How long is Derek Carr out? Injury timeline, updates, return date after Saints QB injures shoulder

Derek Carr had helped to lead the Saints to a 2-0 start to the 2023 season. But on Sunday, New Orleans lost not just its game to Green Bay, but its quarterback to injury.

Carr left Sunday’s game vs. the Packers in the middle of the third quarter, during which point the Saints were leading 17-0. He was ruled out for the remainder of the game and was replaced by Jameis Winston at quarterback.

The Saints wound up losing the game 18-17 on a late field goal, and could not kick a game-winner in the final minutes of the game.

The NFC South is a winnable division, and the Saints would appear to be the favorite to come away with the crown, particularly with Carr under center. But an injury to the quarterback could provide the opening teams like the Falcons and Buccaneers need to sneak in with a division title.

When could Carr return to the Saints? Here’s what you need to know.

MORE: Will the Jets bench Zach Wilson?

How long is Derek Carr out?

If nothing else, the Saints can at least find comfort knowing their quarterback will likely return at some point in 2023. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on Sunday Carr had dodged a season-ending injury.

Carr had been taken to a local hospital for evaluation, and that after several tests, it was concluded that he sustained an AC joint sprain to his right shoulder but had no other damage to his shoulder.

As for a timeline for Carr, that remains to be seen as of Sunday. Rapoport said the team will learn how much time Carr will miss based on the swelling in his shoulder and by his mobility as he attempts to return. 

During his Monday press conference, Saints head coach Dennis Allen confirmed the reports of a sprained AC joint and said he was week to week, though did not rule him out for the team’s Week 4 matchup with the Buccaneers.

“I think we dodged a bullet there in terms of anything of real significance,” Allen said. “I think we’re kind of saying week to week, but again, he felt better today than he did yesterday, so we’re not making any decisions today.” 

However, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Monday that it would be “a surprise” if Carr plays Sunday. The team is going to take a “cautious” approach with their veteran quarterback, so backup Jameis Winston will likely get a chance to start against the Buccaneers.

What is Derek Carr’s injury?

Carr is reported to have suffered an AC joint sprain. The AC joint is where the collarbone meets the shoulder blade, according to Mass General Brigham, and a sprain can occur when a player falls directly on the shoulder, takes a hard hit to the shoulder or lifts a heavy object that stresses the joint.

Per Mass General Brigham, there are three different grades:

  • Grade 1: the person can still use the shoulder, but it has mild pain, swelling and tenderness. It is only a slight stretch with no tears
  • Grade 2: the person can use the shoulder, but will find movement difficult and pain can be caused without movement. It is a partial tear of the ligaments.
  • Grade 3: the person will have greatly reduced movement in the shoulder and will find stability is impacted by the lack of ligament strength. It is a complete tear of the AC joint or rupture of both main ligaments.

There is, as of yet, no exact reporting on which grade of the injury. But according to Mass General Brigham, surgery to repair the ligament could require multiple months. Given Rapoport’s report, it would appear he will be able to heal without surgery.

Derek Carr injury timeline

Sept. 25: ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that it would be “a surprise” to see Carr play in Week 4. The Saints are expected to be “cautious” in assessing his timetable to return.

Sept. 25: Allen confirms Carr has sprained his AC joint, but notes that while the injury is week-to-week, the Saints aren’t ruling out the quarterback returning in Week 4 against Tampa Bay.

Sept. 24: Carr is sacked by Rashan Gary in the third quarter of the Saints’ 18-17 loss to the Packers. He had X-rays at the stadium before going to a hospital to receiver further evaluation, where it was determined he had an AC joint sprain.

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