What a doctor and history say on Bradley Chubb, Jaelan Phillips injuries and timetables

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The injuries to Dolphins outside linebackers and top pass rushers Bradley Chubb and Jaelan Phillips not only sidelined them for the season’s most critical games, but they also create some uncertainty about their availability to start next season.

Chubb sustained a torn ACL in his right knee on Dec. 31 at Baltimore, and recovery for that injury often takes nine to 12 months.

New York-based doctor Andrew Pearle said in a phone interview that players are returning from torn ACLs more quickly, and nine months isn’t unrealistic in his view.

If Chubb needs nine months, he wouldn’t be available until early October. An 11-month recovery would keep him sidelined until early December.

“He may start next season on PUP [physically unable to perform list], but the idea is he would contribute next season,” said Pearle, who is chief of the Sports Medicine Institute and a team physician for the New York Mets.

Running back Adrian Peterson came back from a torn ACL after eight months. But edge player Chase Young tore his ACL and patellar tendon in Week 10 of 2021 and didn’t return until Week 16 of 2022.

Chubb sustained a torn ACL In his other knee — his left knee — in a game for the Broncos on Sept. 29, 2019. He played in the Sept. 14 opener of the 2020 season.

Safety Brandon Jones is the most recent example of a Dolphins player who returned this season from a torn ACL. He sustained the injury on Oct. 22, 2022, against Pittsburgh and came back to play in the Dolphins’ Sept. 10 opener this past season.

But the Dolphins limited Jones’ involvement in team drills in training camp because of the injury. And from an NFL calendar perspective, he sustained his injury two months and 10 days before Chubb did.

As for Phillips’ torn Achilles sustained Nov. 24 against the Jets, Pearle said he believes it’s realistic to expect Phillips back for the start of next season, after essentially 9 1 /2 months. But that’s far from guaranteed.

Returning from that injury typically takes nine to 12 months for NFL players, but a 2010 study by Lower Extremity Review said it often is closer to 11 months. Players usually need four to six months to get back to full activity but several more months to strengthen the repaired tendon. Phillips had his leg elevated on a scooter-type device in the locker room last Monday.

For Phillips, the nine-month mark would be Aug. 24, about two to three weeks before the start of the 2024 regular season. The 11-month mark would be Oct. 24.

But several players have easily beaten that timetable. Former Ravens Pro Bowl rusher Terrell Suggs returned five months and six days after surgery on a torn Achilles.

Others need longer.

Dolphins cornerback Nik Needham needed 13 months from his Achilles injury (Oct. 4, 2022) before the Dolphins were ready to use him in a game this past Nov. 5. But he could have played sooner if the Dolphins had wanted to push the issue.

A 2019 study, Factors affecting Return to Play after primary Achilles tendon tear: A cohort of NFL players, concluded this:

“We found that 61.3% of NFL players were able to successfully (Return to Play) at a mean 11.90 months following a primary (Achilles tendon) tear... Players who returned displayed a significant decrease in the number of games played in the return season when compared with seasons preceding injury. However, when we examined >1 season following return, (Achilles tendon) tears appeared to not affect ability, as there was no significant difference in pre- and post-injury number of games played or started. Our findings suggest that players may return to preinjury performance levels if given the opportunity.”

Pearle — who has not examined Chubb or Phillips — said “people can lose a step with an ACL or Achilles.”

But Chubb came back strong after his 2019 ACL injury. Pass rusher Brandon Graham had a career-high 11 sacks a year after tearing his Achilles.

Chubb, 27, had 74 tackles, 11 sacks and six forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in 16 games for the Dolphins this past season. Phillips, 24, had 43 tackles, 6.5 sacks and an interception in eight games in 2023.

One bit of good news: Drew Rosenhaus, the agent for impending free agent linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel, indicated on his weekly WSVN Fox Sunday night segment that Van Ginkel’s foot injury — sustained in the finale against Buffalo — will not sideline him into next season.

Rosenhaus said Van Ginkel will be back for “the offseason” and has interest in returning to the Dolphins. If the Dolphins can re-sign Van Ginkel, he would very likely begin the season as a starter if Chubb or Phillips isn’t ready for the opener.