Lost in the Green Bay Packers’ latest collapse was an injury to tight end Jimmy Graham, the team’s biggest free agent signing of 2018. The Packers have gone through quite the revolving door of tight ends in recent years, with from Jared Cook to Martellus Bennett to Graham; all of the previous signings gave Packers fans some measure of disappointment, and the hope was that Graham would be the one who would pan out.
Instead, ten games into a three-year, $30 million contract, Graham has suffered what is “feared” to be a significant injury. NFL.com’s Mike Silver used that word on Friday morning to describe the Packers’ concerns that the thumb injury Graham suffered on Thursday night in his return to Seattle may be a serious one, which suggests that he may be out for a significant amount of time.
Update: Silver’s colleague Ian Rapoport reported on Friday morning that the team fears that Graham’s thumb is broken. Rapoport later reported that the diagnosis of a broken thumb has been confirmed, and that Graham will miss some time, but that how long he will be out is not yet known.
Graham left Thursday’s loss to the Seahawks in the second quarter and he did not return to the game. However, the astute eyes of APC’s Jon Meerdink identified a FOX replay of the snap when Graham appeared to injure his thumb, and it should frustrate Packers fans.
Here’s a look at Graham on the play, which luckily featured FOX putting an isolated camera on him. Spoiler: it’s not a good look for the tight end.
That’s Graham blocking and hand-fighting with Seahawks safety Bradley McDougald. It’s unclear exactly which part of the play is responsible for the injury, but it looks like Graham’s hand gets caught awkwardly on McDougald’s helmet and facemask on that last shove out of bounds, as the two are engaged well away from the football. You can see him immediately begin to hold his left thumb when he turns around on the sideline.
If this mistake costs Graham the remainder of the season — or, really, any significant time — it will reflect very poorly on the veteran. Indeed, it already does, since Graham missed the remainder of this game and might have been able to contribute something when the Packers’ offense bogged down in the second half and failed to keep Aaron Rodgers upright on third downs.
Any extended absence for Graham will lead to more playing time for the Packers’ other three tight ends: Lance Kendricks (who already sees significant time as an H-back), Marcedes Lewis, and Robert Tonyan. Tonyan in particular should be a candidate to pick up significant snaps, especially after hauling in his first NFL catch on Thursday: a 54-yard touchdown bomb from Aaron Rodgers.
(As an added bonus, Rodgers apparently thought he was throwing to Graham on that play, according to Silver’s piece: “To be honest, I thought it was Jimmy. I let it go and looked at it and then I said ‘Whoa! That’s Bobby.’”)
Graham still sits in second place on the team in targets, receptions, and receiving yards and runs fourth in receiving yards per game. A stat line of 34-for-452 and two touchdowns through ten games isn’t matching up to the big price tag that he received this offseason, however, and if he misses much or all of the remainder of the season this will look like yet another year where the Packers missed on a big tight end signing.