NFL Nation: Fantasy NFL
C.J. Spiller, ankle (questionable), and Fred Jackson, knee (probable): Both backs took hits that left a mark last Sunday; Spiller sprained his left ankle and Jackson sprained his medial collateral ligament (MCL).
Jackson, familiar with the nature of an MCL sprain after suffering a similar injury last season, indicated his ailment this time around was far less serious and that he fully expected to play Thursday night. He seemed to back that up by participating in practice this week, albeit on a limited basis and sporting a brace. While knee braces do not come with a guarantee of preventing injury, they can be particularly helpful with medial ligament sprains. Reinforcements along the inner aspect of the brace can help provide good resistance against medial (valgus) stress, which would bow the knee inward, stressing the MCL. Jackson, listed as “probable,” is expected to play. There don't appear to be any major concerns about him being limited.
Spiller, however, might be a different story. He came into last Sunday’s game with a quad injury, but after practicing in full every day, did not appear to be limited ... until the ankle injury. After spraining his ankle, Spiller carried the ball just two more times and expressed uncertainty as recently as Tuesday about his status for Thursday night. "If I can go, I'll go," Spiller said. "If I can't, I can't." According to ESPN.com’s Mike Rodak, Spiller was still walking with a “heavy limp” after Tuesday’s practice, where he was at least able to do some jogging.
Jogging or not, it’s clear his ankle will not be at full health just four days after suffering the injury. Even if Spiller -- who practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday -- is active, he seems to be in line for less work than usual, particularly if he cannot run effectively. The biggest hint that the Bills are concerned came in the form of adding another running back, practice squad player Ronnie Wingo, to the travel list. Rodak, citing a league source, said Wingo will travel with the team, but the Bills have not yet decided whether to activate him. The Bills also have Tashard Choice, who stepped in last Sunday when both Spiller and Jackson were ailing and could be in line for more action on Thursday. Spiller’s status may come down to pregame warm-up tests to see how his ankle tolerates planting and cutting.
Steve Johnson, hamstring (probable): Johnson’s presence on the injury report because of his hamstring is nothing new, and he is expected to play Thursday night. Given the short week -- not to mention the tricky nature of hamstring injuries -- Johnson was held to limited practices throughout the week.
To put it mildly, Johnson did not have his best outing last Sunday (one reception for a 1-yard loss on six targets), perhaps due in part to not physically being at his best. He dealt with a hamstring injury in the preseason as well, pulling up while running a route just days into training camp. A sore hamstring can be a receiver’s nemesis, making it difficult to get an edge on separation or limiting vertical range. This week, Johnson goes go toe-to-toe with Browns cornerback Joe Haden, which doesn’t make things any easier.
Despite not practicing Wednesday or Thursday, Fitzgerald made it clear he plans to play; when told there was a school of thought that he should sit out Week 3 to let his hamstring improve, Fitzgerald said, “[I’ve] Never been to that school before,” according to Darren Urban of azcardinals.com. It reflects the work ethic of an athlete who doesn’t just want to play on Sunday, but who also wants to be out there with his team during the week.
Although Fitzgerald wanted to practice Wednesday, head coach Bruce Arians was wisely trying to prevent any aggravation of the injury before Sunday. “He wants to practice -- I’m not letting him,” Arians said, according to the Arizona Republic. Despite not practicing with the team, Fitzgerald jogged and participated in drill work with members of the team’s medical staff on Thursday, as ESPN.com’s Josh Weinfuss reported. The fact that he is doing some running, even at less-than-full speed, is encouraging.
Fitzgerald could see some work during the team’s light Friday practice and is a good bet to take the field on Sunday. However, as is par for the course with hamstring injuries, how he fares on Sunday will not be known until the game is complete.
Danny Amendola, WR (groin): The last time we saw Amendola in a game was Week 1, when he left the field in the first half after sustaining further injury to the groin, yet returned in the second half for a gutsy finish. Then, he was out for Week 2, and the questions as to how long he would be absent began circling. There were various reports offering a wide range of missed time and a report from Fox Sports of Amendola seeking multiple opinions about his condition.
In essence, all are relevant. The uncertainty about his timetable reflects the true unknown status about how quickly Amendola can be expected to progress after sustaining a tear of muscle tissue in the groin area. There can be questions about when an injury to the groin warrants surgery, and the answer lies in the location and extent of the tear, along with the philosophy of the medical provider. As is the case with most things in medicine, the answers are not black and white, and there can be varying opinions.
What is known at this point is that there is no immediate plan to pursue surgery (which is not to say that he will or won’t require a procedure at some point in the future), and Amendola is undergoing conservative treatment and trying to work his way back on the field. His continued presence on the field for limited practices attests to this. During the early recovery phase, Amendola’s body needs to lay down scar tissue where the injury occurred. The challenge of balancing treatment with activity level comes in allowing enough rest for the tissue to repair itself yet maintaining enough flexibility to prevent excessive stiffness. Preserving strength of all the other core muscles is critical and maintenance of cardiovascular conditioning is essential to keeping his fitness level up. As the healing advances, the prospect of Amendola returning to competition can begin to be targeted.
Obviously, this all requires time, something not in abundance once the season is underway. However, the Patriots are generally cautious about not rushing their players back to action, which hints at more time off for Amendola. For now, consider him unlikely to play this week.
Rob Gronkowski, TE (back/forearm): Speaking of not rushing, the Patriots have been allowing Gronkowski to steadily increase his return to football readiness through limited practices. Approximately four months removed from surgery to replace the hardware in his forearm -- and just more than three months since back surgery -- he has more the look of a healthy player who is getting into football shape than one who is still ailing.
It should be noted, though, that all of the steps he is taking toward returning to football are part of the final phase of the rehab process. However, the Patriots are not going to let all that work go out the window in order to provide some immediate relief for Tom Brady. Gronkowski’s return is near, but it would be surprising if it’s this week in Tampa.
An update on three wide receivers whose status for Sunday remains uncertain, but are clearly progressing.
Roddy White (ankle), WR and Julio Jones (knee), WR, Atlanta Falcons: White has been playing despite not being truly recovered from a high ankle sprain suffered in the preseason, but he has not been himself. Now it seems less a question of whether he will take the field Sunday than whether he will look like the real Roddy White. White did not practice Wednesday and he indicated last week that fantasy owners should be concerned if he was not in practice. But things changed Thursday. White returned to the practice field on a limited basis, which is an improvement over last week, when he did not show up until Friday. If White can return for more tomorrow, it’s a good indication that he is moving in the right direction.
As for his fellow wideout, Jones practiced on a limited basis both Wednesday and Thursday as he continues to nurse a knee injury. The knee clearly didn’t keep Jones from performing last Sunday to the tune of 182 yards and a score. Continuing controlled practice activity during the week helps preserve that type of effort for Jones come Sunday. As of now, it appears Jones and a perhaps-improved White both will take the field against the Dolphins.
Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans (concussion): Johnson has been moving through a post-concussion progression throughout the week and rejoined his teammates for padded practice Thursday. According to ESPN.com’s Tania Ganguli, coach Gary Kubiak says all is shaping up right for Sunday. "All indications are he's onto the weekend, so we're good," Kubiak said. He went on to say that Johnson will hopefully see the “NFL’s doctor” within the next 24 hours; presumably, he was referring to the independent neurological consultant who must authorize final clearance to return to play. Based on his daily improvements, it appears Johnson is indeed in line for a return, barring any setbacks and pending physician approval.