The offensive line, to be sure, is one of the biggest questions for the Chiefs entering this season.
And while recent injuries sustained there certainly haven’t helped the situation, the latest news surrounding former first-round pick Eric Fisher certainly could have been worse.
Fisher, the Chiefs’ starting left tackle, suffered a high ankle sprain, trainer Rick Burkholder said Tuesday. But it appears the injury might not keep Fisher from playing when the regular season starts Sept. 13.
“Eric Fisher had a left ankle sprain yesterday — Allen Bailey landed on his left ankle,” Burkholder said. “It’s what we call a high ankle sprain. We don’t put out time frames because these are different. He’s literally day to day.”
Fisher limped to the sideline during training camp practice Monday after injuring his left ankle. He was taken to the locker room on a cart.
The recovery time frame for high ankle sprains can vary from one to eight weeks. For instance, while running back Jamaal Charles missed one game last season because of a high ankle sprain, safety Eric Berry ended up missing five.
“Everyone (knows) the high ankle sprain is worse than the low ankle sprain, but there’s different degrees to each — mild, moderate to severe,” said David J. Chao, a NFL team physician for 17 years. “So a Grade 1 high ankle sprain is better to have than a Grade 3 low ankle sprain, and a Grade 3 low ankle sprain is better to have than a Grade 3 high ankle sprain.”
Chao said he’d typically put the time frame for a mild high ankle sprain at about two weeks, and added that the fact Fisher could be seen putting weight on the ankle and rehabbing on the sideline during Tuesday’s practice was a very positive sign.
“If he (has no) cast or crutches, it’s not severe,” said Chao, who made it clear he has not examined Fisher. “If he’s working, then it’s of a mild variety. Especially as an O-lineman, I’d be surprised if he’s not out there in week one.”
Burkholder seemed similarly optimistic Fisher could make a quick return because of the amount of work he was able to do Tuesday, but declined to give a time frame.
“He did a lot of work today, reconditioning,” Burkholder said of Fisher. “That’s a positive he’s up on his feet. He’s worked with our group the last two years. We’re comfortable with him. We think he’s going to do very, very well with this left high ankle sprain.”
In Fisher’s absence Tuesday, fourth-year pro Donald Stephenson started at left tackle, while Jarrod Pughsley took Stephenson’s place at right tackle.
Veteran Paul Fanaika, who signed a three-year contract this offseason, also took a few first-team reps at right tackle, where the Chiefs are also without their starter, Jeff Allen, who suffered a sprained MCL in his knee during Saturday’s 34-19 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
Chao said a player with an MCL sprain could be out two weeks for a mild one, and six to eight for a severe one.
It is unclear how serious Allen’s knee sprain is, though Chao was optimistic he could return in time for the opener, since he — like Fisher — was seen was working out on the sideline Tuesday and o-linemen can generally return quicker from MCL sprains than players at other positions can thanks to knee braces.
Regardless, the timely return of both would certainly help the unit, which opens its season Sept. 13 at Houston, with reigning defensive player of the year J.J. Watt.
“Eighty percent is a good week in the NFL, so is (Fisher) going to be 100 percent week one? No,” said Chao, who added that Fisher could be more susceptible to aggravating the ankle when he returns. “But bottom line, if he’s walking on the sideline now, it’s sort of good news.”
The Star’s Blair Kerkhoff contributed to this report.