Starting tailback Kevin Jones, who suffered a left foot injury during Sunday's loss to the Minnesota Vikings, will miss the final three games of the Detroit Lions' season. And Jones, along with team officials, are concerned that he might not be fully rehabilitated in time for camp next summer.
The third-year veteran, who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, was diagnosed with a Lisfranc sprain, which is more accurately a fracture or dislocation of a group of bones and connective tissue at the top of the mid-foot area, and faces a lengthy rehabilitation. Lisfranc-type injuries were not even in the NFL lexicon until a few years ago, but are increasingly common now.
Such injuries, and the rehabilitation resulting from them, can be very tricky because of the delicate nature of the tissues involved, and the typically slow healing time for many foot injuries.
The injury occurred in the fourth quarter of the game, when Jones planted his left foot and it stuck in the turf as he neared the goal line. Jones described the pain as "the worst" he had ever experienced during his football career.
Jones was examined by a specialist in the Detroit area on Monday. On Tuesday, he will travel to Charlotte, N.C., for a second opinion on the foot but is all but resigned to surgery.
Lions linebacker Teddy Lehman, who had 2005 surgery to repair a Lisfranc injury, needed more than a year to recover, and still has pain and stiffness in his foot, he said. Other players with similar injuries have recovered quicker, but the track record for coming back from Lisfranc injuries has been unpredictable.
"Whatever I do [in terms of treatment], I want to do it pretty quickly, so I can start rehabbing as fast as possible," Jones said. "I mean, I know this is pretty bad, but I can overcome it with hard work. I'll do what [the doctors] tell me, but I'm going to work as hard as possible to make this as short as it can be."
The loss of Jones, the Lions' first-round pick in the 2004 draft, could well have both short- and long-term ramifications for the team. His top two backups at the start of the season, Shawn Bryson and rookie Brian Calhoun, are both on injured reserve. The only two tailbacks on the active roster are journeymen Arlen Harris and Aveion Cason, so the Lions may have to sign another runner for the final three games.
And if Detroit can't count on Jones for the start of camp in July, or perhaps the beginning of next season even, if could affect the Lions' plans for the 2007 draft.
In 12 games this season, Jones carried 181 time for 689 yards and six touchdowns, for a Detroit unit that ranks last in the NFL in rushing yardage. The former Virginia Tech standout rushed for 1,133 yards as a rookie in 2004 and then his production dropped to 664 yards in 2005.
Jones, 24, has 608 career carries for 2,486 yards and 16 touchdowns and also has registered 109 catches for 809 yards and three touchdowns. He has appeared in 40 games with 39 starts.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.