Despite restrictions on free agency for the 2020 season, this has not stopped the Buffalo Bills from continuously attempting to upgrade their roster. As a result of G Jon Feliciano’s pectoral injury, the Bills released C/G Spencer Long to bring in former New York Jets G Brian Winters. He comes from New York after starting 79 of a possible 89 games and was a relative surprise cut considering his experience with the team.
Winters comes to Buffalo with several notable injuries that could affect his ability to play the entire season. He has only been able to play 16 games three out of his seven seasons and had several seasons end with a trip to injured reserve. Below is Winter’s known medical history.
Drafted in the third round by the New York Jets out of Kent State. Appeared in 16 games, starting 12, suffering an ankle injury in the preseason and Week 8 where he was deemed probable each time. Little information is available regarding the injuries.
Started all six games before suffering a left knee injury that ultimately was a torn ACL that sent him for surgery and IR for the season.
No publicly reported injuries, played in all 16 games, starting ten.
Appeared and started in 13 games. Missed Week 5 due to a concussion suffered the week prior against the Seattle Seahawks. This was the result of headbutting DE Michael Bennett that resulted in a personal foul.
Missed the final two games of the season, going on IR due to a shoulder injury. It was later revealed that he tore his rotator cuff in the Week 15 match up against the Miami Dolphins. It was not clear which shoulder required the procedure to fix the issue.
Appeared in and started 13 games. Suffered an abdominal and adductor tear in Week 2 against the Oakland Raiders, playing through the injury through nearly the entire season. He was questionable later on through Week 10 before ultimately going on IR for the same issue.
Appeared and started in all 16 games, suffered no known publicly reported injuries.
Appeared and started nine games. Suffered a shoulder injury in the preseason opener against the New York Giants. Was questionable off and on throughout the season until going on IR following the Week 10 match-up against the New York Giants. He required surgery to repair the torn labrum shortly afterward in November due to a re-dislocation. He also suffered a knee injury against the Miami Dolphins in Week 9.
Based on the picture below, it appears that he suffered the torn labrum in his left shoulder.
Bills Injury Impact
Winters is a tough man, as most offensive line players are. But there are several serious injuries that he has dealt with that have varying levels of concern. Going chronologically, the ACL is not much of an issue anymore. He is well outside the two-year window for re-tearing and has not had any further knee issues except for his 2019 injury that isn’t well defined. There is a concern that he could begin to develop arthritis in his knee as the surgery was intra-articular, which increases the risk for arthritic degeneration in later years. This will not guarantee that he has problems this season, but if he suffers another knee injury, it could complicate things.
The concussion is of little concern due to the nature of the original injury, though he is still at high risk due to the nature of the position. The fact that this is his only documented concussion is a good sign. As for his rotator cuff surgery, they typically have excellent outcomes upwards of 90% in NFL players and Winters appears to have fit that profile.
The abdominal and adductor tear would be classified as a core muscle injury that also has superb outcomes with a return to play in NFL players over 85%. Most players continue to play following the injury and have little chance to suffer a re-injury.
The left torn labrum that required surgery should be nearly healed due to the procedure being performed in November of 2019. They take on average to return to play within 6-9 months, with Winters approaching that mark by Week 1. There is a chance to re-tear the labrum of anywhere from 13-26% based on past NFL research.
He is also at a much higher risk to re-injure due to the nature of his position on the offensive line. They continuously have to extend their arms and resist a lot of forces through blocking. He re-dislocated his shoulder throwing a block in the 2019 season, which is one of the mechanisms for injury to the area with the arm extended and a force is placed through the shoulder, tearing the labrum that leads to the dislocation.
Though, it does appear that he is quite healthy based on the video below.
This injury history isn’t pretty, but this could work for the Bills. They are waiting for Feliciano to return from the pectoral injury, which I had stated he should come back in 12 weeks. Literature dictates that closer to full return is roughly four months. If Winters can hold down the right guard position until Feliciano is healthy enough, then it’s reasonable to expect that he can be available for at least half of a season. If his play is exceptional, this could allow Feliciano to stay out longer.
I’m not a huge fan of the signing, but it is an acceptable short-term fix. This prevents the Bills from having to carry guys who simply aren’t as good as Feliciano or risk losing further depth due to other injuries. Beane has once again shown that he is willing to find any competitive advantage in order to maximize the Bills’ chances this season.