D.J. Fluker has returned to practice this week from the so-called "pretty severe" groin injury that he suffered late in the second half against South Carolina. He has been cleared to play this weekend against LSU and at no point this week has he sported the black no-contact jersey. Nevertheless, after two good performances against Ole Miss and Tennessee, Alfred McCullough has continued to take reps with the first team offense this week. With just over 48 hours to kick-off in Baton Rouge, we still do not know who will start at right tackle this weekend and a game-time decision seems likely.
Consider that specific uncertainty somewhat of the epitome of all the unknowns surrounding the injury status of several players.
Those paying attention are probably familiar with the long list of injuries to keep contributors for the Tide. Mark Ingram underwent knee surgery days before the season opener, and Trent Richardson has been wearing a protective boot for weeks. Julio Jones suffered a sprained knee against Florida before breaking his hand against South Carolina. D.J. Fluker has the aforementioned groin injury, and Greg McElroy has had a variety of minor dings. Marcell Dareus was rolled up against Arkansas and Courtney Upshaw has been slowed all year by a high ankle sprain. Luther Davis suffered both knee and ankle injuries against Duke. Nico Johnson has been sporting an elbow brace the size of a duffel bag. DeQuan Menzie has never been 100% in his recovery from his Achilles injury, and missed the Tennessee game with a groin injury. Dre Kirkpatrick has had two major shoulder surgeries in as many years and suffered yet another shoulder sublaxation against Ole Miss. Kerry Murphy has been slowed with some type of knee injury.
You get the idea. We're talking injuries of at least some meaningful magnitude to no less than eleven key contributors. Clearly, the off week came at a good time for us.
Having said that, exactly where do we stand right now? The good news is that no one has been wearing no-contact jerseys this week, but those tend to be fairly rare in Tuscaloosa regardless, and given the overall secrecy surrounding injuries, you never really know exactly the nature of any particular injury nor do you know the severity. As a result of that, you can never really field any definitive guesses on recovery time frames, or how limited a particular player is at any specific point in time because of an injury. Furthermore, with players like Courtney Upshaw who have been slowed by injuries all season, exactly how good are those players in the first place, even when healthy? Again, you never really know.
What we can say is that, reasonably speaking, this is the healthiest this team will be for the remainder of the season. Back-to-back games against top 25 SEC teams will only make matters worse, and Georgia State will act as an imperfect healer before Auburn comes to town, so this is as healthy as we will be until either the bowl game or the start of the 2011 season . Exactly what it means, though, is anyone's guess. Add that to the list of things we will find out in Baton Rouge.