March 09, 2015 - Dr. David Chao
Monday Morning MD: Deal never done until physical passed
The Eagles and Bills made headlines with the swap of LeSean McCoy and Kiko Alonso. That trade will not be final until Alonso, who is coming off ACL surgery, passes his physical. I am not suggesting that Alonso won’t pass the Philadelphia physical. I am simply pointing out the process of completing a trade. Of course, Buffalo will also exam McCoy, who was excused from the Pro Bowl due to a knee injury that is not thought to be significant. All NFL transactions are not complete until the team physical. This is true for trades, free agent signings and even for claiming a player off another team’s practice squad. The process is analogous to buying a house. After a sale price and terms are agreed upon, escrow doesn’t close until the home inspection is passed. Last season, Oakland agreed to a five-year, $42.5 million contract for offensive lineman Rodger Saffold but the Raiders failed him on the subsequent physical due to a shoulder injury. He ultimately returned to his original team, the Rams, for considerably less money. This case also points out that passing a physical is not black and white, thus failing doesn't mean one can’t play football. Most NFL players have injury history. It is a matter of what a club will tolerate that determines whether a physical is passed. St Louis was willing to re-sign Saffold, but Oakland was not willing to take the chance with a lucrative deal. He played last season but has now had shoulder surgery. Alonso doesn’t need to be football ready today for the trade to go through. He just needs to be progressing well enough to satisfy the Eagles. Some might argue that with the subjectivity, it gives teams a chance to exercise buyer’s remorse. However, with injuries being so prevalent, these are the rules of the league. The same process will apply to free agents who can officially sign on Tuesday. Ndamukong Suh will have to pass his Dolphins physical, Jeremy Maclin will have to pass his Chiefs physical and Frank Gore will have to pass his Eagles physical. I will admit that a majority of times, this process is routine and perfunctory. As free agent signings and trades dominate the NFL off-season news, lets not forget that nothing is final until the physical occurs. MMMD 1: Why so few big player for player trades? Star multi-player deals happen routinely in the NBA, MLB and NHL. I have often wondered why it is so infrequent in the NFL. Prior to McCoy for Alonso, the last big name player for player trade was over a decade ago when Washington acquired Clinton Portis from Denver for Champ Bailey (and a 2nd round draft pick). When a player is traded, it is typically for a draft pick like when Cleveland exchanged Trent Richardson for Indianapolis’ first round selection. Some say the reason is the salary cap but the NBA has no issue with it. Many say it is the complexity of picking up a new scheme, but plenty of players are acquired for a draft pick, just not for another player. Others say it is a distrust among general managers. I don’t know the answer but I think injuries have something to do with it as well. As indicated, a team will get to perform a physical before a trade is complete but I think it is just easier to start with the clean slate of a future draft pick. MMMD 2: Health correlates to playoff berths Adjusted games lost is one predictor of advancing to the postseason. Of the 2014 playoff teams, only the Colts ranked in the lower third of this calculation of time missed. The Patriots and Seahawks ranked in the middle third. We all know a healthy team has a better chance of success. The numbers show injury-free doesn’t guarantee the postseason, but injury-riddled likely prevents a playoff appearance. MMMD 3: Competition committee rules changes? New rules were considered and many relate to health and safety. One proposal called for adding a second designated for return slot for injured reserve. Another considered banning tackling by the hair with the worry it could be similar to a horse collar. After the Julian Edelman controversy in the Super Bowl, the concussion protocol remains a hot topic. CBS’ Jason La Canfora is calling for a “medical timeout”. Currently, when the spotter calls down to have a player checked, there is no mechanism to stop the game. I am not opposed to this rule change. The question is whether the game would stop while medical determined if the player can continue, or does play go on? No one wants to see a game unnecessarily delayed, but no one wants a star player to miss a key third down play either. More importantly, no one wants to see a player with long-term consequences from a head injury. MMMD 4: Farewell to Reggie Wayne? The Colts don’t plan on bringing back the NFL active leader in receptions and receiving yards. In 2013, Wayne tore his ACL and, last year, courageously played through a torn triceps which has subsequently undergone surgery. The 14-year veteran is open to returning for a contender. Although his triceps should fully recover, I am not at the age of 36 that Wayne will get the chance to play again. MMMD 5: Zach Miller ankle injury bigger than expected The Seattle tight end played the first three games last season and then quietly had a bye week ankle scope. Ostensibly, this was something done during the early season bye to keep him playing but he subsequently was placed on injured reserve and had further ankle surgery. Miller was released by the Seahawks with a “failed physical”. This indicates the ankle injury is more severe than initially expected. The designation makes him eligible for injury protection but I am sure he would rather get healthy and play in 2015. MMMD 6: Marqise Lee sues for loss of value policy No player has ever collected on a loss of value policy. Lloyd’s of London intends to keep it that way. Disability policies have been paid and are easier to prove. A loss of value claim is harder to prove as one must show how an injury wasn’t disabling but decreased the draft value. Lee injured his knee in his final season at USC and has a good case. He was a projected first round pick that fell to the second. If he can’t collect, it may dissuade others from purchasing this type of insurance. It just goes to show that insurance companies love to collect premiums but hate to pay out claims. [caption id="" align="alignright" width="284"] Picture posted from Donnell's Instagram account.[/caption] MMMD 7: Larry Donnell plane skids off runway The Giants tight end was a passenger on a plane that ended up in a snow bank. Thankfully he and all others on board were not injured. Donnell now has a front-page above-the-fold New York Times photo credit to his resume. Follow David on Twitter: @profootballdoc Dr. David Chao is a former NFL head team physician with 17 years of sideline, locker and training room experience. He currently has a successful orthopedic/sports medicine practice in San Diego.