Justin Herbert took a hard shot to the ribs late in Thursday night’s game. He remained down on the field for awhile and eventually walked off with help from the medical staff. Herbert ended up missing just one play, but he was clearly in a lot of pain. Herbert looked like he could barely move, yet somehow he delivered some incredible passes to lead the Chargers to a late cover (+4). It was a gutsy performance.
Following the game Herbert was sent for x-rays on his ribs. Brandon Staley said Herbert is “ok,” yet he wasn’t available to the media due to the injury. He will be sent for further tests on Friday, which may include an MRI or CT scan. An x-ray can pick up most rib fractures, but not always the smaller ones. Another concern is a rib cartilage injury (and based on the location this is what I believe he is dealing with), which these other scans would identify. This cartilage connects the ribs to the sternum (breastbone). It’s located in the lower portion of the chest, near where Herbert was hit. Rib cartilage injuries are often even more painful than a rib fracture, and they also have a tendency to linger and be very slow to heal.
Even though Herbert finished out the game Thursday night, it’s no guarantee he is ready to go in week 3. Time is on his side as he will have 10 days. Even if there isn’t a fracture I’m expecting him to do very little at practice. Bruised ribs can take weeks to heal and are very painful because they affect the simplest things like breathing and walking. Rib cartilage injuries typically take anywhere from one to two months, depending on the severity.
Tua Tagovailoa and Drew Brees are two QBs we recently missed time with rib injuries. Brees was a worst case scenario as he broke 11 ribs and suffered a punctured lung. Tua missed around a month with fractured ribs last season. Matt Stafford suffered damage to the rib cartilage in 2020 but toughed it out and played in the next game. Joe Burrow tore rib cartilage during the National Championship game in his final college season. One of the many injuries Andrew Luck suffered late in his career was torn rib cartilage, along with a lacerated kidney.
The one thing all of these guys have in common is they talked about how incredibly painful their injuries were. As a quarterback you rotate your upper body on ever single play, which affects the ribs. Then you have to be prepared to take a hit. Even with a flak jacket for extra protection and an injection to help with the pain, playing through this can be a challenge. Consider Herbert questionable for week 3.