I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a stadium so quiet. The Tennessee medical staff lifted senior defensive tackle Danny O’Brien, laying still and strapped to a spinal board, onto a cart and took him off the field after a helmet-to-helmet hit.
O’Brien is doing well, with all sensation and movement in his extremities, but it’s precisely that type of situation that medical staffs prepare for and dread. Hours of practice on simple things like lifting a 300-plus pound man safely onto a cart make it look easy, but it’s not, and getting it right can be a matter of life and death.
It’s one of the few times that a medical staff is noted, and Tennessee’s staff did very well. Best wishes to O’Brien in his recovery, but there’s other key injuries around the SEC to examine as well:
RB Damien Harris, Alabama
Just a few weeks after sustaining what looked like a serious ankle injury, Harris is running like it never happened. He came through this weekend’s game without any issue, showing that he had mobility and cuts, as well as power.
Nick Saban is using Harris more near the goal line, especially after Joshua Jacobs fumbled early in the game vs. Arkansas and went directly to the doghouse. Harris appears to have no limitations heading into Saturday’s game vs. Tennessee, which should allow the Bama medical staff to focus more time on its banged-up receiving corps.
RB Jalen Hurd, Tennessee
Would Hurd have made a difference in the overtime loss to Texas A&M? Certainly. Will Hurd play this Saturday against Alabama? Much less certain.
The Vols haven’t given any more clarity about the injury to Hurd and will go into this week with their starter a big question mark. The Vols have depth and talent behind him, but Hurd’s atop the depth chart for a reason and adding him back into the offense would help, just as it did for Alabama getting Damien Harris back.
Alvin Kamara is capable, as his 288 rushing and receiving yards vs. Texas A&M attests, but we should know by mid-week if the Vols get Hurd back from his “lower extremity” injury.
WR Nate Brown, Missouri
A severe high ankle sprain sustained in August sent Brown to surgery to repair the damage. With an 8-week expected timeline for return, he’s a bit ahead of schedule as he’s begun doing some light running.
That’s a ways away from game action for the Tigers, but the Tigers have done well with their depth. There’s still some question about whether Brown will be ready at all, but Brown would add to the receiving corps with some key games for Mizzou still on the schedule. A decision could be made shortly, perhaps in the next 10 days.
QB Luke Del Rio, Florida and RB Leonard Fournette, LSU
Hurricane Matthew wiped out the LSU-Florida game for now — but for both teams, the week off was a plus. For LSU, a team that has a lot of injuries on top of an interim coach, Fournette likely wouldn’t have played normally, if at all. A sloppy field would have pushed the team to hold him out again to avoid a setback.
A source with the program told me that LSU’s coaching and medical staff is being deferential to Fournette, knowing that he’s headed to the NFL next season. Perhaps that’s why he’s being listed as questionable for Saturday’s game vs. Southern Miss. They think he’ll be able to play, but there’s definitely worry about how well he’ll play in the near term.
In Del Rio’s case, there’s a good chance he’s back from his MCL sprain for Saturday’s game vs. Missouri. He’s been practicing with a brace, and while this would be on the low end of the return estimate, it is possible.
The coaching staff will test him early in the week, checking his mobility and to see if he has a stable base. If he passes that check, Florida can begin to game plan with him. He’s not going to be 100 percent, but having him involved would be a big plus for the Gators.