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Buffalo Bills injury roundup: when will Zay Jones return?

The tight end position is hurting.

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The Buffalo Bills have remained mostly injury-free during the early stretch of training camp. With Zay Jones still the biggest injury concern, we asked our resident physical therapist to explain the situation.

Jones had surgery to repair a deep laceration to his kneecap sometime in May. Although it is difficult to find out specific or exact details from the internet, we can speculate as to what he had done, and more importantly, what this means for the team going forward.

If a laceration is superficial, and does not impact soft tissue, recovery would be fairly quick and the athlete could be expected to return to activity relatively shortly, certainly within the approximately 8 weeks its been since Jones’ surgery. We can almost certainly rule out a superficial laceration (which should be obvious, since all sources have termed it a ‘deep’ laceration). Superficial lacerations heal quickly because the underlying soft tissue (muscles, ligaments) have not been impacted, so the functional capacity of the underlying tissue is not changed.

However, a deep cut that involves soft tissue is much more unpredictable. There is a myriad of complications that can arise, most commonly being infection and keloid scarring. Also, the risk of returning to sport too quickly can lead to undue stress on the newly healed soft tissue, leading to setbacks and further injury. This type of laceration will cut through the skin into the soft tissue, most importantly (to this discussion) ligaments and muscle. The worst-case scenario (for this upcoming football season) would be a laceration that compromises the integrity of a major tendon, such as the patella tendon. This would almost certainly lead to a very long recovery extending into the season, if not next year. The other possibility would be a wound to the muscle belly. Without knowing the actual extent of his injury, it is difficult to predict a specific timeline of recovery. Generally, the worse the laceration, the longer the recovery. Typically, after about six weeks, gentle stretching is initiated. Physical therapy is typically used to restore range of motion and strength without overstressing the newly healed muscle. It is important to take adequate time, as overstressing the muscle, specifically the ‘collagen scaffold’, can lead to more scar tissue formation. Depending on the severity of the wound and the care received, returning to pre-injury strength and flexibility can be difficult to achieve.

Due to the fact that Jones has been spotted performing dynamic return-to-sport type activity on the sideline, my best guess would be that he sustained a deep laceration to the muscle that is relatively minor in severity. I also would guess that the training staff is bringing him back slowly to avoid long-term implications and short-term setbacks. I would be surprised if Zay misses any extensive time. The coaching staff may limit contact to protect the newly healed tissue. I believe Jones long-term prognosis is good and he should make a full recovery.

As for the rest of the injury report, Kyle Williams returned to the lineup on Tuesday after a rest day Sunday. Trent Murphy received a veteran day off on Tuesday.

Tight end Nick O’Leary is the most significant injury suffered during camp. He was hobbled on Saturday, July 28th, and missed Sunday’s practice. He remains limited on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, tight end Logan Thomas showed up in a red non-contact jersey nursing a shoulder injury. It’s likely cautionary at this point.

Since head coach Sean McDermott joined the team, injuries have been pretty limited during practices. Whatever he is doing, they need to keep doing it.