During his time in Columbia, South Carolina, wide receiver Bryan Edwards set program benchmarks for consecutive games with a catch (48), career receptions (234), and career yards (3,045), and was third overall for receiving touchdowns (22). Edwards eclipsed program greats such as Sidney Rice and Alshon Jeffery on his way to the top of the leader boards. Despite all the successes in college, there are worries about whether Edwards will be able to stay healthy at the next level. A history of lower-body injuries could derail a promising NFL career in the making. Below is a season-by-season recap.
- Even before stepping on campus, Edwards was already battling back from an injury that cost him the playoffs in his senior season of 2015 and a chance to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. His high school career was cut short due to torn meniscus in his right knee, which required surgery to correct.
- Considering this injury ended his season and prevented him from playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, it suggests that he required a full repair of the meniscus. Fortunately, he made a total recovery and was cleared to play in the April spring game once he arrived on campus.
- Once he began playing as a rare true freshman in the fall, he suffered a hamstring strain in the loss to Kentucky early in the season. After finishing his freshman season, heading into spring practice in 2017 revealed a sports hernia or core muscle injury. According to sources, he suffered the injury late in the season but played through it along with the aforementioned hamstring issues. Despite having soft tissue injuries, Edwards didn’t miss a game the entire year.
- Edwards finally got past some of his early struggles with injuries and played in every game his sophomore year. He did not appear to suffer any new injuries during the football season in which he continued to develop as a receiver, becoming a favorite target in the offense.
- However, in the off-season, Edwards suffered a shoulder injury in spring practices, which was noted, but little information is available.
- Similar to his sophomore year, Edwards made it through the season relatively unscathed. The only injury he sustained was due to an ankle sprain in the loss to Kentucky midway through the season. He did not miss any time as he continued to climb up the rungs in the record books.
- Entering his senior year, Edwards had shown the ability to stay healthy and produce at a game-changing level. He continued to demonstrate this through most of the season, only dealing with a minor ankle injury against Georgia. However, Edwards’s luck ran out against Appalachian State, when he suffered a left knee injury early in the game. He was able to return and play with a knee brace, still producing nine receptions for 90 yards and one TD.
- Days later, Edwards had a knee scope to trim out the meniscus and was never officially ruled out for the remainder of the season. He was still in a position to play against Clemson, but he was unable to suit up. An interesting note regarding the knee injury: South Carolina coach Will Muschamp indicated that he had the injury in high school and that he just needed it cleaned up. However, the most recent knee injury was on the left side, while earlier reports indicated right. This may have been a misspeak on Muschamp’s part, but there aren’t any documented records that he had a prior injury to the left knee.
- Typically, knee arthroscopy can take anywhere from four to eight weeks to recover from before resuming most sporting activities, but it’s common to return before that time-frame. According to sources, he had the surgery some time during the week of November 10th, which would have made his return to full activities roughly around Christmas/New Year’s Day.
- The veteran receiver was on track to return to play in the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Regrettably, he had to withdraw his participation due to the knee not “being 100 percent.” He would have had about three to four weeks to prepare for the game. After not playing football for nearly two months, he either irritated structures in his knee that led to the withdrawal or felt that it wasn’t a smart decision to play to preserve his draft stock.
NFL Combine injury
Edwards appeared finally back on track to showcase his skills, but misfortune struck him once again. He revealed on Twitter that he had fractured his foot while training on Feb. 21, days before the NFL Combine.
Few details were known at the time, but this picture released during the media portion of the Combine on Feb. 25 revealed that he suffered a left foot fracture. As the picture shows, he is in a walking boot and using a knee scooter to get around. During the media questioning, Edwards indicated that he could require up to 12 weeks for his recovery, according to The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia.
Bryan Edwards says he’s facing 8-12 weeks of recovery from his broken foot. Probably won’t be ready in time for South Carolina’s pro day, so no pre-draft workouts. pic.twitter.com/YXOaoko7hK
— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurkeNFL) February 25, 2020
These reports tell several things. The foot injury occurred on the same side that he suffered from his left knee injury. He is also non-weight-bearing during a portion of the healing time. Based on the healing timeline and reports, I’m confident he did not have a Lisfranc injury. This leads to several possibilities for the types of fractures.
He could have suffered a stress fracture due to overuse when attempting to get back in shape from nearly two months of restricted activities as he battled back from the knee scope. It’s possible he could have suffered a metatarsal, navicular, or sesamoid fracture due to the various drills he was preparing to complete. Or, he could have suffered a Jones fracture, which is more common in wide receivers.
As there are no video or specifics on how he injured the foot, my initial assumption is that he suffered a stress fracture. These types of injuries can be caused by overuse and are not readily apparent at the time of injury. These are far more common in the lower extremities and can be caused by a variety of factors. This could have been anything from the surface he was training on, a sudden increase in activity, or altered foot mechanics.
It is possible that the previous knee surgery could have also created compensation strategies in the foot as he attempted to rehab. If his knee was unable to absorb the forces it needed to during running and jumping, the foot/ankle or hip could make up for that by absorbing some of that energy. Essentially, the source of one injury can impact nearby structures and create a bigger problem than just the original complaint. Either way, unless details are made available, he won’t be seeing the field until mid-May during the third phase of OTAs. Even then, it’s not certain that he will participate out of precaution to avoid causing further problems.
There isn’t any research to support that previous meniscal injuries lead to foot injuries. There is research to support those compensation strategies from another joints, such as the knee, could lead to other injuries. The literature has identified specific restrictions in one joint that can increase the incidence of future lower-extremity injuries.
What possibly happened was that he had some complications coming back from the knee scope then ramped up his training too fast. Noting his previous injuries, it’s evident he is able to play through some pain, but no one is immune from mechanical breakdown with improper training.
NFL Draft impact
While gathering information for this article, Edwards quickly became a complex medical case. He went from a knee injury to a foot injury to a hodgepodge of injuries that complicate his draft stock. The phrase “ The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” applies here. Picking out each injury individually, the ankle sprains, hamstring, shoulder, and even core muscle injuries aren’t concerning. The knee injuries in isolation aren’t concerning. The foot injury in itself could happen to anyone.
The concern is the progression of the most recent knee injury having an impact on the foot injury as he attempts to increase his skills for the next level. His position strongly suggests that he will suffer injuries — that’s a given. He has demonstrated the ability to stay relatively healthy, evident by his sophomore and junior years.
Looking at comparable players as they transitioned from college to the NFL, none come to mind. If Edwards was in any other draft where the wide receiver pool wasn’t so deep, his talent alone could warrant a Day 1 or early Day 2 draft pick.
Because of the various injuries and depth, he could be a late Day 2 pick or even fall to early Day 3. Cover 1’s Erik Turner is convinced he’s the most underrated receiver in the nation this year and has indicated that he’s a Day 2 pick. While Edwards could have used the Senior Bowl, Combine, and Pro Day to elevate his stock, the opportunity is not there. He will have to let his medical record speak for itself and use the team interviews as selling points.
His upside is too great to ignore to let him free fall through the draft. There will be a team that looks past the medical red flags and drafts him. Edwards could be the next player that people look back on and wonder how he got drafted in the round that he was selected.
Bryan Edwards is the ‘most underrated receiver in the nation’ | Cover 1 https://t.co/xRKa4BCLiA
— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) February 8, 2020