Montee Ball is out with a strained groin, Rashad Jennings is out with a sprained knee, and Jimmy Graham appears to have a shoulder injury after their week 5 games.
Montee Ball is likely the most serious injury of the three (I say likely because the Saints are tight-lipped on Graham). A groin strain for anyone is rough but for a running back, it may be one of the worst non major injuries he could suffer. Generally speaking, sprain/strain injuries that are grade 1 or 2 (not a complete tear) are not that serious. However, the groin can be a different beast due to its involvement in almost all athletic movements. In short, your groin muscles pull your leg inward toward the opposite leg as a primary function. In addition to this primary function, the 5 small muscles that make up the groin also keep a certain amount of tension during all motions of the leg including lifting the leg for running and stabilizing the leg for cuts amongst other motions. This involvement in so many movements is exactly what makes this injury so tough; you can’t run from the pain and there is no help available. In comparison, a knee or ankle strain can be braced or wrapped (to help support the area) or in many cases you can avoid certain cuts or activities that aggravate the injured muscle(s). With a groin issue, you feel pain bringing your leg up, taking it back, swinging out to the side, and even just standing and putting weight on it. As a general rule of thumb, a soft tissue strain is a 3-6 week injury; and for groin strains with one of the most athletic positions in football, I would predict the long end.
Rashad Jennings should be in much better shape than Ball with a left MCL sprain. With him not being ruled out for week 6, it tells me that this is likely a grade 1 sprain. The MCL supports the inner part of your knee and is typically injured when a player is hit on the lateral (outer) portion of the knee with a force that pushes the knee medially (inward). MCL sprains also may occur with no contact when the knee goes in a similar direction without a hit, which may be caused by the players foot remaining planted during a cut in the opposite direction. In most cases a MCL heals with Physical Therapy and some rest from competitive activity, but on the NFL level many will continue to play in games and receive treatment during the week. The important factor with the MCL is that it stabilizes the knee, but unlike the groin strain discussed with Montee Ball, there is help for the MCL. There are tons of braces designed to improve knee stability and many of them have stays on the medial side of the knee to somewhat replace the support that the MCL would typically give. This is not optimal for a running back, but in a big game, my guess is that Jennings or any other high level running back would brace it up and give it a go. Jennings should probably take 3 weeks and let the MCL heal, but it would not be surprising to see him prior to that.
Jimmy Graham will be the center of injury talk for the next 2 weeks! All of the big boys are going to milk this to death and pay for a lot of commercials with small talk about the elite tight end that fantasy owners are on the edge of their chair waiting to hear about. For me, it is simple. The New Orleans Saints are quiet on his status, and while I could speculate and give a multitude of scenarios on all of the shoulder injuries I know to make me look smart—I won’t! One of the things we should all do when we are having difficulty getting the answer to something is GET MORE DATA. You can think about something as long as you want but getting more data is usually the best way to arrive at a conclusion. The data we need is the MRI results which I assume the Saints will release eventually. The data we have is that they are trying out other tight ends. Beyond that, I will not speculate on Graham’s shoulder.
What You Need To Know
If you own Montee Ball, you are out of luck. He will likely be out 5 or 6 weeks and even when he returns I don’t think he will perform well. Hopefully you have room to pick up Hillman and Anderson (his back ups) and wait and see who will emerge as the primary ball carrier. I would not save a roster spot for him although he will probably play in a handful more games this season.
If you own Jennings, I would hang in there. At 29 years old some might worry about him healing, but Jennings has not been a RB1 much of his career and therefore has a little less mileage on him. I actually expect him to play week 6 or 7.
As for the one that could make or break some people’s fantasy team, I will simply tell you I’m not sure. I would rather say this instead of leading you wrong. When I get more data, I will be sure to lead you down the right road. Be careful with all the fantasy show analyst and sports anchors telling you about something they are not qualified to understand. For example every fantasy expert said you have to play Calvin Johnson if he is going to be on the field, while I warned you before game time to sit Megatron http://theinjuryreportdoctor.com/2014/10/05/the-wide-receiver-ankle-bug-means-you-must-sit-megatron/. Trust me and simply keep an eye out for his MRI, check and see what he does in practice when the Saints return, and check back at theinjuryreportdoctor.com. The good news is you should have already had a plan for his bye week and that should buy you the time needed to make the right move.