Don’t expect Corey Linsley back soon.
Nothing like a lingering injury to change everything. After starting at center for Green Bay Packers for the past two seasons, center Corey Linsley isn’t moving off the PUP list fast at all. Initially sidelined by a hamstring injury during this past May’s OTAs, Linsley has yet to play a single snap during the 2016 training camp. Instead of snapping the ball to the first team offense, he’s been working daily with the training staff to return. In the meantime, JC Tretter has been named the starting center, and it is his job at this point to lose.
And so Linsley sits on the PUP list, that no-mans land where players either get a little respite to heal or their careers fizzle out all together. While this isn’t a career killer for Linsley by any stretch of the imagination, it is yet another wrench thrown into the offensive front line. Just when you think you’ve got the entire band back together, there’s a question mark as to when exactly Linsley will be cleared to return.
Word on the street is that he does not need surgery. That tells me he likely has what is called a Class II, or partial tear. Remember, that all muscle strains, by their very nature, are muscle tears. The severity of the injury determines the degree of the tear. A class one is the simple muscle strain. There is minimal tearing of the actual muscle fibers, and recover is rather short and are usually better in under two weeks. On the other side of the spectrum, there is the Class III muscle tear where the entire body of the muscle is torn in two. Those are the injuries that invariably need surgery.
And then there are Class II muscle tears (the middle graphic.) These type of injuries have a larger tear to the muscle fibers, but it isn’t a complete tear. It’s enough to leave a player very symptomatic. There may be a large bruise on the back of the thigh shortly after the acute injury (muscles, like many tissues bleed when torn.) These type of injuries do not typically require surgery and rely on the RICE regimen (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) as well as a large tincture of time for recovery. Emphasis on tincture of time.
Remember when Rodgers tore his calf two seasons ago and was sidelined forever yet didn’t need surgery? Same severity of injury as what Linsley likely has only in a different muscle group.
Recovery is variable with partial tears. They are typically gauged in terms of weeks to months, depending on the severity of the injury. It appears that Linsley initially tore his hamstring back in May but reinjured the muscle in July. So he’s back to square one with his hamstring. In other words, don’t hold your breath for a timely return before Packers head into week one of regular season play as the Packers head to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars.
So where does this leave the Packers’ injured center? With training camp quickly winding down, it appears that he remains very much in limbo. If he doesn’t make it off the PUP list, that status will automatically transfer over to the regular season. Perhaps that is the best option for him at this point. He wouldn’t necessarily be lost to the season on injured reserve unlike WR Jeff Janis who had practiced and would not be eligible for the PUP list.
The downside would mean he is a guaranteed no-show for the first six weeks of the regular season as per league rules related to PUP athletes. If he doesn’t play, it’s no different than being on IR, but it this would keep the Designated For Return IR position available for if and when they need to use it later in the season for another key player. (No, the Packers will not be using that spot for Janis. There are million ways to use the Designated For Return spot that do not involve burning it up on the WR that is fourth or fifth on the wide receiver depth chart.)
Chances are he will just remain on the PUP list as he is recovering. It makes no sense moving him over to injured reserve. I honestly don’t see him returning before the end of training camp, but chances are he will be cleared to play some time this season. He’d have six weeks of no daily wear and tear of practice to focus solely on rehabilitation. And he’d be fresh and ready to go about the time other linemen start dropping like flies from other assorted injuries. (There’s nothing wrong with a fresh set of legs at that point in the season!) The team would not even have to tap into the Designated For Return status if they wanted to bring him back. And as far as returning to play goes, the DFR status is really no different than PUP–you have to sit for at least six weeks until you are eligible for return. The PUP is a way to allow a long-term injury to heal. As long as a player like Linsley has not practiced, that spot does have to be used and can be saved for an in-season injury that needs significant time to heal but has a chance to return as the Packers head toward a possible off season.
So in the meantime, it is crucial that Tretter get every snap possible with the first team so that he gels with the line and just assume he is the long-haul guy at center. That’s the nature of offensive lines–next man up. And quite honestly, I’d rather have two healthy options at center over the course of the 16 game regular season and beyond instead of hoping Lang can improvise and going through the disastrous musical chairs with the offensive line like last year.
It’s not a season until someone on the offensive line goes down with an injury that takes weeks to recover from. Looks like this year’s lucky man is center Corey Linsley.--------------