The NFL Preseason may just be beginning but there are already players who have suffered injuries and will be out for either the short or the long term. Here's a breakdown of some of the more significant injuries facing teams before they've even played a game, in no particular order.
1. J.J. Watt
Watt is probably the best defensive player on the planet right now but played good chunks of 2015 while dealing with substantial injuries. Following the Houston Texans' loss in the playoffs, Watt underwent surgery to repair multiple core muscles that he had torn. Then in late July Watt went under the knife again, this time to fix a herniated disc in his back. The recovery time for this injury is usually 6-8 weeks before he can even suit up again. An eight week recovery time would force Watt to miss the Texans' first game of the season, the first game he would miss in his career.
2. Bills rookie defenders
The Buffalo Bills used to picks in the Top 50 of the 2016 NFL Draft on defenders drafting Shaq Lawson 19th overall and Reggie Ragland 41st. It now appears that Buffalo may be without both for the start of the season. Lawson had shoulder surgery shortly after being drafted and while he may be able to physically play by the time the regular season comes around, the question is about whether he will be acclimated enough with the defensive system to have any real impact early on. Ragland, on the other hand, suffered a knee injury at practice and the team expects him to undergo surgery and miss the entire season.
3. Steve Smith
The Baltimore Ravens wide receiver has been trying to recover from a torn Achilles tendon that ended his 2015, but the doctor who performed his surgery explained that Smith's recover is different from others. Smith actually suffered a double rupture of the tendon and the muscle surrounding the tendon is significantly atrophied. The rehab and recovery is expected to be longer and more grueling than for other Achilles injuries meaning Smith is highly unlikely to be ready for the beginning of the season. A mid-season return is much more likely for Smith who needs 39 receptions to reach 1000 for his career.
4. Tyler Eifert
Eifert was one of the breakout stars of 2015 but the Cincinnati Bengals' tight end's status for Week 1 is in serious doubt. Eifert suffered an ankle injury while playing in the Pro Bowl last season but the Bengals thought the injury would heal with rest. When it did not, Eifert underwent ankle surgery in late May. The surgery requires a three-month recovery timetable meaning he will miss at least most of training camp and the preseason if not the first couple of games of the regular season. While he hasn't officially been ruled out, consider him to be very questionable for the opener.
Houston is one of the league's best pass rushers, recording 22 sacks in 2014, but he has also had a history of serious knee injuries. In February, Houston underwent a minor surgery when it was discovered that one of his ACLs wasn't behaving properly. His recovery timeline ranges anywhere from 6-12 months. As we approach the six-month window, Houston remains on the PUP list and the Chiefs have not announced a date for his return other than that they expect him to play at some point on 2016.
Johnson was expected to be a key piece in the San Diego Chargers' offense this season as the #3 wide receiver, and in fact might have been able to compete with Travis Benjamin for the #2 spot. Last season Johnson had 500 yards receiving and three touchdowns in ten games with San Diego. Unfortunately, Johnson suffered a torn meniscus at practice and, following surgery, will not play in 2016. Without Johnson the Chargers will look to the likes of Dontrelle Inman, Tyrell Williams and the newly-acquired James Jones to make an impact in the passing game.
The New England Patriots will be without one of their defensive leaders for the early part of the season as Ninkovich tore his triceps muscle during a scrimmage against the Saints on Tuesday. The good news for the Patriots is that the triceps tendon is still intact meaning Ninkovich can avoid surgery and recover with just rest and rehab. The team hopes that the veteran can return at some point in October. Last season, Ninkovich recorded 6.5 sacks and 7 pass deflections, so his absence will be felt when it comes to New England's pass defense.
For the second consecutive season, Galette will not play a single game after suffering a training camp injury after signing a one-year contract with the Washington Redskins. If there's an upside to this injury it's that Galette tore the Achilles tendon opposite the one he tore last season. His last two full seasons in New Orleans, in 2013 and 2014, he posted a combined 22 sacks but the Redskins have yet to benefit from his pass-rushing ability.
Bryant was placed on the injured reserve list earlier during training camp after he tore a pectoral muscle, leaving the Cleveland Browns without a solid piece in the middle of their defense. He was coming a 2015 where he posted a career high six sacks despite missing two games and has played well in his three seasons in Cleveland, recording 14.5 sacks in a rotational role.
10. Kellen Moore
It's true that Moore is only a backup quarterback, but he's being included here because of his importance to his team. Moore was slated to be the primary backup quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys until he broke his ankle at practice last week. And nowhere is a backup quarterback more important than in Dallas where Tony Romo missed 12 games last season as a result of two different collarbone injuries, the third time he's injured the same area in his career. Without Moore, the Cowboys are even less equipped to handle a potential Romo absence and at age 36, he is no spring chicken. Romo has missed at least one game in four of the last six seasons and five of the last eight, and has played 16 games only six times in his career.