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The injury to Jalston Fowler’s left leg occurred in the fourth quarter of Alabama’s 35-0 victory over Western Kentucky. He was attempting to prevent a sack of quarterback A.J. McCarron when his shin was hit by a WKU player’s leg and his knee hyperextended backwards. Fowler was aided in leaving the field, dragging his left leg. He was then carted away from the game.
ESPN’s Alex Scarborough announced an MRI was scheduled for this past Sunday morning.
Nick Saban informed us at his Monday press conference that Fowler will likely miss the remainder of the season recovering from his injuries and medical procedures. At the 1:45 mark.
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According to BamaOnline’s Travis Reier, sources confirmed Jalston Fowler injured the PCL in his left knee and sprained his MCL. He also injured his meniscus, which will require a scope.
The scope on Fowler’s knee is to save as much of the meniscus cartilage as possible, a tougher more fibrous type of cartilage attached to the lining of the tibia joint. The menisci serve as shock-absorbers between the ends of the tibia and femur bones. This is a common procedure for running backs. The scope will also give a clear view of the ligaments in the knee, particularly the PCL, and the extent of any tears or damage that may require surgical reconstruction.
The PCL is the ligament that prevents the shin bone from sliding too far backwards. (As opposed to an ACL injury where the tibia slides too far forward.) Fowler fell on the front of his knee and it hyperflexed (bent all the way back) with the foot held pointing downwards. That stresses the PCL, and if the force is great enough, a PCL tear will result.
The most common symptoms of a PCL tear are knee pain, swelling, and decreased motion. Fowler may have a sensation that his knee "popped" or feels like it will give out. Recovery time for a PCL injury is usually shorter than an ACL tear. Initial treatment is crutches, ice, and elevation for the pain and swelling. Once these symptoms have settled, physical therapy improves knee motion and strength. Surgery is required when not only the PCL is torn, but surrounding ligaments are injured. It’s not clear the extent of Fowler’s injuries to the surrounding ligaments, but it sounds much less than originally feared.
This is why Saban said it is most likely Fowler will miss the rest of the season. There is a chance he could completely heal up in a couple of months, depending on the extent of treatment and/or surgery. However, as Cecil Hurt confirmed, Fowler qualifies for a medical redshirt. The Tide coaching staff will weigh the redshirt decision against how much Fowler could really contribute if he returned in mid- to late-November.
In the video below, Dr. Charles Roth, an orthopaedic surgeon at the Andrews Institute along with Dr. James Andrews, gives more details on a PCL injury and explains the treatment.
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ESPN’s Alex Scarborough discusses what the loss of Fowler will mean to the Alabama offense.
"We have backups at every one of the positions and roles that he filled. There may not be one particular guy. I think on special teams, there's a different guy on each special team that would take his place now. At running back, Dee Hart, Kenyan Drake will have a little more opportunity. Kelly [Johnson] was his backup at fullback, which is where he plays anyway. So we are going to miss him. It's going to take a number of people to replace him in various roles that he played on our team." – Nick Saban
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As I mentioned on Twitter, what the Tide will really miss this year about Jalston Fowler is his explosiveness. The backups can fill his roles and new OC Doug Nussmeier’s offensive wrinkles will continue, but it remains to be seen if the production will take a step back. Don’t expect the I-formation to go away, just don’t expect it to be as effective, maybe.
After studying Nussmeier’s playcalling at Washington, I’ve also been speculating on Twitter about other offensive wrinkles we might see this season. It’s my strong belief Fowler played a key role in some of the new looks we have yet to see, including some new pass plays. After two years of actually playing in games, Fowler was finally at the level where he had the requisite experience and wisdom to go with his grasp of the offensive playbook.
Fowler’s backup at fullback, tight end/H-back Kelly Johnson (6-3 230), was a quarterback and linebacker in high school and will handle the blocking duties in the I-formation. The rushing and receiving duties of Fowler’s role out of the I-formation could be a bit more problematical.
The most likely candidate to fill the spot would be Barrett Jones’ brother, Harrison Jones (6-4 244). He played in high school as a fullback, both blocking and rushing, and also ran receiving routes as a tight end. This is also Jones’ third year in the system, but only saw limited action in a backup role last season.
The other tight ends in the proper size range for Fowler’s blocking or receiving roles are true freshman Kurt Freitag (6-4 240), and walk-ons Corey McCarron (6-2 240) and Michael Nysewander (6-1 230). If any of these tight ends can also rush, he may see some time at “fullback" this year.
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