Injuries are nothing new in football. Nor is the fact that each week, fantasy owners have to replace injured starters with waiver-wire pickups or trade acquisitions. But four marquee NFL quarterbacks simultaneously dealing with significant injury? That might be a first.
Most players, quarterbacks included, are battling some sort of ailment by the time the first quarter of the NFL season is through, but rarely are so many big-name signal-callers faced with missing time as a result. Currently, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is on IR/designated for return since suffering a fractured left clavicle. Saints veteran leader Drew Brees missed Week 3 with a bruised rotator cuff (he’s now back, but not necessarily 100 percent recovered). Jay Cutler was idle for the Bears in Week 3 due to a hamstring injury suffered while trying to make a tackle following an interception, proving a quarterback can also get hurt playing defense. And Andrew Luck, the face of the Colts' franchise, was sidelined last Sunday with some sort of shoulder ailment that remains a mystery.
So what can we expect in Week 5? Well, the status of the quarterback who was most questionable heading into this week has been resolved, thanks to the fact that his team is playing in the Thursday night game, but he is reportedly not.
Andrew Luck, QB (Q): Luck, listed as questionable on the team’s pregame injury report, appears to be out for Thursday night’s game, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Despite coach Chuck Pagano’s insistence early in the week that Luck was trending in the right direction, it wasn’t a rapid enough trajectory to allow him to suit up this week. The difficulty in projecting when Luck will be able to return is complicated by the fact that the Colts have shared virtually no information about his injury. Other than saying he has a “bruise,” (which, by the way, is a substantially more vague description than the diagnosis assigned to Brees of a “bruised rotator cuff,” a term regularly used in sports medicine), the Colts have remained quiet about his injury and his practice activity.
Luck reportedly threw lightly in practice Tuesday and says he’s progressing. In the absence of any meaningful information, the only conclusion to draw at this point is that Luck is clearly not capable of throwing to the degree necessary to last an entire four quarters. Even those involved in treating him may be challenged in projecting when he will meet the criteria that allow him to return to his job. The oft-overused "day-to-day" qualifier may actually be legitimate in Luck’s case. Until he is routinely throwing with his usual volume in practice, fantasy owners should remain skeptical about any definitive projected return dates.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB (Q): Meanwhile, Hasselbeck, the Colts’ veteran backup quarterback who started in place of Luck last Sunday and carried the team to victory, is recovering from his own health scare as he prepares to start tonight. Hasselbeck reportedly was so ill from a virus this week that he spent time in the emergency room. Any illness that dramatic has the potential to leave the athlete weak and at risk of dehydration. It’s impressive that he is even able to take the field tonight. The hope is that he’ll be able to last the entire game.
Dwayne Allen, TE (P): Hasselbeck will have another tight end option available tonight. Allen, sidelined in Weeks 3 and 4 with an ankle injury, is listed as probable and is expected to play tonight. Hasselbeck targeted Allen’s teammate, fellow tight end Coby Fleener, 12 times last Sunday, the second most among all Colts receiving options. Fleener ended the day as the most productive receiver with 83 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver Donte Moncrief was second with 75 yards (although fellow wide receiver T.Y. Hilton was Hasselbeck’s No. 1 target). Allen apparently approved of Hasselbeck’s ability to get the ball to the tight end, telling reporters, “I think having Matt out there Sunday and seeing the way he distributed the ball, that is a step in the right direction." The presence of another receiving option may be a bonus for Hasselbeck, but it may reduce some of Fleener’s opportunities.
Frank Gore, RB (P): Gore has had an inauspicious start to the season, with an uncharacteristic two fumbles in four games. He's on the injury report this week with a foot ailment, but he practiced in full both Tuesday and Wednesday and is again expected to play.
Ryan Mallett, QB (P): The Texans don’t have a health issue at the quarterback position; they just have an issue at the position. Despite Brian Hoyer's substitution over a poorly performing Ryan Mallett in the third quarter of last Sunday’s game, Mallett gets the start Thursday night. Mallett does make an appearance on the injury report with a chest injury but was listed as a full practice participant daily.
Cecil Shorts III, WR (O): Unfortunately for Mallett, he will be without two of his starting wide receivers. Shorts dislocated his shoulder at the end of the game in Week 4, and has not practiced at all this week, as one would expect following an injury of that severity. He and teammate Nate Washington (who has not practiced, having suffered a hamstring injury in last Sunday’s game) have already been ruled out.
Arian Foster, RB (P): Mallett will have running back Arian Foster, who benefits from having his first game out of the way since returning from surgery to repair a groin muscle. Foster perhaps didn’t have the performance he was looking for (eight carries for 10 yards and a fumble), but there’s something to be said for getting past the mental aspect of wondering how the groin repair would hold up during a game, running at full speed while dragging along defenders. After all, there is no practice for that. He is still listed on the injury report as a limited participant, but his presence there is not worrisome; it actually makes sense to limit his exposure, especially in a short week. Foster has said he’s looking forward to his season debut at NRG Stadium, and a strong night here would go a long way toward erasing the memory of last week.