Packers wide receiver Jared Abbrederis cannot catch a break. Last year he prematurely exited training camp with a torn ACL in his knee. The injury went unseen, and then he was lost for the season. History seemed to repeat itself this year when he hit the turf hard and was carted off before the team’s first practice was even over.
We all drew a sigh of relief when we learned that he did not injure his reconstructed knee, but then head coach Mike McCarthy mentioned something equally ominous: concussion.
“He’s going through the protocol,” McCarthy announced last Friday. It’s a ubiquitous term that is about as crystal clear as a bucket of mud. It’s shorthand for explaining the convoluted process of computer-based testing (ImPACT is a service many NFL teams utilize) that measures the intangibles against an established baseline–memory, response time, impulse control–as well as the sequential increase in physical activity from low-stress exercise all the way to full-contact drills.
Huge mouthful, I know. In other words, the standardized process of of mental and physical rest tempered with regular assessments. A player has be at his neurocognitive baseline on computer testing and symptom free at rest before he can progress to riding on a stationary bike or light jogging. He then needs to remain symptom free (ie, no headaches, etc) before he can progress to weight lifting. And he needs to remain symptom free as he is released back to the field for practice and play.
See, it is a long process. And it can take easily a week. People have made it sound like Abbrederis has been out an eternity, but today is only the one week mark. Sometimes that process takes longer. With Aaron Rodgers’ first concussion in 2010, he was back on the field within the week. With his second concussion, he missed the Patriots’ game and missed two weeks.
Yet this isn’t Abbrederis’ first concussion. In fact he has quite the history of them. As Bob McGinn pointed out prior to last year’s NFL Draft, Jared’s history of concussions would likely play a factor in his draft stock. While his only recorded concussion was against Oregon State in September 2012, it is likely that he sustained a few more in college. If you read between the lines, he was listed with “head injuries” in another November 2012 against Penn State and in the Northwestern game in October 2013.
While this doesn’t exactly make Abbrederis the next Wes Welker, it certainly does give the medical staff pause. He already had an injury risk tacked on to his pre-draft profile, and that risk just went up again after colliding with rookie DB Ledarius Gunter.
As a point of reference this is exactly why fellow Wisconsin alum Chris Borland exited the NFL after one promising season. He didn’t want to chance the long-term side effects of repetitive concussions.
It goes without saying that each concussion is as unique as a fingerprint. The impact of it and its recovery trajectory will be different than other injuries.
At this point Abbrederis shows no sign of throwing in the towel. The Wautoma, Wisconsin native has only played a handful of downs between last year’s training camp and this years. He still has and wants to prove himself on the NFL stage. Yet the Packers are not going to slow down for him or wait for him to catch up. While the team has supported him since his knee injury last summer, there is no mistaking the fact that it is business as usual. And with each day he isn’t participating in drills, that window to make the final roster closes a little bit more when you’re a player on the bubble.
Abbrederis made a name for himself on special teams during his tenure at Wisconsin, but each day he doesn’t participate in return drills is another day that 2015 third round draft pick Ty Montgomery has an opportunity to sign and solidify his role on special teams. That said, his absence is also noted for competition in the slot as well. While he’s been out Myles White has caught everything that has been tossed his way and has made the most of his opportunities
It’s not fair, and it certainly isn’t Jared’s fault. But that is how football works. If Next Man Up is the mantra when a player drops out due to injury during the season, that mentality goes all the way to eleven during the preseason.
I suspect that Abbrederis will return to practice soon. Yesterday McCarthy was pleased with his progress in the return to play protocol. When he is cleared to join his teammates, he is going to need to hit the ground running. His routes, which he has had an entire year to learn, will need to be flawless. He doesn’t have the luxury to lose the ball in the sun and let it slip through his fingers. He’s going to need to be as perfect as Cobb can be in the slot. And when the ball is kicked his way, he is going to need to do a lot more than signal fair catch or quickly head to a sideline.
The NFL window is very much still open for Jared Abbrederis, but there is no question that the gap is a little more narrow than it was last week. He’s going to need to perform like his entire career is dependent on his successes in training camp.
Because I suspect it likely is.