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2023 NFL Week 7 Injury Takeaways: Recapping Bijan Robinson Injury Saga

Atlanta Falcons running back Bijan Robinson

Week 7 saw many big names suffer injuries of varying degrees of severity. Here's how some of those injuries will affect teams moving forward.

Week 7 Injury Recap

Bijan Robinson Sidelined

A peculiar situation occurred in Tampa Bay when Bijan Robinson was in uniform for the Atlanta Falcons but on the sideline for most of the afternoon. He had only one carry, and reporters indicated he was dealing with an illness during the game. A postgame interview had Robinson saying he started to feel ill Saturday night and woke up Sunday morning and just felt out of it.

It’s impossible to know when Robinson’s illness was relayed to coach Arthur Smith or to any Falcons personnel. We're not saying the Falcons did anything wrong, but we're sure the NFL had some questions following the game. They have policies in place to prevent situations like this from happening. 

For a team with a game on a Sunday, the NFL requires injury reports for practice participation on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Game statuses are also officially announced on the Friday report. Then, there are the rare cases where something happens between then and the release of the 90-minute-before-kickoff inactive lists.

The NFL injury report policy states,

“If after the Friday update and prior to the 90-minute meeting at which the club submits its list of inactive players, an injury or other event occurs that may affect a player’s ability to play, the club’s Public Relations Director is required to report that information immediately…the reporting of late-night and early-morning incidents, defined as those occurring between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., local time, may be delayed until 8:00 a.m., local time. At that time, the player’s then-current condition must be reported and updated as required by the policy.”

Teams don’t release an official injury practice report on Saturday, but there will be reports for individual players who are added or have their game status changed. There have been multiple examples of that this year, and there was even one this week when Marlon Humphrey had a similar scenario play out.

He was absent from every Baltimore Ravens injury report throughout the week, just like Robinson. Still, Humphrey was added to the injury report on Saturday due to an illness, and they listed him as questionable. He ended up suiting up and playing 64 snaps in the 38-6 win against the Detroit Lions.

It was a similar story for Dallas Cowboys DB Malik Hooker in Week 1. He, too, was added to the injury report on Saturday for a Sunday game with an illness after not being on any report from Wednesday to Friday.

In a different but relatable situation in Week 2, Christian Darrisaw was on the injury report as a limited participant for all three Minnesota Vikings practices. They listed him as questionable before being active for a Thursday night game. He tested out an ankle injury in warmups, but he ultimately saw no snaps and was in uniform on the sideline. Due to Darrisaw being an offensive lineman, no real storylines came about after the game, even though many expected him to play after being ruled active.

The one similarity throughout all of these examples is that every player was on or added to the injury report at some point before the game. In Robinson's situation, questions of his status came from everyone in real-time as the game unfolded.

Whenever everyone is kept in the dark on the status of a player like Robinson, the NFL will do their due diligence to see if they need to enforce any punishment. Fans, sportsbooks and fantasy managers would have liked to know the situation before kickoff. Then again, who knows when the Falcons staff made the decision and how close it was to game time. DraftKings did refund all bets with a player prop on Robinson as bonus bets.

The NFL has fined teams in the past for violating the injury report policies. The Pittsburgh Steelers and coach Mike Tomlin were fined a combined $100,000 for misreporting Ben Roethlisberger’s elbow injury in 2019. The team downplayed the significance of his injury by listing his injury as not injury-related/veteran rest, even though it ended up being season-ending.

The Miami Dolphins and then-coach Adam Gase were fined a combined $45,000 in 2018 for misreporting Ryan Tannehill’s shoulder injury. The team listed him as a full participant in practice when he was limited before ultimately missing that week’s game.

Chiefs Lose a Key Defender

One of the storylines early in this NFL season is how dominant the Kansas City Chiefs defense has been. LB Nick Bolton quarterbacks that defense, but Kansas City will be without him for the foreseeable future. He dislocated his wrist during the Chiefs’ win against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 7.

The injury requires surgery, and Bolton is expected to be sidelined for two months. A wrist dislocation is a difficult injury to come back from, as most, if not all, of the ligaments that hold that joint together are torn. Sometimes, there could even be broken bones in addition to ligament injuries.

David Johnson suffered the same injury in Week 1 of 2017, and he didn't return that season. The injury could have been the beginning of the end for Johnson. He was coming off an All-Pro, 1,000-yard rushing season and was never the same after missing most of 2017. 

Ravens safety Marcus Williams suffered a dislocated wrist in Week 5 of last season. He missed seven games before returning to his starting role for the rest of the season. Being a defender could have been a reason he returned quicker than Johnson. Not being tasked with handling the football alleviates some risk when coming back to play.

Bolton had already missed Weeks 3 to 5 this season due to an ankle injury, and that provides a good sample size of the Chiefs' defense with and without him this season. He’s been on the field for 184 defensive snaps and off the field for 207. Opposing offenses perform much better when he is on the sideline.

Opponent EPA/60 Plays Bolton On the Field Bolton Off the Field
All Plays -13 -4
Pass Plays -17 -7
Run Plays -8 1

Opposing rushers see an uptick in their yards after contact against the Chiefs when Bolton is sidelined. With him, rushers average 1.7 yards after contact per attempt, and without him, they average 2.8 yards after contact per attempt.

Among linebackers with at least five targets against, he ranks sixth in Total Points per play in pass coverage. In the three games the Chiefs played without Bolton this season, they gave up on average 16.7 points per game, which is excellent, but roughly three points more than in games when he plays. 

Not only is Bolton an excellent player, but he calls the plays and gets everyone lined up. A storyline in the coming weeks will be how organized and effective the Chiefs' defense is, especially when they have to face high-powered offenses like the Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles in two of their next three games.

This article was authored by Brett Barnes.