Key injury updates for fantasy football Week 4

AP Photo/Bill Wippert

Injury concerns regarding players heading into the Sunday and Monday games can be critical. Each week this Saturday blog entry will be dedicated to those who appear on the official Friday NFL injury report and how their status may impact fantasy teams.

For those who may be new to this blog: Injury reports provide some insight to a player's status. The NFL requires teams to submit their injury reports several times a week, identifying the body part that is involved in the injury. Early in the week, these reports will indicate whether a player is not practicing, is limited in practice or is a full participant in practice. On Fridays, all players on the injury report are assigned one of the following designations by their teams: probable, questionable, doubtful or out. The designations in this blog reflect the injury reports filed with the league office on Friday evening. Teams playing on Monday night do not have to issue their designations until Saturday.

The explanation for each designation is as follows.

Out: This is the easy one; the guy's not playing Sunday.

Probable (P): This designation indicates a player is expected to play, barring a setback between the final injury report and kickoff.

Questionable (Q): This is the most dreaded player designation yet it manages to be the one most frequently utilized by teams (sometimes to keep everyone guessing). It means a player's status is on the fence; there is technically a 50-50 chance that he's on the field come game time, although some teams utilize the questionable designation far more broadly. Whether a player ends up active or inactive often comes down to a game-time decision based on how he feels on gameday morning or how he performs during warm-ups. Final inactives are due 90 minutes before kickoff.

Doubtful (D): The doubtful designation means a player has theoretically less than a 25 percent chance of playing that week. Rarely does a player labeled as doubtful end up playing, unless he experiences a major turnaround before game time.

Each week in the Saturday blog, we run down a list of key fantasy players, by position, who appear in the Friday injury report along with the injured body part as listed on the report, player status and any relevant developments or insight. The primary fantasy positions are covered (quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end). At the end, key fantasy players listed Friday as "Out" for that week's games will appear as a group.

This represents the first of the bye weeks, so be sure to adjust your lineups accordingly. This week only two teams are on break: the New England Patriots and the Tennessee Titans. At least none of their players can get hurt this week. Theoretically.

There is also an early, early game Sunday morning. The Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets kick off their game in London at 9:30 a.m. ET meaning football begins three and a half hours early this week. For those wondering about the status of Jordan Cameron and Eric Decker, inactives should be reported around 8 a.m. ET.

Good luck in Week 4, everyone!


Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts, right shoulder, (Q): There are more questions surrounding the status of this quarterback in Week 4 than virtually any other player in the league, and the Colts haven’t helped answer them. There have been no details offered as to the specifics of Luck’s injury, leading many to speculate about the possibilities, but that still doesn’t resolve the issue of whether or not he takes the field Sunday. Perhaps it can be looked at in the context of his fellow signal-caller Drew Brees’ situation. Brees indicated his status was dependent on his “functionality,” in other words, whether he could be effective throwing the ball with velocity and accuracy. Presumably, Luck and the Colts are evaluating that same thing.

Luck has hardly thrown this week, relegated primarily to handoffs and watching teammate Matt Hasselbeck garner the first team reps in practice. The Colts also have their Week 5 game on Thursday night, and while they wouldn’t likely “save” Luck for next week, there may be genuine concern about his shoulder’s ability to tolerate not only four quarters of football this week but also four more just four days later. Unfortunately, his status is shaping up to be a game-time decision, and even once that is known, the unknown will be how well he can function and for how long.

Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints, right shoulder (P): As noted above, Brees has maintained this is about “functionality,” not pain tolerance. He simply needed to prove to himself and to his head coach that he could throw the ball with the necessary accuracy and velocity to allow him to be effective in a game situation. Last week, Brees acknowledged the bruised rotator cuff he is dealing with left him in a position where he feared he would hurt his team more than help it. Anyone who saw his struggles in Week 2 after suffering the injury knew what he meant.

His absence in Week 3 meant one less week of exposing the shoulder to further contact and fatigue while allowing Brees more days of recovery. This week Brees threw daily in practice and apparently answered the question of “functionality” to everyone’s satisfaction. The team lists him as probable, indicating they expect him to play. It doesn’t mean he is entirely out of the woods. There is certainly the possibility that during the course of the game his shoulder becomes problematic, but the optimism about him starting Sunday tells us both he and the Saints feel comfortable with his progress.

Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears, hamstring, (Q): Based on the early outlook for Cutler after he injured his hamstring attempting to make a tackle in Week 2, it appeared he was headed for a multiple-week absence. So is it really possible he could be under center this Sunday after sitting out just one game? Apparently it is. While coach John Fox is not expected to make a decision until after Saturday’s walkthrough, Cutler’s activity in practice this week indicates he has made at least some improvement and prepared as if he could start Sunday by splitting practice reps with Jimmy Clausen.

Cutler’s remarks about the potential challenges of returning while not fully healthy are telling: “If you do come back on a hamstring earlier than you want to, it's definitely going to be in the back of your mind because there's that slight pull," Cutler said. "It's an instinctual game out there. You're doing things on the run without thinking. To have to worry about a hamstring and moving around is something that can weigh on you." Indeed. And it may be for those reasons, particularly if Cutler is at all apprehensive come Sunday, that the Bears opt to hold him out an additional week. After all, they are seeing what the effects of a soft tissue injury setback are doing to their top receiving option, Alshon Jeffery, who missed the past two games and is questionable (although not expected to play, according to ESPN.com’s Jeff Dickerson) for Sunday.

If Cutler plays he will not be at full health. The hope would be that he is able to move around to the degree necessary to be effective and that he does not suffer a setback that could cost him additional time.

Johnny Manziel, right elbow and Josh McCown, right hand, Cleveland Browns, (P): Both quarterbacks are listed as probable meaning both will be available for the Browns. Both are listed as full practice participants throughout the week, but McCown continues to be the starter.

Running Backs

Arian Foster, Houston Texans, groin, (Q): All signs point to a go for Foster this Sunday although he remains a game-time decision, just as coach Bill O’Brien has said throughout the week. Last week there were hints, but this week the vibe in Texas is stronger. Foster has another full week of practice under his belt and O’Brien’s note that he would be a game-time decision at the start of the week indicated his confidence that Foster’s progress had brought him to the point of being ready for competition. And, as ESPN.com’s Tania Ganguli points out, it is the first week that Foster hasn’t been ruled out by Friday.

Beyond the physical readiness, Foster seemed to indicate he was working through any remaining mental hurdles when he spoke of the conversation he had with “the doctor that cut me open” (That would be Dr. William Meyers, a surgeon who specializes in the treatment of core muscle injuries). “He said the best rehab is actually getting out there and playing. He feels confident that the attachment is going to stay there, so that helps."

Does Foster make perhaps the most anticipated debut of the season? We won’t know for sure until pregame on Sunday, but you might want to get your popcorn ready.

Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers, ankle, (P): Lacy played through his sprained right ankle last week and suffered no apparent setbacks. In fact, Lacy upgraded his practice to full participation this week and appears to be improving. At probable, he is expected to play against the 49ers.

DeMarco Murray, Philadelphia Eagles, hamstring, (Q): Murray sat out last week’s contest after he tested his hamstring in pregame warm-ups and didn’t feel confident enough in it to play. He remains a question mark for this week, although his upgrade to full practice Thursday and Friday hints at him playing. As long as he doesn’t experience a problem prior to kickoff, it looks as if the Eagles will have Murray on Sunday.

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks, hamstring, (no designation yet): Ugh, a Monday night game and a running back who is a game-time decision. Lynch still hasn’t missed a game since 2011 (take note, that instance was a late scratch at game time) but his amount of playing time last week felt like an absence. Lynch reportedly had trouble getting loose in warm-ups, then left early with a hamstring ailment. A calf, then a hamstring combined with a chronic back problem spells trouble for a running back, especially in that it has the potential to present an ongoing threat. Lynch rarely misses a game, but one wonders what to expect if he does suit up Monday.

Joique Bell, Detroit Lions, ankle, (no designation yet): Bell didn’t practice Thursday or Friday due to the ankle injury suffered in last week’s contest. While the team has offered no specifics related to his injury, an ankle issue for a player who missed extensive preseason time due to lower extremity injuries is not a good combination. Be prepared for the possibility of a Lions backfield without Bell.

Addendum: ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein reports Bell has been ruled out for Monday night's game against the Seahawks.

Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers, tibia, (P): It’s not every day you see a player listed on the report because of a specific bone. Just the serious use of the medical term to designate the shin makes it sounds like a more serious problem than it is. Stewart did indeed suffer a shin contusion last week. Given the demands on the veteran as the lead back in the Panthers corps, it is understandable the team wanted to rest him before the game. He is expected to play as usual.

Chris Ivory, New York Jets, quadriceps, (P): Ivory’s status upgrade is a welcome sight after last week. Despite being active for last Sunday’s game, Ivory remained on the sideline as an emergency back. That will not be his role this week and coach Todd Bowles has been much more optimistic about Ivory’s status. He was a full participant Thursday and Friday and is expected to play Sunday. Note this is an early kickoff at 9:30 a.m.ET, as the Jets face the Dolphins in London.

Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, knee/quadriceps, (Q): After suffering an injury in Wednesday’s practice, Martin sat out Thursday but he did return Friday, as coach Lovie Smith said he would. His participation Friday was limited and the team would only go so far as to list him as questionable, but Martin doesn’t seem overly concerned. The expectation is that barring a setback, he is likely to play.

Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons, toe, (P): If there were any concerns, Freeman answered them by participating fully in Friday’s practice after limited sessions Wednesday and Thursday. The Falcons need Freeman Sunday, as Tevin Coleman is still sidelined with a rib injury and Freeman proved his value with a three-score performance last week.

Andre Ellington, Arizona Cardinals, knee, (Q): Ellington is making progress with his sprained knee, but early in the week head coach Bruce Arians noted that while he was running fast, Ellington was still challenged by “turning and stopping.” For now, Chris Johnson remains the starter, although Ellington does have a chance to play. How much he would play, if active, is not known, and whether that’s due to him still recovering or Johnson's play thus far -- or both -- is uncertain.

Reggie Bush, San Francisco 49ers, calf, (P): Bush has been absent for two games as he recovered from a calf injury sustained in the team’s season opener. After returning to full practice for the entire week, it appears Bush will be available to play against the Packers, but first games following calf injuries are always a test.

Jonas Gray, Miami Dolphins, calf, (Q): Add Gray to the list of skill players who are dealing with a calf injury and uncertain status. Gray practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and Friday, with a day off in between. Be sure to check pregame inactives to verify whether Gray will take the field for the Dolphins in London, and keep in mind the 9:30 a.m. ET start.

Wide Receivers

Randall Cobb, shoulder, (P) and Davante Adams, ankle, (Q), Green Bay Packers: Cobb has demonstrated success while playing through his right shoulder sprain and should do so again this week. He remains on the injury report, but every week he is able to play without a setback reflects progression in his healing. Meanwhile, Adams is challenged by his ankle, as was evident by his being forced out of last Monday night’s game after just three snaps. He did not practice all week and the door is ajar for him to play, but it’s hard to feel confident.

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons, toe/hamstring, (P): Jones is on fire despite being listed weekly on the injury report. Guarded practice efforts are part of the plan as the Falcons keep Jones ready for Sunday, and this week is no different. A day off Wednesday, limited work Thursday and a full practice Friday were his routine, and he is expected to play as usual on Sunday. The toe issue is not a “turf toe” ailment, according to Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, who said the issue was on the top of Jones’ toe, not the undersurface. As for Jones, he told ESPN.com’s Vaugn McClure he is “ready to go.” That’s good enough for me.

Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears, hamstring, (Q): Jeffery is not expected to play Sunday, despite being listed as questionable, according to ESPN.com’s Jeff Dickerson, citing a source. Jeffery has missed two consecutive games after suffering a setback in practice following the team’s season opener and is still trying to get back to normal health. He did practice on a limited basis throughout the week. According to Dickerson, Jeffery is targeting a return next week when the Bears face the Kansas City Chiefs.

Eric Decker, New York Jets, knee, (Q): Decker missed Week 3 after spraining his PCL in the Week 2 Monday night game and is again questionable heading into Week 4. Decker did travel with the team to London and was able to practice on a limited basis Thursday and Friday. According to ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini, coach Todd Bowles thought Decker looked better by Friday’s practice but still wanted to see “a little bit more” on Sunday morning before putting him in the lineup. The Jets have a bye in Week 5 so it would stand to reason if Decker appears to be favoring his knee that they might opt to rest him. It really will come down to how he feels and how he moves during pregame warm-ups Sunday. If you’re thinking of putting Decker in your lineup, get up early, as this game tips at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints, ankle, (P): Cooks played through his ankle injury last week and is expected to do so again Sunday. After two limited practices early in the week, Cooks was a full participant Friday. Despite the Sunday night game time, fantasy owners should have confidence in his availability.

T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts, knee, (P): Hilton again appears on the Colts’ injury report because of his knee but the probable tag tells us he is expected to play. Hilton was listed as a limited participant Friday but there has been no word of a setback. Expect Hilton to suit up against the Jaguars; the bigger question will be who is throwing him the ball.

Percy Harvin, Buffalo Bills, hip, (P): Harvin makes a routine appearance on the injury report but he is healthier than his teammate Sammy Watkins, who has already been ruled out. At probable, Harvin is expected to play.

John Brown, Arizona Cardinals, shoulder, (P): Despite appearing on the injury report because of a shoulder issue, Brown’s status is not in doubt. After limited practice Wednesday and Thursday, Brown was a full participant Friday and is expected to play.

Kenny Britt, St. Louis Rams, shoulder, (P): Britt is expected to play Sunday, despite the shoulder issue, as the probable designation indicates. He may have some competition for catches however as fellow wide receiver Brian Quick is expected to make his season debut.

Allen Hurns, Jacksonville Jaguars, thigh, (P): Hurns was on the injury report last week with the same issue and managed 70 yards and a touchdown. He was upgraded to full practice Friday and is expected to play this week.

Travis Benjamin, Cleveland Browns, ribs, (P): After a limited practice Wednesday, Benjamin was listed as a full participant both Thursday and Friday. The team obviously feels confident in his availability, since they list Benjamin as probable.

Tight Ends

Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys, ankle/knee, (P): He kept the playing streak alive at 190 games last week so you know there’s no doubt about his status for Sunday night. Witten is not past the multiple joint sprains, so he remains listed on the report, but he still knows how to show up for games.

Jordan Cameron, Miami Dolphins, groin, (Q): Cameron remains listed as questionable due to the groin injury but he managed to suit up last week and got through it without incident. He was limited in practice again each day this week, but barring a pregame setback, it appears he will play. This game starts at 9:30 a.m. ET, as the Dolphins are in London to face the Jets, so be sure to check his status early.

Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts, ankle, (Q): Allen sat out Week 3 because of his ankle injury, but he has a chance to play Sunday. After sitting out Wednesday’s practice, Allen returned on a limited basis Thursday and Friday, but whether it was enough to warrant a start remains to be seen. He indicated earlier in the week he was hopeful to play, but fantasy owners should check pregame inactives to be sure.

Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers, knee, (D): The doubtful tag tells you all you need to know. Look elsewhere for a tight end this weekend, as Davis is unlikely to play. Davis, who injured his knee last Sunday, has been unable to practice all week despite indications the injury was not serious. After a week of rest, perhaps Davis will be able to return next week.

Ladarius Green, San Diego Chargers, concussion, (Q): Green was upgraded to a full participation status in Friday’s practice, a sign of improvement after being limited all of last week and earlier this week. Still, he has to have demonstrated a positive response to any increase in work and must officially be cleared by an independent neuro consultant to return to play. His status as of now remains uncertain.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, shoulder, (D): Jenkins has moved up from the “out” category but the doubtful designation indicates he’s not yet game-ready. In fact, he didn’t practice all week so the reason for the upgrade is unclear.


This space is intended for a list of key players, not including those who have been moved to injured reserve status, who are officially listed as "Out" for the upcoming game.

LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills, hamstring: McCoy has gamely tried to play despite a less than fully healthy hamstring but it is not working well. The hope is that staying out of competition until his leg can truly handle the workload will help. McCoy has even indicated his absence could extend beyond this week. Stay tuned.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills, calf: Watkins has had his share of injuries since entering the NFL but none have caused him to miss a game -- until this week. Watkins suffered a calf injury in the first half of last Sunday’s game against the Dolphins and was not able to practice all week. With other players around the league suffering setbacks following calf injuries, it’s wise for the Bills to hold him out.

Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta Falcons, ribs: Coleman has begun some running work but has not yet returned to practice. He will miss his second consecutive game due to his rib injury.

Charles Johnson, WR, Minnesota Vikings, rib: Johnson suffered a rib injury in the first quarter of last week’s game. He returned briefly after the injury but eventually was forced back to the sideline. Although the team appeared hopeful early in the week that Johnson would play against the Broncos Sunday, he was not able to participate in practice and was ultimately ruled out. The Vikings have a bye in Week 5 and it’s possible Johnson could return the following week.

Jacob Tamme, TE, Atlanta Falcons, concussion: Tamme didn’t practice all week after suffering a concussion and will sit out Week 4.

DeSean Jackson, WR, Washington Redskins, hamstring: Jackson is still in recovery mode from his hamstring injury and was always expected to miss multiple weeks. He remains out again this Sunday.

Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys, foot: Cowboys’ owner and general manager Jerry Jones says Bryant’s pain is “going away by the day” which is certainly good news. Still, it doesn’t alter the fact this will be a multi-week injury and there is no expectation of a Bryant return prior to the team’s bye in Week 6.

Marqise Lee, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars, hamstring: Lee has struggled with hamstring injuries since the start of training camp. After playing in portions of two games, his hamstring is again problematic enough to force him out this week. According to ESPN.com’s Mike DiRocco, the team is trying to develop a plan that will allow him to return healthy at some point, even if it means taking an extended break now.

Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants, calf: Cruz suffered a setback with the calf in practice this week and at this point there is no timetable for his return.

Julius Thomas, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars, hand: Thomas visited with the hand specialist this week, and although he is reportedly making progress, he has not yet been cleared for contact. According to ESPN.com’s Mike DiRocco, the team is hopeful that clearance will happen prior to their London game against the Bills in Week 7.

Be sure to check out Fantasy Football Now, Sundays on ESPN2 at 11:00 a.m. ET for last-minute inactives, rankings, injury impact and more!