Outside of an injury to Peyton Manning, Danny Trevathan is one of the toughest players for the Broncos to lose. The good news is that this isn’t a dangerous injury - it will take a month or two to heal, but it could have been vastly worse.
Trevathan had been fighting for his professional life since leaving college. Two years ago, he fought through a pulled hamstring to perform his combine drills. Yet, all the pundits seemed to see was a guy who was too small, too light, and too slow.
Denver got him into camp and found that without the pulled hamstring, he was a lot faster. The player who had led the SEC in tackles for the previous two seasons was showing signs that he was a lot more than a small, slow linebacker. He still tackled just as much.
As a rookie, he saw some work at Will linebacker, scoring 22 solo tackles and 11 assists. He added a sack and three passes defended.
By 2013, Trevathan was calling defensive plays, wearing the radio helmet, and becoming a leader on defense. He led the team last year in tackles with 129, including seven games with 10 or more tackles. He racked up two sacks, three interceptions, 10 passes defensed, three forced fumbles, and one recovery. He had only one game in negative numbers after Week 6, according to PFF.
Jack Del Rio was asked last week if Trevathan had been underappreciated. He replied,
Maybe by somebody else, but I certainly appreciate Danny Trevathan.
Terrance Knighton called Danny the most important player on the defense. Hearing that he’d been carted off the field from practice gave me the feeling that my stomach had dropped through the floor.
There were several immediate suggestions that Trevathan had fractured his patella (kneecap). Happily, they were wrong. What Danny has is called a medial tibial impaction fracture. It isn't a dire situation as long as there's no compartment syndrome or ligament damage involved.
'Medial' just refers to the inside of the leg. The tibia is the larger of the two lower leg bones. This fracture usually shows clearly on radiography, unless there's a rotational attribute. The illustration of the tibia can be rotated to see the area clearly. The fracture occurred via a strong impact. It’s expected that the problem would present with knee effusion (swelling). The question was whether he had ligament damage.
This is a good overview, workup and treatment synopsis on these types of fractures. All in all, the injury is not so bad. Some such fractures heal in only four weeks - others take six or eight, depending on location and severity.
The tibia is generally viewed as the second strongest bone in the body. The femur (thigh bone) is usually listed as the strongest. There’s a nice workup on this type of injury with regard to motor vehicle accidents here. 80% of these injuries occur to older females who have some level of osteoporosis during motor vehicle accidents. The remaining 20% is mostly made up of high impact collisions, such as the one that Danny went through.
There’s a lot of good news for Trevathan. The MRI came back negative for any ligament damage. He has a fracture on the medial side of the tibia, close to the knee.
Since there’s no soft tissue damage, the problem should heal rapidly. The head of the tibia isn’t shattered; it’s a simple fracture. It’s not a ‘plateau’ fracture, at the knee joint, which would carry a high risk of arthritis.
Trevathan is a healthy young man, and there is no need for surgery. Right now, the Broncos are listing him as being out for 6-8 weeks. It could be a week sooner or later. Obviously, the team won’t hurry him back - they’re good about following the doctor’s recommendations.
Last year, I did a piece on Trevathan and the ‘next man up’, with Wesley Woodyard injured on and off over the year. This year, it’s Brandon Marshall that will get first dibs on being Danny’s next man up. Brandon is young, only in his third year in the league. He’s about the same size (6’1”, 238 lb) as Danny (6’1”, 240 lb) and spent all but one regular season game on the practice squad in 2013. He had two tackles against the Raiders in Week 17: one defensive, one on special teams. He also had a special teams stop in the Super Bowl.
Despite his youth, Del Rio, among others, seems to have a lot of faith in him. Von Miller said,
We're expecting Brandon Marshall to come in and do great things for us until Danny gets back.
John Fox also notes that there are plenty of options in camp right now. Lamin Barrow struggled at first, but has come on lately. Lerentee McCray has trained in all three positions.
That's something that JDR requires of all linebackers. Corey Nelson has gotten in some good reps, and has shown surprisingly well for a late round pick. He led the Broncos in tackles against Seattle with five (four solo).
Looking at the calendar, in a perfect world, Danny could be back as soon as September 9. It’s far more likely that he’ll return somewhere between September 23 and October 7. That’s long enough to get a good look at Marshall, or whoever steps up. But it's short enough to allow Trevathan to play the majority of the season. As several have noted - I’d rather see him go through this now than in December.
Terrance Knighton was the defensive leader of the Broncos for much of the later season in 2013. I don’t doubt that he can handle that job again until Trevathan returns - unless another linebacker takes it over.