Arian Foster, the Houston Texan’s elite running back (and, more importantly, a key player on two of my fantasy teams) tore his right Achilles tendon on Sunday. He’s now on injured reserve, and is having his tendon surgically repaired. Foster is expected back in 6-9 months, i.e. for the start of next season. The question I’ll address here is how good we can expect Foster to be when he returns.
A torn Achilles tendon is a big deal for an athlete, and can be career threatening. It often leads to a loss of top end speed. This makes it a difficult injury for a wide receiver or cornerback to return from. Granted, DeAngelo Hall, a cornerback for the Washington Redskins, is playing this year following two surgical repairs to his Achilles tendon, but he also retore it after the first operation when he slipped in his kitchen getting a pizza.
In addition to a loss of top speed, following Achilles tendon repair the ability to change direction is often slower, and acceleration and explosion are also slightly decreased. Power, i.e. the ability to ‘push the pile’ however, can return to normal.
So what does this mean for Foster? At the NFL level, a hundredth of a second is a lot. And a tenth of a second is huge. Note how differently players who run a 4.7 second 40-yard dash are viewed compared to those who run a 4.6 40. Same for 4.6 vs 4.5 40. So for an ‘elite’ RB, however you define that, to get back to being ‘elite’ following this injury may be a tall order. Especially a RB who’s turning 30, with an extensive history of soft tissue injuries, and a lot of miles on his tires.
So, if Foster wants to return to playing in 2016 (as opposed to retiring), I wouldn’t bet against him. However, while he may continue to be a solid contributor for the Texans, it’s unlikely that he’ll be as good as he was.