Jacksonville fans watched in horror as franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence writhed in pain on the ground Monday night. After an awkward collision with his own lineman, Lawrence’s ankle bent in a way no ankle ever should. He slammed his helmet and pounded the turf before being helped off the field by trainers.
The whole scene was eerily similar to when Cleveland’s Nick Chubb and the Jets’ Aaron Rodgers saw their seasons end prematurely earlier this year. Would the Jaguars’ potential superstar face the same fate just 14 weeks into his sophomore campaign?
There’s optimism Trevor Lawrence’s injury (an ankle sprain, as @TomPelissero first reported last night) isn’t bad and that’s a credit to the #Jaguars QB’s flexibility. Not the first time he’s been rolled and avoided serious injury. This was last year. pic.twitter.com/N4ATyUKEtG— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) December 5, 2023
As Lawrence disappeared into the locker room, the whole NFL world held its breath. Initial tests brought guarded optimism, but Lawrence’s dramatic exit on crutches and in a boot led many to assume the worst. Here’s everything we know so far about Lawrence’s injury and what it means for the rising Jags.
The Nightmare Unfolds
After clawing their way back into a tight contest with the defending AFC champs, Jacksonville trailed Cincinnati 31-27 with just over 5 minutes remaining. Facing 3rd and 5 from their own 30-yard line, the Jaguars needed a big play to keep their comeback hopes alive.
Lawrence took a shotgun snap and felt the pocket collapsing around him. Stepping up to evade the rush, his own left tackle Walker Little inadvertently stepped on his quarterback’s ankle. Lawrence’s leg bent awkwardly underneath him, and the 6’6″ 220-pounder crashed hard to the turf.
He briefly tried getting to his feet but quickly fell back to the ground writhing in agony. Replays showed Lawrence’s ankle contorted in a way that no joint is designed to bend. The 23-year-old pounded the ground in frustration before trainers swarmed around him.
After several tense minutes with trainers huddled over the fallen quarterback, Lawrence was helped to his feet and limped off the field unsupported. He headed straight to the locker room, slamming his helmet down in disgust.
The entire scene was eerily reminiscent of Week 1 when Jets QB Aaron Rodgers saw his season end on almost the exact same field. Lawrence’s dramatic exit on foot led many to fear he had suffered a similar fate.
Guarded Optimism About Lawrence’s Prognosis
Despite the dramatic scene, initial tests delivered some positive news about Lawrence’s outlook. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported the early indication was just an ankle sprain. Depending on severity, that could put Lawrence back on the field within a few weeks.
Sprains are graded 1-3 depending on the level of ligament damage. Grade 1 sprains involve just stretching, while Grade 3 tears require surgical repair. Lawrence will undergo an MRI Monday to determine where his injury lands on that spectrum.
More optimism came from NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, who said sources felt “optimism” Lawrence’s issue “isn’t bad.” The fact he limped off under his own power also suggests his ligaments likely remained at least partially intact.
However, other reports counteracted that positive outlook. NFL Network’s Cameron Wolfe said Lawrence was unable to put any weight on the injured ankle leaving the X-ray room. He emerged from the locker room on crutches wearing a protective boot.
An air cast immobilizes the ankle to protect from further damage. It’s often used with more severe high ankle sprains or fractures rather than minor tweaks.
Coach Doug Pederson declined to speculate on a timeline for Lawrence’s return. That likely won’t crystallize until Lawrence meets with foot and ankle specialists in the coming days.
Best Case Scenario for Lawrence’s Return
If Monday’s MRI confirms just a low-grade Grade 1 sprain, Lawrence could conceivably be back on the field within 1-3 weeks. He’d likely miss Jacksonville’s upcoming matchups with Tennessee and Dallas. But he’d have an outside shot at returning for the Jaguars’ Week 15 contest against his hometown Cowboys.
The more likely scenario is an extended 3-6 week absence though. Grade 2 sprains with partially torn ligaments often sideline players for about a month. In that case, Lawrence would remain out through Jacksonville’s Christmas Eve tilt with the Jets before potentially returning for the regular season finale at Houston.
Lawrence has never missed significant time with injury, so the Jaguars training staff won’t rush him back before he’s 100%. But the club remains in playoff contention at 4-8, so there will be internal pressure to get Lawrence back ASAP if possible.
Worst Case Means Extended Absence
Given how ugly the injury looked in real time, it’s hard to rule out the worst-case scenario yet. If Lawrence suffered a complete ligament tear or associated fracture, he could land on injured reserve for the remainder of the year.
Lawrence seems to have avoided the fate of Jets QB Zach Wilson, who tore a ligament and tendon in his knee back in preseason. That required surgery and cost Wilson the first month of 2022.
But a serious Grade 3 sprain would still sideline Lawrence for at least 6-8 weeks — essentially the rest of the fantasy season. And an accompanying hairline fracture could complicate recovery further. Lawrence’s replacement CJ Beathard looked competent Monday, but he’s not the long-term answer.
Silver Lining — Lawrence Showed Toughness Before Injury
Up until the flukey injury, Monday night showcased Lawrence’s emergence into a true franchise QB. After an ugly rookie season, the 2021 No. 1 overall pick has thrived under coach Doug Pederson’s tutelage.
Lawrence entered Week 13 with a career-best 66% completion rate and 15:6 TD to INT ratio. His 289 passing yards per game ranked 5th league-wide, ahead of superstars like Patrick Mahomes.
But Monday’s national TV tilt was Lawrence’s best showing yet. He shook off two first-half picks to score on three straight second-half drives. Lawrence eluded rushers with slick moves then fired missiles downfield. He made key throws on the run that few QBs could execute.
“You saw his talent today,” Pederson said after the game. “You saw his strength, you saw his mobility … all the things you want out of your quarterback, he displayed that tonight.”
Just one quarter before the injury, Lawrence wowed the country by breaking four tackles on a winding scramble for a first down. That grit and playmaking ability signals big things ahead — if Lawrence can just stay healthy now.
The Road Ahead for Lawrence and Jacksonville
While Jags players reported Lawrence seemed “in good spirits” post-game, losing their offensive leader derails the momentum they’d built this season. After winning just four games total the previous two years, Jacksonville sat just one game back of the AFC South lead entering Monday night.
Now the focus shifts to managing Lawrence’s recovery while trying to stay afloat with veteran backup CJ Beathard. Seventh-round rookie Kyle Sloter provides QB depth but has never thrown an NFL pass.
If Lawrence misses extended time, Jacksonville can still lean on a formidable rushing attack featuring Travis Etienne Jr. and JaMycal Hasty. Plus, offseason additions Christian Kirk and Zay Jones emerged as Lawrence’s top targets.
But the Jags will need their young franchise QB back sooner than later. Coming off their first winning season since 2017, Tennessee remains the division favorite at 7-5. But there’s room for Jacksonville to overtake the struggling Colts (4-8-1) and unpredictable Texans (1-10-1).
The next few weeks will determine whether the Jags assert themselves as true contenders — or slide back to irrelevance in a loaded AFC. Jacksonville has shown impressive fight and resilience all year. Now Lawrence needs to do the same in battling back from injury.