Wednesday, December 21, 2011
NFC West injury situations that matter
By Mike Sando
Arizona: Quarterback Kevin Kolb practiced on a limited basis while continuing his return from a concussion. Coach Ken Whisenhunt remained noncommittal on a starter for Saturday's game at Cincinnati. Kolb has suffered significant injuries in two of his past three starts, missing games following each one. Kolb appears unlikely to start if his reps do not increase Thursday. The team has won enough with backup John Skelton to consider giving Kolb additional recovery time. Right tackle Brandon Keith (ankle) did not practice Wednesday. Jeremy Bridges' presence gives the team insurance. Beanie Wells remained limited while dealing with a knee injury likely to bother him the rest of the season. Wells' production has fallen off as a result. The team's decision to place outside linebacker Joey Porter on injured reserve changes nothing. The team has gone with younger alternatives, and Porter wasn't playing.
St. Louis: The Rams remained without quarterbacks Sam Bradford (ankle) and A.J. Feeley (thumb). Bradford has shed the walking boot he wore last week, but it's unclear whether he'll return this week. Kellen Clemens could start again. The Rams were also without cornerbacks Justin King (shoulder) and Josh Gordy (abdominal) in practice Wednesday. Depth at the position is pretty much tapped out, a huge concern heading into a matchup against Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Mike Wallace. Gordy appears more likely than King to play. Earlier injuries at wide receiver became more significant Wednesday when the NFL levied a four-game suspension against rookie receiver Austin Pettis for using performance-enhancing drugs. The team's best receiver, Brandon Lloyd, did practice fully. He had been ill.
San Francisco: Receiver Ted Ginn Jr. (ankle) and linebacker Patrick Willis (hamstring) missed practice. Ginn's injury is new. Willis remains on course to return at an unstated point in the future. As much as the 49ers want Willis back on the field right now, they need to make sure he's ready for the postseason. Hamstring injuries tend to recur, so the team might be erring on the side of caution. Left tackle Joe Staley did not finish the game Monday night after suffering a bruised leg. The 49ers did not list him on their injury report Wednesday. The team listed receiver Braylon Edwards as limited with a knee injury. He was inactive for performance-related reasons Monday night, but with Ginn's status unclear, the team needs numbers at the position. Ginn's absence would leave the 49ers with a less dynamic and experienced return specialist, a concern heading to Seattle.
Seattle: An ankle injury limited receiver Doug Baldwin in practice Wednesday. Having Baldwin ready is crucial now that Mike Williams has joined Sidney Rice on the Seahawks' injured reserve list. Baldwin is the team's best option on third down. The Seahawks figure to need their tight ends in protection against the 49ers' formidable defensive front seven. Linebacker David Hawthorne's full participation in practice despite a knee injury comes as a positive sign. The team has been resting Hawthorne during the week recently. Getting Hawthorne healthier is important because the team's depth at linebacker has run low in recent weeks. The 49ers favor heavier personnel groupings, so a full contingent of linebackers would have greater value this week than in some others.