Next Pats Podcast

Would Pats take a chance on Michael Penix Jr. despite his injury history?

The Washington QB has suffered injuries to both shoulders and twice torn his right ACL.

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If the New England Patriots pass on a quarterback with their first-round pick in next year's NFL Draft, they could still find a stud in Round 2.

Michael Penix Jr. is among the top QBs in the 2024 draft class and a solid fallback option if USC's Caleb Williams or UNC's Drake Maye don't land in Foxboro. The Washington QB has enjoyed a stellar 2023 season, leading the Huskies to a Pac-12 championship while throwing for 4,218 yards and 33 touchdowns.

So, what's the catch?

Penix Jr.'s injury history could scare off some teams on draft day. He tore his right ACL as a true freshman, underwent surgery for a dislocated SC joint in his non-throwing (right) shoulder as a redshirt freshman, tore his right ACL again the following year, and suffered a season-ending AC separation in his throwing shoulder a few weeks after returning from his second ACL tear.

Is that enough for the Patriots to pass on Penix Jr. despite their glaring need at the QB position? Dr. Jessica Flynn joined Phil Perry on a new Next Pats Podcast to share her insight, starting with Penix's two shoulder injuries.

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"The sternoclavicular (SC) joint injury, it's an emergency when it happens because there's a lot of important blood vessels and things like that behind that joint. But once the athlete recovers, particularly a quarterback in the non-throwing hand, much less of a concern. Even if there's a little bit of instability afterwards, much less of a concern," Flynn said.

"The AC joint injury, we've seen how many quarterbacks go out with this injury just this season alone. (Indianapolis Colts QB) Anthony Richardson had a pretty high-grade injury. It's a little bit more of a concern, but the fact that he's able to throw after that injury is much more reassuring. So any time from that injury is going to help to reassure everyone he's throwing fine, it's not affecting his form."

Unsurprisingly, Flynn expressed far more concern over Penix Jr.'s right ACL.

"The knee issues are concerning unfortunately for him. When one ACL happens, that's a pretty common injury. But when you start to see a second, there are a few different concerns," Flynn said. "One is, is he just at risk for having these really high-level injuries in general? There really hasn't been found any kind of gene or anything that associates Achilles, ACL tears, but a lot of researchers think there is something that links them, and we do tend to see these things happen sort of in groups in professional athletes. So that's kind of number one.

"But number two is more just that damage, that added damage to that one knee. And so, I think the important thing for him is knowing, is this knee stable? It's been reconstructed multiple times, so you're going to want the team to get a really good examination of him. Obviously, they're going to want to see imaging. And the second issue is, OK, now he's had two injuries, we know one ACL injury can lead to some arthritis, so is there something degenerative going on already in this young quarterback at the start of his career? Those are the two big red flags."

Nowadays, many athletes return even stronger after undergoing ACL surgery. The recovery process is quicker, and the injury isn't commonly considered a potential career-ender as it was in years past.

However, as Flynn notes, Penix Jr. tearing the same ACL twice indicates a potentially chronic issue that other athletes have been unable to play through long-term.

"This is the kind of injury that does end careers, unfortunately, but it doesn't happen overnight. Yes, athletes can play through this until the day when they can't. And we've seen other quarterbacks in the NFL who have had significant osteoarthritis in their knees play through it. And honestly, we didn't really hear much about it. ...

"It's not just one ACL, it's two ACLs. So now he's had two ACL (injuries) that put him at risk of an ACL injury in the other knee. And we've seen athletes go through this. I mean, we know (former Patriots wide receiver) Malcolm Mitchell's history. He really struggled. Obviously, it's a different position, but he really struggled with ACL injuries. And then, you know, I have a good friend, Jake Butt, played tight end at Michigan, looked like he was going to be a star in the NFL and just could not stay on the field because of the ACL injuries and secondary arthritis in the knees."

Also in the episode:

  • What are the Patriots' best options in the 2024 NFL Draft if they land the No. 2 pick?
  • Options for the Patriots if they trade down
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