In their week 3 matchup against the Bengals, the Bills’ 2nd year DT Harrison Phillips suffered the injury that all football players and fans dread hearing: the ACL tear. Looking back at the film of the play, it appeared that the injury was caused by Harrison planting the leg while taking a forceful blow to the anterior part of the knee from teammate Jordan Poyer’s helmet. Obviously, this ended 99’s promising-looking 2019 season early and forced him onto IR to face the long, grueling road of rehabilitation.
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament
This injury is devastating, as the ACL is a vital ligament to the knee, It acts as a stabilizer that helps to resist translation and forces. When the ligament is torn, the knee becomes unstable, and you will see the knee will almost slide front and back when applying force. This instability can severely impact even the ordinary activities we perform daily, even more so what is required of football player.
In football, players rely on quickness, agility, and the ability to be shifty. While that is less important to a defensive lineman than to a wide receiver or running back, it is still vital. In the trenches, it’s known that “lowest pad level wins”. DT’s rely on their brute force and strength to win against the opposing centers and guards. Our body’s strength and force relies on our lower half (why footwork is so important to a QB), so DT’s need to have their feet planted and rely on lower body strength to help win their 1 on 1 matchups and disrupt the run and passing game.
Below is an image from the website Snow Brains to help see the difference between a healthy ligament, and a torn ligament.
Treatment and Rehab:
While healing is possible with non-operative measures, surgery is basically a definite in people who play sports professionally. As soon as the surgery is complete, the patient will begin their rehab immediately, starting with passive range of motion exercises then gait training (walking) and other ambulation oriented activities (with the knee immobilized).
About one month to six weeks post-surgery, the immobilizer can be removed, and as time progresses, the exercises increase in intensity and become more aggressive, which can include light jogging or using the exercise bike. This regimen goes on for months as the knee regains its strength and mobility, and Harrison posted videos himself on social media of doing strengthening exercises in the pool at the facility and intense jogging and running with the training staff.
What can we expect from Horrible Harry in his return this season? First off, it is important to remember that everyone is different, and our bodies all heal differently. Fred Jackson comes to mind, as he seemed to always heal quicker than expected and be back in the lineup sooner than his anticipated timelines gave us. Adrian Peterson returned from his ACL tear in 9 months and went on to have a monster season (over 2,000 yards and 12 TD’s), but this was an absolute outlier.
When a player suffers a torn ACL, they usually don’t return to their baseline until two seasons after the tear. This doesn’t mean Phillips won’t be a great player this upcoming season, and I fully expect him to have a great year and contribute to this stacked defensive line rotation. Judging from his demeanor and videos posted of his workouts, it appears Harry is in great spirits and ready to roll this season. I cannot wait to see how he looks, as he was damn impressive in the first three games of 2019.
Stay safe and wear a mask!