Darren Waller hasn’t played a full game since week four. He injured his hamstring on the eighth snap of the Raiders week five game against the Chiefs and has yet to see the field since then.
For some, that may not seem like a mysterious or unusual thing. After all, it’s a hamstring and depending on the severity, players can be lost for the season with those injuries.
The thing is, though, it seems clear Waller’s injury isn’t on the serious side.
Following that Chiefs game the Raiders had their bye week for Waller to rest up. He wasn’t ready to return after the bye when the Raiders faced the Texans at home, but prior to that game, I spotted him running drills on the field with a trainer and noted that he showed no obvious signs of the injury.
I am in NO WAY saying he wasn’t or isn’t injured. It was merely an observation that seemed to suggest that he could be back sooner rather than later. So, when he returned to practice the following Wednesday, that seemed to confirm what I had seen from him prior to Sunday’s game.
Then Waller was limited in practice all week and once again didn’t play when the team faced the Saints in Week 8. Then again in Week 9 against the Jaguars.
And this point everyone is wondering what the deal is with his hamstring injury. That everyone includes head coach Josh McDaniels.
“I think we’re in the same boat,” McDaniels said of Waller’s weekly unknown status.
“You’ll see him today and hopefully we take another step forward,” he said with a pronounced shrug. “I’m not a doctor, I don’t have a medical degree and it’s very difficult to predict some of these things. Muscles and those kinds of things are always a little tricky, especially for a player who’s number one skill, or certainly one of his top traits is his ability to run and open up and go. So, it’s not…I don’t know…there’s no timetable. Some guys come back a little quicker than others.
“At the end of the day, the reality is if you come back too quickly from one of these, you usual end up out longer. So, we’re just trying to let his body tell us when the right time is and hopefully that’s sooner rather than later, but we can’t, we just can’t do it magically snap our fingers and make it go away. So, we’ll give it another shot this week and hopefully we can turn the corner.”
There’s no question that not having their Pro Bowl tight and and one of the its top targets is frustrating. The fact that they clearly expected he would be back sooner than the four weeks it’s been so far only adds to that frustration.
However, as McDaniels said, injuries like this can be tricky. These players can’t try to go if there is still any lingering concerns it could lead to a more serious injury. If Waller and/or those who are examining him don’t believe it’s safe for him to go — regardless of how healthy he may appear to the naked eye — then all the Raiders can do is wait until they are given the go-ahead.