Season-Ending Achilles Rupture For Terrell Suggs

imgresThe first week of the NFL season isn’t yet in the books and already there are a slew of injuries which are challenging teams with playoff aspirations. Some will point to the fact that the starters, and especially the superstars, play very little in the preseason before being thrust into the heat of battle, at which time they are expected to play at 100% intensity. There may be some validity in this as the causative agent, but often the injuries are just a case of bad luck.

One team whose status as a legitimate Super Bowl contender may have taken a hit, courtesy of the injury bugs in week one of the season, is the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens were involved in an intense defensive struggle against the Denver Broncos and were holding their own for most of the game. This Baltimore team is built around a strong defense and a devastating pass rush, much like the Super Bowl XXXV Ravens.

That pass rush got much thinner on Sunday afternoon, as six time Pro-Bowl defensive end Terrell Suggs went down clutching his heel following a standard pass rush. Suggs limped from the field before being carted to the locker room for evaluation from what turned out to be a torn Achilles tendon. Ironically this is not the first time Suggs has had this injury. In the 2012 offseason he ruptured the tendon and was out of action for six months. That time frame, which is seen as a relatively quick recovery in an impact sport like football, means that Suggs is done for the entire 2015 season.

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A torn achilles tendon, like the one Suggs suffered on Sunday, is a painful injury that occurs most often in athletes or people playing recreation sports. The Achilles tendon is, in the simplest of terms, a strong cord which connects the muscles in the back of your calf to your heel bone. If this cord is overstretched, from a wrong foot placement or similar misstep, the tendon tears either completely or partially. The initial pain is preceded by a pop or snap and immediately walking, let alone beating an offensive linemen, becomes difficult. To return to active status in a high level league, such as the NFL, surgical repair is the only option.

Suggs has been a leader both on and off the field since the Ravens drafted him out of Arizona State in 2003. While he has had his share of injuries, he has been surprisingly healthy for an NFL player, having played in all 16 games in 10 of his league seasons. Last year he was a dominant defender. The Ravens now must find a way to replace his 61 tackles and 12 sacks worth of production. It is expected that backup Za’Darius Smith will take over the role, but unfortunately he was a scratch on Sunday. That leaves Courtney Upshaw and Elvis Dumervil as the only active outside linebackers.

The bright side for Suggs is that the prognosis for an Achilles tendon tear is relatively good. The Kansas City Chiefs, for example, had two players (Derrick Johnson and Mike Devito) go down with Achilles ruptures in week one of the 2014 season. Both Johnson and Devito started for the Chiefs on Sunday a year after their injuries and Johnson in particular (8 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 1 sack) stood out as one of the best defenders on the field during the Chiefs’ victory over the Houston Texans. If Suggs commits to his rehabilitation process there is no reason that the 32 year old cannot come back and have the same impact in the first week of next season. Keeping our fingers crossed!

BYU’s Taysom Hill Out Again

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It is not often that a team celebrates one of the biggest, and most dramatic wins of a sporting weekend, only to have that euphoria shattered with the news that their leader (and best player) is out for the rest of the season. To have that happen at all is socking, to have it happen on the first weekend of the season is quite simply devastating.

That though is the reality in 2015 for BYU as the joy of their last second Hail Mary victory over Nebraska was tempered with the news that starting quarterback Taysom Hill had been lost for the season with a foot injury.

Hill is no stranger to injury. This is the third time in his four years in Provo that he has finished the season on the sidelines because he has been hurt. The injuries have all been to Hill’s lower body too, with a knee injury ending his 2012 season and a fractured left leg ending his season early in 2014. This year it is a foot fracture which has put the early season Heisman Trophy hopeful on the sidelines for the rest of 2015.

Hill has been diagnosed with a Lisfranc fracture of his foot. He was hurt on a 21-yard touchdown run when he planted his right foot at just the wrong angle. Initially Hill seemed fine as he was able to push off of the cut and cruise into the end zone for the score. Looking at the replay however Hill immediately puts on the breaks after he scored – a surefire clue that he was feeling something wrong with his body. Hill came out to try to continue, but he was obviously in distress as he was not able to put any weight on the injured foot. He was eventually replaced for good by backup Tanner Mangum after a hit to the injured foot by Nebraska linebacker Josh Banderas, in the fourth quarter.

A Lisfranc fracture is a fracture of the bones in the middle of the foot. While the injury is often mistaken for a simple sprain of the foot, it is not something that can be just walked off. A Lisfranc fracture is actually a severe injury which can take months to heal and often requires surgery in order for the bones to heal in the correct alignment. The middle of the foot is susceptible to such a fracture because the small bones which comprise this part of the body are not well protected and a twisting fall or simple hard plant can stress the bones or tear the ligaments.

Hill would most likely be eligible for a medical hardship and therefore eligible for a sixth season, if he wants to pursue that avenue. Hill’s greatest asset on the field is his ability to make superstar plays when the pocket breaks down, as he has a unique blend of size and speed. While it is perfectly reasonable to expect him to fully recover from this Lisfranc injury given time, the mental beat down of so many season ending injuries is hard to predict. By all accounts he is a smart young man with a bright future in the financial sector. Given his intellect, he may decide this third season ending injury is enough to get him out of football for good.

For this year at least, BYU will have to turn to Mangum and tinker with the offense to get the best use out of his skill set. The silver lining for the team is that the injury happened so early in the season and because of the timing an offensive revision should be viable. With more and more offenses moving to running quarterbacks it will be interesting to see just how often Lisfranc, and other lower body injuries, show up in the NFL and the college game going forward.

Extreme Sports And Head Injuries

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Since 2000, more than 4 million injuries have been attributed to extreme sports. The X Games, and all that they entail, have given a prominent stage to the thrill-seeking athlete. New winter and summer X Games are being invented and perfected at an exponential pace. These trends are pushing the envelope for youth athletes interested in competing in a sport with an understood elevated level of risk. The primary goal of the development of extreme sports is to elevate the excitement level of the competition. While safety is always a concern when participating in sports, the excitement goal is dramatically outpacing safety.

As of 2014, there are over 40,000 head and neck injuries attributed annually to extreme sports. One out of every 10 injuries, occurring in extreme sports, involves the head or neck. Nearly 90% of those injuries include head trauma. Statistically, there is no other sport that produces those kind of injury numbers.

When combining winter and summer extreme sports, skateboarding proved to be the most dangerous, with snowboarding coming in a close second. With over 7 million US snowboarders participating in the sport, the head and neck injury statistics are quite daunting. Add to this, the fact that the majority of the participants are under legal age and male, and it becomes a significant issue. 

Dr. Vani Sabesan, an assistant professor in the department of orthopedic surgery at Western Michigan University School of Medicine in Kalamazoo, Mich. was quoted as saying “We have very young kids, and they’re getting younger all the time, going 60 miles an hour down a ski hill, so, the risk for life-altering accidents is real and serious.”

Dr. Sabesan went on to say “Certainly, some sports have a higher risk for neck fractures, and others for concussion, but in general we need to make sure protective equipment is available — such as helmets and wrist guards — and encouraged. And we need to make sure we provide medical care and team doctors on site, and that kids know that it’s possible to get a concussion when doing these sports and are encouraged to seek medical help when there’s any concern.”

Though not surprising, the number of head and neck injuries is concerning. When dealing with the factors involved in extreme sports–height, high levels of speed, young athletes and the propensity for controllable situations to become uncontrollable very rapidly, education of these athletes, to the involved risk, is mandatory. Not only do parents need to make hard calls on whether or not their children are physically and emotionally mature enough to participate at this level, they also have to be willing to enforce the rules with a hard line stance and consequences, if the rules are broken.

In addition, it is important that young athletes realize they are not going to be able to pull off a move they may see when watching extreme sports. Bottom line – education!

Elbow Injury Not Holding Sherman Back From Super Bowl XLIX

SIA - Richard Sherman Image PNGSeattle Seahawks Pro Bowl defensive back, Richard Sherman hurt his elbow during the fourth quarter of the NFC title game against the Packers. He was accidentally hit in the elbow by his teammate Kam Chancellor, while trying to tackle Packers running back James Starks. He never motioned to come out of the game, but was clearly favoring the elbow – openly wincing between plays, as he tried to hold it up in “sling fashion” with his opposite arm.

After the game, it was discovered that he had torn ligaments in his elbow, which put his status for Super Bowl XLIX in question. Since the conference championship game, Sherman has been receiving treatments on the elbow. On Tuesday, during the Super Bowl media day, he announced that it was improving daily, and that he was finished with treatment of the injury.

According to Seattle’s head coach Pete Carroll, Sherman has currently participated in all team practices leading up to the Super Bowl, and looked to be fine despite the injury. The only question now is how effective is he going to be in the game?

The injury to Sherman’s elbow is likely going to have an impact on the Patriot’s game plan against Seattle. Richard Sherman has been the league’s best cornerback for the last three seasons, with quarterbacks strategically trying to avoid throwing in his general direction. He makes big plays that impact big games. That’s his reputation!

No doubt the Patriots will try to test him by throwing in his direction early in the game. If his elbow is visibly affecting his play, expect them to try to exploit the situation. As far as the Seahawks are concerned, they would love to have a healthy Sherman in the secondary. Although he is one of their best players, the Seattle defense is still good enough to win the game without him. Watch for Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas to make up the difference in the secondary. With that in mind, it is likely that Seattle has already made adjustments for that scenario.

Further muddying the waters, Sherman’s girlfriend is due to give birth to their first child within the week. The Seattle Seahawks staff has blessed his Super Bowl absence, should he choose to attend the birth of his first child, but Sherman hasn’t committed one way or the other. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” Sherman said on media day. “We’re not thinking about the possibility.” That’s right Richard, keep them guessing!

Madison Keys reinjures adductor muscle as she advances in the Australian Open

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Last nights quarterfinal round of the Australian Open proved to be a stunner as unseeded American teenager, Madison Keys claimed a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 victory over 18th seeded Serena Williams. Last night marked Keys first Grand Slam quarterfinal victory and some of the most consistent play we have seen from Keys since she joined the tour.

Battling a left inner thigh injury, reminiscent of the injury Key’s sustained at Wimbledon last year, she elected to call the trainers on the court for a preliminary evaluation. The decision was made to take Keys into the training room for treatment. She reappeared five minutes later with a pressure bandage on her upper thigh. It is likely that Keys did something minor to re-injure her left abductor muscle – the source of the injury that required her to withdraw from Wimbledon.

“It was definitely one of those thing where it wasn’t nearly as bad as Wimbledon, but it was the nightmare of ‘I don’t want this to happen again, so it was a little overwhelming, but luckily the pain meds kicked in a little bit, and the tape helped,” Keys said.

The treatment obviously helped, as Keys went on to defeat 34-year-old Williams sister, on her way to meeting sister Serena Williams this evening in the semifinals.

“I’m very happy I’m into the semifinals, but the moment is definitely sweeter being able to play Venus,” Keys said. “You just have to enjoy the moment, and I did enjoy it, and I get to enjoy another moment next round.”

With no rest, and an apparent chronic inner thigh injury, it will be interesting to see if Madison Keys is able to hold court with top seeded Serena Williams. It’s well known that Serena Williams has been suffering with a respiratory infection for the past week. It’s difficult, however, to rule out the motivating “family vengeance” that Serena is surely feeling after her sister’s loss last night. Add Keys mammoth ball striking game to Serena’s overwhelming beast-mode play and we’re sure to have an interesting evening of tennis.

LeBron James To Start At The Suns Tonight?

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The Cleveland Cavs have had a rocky start to a season that began with the highest of expectations. The Cavs off-season began by winning the number 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft lottery, which was followed by the signing of superstar LeBron James, and the acquisition of Kevin Love.

The trio of James, Love, and point guard Kyrie Irving had some problems initially. They were 3 stars in new situations trying to feel out their new roles, and create chemistry with each other. After a few weeks, they looked like a different team when they started to gel. Unfortunately, just as things were looking up, the Cavs season hit a snag. LeBron James has been sidelined for over 2 weeks with knee and back strains.

The characterization of the knee injury as a strain is important here. A strain suggests that he doesn’t have a degenerative issue resulting in bone spurs or other material that will continue to cause pain until he undergoes surgery to clean the joint out, similar to what C.C. Sabathia underwent this past baseball season.

James is a world-class athlete. He has a combination of size, speed, and agility, that is  unparalleled in any sport. Size and acceleration combine to create force, which is a bit of a double-edged sword for athletes in general. While creating force allows the athlete to excel at their game, it also can reek havoc on the joints. Human joints exist to allow the body to move, but they are not necessarily equipped with the capacity to withstand the repetitive and intense levels of force that an athlete puts on them.

LeBron has been lucky to avoid major injury up to this point in his career. If his games missed due to injury are totaled, they add up to about half of an NBA season. Mostly, his injuries have been sprained ankles, the most common injury among basketball players at any level, and the only time he’s missed for a knee injury was caused by some tendonitis, which proved to not be very serious.

The Cav’s trainers will want to be cautious with James. The fact that James could try to play through the injury, coupled with the fact that Kyrie Irving is also sidelined with an injury, could make James anxious to hit the floor and help his team win. A player that has never experienced a major injury may be more inclined to push his recovery. However, Cleveland’s medical staff knows that James is not invincible, and it’s in his best interest, as well as the team’s, to keep him off the court until he has fully recovered. LeBron has been very verbal, leading up to tonight’s game against the Phoenix Suns, that he wants to play. He spent yesterday working out, as well as working with the Cavs trainers and medical staff. More of the same will continue today as they move toward the tip. It is possible we may see LeBron tonight, but he is officially listed as a game time decision.

Aaron Rodgers to play with lacerated calf

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Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers star QB and 2015 MVP-hopeful, is dealing with a torn and strained calf. He’s been managing a calf injury for some time, but he injured a different area of the same calf two weeks ago in the team’s season finale against Detroit. The injury was enough to keep him in the training room for roughly a half hour, but not enough to keep him sidelined for the remainder of the game. The timing of the injury happened to be fairly convenient, as Rodgers crumpled to the ground while throwing a touchdown pass before halftime. Because of the halftime break, Rodgers only wound up missing one Packers offensive drive. Initially it was reported that the calf injury was simply a strain, however, when pushed harder for details after Rodgers didn’t take a snap for almost 2 weeks, it was disclosed that a more serious tear had also occurred.

During the game against the Lions, Rodgers went on to throw for 2 touchdowns and no interceptions and post a 139.6 quarterback rating while leading the Packers to a victory and the division title. Because they won, the Packers were rewarded with a first-round bye in the playoffs. Earning that bye may have felt like a big weight lifted from Rodgers’ (and the training staff’s) shoulders. Getting his calf ready to play in today’s game would have been quite the task for the Packer’s medical staff. Having an extra week of rest and treatment before getting him back on the field will certainly make a big difference.

Unfortunately calf strains and tears tend to heal slowly. Often times, a calf strain lingers longer than a hamstring strain. The problem is that the calf muscle is crucial to movement. It is constantly contracting and releasing whenever a person walks. Severity plays a big role in recovery time, and since the injury was severe enough to make Rodgers miss some time, but he was eventually able to play through it, he’s probably looking at a grade 2 strain, in addition to the calf laceration. The primary treatment for this type of calf injury is rest. That is unfortunate for Rogers, given that rest isn’t exactly an option at this point in the season.

It will be cold in Green Bay on today (about 20°), and this will no doubt make movement more difficult for Rogers. Though the cold won’t help his calf, it’s unlikely to be as big of an issue as the media will try to make it out to be. Rodgers will keep his muscles warm while staying active on the field, and will receive treatment near heaters while on the sideline.

Rogers is a mobile QB, trailing behind only Kaepernick and Wilson in QB points scored on the run. Notably, Rogers never exited the pocket during the Detroit game and still managed to help the Packers get a playoff bye. Expect the same pocket play to continue today as Rogers is likely to elevate his quick-release passing game to new highs. Combine this with the fact that the Green Bay offensive line has been spectacular in the second half of the season, and we should see a fantastic match-up today. The O line was inconsistent at the beginning of the year, but much of that could be attributed to injuries. Now that they’re healthy as a unit, they’ve done a great job giving Rodgers time to throw the ball. It doesn’t hurt that the Cowboy’s pass-rush doesn’t create a lot of havoc, as they have the 6th fewest sacks in the league.

A.J. Green Suffers Concussion; Questionable for AFC Wildcard Game

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After a hard-fought game on Sunday night against their division-rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cincinnati Bengals lost more than just the game. A.J. Green took a hit from Steelers safety Mike Mitchell late in the game. The hit happened as Green fumbled the football, and it gave him a concussion.

In recent years, the NFL has developed a more strict protocol for dealing with concussed players. If a player suffers a concussion, he will not be allowed to return to the game. The days of Brett Favre bouncing his head off the ground, coming back two plays later to throw a touchdown, and then spending the rest of the game on the sideline are over.

A.J. Green will now have to complete the league’s concussion protocol before the Bengals can activate him. This is an involved process, and recovery times differ from athletes to athlete, based on their specific situation. Whether or not Green can return for the Bengals playoff game against the Colts on Sunday is very much up in the air. Many players have returned without missing a game. Just as many have not.

The first step of the concussion protocol calls for rest and recovery. This sounds rather vague, but resting after a concussion is quite a bit different than resting after, say, a sprained ankle. A concussion occurs when the brain, which floats around in spinal fluid inside the skull, is shaken so violently that the spinal fluid can no longer act as a cushion. This can cause temporary and sometimes permanent brain damage. Because the brain is so much different than other body parts, concussion symptoms affect everything from vision to balance. That’s why resting after a concussion is much different than resting after other injuries. The Bengals’ medical staff will make sure that Green stays away from electronics and most exercise. The light of a phone or computer screen can be bothersome after a concussion, when a player’s motor skills are in decline. Green will be permitted to do some light stretching under supervision from the medical staff, but that’s about it. Before he’s allowed to engage in contact activities, he will have to prove that his balance, cognitive, and motor skills have improved to a normal level of functioning. He will undergo testing to make sure that his abilities have returned to their baseline level. Those tests can be administered at any point in the process, but in order to proceed to step two, he must exhibit no lingering signs and/or symptoms.

The second step of the protocol is light aerobic exercise. Green will be permitted to ride a stationary bike, or run on a treadmill. He will also be allowed to return to team meetings and engage in film study. Once he’s proven that he can engage in aerobic activity without his symptoms returning, he will proceed to the third step.

The third step in the process is the addition of strength training. If Green can handle the strength training without recurring symptoms, he will proceed to step four.

The fourth step is introducing non-contact football specific activities. This means that Green will be allowed to practice route-running, throwing and catching. Before he can be cleared for contact, he will have to pass a barrage of baseline testing to make sure that his cognitive and physical function has returned to it’s normal level. These tests will evaluate his thinking skills, coordination, and balance. They can be administered at any point through the process, but if he does not pass the tests, teams will generally wait two days before administering the tests again.

It’s likely that we’ll see Green on the practice field at the end of the week, catching passes and running routes. However, this should not be interpreted as Green being ready to play. Until the team declares that he has cleared all of the steps in the concussion protocol and has been cleared to play, his status will be an big question mark.

Of Course We Expect Peyton To Play Through A Thigh Injury

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Peyton Manning looked uncomfortable throughout Sunday’s game in San Diego. Manning only completed 14 passes in the Denver Broncos’ 22-10 victory over the San Diego Chargers. We knew ahead of time that Manning was playing with flu-like symptoms. It was reported that he received a total of four bags of intravenous fluids prior to and during the game. Being the competitor that he is, Manning returned to the field and finished out the remainder of the game.

At one point, late in the 2nd quarter, Manning left the game to get treatment on his thigh, after attempting to put a block on Chargers’ linebacker, Donald Butler. It was initially thought that he was returning to the locker room to get additional treatment for his dehydration. However, the Broncos quickly reported that Peyton was dealing with a thigh injury. Because he returned to the game without any further debilitation, the injury is not believed to be of serious concern moving forward. Pro Football Talk  is citing a source within the league that says the Broncos are not worried about the injury, and that they believe it was related to his battle with a gastrointestinal bug and subsequent dehydration.

Staying hydrated is of the utmost importance for athletes. Dehydration can lead to a number of problems, including a lack of energy, muscle cramping, and renal or cardiovascular impairment. Muscle cramping can put an athlete at higher risk for injuring an already damaged muscle. It seems very likely that Peyton was dealing with some cramping in his quadriceps muscle throughout the game. If that’s the case, it very well could have acted up as he was scrambling before setting the block on Butler. Immediately after the play, Peyton motioned to a trainer to meet him in the locker room for treatment.

It’s possible that he suffered a Grade 1 strain. Grade 1 strains can be painful, but they are not typically debilitating. Many athletes play through these injuries, although if the muscle was suspected to be torn rather just strained, the athlete runs a higher risk of tearing the muscle further. Much like a crack in an asphalt road, if it goes untreated, it can continue to grow and expand. If a muscle strain is the cause, he likely dealt with minor pain throughout the game, but not enough for a competitor like Manning to be relegated to the sidelines.

If the thigh injury was merely cramping, his trainers likely massaged the affected area manually, or with rollers, in order to get the muscle to relax. He also may have received another IV to attack Manning’s dehydration issues that were likely the root cause of the cramping.

Regardless of the specific details of Manning’s injury, the fact that he returned to Sunday’s game indicates that the issue is not very serious. If it is indeed a strain, the injury could linger for a week or two. Manning is not one of the leagues elite scrambling quarterbacks, so it shouldn’t negatively impact his game to any great degree. It could potentially affect the push he gets from his legs when he throws the ball, but he didn’t seem to have many issues after returning. As NFL injuries go, this didn’t appear to be a game-changing problem.

The Broncos have already clinched the AFC West division title, but they are still competing with Manning’s former team, the Indianapolis Colts to lock up home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Broncos have little incentive to sit Manning next week against the Bengals, but if they get out to a comfortable lead, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they decided to take his shoulder pads off for the 4th quarter.

Julio Jones Hip Injury A Concern

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Julio Jones was having a career game at Lambeau Field on Monday night. Just as the team was within one score of the Packers, Jones took a hit to his side and was forced out of the game.

Jones caught a pass inside the five yard line, tried to take the ball to the end zone, and was hit by a Packers Linebacker. Jones limped off the field, where he was evaluated by the Falcons training staff. He didn’t return to the game. Jones was seen limping and holding his side after the play. It was clear that he had sustained an injury to his hip or lower torso. After the game, the ailment was labeled a hip injury.

A specific diagnosis has not yet been given. That should come as no surprise, as the Falcon’s head coach, Mike Smith, has a long-standing reputation of being vague with player injuries.

Jones is quite possibly Atlanta’s best player. Along with Matt Ryan, Jones has accounted for nearly all of Atlanta’s offense over the last two weeks. Jones is coming off of a monster game in which he compiled 11 catches against the Green Bay Packers on Monday night. He did all of this, despite missing the end of the 4th quarter.

Jones didn’t practice again today (Friday). He is likely dealing with a hip pointer or possibly a hip flexor strain. A hip pointer is a bruise to the iliac crest, the boney formation that runs along the brim of the pelvis, and its surrounding structures. Hip pointers are caused by a direct impact to the hip. Though Jones did not fall on the hip, he did take a hit on that side from a tackling defender. While the hit didn’t appear to be a clear blow, landing squarely on the hip, it appeared that there may have been some helmet contact to the affected area.

Recovery from a hip pointer depends largely on the amount of inflammation suffered, secondary to bleeding and muscle damage. A hip flexor strain is a bit more complicated, as they come in different sizes and locations and typically take longer to heal than a hip pointer.

If the Falcon’s medical and training staff can’t reconcile these issues by Sunday, it is likely Jones won’t be terribly effective – if he is able to play at all. With three must-win games remaining on the schedule, the Falcons will pull out all the stops to get Jones back on the field. Though the Falcons officially have him listed as a “game time decision”, it would come as no surprise to see him attempt to take the field on Sunday, against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The best case scenario has Jones playing through a significant level of pain. For what it’s worth, Jones has been seen walking around the locker room, over the past 3 days, without a limp.