As a nose tackle, he is not on a lot of the nickel packages. Raji plays approximately 35 snaps per game. The loss will not hurt the Packers in the passing game, but it will significantly impact their running game. Stopping the run has become something Raji was beginning to excel at.
While the 49ers do not play the Packers this season, many believe Green Bay is a playoff threat. As a fan of the game, seeing any athlete go down due to injury is unfortunate. Some have questioned why Ray McDonald was able to play through a torn biceps or why it is expected Glenn Dorsey could return in 3 to 4 months from the date of his injury, but Raji cannot.
First of all, while many of these athletes provide a rehabilitation benchmark, no injury is exactly the same. Even though all three (McDonald, Dorsey and Raji) suffered from a torn biceps, they are three different injuries.
Tendons attach muscle to bone. If you tear the biceps tendon at the shoulder, you may lose some strength in your arm and be unable to forcefully turn your arm from palm down to palm up. But, many people can still function with a biceps tendon tear if it's torn at the shoulder. If you tear the biceps tendon at the elbow, you will lose strength in your arm and be unable to forcefully turn your arm from palm down to palm up. So, location of the tear is significant.
McDonald, for example, sustained a partial tear in 2013 and was able to play the remaining of this season. But, as you might recall, McDonald gradually lost strength and risked a complete biceps tear in the process. But, he was able to play through the pain, which is possible if the biceps tear is torn near the shoulder. There are actually two tendons at the shoulder and one at the elbow. This means if the tear occurs at the shoulder, it is possible the other tendon can compensate, if the partial tear is not greater than 50%.
The nature and extent of Glenn Dorsey's partial tear is not entirely known. Per usual, the 49ers have been very tight-lipped about the biceps tear. We know he needed surgery and if surgery was necessitated, the tear was likely greater than 50% or at the elbow. In most cases, tears of the distal biceps tendon (at the elbow) are complete. This means that the entire muscle is detached from the bone and retracted into the shoulder.
My belief is Dorsey suffered a tear at the long head of the biceps tendon (at the shoulder). The short head of the biceps rarely tears. Because of this second attachment, many people can still use their biceps even after a complete tear of the long head. Once surgically repaired, it is not uncommon for someone to return to prior athletic activity in 3 to 4 months.
As we know, it is the general belief Dorsey is the strongest candidate for Injured Reserve with Return Designation. According to the rules, the team may not make the designation until September 2. Therefore, if 49ers choose to designate Dorsey, he will likely make the 53-man roster on August 30. After the team makes the designation, it will create an open roster spot. If you want to brush up on the PUP, NFI, IR rules, you can refer to my article written last month.
Considering the reports indicating Raji is lost for the season, the most likely reason is he suffered a tear at the biceps. The tendon is most likely detached from the bone and has retracted into the shoulder. Post surgery, the tendon heals in approximately 2 or 3 months, but only with very restricted activity. Further, heavy lifting and vigorous activity is usually avoided for several months. It is a very slow process and commitment to the rehab plan makes the difference when it comes to complete recovery. Simply put, it requires more time and it is unrealistic to expect Raji sooner if this is the case.
So, as we continue to see so many defensive players come up with arm injuries, perhaps this explanation with help to differentiate why players are able to return and why some do not.