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Thursday, September 23, 2010
Injury update: Ryan Mathews' status hazy

By Stephania Bell

There are so many injuries cropping up this week that we won't waste any time. Let's jump right into the discussion.

Running Backs

Ryan Mathews
Ryan Mathews was limited to five carries for 26 yards and two catches for 29 yards in Sunday's win over the Jaguars.
Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers: Hmmm. All indications were that Mathews' ankle sprain was minor -- and it may still be -- but now Mathews is reporting that his injury is a high ankle sprain, according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Even in the case of a lesser-degree sprain, a high ankle injury can be more challenging, especially for a running back. The fact that Mathews sat out practice Wednesday is also somewhat of a concern.

That said, it's possible that with rest early in the week, Mathews could be active, but the question will be how effectively he can perform. In fact, if he is active, it would not be surprising if it was in a planned backup role. After all, why risk the chance of turning a mild high ankle sprain into one that's more severe?

Fantasy owners should consider that Mike Tolbert, who clearly demonstrated his value last Sunday when he had to step in, would see the bulk of the workload Sunday if Mathews is limited.

Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals: Wells is perhaps the most discussed fantasy player when it comes to injury as his status has been unclear heading into each of the past two Sundays. And it may remain that way this week.

Wells, who has missed time with a bruised knee, has been battling swelling when he tries to increase activity, a sign that the knee joint remains irritated. The key to his return will be his ability to practice at an increased intensity on consecutive days. Coach Ken Whisenhunt has been clear all along that he does not want to risk Wells' health late in the season by rushing him back before his knee is ready. While Wells' fantasy owners may be frustrated, imagine how much more frustrating it would be if he were to be active on game day, only to have to exit in the first quarter because of the knee.



The encouraging news out of Arizona this week was the report from Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic that Wells increased his activity in practice Wednesday. That's Part 1. Part 2 will be Wells' successful return to practice through the remainder of the week. If signs are positive, he faces a nice matchup against the Oakland Raiders on his home surface (grass). Nonetheless, fantasy owners should remain prepared to replace Wells in the event that he doesn't play or is projected to return on a limited basis.

Joseph Addai, Indianapolis Colts: It didn't take long for the oft-nicked Addai to appear on the Colts' injury report. He is listed as having a knee injury although the team, as is its custom, has provided no details.

At this moment there does not appear to be great cause for concern for the following reasons: Addai had a big game Sunday and may be benefiting from some proactive rest and the Colts are known for their lengthy injury reports, where many players listed early in the week end up playing on Sunday.

Jerome Harrison, Cleveland Browns: Harrison did not practice either Wednesday or Thursday and much like his teammate Jake Delhomme, Harrison appears headed for inactive duty on Sunday. Harrison is reportedly dealing with a thigh injury and he would also be dealing with the Baltimore Ravens' defense if he were to play. There is still the chance that Harrison returns to practice Friday, but between the injury and the matchup, there's not a lot of encouraging news here.

Wide Receivers

Andre Johnson, Houston Texans: After spraining his ankle Sunday, Johnson was held out of Wednesday practice, but fantasy owners should not be alarmed. As we pointed out Tuesday, Johnson did return to the game following his injury.

According to the Texans' official website, Johnson says the ankle is feeling better daily and he expects to play Sunday, barring a setback. I believe him.

Steve Breaston, Arizona Cardinals: Breaston appeared on the injury report as a limited participant Wednesday because of his knee. He had a limited impact in last Sunday's game, perhaps as a result of this. According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, Breaston is expected to practice Thursday, suggesting that he will be available this week.

The better news here is that Larry Fitzgerald does not appear on this week's injury report, suggesting that his knee (MCL sprain) continues to improve.



Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, Cincinnati Bengals: Despite tweeting that he had a "cracked rib," Ochocinco was a full participant in Wednesday practice and is not listed on the team's injury report. Apparently the rib issue is not serious enough to cause concern.

His teammate Owens did appear on the injury report as limited, however, because of his back. According to The Associated Press, Owens expects to play this Sunday when the Bengals face the Carolina Panthers.



Fantasy owners should expect the Batman and Robin tandem to show up on Sunday.

Quarterbacks

Jake Delhomme, Cleveland Browns: Delhomme's ankle injury took on a more grim outlook this week when it was reported that he actually suffered a right high ankle sprain in Week 1. Add to that the fact that Delhomme has not yet practiced, and it is looking more likely that he will be sitting out Week 3. While Delhomme as quarterback will not place the same demands on the ankle as a running back, meaning he could likely return to play more quickly, he still needs to be strong enough to push off his back leg, mobile enough to move around the pocket and pivot on the foot, and to be at a relatively low risk of reinjury.

As ESPN AFC North blogger James Walker points out, it is rare for a quarterback to miss the majority of practice and play Sunday. Seneca Wallace, who started in place of Delhomme last week, is expected to be the starter again in Week 3 after taking all practice reps with the first team.

Until Delhomme shows that his ankle is functional, fantasy owners should expect him to be sidelined.

Dennis Dixon, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers apparently are giving everyone a turn at quarterback. This week it will be Charlie Batch who gets the nod since Dixon is recovering from knee surgery.

Dixon, who started last week's contest, tore the lateral meniscus in his left knee (the same knee in which he tore his ACL during his final year at Oregon) and underwent surgery Wednesday. Varying timetables have been issued, but most recently ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that his absence is expected to be on the order of six weeks. By that time, Ben Roethlisberger will be back in the mix and Byron Leftwich, out since the preseason because of a sprained MCL, should also be available. And then there's Batch.

Fantasy owners who picked up Dixon as a fill-in could better use that spot on someone else. As far as the Steelers' situation at quarterback, it is likely to remain fluid through Week 4, at least.

Quick Hits

Michael Turner
Is Michael Turner going to tease fantasy owners again with his injury status?
Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner was a limited participant in practice Wednesday because of the groin injury, but returned to full practice on Thursday. Despite the lack of concern in Atlanta around Turner's health, some may recall last season, when positive reports would only lead to disappointment on Sunday. At that time Turner was trying to return from a high ankle sprain which was more serious than initially projected. Turner's groin strain is reported to be mild and his return to practice is encouraging, but fantasy owners will want to see proof that he is truly 100 percent healthy before they can breathe easy.

• A lot of folks are asking whether Maurice Jones-Drew's knee has something to do with his apparent struggles on the field in Week 2. Interestingly Jones-Drew appears on this week's injury report because of an ankle, not the knee. He was limited in practice Wednesday, but there's certainly no hint that he won't be available Sunday. Are these small nicks taking a toll? Unfortunately, only time will tell but it's impossible not to put this guy in your lineup if he's on the field. For now, there is no evidence for a serious injury, but naturally, we'll be watching.

St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson was limited in Wednesday practice because of his knee, but that might well be proactive planning. Jackson ran well last Sunday after rest early in the week, so the expectation is that he will do so again.

Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis appears on the injury report again this week because of his wrist. Portis played last Sunday after being listed as questionable (although he practiced fully all week) and should do the same again.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin sat out Wednesday practice, but not because of the hip ailment that hampered him during Sunday's game. This time it's the migraine issue again. After a rough bout with migraines during the preseason, Harvin had expressed optimism that the issue would be behind him once he was diagnosed with (and being treated for) sleep apnea. While the sleep apnea may well be a major contributing factor, it was unlikely that the migraines could be eliminated, as Harvin is finding out. He did return to practice Thursday, according to 1500 ESPN's Tom Pelissero. It will be interesting to see what happens Friday since Harvin was downgraded late in the week last week after early practice. There is no question the Vikings want Harvin in their lineup; the question for fantasy owners will be what they can expect if he's there. Check back Saturday.

• The Baltimore Ravens had a trio of fantasy players on the early injury report. Wide receiver Derrick Mason did not practice because of his knee. No word yet of anything serious, but we'll keep an eye on what he does as the week progresses. Meanwhile tight end Todd Heap, who played last week despite a strained shoulder, was a full participant in practice, as was running back Ray Rice. Rice told the Baltimore Sun that the ankle he tweaked last Sunday felt "great" and that he expects to play Sunday.



• Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith showed up as a limited participant Wednesday and Thursday because of a thigh injury (note that it's not the wrist that was bothering him after the game). The Panthers may be controlling his activity so that he can run full speed Sunday, but there has to be some concern about how he will blend with new starting quarterback Jimmy Clausen.

Jason Witten
Jason Witten tried to argue his way back into Sunday's loss to the Bears despite suffering a concussion earlier in the game.
Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten had improved enough from a concussion to participate on a limited basis in Wednesday practice. Assuming he doesn't have any post-workout symptoms, Witten is looking like a guy who will suit up on Sunday. Teammate wide receiver Dez Bryant also was limited Wednesday because of a rib injury. While the fact that he practiced at all suggests that this is not serious, the frequency with which Bryant appears with an injury could be. He remains a risky player who has yet to prove his fantasy reward.

• Well, the good news for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb is that he's getting healthier. As of Wednesday, he was a full participant in practice. The bad news is it doesn't matter as far as fantasy owners are concerned. Coach Andy Reid stated earlier this week that Michael Vick will be the starting quarterback and it appears it will remain that way until, well, we'll see.

See you at the injury chats (Tuesday and Friday 3-4 p.m.) and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 3 in the Saturday morning blog!