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NFC West: Injury situations that matter

11/16/2011

Arizona: Kevin Kolb's turf-toe injury is more than just a turf-toe injury. He's also dealing with a bone bruise along the outside of the same foot -- his right one, which takes most of the pressure when Kolb plants to throw. That bone bruise makes it tougher for Kolb to compensate for the toe injury by distributing additional weight elsewhere on the foot. As a result, he's struggling to come back quickly and could miss the Cardinals' game against San Francisco on Sunday. Kolb was already struggling in a new offense. He hasn't practiced in recent weeks, making it tougher for the team to feel good about playing him without a full week of practice. John Skelton appears likely to make a third consecutive start, particularly after winning his previous two. Tight ends Todd Heap (hamstring) and Rob Housler (groin) did not practice. Beanie Wells (knee) also sat out. Wells will presumably play, but the ground game faces a tough enough challenge against the 49ers without injuries diminishing Wells and the tight ends.

St. Louis: Injuries have severely depleted the Rams, but most of their remaining players practiced Wednesday, including left tackle Rodger Saffold (concussion). Right tackle Jason Smith (concussion), running back Cadillac Williams (calf) and receiver Brandon Gibson (groin) were the exceptions. The team isn't relying heavily on any of those players. The Rams do face severe challenges in their secondary, however. Starting cornerback Al Harris landed on injured reserve. The team signed corner Nate Ness from its practice squad. The Rams have few options at corner heading into a game against a Seattle team with vastly better receivers than the Rams faced in Week 17 last season. That is a concern. Losing tight end Michael Hoomanawanui to a season-ending knee injury will also hurt. He's been playing extensively for weeks. Rookie tight end Lance Kendricks practiced on a limited basis Wednesday despite a foot injury.

San Francisco: Frank Gore's knee injury and staying power for the remainder of the season are top concerns for the 49ers. Gore was not practicing Wednesday, according to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. Last season, Gore suffered a season-ending hip injury against Arizona in Week 12, missing the final five games. The Cardinals are on the schedule one week earlier this season. Getting Gore healthy for a playoff run seems like the wisest course, in my view. Gore told reporters his position coach, Tom Rathman, held him out against the Giants as a precaution. How much Gore practices later in the week will be telling. Inside linebacker Patrick Willis suffered injured ribs against the Giants. He's expected to practice and play.

Seattle: Coach Pete Carroll tends to see the glass half full when it comes to injuries. He was optimistic Wednesday about having strong safety Kam Chancellor and two of the team's top receivers, Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin, after those three players suffered concussions against Baltimore. The key will be seeing how much those players practice over the next couple days. Chancellor's availability is a key issue for the Seahawks against Rams running back Steven Jackson. Seattle is a tougher, more physical team on defense with Chancellor. The Seahawks' injury situation at receiver is important, but the team plans to continue emphasizing its ground game. That will presumably remain a top priority against the Rams, who have allowed more rushing yards than any team in the league (despite improvements lately). Update: Rookie right tackle James Carpenter suffered a knee injury of unknown severity during practice Wednesday. Breno Giacomini would replace him in the line up if necessary. Losing Carpenter would set back the Seahawks' long-term plans for the line without necessarily hurting their chances against the Rams. Carpenter has struggled in pass protection.

Note: The 49ers and Seahawks are still practicing. I'll update with additional information as warranted.