On Tuesday, the Kansas City Chiefs returned to the practice field a day early to begin preparations for Saturday’s Christmas Eve matchup against the 7-7 Seattle Seahawks.
There were some surprises on the injury report. Three defensive linemen missed Tuesday’s practice with an illness, some players who have been rehabbing from injuries for several weeks returned to the practice field — and there was a new addition.
Tight end Jody Fortson’s elbow subluxation
Head coach Andy Reid reported on Tuesday that tight end Jody Fortson suffered an elbow subluxation during Sunday’s 30-24 win over the Houston Texans — and would most likely miss at least the upcoming matchup against the Seahawks. He did not practice on Tuesday.
Subluxation is simply a fancy word for dislocation. Elbow subluxations are not all that common, because the elbow is a hinge joint. This type of joint primarily functions in one plane of motion. Therefore, it has less freedom of movement than the shoulder joint, for example. So the more freedom of movement there is for a particular joint, the risk of dislocation increases because there is more instability.
Subluxations typically occur when a player falls forward onto an outstretched hand after the arm has been rotated, causing an abnormal force to travel up to the elbow. This causes the subluxation. As with all injuries, there are varying degrees and severity. The subluxation could be very minor — without ligament damage or fracture — or could be more severe.
The elbow is one of the body’s more simple joints. It consists of three bones: the humerus, radius and ulna. Stability at the elbow is provided by the ulnar and radial collateral ligaments, along with an anterior bundle that stabilizes the front of the elbow. Depending on the direction and severity of force applied during the injury, damage could have occurred to any of these structures.
Unless Fortson is placed on injured reserve, it can be assumed that his subluxation is minor and he did not suffer any significant damage to the structures of the elbow. Getting back to a full range of motion will mainly be a question of pain management, controlling inflammation and restoring strength and stability to the joint.
Realistically — depending on his rehab progress and the severity of tissue damage — Fortson could return to play in two to three weeks.
His absence will especially affect the Chiefs in the red zone, where Fortson is a frequent target. But potential relief could come from tight end Blake Bell, who returned to practice this week after rehabbing from a preseason hip injury that required surgical intervention. The Chiefs also have two tight ends on the practice squad. Kendall Blanton was re-signed on November 23 after the Los Angeles Rams again released him. And on Tuesday, Kansas City re-signed tight end Matt Bushman, whom they had released with an injury settlement in early September.
Wide receivers returning to health
While the defensive line appears to be dealing with illness, the team’s wide receiver group appears to be getting stronger. Wide receiver Kadarius Toney returned to game action against the Texans. He had missed the previous three games with a hamstring strain.
Toney was clearly being eased back into action against the Texans, appearing in 10 total snaps — including his special-teams reps. He finished with one reception for five yards. Toney was a full participant in Tuesday’s practice. As long as he remains a full participant through the week, it will be a good indicator that his hamstring injury is continuing to improve.
As previously explained, injuries to any soft tissue — especially hamstrings — a longer ramp-up process is in the best interest of the team and player.
Wide receiver Mecole Hardman — who has missed the last six games with an abdominal issue — practiced on a limited basis last week. He has not been listed on the injury report because he is still on the team’s Reserve/Injured (injured reserve) list; like Bell, he has only been designated to return to the active roster. Kansas City must activate him to the roster no later than Wednesday, January 4. If he is not activated by then, he must remain on the Reserve/Injured list for the remainder of the season.
Reid said there is “a good chance” that Hardman would be activated this week so that he could play against the Seahawks. It would not be surprising if Hardman is also eased back into full action. It has been reported that he lost weight while he has been out. It is likely that it will take some time to build his strength and stamina back.
The bottom line
If the NFL’s Week 15 was any indication, absolutely anything can happen on any given Sunday. So heading into the playoffs with a team that is fully healthy — as much as that is possible after an 18-week season — will be a key to success.
The Chiefs have three regular-season games. Winning all of them will allow them to remain in contention for the AFC’s No. 1 seed. In the coming weeks, it appears that with the return of several key contributors — potentially including Fortson — the offense may get a boost.