The NFL season is two weeks away and that means that the Fantasy Football Drafts are coming soon. Fantasy Football popularity is very impressive and the number of football fans participating in fantasy leagues around the world continue to rise at an amazing rate. As the Head Athletic Trainer/Physical Therapist for the Jacksonville Jaguars, I’m often too close to the sports to truly appreciate the impact fantasy football has on the NFL itself.
Because of fantasy football, fans are following all 16 games each week because of the all important stats instead of focussing solely on the final scores. Looking at the trend in NFL stadiums themselves with the installation of bigger and bigger scoreboards, it’s to share live league-wide stats not just the current game’s replays.
My #1 Rule
I have a simple rule that I follow each and every year. When it comes to medical information about NFL players, I never discuss any details about my players’ injuries that hasn’t already been reported in the newspaper.
It’s a simple rule I learned from one of my mentors, Ronnie Barnes, Head Athletic Trainer of the New York Giants. I don’t discuss details about medical injuries involving my players with my wife, best friends, family or anyone, period. It’s easy to understand why and, as a full-time employee of the NFL for the past 26 seasons, it protects the private medical issues of my players.
Reading Between the Lines of an NFL Injury Report
With that being said, sharing how the medical reports are created within an NFL team would be helpful for fantasy football owners as they prepare their weekend roster moves. Each NFL team has their own philosophy on how they practice injured players, how they manage an injury during the week and when they test injured players during the weekend. A few years ago the NFL standardized how each team reports injuries to the league office to help avoid surprises when it comes to disclosing medical issues involving players.
Knowing how to read between the lines of these reports can make your job as a fantasy football owners’ job so much easier and make you look like a genius. While the new guy in the league is drafting a kicker, you’ll be benching the player who is simply a medical decoy being used to confuse the opposing team’s game planning.
Trust me, it’s a chess match on this side of the fence. I’ll share with you tips on how to “crack the code” to use NFL injury reports and player statuses as a huge advantage for your fantasy football team.
Fantasy Football Injury FAQ’s
“What’s really the difference between questionable, doubtful & probable?”
“If someone is limited in practice, is that player just playing the role of a backup for the starters during practice?”
“If player X has a concussion, will he typically be cleared to play in the game the following weekend?”
These are some of the questions that many of you ask yourselves as you prepare for the weekend games. Here’s the inside scoop on the manner in which the injuries are managed by the clubs.
Inside the Percentages
Probable – 75% chance of playing in the game.
Questionable – 50% chance of playing in the game.
Doubtful – 25% chance of playing in the game.
Counting the Reps
The number of reps that the starting offense and defense has on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are very limited. These reps are treated like gold by the offensive coordinator (OC) and defensive coordinator (DC). Therefore, players that take “snaps with the number ones” are expected to play on Sunday.
If a team doesn’t think the star veteran corner back will be ready for the game, they surely want their young corner to “get the reps” with the starters to be ready for the game. Those quality reps with the other 10 starting players on that side of the ball are very valuable and are usually given to the player expected to play on Sunday.
So if you read that an injured player is only taking “some of the reps” and is “rehabbing on the side”, especially late in the week, it’s more than likely you’ll see him on the field Sunday…..in street clothes.
The Stats Killers: Hammys & Groins
As you’ve read in my past sports medicine blog postings on hamstring and groin injuries, these are difficult injuries to return from quickly for skilled positions such as RB, WR and DB’s. Until the reports say he is running at least 85% by Wednesday and “full speed” on Friday, don’t expect that player to impress you on Sunday. When a skilled player with a lower extremity soft tissue injury is being interviewed and he gives you the “day-to-day” quote, Sunday might not be his breakout performance.
With both of these injuries, the player’s top end speed is always in question. The opposing players know it too and they use it to their advantage. That’s why a player coming back from a strained hamstring or a strained groin may be playing in the game but their stats will be watered down for the first week or so.
Looking for The Edge
As a fantasy football owner, you’re not alone as you look for THE EDGE. The players, the coaches and the GM’s want to find it just as badly as you do. It’s the “X Factor” that helps you put the perfect team on the field Sunday afternoon that results in crazy numbers all over the stat sheets. All of your fellow owners are brain storming to make the key roster move resulting in the WR having a career day or the trade for the young QB mid-week who turns out to be a hometown hero with a monster game.
Understanding NFL medical reports and using sports medicine tips will help you think like an NFL GM and give you the X Factor advantage to dominate your fantasy football league week after week.