The Cincinnati Bengals – led by their 2nd year, always calm and collected quarterback Joe Burrow – are set to face off against the star-studded Los Angeles Rams in the Rams’ home stadium in Super Bowl LVI this Sunday (February 13).
Each team heads into the game facing injuries to key players. As we saw in last year’s Super Bowl between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs, injuries can play a pivotal role in the game’s outcome as the Chiefs were missing two starters from their offensive line which led to Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes being pressured on more than 90% of his dropbacks.
Mahomes is a perennial MVP but no quarterback can survive that kind of consistent pressure in the pocket, especially when facing Tom Brady who had a very clean pocket for the majority of the game.
With that in mind, lets get into the injuries and my assessment for how they may or may not impact each player for this Sunday’s showdown:
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First and foremost, the Bengals starting tight end C.J. Uzomah has been dealing with an undisclosed knee injury that he suffered in the team’s AFC championship come-from- behind victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Uzomah went through individual workouts with trainers over the weekend – which included running, cycling, and band work, but no lateral (side to side movement) which typically stresses the knee most.
He didn’t participate in practice this week until Wednesday when he was a DNP in a walk-through and was a limited participant on Thursday.
Based on these factors, it sounds like Uzomah is progressing positively and if he continues to respond well, will be available for the game. That being said, there’s always concern for re-injury coming off a quick rehabilitation – especially in high intensity games.
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Bengals guard Jackson Carman has been dealing with a back issue that forced him to miss practices earlier in the week. However, he was a limited participant on Wednesday but his status was upgraded as went through full practice on Thursday. Based on that progression, he is very likely to play as long as there are no setbacks.
Defensive tackle Josh Tupou picked up a knee injury against the Chiefs, but after missing practice earlier in the week, he was upgraded to a full participant for Wednesday’s practice.
Backup tight end Cameron Sample had an adductor (groin) problem that kept him out early this week but was a full participant on Wednesday.
This may not seem important at face value but if Uzomah does have a setback or picks up an injury during the game, then Sample’s availability will be critical. For example, look no further than the Rams’ game last week when Kendall Blanton had to fill in for the injured Tyler Higbee.
Speaking of the Rams and Tyler Higbee, lets shift course to them.
Los Angeles Rams
Tyler Higbee was diagnosed with a knee sprain of the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and has yet to practice this week, being ruled a DNP in Thursday’s practice as well. Head coach Sean McVay essentially implied that Higbee will likely not be practicing this week and his status is day-to-day leading up to the game.
Higbee’s status is the most doubtful of any player heading into Sunday. We don’t know much about the injury other than it is an MCL sprain and there’s been no upgrades or changes in his status either.
The one positive note is that MCL injuries do heal relatively well compared to other knee ligament (if there’s one knee ligament you want to damage, it’s the MCL) because the MCL has an excellent blood supply. This one will likely come down to the wire but – as noted earlier with Uzomah, and to an even greater degree here – if Higbee does go, we don’t know how limited he will be or if there’s potential for re-injury.
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In better news, the Rams received good word on two key offensive lineman. Firstly, left tackle Andrew Whitworth – who had missed Monday and Tuesday practices with a quadriceps injury – has been a full participant in Wednesday and Thursday’s practices. Further, Joe Noteboom, who had been dealing with a chest injury and missed practice through Wednesday, was able to take part in limited practice on Thursday. He is also a “day-to-day” injury according to McVay but he is trending positively.
Wide receiver and critical speedster Van Jefferson – who McVay uses to stretch defenses and keep them honest with his deep threat ability – was a full participant in practice on Thursday after being limited due to an ankle injury up to that point.
Finally, on the defensive side of the ball, Rams superstar shutdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey – who has been petitioning to shadow Bengals rookie star wideout Ja’Marr Chase – has been a full participant in Wednesday and Thursday practices after missing the previous two this week. Additionally, safety Taylor Rapp was a full participant as well after clearing concussion protocol.
You always want teams to be at full strength – or as close to as full strength as possible – for big games and hopefully we see that on Sunday. Enjoy the game.
Dr. Rajpal Brar, DPT, (@3cbperformance) is a physiotherapist, movement expert, fitness trainer, sports scientist and mindfulness coach. He runs the LA and online based physiotherapy and athletic performance clinic 3CB Performance, and you can subscribe to his Youtube channel (which posts a variety of sports injury, performance, & skills content).
READ MORE ON THE NFL SUPER BOWL:
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