- Stephania Bell, Fantasy Sports
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With a few days of practices and other reports available, let's look at the NFL injury situations that are relevant in the fantasy football world.
Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens (hip): Rice strained his left hip flexor two weeks ago, and the team held him out of the Week 3 game as a precaution, netting a start for Bernard Pierce. At the time, there was some discussion that Rice could miss multiple games with the injury, but coach John Harbaugh later said Rice had been very close to playing. It seems Harbaugh was being forthright, given that Rice has been in practice Wednesday and Thursday, albeit on a limited basis. It would make sense that the Ravens would control his work during the week with an eye toward ramping him up closer to Sunday. For his part, the Rutgers product said he expects to play against Buffalo.
As long as Rice does not suffer a setback before Sunday, it appears he has a good chance, although a decision may not be made before game time. Rice may be well enough to play yet not be at full strength, which could affect his power and endurance. There will be no way to tell just how well he can produce until he takes the field. This could translate to some shared work between Rice and Pierce. Given some of the Bills' vulnerability against the run, both players could benefit.
C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills (quadriceps): Speaking of the Bills, after an injury scare in Week 3, Spiller is doing his best to demonstrate through his practice efforts that he is ready to play Sunday. Spiller's injury -- originally labeled as affecting his knee then recategorized to his quad -- caused him to lose explosiveness and power in his leg, hence the reason he could not finish Sunday's game. A blow to the distal (furthest) portion of the quad could easily result in swelling, pain and inhibition of the muscle, making it difficult to generate strong muscle contraction, resulting in the feeling of a loss of power.
Spiller's leg must have responded well to early treatment for him to complete back-to-back days of full practice. He appears on track to play against Baltimore in Week 4, barring a setback. Teammate Fred Jackson has been seeing his share of work even with a healthy Spiller, and that pattern will likely continue this week.
Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans (shin): Johnson returned from a concussion in Week 2 to start in Week 3 but left that game early with a shin bruise. On Tuesday, the Texans indicated they hoped Johnson would progress enough to return in Week 4. As of Thursday, whether he can remains uncertain. Johnson did not practice Wednesday and returned to the field Thursday only for individual drills. Coach Gary Kubiak told reporters after practice that Johnson remains a game-time decision for Sunday. That's not particularly encouraging for the Texans, who will face a tough Seattle defense in what is one of the week's most intriguing matchups.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR (hamstring), and Rashard Mendenhall, RB (toe), Arizona Cardinals: Somebody is happy about Fitzgerald's recovering hamstring (besides his fantasy owners). ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss reports that Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis is excited about matching up against Fitzgerald this weekend. Revis, coming off an ACL reconstruction and undoubtedly improving weekly, will have a chance to test that knee against what should be a full-speed, full-go Fitzgerald. Heading into last week, Fitzgerald was just coming off the injury and it was unknown how he would hold up. Apparently he held up just fine, since he has practiced in full each day despite the rainy weather the Cardinals are enduring in Florida. (The team stayed on the East Coast during the week in advance of the game in Tampa.) Look for Fitzgerald to start Sunday.
Fitz's teammate Mendenhall was upgraded to full practice Thursday after a limited workout Wednesday. He is still being protected, to some degree, because of a toe injury. After playing last week, but in a lesser capacity (nine carries, one reception), Mendenhall is expected to play Sunday in an increased role, given the ramping up of his work in practice this week.
Roddy White (ankle) and Julio Jones (knee), WR, Atlanta Falcons: Both White and Jones continue to appear on the injury report, but there is no longer really any doubt as to whether they will play. The biggest question is when White will resume being a true wide receiver threat. Based on the practice reports, White appears to be following the same pattern as last week. He did not practice Wednesday, but returned for limited practice Thursday. The status quo pattern suggests there is little change from last week in terms of progress. Given that there is virtually no observation of White’s practice time, it's difficult to assess whether he is making any meaningful strides.
Meanwhile, Jones was limited both days, but he continues to play and be productive on Sundays.
Reggie Bush, RB, Detroit Lions (knee): Bush sat out Week 3 despite his indications during the week that he was optimistic about playing. This week, he has far more reason to be optimistic, as he has been on the practice field Wednesday and Thursday. He has been a full participant both days and described his knee as "feeling good." Bush reiterated to reporters that his game status is the result of a collective decision among himself, the medical staff and the coaches, adding that everyone has to feel "comfortable" with his readiness to play. If things continue to go well through Friday's practice, everyone should start to feel more comfortable about his availability Sunday.