NFC West: Injury situations that matter


Arizona: The Week 6 bye should serve the Cardinals well on the health front. A hamstring injury continues to sideline veteran tight end Todd Heap. Depth at tight end has been a strength for the Cardinals since the team added Heap, Jeff King and rookie Rob Housler. A fourth tight end, Jim Dray, returned to practice this week after recovering from a pectoral injury. The bye gave left guard Daryn Colledge (concussion) and right tackle Brandon Keith (knee) additional down time. Jeremy Bridges started the most recent game at right tackle. Joey Porter was limited in practice, presumably because the Cardinals want to keep him as fresh as possible. Porter has played nearly 80 percent of the defensive snaps this season.

St. Louis: Sam Bradford's high-ankle sprain is the big story for the Rams. ESPN's Adam Schefter expects Bradford to start against Dallas. Bradford is not likely to practice before Friday. He's wearing a walking boot. The team plans to make a final determination on Bradford after watching him practice Friday. The team is anxious to get Bradford onto the field with newly acquired receiver Brandon Lloyd. The question for the Rams will be whether or not letting Bradford play will put him at additional risk for injury in the short term. Bradford will likely have to battle this injury to some extent for the rest of the season. With less mobility, he'll need to get rid of the football more quickly, a point of emphasis anyway. There were some concerns Sunday that left tackle Rodger Saffold might not be ready, but the injury turned out to be a contusion on the fibula, not so much a sprained ankle. Saffold practiced Wednesday and will start Sunday barring a setback. The Rams also could welcome back cornerback Marquis Johnson from the physically unable to perform list. He's practicing, and the team does need depth at the position. The Rams have not yet activated Johnson, however.

San Francisco: The 49ers could welcome back receiver Braylon Edwards following the Week 7 bye. The team has weathered depth issues at receiver pretty well in part because tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker provide additional options in the passing game. They have combined for four touchdowns over the past two games. Edwards should become a difference-maker once he returns. The landscape has changed for some of the other 49ers players getting closer to returning from injuries. Tramaine Brock will face an uphill fight bumping rookie Chris Culliver out of the rotation at cornerback. Moran Norris could return at fullback, where Bruce Miller has shown considerable improvement.

Seattle: Charlie Whitehurst is preparing to start at quarterback while Tarvaris Jackson continues to recover from a pectoral injury. Coach Pete Carroll was vaguer than vague in describing the situation Wednesday, other than to say Whitehurst will get the meaningful practice reps. The dropoff from Jackson to Whitehurst is either small or does not exist, depending on your view. The Seahawks want to evaluate both quarterbacks this season. Why not give Jackson time to make a fuller recovery while taking a look at Whitehurst? The Seahawks also like Portis quite a bit. I could see them preparing Portis for the No. 2 role this week and even finding a way to get him on the field if an opportunity presented itself. Carroll has every incentive to keep the Browns guessing. The Seahawks plan to welcome back left guard Robert Gallery following groin surgery. This will mark a quick recovery. Gallery was struggling before undergoing the surgery. If the procedure frees him to regain past form, the offensive line could take a step forward. With cornerback Marcus Trufant going on injured reserve, Walter Thurmond takes over the starting job. There should be little or no dropoff in the immediate term. Another corner, Roy Lewis, is eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list. The Seahawks could use the depth with Trufant out. Left tackle Russell Okung has yet to regain form since coming back from ankle injuries, in my view. But there's no question about his availability. Update: Tight end Zach Miller (neck) and center Max Unger (foot) did not practice Wednesday. Missing one or both would complicate matters relating to protection and the run game, particularly on the road.