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Monday, November 3, 2008
Two more quarterbacks succumb to injuries

By Stephania Bell

Will Santana Moss and Clinton Portis play in the big Steelers-Redskins Monday night matchup?

Portis is listed as probable and is virtually certain to play. The quarterback might be a little banged up from his hefty workload the first half of the season, but he has been rested a bit in practice and should carry the rock. Moss, on the other hand, was quite limited all last week because of a hamstring strain; as of Saturday, he was doing only straight-line running. He remains the Redskins' best deep threat, and there's no doubt the Redskins would like to find a way to get him on the field, but coach Jim Zorn has said clearly that Moss will go only if he can play without limitations. For a player who has a history of hamstring injuries in particular, this injury is a little more delicate. Moss will be a game-time decision based on how his leg feels in warm-ups.

On the other side of the ball, look for the return of Fast Willie Parker to the Steelers' lineup. Parker's return from a sprained medial collateral ligament was delayed after a setback, and he has to be eager to return to action. But expect the Steelers to keep Mewelde Moore in the running back mix as a means of easing Parker back into the speed of the game.

That's what's coming, but what about what already happened? A few key injuries on the first Sunday in November might impact your fantasy teams. Here's what we know as of our first look following Week 9's main slate of games:

Kyle Orton, QB, Bears: Orton has had success with the Bears, and our own AJ Mass even wrote him up as one of ESPN's midseason Fantasy Hall of Fame nominees. But Orton fans and fantasy owners will have to wait patiently while he sits on the rehab shelf after suffering an ankle injury Sunday.

The Lions' Dewayne White fell on Orton after the quarterback ran out of bounds. Orton was on his back with his legs in the air, and White's hit twisted Orton's foot sharply to the right while his leg essentially remained facing forward. This rotation of the foot relative to the position of the leg is a classic mechanism for a high ankle sprain, an injury to the ligaments that connect the two lower leg bones where the "roof" of the ankle is formed. ESPN's Michael Smith reported that Orton suffered a high ankle sprain and is expected to miss at least a month.

One of the concerns with this type of injury is that the torsional (rotational) stress placed upon the ankle can result in a fracture to the fibula (the skinny bone on the outer aspect of the leg). Orton is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday, presumably to rule out any associated injury and clarify the detail of the injury to the ankle itself.

The injury is unfortunate because Orton appeared to be emerging as a solid presence with the Bears. The hope has to be that this injury can be treated conservatively (without surgery) and that Orton indeed will be able to return in approximately a month.

Matt Schaub, QB, Texans: Schaub suffered what the team is calling a knee sprain early in the first half of Sunday's game. The Texans' official Web site reports that Schaub's knee swelled during halftime. Although he attempted to warm up for the second half, the swelling created stiffness that made it difficult for him to drop back effectively. According to Texans coach Gary Kubiak, team doctors indicated that it would be difficult for Schaub to protect himself. Given the potential risks and Schaub's demonstrated lack of mobility, Kubiak opted to go with Sage Rosenfels in the second half.

The Texans haven't offered any more specifics about Schaub's injury, so there is no indication yet as to whether he is expected to miss any additional time. Be prepared to find a backup just in case.

Michael Pittman, RB, Broncos: The already-complicated Denver running back situation just became a little less clear. The Rocky Mountain News is reporting that Pittman aggravated a neck stinger Sunday, an injury he apparently suffered during the Broncos' Monday night game against New England earlier this season. The pain that Pittman experienced Sunday was what forced him out of the game early. He expressed his dismay afterward, telling the News, "I don't know if I'm going to play next week or when I'm going to play. I'm very frustrated right now. I've just got to find out what's really wrong with me."

Stingers, appropriately named for the type of stinging pain an athlete experiences, result when the neck gets rapidly compressed toward one side or stretched in the opposite direction. A quick stretch or a quick pinch can stress nerve tissue, which typically is very sensitive to rapid insult. The pain afterward can be a sharp, electric pain that radiates from the neck into the shoulder area and, depending on which nerves are affected, can travel into the arm and fingers as well. Once that tissue has suffered an insult, it can become sensitized. Then, it's easier for a player to aggravate those symptoms with a second, even less severe injury. This can prove very frustrating and can extend the length of time it takes for the tissue to recover.

With Pittman compromised and Selvin Young still recovering from a groin injury, the Broncos introduced rookie running back Ryan Torain, who was an emerging star in the preseason, to his first professional game. Torain was injured in the preseason and has since been recovering from elbow surgery. Coach Mike Shanahan had hinted that he did not want to play Torain too much his first time out. Torain ended up with just three carries for one yard, not exactly wunderkind stats.


The Broncos play on Thursday this week, and the biggest running back question mark at this point might well be Pittman. Expect Torain to see more action, and perhaps Young will return to the rotation. Keep an eye on practice reports early in the week to see how the Broncos' lineup is shaping up.

Other noteworthy injuries:

The Chiefs have lost running back Kolby Smith for the remainder of the season to a knee sprain, according to the Kansas City Star. Jamaal Charles racked up more than 100 yards, and with Smith out for good and Larry Johnson out for a while, Charles should play more regularly.

The Bucs had a spectacular comeback win Sunday, but they paid a price in the injury department. Already without the services of running back Warrick Dunn, who rested at home because of a pinched nerve, the Bucs then lost running back Earnest Graham and tight end Alex Smith late in the game. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Smith sprained his ankle while sliding to make the two-point-conversion catch that sent the game into overtime. Graham has a knee injury, but no more specifics have been released. The team's bye week could not be more timely.

The Rams had virtually no running game Sunday, and it had to be at least partly attributable to a slew of injuries to their running back corps. Despite Steven Jackson's bold pronouncement on his Web site that he was ready to go, he appeared far less than ready on the field. Coach Jim Haslett acknowledged as much, telling the Belleville News-Democrat, "He worked out and said that he felt fine. He ran around and said he was ready to go. Obviously, by his nature, he wasn't ready." To add to their problems, Antonio Pittman, who started for the Rams, injured his hamstring on his very first carry, saying he felt it "pop." That's never a good sign. Travis Minor already was sidelined with a concussion, and needless to say, the running game never really got off the ground. Jackson told the News-Democrat that he will use this lackluster performance as motivation, but more important will be his ability to nurse himself back to full health. Another week of relative rest hopefully should get him back on track.

Be sure to check back here throughout the week as we update these and other injuries. Also, stop by the injury chat (11 a.m. ET Tuesday and Friday) to discuss the status of your injured players. Hope to see you there!