Curtis Weaver lost his rookie year due to surgery, but comes with a stellar reputation as a pass rusher from Boise State. He might be a big surprise if the Cleveland Browns docs can help him out.
Curtis Weaver is a talented young player trying to come back from a career-threatening injury for the Cleveland Browns, and if he is, it will be a testament to the savvy medical staff for saving his career after others gave him up for lost.
You know about Greedy Williams, the cornerback with axillary nerve dysfunction in his shoulder, and Grant Delpit seeking to come back from a ruptured Achilles tendon. Well, Weaver is a third young talent who is also trying to come back from a career-threatening injury. The Browns intercepted from the Miami Dolphins, who had to waive him with an injury designation, since the injury happened in the offseason.
Weaver was a standout pass rusher for the Boise State Broncos, where he was second all-time with 34 career sacks in 35 games, with 47.5 tackles-for-loss in three seasons. Weaver was the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year in 2019 and many analysts projected him for the second round.
The Dolphins drafted him in the fifth round, which was considered total larceny. However, early in camp, he broke a sesamoid bone in his big toe. The Dolphins promptly waived him with an injury designation.
This author has no medical background, but I’ve done the best I can to wade through the technical sports medical literature as well as the NFL mumbo jumbo to try to understand what has happened.
First, a quirk of the NFL rules is that teams cannot simply place a player on IR if the injury occurs in the offseason. They must clear waivers first, with an injury designation (another one of a hundred NFL rules that makes absolutely no sense). Hence it was not quite the same situation that the Browns had with Grant Delpit, when they simply IR’d him at his full salary.
Not every team wanted to take a chance on a kid with a broken sesamoid bone. That begs the question, what exactly is a broken sesamoid bone? Here, we can rely on Weaver’s own words, as quoted by Anthony Poisal on the Browns website:
"“It just felt nasty,” Weaver said. “The toe got caught under me and it just bent all the way back, as if someone broke your finger and snapped it all the way back.” — Poisal"
Ouch! You do not have to be a medical professional to know that that hurt like the bejesus!
According to foothealth.org, a sesamoid is a bone embedded in a tendon; specifically, in the foot, the sesamoids are located in the ball of the foot. The ball of the foot is the area that is affected when players suffer “turf toe” injuries.
Turf toe is often a career-threatening or career-shortening injury. Many fans are aware that turf toe shortened the career of Deion Sanders, among others. Hence it scares both football players and general managers alike.
Turf toe does not always occur with a fracture of the sesamoid bone, and sportswriters like this one should probably not attempt to diagnose the specifics of Weaver’s injury or surgical procedure. However, we can at least understand that it’s a potentially serious and very painful injury, and the surgical procedure was certainly very specialized.
The Browns must have had a very carefully estimated medical opinion before agreeing to take on Weaver’s case. That’s why they have to have knowledgeable, academically trained people in the front office. They need to make intelligent decisions about the likelihood of player effectiveness after surgical procedures, with millions of dollars riding on the decision.
The general manager’s job is a bit more than 40-yard dash times and breaking down game film, though that is also very, very important. So the next time someone at Browns Backers questions why the front office is full of academic over-achievers from Ivy League schools, it is partly because of complex situations like this one in today’s NFL.
If you’ve seen Deion Sanders on the Dan Patrick Show graphically show the result of turf toe, you know how scary it is. But a few case studies suggest that it’s not completely nuts to believe that a meaningful recovery can take place.
For example, there are several case histories out there describing surgical intervention with fractured sesamoid bones in which players returned to play and had successful NFL careers. In some cases, the sesamoid bones are completely removed, apparently.
For example, it was impressive to read that All-Pro tight end Jordan Reed had chronic turf toe injuries on both feet, and they were apparently alleviated by surgically removing the sesamoid bones on both feet. That was in 2018, and he was able to play three more seasons before retiring this year.
Reed’s case may or may not be relevant to Weaver’s or other successful surgical cases perused by this writer. It does not really matter, because each case is unique. However, If the Browns’ best medical opinion says that they have a high chance of being able to help Weaver, maybe it’s okay to trust them.
Let’s ask why he slid to the fifth round. There was a report that he was injured in college from John Coon of APNews.com which appeared on November 22, 2019:
"“Curtis Weaver injured his right leg in the second quarter against New Mexico and spent the remainder of the game with a walking boot on his foot. His status is uncertain for Saturday.” — John Coon, APNews.com, Nov 22, 2019"
This writer is going to conjecture that Weaver never fully recovered from the “right leg” injury against New Mexico. Hence, his 4.84 40 yard dash time probably was not indicative of his true potential. Remember, writers were touting him as a potential first-round pick. That level of optimism might have been horse — er, hyperbole — but to slide all the way to the fifth round? Impossible! Yes, it was only the Mountain West Conference, but this guy was incredible.
There must have been something on the order of turf toe or sesamoiditis or at any rate something not quite right prior to the draft. Then the toe coming apart in practice was probably not a freak coincidence but something foreseeable prior to the draft.
The net result is that if the Browns medical staff believes that they can rehab Weaver, the Browns may have someone with talent far in excess of a typical fifth-round draft pick. He could actually be a force, who could step in and join the rotation with Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney, Takkarist McKinley, and Porter Gustin.