Stephania Bell: Aaron Hernandez



Week 9 is in the books! This feels like that time of year when the grueling toll of the season begins to make itself widely felt. A number of players left last week's games with new injuries, aggravations of prior injuries or some variation of a new injury superimposed on a not fully recovered injury. While a couple of those with new ailments look as if they might not miss any time (Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles and Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo), others seem likely to miss a week if not more (Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown, Minnesota Vikings WR Percy Harvin, and Oakland Raiders RBs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson).



In the meantime, many of the key running backs who have suffered foot injuries in recent weeks (DeMarco Murray Maurice Jones-Drew, Cedric Benson) continue their rehabilitation efforts but with no specific return date on the horizon. None of these backs is expected for this week (Benson and Jones-Drew are definitely out, and ESPN's Ed Werder reported Tuesday that the Dallas Cowboys do not expect to have Murray this Sunday).

There are still plenty of folks we're keeping an eye on as we head into Week 10.

[+] EnlargeMcFadden
Cary Edmondson/US PresswireOnce again, Darren McFadden has gone down with an injury that could keep him out multiple weeks.
Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson, RBs, Oakland Raiders (high ankle sprains): Both running backs left Sunday's game with similar injuries. McFadden was tackled during a run. On video, he appeared to rotate his foot outward relative to his lower leg, the hallmark mechanism for a high ankle sprain. Although there has been no word as to the severity of the injury, it may be to his benefit that his foot was not squarely planted in the ground when it happened. Still, with the known history of lower-extremity injuries McFadden has dealt with in his career, any additional incident raises concern. His teammate Goodson was also forced out of the game with a similar injury in the third quarter. (Goodson had been dealing with a turf toe injury throughout the week heading into Sunday's game.)

As of now, it would appear that Marcel Reece and Taiwan Jones will be responsible for the workload in the near future, but how much time McFadden and Goodson could miss -- if any -- is anyone's guess. The severity of their injuries will be as important as the injuries' location to determine how long they'll be out. As of yet, the Raiders have not revealed anything. Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times reports that McFadden has not yet been ruled out for Week 10. Of course, many a fantasy owner remembers when he was not ruled out in advance of multiple games last season, and thus might be suspicious. At this point, there's not enough information to suggest this injury is on the same order of severity as last year's, but it would make sense to plan on a backup nevertheless.



Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings (ankle): Harvin went into Week 9 with hamstring concerns -- and he appeared to be laboring during the game -- but he exited with a new, more significant injury. Harvin sprained his left ankle "in three different places," according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and is experiencing swelling and pain. Harvin was on crutches Monday to protect him from bearing weight on the injured limb, and while he wouldn't declare himself out for this week's game, he admitted his chances of playing are slim. The report that he sprained the ankle in three different places suggests that he has multiple injured ligaments, which explains the substantial pain and swelling, but also hints at greater instability. No specific grading of the injury was offered, but Harvin's appearance and description indicate this is more than a mild injury. Even though the MRI showed no fracture, the extent of soft tissue damage and associated instability can still project a multiweek absence. The Vikings do have a bye upcoming in Week 11 and it would be a big surprise if Harvin plays beforehand.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (neck): Charles was forced out of last Thursday night's game with what the Chiefs called a neck injury. Charles did tell the Kansas City Star he was tested for a possible concussion, so it will be worth monitoring how he responds to practice during the week. The Chiefs don't play until Monday night, which is good in that it gives Charles the benefit of an extra day, but it also means no official injury report is due from the team until Thursday. As of now, it does look favorable for Charles to suit up in Week 10.

Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys (back): Romo injured his back late in the Sunday night game and there were multiple reports of him walking "gingerly" afterward. On Monday, head coach Jason Garrett told reporters Romo was feeling much better. On Tuesday, ESPN's Ed Werder reported the Cowboys expect Romo to play in Week 10.

Donald Brown, RB, Indianapolis Colts (knee): Brown was downgraded Saturday after experiencing swelling in his surgically repaired knee. He recovered to the point of being activated for Sunday's game, but the pain and swelling recurred, forcing Brown to the sideline early. With only four days until the Colts' next game, it would not be a surprise if he is out. There is also a chance he could rest for four days and still be active (though he did not practice Tuesday, also considered the "big" practice day for Thursday night games), but the bulk of the workload would still likely shift to Vick Ballard.

Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (ankle): Brown was the first to say he had suffered a high ankle sprain, and his assessment was later confirmed by coach Mike Tomlin, who called it "mild." Nonetheless, Brown is doubtful for Monday night's game against the Chiefs and was kind enough to share that tidbit early (Tomlin also said running back Jonathan Dwyer should return Monday) so that fantasy owners could make the proper adjustments. Well, perhaps that wasn't his reasoning, but it's still nice to get an early jump on fill-ins. In Pittsburgh, they know all about filling in at the running back position and now will get a taste of it at wide receiver. More Emmanuel Sanders, perhaps. As for how long the Steelers will be without Brown, that is not yet clear, but given that even Brown initially thought he might be able to play this week, it sounds like they anticipate a short absence.

Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers (hamstring/ankle): Nelson missed Week 8 because of a hamstring strain but was deemed healthy enough to go in Week 9 after testing the leg in a Friday workout. He never had a chance to make an impact as he went down with an ankle injury in the first quarter of Sunday's game while trying to make a catch. The Packers fortunately have a bye this week and coach Mike McCarthy sounds confident Nelson will be ready by Week 11.

[+] EnlargeJohnson
Brett Davis/US PresswireA thigh injury slowed down Steve Johnson in an already tough matchup against the Texans.
Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills (thigh): Johnson suffered a bruised thigh early in Sunday's game and tried to play through it but struggled. For those who might wonder why something as seemingly benign as a bruise should limit a high-level athlete, it's important to remember that a bruise involves bleeding. If there is bleeding into a contained area of soft tissue, like the thigh, it makes the tissue very tight and the athlete is unable to fully extend (lengthen) the involved muscle or fully contract it. And it hurts. The result is a shorter stride length, sometimes an apparent dragging of the leg, a loss of burst and power, and early fatigue. Johnson essentially said as much after the game, telling the Bills' official website, "I couldn't run down the passes or elevate when I needed to. It just wasn't working so I had to come out." The good news is that this should respond well to treatment and hopefully resolve quickly. Bills head coach Chan Gailey said he expects to have Johnson on the field in Week 10, even if he is not able to practice early in the week.

Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions (knee): Johnson played despite not practicing all week with a sore knee and racked up his third-highest yardage total of the season. Given the team's success at managing his knee during the week and still garnering a favorable Sunday outcome, expect the pattern to continue. There has been no word as to what's ailing him but Johnson confirmed that it's likely to bother him throughout the season, telling MLive.com, "It's something that I expect to linger."



Danny Amendola, WR, St. Louis Rams (shoulder): Amendola teased fantasy owners when he traveled to London with the team two weeks ago and was seen catching some balls in practice. Only three weeks removed from his sternoclavicular joint injury, however, he seemed an extremely long shot to play. Now his chances are looking up. With another two weeks under his belt, Amendola is confident he will be on the field to face the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.



During last week's practice, Amendola told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch his range of motion and strength were back to normal. The other aspect that is harder to measure is the healing of the tissue around the joint itself. The hope is that it will be strong enough to withstand another hard fall on the shoulder or direct contact from a hard hit without displacing again. Sitting at the junction of the collarbone (clavicle) and the sternum (chest), it's not an area that lends itself to effective bracing or taping. While there are ways to offer some additional protection, the goal is to have it be healed to the point where the risk is low to negligible. Unfortunately, there is only so much that visual and manual testing can do and at some point the athlete has to test it by playing in a game. It looks as if that test could come this weekend and, if Amendola is able to pass it, things should be looking up for him for the remainder of the season.

Aaron Hernandez, TE, New England Patriots (ankle): Hernandez, who did not travel with the team to London, is coming off of two weeks' rest after the bye. On Tuesday he was absent from practice, as he was attending the birth of his child, but there should be updates later in the week.



After sustaining big injury losses to their vaunted defense in Week 6, the Ravens' mood was somber. That frown turned upside down when linebacker Terrell Suggs, on the physically unable to perform list to start the season following surgery to repair his right Achilles tendon, rejoined the team for practice this week. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports Suggs expects to play Sunday when the Ravens visit the Texans. The biggest question will be whether a visibly heftier Suggs is in adequate "game" shape to take the field. Most athletes returning from this type of injury say it takes them a full year to regain the speed and explosiveness in their surgically repaired leg. It doesn't mean Suggs can't contribute right away -- even if that comes largely in the form of morale boosting initially -- but it does mean he's unlikely to look like the 2011 defensive player of the year out of the gate.

Here's who else we're keeping an eye on in Week 7.

Quarterbacks

[+] EnlargeMathias Kiwanuka
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireFor a scrambling quarterback such as Aaron Rodgers, a leg injury is all the more concerning to fantasy owners.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (calf): Here's a name no fantasy owner wants to see on the list. A draft-day cornerstone for many teams, Rodgers was limited in practice Wednesday by a sore calf, apparently suffered on a running play in Week 6. The good news is Rodgers turned in a full practice Thursday, and it looks as if he fully plans on playing against the Rams this Sunday.

Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings (knee): Ponder has been working through knee discomfort associated with an inflamed bursa for the past couple of weeks. He continues to practice fully and should play again this Sunday.

Running Backs

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (ankle): Peterson's lack of activity during practice might seem worrisome but it sounds as if he and the team are taking a deliberately cautious approach in light of the next two games coming so close together. Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities reports Peterson plans to play Sunday despite not practicing Wednesday or Thursday. Coach Leslie Frazier echoed that statement, describing the rest as precautionary. Still, according to Pelissero, Peterson indicated his ankle is "hurting consistently," not enough to keep him from playing but perhaps enough to keep him from being as explosive as he'd like. It looks as if Peterson will play, and his best chances of being effective come from resting his ankle in the interim.

Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers (Achilles): Mendenhall has been downplaying his Achilles injury ever since it happened in Week 6's Thursday night game, insisting he was removed largely for precautionary reasons, primarily due to his recent return from ACL reconstructive surgery. Still, with Mendenhall not yet practicing this week, it's enough to make fantasy owners nervous. Isaac Redman also sustained an injury (ankle) in Week 6, and he too has yet to practice. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports the Steelers think Mendenhall is closer to playing than Redman, but it would feel much more plausible if we were to see him get some practice reps. While that could happen Friday, it's also possible the Steelers will opt to give him as much rest as possible in advance of Sunday since that might be the best medicine for a sore Achilles. The Steelers do not play until Sunday night, so unless there is some better evidence of Mendenhall's readiness following Friday practice, fantasy owners will need to have a backup plan.

Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns (chest, rib): Richardson has maintained all along that he will be ready to play this weekend. So far he seems to be making good on that promise, participating in practice, although on a limited basis, both Wednesday and Thursday. Expect him to wear some protective padding, as is often the case following rib injuries, but it appears he will be on the field, barring a setback.

Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) and Andre Brown (concussion), New York Giants: Uh-oh. When we see "foot" next to Bradshaw's name on the injury report, it starts dredging up memories of complications over the past two seasons. According to Kieran Darcy of ESPN New York, Bradshaw, who did not practice Wednesday and did only limited work Thursday, said this is not related to his prior stress fracture issues but that he had his foot stepped on in Week 6. Bradshaw also said he's "ready to go," suggesting his availability for Sunday is not in doubt. Meanwhile, Brown is on the mend from his concussion and practiced fully both days this week.

DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys (foot): Owner Jerry Jones already said Murray will miss this week's game in Carolina due to his foot sprain, although he is not yet listed as "out" on the injury report. The expectation is that Felix Jones will get the start. Until Murray returns to practice, there is little to update.

Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts (knee): Brown is still recovering from knee surgery and is not practicing yet. Vick Ballard is expected to start again.

Ben Tate, Houston Texans (toe): Tate continues to be limited by a sore toe, and his status for Sunday is uncertain.

Wide Receivers

[+] EnlargeNicks
Alan Maglaque/US PresswireHakeem Nicks has been frustrating to own this season, with three missed games and two subpar performances, but his Week 3 totals -- 199 yards and a touchdown -- are a reminder of his game-breaking ability.
Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants (foot/knee): Nicks did something this week he hadn't done in a long time -- he put in back-to-back practices Wednesday and Thursday. Granted, he still is being limited in terms of his reps and he does not appear fully recovered from his ailments but this is a big status change for him. At the very least, it suggests his status will be less questionable heading into this week's contest.

Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins (foot): Garcon has not practiced this week. After hearing last week that the plan was for him to take the time to let the foot heal before returning, it certainly looks as if he will be out again this Sunday.

Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers (groin): Jennings still has not practiced this week. His focus has been on rehab and conditioning work, and last week coach Mike McCarthy said Jennings would not test his groin until late this week. We'll see what happens Friday but it's hard to feature Jennings returning in three days.

Jerome Simpson, Minnesota Vikings (back, foot): After being forced to sit out in Week 6 because of weakness in his leg associated with a back injury, Simpson has made big improvements this week. He was a full participant in practice both Wednesday and Thursday, and while it is too soon to dismiss the injury as being totally behind him, his chances of playing Sunday are looking good.

Tight Ends

Rob Gronkowski (hip) and Aaron Hernandez (ankle), New England Patriots: Gronkowski continues to be limited in practice, which doesn't come as a big surprise. He has been playing through what is being termed a hip injury and has not been quite himself on the playing field. Hernandez seemed to get through his first game outing well and returned to limited practice Wednesday. He did not practice Thursday, however, which could be cause for concern or just some proactive rest on the part of the Patriots. Remember, Hernandez did not practice last Friday in advance of Sunday's game, either. That turned out just fine. Expect Gronkowski and Hernandez to both be active Sunday against the Jets.

Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (ankle): The last time we saw Graham, he was in a walking boot following an ankle injury in Week 5. Then the team had a bye week, and there were no updates to offer clues. It wasn't until Wednesday's practice that the first real evidence of how much the ankle is limiting Graham became apparent ... when he did not participate. On Thursday, Graham did make an appearance, practicing on a limited basis. The Saints sound as if they would like to have him available Sunday, even if he remains limited. "You always want to have your best players so we hope we are going to have him," Saints interim coach Aaron Kromer said, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

The Saints have not offered specifics regarding Graham's ankle sprain (what type of sprain or what degree of severity) but it is worth noting that Graham did return to the Week 5 game after the injury. He appeared to be significantly limited for the remainder of the game but he did finish it out. In reviewing video of the injury, as Graham is tackled by Chargers defensive back Marcus Gilchrist, his foot is rotated outward relative to his lower leg. This is a common mechanism associated with a high ankle sprain but the team has not referred to it as such. While high ankle sprains are often associated with a prolonged recovery, it still comes down to how significant the actual tissue damage is. If there is instability and the injury is a high ankle sprain, caution is warranted so as not to lead to chronic degenerative changes in the joint. If the ankle is stable, the athlete can resume play more quickly. It will be worth monitoring how Graham's ankle responds to the Thursday work and whether he can repeat the effort Friday. If he can, it seems the Saints will lean toward having him available, even if his ankle has not fully recovered.

Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers (shoulder): Finley practiced on a limited basis both Wednesday and Thursday because of the same AC joint issue that bothered him last week. Given that he was active last week after not practicing early on, expect him to play again (and hopefully contribute) this week.

Dustin Keller, New York Jets (hamstring): Keller remains on the injury report this week, turning in limited practice Wednesday but bumping up to a full practice Thursday.

And on a final note ...

Six teams (Atlanta, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Philadelphia, San Diego) are on bye this week, which means a lot of fantasy replacements are in order. These players will not appear on this week's official NFL injury reports.



A fourth of the season has passed already and the injuries keep piling on. The New York Jets have been on the receiving end of two of the biggest blows, losing cornerback Darrelle Revis to a torn ACL in Week 3 and wide receiver Santonio Holmes this past Sunday to a Lisfranc injury. Holmes is expected to undergo surgery in the near future and faces a lengthy rehabilitation and recovery process. The good news for both Revis and Holmes is that they should make full recoveries.

Every other team is facing their own injury concerns as they try to field healthy squads from one Sunday to the next. Here's who else we're keeping an eye on in Week 5.

Quarterbacks

Tom Brady, New England Patriots, (right shoulder): It's Brady versus Manning this Sunday in New England. Brady will play.

Running Backs

[+] EnlargeRashard Mendenhall
Sam Riche/MCT via Getty ImagesRashard Mendenhall will see his first game action since New Year's Day this week.
Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers, (knee): It's showtime! Mendenhall is set to make his season debut following reconstructive surgery to address a torn ACL in his right knee. Mendenhall has impressed recently in practice and the Steelers have been gradually increasing his activity and his contact. This week Mendenhall has been careful not to say he is definitively playing as the final determination has not been made but he sounds like he is ready to take it to the next level. "I have been taking steps accordingly so I feel confident in everything I have been able to do," said Mendenhall on the Steelers' official website. "It feels good." It will feel good to have Mendenhall as a fantasy option but he's unlikely to see the maximum workload in his first game action.

Ben Tate, Houston Texans, (toe): Tate's sprained toe has kept him out of practice so far this week, enough to raise some concern for his availability in Week 5. According to Nick Scurfield of HoustonTexans.com, coach Gary Kubiak said Tate will also be held out Friday to give his toe additional rest. The team will allow him to test it Saturday but will also prepare Justin Forsett, "just in case." The Texans don't play until Monday night meaning fantasy owners should also make alternate plans, "just in case."

Matt Forte, Chicago Bears, (ankle): Forte has been held to limited practices this week but that's no surprise given the Monday game. He came through without a setback but is still in the process of recovering. He's expected to play this Sunday.

Reggie Bush, Miami Dolphins, (hip): The good news is we're not talking about Bush's knee. Unfortunately he is still on the injury report but Bush bumped up his practice level Thursday to full after being limited Wednesday. This does not seem to present a serious threat to his status for Sunday.

LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles, (knee): After last week's game coach Andy Reid indicated McCoy had "tweaked" his knee. It certainly doesn't appear serious since he has practiced fully every day this week.

Evan Royster, Washington Redskins, (knee): Royster remains on the injury report as a limited participant with his strained patellar tendon. Alfred Morris is the unquestioned leader here, the actual question is where Royster will mix in with recently acquired Ryan Grant.

Peyton Hillis, Kansas City Chiefs, (ankle): Hillis is still not practicing this week due to a sprained ankle and should not be counted on for Sunday.

Brandon Jacobs, San Francisco 49ers, (knee): Jacobs appears to be making good progress with his knee which he injured in the preseason. He participated in full practice Wednesday and looks as if he could be available this Sunday. It was Jacobs who told the 49ers official site," I want to get out there and really be a part of it." No word yet on whether he'll be given the green light.

Wide Receivers

Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants, (foot/knee): Nicks continues to struggle with soreness in his surgically repaired foot and persistent swelling in his knee. The Giants have already ruled him out for Week 5, and at this point are offering no forecast as to when he might return. While the team attributes his absence to both body parts, there hasn't been anything to suggest he has gone backwards with his foot. His absence in Week 3 was not completely out of the realm of reasonable after only three days' rest following his first significant post-surgical game action. The following week, it was the issues with his knee which didn't allow him to test himself in practice. If his foot is still sore, which is not unexpected in light of his recently ramped up activity, there is no way the team would allow him to push it when he also has a swollen knee. If Nicks is compromised because of his knee it raises the possibility of creating a far more serious problem with his still recovering foot and simply makes for a bad combination. The worry will go up next week if we hear that his knee is still failing to progress. For now there is not much definitive information to go on and so Nicks' status remains in a holding pattern. Looking ahead to this Sunday, Ramses Barden is still recovering from a concussion sustained in Week 4, meaning the Giants are again lean at wide receiver. Domenik Hixon will presumably get the start in place of Nicks.

Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers, (groin): On Tuesday we talked about the possibility that Jennings would sit out to allow the groin to heal completely. It appears he is doing just that as he has already been ruled out for Week 5. For those who are wondering just how long Jennings can be expected to be sidelined, he told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "We don't know what the timetable is." He's being truthful. As is the case with most soft tissue injuries, progression is made based on how the player feels. Typically that progression is advanced more slowly when a player has already suffered a setback like Jennings did in Week 4. Translation: Wait and see.

Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins, (foot): It does finally appear as if Garcon has turned a corner with regards to his ailing foot. It's not a full 180 degree turnaround just yet, perhaps it's more like a soft curve which is trending in the right direction. Garcon managed to get through last week's game -- his first since Week 1 -- without a setback and this week he has resumed full practice with the team. He told the Washington Post, "It's going to take some time to feel back like my old self, like it was in training camp," but added, "It's getting better every day." That is exactly what fantasy owners want to hear.

Andre Johnson, Houston Texans, (groin): Johnson was limited on Thursday but the Texans have been routinely resting him early in the week. Although they don't play until Monday night there seems to be little reason to doubt Johnson will suit up, so plan on using him as you normally would.

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons, (hand): Jones appeared to be impaired by the laceration on his hand in Week 4, catching only one ball. Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Eight targets and one catch is not a good percentage. Julio's hand is not 100 percent." For his part, Jones told the Falcons' official website that last week's performance had nothing to do with the hand and more to do with the defensive coverage he was facing. With regards to this week Jones said simply, "I'm ready to go." The good news is that regardless of whether his hand affected him or not, with another week there has been more time for the cut to heal. Jones was a full participant in practice Wednesday and Thursday and is expected to be a full go this weekend.

Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans, (ankle): Britt did not play in Week 4 because of an ankle injury and it now looks as if he could miss another game. He has not practiced this week although he is doing some individual work on the side, including some running. According to the Tennessean, coach Mike Munchak said of Britt on Wednesday, "There's no doubt he's going to have to improve the next couple of days to help us on Sunday.

Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens, (ankle): Smith left last week's game appearing to favor his ankle but he's practiced fully every day this week and is on track to play.

Lance Moore, New Orleans Saints, (hamstring): Moore has been added to the Saints injury report with a hamstring strain and has not practiced so far this week. That makes his status iffy at best and the Saints don't play until Sunday night. It might be best to make an alternate plan.

Julian Edelman, New England Patriots, (hand): Edelman has still not practiced at all this week. Not encouraging for his chances for Sunday.

Tight Ends:

Rob Gronkowski (hip) and Aaron Hernandez (ankle), New England Patriots: Gronkowski played last week despite the hip injury so he should play again this Sunday. He sat out Wednesday practice but was back on a limited basis Thursday. The more interesting tidbit is seeing the return of Aaron Hernandez to a limited practice on Thursday. Hernandez has been out since suffering a high ankle sprain in Week 2. This is very early in the return-to-activity phase so color me skeptical about any rumor he will return this Sunday. This is a great sign that he is making progress as expected but there is a long ways to go before returning to game action where there is easy risk of re-injury.

Jared Cook, Tennessee Titans, (shoulder): Cook remains limited in practice so far this week but it appears to be a proactive measure. After playing last Sunday, albeit in a limited role coming off his shoulder injury, the expectation is Cook will play again this week when the Titans visit the Vikings.

Dustin Keller, New York Jets, (hamstring): As if the Jets don't have enough injury issues, Keller continues to be sidelined with a hamstring strain. He has not practiced yet this week and with the Jets playing on Monday night, his uncertain status is risky.

And on a final note ...

Bills running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are both off the injury report this week.

Despite all their injury news at other positions, Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw is no longer on the injury report.



Week 2 is in the books. This week there was a new set of players added to the injury list as well as a few carryovers from Week 1. Here's what we're looking at to start the week.

Running Backs

[+] EnlargeAhmad Bradshaw
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty ImagesThe short week will make it tough for fantasy owners and the Giants to decide whether Ahmad Bradshaw can play Thursday.
Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants (neck): Bradshaw left Sunday's game early with a neck injury. He had X-rays taken at the game facility, and early reports were only that Bradshaw had suffered a neck sprain, relatively vague terminology but suggestive of a soft tissue injury. Bradshaw did return to the sidelines and watched the remainder of the game from that vantage point, cheering on his teammates and not appearing to be in any particular distress. He had an MRI scheduled Monday in New York and was listed as a non-participant in practice. (It's worth noting that the team conducted only a walk-through in advance of a Thursday game, but for reporting purposes, Bradshaw would not have participated had it been a regular practice.)

On Tuesday, coach Tom Coughlin did not elaborate on Bradshaw's injury, other than to say he is holding out hope he can play Thursday.

With the Giants having only four days between games this week, Bradshaw's status is clearly in question. The Giants have been very effective in managing the practice time of some of their key players during the week (e.g., Hakeem Nicks this past week and Bradshaw much of the second half of last season) so they can play on Sunday. The issue this week is whether there will have been enough recovery between games to allow Bradshaw to safely participate.

Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams (groin): When Jackson was suddenly out of Sunday's game and the last thing anyone saw was him spiking a ball, there was a question as to whether there was a message being sent. Not so. Shortly after the game, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford said during a Sirius XM radio interview that Jackson had injured his groin. That was later confirmed by coach Jeff Fisher, who noted Jackson had a strained groin, which was the reason for his absence. In fact, Fisher told reporters Jackson could have returned if Daryl Richardson, who replaced Jackson, had struggled. Clearly, Richardson held his own and Jackson did not return.

As to what to expect from Jackson this week, it is too soon to know. He has dealt with groin injuries in the past that have caused him to miss time. While this did not have the initial appearance of anything serious (after all, no one even saw it happen, and if hadn't sat out the remainder of the game, there would have been no question), it is often not until players test these ailments that we get an idea of how much an injury will limit them. Late-week practice should provide further clues but it might be wise to secure a backup (Richardson, perhaps?) just in case.

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs (knee): Charles was not involved much in the second half of Sunday's game, which prompted the question as to whether he was injured or just resting. It sounds like a little of both.

The Kansas City Star reports Charles had soreness in his surgically reconstructed knee and the thought was that it was better to rest him the remainder of the game rather than expose him to further risk. It does not appear to have been anything serious, and the early rest in Week 2 might prove helpful in protecting the health of his knee. It sounds as if the Chiefs are expecting him to return in Week 3.



Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh Steelers (foot): Dwyer was listed on last week's injury report because of his foot but was expected to play and did. Now the Beaver County Times reports Dwyer has a turf toe injury, which might explain his limited production in Week 2. After all, coach Mike Tomlin had indicated after the season opener that Dwyer had earned a bigger opportunity. With Rashard Mendenhall returning to pads in practice this week, the running back situation becomes more complex in Pittsburgh. It seems likely the Steelers will hold Mendenhall out until after their early bye week, though, to allow him some more time to adapt to the increased activity.

Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills (knee): Jackson obviously did not play in Week 2 after suffering a sprained LCL in the season opener. After a week of rehabilitation and recovery, Jackson received some positive news. It appears he is going to be able to begin some light running in a brace this week, and, according to the Buffalo News, Jackson expects to return on the shorter end of his projected timetable. "The doc said that it's coming along, that at this rate it wouldn't be the full eight weeks," Jackson said. "Like I said before, I wanted to be back in four weeks, and he said that was a definite possibility and it will happen as long as we don't hit a snag anywhere."



Wide Receivers

Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles (hip): Maclin was questionable heading into Week 2 with a hip injury, was active for the game, then left early because of the same hip. Now he'll be a bigger question mark heading into Week 3. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, coach Andy Reid called Maclin "day-to-day." The Inquirer also noted that after the game, Maclin described this injury as more serious than the first. That doesn't bode well for him, considering Friday was his only day of practice last week. If he is unable to practice at all, he will be a big question mark.

Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants (foot): Seeing Nicks limping during Sunday's game had some fantasy owners panicking, despite his stellar performance. It turns out Nicks had his foot stepped on during the game and he was understandably experiencing some additional soreness. Nicks has been playing in the presence of some residual soreness since undergoing foot surgery this summer, but Sunday he showed he was returning to football shape.



Although he was listed as a non-participant for Monday's practice, he is expected to play Thursday night.

Tight Ends

[+] EnlargeAaron Hernandez
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaAaron Hernandez will be out at least a few weeks with an ankle injury.
Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots (ankle): AFC East blogger James Walker reports Hernandez is expected to miss a few weeks as a result of the injury to his right ankle. He has already been ruled out for Week 3, and while a definitive timetable has not been established, according to Walker, a source says Hernandez will not return before October. Tuesday's signing of veteran tight end Kellen Winslow adds support to the notion that he will miss multiple weeks. In other words, October is upon us in two weeks, but there is no reason to think the source was referencing early October.

The Patriots have not labeled the injury to Hernandez other than acknowledging it is his ankle, but the sight of him leaving the stadium on crutches and in a walking boot conveys the seriousness of it. Don't be surprised if Hernandez is out upward of a month. It is critical -- especially since he is so early in his career -- that his ankle heals completely before he returns to protect against long-term instability and degenerative changes. Expect the Patriots to take this one slowly to protect their big investment.

And we're keeping an eye on

Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers (shoulder): After being cleared for contact last Thursday, Mathews knew his return date was approaching, but waiting another week might have been the best plan. Mathews was working diligently to stay in shape, but there's nothing quite like actual practice reps to prepare for a game. The prevailing feeling in San Diego is that he will make his season debut this coming weekend, assuming all goes well in practice this week.

Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers (ribs): Gates was a surprise inactive Sunday, especially given his return to the game the previous Monday night after the injury and his return to practice last Friday. That is what makes projecting his status for this week far more difficult. Here's hoping he's back in practice by late week so there are fewer questions heading into Sunday.

Greg Jennings, WR Green Bay Packers (groin): Jennings was not able to play in Week 2 with a groin injury after only four days' rest. The Packers' next game, though, is Monday night, meaning Jennings will have had extra recovery time. And let's not forget, he wanted to try to give it a go in Week 2. We'll see how he fares in practice but expect to see him back in Week 3.

Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears (ankle): Coach Lovie Smith says it's not a high ankle sprain, so what are fantasy owners to do now? Worry less about what the team is calling it and more about what Forte is actually doing. Either type of sprain can be minor or severe; it's just that high ankle sprains tend to be more disabling across the board. But Forte was outside Monday, and as noted by ESPN Chicago, he was not wearing a brace or a boot and "trotted" off the field, something we wouldn't necessarily have expected just four days after injury. While Smith said not to expect Forte to necessarily return to practice immediately, he also said Forte had not yet been ruled out of anything. More guessing for fantasy owners, but it certainly looks as if Forte escaped a more serious injury. It still would be a surprise to see him this week; however, it's looking as if his recovery could be quicker than initially expected.


Let's start with what we know: There are six teams on bye this week. The San Diego Chargers, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos are all off this week, good news for all of their currently injured players.

Of the teams playing in Week 6, at least one has given fantasy owners a heads-up regarding player status. Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith announced Wednesday that wide receiver Julio Jones will not play Sunday because of his injured hamstring. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the team hopes to have Jones back in Week 7. In the meantime, No. 3 receiver Harry Douglas will start opposite Roddy White. Douglas, who missed all of 2009 with a torn ACL, showed some brilliant flashes in the preseason and could see a target boost this week. Meanwhile, White, who has struggled off and on with a bruised thigh and some dropped balls (although he still leads the team in number of receptions and found the end zone in Week 5), continued with a limited practice schedule Wednesday but returned to full practice Thursday. White is expected to start Sunday as usual.

With that, we turn to other injured players who could impact your fantasy roster in Week 6.

[+] EnlargeMatt Schaub
Thomas B. Shea/Getty ImagesMatt Schaub missed Wednesday's practice with a shoulder injury but looks good to go for Sunday.
Matt Schaub, QB, Houston Texans: Schaub took a big hit near his knee from Oakland Raiders defensive end Richard Seymour and appeared to be moving gingerly late in the game. Apparently, Schaub is also dealing with a sore shoulder, according to coach Gary Kubiak, and missed Wednesday's practice. However, Schaub returned to practice Thursday and it sounds as if he's in no danger of missing Sunday's game.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: As noted in Tuesday's blog entry, Blount took a helmet to his left knee in the Week 5 game against the San Francisco 49ers. He has not practiced yet this week and it appears he is unlikely to suit up in Week 6. Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman is certainly providing hints that the team plans to lean on veteran Earnest Graham, saying "... now this week he's going to get the majority of the reps, the majority of the carries." And Rick Stroud of the St. Petersburg Times reported Thursday that Blount's injury could cause him to miss 1-2 games. He cited sources that say Blount is doubtful for Week 6 and questionable for Week 7.

Joseph Addai, RB, Indianapolis Colts: Add Addai to the long list of hamstring-injury sufferers. Addai left the Week 5 game in the second quarter with an injury to his right hamstring and underwent an MRI on Monday, although the results have not been shared. Addai did not practice Wednesday and the sense is he will not play Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. After Friday we should get a better idea as to whether it will be Donald Brown or Delone Carter starting in his place.

Daniel Thomas, RB, Miami Dolphins: Sometimes the bye week comes at just the right time and that appears to have been the case for Thomas. An additional week of rest for a hamstring injury that has bothered him since the preseason allowed Thomas to return to practice all week. With the Dolphins not playing until Monday night, his chances of being on the field are encouraging.



Quick Hits


• Speaking of the bye week coming at the right time, it certainly appears to be the case for the collective offensive weaponry of the Dallas Cowboys. Tony Romo got a week to rest his broken rib and further the healing process. Running back Felix Jones was able to give his shoulder a week without contact. Wide receivers Miles Austin (hamstring) and Dez Bryant (thigh) were allowed to rest their wheels. All have been full participants in practice this week and all are expected to start Sunday. The Cowboys must have forgotten what it's like to have this many offensive threats on the field at once (not to mention a healthy Jason Witten, who does not appear on the injury report). While it remains to be seen whether all of them can make it through a game and still be healthy, they are putting their best lineup on the field to face the New England Patriots.

[+] EnlargeBenJarvus Green-Ellis
Elsa/Getty ImagesBenJarvus Green-Ellis burned the Jets for 136 yards and two TDs last week but his status for this week is up in the air.
• Will the Patriots have all of their offensive weapons against the Cowboys, though? Maybe not. After a great performance Sunday, running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis is now on the injury report because of a toe ailment. After being limited Wednesday, he didn't participate at all Thursday, which is definitely a concern. If he does not improve Friday, it could mean more work for Stevan Ridley this weekend. Meanwhile, teammate Danny Woodhead returned to limited practice this week after missing Week 5 with an ankle sprain.



Tight end Aaron Hernandez continues to sport a brace on his left knee designed to limit excess medial-lateral motion at the joint but is practicing. Hernandez played in Week 5 and at times appeared uncomfortable, but pressed through it and played for the majority of the game, even looking more comfortable as the game wore on. Hernandez is expected to play again Sunday.

New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs is still not back in practice after a "mild" MCL sprain kept him out of Week 5. Jacobs said he was ready to run last Thursday but apparently his knee doesn't quite agree. Given his history of knee injuries and his style of running, there is good reason to be very cautious before he's ready to get back to the grind of running against contact. Friday's practice will speak volumes, but it's looking as if Jacobs could miss another week.

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall is off the injury report after serving as the "emergency" back in Week 5 due to a hamstring strain. Mendenhall has been a full participant in practice and is expected to play Sunday. Less clear is how the workload will end up being shared between Mendenhall and Isaac Redman.

• Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson is still recovering from a procedure on his injured hamstring and is not expected to play this week. Running back Arian Foster remains on the injury report, now listed as limited because of his quadriceps, but is still expected to be the starter and the feature back. Ben Tate has an Achilles injury listed along with the groin but was still a limited participant in practice. Derrick Ward was also limited with his high ankle sprain. As it stands, Tate appears to be second in line to Foster.

Washington Redskins running back Tim Hightower and tight end Chris Cooley both continue to be limited in practice even after the bye week. Hightower had what coach Mike Shanahan referred to as a "sore" shoulder, while Cooley has been dealing with knee issues since undergoing offseason surgery. The Fredericksburg Freelance-Star reports Hightower actually injured his shoulder in the season opener but didn't disclose the injury and continued to play through it. Hightower insists he'll be ready to play this week. Meanwhile, John Keim of the Washington Examiner reports Cooley had fluid drained from his knee this week. It was Cooley who said before the season started that he expected to have to manage knee pain all season long. That appears to be playing itself out and his productivity has been limited as a result.

See you at the injury chat Friday at 11 a.m. and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 6 in the Saturday morning blog!

Keep close eye on injured Steelers

October, 6, 2011
10/06/11
5:47
PM ET


The season has ended for two more players: Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne will undergo surgery to repair a separated left (nonthrowing) shoulder suffered in Week 4, and St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola will need surgery to repair a torn left triceps. Amendola has been out since the season opener after dislocating his elbow. As if the injuries alone weren't bad enough, ESPN sports business contributor Andrew Brandt points out that both players were in the final year of their respective contracts. Entering free agency with the uncertainty of coming off season-ending surgeries is less than desirable. At least Henne can point to Matthew Stafford as someone who had a similar surgery on his throwing shoulder, and we all (especially appreciative fantasy owners) know how well his recovery has turned out.

With that we turn to those players who could affect your fantasy roster this week.

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
Mitch Stringer/US PresswireBen Roethlisberger expects to play Sunday, but don't expect him to be terribly mobile.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Roethlisberger was wearing a protective boot at Wednesday's practice and is limiting stress on it early in the week. After he got back to practice Thursday, the expectation is that Roethlisberger will play Sunday. The team already is making preparations for that possibility, not unlike those taken last season to protect his then-ailing right foot. Roethlisberger indicates he will wear a modified shoe, one that is a size larger than normal with a metal reinforcement to limit bending in the injured region of his foot. While the shoe is intended to protect his foot, by design, it also limits mobility in the forefoot. Since it is the left foot that is affected, the one Roethlisberger steps into as he throws (i.e., not his plant foot), the injury is not likely to significantly affect his delivery. Unless pain prevents Roethlisberger from transferring his weight properly and forces him to throw from his back foot, passing should not be a huge issue.



Thursday practice undoubtedly went a long way in proving he could make necessary throws. General mobility, particularly movements such as pivoting to the right, which requires pushing off the left foot, will be more challenging. That said, Roethlisberger repeatedly has demonstrated that he can play through pain and perform effectively even when his mobility is compromised. Of concern has to be the fact that he already has been sacked 14 times this season. Naturally, the more protection Roethlisberger can secure Sunday when the Steelers face the Tennessee Titans, the less the chances of aggravating the injury in-game, so the offensive line is officially on notice.

Arian Foster, Ben Tate and Derrick Ward, RB, Houston Texans: Foster had a strong Week 4, rushing for 155 yards on 30 carries, and, most importantly, he emerged from the game no worse for the wear. Foster's health is critical this week with the team's primary receiver, Andre Johnson, having suffered a significant injury and the team's depth at running back compromised somewhat by injury this week as well. Tate suffered a groin injury in Week 4 and left the game early. While the team says he is making progress, he has not practiced yet this week. Ward has been out since Week 1 because of a high ankle sprain. He received an injection last week, and although he has not yet practiced, he has done some light running and cutting, according to the Houston Chronicle. Ward hopes to return to practice Friday, at which point the Sunday game plan for running backs should start to take shape. The one thing that appears certain is that Foster is expected start and carry a heavy workload against the Oakland Raiders.

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Mendenhall strained his hamstring in Week 4 and was unable to practice Wednesday or Thursday. While Mendenhall still could make an appearance Friday, practice sessions are preparing Isaac Redman to be the starter. Redman showed some nice running ability when he stepped in for Mendenhall in Week 4, perhaps making the decision easier to allow Mendenhall's hamstring adequate recovery time. Fantasy owners in need of a running back for Week 5 should try to snap up Redman if he's still available.

Quick Hits


• Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson will be out for an extended period, as we indicated Tuesday. While the Texans have acknowledged that Johnson underwent some type of procedure on his hamstring, the details have been notably absent. There have been multiple reports of a projected three-week timetable. However, coach Gary Kubiak, speaking to reporters after Wednesday practice, indicated the team would not put a timeline on Johnson's return, saying, "The doctor feels good about it. Andre feels good about it." There you have it. Everyone's feeling good.

Everyone, that is, except fantasy owners wondering what to do with Johnson. The short-term approach is wait and see. Johnson showed remarkable resiliency last season in mostly playing through an ankle injury that likely would have sidelined others longer, and clearly the Texans expect to have him back this season. Although Johnson is likely to miss several weeks, if his hamstring is indeed improving, his activity level should increase within the next week. Only once he starts pushing it will we get a sense of whether things are going according to plan. For now, it seems a little early to jump ship. Meanwhile, Jacoby Jones becomes the Texans' No. 1 wide receiver option.

[+] EnlargeAaron Hernandez
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesAaron Hernandez has missed the past two games with injury but had TDs in his first two games of the season.
New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez might be the most asked about player in my chats, emails and Twitter. I wonder whether he knows just how popular he is. He hasn't appeared in this space since last week because once a player is ruled out of a game, there's nothing to report until he returns to practice ... or goes backward. So today, some good news. Hernandez was not only at practice Thursday, albeit on a limited basis, but it was a full pads workout. That is a pretty strong signal that he is at least testing the knee (and his sprained MCL) with a more rigorous workout to see how it responds. This is at least encouraging for the prospects of having Hernandez available Sunday; it will be even more so if he follows it up with another practice Friday. Caution is warranted, however. It might still be early for return to competition, but if Hernandez holds up well this week, it certainly suggests his return could be near.

New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs did not practice Wednesday or Thursday because of a swollen knee. According to the New York Daily News, Jacobs wanted to return to practice Thursday but was held out an extra day "to be safe." The concern is still only minor, unless Jacobs is "safely" held out again Friday.

Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant returned to full practice this week after receiving medical clearance. Grant missed Week 4 with a bruised kidney but was actually feeling well early in the week. Consider it a week to get fresh legs. Grant should be a full go Sunday night in Atlanta.

Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno is participating fully in practice. After just two carries for 4 yards last week, the hope is he will increase his activity this week. Daily practice with no setbacks could go a long way in making that happen.

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson does not appear on the injury report this week. The groin injury he aggravated earlier this season seems to be doing better. Teammate C.J. Spiller did not practice Wednesday due to a sore knee but was back to full practice Thursday.

San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates is again looking like he'll be out Sunday, as he has not practiced in order to rest his sore foot. Teammate Vincent Jackson has a hamstring strain to accompany the abdominal strain he's been nursing for a few weeks. Jackson is likely to have a week much like last week in which he spends most of it resting. The team hopes he will be able to go Sunday -- and he certainly has delivered despite being at less than full capacity -- but the dual injury combination might affect just how much playing time he'll see.

• And San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore tells reporters his ankle is feeling much better this week than last. It's amazing what a big late-game performance and a 3-1 record can do for one's spirits. So far Gore has been limited in practice, but if he played last week, it's a safe bet he'll be out there again Sunday when the 49ers host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

See you at the injury chat Friday at 11 a.m. ET, and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 5 in the Saturday morning blog.

Good news for Vick, Foster, Colston

September, 29, 2011
9/29/11
5:36
PM ET

Quarterbacks

Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles: Last week, a concussion put Vick's status in question. This week it's a hand contusion, but Vick isn't leaving much room for doubt about his availability, as he told reporters Wednesday that there's a "100 percent chance" he'll be starting Sunday. Vick put in a full practice Wednesday showing that the swelling in his non-throwing hand is not enough to limit his ability to handle the ball in all situations. After two weeks of early departures due to injury, the only question this week is can Vick last four quarters? Vick took that on as well, saying "they'll have to cart me off the field" for him to exit the game, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Without a doubt he'll be a target, just as he always is. The only way to prove that he can stay on the field will be to actually do it. We'll see what happens come Sunday.



Running Backs

[+] EnlargeArian Foster
AP Photo/Joe HowellArian Foster appears ready to be the Texans' primary running back once again.
Arian Foster, Ben Tate and Derrick Ward, Houston Texans: There has been a bit of a running back carousel in place thus far in Houston, born as much out of necessity, thanks to injuries. That carousel turns again this week as it appears Foster, who rested in Week 3, will not only play but will, in all likelihood, start. Foster actually practiced last week and by his account, could have played. The Texans opted for another week of rest, not wanting to press their luck after Foster had already suffered one setback with his hamstring before the season started, and then tightened up halfway in Week 2. With Ward out since Week 1 with a high ankle sprain, Ben Tate has proven to be an able backup, but a backup he remains. Foster participated fully in Wednesday's practice and afterward, according to the Texans' website, he said of his hamstring, "I have no issues with it anymore." Let's hope not. Of course the only way to know for sure that the issue is behind him is to watch Foster play in multiple games without a setback, something fantasy owners everywhere are eagerly awaiting.

Steven Jackson and Cadillac Williams, St. Louis Rams: Jackson was back in Wednesday practice for the first time since injuring his quadriceps. It was a limited practice but quarterback Sam Bradford seemed pretty excited about it. Bradford told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Anytime he's out here [for] Wednesday practicing, especially the way he looked today -- he looked great, he looked fast, he looked like himself -- that's definitely going to be big for us." So the Rams have some inspiration and fantasy owners have hope that there will be more action for Jackson in Week 4. Although Jackson was active in Week 3, he only had four carries, a plan specifically designed by the coaching staff to get Jackson on the field but control his activity. As for Jackson's backup Williams, he too was limited in practice as he recovers from a hamstring ailment. Williams was on the injury report before last week's game yet still carried the bulk of the running workload, so he should again be available. If all goes according to plan, Williams will actually function as the backup this week.

Wide Receivers

[+] EnlargeMarques Colston
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezMarques Colston could be back in action much sooner than expected.
Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints: Colston has been out since the season opener with a clavicle fracture and underwent surgery to have a small plate implanted. However, his recovery has been swift. The Saints originally projected him to miss four weeks but there were rumblings Wednesday that Colston would actually return to play in Week 4. Not so fast. While Colston did return to practice Wednesday, it was only in a limited capacity. And the report he would play Sunday came from an Associated Press report following a conference call between Saints head coach Sean Payton and the Jacksonville media. The exact words from Payton, according to a transcript released by the Jacksonville Jaguars, were, "Yeah, he was listed as limited, but he's cleared. He'll be up this week." It's not exactly Payton definitively stating Colston takes the field Sunday. According to James Varney of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Payton rarely offers that type of detailed injury information, especially early in the week. But Varney also notes that the words "up this week" typically refer to a player being on the 46-man active roster with the expectation that he will, indeed, play. So what are fantasy owners to make of it? It's probably still too early to say for sure but the signs are encouraging that Colston is close. The main issue is whether the healing in Colston's collarbone is sufficient for there to be low concern about the risk of reinjury should he land hard on that shoulder again. Typically it takes four to six weeks for bone to heal, although evidence of substantial healing can appear sooner, depending on the individual. Fantasy owners would be wise to keep an eye on injury reports through the remainder of the week and see how things are shaping up as Sunday draws closer.

Quick Hits


Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells sat out last week with a hamstring strain and was limited in practice Wednesday. Although Wells seems confident he'll take the field this Sunday, head coach Ken Whisenhunt seems cautious. According to the Cardinals' official website, Whisenhunt expressed the common fear surrounding any hamstring injury. "It's one of those things where you are worried that when he opens it up it may pull and you can feel that little twinge," he said. The Cardinals will see how Wells tolerates the week of practice before making a final decision.

San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore has been a limited participant in the team's practices thus far. It still sounds as though head coach Jim Harbaugh is leaning toward Gore playing Sunday, but how the carries would be divided between him and Kendall Hunter is up in the air.

[+] EnlargeFelix Jones
AP Photo/Tim SharpFelix Jones has battled shoulder issues the past two weeks.
Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones practiced fully just two days after aggravating his shoulder Monday night. He appears to be on track to play this week. Teammate Dez Bryant's status might be of more concern. Bryant played intermittently Monday night after sitting out in Week 2 with a deep thigh bruise. Clearly he has not fully recovered from the injury as he remained limited in practice Wednesday then did not appear at practice Thursday. With Miles Austin expected out again because of his strained hamstring, the Cowboys would like to have Bryant on the field. This could be another gametime decision.

• Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin is recovering from a hamstring strain and sounds as though he expects to play Sunday. He did not practice Wednesday but did return to the field Thursday for some work. The story with hamstrings is familiar: See how the athlete responds as the week progresses. Even then, it may come down to the pregame warmup to determine just how Maclin is faring.

Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Lloyd is no longer on the injury report this week but teammate Knowshon Moreno is. Moreno did practice fully Wednesday, something he has not done since injuring his hamstring, but needs to get through the rest of the week to inspire any confidence. Moreno was active but did not play a single snap last Sunday. It appears teammate Willis McGahee is still expected to garner the bulk of the work, at least until Moreno shows he is healthy enough to challenge him.

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson did not practice Wednesday but is expected to play again in Week 4. After limping out of the Week 2 game, Johnson appeared strong through the entire contest in Week 3. It remains an injury that could flare up but as long as he's performing, Johnson will not be limited.

Antonio Gates
Jody Gomez/US PresswireAntonio Gates has scored just seven fantasy points all season.
San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates looks like he'll miss Sunday's game. On Tuesday we referenced the challenges Gates is facing with his chronic foot pain. At this point Gates appears resigned to missing some time, it's just unclear how much.

• It's looking as though Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant will not receive medical clearance to play after suffering a bruised kidney in Week 3. Grant has not practiced yet this week. James Starks would start in his place.

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Sidney Rice made an impact in Week 3 after sitting out the first two weeks of the season with a torn labrum. He reportedly emerged no worse for the wear and is expected to play on in Week 4.

New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is still recovering from his sprained left MCL. He sat out Week 3 and although he sounded optimistic about potentially returning in Week 4, it's far from a sure thing. Hernandez was not in practice Wednesday or Thursday and until we see him out there in some measure, it's hard to believe he'll be ready Sunday.

See you at the injury chat Friday at 11 a.m. and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 4 in the Saturday morning blog!

Tony Romo, Michael Vick progressing

September, 22, 2011
9/22/11
7:28
PM ET


Quarterbacks

[+] EnlargeTony Romo
AP Photo/LM OteroA special vest could help Tony Romo absorb hits to his rib cage and allow him to play Monday night.
Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys: On Tuesday we outlined Romo's injury and what we learned from the Cowboys' official statement. ESPN's Ed Werder reported Wednesday that Romo is being outfitted for a special protective vest in the event he suits up Monday night. A similar vest was created for Michael Vick after he suffered a rib cartilage injury last season, something Vick credited with allowing him to play despite continuing to absorb hits. Romo is certainly taking the steps toward being protected Monday night, but will he play? Most importantly, the lung will need to show evidence of healing. Romo, who is not practicing so far this week, underwent a CT scan Thursday to evaluate the status of his injury. Those results are not known at the time of this writing, but if the lung has healed, the decision to play largely comes down to pain tolerance. Romo has shown his ability to press through pain but he also needs to show he can perform effectively and move well enough to protect himself. There should be better clues as to his status in the next few days.

Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles: Like Romo, Vick is being evaluated on a daily basis to determine his readiness to return to action. He appeared to take another step forward as he returned to practice Thursday after going through morning walkthroughs and mild exertional and balance tests Wednesday. After suffering a concussion, all players must meet the guidelines outlined by the NFL before they can return to play. Those guidelines include: the absence of symptoms both at rest and with exertion, a normal neurological exam, normal neurocognitive tests (these are the ImPACT tests which measure how the brain processes information; results must return to baseline pre-concussion values) and clearance to return from both the team physician and an independent neurological consultant. While Vick certainly appears to be making progress, the key is that there are no setbacks with each gradient of increasing activity. If Vick is able to take part in consecutive practices this week and suffers no setbacks going forward, it paves the way for a Sunday start.

Running Backs

Arian Foster and Derrick Ward, Houston Texans: The Texans are lucky to have so much depth at running back; fantasy owners everywhere wish they could say the same. After complaining of tightness in his hamstring Sunday, Foster did not play in the second half of the game. While the symptoms of "tightness" do not sound severe, it does raise a caution flag when it comes to Foster's overall recovery, as in he's not quite there yet. With Ben Tate ably handling the duties, it looks as though he will get the start Sunday with Foster, at best, contributing only slightly. Ward, who sat out Week 2 with a high ankle sprain, did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and is not expected to play.



Steven Jackson and Cadillac Williams, St. Louis Rams: The news on Jackson is not as encouraging as one would have hoped it would be by this point. When Jackson, who strained his right quadriceps muscle in Week 1, took to the field to test his leg before Monday night's game, it seemed as though his return was not far off. This week however Jackson's first practice did not come until Thursday and he was still limited. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports Jackson could be headed for another game-time decision. Williams, who started in place of Jackson on Monday night, strained a hamstring Monday and has not practiced this week.

Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos: Moreno and hamstring injuries seem to go hand in hand. After not playing in Week 2, Moreno returned to limited practice this week. That said, it's hard to imagine he's 100 percent past the injury by Sunday. The Broncos have to be concerned about a setback with him and may opt to limit his carries, even if he does play Sunday.

Wide Receivers

Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys Bryant sat out Week 2 with a thigh bruise and now that teammate Miles Austin is potentially out for a few weeks because of his hamstring, the Cowboys would like to have Bryant back in the mix. Bryant still was not practicing Thursday making his Monday status much less certain. The team is hopeful that an extra day before game time will help his cause; his returning to practice Friday would help ours.

Quick Hits


Uh-oh. Late-week practice injury alert: Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells now has a hamstring injury to add to the list of ailments that have touched him in his young career. According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic via Twitter, Wells suffered the injury in Thursday's practice. While it's not known just how severe the injury is, we never like to see these things crop up late in the week.

Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Lloyd (groin) was back at full practice Thursday after doing limited work Wednesday. Lloyd sat out Week 2 but the team could really use him now that teammate Eddie Royal, also with a groin injury, is expected to miss time. If Lloyd practices again Friday it will be a good sign he's heading for a Sunday start.

In Detroit, wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who sprained his left ankle in Week 1 but delivered on the field again in Week 2, is expected to play in Week 3. Johnson is following last year's routine of doing less in practice and more on Sunday. It seems to be working for him.

New Orleans Saints' wide receiver Lance Moore made his season debut in Week 2 coming off a groin injury that cost him much of the preseason. Although his targets were limited, Moore emerged from the game no worse for the wear. After putting in a full practice Wednesday, Moore did not appear on Thursday's injury report. With teammate Marques Colston down for another couple of weeks with a fractured collarbone, Moore's health could provide the Saints and fantasy owners a boost in Week 3.

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson clearly looked to be struggling with his nagging groin injury late in the Week 2 contest. He did not practice Wednesday but did return to a full workload Thursday. The question is how much this injury will affect him during play. It certainly appears as though he will suit up but he will not be fully recovered. The Bills have to hope that he does not take a turn for the worse.

It's a little difficult to know how concerned to be about the San Diego Chargers. Tight end Antonio Gates did not do much in Week 2 but whether that was due to good defensive coverage or lack of mobility -- or a little of both -- is up for debate. Gates sat out Wednesday's practice, which is likely to be a season-long theme -- but is expected to play in Week 3. Running back Mike Tolbert did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and is listed on the injury report with a calf ailment. If he's not out there Friday it's officially time to get nervous. Wide receiver Malcom Floyd is not practicing because of a groin injury and is quite possibly out Sunday.

The Oakland Raiders still list running back Darren McFadden as a limited participant in practice this week because of his shoulder but he is expected to play this weekend. In the wide receiver department, neither Jacoby Ford (hamstring) nor Louis Murphy (groin) is practicing. Murphy is expected out and Ford is not looking like he'll be ready. Then there's Darrius Heyward-Bey, who missed Week 2 after injuring his knee in practice last week. A return to full practice Thursday was encouraging. If he does it again Friday it improves the outlook for Sunday.

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Sidney Rice has been absent so far this season after suffering a shoulder injury (labral tear) during preseason drills. Perhaps the best news on the receiver so far is that he took part in full practice Wednesday but he will need to do so throughout the week to have a shot at playing in Week 3. Given the injury, there's no expectation that it will heal. The question becomes whether Rice can function effectively and consistently.

New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez sprained his MCL and is all but certain to miss this week and next. Whether he will require more time away from the game is up in the air.

See you at the injury chat Friday at 11 a.m. and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 3 in the Saturday morning blog.

Status of Romo, Vick up in the air

September, 20, 2011
9/20/11
5:49
PM ET


Oh yes, there were plenty of injuries in Week 2. Just ask the Kansas City Chiefs, who lost their third starter to an ACL tear. Running back (and top-5 fantasy pick) Jamaal Charles landed awkwardly near the end zone, grabbed his leg in pain and then was carted off the field. That told us all we needed to know about how serious the injury was.

There were plenty more, so here we go.

[+] EnlargeTony Romo
AP Photo/Tony AvelarTony Romo led the Cowboys to victory Sunday despite suffering a punctured lung during the game.
Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys: The biggest injury story of Week 2 involves Romo, not only because of the unique nature of the injury but because of his ability to perform in the presence of significant pain. When Romo was injured in the first half Sunday, it initially was announced by the team that he had a broken rib and wouldn't return. But return he did, leading his team to an overtime victory against the San Francisco 49ers. Upon returning to Dallas and undergoing additional testing, including a CT scan, Romo's injury was further clarified as a single rib fracture (there was some question as to whether one or two ribs had been broken) along with a punctured lung.



Here is the official statement released Monday by the Cowboys, separated into sections, with some thoughts as to what it means.

Cowboys' official statement: Additional testing on the fractured rib of Tony Romo today revealed that he also has evidence of a pneumothorax -- a condition that is not unusual for an injury such as the one Romo sustained in the game in San Francisco.

Analysis: A pneumothorax essentially occurs when air enters the pleural cavity (the space between the chest wall and the lung). One of the mechanisms that can lead to a pneumothorax is blunt trauma, most often from a motor vehicle accident, assault (knife, gunshot) or rib fracture. The more air accumulating in the space between the lung and the chest wall, the more pressure there is against the lung. This pressure can eventually cause the lung (or a portion of it) to collapse. The obvious immediate complication is difficulty breathing, and in extremely serious cases, the condition can be life-threatening. In some cases, however, when the puncture is very tiny, the symptoms are much more subtle.



It is important to note that the "additional testing" Romo underwent back in Dallas involved a CT scan, a more sophisticated imaging technique than the initial X-ray taken at the stadium. A small pneumothorax might not be visible on X-ray but could show up on a CT scan. This underscores the importance of the physical evaluation of the athlete that is taking place at the stadium. If Romo showed evidence of serious complication from a pnuemothorax, such as extreme shortness of breath, a drop in blood pressure or confusion, he would not be allowed to return to competition.



Cowboys' official statement: Varying degrees of a pneumothorax can heal in differing time frames.

Analysis: A larger pneumothorax requires insertion of a tube into the chest to help evacuate the extra air. With a very small pneumothorax, there might be no treatment at all, just observation while the lung heals. As noted above, the time to heal varies based on the size of the pneumothorax and the individual's healing rate.

Cowboys' official statement: The Cowboys medical team will continue to monitor the situation and conduct additional tests as the week progresses.




Analysis: Repeat imaging is often performed to determine how the healing is progressing. Beyond the imaging, there is the issue of how Romo is feeling. Is the pain improving? Can he breathe, reach, twist and throw without significant pain? With a nondisplaced rib injury, the primary determining factor for return to play is typically pain. The presence of the pneumothorax suggests extra caution in this case. It should become clearer as the week progresses as to whether Romo has a chance to play Monday night.



Miles Austin, WR, and Felix Jones, RB, Dallas Cowboys: Romo is not the only member of Dallas' walking wounded. Of course, there's wide receiver Dez Bryant, who sat out Week 2 with a thigh contusion (the Cowboys are hopeful he will be available this week). Fellow wideout Austin suffered a setback to his hamstring, the same one he injured in the preseason. After turning in a three-touchdown performance against the 49ers, Austin aggravated the hamstring during the fourth quarter. According to ESPN's Ed Werder, Austin is not expected back until after the team's bye week (Week 5).

And then there's Jones. One might even refer to him as the oft-injured Jones (although Bryant likely eclipses that title). Jones displayed his own toughness though returning to the game after suffering a dislocated right shoulder. The injury was variably reported as a separated shoulder or a dislocated shoulder, but Werder confirmed the injury to be a dislocation, per sources. Dislocation means the humerus (arm bone) actually slipped out of the socket (on the shoulder blade or scapula). Jones was outfitted with a harness to support the shoulder and returned to play but is feeling plenty of postgame discomfort. It sounds as if the Cowboys expect to have him Monday night. He might be in a harness again and he might not be leaned on as much if he is limited. DeMarco Murray and Tashard Choice are there for this reason.

[+] EnlargeVick
AP Photo/John AmisIt took until just Week 2 for Michael Vick to leave a game with injury, this time a concussion.
Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: Every time Vick takes off out of the pocket, fantasy owners cringe just waiting for him to take the big hit that will inevitably sideline him. So how strange was it that the hit that knocked him out of the game happened while he was still in the pocket? And while it was a hard hit, it was made all the worse by Vick's front-facing helmet-to-helmet collision with his own teammate, offensive lineman Todd Herremans. In the postgame conference with reporters, coach Andy Reid indicated Vick had suffered a concussion, which is what kept him from returning to the game. Vick will be subject to the same return-to-play guidelines all players in the NFL now are mandated to follow, making a prediction on his availability impossible at this stage.

Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans: Originally referred to as "fatigued" by coach Gary Kubiak, Foster acknowledged his left hamstring had tightened up on him at halftime Sunday and he opted to remove himself from the game. Disappointing as this was for fantasy owners, this setback does not sound serious. Foster might not have been his explosive self in the first half, but he didn't limp off the field, either. The tightness he felt served as perhaps a good warning signal that it was best not to push his luck in his first game back after suffering a setback in the preseason. This development does create a fantasy dilemma, however, as the Texans have indicated that Ben Tate now will be the lead back, at least in the short term. Kubiak indicated it would be a "process" to work Foster back to a full load, so fantasy owners might want to observe that process before trusting his health.

Quick Hits


• The New York Giants continue to rack up injuries, with their offense almost as nicked up as their defense. Wide receiver Mario Manningham, expected to perhaps see increased targets with teammate Hakeem Nicks questionable up until game time, exited early with a concussion. Nicks did suit up for the game and delivered a touchdown, plus he felt fine coming out of the game, undoubtedly a relief for the Giants. Finally, Domenik Hixon, seeing some time at wide receiver after missing all of 2010 with a torn ACL, made a spectacular catch in the end zone. However, the catch came at a price, as he walked off the field gingerly, headed straight for the locker room and did not do much afterward. According to ESPN New York, Hixon injured his right calf, the same leg that underwent the ACL repair. It sounds as if the injury was relatively minor, but keep an eye on Hixon's practice this week.

New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was seen limping after Sunday's game, and now we know why. Hernandez reportedly suffered a medial collateral ligament injury, but the degree of injury is unclear. Reports of how much time he will miss have varied, but plan on at least a couple of weeks without him.

• Add wide receiver Eddie Royal to the list of injured Denver Broncos. Royal suffered a groin injury Sunday, which the Denver Post reports will keep him out two to four weeks. Teammate Brandon Lloyd sat out last week with his own groin injury but had returned to limited practice late in the week, hinting at possible availability this week. As for running back Knowshon Moreno, we saw none of him and his injured hamstring last week, so we will have to wait and see whether he turns up in practice this time around. Right now, Willis McGahee is handling the load just fine.

We will continue to update these injuries and others as the week progresses.



What a great night for football in Foxborough, Mass.! Temperatures in the low 70s, excited fans in attendance, practice taking place under the lights inside Gillette Stadium, complete with referees, stadium announcer and JumboTron. It just felt like there was an extra bounce in everyone's step -- the coaches, the staff, the players -- as if everyone was happy -- no, thrilled -- to be on the field. This is just not how training camp usually feels. Something is different this year and it makes the prospect of the season ahead that much more enticing ...

And yet there's the usual business of preseason football to tend to. Players added, players released and, my personal favorite, players on the mend from injury.



[+] EnlargeTom Brady
AP Photo/Charles KrupaTom Brady seems to be none the worse for wear after offseason foot surgery.
The New England Patriots are not dealing with the return-from-injury drama that has been their custom the past two years. In 2010, it was receiver Wes Welker returning from a torn ACL and MCL, surprising everyone with his rapid progress but keeping us guessing until the last minute as to whether he'd be ready to start the season. In 2009, quarterback and face-of-the-franchise Tom Brady was coming off a combined ACL/MCL surgery and many wondered whether he could return to form. Both players, it's safe to say, have indeed proven that these major injuries are behind them.

But there were a couple of health questions heading into the offseason. Brady had a right foot injury (stress fracture) last season which, although he managed to play through it, required surgery after the season. Tight end Aaron Hernandez had a right hip injury that cost him two games late in 2010. He, too, needed surgery to address the injury. With athletes rehabbing away from team facilities as a result of the lockout, it has really come down to seeing exactly how they are functioning in practice to appreciate their progress.

If there were any doubts about Brady's health, those can be put to rest immediately. Brady was heavily involved in Wednesday night's workout, sporting a lightweight knee brace on his left leg as is customary for him. He moved fluidly to both sides and his passes were on the mark. Brady made the work look effortless, another trademark of his, but it also sent a signal that his body was cooperating. He threw several nice passes to a recent Patriots acquisition, wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, who appeared to be working hard (even diving for a catch in the end zone!) and making himself at home.

One of the most interesting notes on the evening was the amount of work Hernandez did. Considering he started on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list and only began practicing within the past few days, he looked less rusty than expected. Most importantly, he ran both soft and hard routes, decelerating hard and cutting to either side without apparent limitation. At one point, he leaned in an attempt to make a catch (he did not succeed) and went to the ground, face down, only to pop up quickly and get back in line for the next round. That dive was perhaps the most confidence-inspiring move he made all night, showing he could hit the dirt and get right back up afterward. Hernandez was a frequent target, including in red zone drills, and while there's work to be done, his movement was encouraging. His counterpart, Rob Gronkowski, looked especially strong Wednesday night, as well, making impressive catches in the red zone.

A few other observations on the night:

• Veteran left tackle Matt Light spoke to the media before practice about being back in New England and having the lockout behind him. As a player rep he was very in tune with the happenings of the past few months. He noted that Patriots owner Robert Kraft brought "leadership and experience" to the negotiation process, something that benefited everyone involved. Light indicated that he felt many of his teammates had stayed in great shape working out on their own and added that given the shortened practices, increased "mental reps" are much more important this year.

• Rookie running back Shane Vereen looked speedy-fast. Quick bursts. Impressive. And then he left with an apparent injury. No word on the specifics or the severity, although he appeared to stop short during a drill as if he strained a hamstring. Certainly everyone is hoping it's nothing serious.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis spoke to reporters before practice and quietly said how glad he is to be back with this team. He is not able to practice with the team until tomorrow after the CBA is ratified but he was present on the sidelines, saying he's "itching to get back on the field."

• Ochocinco got the loudest crowd cheers whenever he made a big catch (especially a 40-yard beauty down the sideline early in practice), with Welker coming in second on the applause-o-meter.



• Brady has cut his hair. No more Justin Bieber references for him.

Ryan Mallett is long and tall and can sling the ball. Both he and Brian Hoyer landed a couple of balls in an empty garbage can from more than 25 yards out, showing they could snag the extra-large toy at the proverbial carnival. It didn't seem to threaten Brady's starter status even though he failed to get the hole-in-one.

• After the group sessions were over, Ochocinco did some extra work on pass routes with Brady and Welker, with a lot of three- way dialogue going on throughout. Practice. Teaching. Learning. This is a good sign if you're looking for fantasy points (or just Patriots points) from these three.



• And finally, as the workouts ended, members of the Patriots circled the stadium and, as it should be on Fan Night, signed autographs and shook hands with those who came to watch them practice. But somehow, on this night, it just felt different, as if everyone was happy -- no, thrilled -- to be back playing football.



It's the last week of the NFL regular season and for many fantasy players, this is the grand finale. Week 17 always presents unique challenges as many NFL teams with secure playoff bids opt to rest key players, leaving fantasy owners scrambling to set their final rosters. This year there are some NFL teams whose playoff hopes are still barely alive or who could (or should) be playing for pride, but injuries may still force their starters to rest. And in what could be the worst scenario for fantasy owners, some teams are considering starting their main players to keep them in the rhythm of game preparation and competition, but how much playing time they get is anyone's guess.

[+] EnlargeMichael Vick
Hunter Martin/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty ImagesMichael Vick suffered a thigh contusion early on against the Vikings, and the Eagles' loss Tuesday night does help make the decision to sit him easier.
So what is a fantasy owner to do? For starters, give thanks to those teams who have already announced key players as out. Sources tell the Philadelphia Inquirer the Philadelphia Eagles have, rather unsurprisingly, ruled out quarterback Michael Vick. His thigh contusion had him limping throughout Tuesday night's game and there is no reason to further risk his health. Kevin Kolb is expected to get the start after working with the first team Thursday.

The Florida Times-Union reports Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard has undergone surgery to repair a torn ligament in the middle finger of his right (throwing) hand and faces a two-month recovery. Trent Edwards is poised to start in his absence. ... The Cincinnati Bengals announced via Twitter that wide receiver Chad Ochocinco will not make the trip to Baltimore because of his ankle. And, as a reminder, San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates should not be on anyone's fantasy roster (if you were hoping for a miracle) as the team has placed him on injured reserve. At least savvy fantasy owners can get a jump on picking up unclaimed backups or other more appealing free-agent alternates for these players.



While the Week 17 fates have already been decided for some, there are many others still on the fence. Here's who else you might be concerned about heading into Sunday's games:

Quarterbacks

[+] EnlargeMark Sanchez
Mike DiNovo/US PresswireSaMark Sanchez is likely to start Week 17, but it's very possible he won't finish.
Mark Sanchez, New York Jets: Initially, it sounded as if Sanchez would be out for Week 17, but then coach Rex Ryan seemed to hint at his starting quarterback playing. Now it just sounds like a situation to avoid altogether. Sanchez's shoulder was sore heading into Week 16 and while it does not appear to be impacting him severely, the Jets might be concerned about him suffering a setback, which would be undesirable heading into the playoffs. That said, the New York Post reported Tuesday that Ryan was considering starting Sanchez "because he's hot right now." Ryan added, "We can't afford for him to take a dip. We need him to stay at this level." The Jets are trying to balance protecting Sanchez with keeping him in a rhythm, all of which points to a scenario where Sanchez starts but doesn't finish. The problem is there is no way of telling just how much playing time Sanchez will see. This is a situation for fantasy owners to avoid.

Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks: On Tuesday, we outlined the injury concern for Hasselbeck and the team's plans to proceed as if Charlie Whitehurst will be under center. Hasselbeck clearly wants to play in Sunday night's game, and although he was not able to practice Wednesday or Thursday, he is rehabbing diligently with Sunday's goal in mind. As Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times reports, coach Pete Carroll thinks it's unlikely Hasselbeck will play but acknowledges the door is still open. "I'm totally convinced that he's waging a battle that's against the odds," said Carroll. "He's going to make a miracle comeback if he can." This could come down to a game-time decision.

Jon Kitna, Dallas Cowboys: According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Kitna, who is dealing with a left abdominal oblique injury, says that all movement feels "like you have a knife in your side." As he sat out practice Wednesday, Kitna still held out hope for a Sunday return, but the pain he is experiencing certainly casts doubt on whether he will be able to throw the ball effectively. If Kitna does not play, Stephen McGee will get his first career start.

Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings: Most fantasy owners would not rely on Favre to help them win their championship Sunday even if he does suit up. But they might consider Joe Webb, thus making Favre's injury status relevant. Favre has yet to pass required post-concussion tests, making it unlikely he'll play Sunday. Even beyond passing those tests, Favre would need to return to a graded exercise progression to be sure his symptoms did not recur with physical exertion. The window for Favre to be able to play is closing simply because of the narrow time factor. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that Favre could repeat the tests Thursday or Friday and coach Leslie Frazier has not ruled him out for Sunday's game. Stay tuned, folks. By now everyone should know things can come down to the wire in Minnesota.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills: The Bills quarterback has missed two days of practice because of his knee and it's starting to raise concern about his availability for Sunday. Fitzpatrick has been sore for quite some time but the back-to-back missed practices are more troublesome. Brian Brohm has been practicing with the first team in his absence. Friday should be telling in forecasting who will start for the Bills.

Running Backs

[+] EnlargeMaurice Jones-Drew
Scott A. Miller/US PresswireIt's very possible Maurice Jones-Drew will miss two of the most critical weeks of the fantasy season.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars: Jones-Drew did not play in Week 16 because of persistent swelling in his knee, and it looks as if he may be sidelined again Sunday. Jones-Drew did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. Rashad Jennings would start in his place against the Houston Texans.

Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns: Hillis did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, allowing his sore ribs some rest after taking a shot in the back Sunday. It sounds as if the Browns plan to have Hillis available to play against the Pittsburgh Steelers and their best chance for that is to rest him during the week.



Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders: Listed on the official NFL injury report with a "toe" ailment, McFadden's status for Sunday is unclear. He did not practice Wednesday and the Oakland Tribune listed "ankle" next to his name as the reason. (On Tuesday, we noted there were conflicting reports about the nature of McFadden's injury.) The Tribune notes that McFadden participated in the morning walkthrough Thursday, suggesting he would practice, but his activity level remains to be seen. According to Vittorio Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, coach Tom Cable says McFadden could be a game-time decision.

Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos: Moreno managed to see some playing time in Week 16 but left the game early after aggravating his rib injury. Moreno did not practice Wednesday but was expected to practice Thursday in an effort to gear up for Week 17. After Correll Buckhalter's Week 16 effort, however, Sunday could turn into a time-share situation, especially if Moreno is less than 100 percent.

Chris Ivory and Reggie Bush, New Orleans Saints: Ivory has been on the road to recovery from a hamstring injury for the past two weeks but has not been quite ready to play. Week 17 could be different as Ivory returned to full practice Thursday. Bush was listed on this week's injury report with a "chest" injury (SC joint per NFL Network) but practiced fully Thursday and does not appear in danger of missing Sunday's game.

Wide Receivers

Andre Johnson, Houston Texans: Coach Gary Kubiak announced early in the week that Johnson would not practice (he has not) and that Johnson would indicate whether he is able to play (he has not ... yet). Fantasy owners will likely be waiting until the bitter end to find out whether Johnson can indeed play against the Jaguars. As of now, there is no real hint which way the cards will fall, but Johnson is a competitor who will not give up simply because the Texans are out of the playoff race. Expect him to play if he feels he can contribute, but have a backup plan in place.

[+] EnlargeHakeem Nicks
Jim O'Connor/US PresswireHakeem Nicks, who could miss Week 17 with a broken toe, is seventh in scoring among fantasy wide receivers despite missing two games with a leg injury.
Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants: He has a broken toe, putting his Sunday status into question. The Newark Star-Ledger reports Nicks broke the big toe in his left foot in Sunday's game. When asked by reporters Wednesday if Nicks could play this weekend, coach Tom Coughlin's response was blunt and discouraging: "I doubt it." Fantasy owners who have benefited from Nicks' contributions week in and week out should attempt to find a replacement in a hurry.



Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints: In what likely comes as a surprise to many, Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports Colston underwent an arthroscopic surgical procedure on his knee Tuesday, according to coach Sean Payton. Duncan says the Saints are listing Colston as questionable, but fantasy owners should plan on him being absent for Sunday's game, just five days after surgery.



DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles: Jackson did not practice Thursday because of his sore foot and it is looking as if he may not play this weekend. This could be another blow to those who might have been counting on some big points from this big playmaker. While the Eagles have not yet ruled Jackson out, fantasy owners would be wise to plan for a substitution.

Sidney Rice, Minnesota Vikings: It's not a setback with the hip but a concussion he suffered in Tuesday night's game that has Rice on the injury report. He did not practice Thursday and with the short week has less recovery time than normal. Rice has not yet been ruled out for Week 17 but fantasy owners should prepare for that possibility.

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions: Although Johnson has not practiced this week because of a sprained ankle, he is still holding out hope he can play Sunday. Johnson told the Detroit Free Press he is "just taking it day by day," undergoing treatment and trying to ready himself for the game against the Vikings. On Tuesday, we noted that Lions coach Jim Schwartz had said Johnson could miss practice and still play. It would be nice to see Johnson on the field by Friday, however, as reassurance.



Malcom Floyd, San Diego Chargers: It looked to be all but certain that Floyd would miss Week 17 with his still ailing hamstring injury, now his second of the season. But Floyd showed up in practice Wednesday, albeit on a limited basis, enough to suggest he could be available for the Chargers' finale. Wait to see if Floyd can get through an entire week of practice without a setback before getting comfortable with him in your lineup.

Tight Ends

Todd Heap, Baltimore Ravens: He returned to full practice Wednesday and Thursday, just in time to encourage fantasy owners for Week 17. It looks as if Heap is on track to play Sunday barring a setback.

Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots: Hernandez has been a limited participant in practice this week because of a hip injury. After missing Week 16, fantasy owners should be advised that despite returning to practice, Hernandez could still be held out of the game.

Jeremy Shockey, New Orleans Saints: Shockey missed practice Thursday because of a groin injury. Jimmy Graham has clearly developed a rapport with quarterback Drew Brees and may be the better fantasy start, even if Shockey plays.

Have a Happy New Year and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 17 in the Saturday morning blog!

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