a broken bone with a screw, they are just hoping it holds together until the offseason so they can rest it enough to actually heal.
I don’t want to be doom and gloom, but there’s a real possibility that his bone may not be fully healed before training camp. Two months is a reasonable time to heal a bone, but three month is the healthy end of the range, and that’s if there is no infection or leftover structural issues from the previous break.
Three months would have him returning in the preseason. That’s without any contact. He would definitely need to ease his body back into contact – you can’t miss an entire offseason and jump into a game, even a preseason game (the restrictions on contact in practice make the body ill-prepared for game-speed collisions and lead to a huge jump in injuries, but that’s a separate story of it’s own).
I hate to say it, but when you take into account that this is an unfamiliar patient for the team’s staff (meaning they have no idea how he will react to treatment), the team’s abnormally (for the NFL) cautious approach to injuries, and the fact that this is Biegel’s second break in 8 months, he may start the season on the PUP list.
If he started on the PUP list, he would miss the first 6 weeks of the year and would then have a 5 week window to be activated. This could be an attractive situation for the Packers, who would be able to save a roster spot for a young player, potentially one of their other 10 rookies, and then Biegel could be activated when another linebacker gets hurt (don’t call me a jinx, it happens every f#cking year).
So let’s hope for a full recovery, but we don’t need to press for a quick one.
This may have been the reason he slipped to the 4th round. If that’s the case, a cautious approach may be best to increase the odds of a long, productive career with the team and make this pick the steal we all hope it is.