As the injury world turns: In today's episode, a running back (Peyton Hillis) who showed promise early in the week for playing in Week 8 has a more discouraging outlook Thursday, a receiver (Andre Johnson) who in two days went from "definitely a possibility" to play Sunday to a maybe then back to a definite possibility, and a running back (Beanie Wells) who declared himself fully healthy just two weeks ago is not practicing at all now. These stories and more as the injury world turns.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: Stafford (ankle) did light stretching and exercise Wednesday in what constituted a limited practice effort. On Thursday, he took it up a notch by working with the first-team offense. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reported via Twitter that coach Jim Schwartz acknowledged that Stafford had increased his activity. "He is improved today over yesterday, and I think that he's on a pretty good track right now," Schwartz said. Signs are certainly pointing in the direction that Stafford could play Sunday.
Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams: Last week, we outlined the concern for Bradford's mobility to protect himself as a factor in whether he could play. That concern remains as Bradford, who was still in a walking boot early this week, has yet to practice. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the Rams are not even certain that Bradford will try to test the injured leg in practice. The left high-ankle sprain he suffered in Week 6 is looking likelier to cause Bradford to miss another game.
Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns: Hillis returned to a limited practice Wednesday because of his injured left hamstring. Browns head coach Pat Shurmur gave a vote of confidence, saying Hillis would return as the feature back when ready (and sounded hopeful for Sunday). As is often the case when a player is recovering from injury, the day after can be very telling in terms of how far along the healing truly is. Lingering soreness suggests the muscle may have been overworked, and in the interest of avoiding a more serious setback, the response to that soreness is typically rest. Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported via Twitter on Thursday that Hillis would not practice Thursday because of soreness in the hamstring after Wednesday's workout. Even if Hillis returns to limited work Friday, his status for Sunday is iffy at best because the team will want to see how he responds the following day. And if Hillis is deemed ready to play, the leg will undergo a more strenuous test during the game. Any sign of strain would temper his workload, and given this latest development, the Browns might proactively alter his workload, should he play. It's a very cloudy picture right now for fantasy owners. The best bet is to have insurance for Hillis, which may come in handy, even if he suits up.
Andre Johnson, Houston Texans: Johnson returned to limited practice Wednesday, an expected step in his recovery from a procedure on his torn hamstring tendon and an encouraging sign he would return in Week 8. Coach Gary Kubiak seemed pleased with what he saw from Johnson, telling the Houston Chronicle, "He looked good running to me." Then there was Johnson's take. Johnson told the Chronicle he still feels "tugging and stuff" on his leg when he runs. Johnson added that if he feels Sunday the way he did Wednesday, he probably won't play. Kubiak supported that notion,.understanding that ultimately how Johnson feels will drive the decision as to his status.
The Texans already have experience with one of their star players, running back Arian Foster, suffering a setback with a hamstring injury this season and they don't want to see it happen again. The worry in Johnson's case is not so much with the precise location of the procedure (near the tendon attachment at the knee) but in the muscle itself, which could suffer injury if he has not returned it to full strength before resuming play. As Kubiak pointed out, it's a long season and "we need to make sure we do the right thing here." On Thursday, the Texans showed renewed optimism, however, after Johnson was again able to practice. According to the Houston Texans' Twitter page, Kubiak said of Johnson, "He was better today. He told us that he felt better ... He had his normal day of practice ... We took another step forward." So fantasy owners, it appears Johnson will be a game-time decision Sunday. The progress is encouraging, but Johnson could sit one more week if he has any doubts.
• Lions running back Jahvid Best is still not practicing after the concussion he sustained in Week 6. The Detroit Free Press cites a source close to Best as saying he is not expected to play in Week 8. The Lions have a bye in Week 9, so it's possible that Best has two more weeks away from football.
• San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates had a normal practice Wednesday, the first time he has done so since the week following the season opener. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson (hamstring) was also a participant Wednesday, as was running back Ryan Mathews. Running back Mike Tolbert rested his sore hamstring Wednesday, and Malcom Floyd sat out because of his hip. The Chargers have a Monday night game this week, so there will be no official report until after Thursday's practice.
• Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells did not practice Wednesday, not a huge surprise considering he's dealing with significant swelling in his knee. Despite Wells' routine projections of optimism that he will play (and think of how many times he hasn't), the bottom line is that an athlete can't run (which presumably is what running backs are charged with doing) when there is swelling present. Beyond the direct impact to the joint, swelling in the area will inhibit muscle performance, making a player even more susceptible to injury. At this point, there is little reason to expect Wells to dress for Sunday.
• The Minnesota Vikings need Adrian Peterson. The fantasy world needs Adrian Peterson. Everyone can now breathe a little easier because Peterson returned to practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday. Peterson limped off the field late in Sunday's game after suffering what appeared to be an ankle injury. He downplayed the injury after the game, and the day of rest could only help. It looks as if he'll be available as usual Sunday. Teammate Percy Harvin also returned to practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday to rest his sore ribs, an injury he aggravated last week despite wearing protective gear. That serves as a reminder of how hard it is to minimize the pain of a rib injury, and Harvin's recent struggles underscore the point. Even an active Harvin has to be considered questionable to produce.
• New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram has not practiced this week after suffering a bruised heel Sunday. Bruising on the bottom of the heel seems like an obvious limitation to running, and heel bruises can be slow to wane. The New Orleans Times-Picayune hints at Ingram's missing Week 8, although the Saints have yet to rule him out. The Saints did activate Chris Ivory from the physically unable to perform list, giving themselves another option in the event of Ingram's absence. With Ivory just returning to football, it's expected the Saints will ease him back into game situations, meaning Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles would handle the bulk of the workload Sunday.
• The New York Giants hope to have running back Brandon Jacobs back in the lineup Sunday. Jacobs missed two games with an MCL sprain, and persistent knee swelling has kept him off the practice field. He put in some work Monday and official limited practices Wednesday and Thursday. Barring a sudden recurrence of swelling, expect Jacobs to play Sunday.
• When Indianapolis Colts running back Joseph Addai exited Sunday night's game early with a hamstring injury, it was reasonable to believe he had aggravated the injury that caused him to miss the previous week. Not so, says coach Jim Caldwell. According to the Indianapolis Star, Caldwell says this is not the same injury that caused Addai to be questionable heading into Sunday night's game, but the new injury may leave him with the same designation for this week. Addai did not practice Wednesday, and Caldwell says he is awaiting word from the medical staff as to whether Addai will be able to return. Still seems to be a risky fantasy situation.
See you at the injury chat Friday at 11 a.m., and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 8 in the Saturday morning blog.