The Buffalo Bills signed two key free agents in the first week: OG Connor McGovern and WR Deonte Harty. Both players have dealt with injuries in their career, but Deonte Harty carries far more risk.
OG Connor McGovern
Connor McGovern had a clean injury history in college, but his NFL career started off rough. McGovern sustained a pectoral tear during the offseason of his rookie season, which required surgery. This caused him to miss his entire rookie year in 2019. Fortunately, pectoral repairs do great in the NFL and have no effect on player’s performance after they return from surgery (1).
It was only until this past season, 2022, that McGovern dealt with another significant injury. He sustained a high-ankle sprain, which caused him to miss two games. He was able to play out the rest of the season, so it appears this is not an ailment that will travel with him.
Injury Risk: Minimal
WR Deonte Harty
Formerly known as Deonte Harris, Harty has an extensive injury history. In college, Harty shined at D2 Assumption University. However, he missed three games in college for unknown reasons (one Freshman year, two Sophomore year). Once he joined the Saints in the NFL, Harris’ injury history grew extensively.
In his rookie season, 2019, Harty missed two games for a hamstring injury. He was still very productive on special teams and was recognized as an All-Pro returner. Unfortunately, his hamstring injuries re-occurred over the next two seasons. Recurring hamstring injuries cost him one game in each of his 2020 and 2021 seasons.
In 2020, Harris’ second season, he also sustained a significant neck injury. After missing one game for a hamstring earlier in the season, Harris missed the final six games for a neck stinger. This is a substantial amount of time for a stinger, but he was able to return for the playoffs that season. After playing well in the Wild Card game, Harris had to exit the Divisional Playoff game with another stinger. Although the neck issue has not surfaced since, it is still a sign that he has vulnerability in his cervical spine.
In 2021, Harris was able to remain in mostly good health. He missed one game for a hamstring injury, but otherwise was not scathed. It is important to note, he did miss an additional three games later in the season due to a suspension for a DUI in the offseason. He was allowed to serve this while he was on the COVID list.
Last year, 2022, Harris suffered his most significant injury. After missing Week 3 with a ‘foot’ injury, Harris returned for two games. but only played on special teams. He subsequently missed the rest of the season with a ‘turf toe’ injury. Although not widely public, Harty mentioned he had surgery during his introductory press conference with the Buffalo Bills.
Turf toe surgery has good, but not great outcomes. Only 80% of players return to play, and it carries around a seven-month recovery (2). Assuming Harty had his operation in early October 2022, he is at seven months post-surgery now. This tracks well to why he stated he is medically cleared to return right now.
Overall, Harty carries a significant injury history. Outside of the potential for chronic issues with his hamstring and neck, his recent toe injury should be the greatest concern. The Buffalo Bills’ medical staff was not able to evaluate him before he signed, and it is unknown how much his performance will be affected when he returns to play for the first time since injury in 2023. Fortunately, he is only 25 years old, which is young enough to bounce back and be productive.
Injury Risk: Significant
- Wise PM, Ptasinski AM, Gallo RA. Pectoralis Major Ruptures in the National Football League: Incidence, RTP, and Performance Analysis. Orthop J Sports Med. 2021 Jun 29; 9(6): 23259671211018707. doi: 10.1177/23259671211018707. PMID: 34262984; PMCID: PMC8252349.
- Benjamin B. Lindsey, MD, Neil K. Bakshi, MD, Kempland C. Walley, MD, David M. Walton, MD, James R. Holmes, MD, Paul G. Talusan, MD. Return to Play Following High-Grade Turf Toe Injuries in National Football League Athletes Biomechanical Comparison of Arthroscopic SMC Knot Constructs. The Orthopaedic Journal at Harvard Medical School. 2021 Dec; Vol. 22.
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