Stephania Bell: Ahmad Bradshaw

Video: Colts injury updates

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
4:35
PM ET
Stephania Bell joins Bob Holtzman to discuss the return of Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne and running back Ahmad Bradshaw from injury.
Danny Amendola and Rob GronkowskiAP Photo/Stephan SavoiaDanny Amendola (No. 80) and Rob Gronkowski (87) are nearing their return to the field.

Here are updates on more of the fantasy-relevant injury situations that I've been following ahead of Week 5 of the NFL season.

New England Patriots
Rob Gronkowski, TE (back/forearm): It feels like a broken record when discussing the injury status of Gronkowski and Danny Amendola; both are practicing on a limited basis, and both will likely be listed as questionable heading into Sunday's game in Cincinnati. Another week of practice means another week of confidence for Gronkowski, which seems to be one of the primary issues for him in stepping back onto the playing field. From a practice perspective, he may still be limited on reps, but Gronkowski is participating in all forms of drills. Other than facing a true opponent -- which is a legitimately different experience from practicing with teammates -- there is little left for Gronkowski to test. But after nearly a full year of recovery from various surgeries, and the setbacks associated with some of those surgeries, who can blame him for wanting to feel extra confident that he is prepared to take the field again?

After sitting out last week’s game in Atlanta, it seems unlikely Gronkowski will opt to test his readiness in Cincinnati just one week later. But a Week 6 home game in New England against the New Orleans Saints just seems more likely. It has the makings of an exciting matchup, taking place in Foxborough, where Gronkowski will be surrounded by friends and family and undoubtedly welcomed with thunderous applause. More important, he will have just passed the 16-week mark since undergoing back surgery (the operation was June 18). Three months post-surgery is typically the soonest return for an athlete after this type of procedure; this is Gronkowski's second such operation (albeit at a different spinal level). Tacking on another month's worth of additional training and conditioning can have a profound impact on confidence level.

The extra time also allows the forearm more time to adapt to the workout stresses being placed on it, which in turn helps prepare it for the in-game loads it will encounter. Of course, no one can offer a foolproof guarantee that there is zero rate of reinjury, and the last time Gronkowski set foot on a playing field, he reinjured himself. Whatever hesitancy he may be experiencing is certainly justified. Look at it this way, fantasy owners: While he's out, readying himself for his NFL return, at least Gronkowski isn't adding any new injuries to the list.

Danny Amendola, WR (groin): Meanwhile, Gronkowski's teammate Amendola continues to make progress, but is no sure bet to return in Week 5 either. He remains on a limited practice schedule as he increases the level of demand on what is certainly a still-healing adductor tear. The hardest part about gauging Amendola's return is trying to determine when the risk-reward changes so the reward of him playing outweighs the risk of reinjury. If Amendola is still lacking power or mobility (particularly with hard breaks on routes or any sharp directional changes), he runs the risk of further injury. These things are always hard to measure in practice, but even more so if the athlete is not consistently working at full speed. By Amendola's account, the progress has been substantial, but the Patriots tend to be conservative with these soft tissue injuries and Amendola's history has to make them a bit more cautious than usual. If Amendola does manage to play in Week 5, it's hard to envision him playing at full speed for a full game.

Stevan Ridley (knee) and Brandon Bolden (knee), RBs: Also among the Patriots' MASH unit is running back Stevan Ridley. Ridley bruised the area above his knee in last week's game, and has not practiced. If he has been dealing with significant swelling, the rest will move him further toward the goal of being available Sunday than trying to practice. That said, Ridley should be on the field Friday to improve his chances of playing this week. Meanwhile, Brandon Bolden has been a regular on the injury report because of his knee and so far this week, he has been kept to limited practices. The fact that he has been a participant to some degree bodes well for his chances of suiting up this weekend, barring a setback.

Indianapolis Colts
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB (neck): The news for Bradshaw is not good. He was held out of Sunday's game after suffering a neck injury in the Week 3 contest against the San Francisco 49ers, and the word from the Colts was that he was still being evaluated. The evaluative process continued into this week, as Bradshaw traveled to California for a consultation with noted spine surgeon Dr. Robert Watkins (who operated on both Peyton Manning and Rob Gronkowski). According to ESPN.com reports, Bradshaw is still undecided about surgery, but in the meantime, he has yet to practice since the injury. Last year, Bradshaw suffered a neck injury in Week 2 which caused tingling in his hands. He underwent a battery of tests and later revealed the injury to be a bulging disc.

"It's pretty much like an inflamed disc, and it's just sitting right on the spinal cord, I guess," Bradshaw told the Newark Star-Ledger at the time. After the symptoms subsided, Bradshaw was cleared to return to play but he knew then the symptoms could return at some point. The Colts have not indicated whether this current injury is related to the problem Bradshaw had last year, but it would certainly make sense, particularly given the chronic nature of disc injuries. These injuries can go through quiet phases, not provoking any symptoms, until there is an event which triggers a worsening of the injury and an inflammatory reaction. While Bradshaw considers his options, fantasy owners should consider whom they would choose to replace him for this week and, quite possibly, for the remainder of the season.

Oakland Raiders
Darren McFadden (hamstring) and Marcel Reece (knee), RBs: McFadden left Sunday's game in the first half with a right hamstring injury, and only returned to the sideline as an observer for the second half. Although the Raiders did not specify the severity of the injury, McFadden's absence from practice is telling. He is no stranger to lower extremity injuries and has missed numerous games throughout his career as a result. Although McFadden entered the season healthy, it seemed only a matter of time before another soft tissue injury cropped up. One month into the season, McFadden is contending with a hamstring ailment and looks to be in danger of missing at least Week 5, if not longer. The Raiders will play in an unusually late Sunday night game (the result of sharing a stadium with the Oakland Athletics, who will host a playoff game hours before), so fantasy owners should make alternate plans in advance.

Reece also left Sunday's game early with a non-specific knee injury (sprain) that warranted an MRI, but he returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday, then followed it up with another limited practice Thursday. Apparently the injury is not as serious as it first appeared, and with McFadden likely out, Reece's availability as a complement to Rashad Jennings becomes more important.

Green Bay Packers
Eddie Lacy, (concussion) and Johnathan Franklin (foot), RBs: Lacy suffered a concussion on his first carry of Week 2, and was held out of the following game. The Packers had a bye in Week 4, giving Lacy some additional down time. Coach Mike McCarthy indicated prior to the Week 3 game that Lacy had made good progress, so it came as no surprise that he was back practicing with his teammates this week. In fact, Lacy has been a full participant and barring a setback, he'll play this Sunday.

With James Starks already ruled out, Franklin would figure to be next in line behind Lacy, but he is dealing with an injury of his own, a foot ailment suffered late in the Week 3 game where he replaced the injured Starks. Franklin was able to practice fully both Wednesday and Thursday and should be available for Sunday's contest against the Lions.

Jermichael Finley, TE (concussion): Finley suffered a concussion in Week 3, then provided some insight into just how sobering an experience that can be when he posted a video describing the event on his personal website. As ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky pointed out, Finley's video was the first time that the media had heard from him following the injury. In his video, Finley talks about the play where the injury occurred, and the initial symptoms he experienced after regaining consciousness, which included visual disturbances and balance issues. Finley has made great improvements since the injury, as evidenced by his clearance to return to football activity after passing numerous tests. As Demovsky reports, Finley called the testing process a "long haul," but seems to appreciate the steps that are in place, perhaps as a result of his personal encounter with a head injury. "You have to do several things to get back, and you have to respect the league for doing it," Finley said. "It's much respect from me."

Kansas City Chiefs
Jamaal Charles, RB (toes): Charles popped up on the injury report with the body part listed as "toes," presumably because of the "extensive blisters" coach Andy Reid described after the Week 4 game. ESPN.com's Adam Teicher reports that Charles participated in the team walk-through Wednesday despite not formally practicing, a good sign for his likelihood of playing Sunday against the Titans. Charles was upgraded to limited practice Thursday, and appears to be on track for Week 5.


It's the final week of the NFL regular season and, well, if you're still playing fantasy football, it's clearly the final week for that too. Championship games in Week 17 are always tricky since some NFL teams may opt to rest their starters. And even if their starters play, they may get pulled halfway through a game if there is no meaningful result associated with the outcome.

While teams may not reveal their respective strategies when it comes to how much playing time their starters will see, the injury reports may yield some clues as to who might be watching from the sidelines.

Players with the biggest question marks heading into Week 17:

Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots (forearm/hip): We haven't heard from the big tight end in a long time as he's been kept to limited practice and away from the media. However, on Wednesday Gronk spoke to reporters and made it clear that the decision as to his playing status remains a medical one. "When the doctors clear me, when the training staff clears me, when I'm medically ready to play and they let me play, I'm sure that's when I'll be out there," said Gronkowski, according to ESPN Boston. Gronkowski has been practicing for nearly two weeks and this Sunday marks the six-week milestone since he fractured his left forearm. He underwent surgery to implant hardware and stabilize the fracture a day later.

The earliest a player would typically be cleared to play following a fracture is around the four-week mark, with six weeks being more common. Still, there are individual differences in healing and individual circumstances to take into account. It is possible that Gronkowski, who will likely be listed as questionable this week -- just as he has been for the last two weeks -- could be activated Sunday. But for now his status remains uncertain.

[+] EnlargeMatt Forte
Mike DiNovo/US PresswireEven if Forte's ankle is healthy enough for him to suit up on Sunday, how much will he play?
Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears (ankle): Forte's right ankle was again aggravated during a game, forcing him to leave last Sunday's contest. After not practicing Wednesday, Forte returned Thursday to a limited session, lending credence to his expectation that he will play on Sunday. Throughout the season, Forte has been remarkably resilient when it comes to playing through his sprained ankle (he has only missed one game). It appears he will play Sunday, barring a setback, but it is also clear after these multiple setbacks that his ankle is not 100 percent. There is a risk that this week could be a short outing for him.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants (knee/foot): Bradshaw had his usual off day Wednesday but returned to limited practice Thursday, always a good sign for his weekend playing outlook. After injuring his knee in Week 14 and sitting out the following week, Bradshaw was active in Week 16 but was a limited contributor. Part of that may be a result of how the game unfolded; regardless, Bradshaw still touched the ball more than teammate David Wilson. With another week between him and the injury, Bradshaw should be in better form this week and as of now, his chances of suiting up look good.

Quick Hits


Here's one you don't see every day on the injury report: arrhythmia. That's the descriptor next to Arian Foster's name. Foster left last week's game early with an irregular heartbeat, something he experienced in the past, but received medical clearance to return to work this week and has been a full practice participant. Teammate Owen Daniels was out Thursday with tightness in his hamstring, although coach Gary Kubiak said he expects him to play Sunday.

Last week, we noted that running back Adrian Peterson didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday. Peterson openly acknowledged the rest was geared at getting him ready for Sunday. He has already declared his intention of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record, so we already know he plans to be on the field -- a lot.

Titans running back Chris Johnson has not practiced this week after spraining his right ankle on Sunday. However, Johnson said that he will play this weekend, telling the Tennessean that he still wants to "go out there and fight." Fantasy owners would appreciate the effort.

Wide receiver Jordy Nelson has been on the injury report for a few weeks due to an ailing hamstring, but his status seems to have taken a turn for the better. Nelson has been a full participant in practice this week and looks as if he could make a return Sunday. Fellow receiver Randall Cobb was limited last week because of a shoulder injury but played Sunday, only to sustain an ankle injury in the process. Cobb participated in limited practice Wednesday but then did not return to the practice field Thursday. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that this was part of the plan, according to coach Mike McCarthy. Cobb went through light work Wednesday then received treatment on the ankle Thursday and will test the ankle Friday for the medical staff to determine whether he can practice. This is one to keep an eye on as Cobb's status may come down to the weekend. Running back Alex Green has been a full participant throughout the week after missing Week 16 with a concussion. If he is active -- which it appears he will be if there is no setback -- there will be a timeshare situation for the Packers at running back.

Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks continues to be limited by his sore knee. Nicks was off Wednesday then did limited work Thursday; however, coach Tom Coughlin said Nicks did not do "a whole lot," according to the Newark Star-Ledger. Nicks has typically played despite being less than 100 percent healthy, but it sounds as if he might not be a lock to go this week. We should know more after Friday's practice.

[+] EnlargeTrent Richardson
Larry French/Getty ImagesRichardson, who has piled up more than 1,300 all-purpose yards and 12 TDs, is uncertain for Sunday with an injured ankle.
Browns running back Trent Richardson injured his left ankle in Week 16. Fortunately, there was no fracture, but Richardson was placed in a walking boot to start the week. Although the injury does not appear to be as serious as Richardson initially feared, he has not practiced this week and his status is uncertain. Thankfully for fantasy owners, coach Pat Shurmur said he will not wait until game time to reveal Richardson's status, according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. Given the injuries Richardson has dealt with throughout the season -- and given the Browns' non-postseason status -- it makes little sense to risk him.



Despite the fact Falcons receiver Roddy White has not practiced this week, it's hard to get too worked up about his playing status. After all, the week after the injury when his Sunday availability was most questionable, he played. It hardly seems likely that he would miss a game two weeks later due to the same injury. A more reasonable concern, however, would be White's potential playing time, given the Falcons have secured the top spot in their division. Tough call here for fantasy owners as the team is not likely to give away its plan in advance.

Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant (finger) and running backs DeMarco Murray (foot) and Felix Jones (knee) have been full participants in practice throughout the week. With their game against the Redskins not tipping off until Sunday night, fantasy owners can at least feel confident about the status of these three.

This week, the 49ers will be without receiver Mario Manningham, who suffered a brutal season-ending knee injury in Week 16. But will they also be without tight end Vernon Davis? He sustained a concussion last Sunday and did not practice Wednesday. However, Davis received an encouraging boost Thursday when he received medical clearance to resume non-contact activity and returned to limited on-field work, according to CSNBayArea.com. The final step before Sunday will be receiving clearance for contact. If Davis has no recurrence of symptoms after Friday's efforts, his chances of a Sunday return appear promising.



Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin left Sunday's game with a shoulder injury, but according to the Ravens' official website, the diagnosis was a bruise. Though Boldin has been held to limited practice this week, it appears he will be healthy enough to play come Sunday.

Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis appeared on Thursday's injury report as a non-participant due to illness. There is no indication that this poses a threat to his Sunday status, but it will be worth noting whether he returns to practice on Friday. Meanwhile, teammate Mike Nugent has been sharing kicking responsibilities with Josh Brown while dealing with a calf injury. He returned to full practice Wednesday but did not practice Thursday; as a result, the team's kicker status for Sunday is still up in the air.

After putting in a limited practice on Wednesday, Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart (high ankle sprain) did not practice Thursday. Carolina coach Ron Rivera acknowledged that Stewart suffered a setback with his ankle, according to the Charlotte Observer. It has been a gloomy end to an unspectacular season for Stewart, who looks as if he will miss his fifth game in a row.

Running back Pierre Thomas, who appeared on the Saints injury report last week because of his knee, played Sunday and there was no immediate report of a setback. However, this week Thomas has yet to practice, raising some concern as to whether he'll be in the Sunday lineup. Teammate Chris Ivory, who has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, returned to full practice Wednesday and repeated the effort Thursday. After Friday, we should have a better idea as to who will be healthy enough to play Sunday.

Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew has not played or even practiced since suffering a high ankle sprain three weeks ago. It seems unlikely his status will change this week; however, as has been the custom so far, the Lions are not ruling him out.

Week 16 did not go well for the Steelers. Not only did their season virtually come to an end, but they also lost tight end Heath Miller to a knee injury. Wide receiver Mike Wallace was also reported to have a hamstring injury following the game, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Wallace continues to be listed on the injury report because of a "hip" ailment and has not practiced this week. His status for Sunday remains iffy at best.

Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was limited Wednesday because of a knee injury (he left practice early, according to the Philadelphia Daily News), then did not practice at all on Thursday. There is no reason to trot him out Sunday if the knee is a significant issue. Regardless, Maclin told the Daily News that he would return to practice Friday. Maclin's fantasy owners will have to take a wait-and-see approach this week.

New York jets tight end Dustin Keller is still not practicing and appears very unlikely to return this weekend. Quarterback Greg McElroy was already on the injury report for an abdominal injury, and had a concussion added next to his name on Thursday. He will not play Sunday; as a result, Mark Sanchez will reclaim the starting role.



The clock is ticking down toward championship weekend for many fantasy football owners. The last thing anyone wants to see is a big zero next to a big-time player's name on Sunday night, dashing any hopes of taking home the fantasy trophy and, most importantly, bragging rights for the next year. It's not too much to ask for a Week 16 in which every player finishes the game as healthy as he entered it, right? OK, maybe it is. But at least it would be nice to know in advance who will be healthy enough to play.

One player making his return this week is Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, who has been out since Week 11 recovering from a concussion. McCoy will start Sunday, but the Eagles are expected to rotate him and Bryce Brown, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.



It's not surprising that McCoy would return to play, as that is what players do once they are deemed healthy. It's worth keeping in mind that while McCoy was in the early stages of recovering from his concussion, his workouts were severely limited so as not to overstress his system -- and he only recently returned to full practice. Consequently, it would not be surprising if his game conditioning has dropped off. McCoy was subject to -- and passed -- numerous tests to demonstrate his readiness to return. How he performs after being absent for four games is the big question.

Players with the biggest question marks heading into Week 16:

Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins (knee): Will he be under center when the Redskins play the Eagles on Sunday? On Thursday, coach Mike Shanahan told reporters, "If there is no setback, he should be ready to go."

Griffin III sat out last week's game with a sprained lateral collateral ligament (LCL) in his right knee, but as we noted Tuesday, Shanahan said that if doctors clear RG III to play, he will play. On Wednesday, Griffin participated in his first full practice since the injury. The fact that he was able to practice again Thursday indicates that his knee responded well. As long as nothing develops between now and Sunday, expect Griffin to be starting at quarterback for the Redskins.

[+] EnlargeRob Gronkowski
AP/Michael DwyerWill Gronk spike again this Sunday? His playing status is very much up in the air given his forearm injury.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots (forearm/hip): This may be one of the toughest situations to gauge in advance, given that Gronkowski has now returned to practice, albeit limited, for nearly a week. Gronkowski fractured his left forearm in mid-November, and Monday marked the four-week period since he underwent surgery to repair it. The fact he is out of his cast and present on the practice field signals a measure of bone healing, but is it enough for the Patriots to release him into a game situation?

He could play with a protective shell on his forearm (wrapped in padding) once there is confidence that the risk of re-fracture is relatively low. Given that standard bone healing is approximately six weeks, there may be a desire to simply keep him out a while longer to minimize that risk. It would not be surprising if Gronkowski practices on a limited basis again Friday, is listed as questionable on the injury report and comes down to a game-time decision.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants (knee): After missing Week 15 because of a knee injury, Bradshaw told me Tuesday that his knee feels much better and he expects to play on Sunday. Of course, Bradshaw is always of the mindset that he will play and, to his credit, he has perhaps played more games with injury and pain than without. Coach Tom Coughlin said that whether Bradshaw plays will be a medical decision. Bradshaw did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, not altogether surprising given that he often misses multiple days of practice each week to rest. His Sunday playing status could come down to a game-time decision.

Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons (knee): Last week, White did not practice because of a knee injury but, true to form, he did not miss the game. Although he only had two receptions, he was not seriously limited in playing time and there were no reported postgame setbacks. This week, White did not practice Wednesday but rejoined practice on a limited basis on Thursday. The Falcons travel to Detroit to play the Lions Saturday night. After playing last week, the expectation is that White will do so again.

Quick Hits


Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola was able to return to action in Week 15 after missing two games (and most of a third) with what was termed a foot injury on the injury report (reported as a plantar fascia injury by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch). The best evidence that Amendola continues to improve is his removal from the Rams' injury report this week. There will be no agonizing game-time decision necessary this week -- expect Amendola to start against the Buccaneers.

Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant proved that he will play with a fractured left index finger. He also proved that while it may be more challenging to make certain catches, he can still be productive. However, there are still risks associated with his injury; at any moment, the particular way the football strikes his injured finger -- such as an awkward landing, helmet hit on the hand or even a bad angle on a block -- has the potential to escalate the pain to the point where Bryant becomes less able to produce.

But there are risks anytime a player steps onto the field. Given what Bryant was able to do last week, the expectation would be that he can perform similarly this week. While his Week 16 production may not be up to his maximum potential, it is probably still better than many other wide receiver options. The Cowboys certainly seem to think Bryant is up to the task, since he was targeted more last week (nine targets) than his per-game season average (8.4), turning one of those receptions into a touchdown. This week, he practiced on a limited basis both Wednesday and Thursday, and is on track to play on Sunday.

One player who does not appear he will be healthy enough to play this weekend is Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew. He injured his ankle in Week 14 (a high-ankle sprain, according to the Detroit Free Press), and has not played since. He did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, and his chances of playing this weekend appear slim.

[+] EnlargeJordy Nelson
AP Photo/Morry GashNelson, still ailing from an injured hamstring, has not practiced this week and is uncertain for Sunday.
A few fantasy-worthy Green Bay Packers appear on this week's injury report. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson has been on the injury report for a few weeks as he nurses an ailing hamstring. Nelson has not formally practiced this week, and although coach Mike McCarthy did not offer a specific update on Nelson's status when speaking with reporters after practice, his continued absence speaks volumes. Fellow receiver Randall Cobb has been limited in practice because of a shoulder injury. It does not appear serious and the Packers may be resting him during the week so as to maximize his recovery before game day. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is on the report with an ankle injury but remains a full practice participant and will play on Sunday.

Rams running back Steven Jackson fell ill due to a virus and did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. However, Jackson did warm up Thursday, then stayed to watch the remainder of practice, according to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. If he's able to increase his activity a bit on Friday, that will be all the encouragement fantasy owners need to see heading into the weekend.

Eagles tight end Brent Celek returned to full practice this week after missing last week's game after suffering a concussion in Week 14. He is on track to play Sunday. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was limited in practice Wednesday because of a back injury but returned to full practice Thursday, a positive sign that he too will play on Sunday for the Eagles.

Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith did not practice Wednesday after suffering a concussion last week. He returned to limited practice Thursday but has yet to be cleared for contact, according to the Baltimore Sun. His status for Sunday remains uncertain.

Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline, dealing with a back injury, was limited in Wednesday's practice and was a non-participant on Thursday. We never like to see downgrades as the week progresses, but late in the season it can sometimes be a precautionary move. Friday's practice session becomes very important for gauging Hartline's game-day status.

New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller is still not practicing because of his sprained ankle, and it appears as if he will miss his third straight game.

Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was limited in practice on Wednesday with a rib injury, but upgraded to full-practice status on Thursday. Expect to see him on the field this weekend.

A pair of Broncos on many fantasy rosters appear on the injury report this week, but there doesn't seem to be huge cause for alarm. Wide receiver Eric Decker (ankle) and running back Knowshon Moreno (ribs) were both full participants Wednesday and Thursday, and seem to be in no danger of missing Sunday's game.

Of course, running back Adrian Peterson didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday. He seems deserving of an extra day or two of rest during the week given the output he delivers every week. Although he is listed on the injury report with an abdomen/groin injury, there does not appear to be any concern in Minnesota that he is in danger of sitting out this weekend's game.

In fact, Peterson told Tom Pellisero of ESPN1500.com that it's part of the plan to be at his best come game time. "I'm just doing the necessary things I need to do as far as resting," Peterson said. "I'm still getting my conditioning in and working out. It's all about that push to Sunday." That's exactly what his fantasy owners want to hear.



Week 15 is in the books! Whether you're heading into your championship game or your semifinals, a win this week is no doubt critical. Naturally, injuries factor into the equation as to who will make your starting roster and, naturally, there are fewer options to choose from as yet another player says goodbye to the 2012 season.



San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews missed the first two weeks of the season due to a broken clavicle and now he will miss the last two weeks of the season due to a broken clavicle. In the preseason he fractured his right collarbone; now it is his left. At least he knows what rehab he has in store for him. This puts an end to the season in which Mathews scored just one touchdown. Backup Ronnie Brown was forced to sit out Week 15 with a hamstring injury. This week coach Norv Turner says Brown has "a chance" to play, reports Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune.



As we head into Week 16:

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
David Richard/USA TODAY SportsRobert Griffin III hopes to do more than just watch on the sidelines on Sunday.
Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III cheered on teammate Kirk Cousins on Sunday as the backup led the team to victory. Griffin was held out due to the sprained LCL in his right knee amidst doctors' concern that he would be risking further injury. A return this week remains a possibility and, as The Washington Post reports, coach Mike Shanahan noted, "If the doctors give their OK, he's going to play." Griffin moved increasingly well as last week progressed, an encouraging sign given how painful the injury appeared at the time. If he can continue to make strides this week and if the swelling has resolved and doctors believe the knee is stable, look for Griffin to be pressing for a return. After all, he was doing that last week and made it clear it was not his decision to sit. Resting was a wise move by the team, which has to balance the weight of the lengthy career of a star player against any single-game benefit. Hopefully, the decision for Week 16 will come well before game time.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant played last Sunday despite a fractured left index finger (which will ultimately require surgery to repair) and it certainly affected him at times. Bryant wore a customized splint created for him by the Cowboys' medical staff; however, his finger, too bulky to fit inside the glove, was exposed (the finger of his glove was cut out to accommodate the splint). Although Bryant performed better than might have been expected, there were some dropped passes or missed plays likely attributable to the finger. Bryant has already said he plans to play against the New Orleans Saints this weekend. He will continue to have the finger protected and he likely will face the same challenges from week to week. As long as it does not worsen, he should be able to perform as he did. His performance may even improve a bit as he adapts to the feeling of having the finger splinted. Of course, the unknown remains how any given hit or fall during the course of a game could affect his hand. Don't expect him to do much to jeopardize the relative health of his finger during the week. As Bryant told ESPN Dallas, "We're just going to be careful with it throughout the week and get ready for the game."

[+] EnlargeAhmad Bradshaw
AP Photo/Bill KostrounAhmad Bradshaw was a surprise scratch in Week 15 but could be ready to go just in time for the fantasy championships.
New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw was held out of Week 15 because of a sprained knee. Despite his toughness and known willingness to play through pain, Bradshaw's knee concerned the team enough for the Giants to keep him at home as they traveled to Atlanta. The Giants are certainly ready to move on from that game, and Bradshaw is hopeful, expectant even, that he will play. Bradshaw paid a visit to the ESPN campus Tuesday and told me he has full range of motion in his knee again, a critical determinant of him being permitted to upgrade his activity. The knee is still sore (he had a bag of ice handy so that he could carry out his treatment, even while visiting) but Bradshaw says it feels significantly better than it did at the time of injury. Oh, yes, he's still battling pain in his foot, but as he indicated, the knee issue has essentially made him forget about anything with the foot. And as he pointed out, "I've played with broken feet. I know that's not going to stop me." I am under the impression Bradshaw will be returning this week, barring a setback.

• Another player who could return this week is Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy. McCoy has missed four weeks since suffering a concussion and has been working his way back through the team's five-phase concussion recovery protocol. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports McCoy has been cleared by a neurologist to return, and head coach Andy Reid says there is "a chance" he plays. From a rehab perspective, there is no benefit to shutting him down if, in fact, he has made a complete recovery. Expect McCoy to participate in practice and, as the week progresses, there should be some insight from the team as to whether the Eagles plan on utilizing him in Sunday's game.

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey continues to leave the door open for running back Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) to return. John Oehser of the Jaguars' official website reports that Mularkey indicated Jones-Drew's pain had improved. The plan was to work him out Tuesday to see how the foot would respond. Mularkey changed Jones-Drew's status from "very questionable" (which it has been for several weeks) to questionable. Still, it is clear the team is being cautious in returning him from a serious foot sprain. Right now, it seems unlikely Jones-Drew will make the necessary progress to play in a game, but as Mularkey noted, the Jaguars are not yet ruling him out. You probably don't want to invest your championship hopes in him.



St. Louis Rams receiver Danny Amendola played his first game in three weeks last Sunday. He had a decent outing, considering Amendola isn't fully recovered from the plantar fascia injury he sustained in Week 11. He managed 58 yards and a touchdown along with a two-point conversion for good measure. Amendola told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "The foot felt pretty good for the most part." The best takeaway is that Amendola made it through the entire game and had no setbacks. The foot will not be 100 percent healthy until he has more time to rest it in the offseason, but if he can perform well enough to deliver fantasy points -- and it appears he can -- then he might just be worth inserting into your lineup.

• The Chicago Bears have placed running back Michael Bush on injured reserve. He suffered a rib injury in Week 13, managed just one carry the following week before pain forced him out, and then was sidelined completely for Week 15.

• The Tennessean reports Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kendall Wright says he suffered at least one cracked rib in Monday night's game. Wright exited the game in the fourth quarter after the injury. His status for this week is uncertain, but given the short time frame, it would not be a surprise if he is held out.



The additions to injured reserve keep piling up.

This week, the Arizona Cardinals placed quarterback Kevin Kolb on injured reserve. Kolb has complex rib, chest and shoulder injuries, which have sidelined him since Week 6. After giving John Skelton a shot at the starting job last week, the Cardinals have reverted back to Ryan Lindley. (We feel for you Larry Fitzgerald fantasy owners.)

Also, the Indianapolis Colts placed running back Donald Brown on injured reserve. Brown has a severe high-ankle sprain, which would have taken longer to recover from than the season permitted. Vick Ballard will be the starter for the remainder of the season.

Players with the biggest question marks heading into Week 15:

Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins (knee): RG III has impressed many by participating in limited practice both Wednesday and Thursday. His presence Wednesday was a bit of a surprise after the frightening blow he took in Sunday's game, which resulted in an LCL sprain. More encouraging was that he returned the following day, which indicated that he did not experience any setback from Wednesday's activity. "He looked more comfortable," coach Mike Shanahan said of RG III's effort on Thursday, according to the Washington Post.

RG III has been fit with a brace to protect his knee and offer some stability. The final decision regarding his game status sounds as though it will not be made until Sunday. This gives RG III the maximum possible time to recover and keeps the Redskins' opponent (the Cleveland Browns) guessing, both of which benefit the Redskins. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan outlined the key questions to determine whether Griffin will be under center. "I think Robert's going to be able to show us that he can move well, [but] it's more," Shanahan said. "If his knee is stable enough, can he protect himself in there and is there a risk of further injury?" Griffin is trending in the right direction in terms of his health, but come Sunday, the team could still elect to hold him out to buy him some additional recovery time. Fantasy owners should plan for a game-time decision.

Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys (finger): On Tuesday, we noted what the concerns might be for Bryant and his finger if he postpones recommended surgery. However, it appears that Bryant plans to take on that risk. He returned to limited practice Thursday, telling reporters, "Only thing y'all need to know is I'm playing," according to ESPN Dallas.

What we all would like to know is just how well Bryant will be able to catch the ball. The two challenges will be trying to protect the injured finger and pain. When a bone is broken, vibration is perhaps the most pain-inducing sensation; a ball thrown from the quarterback with any measure of speed will certainly be painful when it hits the injured finger. Add to the mix the challenge for the medical staff to provide protection for the receiver's finger while not impeding his ability to catch the ball -- and pour on some swelling for good measure. It's difficult to function at a high level with this injury. The best sign so far was that Bryant was able to catch some passes Thursday; the next test will be to see how his finger is Friday and whether he can repeat the effort.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants (knee): When Bradshaw misses practice to rest his sore foot, it almost goes unnoticed because the expectation has become that he will play come Sunday. However, Bradshaw is contending with a new injury this week, and there seems to be a lot less confidence that it will be business as usual on game day. Bradshaw underwent an MRI and the team reports he has a sprained knee, although in the absence of any specifics, the diagnosis is essentially unhelpful as it could represent a multitude of scenarios.

The bottom line is that he has not practiced -- and may not this week. Coach Tom Coughlin referred to Bradshaw's toughness when addressing reporters Thursday after practice. As reported by ESPN New York, Coughlin offered this response to questions about Bradshaw's status: "I am not going to speculate -- because of the toughness of this young man -- on how long it would be," Coughlin said. "I am not going to rule him out of anything." Bradshaw is likely to appeal to play because he is, well, tough and competitive. However, the Giants' coaching and medical staffs may help make the decision for him. The Giants travel to Atlanta to play the Falcons, so if Bradshaw does not make the trip, the question will be answered. If he does travel, then add him to the game-time decision list.

Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons (knee): Knee. MRI. No details. Game-time decision. Sound familiar? The matchup between the Giants and the Falcons on Sunday has two stars whose injury situations are tenuous. Falcons coach Mike Smith told reporters Wednesday that White had a knee injury but he expected him back Thursday. After White did not practice Thursday, Smith called him a game-time decision, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Smith did say that White felt "much better" Thursday compared to how he did Wednesday, but he also noted the team would exercise caution leading up to Sunday.

This is, after all, the time of the season when teams headed for the playoffs exercise careful judgment about returning players with even a minor ailment to action for fear it will develop into something more significant. White never misses games -- he hasn't missed one in eight years with the Falcons -- even when he's less than 100 percent healthy. However, this week it sounds as though he will have to be convincingly healthy come Sunday. For fantasy owners, it's another toss-up until Sunday morning.

Danny Amendola, WR, St. Louis Rams (foot): Amendola has missed two games in a row (and most of a third game considering he had one catch in Week 12) because of his sore foot and heel. He has been a limited participant in practice this week, and could make a return Sunday, though it is likely to be another game-time call. Coach Jeff Fisher said Amendola needs the foot to heal sufficiently before returning, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Danny needs to be close to 100 percent to be effective -- to be able to protect himself," Fisher said. Whether he will reach that mark by Sunday is the big question.

Quick Hits

Oh no, not Adrian Peterson on the injury report. After being limited Wednesday, Peterson did not practice Thursday because of an abdominal injury. According to Judd Zulgad of 1500ESPN.com, Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he expects Peterson back on Friday. It would appear that all of Peterson's fantasy owners can now exhale.

Detroit Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew has missed two practices following his ankle injury in Week 14. The Lions have not hinted at his status, but they play in a late game on Sunday. It would be wise to have a backup plan.

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy described the chances of wide receiver Jordy Nelson suiting up on Sunday as a "long shot," which is all fantasy owners should need to hear. Nelson has not practiced this week, and with an eye on the postseason, expect the Packers to hold him out this week.

Concussions kept Jaguars running back Rashad Jennings and wide receiver Cecil Shorts out in Week 14. It looks as though Jennings will be sidelined again, as he has not yet returned to practice. Shorts has returned to limited practice this week and appears on track in his progression. Still, as the Florida Times-Union reports, Shorts has seen up close the difficulties some of his teammates have had after sustaining concussions, and he plans to take it one step at a time. "I'm definitely going to be smart about this," Shorts said. "As much as I want to play and would like to play, my health is more important." That sounds smart.

After getting a much-needed Wednesday off (along with the majority of his teammates), Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler returned to practice Thursday on a limited basis. Expect him to play on Sunday.

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice suffered a hip pointer on Sunday, but has been a limited participant in both Wednesday and Thursday practices. His injury did not sound serious, and his presence on the practice field supports that notion. Expect him on the field Sunday.

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Sidney Rice suffered a foot injury, and ended up in a walking boot to start the week. He has not practiced, but the Seattle Times reports he was moving without the boot Thursday, which is encouraging. For what it's worth, quarterback Russell Wilson told the Seattle Times that he expects Rice to play. It would be a good sign to see Rice practice on Friday in order to feel better about his Sunday status.

Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden was reportedly moving well in practice early this week despite suffering a minor setback to his ankle in Week 14. He has been a full practice participant this week and is expected to play this weekend.

Don't expect to see Carolina Panthers wide receiver Brandon LaFell (turf toe) or running back Jonathan Stewart (ankle) this weekend as neither player has practiced this week.

Week 14 is in the books. Unfortunately for those of you still playing meaningful games this fantasy football season, your player options may have decreased yet again as more players were lost to injury.

The biggest injury news of the weekend centers on one Robert Griffin III, the exciting rookie quarterback for the Washington Redskins. He suffered a knee injury in Sunday's game while making one of his signature scrambles. The video of Griffin's leg whipping through the air looked frighteningly violent, causing many to fear he had suffered a significant injury. Fortunately, that was not the case. On Monday, Griffin underwent an MRI, which revealed his injury to be a Grade 1 lateral collateral ligament (LCL) sprain. Coach Mike Shanahan informed reporters of the injury, noting that Griffin's ACL, which he had surgically reconstructed in 2009, looked "great." Shanahan said Griffin will be evaluated "day by day," and the team is hopeful his knee will improve quickly with rehab.

As for the nature of Griffin's injury, given the mechanism of the hit, it's not surprising that he sustained an injury to the LCL, the outer-most primary stabilizing ligament of the knee. He took a hit to the body and thigh from Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata as he was in the process of falling, with his right leg whipping forward. The blow resulted in an abrupt stop to the forward momentum of his thigh, but the lower leg continued on its trajectory, snapping to a hard stop when the soft tissue restraints that guard the movement became taut. Perhaps Griffin is most fortunate that his leg was in the air when this happened. Had he absorbed a similar blow with his foot planted, the consequences would likely have been far worse.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Doug Kapustin/MCT/Getty ImagesRobert Griffin III's knee wrapped around the back of Ravens DT Haloti Ngata during the hit.
The LCL can be injured when an athlete takes a blow to the inside of the knee; it also can be injured during a hyperextension or rotational injury. Griffin's knee was extending and slightly rotating at the same time he encountered the blow to his thigh. The biggest concern with these injuries is damage to any surrounding structures on the lateral and particularly the posterolateral aspect (the back outside corner) of the knee. Structures in this area that lie close to the LCL help control stability in that quadrant of the knee, an area that is subject to high biomechanical forces during normal movement. Any lingering instability can be threatening to the overall health of the knee. The best news in Griffin's case is that this sprain is of the most minor (Grade 1) variety.

An isolated minor sprain has a good chance of healing with restricted motion (via bracing) and rest to protect the ligament. Griffin also will engage in rehab to help with pain and swelling while restoring normal joint mobility. The criteria for his return will include his ability to demonstrate that he can perform at his position without significant compromise and without increasing the risk of more substantial injury. As a running quarterback, he will not be encouraged to return if he cannot run, change direction or decelerate normally. Beyond this aspect of his game being part of his DNA as a quarterback, a player who is thinking about accommodating his style of play to avoid injury suddenly becomes more of an injury risk, not to mention he's often less effective.



Shanahan says they will see how Griffin looks Wednesday but indicated that as of now, no decision has been made as to who will be the starting quarterback Sunday. It would not be surprising if Griffin is forced to sit out, given the rationale noted above. It's also worth remembering that everyone heals at different rates, and no two injuries are identical. And as the Redskins are no doubt appreciating this week, Griffin's case also serves as a reminder that no matter how nasty an injury looks at first glance on video, it may not always be indicative of how severe the injury actually is.

Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey announced Monday that running back Fred Jackson is done for the season and has been placed on IR. Jackson suffered a Grade 2 sprain of the medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his right knee Sunday. Gailey noted that the recovery timetable for Jackson's injury is likely closer to 4-5 weeks, longer than the time left in the regular season. This is the same knee he injured in Week 1 when he sustained an LCL sprain and missed two weeks -- hmm, maybe RG III should chat with Jackson about what he did to return from that injury -- and this is also the same leg in which Jackson suffered a fractured fibula which prematurely ended his 2011 campaign.

With regard to his latest injury, Jackson shared the following thoughts with ESPN's Josina Anderson: "Technically it's a tear off the bone, because you tear the ligament away from the bone. So that's why some people say it's a tear, but the ligament itself is intact. It's just pulled away from the bone a little." We're sorry to see his second season in a row ended by an injury after playing all 16 games in each of the three previous seasons. In the meantime, C.J. Spiller will undoubtedly get a bump in his workload.

• Tight end Jared Cook of the Tennessee Titans also has played his last game of the 2012 season. Cook left Sunday's game with a right shoulder injury. Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean later reported that Cook had torn his rotator cuff and is done for the year. Cook had a left shoulder injury early in the season, an AC sprain which had him in a sling briefly, but he did not miss a game. Unfortunately, he will now miss the rest of the season, and coach Mike Munchak indicated that Cook will be placed on IR.

• Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe suffered broken ribs in Sunday's game and already has been ruled out for Sunday's game, according to the Kansas City Star. He may, in fact, be done for the season. The Star suggests that it also could signal the end of his time with the Chiefs.

As we head into Week 15 ...

[+] EnlargeDez Bryant
AP Photo/Sharon EllmanDez Bryant's status for Sunday is not yet known.
• Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant suffered a fractured index finger in his left hand Sunday, an injury that could end his season. According to ESPN's Ed Werder, Bryant has met with a hand specialist. The decision comes down to whether Bryant requires surgery now, or whether this is an issue he can play through, allowing him to postpone the surgery. While a broken finger might not sound like the worst injury in the world, the reality is that a resultant deformity or lack of normal motion could impact a receiver permanently. This is not insignificant, which probably is the reason there has been no official decision made as of this writing.

• Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was again forced to leave a game early, this time because of a neck injury. Speaking on his weekly radio show on ESPN1000 Monday, Cutler described his neck as "stiff" and said he was "getting spasms" during the game. He is currently receiving treatment and said he expects to be able to play this week, "unless something drastic happens."

New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw was in and out of Sunday's game because of a left knee injury. Coach Tom Coughlin said Bradshaw underwent an MRI and other tests Monday, but there has been no word yet as to the results. When Bradshaw injured his neck early in the season, the results of his tests were not immediately shared either. It was Bradshaw who later indicated he had an "inflamed disc" in his neck. Perhaps he will share an update on his knee later this week. In any event, don't expect Bradshaw to practice Wednesday since he usually sits out. Barring the emergence of definitive information to rule him out, Bradshaw's status could once again come down to a late-week decision.

• Concussions have forced the absence of several key players for the Philadelphia Eagles for a few weeks, and now they can add tight end Brent Celek to the list. Celek suffered a concussion during Sunday's game and will not play Thursday night. As for the health of quarterback Michael Vick and running back LeSean McCoy, it appears both are making progress. Both are engaging to a limited degree in practice, and according to Eagles head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder, Vick is now in the final phase (Phase 5) of the Eagles' concussion recovery protocol. Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports neither is likely to play Thursday despite not officially being listed as "out" yet by the Eagles. Both players still need to be cleared by an independent neurologist and both need to re-introduce contact. Burkholder has implemented a mandatory 24-hour waiting period to monitor whether symptoms recur after advancing within the protocol. Given the short week, it's likely that both will miss another game, though if all progresses well, both could be available in Week 16 (although in Vick's case it will be in a backup role, as Nick Foles has been named the starter going forward).

• Despite re-aggravating his ankle injury in last week's game, Raiders running back Darren McFadden was in practice Monday and moving well, according to Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times. He appears on track to play this weekend.

• Coach Mike McCarthy has hope that Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson will return from his injured hamstring this week. Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports McCarthy says Nelson is improving. That may be, but we know the true test comes with full-speed running. Keep an eye on practice reports this week to gauge Nelson's progress, but right now it's too early to realistically project his return. Remember this is the recurrence of a prior hamstring injury for Nelson, so it would not be surprising if the team is cautious.

• As the Florida Times-Union reported, coach Mike Mularkey was not available for his usual Monday news conference due to illness, so there was no update on the status of running back Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) or wide receiver Cecil Shorts (concussion).



Many a fantasy owner still playing for a title was dealt a big blow Wednesday afternoon when Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin was placed on injured reserve. The IR designation began to look like a real possibility after Harvin attempted one practice last week, struggled to run and was not seen again on the practice field the rest of the week. It was also recently revealed that he had sustained a more significant tear, not particularly surprising given Harvin's struggles to recover and his own description that he had sprained his ankle in three places.

Still, the recent description of the severity of his injury suggested he might not be able to return to form. As it turns out, Harvin wasn't able to return at all, but the assumption is that the IR decision was made with the interest of his long-term health in mind. Not only might Harvin have struggled to perform at anything close to the level he displayed early in the season, but he also may have risked compromising his ability to return to that level in the future.

[+] EnlargeTitus Young
Tim Fuller/US PresswireTitus Young, hampered by a knee injury and behavior problems, is done for the season.
Other players moved to IR this week included Detroit Lions wide receiver Titus Young and Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jake Long. Young was dealing with a knee injury for much of the season and was a frequent member of the Lions' injury report. His inability to consistently participate in practice was hinted at as a reason for his failure to perform to the level of expectation on game day. Recently, however, it became apparent that Young's behavior was at issue as well and the team suspended him in Week 12, sending him away from the facility for several days. He returned for some practice in Week 13 but remained off the playing field on Sunday.

This week, the decision was made to move him to IR, leading some to wonder what the primary reason was for the early termination of his season. According to the Detroit Free Press, the Lions placed Young on IR with a knee injury. However, when coach Jim Schwartz was asked whether the injury would require surgery, his response was telling: "Yeah, most likely," Schwartz said. "Yes, unless he doesn't show up for it." OK then. Until next year, perhaps.

As for Long, there is no doubt about what sent him to IR -- he tore his triceps and the recovery timetable exceeds the time remaining in the Dolphins' season. Long has dealt with significant injuries, including a torn biceps which ended his season late last year.

Already ruled out for Week 14


Running back Donald Brown of the Indianapolis Colts injured his ankle last Sunday and will not play this week. Vick Ballard will be the starter, which, given his use in recent weeks, should not come as a surprise. At least the Colts have done everyone a favor and given us this news well in advance of Sunday's game.

Quick Hits


Eagles running back LeSean McCoy remains out of practice as he recovers from a concussion. Don't expect to see him this weekend. However, do expect another hefty dose of Bryce Brown. Nick Foles is the Eagles' starting quarterback for the remainder of the season; Michael Vick has not yet returned to practice, but if and when he does, it will be in a backup role.

Concussions are also an issue for Jaguars running back Rashad Jennings and wide receiver Cecil Shorts. Both were injured in Week 13 and neither has returned to practice. It is not looking as if either will be available on Sunday.

[+] EnlargeJohnson
Brett Davis/US PresswireDespite his hamstring injury, Stevie Johnson should be ready to play for the Bills on Sunday.
Bills receiver Stevie Johnson strained his hamstring last Sunday, but the Bills did not seem concerned about his playing status for Week 14. After taking Wednesday off, Johnson returned to limited practice Thursday and unless things change, should be on course for Sunday. It's worth remembering that Johnson played through a groin injury last season which ultimately required surgery. This is not to say the hamstring issue is serious but rather that Johnson has shown he will play at less than full capacity.

Earlier this week, Packers coach Mike McCarthy hinted at a very low likelihood of seeing receiver Jordy Nelson in Week 14. Nelson aggravated his hamstring injury prior to last Sunday's game then was forced to exit early. He has not practiced this week and it's looking as if he will sit this game out. His teammate Greg Jennings said he felt "great" coming out of his return to action following abdominal surgery -- which makes sense, since Jennings is no longer mentioned on the injury report.

Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw continues to operate on a modified practice schedule, as in no practice at all this week. His workload picked up last week with the absence of Andre Brown (now on IR with a broken fibula), but Bradshaw seemed to respond just fine. He is expected to play Sunday in a similar capacity. His teammate, receiver Hakeem Nicks, has been far less consistent this season. Swelling in his knee due to an injury sustained in Week 2 compounded his recovery from foot surgery. In Week 12, the ailments appeared to be in the rearview mirror but Monday's game proved that was not the case. This week, Nicks practiced Wednesday (and wasn't even listed on the injury report) but developed swelling in his knee again and was forced to sit out Thursday practice, limited to riding a stationary bike on the sideline. It's hard to have confidence in Nicks this week, particularly for those fantasy owners competing in playoffs. Meanwhile, fellow Giants receiver Domenik Hixon has been practicing in full after missing last week with an ankle injury. He should be available for this week's matchup against the Saints.

Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola was out of Sunday's game with an injured heel. He has spent the majority of the last two weeks in a walking boot. On Wednesday, Amendola did individual work on the side and was a limited participant Thursday, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. This is an encouraging development but it's hardly reassuring heading into a fantasy playoff weekend. It's worth seeing what his activity is like on Friday. Meanwhile, teammate Steven Jackson has been playing through a foot ailment and will continue to do so. Jackson was back in full practice Thursday after taking Wednesday off.

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Brandon LaFell suffered a turf toe injury and chipped a bone in the process, according to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. (This has the sounds of an avulsion injury, where a ligament injury pulls a small bone fragment with it.) The bottom line is that LaFell remains in a boot and not practicing, so he will not play this weekend. Teammate Jonathan Stewart (ankle) is not practicing and is not expected to play this weekend.

Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham has been hot in the red zone lately, scoring touchdowns in three of Cincinnati's last four games. However, there may be no scoring of any kind for him this week if he can't take the field. He was a limited participant in practice Wednesday due to a hamstring injury, but it was his complete absence from practice Thursday that should have fantasy owners concerned. Late-week downgrades are never a good thing, and when the injury involves a hamstring, they are more worrisome. There is still a chance that Gresham recovers, but fantasy owners should be making alternate plans.

Jets tight end Dustin Keller does not look as if he'll make it back this Sunday after injuring his ankle in Week 13. He has not been ruled out for the game but he has not practiced yet this week. It's been a tough year health-wise for Keller, who missed four games early in the season due to a hamstring injury.

Patriots' tight end Aaron Hernandez continues to be held to limited practice but certainly was not held to limited playing time last Sunday when he was on the field for every offensive play. Expect him to be ready to go on Monday night. Teammate Rob Gronkowski is still on the mend from his broken forearm and is likely to sit out another week. No, the Patriots have given an update regarding the healing progression of the bone (but who expected that to happen?). When Gronk appears in practice, it will be the sign he is nearing a return. Until then, it is silence as usual.

And on a final note


Steelers coach Mike Tomlin announced Thursday that Ben Roethlisberger will resume his starting role as quarterback for the Steelers. While the unusual nature of his shoulder injury led to some speculation that he might be done for the season, the facts of his case combined with his history of quick healing and pain tolerance suggested he would be able to return.

It is still a credit to Roethlisberger that he is in a position to return just four weeks after getting injured. He has demonstrated that he can make the necessary throws to perform effectively, but how he responds to absorbing contact is unknown. He is expected to wear some padding for protection, but the sternoclavicular joint and the first rib are impossible to completely stabilize. His best bet is to ensure he unloads the ball quickly enough to avoid taking sacks that drive his shoulder into the ground (which is how he was hurt in the first place).



This is an unusual week with three games taking place on Thursday because of Thanksgiving. Six teams are dealing with the challenge of recovery in a four-day window as we move into Week 12.



Houston Texans at Detroit Lions

Out

Titus Young, WR, Detroit Lions (not injury related, knee): Young was sent home from the Lions' facility at the start of the week by coach Jim Schwartz for "repeated selfish behavior," according to the Detroit Free Press. He has been on the injury report because of his knee for several weeks now but that seems to have improved. Now he needs to work on his attitude.

Other injuries

Ben Tate, RB, Houston Texans (hamstring): Tate has missed several games because of injuries to his toe and his hamstring. In late October coach Gary Kubiak indicated it would be a while before Tate would be ready to return to game action. Three weeks later and he has yet to return. Initially, Kubiak said Tate had "a good chance" for that return to happen Thursday, but after not participating Tuesday, his status remains unclear. The Texans' official website indicates he will be a game-time decision, but given he's been out for nearly a month, it's hard to count on Tate even if he does go.

Owen Daniels, TE, Houston Texans (back): Daniels was active last Sunday even though his back was not 100 percent recovered. The hope is that a light practice week helps move him along further. Daniels is expected to play again Thursday.

Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions (knee/thumb): Johnson has been on a limited practice regimen for weeks, and the pattern continues. His productivity has increased over the past couple of weeks as well with Johnson seeing the end zone in each of the past two games. Fantasy owners hope that pattern continues.

Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys

Out

Brandon Meriweather, S, Washington Redskins (knee): It's a very tough break for Meriweather, who in his first game of the season (he had missed time because of problems with his left knee) tore his right ACL. He has been placed on injured reserve.

Other injuries

Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington Redskins (foot): Garcon returned to action last week and was able to emerge from that game no worse for the wear. His contribution from a fantasy perspective was invisible, but head coach Mike Shanahan insists Garcon's presence on the field represents a big-play threat. Right now, that threat may be limited as Garcon tries to play through an injury that is not truly healed. The combination of extended rest, treatment and a shoe insert to support his damaged toe did allow him to get through his first game in weeks without incident. Shanahan notes that the turf in Cowboys Stadium may present an additional challenge for Garcon's sensitive foot, however, making his status questionable for Thursday. He is expected to test his toe pregame before a final decision is made.

DeMarco Murray (foot) and Felix Jones (knee), RB, Dallas Cowboys: Murray is still limited to working on the side and has not resumed practicing with the team. Last week we said a return Thursday would be unlikely and that remains the case. The week to watch will be Week 13 as Murray will have had an additional 10 days to increase his workload. Meanwhile, Jones was out of practice Tuesday after injuring his knee last Sunday. This is not the same knee that has been bothering him for weeks. As coach Jason Garrett told the Dallas Morning News, "He was dealing with a knee going into last week and hurt his other knee in the ballgame." The Cowboys are taking it day by day -- as if there is any other choice -- and will have to wait to see if Jones will be well enough to take the field Thursday. Otherwise, Lance Dunbar could be in line to start for the Cowboys on Thanksgiving.

Kevin Ogletree, WR, Dallas Cowboys (concussion): Ogletree suffered a concussion in Week 11 and has not practiced so far this week. His status for Thursday appears to be in doubt.

New England Patriots at New York Jets

[+] EnlargeRob Gronkowski
AP/Michael DwyerPatriots tight end Rob Gronkowski won't be doing any spiking for a while.
Rob Gronkowski (forearm/hip) and Aaron Hernandez (ankle), TE, New England Patriots: Gronkowski is not listed yet as "out," but after undergoing surgery Monday to repair a fractured left forearm, it is safe to say we won't be seeing him. The team has not confirmed which bone was broken (there are two in the forearm, the radius and the ulna, and either one or both can be fractured, depending on the mechanism), although the ulna -- which runs from the elbow towards the fifth (pinkie) finger -- is most vulnerable and most commonly broken on blocking plays in football. Assuming the fracture was not comminuted (multiple pieces) and did not involve the joint but was limited to the shaft of the bone itself, repair is fairly straightforward. Surgical stabilization with a plate is typically done to help facilitate the healing process and then the bone does the rest. It bears repeating that bone tends to heal well in an otherwise healthy individual and the timetable is generally consistent (approximately six weeks). Clearance for contact requires evidence of callus formation on imaging (a sign the bone is repairing itself, which is usually evident around four weeks, give or take) and players can return with a protective shell around the forearm as long as it is wrapped and padded. Gronkowski will be able to maintain his aerobic conditioning and, if the wrist is not involved, he can begin to work with the wrist and hand shortly. Contact is the last element permitted and it all depends on the healing status of the bone. If all goes well (and if Gronkowski's injury is of the least complicated variety as described above), a return within four weeks is not out of the question. Additional time could be required depending on the healing process.

Meanwhile, Hernandez appears on track to return Thursday after continuing his limited participation in practice. Hernandez has not taken the field since the last time the Patriots faced the Jets in Week 7, and with Gronkowski sidelined, his return will be welcomed. As to how much the team looks to him in his first game back since exiting for the second time because of his ankle, it remains to be seen.

Wes Welker (ankle) and Brandon Lloyd (knee), WR, New England Patriots: Both receivers are expected to play Thursday just as they did Sunday despite their presence on the injury report. Their limitation in practice early this week is to be expected given the short turnaround between games.

Jeremy Kerley, WR, New York Jets (hamstring/heel): Kerley was on the injury report last week with these ailments and despite his very questionable status, he was active. His productivity was limited and his practice so far this week has been limited as well. According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Kerley has soreness as a result of his game play Sunday and he will be a game-time decision for Thursday night.

Beyond Thursday

Concussions

This is also a week where a large number of players are on the injury report because of concussions. As is the case with all concussions, there is no ability to predict the exact timetable for recovery. Even players who make progress during the week may not meet all the necessary criteria to be cleared to play in a game. Just ask San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who suffered a concussion in Week 10, returned to limited practice during the week but was not cleared to play for a Monday night game. Two other starting quarterbacks, Jay Cutler and Michael Vick, also were sidelined this past week because of concussion. Not one is a lock to play in Week 12; the teams maintain, properly, that their status is day-to-day. In addition to the quarterbacks, several other key fantasy players have recently suffered concussions. Their status is also in question for Week 12. While it is not possible to guarantee when any of the concussed players will return, they are listed below as a means of reminding fantasy owners who they need to keep an eye on as game day approaches.

[+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
AP Photo/Brian GarfinkelThis is definitely not what LeSean McCoy owners or Eagles fans wanted to see.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: McCoy suffered a concussion late in Sunday's game. While the Eagles' Monday night appearance will grant him an extra day to recover, he still must complete all of the necessary requirements before he can return to game play. Fantasy owners may want to secure Bryce Brown.



Donnie Avery, WR, Indianapolis Colts: Avery was among those suffering concussion injuries Sunday. He'll be one more to monitor throughout the week.

Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills: Jackson is reportedly feeling better this week and so far is on track to return to play. Coach Chan Gailey told the Bills' official website that Jackson was going through the final phases of the concussion protocol. He practiced Wednesday and is cleared to play Sunday. After C.J. Spiller's impressive performance last Thursday night while Jackson was out with the injury, it's not clear how the load would be divided this week.



Isaac Redman, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers' running back corps cannot seem to get through a week without being dealt an injury blow. This week it was Redman who was the victim, suffering a concussion against the Ravens. According to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, coach Mike Tomlin is optimistic about Redman's chances for this week. We will see.

Dennis Pitta, TE, Baltimore Ravens: Pitta suffered a concussion early in Sunday's game against the Steelers but on an encouraging note, his symptoms reportedly subsided quickly. Count him among the many who will be going through a battery of tests this week.



More injuries to watch

Running Backs:

Darren Sproles, New Orleans Saints (hand): Sproles didn't play last week but he was very close. Close enough in fact, to have traveled with the team to Oakland and been a game-time decision. The Saints held him out because of persistent swelling in his left hand on which he had surgery three weeks earlier to repair a fracture. He did practice fully leading up to the game and assuming he does so again this week and that the swelling is down, you have to like his chances of participating Sunday.

Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos (knee): McGahee knows a thing or two about knee injuries, but his instincts were a little off last weekend. McGahee thought the injury he suffered in Sunday's game wasn't serious but as it turns out, it was serious enough to end his regular season. McGahee suffered a torn MCL and a compression fracture in his right knee, according to the Denver Post. He is non-weightbearing on crutches and will have to patiently wait for his body to heal. The Broncos placed on injured reserve/designated to return, meaning he would be able for the postseason.



Wide Receivers:

[+] EnlargeJulio Jones
Josh D. Weiss/US PresswireJulio Jones was already a game-time decision heading into last week, and could be even more of a question mark this week.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons (ankle): Jones lobbied to play Sunday despite not being able to practice all week with his injured ankle. He managed three receptions before aggravating the ankle and exiting early. The question is just how much of a setback Jones suffered and will he be able to overcome it to play again this Sunday? Until the Falcons issue practice reports this week, there won't be any indication as to how much activity he can do, but there might be more resistance to playing Jones this week if he cannot participate.



Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs (neck): Bowe injured his neck in Sunday's game and his status for this week is uncertain. Coach Romeo Crennel would not rule him out just yet according to the Kansas City Star, but he also offered no details on the injury or any assurances Bowe would play. As of now that gives fantasy owners very little to go on other than making sure to have a plug-in for Bowe this week.

Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears (knee): After missing more than a month with a fractured bone in his right hand, Jeffrey returned to action this week only to injure his knee. He is scheduled to undergo arthroscopic surgery Wednesday and Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times reports he is projected to miss anywhere from two to four weeks. Players often have to combat the return of swelling as they are reintroduced to football activity following even a minor scope (see: Donald Brown) so consider four weeks a more realistic timeframe.

Quick Hits


Minnesota Vikings receiver Percy Harvin had the bye week to rest his sprained ankle after sitting out Week 10 but is still dealing with soreness. Only two weeks removed from a sprain that Harvin described as being "in three places," residual soreness is not unusual. According to 1500ESPN.com, coach Leslie Frazier said the swelling is mostly resolved and he hopes to get Harvin back in practice Wednesday. Harvin's activity level by the end of the week will go a long way in determining the confidence level for him to not only play but stay in the game this Sunday against the Bears. There's no doubting Harvin's toughness (he has played through ankle injuries and performed well in the past) but it's a matter of functionality (can he run, stop sharply, cut, pivot) and risk of re-injury. After all, Falcons receiver Julio Jones was convincing enough to get in the game last week despite his ankle injury but was forced out early after aggravating it while playing.
Addendum: Harvin was not able to practice Wednesday generating a little more cause for concern related to his status for Sunday.

New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw was a participant in practice Monday. There was no extensive explanation of Bradshaw's test results performed during the bye week after his neck was a problem for him again in Week 10 (Bradshaw experienced neck-related symptoms in Week 2 and was later diagnosed with a bulging disc in his neck). According to Jenny Vrentas of the Newark Star-Ledger, he confirmed that he had repeat X-rays of his neck that came back "clean." It's not necessarily surprising that X-rays would be unremarkable; there is likely more to his clinical scenario than is being shared. In any case, his presence in practice has to be taken as an encouraging sign because he was obviously cleared to be there. Don't be surprised if Bradshaw is granted some of his usual down time during the week but as of yet, there is nothing to suggest he is in danger of sitting in Week 12.

[+] EnlargeBeanie Wells
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesBeanie Wells is taking advantage of the new rule that allows certain players to return after being placed on injured reserve.
Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells will be activated this week, according to the team's official website. Wells was placed on the injured reserve/designated for return list when he suffered a turf toe injury earlier this year. Wells is expected to play Sunday when the Cardinals host the St. Louis Rams. As noted last week, Wells has been practicing with the team and is eager to return to play. The Cardinals have to be hoping he can proceed without issue through the remainder of the season. While his toe may not be perfect, his legs should be fresh given that he has not seen game action (and therefore contact) since Week 3.

• Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger (sternoclavicular joint/first rib) and Byron Leftwich (multiple rib fractures) are incapacitated this week. Roethlisberger was injured a week ago Monday and while his injury was serious (and undoubtedly excruciatingly painful), it was not necessarily a season-ender. In fact, if his healing progresses well, it's conceivable that Roethlisberger could rejoin the team in December. Leftwich, filling in for Roethlisberger in Week 11, sustained multiple broken ribs and will not be under center this Sunday. The starting quarterback for the Steelers in Week 12 will be Charlie Batch.

• Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola left Sunday's game briefly after appearing to injure his foot. He did return to finish the game but was reportedly seen limping afterward. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, coach Jeff Fisher expressed some concern about Amendola, given his soreness in what is being called a foot/heel injury. His practice status will be something to monitor throughout the week. Amendola has proven to be so talented when on the field but the injuries seem to keep piling up.

• Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is making progress from the high ankle sprain he suffered in Week 9. He has not yet been ruled out for Sunday's game and it remains to be seen whether he can ramp up to full practice this week. A big test will be whether Brown can pivot and break to the inside, a movement that stresses the injured region of the ankle. With Jerricho Cotchery out with rib fractures, the Steelers have signed receiver Plaxico Burress. This team started the season off with a running back carousel as a result of injuries; it now seems like the quarterbacks and receivers are following suit.

Oakland Raiders running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson were both absent in Week 11 because of their respective high ankle sprains. Goodson has not done much outside of his regular rehab work. McFadden did test the ankle running last week so it will be interesting to see if he can increase his activity level and return to practice. Even if McFadden isn't quite ready to return Sunday against the Bengals it sounds as if he may not be too far off.

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew suggested he was a couple of weeks from returning last week. In other words don't expect him this Sunday, something coach Mike Mularkey echoed on the Jaguars' official website.



Week 10 is in the books! And oh, what an interesting week it was. The top stories were concussions ... and Ben Roethlisberger.

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesBen Roethlisberger has played through many injuries during his career, but it may prove difficult to do in Week 11.
It didn't take long for the injury to Roethlisberger's right (throwing) shoulder to create a media firestorm, even as the details of the injury remained unknown. The potential loss of the oft-injured but rarely absent Steelers quarterback raised the anxiety level among Steelers fans and fantasy owners.

Now we know that Roethlisberger suffered an SC sprain, but the consequences, as far as how much time he might miss, remain uncertain. ESPN's Josina Anderson cites a source saying the Steelers staff is being told, "It doesn't look like you're going to have Ben this week. We're looking at next week as a possibility as of right now." For further details on Roethlisberger's injury, click here.



Concussions

The injury gets its own header since it left the biggest mark on the NFL as a whole this week. Three starting quarterbacks and a star running back all suffered concussions on Sunday (along with others who aren't included here), and their status for Week 11 is in jeopardy. In fact, one of the four -- Bills running back Fred Jackson -- has already been ruled out for this week given that the team plays on Thursday night.

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick does not appear likely to play in Week 11 after suffering a concussion this past weekend. On Monday, coach Andy Reid told reporters that Vick was "foggy" after the game and resting at home. Fogginess is a specific symptom that appears to be associated with a more prolonged recovery, so Reid's use of that particular term is interesting. While the Eagles have not yet ruled Vick out, he has quite a ways to go to be eligible to play.

In San Francisco, quarterback Alex Smith suffered a concussion on a quarterback sneak. According to CSNBayArea.com, Smith stayed in the game for six more plays, despite experiencing blurry vision. When Smith reported the blurred vision on the sideline, the team held him out for the remainder of the game. Smith, like all other NFL players who sustain a concussion, will have to follow the league protocol before he can return to play. Since the 49ers do not play until Monday night, there is a possibility he could be available. We will monitor his progress throughout the week.

In the Sunday night game, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler also suffered a concussion late in the first half. He remained in the game until halftime when the decision was made to remove him. As is standard for the league following any significant injury, a review was conducted to evaluate how Cutler's injury was handled. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the league confirmed that the situation was handled properly. Cutler's status remains in question for next Monday night's game.

The spotlight shining on concussions in the NFL has prompted increased discussion following these types of injuries to high-profile players, which certainly has to be viewed as a positive. It is still a work in progress and issues such as using qualifiers ("mild" or "significant") to describe concussion and the players' role in reporting symptoms remain. While the NFLPA has issued a call for more "concussion specialists," there are other more complex challenges that persist when it comes to the recognition, evaluation and management of concussions.



Rounding out Week 10 ...

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles, (back): Maclin got flipped up in the air and made an awkward landing, which looked scary when it happened. He did leave the field for tests but ultimately returned to the game. On Monday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Maclin suffered a lower back strain. Maclin was still "pretty sore" Monday, according to Eagles coach Andy Reid, and his status for Sunday is uncertain.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants, (neck): Bradshaw has been playing through pain in his foot, but this week it appears the neck issue he encountered early in the season has resurfaced. He is set to undergo further testing during the team's bye.

Much more to come on these players and all the others dealing with injuries after Thursday practice is complete. On Friday, there will be an update on the status of players who might be in the conversation as your fantasy football trade deadline approaches.



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.

Week 4 Thursday injury update

September, 27, 2012
9/27/12
10:41
PM ET


Welcome back, NFL referees! Tonight will mark their season debut in Baltimore as the Ravens host the Cleveland Browns. I have no doubt that they, like players who do not start the season on time because of contract disputes, have been maintaining their workout programs in order to be ready at the drop of a hat. But I wonder if they, like the players, will take some time to adapt to the speed of the game and will we potentially see an increased injury rate in the referees in-season this year? Something to keep an eye on.

Here's who else we're keeping an eye on in Week 4.

Quarterbacks

[+] EnlargeMatthew Stafford
AP Photo/Rick OsentoskiMatthew Stafford looks like he'll go Sunday after leaving last week's game early.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (hamstring): On Tuesday we discussed Stafford's hamstring/glute injury, which was labeled "hamstring" on the NFL official injury report Wednesday. Later that day, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweeted that the team had revised it to a "hip" ailment. To add less clarity to the situation, consider the remarks of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who told reporters, "I don't really consider him injured. He's just dealing with something that's been uncomfortable ..." Based on Stafford's original remarks, this does not have the sounds of a true muscle pull but rather of an issue in the back or hip that is causing some referred pain into the gluteal or hamstring area. That leaves open a range of possibilities, but in the end the actual diagnosis may not be particularly significant, at least not yet. It will come down to functionality. Does he have enough mobility and power in the leg to function effectively, even if there is some lingering soreness? As long as that soreness does not progress into more disabling pain or weakness, then Stafford should be able to press through it. For what it's worth, he indicated he was feeling better Thursday than Wednesday.

However they decide to label it, here's what we know: Stafford did not practice Wednesday but did return Thursday, a good sign that he is preparing to be available Sunday.



Tom Brady, New England Patriots (right shoulder): If you've missed seeing Brady's name on the injury report this year, well, he's back. And it's the same body part he was listed with when he went on that record streak of injury report appearances a few years running. He was limited at practice Wednesday but expect him to play, as always.

John Skelton, Arizona Cardinals (ankle): Skelton began limited practices last Thursday and that's how he started off this week. Still recovering from a sprained ankle, he returned to limited practice again this week. Right now it looks as if Kevin Kolb will stay under center.

Running Backs

[+] EnlargeAhmad Bradshaw
Mark L. Baer/US PresswireAhmad Bradshaw looks like he will start this week after missing the Week 3 contest.
Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants (neck): The Giants weren't saying much about Bradshaw's neck injury last week but he offered up some insight Thursday. The culprit, it appears, is a bulging disc. According to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN New York, Bradshaw experienced tingling in his hands during the Week 2 game but didn't attribute it to a specific hit. It happened a second time in the game, which is when Bradshaw decided he should get it checked out.

Tingling is a hallmark nerve symptom; when the tingling happens in both hands at the same time, it's a signal that the spinal cord is involved. The medical staff was understandably cautious when Bradshaw reported the symptoms and, after evaluating him, determined he could remain at the game, but could not return to play in the game. Bradshaw underwent a subsequent MRI, where the disc issue was detected. While disc injuries can be serious, they can also be fairly benign. It's not uncommon for bulging discs to be present and be completely asymptomatic. If there is an event that results in inflammation, it can become painful or provoke nerve tissue in the area (this is perhaps what Bradshaw was trying to explain when he referenced an "inflamed disc"). Often once the inflammation resolves, the symptoms do as well. It appears this was the case with Bradshaw.

Bradshaw has practiced fully both Wednesday and Thursday and is on track to resume his starting role Sunday against the Eagles. The Giants would not return him to play if he was at any significant risk, and his clearance to return indicates his neurological symptoms have resolved. The unknown aspect is whether these symptoms will return. There is no true predictability one way or another, however, it is not uncommon to have more than one episode once a disc injury is present. Those episodes can be weeks, months or even years apart. And in some cases, there is no recurrence.



Those who make their living at a computer are at as much, if not more, risk than professional football players for developing disc problems in their neck and back. So if everyone on a laptop is going to continue to work, Bradshaw can too. If Bradshaw's neck does turn into a recurring problem then his status may change, but until that time, he can be expected to play.

[+] EnlargeFred Jackson
Ed Mulholland/US PresswireFred Jackson might be ready to return to action for the first time since leaving during the season opener.
Fred Jackson (knee) and C.J. Spiller (shoulder), Buffalo Bills: Flash back to Sunday, Spiller clearly in pain on the ground, carted off the field with medical personnel holding his shoulders. Now it's four days later and Spiller is back in practice, albeit on a very limited basis. Quite surprising. Perhaps the reassurance he received after going through further tests was enough to encourage his rapid recovery. He is still has a ways to go before playing in a game and it would not be surprising if he is out this Sunday, but that has not yet been decided.

Jackson has made an impressive recovery of his own from a right lateral knee sprain. He returned to limited practice Wednesday but emerged seeming less than thrilled with the result. Jackson told the Buffalo News on Thursday, "I was a little sore ... a little swollen." It's not terribly surprising that Jackson's knee would respond that way to the increased activity; the question was whether he would have to scale it back further on the second day. Apparently not. There were no lingering effects into Thursday afternoon's practice and Jackson participated in most of it, according to the News. After practice, coach Chan Gailey told reporters, "I think if we make it through the next couple days and continue to improve I think [Jackson] will have the opportunity to play."

There is still plenty of time for things to change but it appears to be shaping up for Jackson to be available along with a healthy Tashard Choice, while Spiller likely rests another week.

Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams (groin): Jackson did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, but this week isn't so much about whether he'll play or not, it's about what can be expected. Last Sunday, Jackson gained only 29 yards rushing on 11 carries, most of which were very short gains with the exception of one run for 13 yards. Jackson acknowledged the injury affected him but also said he didn't suffer any setbacks. Until we see him running full speed, there will be some question as to whether the injury is truly behind him.

Arian Foster, Houston Texans (knee): Foster took in a light practice Wednesday but was back at it in full on Thursday. So far, so good.

Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders (shoulder): McFadden's presence here is a reminder that sometimes players appear on injury reports with very minor ailments -- bumps and bruise from a game -- because they take fewer reps in practice to preserve their bodies. Of course we all understand why there is a slight panic for fantasy owners when it's McFadden's name that appears here. While Oakland's official Thursday injury report is not in at the time of this writing, a source tells me he is participating and is "fine."



[+] EnlargeMatt Forte
Joe Camporeale/US PresswireMatt Forte could be back this week, but will fantasy owners be able to wait until Monday night for the decision?
Matt Forte, Chicago Bears (ankle): If only the Bears didn't have a Monday night game. Forte's status could very well come down to the wire, which will make this a tough decision for fantasy owners. In general, things are looking up. Forte returned to practice Wednesday and repeated the effort Thursday. His chances of returning are looking better, but hopefully there will be a better indication by Friday afternoon.

Reggie Bush, Miami Dolphins (knee): On Tuesday we highlighted Bush's knee concerns, but the real question was whether we would see him in practice. After being held out Wednesday, Bush returned to limited practice Thursday and was running well. If he can put in another good effort Friday, it appears he will play Sunday.

Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos (rib): On Tuesday, we discussed what would determine whether McGahee could play this week, and his limited participation in practice Wednesday with a bump up to full participation Thursday shows he is on track.

LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles (rib): Another running back, another rib injury. There isn't much concern here because McCoy practiced fully both Wednesday and Thursday.

Mikel Leshoure, Detroit Lions (groin): Leshoure was limited in practice because of a groin injury but keep in mind, he is coming into this season off major surgery (Achilles repair). There is no indication that his Sunday status is in jeopardy, but Friday's practice should yield better clues.

Ryan Williams, Arizona Cardinals (knee): With teammate Beanie Wells going on IR (designated for return, meaning he can return in Week 12), Williams has an opportunity to shine. He is listed on the report but put in full practice. His value is on the rise.

Evan Royster, Washington Redskins (knee): Royster strained his patellar tendon and has been held to limited practice so far this week. Roy Helu (turf toe) is now on IR, but Ryan Grant was just added to the mix so the Redskins can continue with a running back carousel.

Peyton Hillis, Kansas City Chiefs (ankle): Hillis has been in a walking boot since the game ended and has not practiced. It's not looking great for his chances to suit up this week. Teammate Jamaal Charles is not on the injury report this week, however. Kudos to Charles, who had an outstanding performance Sunday (233 rushing yards!) and showed some of the pre-injury speed on a 91-yard breakaway run. With Hillis possibly out and Charles showing improvement, he could be poised for a big week.

Wide Receivers

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions (ankle): Johnson has now been on the injury report each week but has never been at risk of not playing. Limited Wednesday, full practice Thursday, play Sunday.

Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles (hip): Maclin's hip benefited from the rest in Week 3 and he claims he's much improved. Full practice both Wednesday and Thursday, and he is expected to play in the big matchup against the New York Giants on Sunday night.



[+] EnlargePierre Garcon
John David Mercer/US PresswireIt doesn't look good for Pierre Garcon to return this week.
Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins (foot): Judging from all the questions coming my way regarding Garcon, people are very suspicious about his injury. It's important to remember that a foot injury, even a relatively mild one (no fracture or dislocation) can be extremely incapacitating because of the load that goes through the foot with running and the shear forces it experiences when changing direction.



The Redskins have maintained that Garcon can proceed based on how the foot feels, which tells us they're not overly concerned about the injury worsening. Still, pain exists to help prevent us from doing things that would lead to further injury, and depending on the location and quality of it, it is not necessarily something that can or should be overridden. With coach Mike Shanahan telling reporters Thursday that Garcon's foot is still sore and with Garcon continuing to be limited in practice (although he is making progress according to Shanahan), it appears he could miss another week.



Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants (foot): I said it here Tuesday and I'll say it again: Expect Nicks to play in Week 4. He got the benefit of some extra rest for his sore foot last week, but returned to limited practice Thursday. He will be ready for Sunday night in Philadelphia.

Andre Johnson, Houston Texans (groin): Johnson practiced on a limited basis both days. There is reason to keep an eye on this, as Johnson suffered a groin injury in the preseason. But this has more the appearance of preserving a veteran star than anything else.

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons (hand): The Falcons announced that Jones suffered a laceration (cut) to his hand, which is why he left the game briefly Sunday. He has been limited in practice, likely to protect the hand and help it to heal. He is expected to play.



Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans (ankle): According to the Tennessean, Britt described his cascade of injury after injury as "very frustrating." Britt went on to say, "It's like something I can't get right, injury after injury. The last healthy season I had was my rookie year." This has been an overarching concern with Britt for the last few years. A very serious hamstring injury derailed his season two years ago. He headed into 2011 with his quad and hamstring nagging at him, then tore his ACL later that year. During his recovery following reconstructive knee surgery, he needed a follow-up scope and an additional scope on the opposite knee. The Titans articulated their concern when he made his debut in Week 2, saying they planned to limit his touches. A week later he has yet another injury. And, although it is considered relatively minor, he has yet to practice this week. He still hopes to play, but the injury concerns will not disappear when he returns.

Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers (groin): Jennings played in the Monday night game but we all know his performance is hardly the thing we'll remember. He did appear to be at less than full speed at times but managed to play in the game and emerge no worse for the wear. He's been limited in practice since but looks to be in line to play this weekend when the Packers host the Saints.

Dexter McCluster, Kansas City Chiefs (elbow): On Tuesday we commented on how painful McCluster's injury looked so no one would have been surprised if he was not in practice this week. But there he was on Wednesday, wearing a brace and participating only in non-contact drills but he was out there nonetheless. On Thursday, he put in another limited practice. He's surprised so far, maybe he will again on Sunday.

Julian Edelman, New England Patriots (hand): Edelman has not practiced since injuring his hand in Sunday night's game. There's not much to go on here, but two missed practices aren't encouraging for Sunday.

Tight Ends

Dustin Keller, New York Jets (hamstring): Keller has not played since Week 1 because of his injured hamstring but it looks as if things will change this Sunday. He has been practicing on a limited basis and according to ESPNewYork's Rich Cimini, coach Rex Ryan says he expects Keller to play.

Jared Cook, Tennessee Titans (shoulder): On Tuesday we said Cook would need to show he could perform well enough to play and he appears to be on his way. Cook got Wednesday off but returned to limited practice Thursday. If he can do so again Friday, there is a good chance he will return this week.

Jacob Tamme, Denver Broncos (groin): The groin can't be bothering him too much since he was able to practice fully both Wednesday and Thursday. It looks as if he'll be available in Week 4.



Other notes

New Orleans Saints WR Marques Colston does not appear on the injury report this week. He has been bothered by a case of plantar fasciitis that seemed to have limited him over the last two weeks. He played in Week 3 but had only three receptions for 40 yards. Perhaps his move off the injury report is a sign things are improving.

Don't forget to adjust your lineups! This is the first week of team byes. Both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Indianapolis Colts are off this week so they do not appear on the NFL official injury report.



Week 3 is in the books! What a week for injuries. Several players suffered season-ending injuries, including New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, who tore his left ACL and is expected to undergo season-ending surgery within the next few weeks. The Dallas Cowboys lost defensive back Barry Church to a torn right Achilles tendon. And Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Austin Collie, who was making his season debut after a delayed start because of concussion, suffered a season-ending patellar tendon rupture. Given Collie's extensive and serious injury history, his future in the NFL appears uncertain. As for the slate of other injuries, here's what we're looking at to start the week.

Quarterbacks

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (leg): Stafford told the Detroit Free Press after Sunday's game that he felt a pull in his hamstring or glute area and he just couldn't run at full power, hence his fourth-quarter exit. He also indicated this was something he'd felt earlier in the week during practice and then it flared up during the game. He was scheduled for an MRI on Monday, but there has been little in the way of specifics since. As is his routine, head coach Jim Schwartz offered nothing substantial, but he did tell reporters he would make a decision about Stafford's status by Friday.

Matt Schaub, Houston Texans (ear): This might be a first, listing "ear" as the injured body part. Schaub took a vicious hit that knocked his helmet off, and he immediately grabbed the side of his head. The reason, it turned out, was the helmet took a piece of his left ear with it when it sailed off his head. Schaub, remarkably, missed only one play. He also visited the locker room in the third quarter for X-rays on his left shoulder (which obviously came back negative). Bruised but not broken, Schaub was back in practice Monday, according to the Texans' official website. Looks like it will be business as usual come Sunday.

Running Backs

[+] EnlargeC.J. Spiller
AP Photo/Tony DejakC.J. Spiller had been putting up big numbers all season long before injuring his shoulder on Sunday.
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills (shoulder): Spiller went down hard on his left shoulder under the weight of his tackler and was in immediate visible pain. The two most common results from having the point of the shoulder driven into the turf are a broken clavicle (collarbone) (see: Ryan Mathews) or a sprained acromioclavicular (AC) joint, the joint where the tip of the shoulder blade or acromion (A) and the clavicle (C) meet. The AC joint is bound together by several ligaments; any ligamentous injury is a sprain, but if the sprain is severe enough to allow the bones to move apart, the injury is often referred to as a separated shoulder. In Spiller's case, the mechanism of injury combined with his response suggested something serious. It appears, however, that that is not the case.

The Bills have not formally declared the nature of Spiller's injury, referring to it only as his shoulder. During an appearance on "The Fred Jackson Show" in Buffalo on Monday night, Spiller said when asked what the injury was being called, "I'm not sure yet." Spiller noted that he had undergone several tests but, most importantly, commented on how much improvement there had been in just over 24 hours. "Actually, I'm very surprised the movement that we have in it," Spiller said. "I got the full range of motion, which is really weird when you have an injury like I do."

Spiller remained guarded about his availability for Week 4. "I definitely want to get out there, but we also want to be smart about it." According to the Buffalo News, head coach Chan Gailey said Spiller was unlikely to play but added the Bills were "not going to completely rule him out."

Reggie Bush, Miami Dolphins (knee): Bush left Sunday's game against the Jets in the first half with a left knee injury. He was seen limping slightly, then riding the stationary bike later. Bush, who has an injury history that includes a sprained PCL, a torn meniscus, a fractured fibula (the latter to his right leg) and several arthroscopic knee surgeries, underwent an MRI on Monday to assess the damage. The good news is that there was no major damage to report, and Bush has not yet been ruled out for Week 4. Until he gets through some practice reps, he is not a lock to play, but this is certainly more encouraging than initially thought. Unfortunately, there is a potential cumulative toll of these injuries on Bush's knee health over the long haul.



Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos (ribs): McGahee left Sunday's game against the Texans because of a rib injury. On Monday, the Denver Post reported McGahee's status as day-to-day according to head coach John Fox. Fox also indicated McGahee's injury involved the rib cartilage (which connects the ribs to the sternum). From a pain perspective, there isn't much difference. The ribs themselves can fracture, but the cartilage can also crack if the damage is significant enough. There are also numerous small muscles in the rib cage that can cause pain if bruised or torn. The problem with all of these injuries is they are often slow to completely heal, but the decision to play typically comes down to whether a player can perform in the presence of pain or not.



Wide Receivers

Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys (rib): Austin left Sunday's game in the fourth quarter to get X-rays on his ribs. Clearly the results were negative since he returned to the game shortly thereafter and continued to add to his fantasy numbers. No one was talking about his hamstring or ribs after he posted more than 100 yards.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Oakland Raiders (concussion/neck): The sight of any player lying motionless on the ground, then being spine boarded and transported to a hospital for evaluation, is frightening. The best news possible came the next day when it was announced that Heyward-Bey had been released from the hospital after suffering a neck strain and a concussion and that he is expected to make a full recovery. No fracture, no spinal cord injury. And no talk of football right now. As is the case with all athletes who sustain head injuries, Heyward Bey's progress will be monitored closely and his activity will be increased on a gradual basis.

Dexter McCluster, Kansas City Chiefs (elbow): McCluster landed awkwardly on an outstretched arm and his elbow appeared to buckle. He was in obvious pain and the medical staff tended to him briefly on the field before escorting him off. After the game, the Kansas City Star noted McCluster was in a sling, but the Chiefs have not offered a specific injury update since then. McCluster had been on the injury report the previous week with a shoulder injury. It would not be a surprise if he ends up missing at least this week.

Tight Ends

Jared Cook, Tennessee Titans (shoulder): Cook injured his shoulder late in the first half and it was reported by The Tennessean to be an AC sprain (see: C.J. Spiller note). Cook was in a sling following the game, but the Titans sound as if they expect him to be available in Week 4. Still, he'll need to show in practice that he can get his arm sufficiently elevated and absorb some contact through that side in order to play.

We're keeping an eye on

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants (neck): Bradshaw missed Week 3 with a neck injury and the team offered no details as to the specifics, including how much time he might miss. After visiting with team doctors Monday, however, Bradshaw, who had just received clearance to return to practice, tweeted the following: "Great news! Thanks everyone for ur thoughts and prayers. But u dnt understand, I'm Ready to rock #bigblue #health." Bradshaw's level of activity in practice this week should offer clues as to his readiness to return to play. Of course, teammate Andre Brown filled in admirably during Bradshaw's absence and he won't disappear completely when Bradshaw returns.

[+] EnlargeFred Jackson
Ed Mulholland/US PresswireFred Jackson might be able to return just in time to replace injured backfield mate C.J. Spiller.
Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills (knee): Jackson has made progress more quickly than anyone anticipated and looks as if he will return to practice this week. Shortly after suffering a sprained LCL, Jackson targeted the game against the Patriots in Week 4 as a return date. Now it's possible he may actually reach that goal. Jackson gave himself a "70-75 percent chance" of playing this Sunday, although even if he does return, the likelihood would be that he yields some of the work, perhaps to Tashard Choice if Spiller is out.

Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears (ankle): According to the Chicago Tribune, coach Lovie Smith says "hopefully" Forte will return to practice this week. That's still quite a ways removed from returning to play. The Bears are also working out running back Ryan Grant on Tuesday, according to ESPN Chicago.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (hip): After sitting out Week 3 because of a hip injury, Maclin is expected to return to practice this week and be available Sunday.

Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants (foot): Nicks missed the Thursday night game in Week 3 because of soreness in his surgically repaired foot. After the extra rest, he is expected to return in Week 4.

Giants-Panthers injury report

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
11:57
AM ET


This week's Thursday night game has the New York Giants visiting the Carolina Panthers. The Giants will be without two key fantasy players, running back Ahmad Bradshaw and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. Although the news, especially the surprise downgrade of Nicks, had fantasy owners less than thrilled, the Giants thoughtfully informed everyone of this status change Wednesday, leaving ample time for roster adjustments. There is, however, at least one player in this contest whose status will come down to just before game time.

Running backs

[+] EnlargeJonathan Stewart
AP Photo/Julio CortezJonathan Stewart now has a toe issue in addition to his ankle injury that has bothered him the past few weeks and forced him to miss Week 1.
Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers, ankle (Q): Yes, it's Stewart who will be the game-time decision Thursday. After spraining his right ankle in the preseason, Stewart -- who has been on the injury report plenty but has rarely missed games in his career -- did not play in Week 1. Throughout the next week, coach Ron Rivera said Stewart was moving better in workouts, particularly with directional changes. Stewart made his season debut in Week 2, delivering 68 total yards and a score.



This week, however, Stewart remains on the injury report but with a notable addition, his toe. (Even though it is not listed on the official NFL injury report, Rivera talked about Stewart's toe limiting him in addition to his ankle.) The addition is of slightly more concern given Stewart's extensive history of foot injuries dating back to his University of Oregon days. He has not yet practiced, this is a short week (translation: less total rest for an ailing foot), and Rivera declared him a game-time decision. Because Stewart hasn't practiced this week, it's difficult to gauge how much the toe would impact him in a game, if at all. (The ankle did not appear to limit him last week.)



In Week 1, Stewart was showing some improvement by Friday, was listed as a game-time decision and then did not play. It doesn't mean he won't suit up this time, but Rivera told the Charlotte Observer, "It's one of those things where if we're playing on Sunday, he's got a much, much better chance than he does if we're playing on Thursday." Fantasy owners should be prepared to make a late lineup switch.



Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants, neck (out): As noted above, Bradshaw has been ruled out for this game after suffering a neck sprain in Sunday's game. In Tuesday's blog entry, I mentioned the vague terminology used to describe Bradshaw's condition, and the Giants have left it at that. They have not shared the results from Bradshaw's MRI taken Monday, and he has not practiced. Given that a "sprain" typically refers to ligament or joint capsule damage and that there are double-digit numbers of tiny joints within the neck area, a literal interpretation of the diagnosis makes it impossible to localize the injury. In reality, it is often difficult to specifically localize spine injuries, as a big hit or awkward movement of the neck can affect many different structures simultaneously, even if only to a minor degree. In the absence of anything more definitive, the only measure of progress will be Bradshaw's function, as in when he is allowed to begin practicing and how his activity increases. Whether that will take several days or more than a week is unclear at this point, and the Giants likely won't provide any additional information until next week.

Wide receivers

[+] EnlargeHakeem Nicks
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger via US PresswireHakeem Nicks had 10 catches for 199 yards and a TD against the Bucs in Week 2 but won't be around to play Thursday night.
Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants, foot (out): Since undergoing surgery to repair his fractured fifth metatarsal, Nicks has been very forthcoming about the status of his foot. After Week 1, when he saw limited action, Nicks acknowledged still experiencing soreness in the foot but told the Newark Star-Ledger, "It was maintainable. It wasn't excruciating pain or it wasn't extremely bad." He said, after talking to others who had been through similar surgeries, that he expected it would be sore for several weeks as he adapted to the repetitive loading.

In the days between the first and second game of the season, the Giants controlled Nicks' practice activity, clearly a wise move. Nicks broke loose in the second game to the tune of 199 yards and a score. He could be seen limping at one point but did return to the game. He later acknowledged being stepped on but downplayed the seriousness of the incident. Earlier in the week, although Nicks was listed as questionable, it appeared he would play, but lingering soreness Wednesday morning changed the minds of the decision-makers.



So how worried should fantasy owners be? Obviously, it would be preferable if Nicks felt fine and wasn't missing a game. Still, it's hardly time to panic. Nicks went from virtually two months of downtime during his recovery from surgery and missing virtually all of training camp and the preseason to playing in the season opener. His activity increased dramatically in the second week, likely contributing to some increased foot soreness. With the Week 3 game coming just five days later and Nicks experiencing pain, it would make sense to rest him now, giving his foot an additional 10 days to recover. The two-week downtime should help significantly. It would be a surprise to not see him in Week 4.

Domenik Hixon, New York Giants, concussion (out): Hixon suffered a concussion in Week 2 and will miss Thursday night's game. The combination of Hixon and Nicks being out this week gives Ramses Barden a chance to line up opposite Victor Cruz.

Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers, knee (P): Smith has had intermittent soreness in his right knee, and his status in Week 2 was less certain. This week, there is less doubt, but fewer numbers of practice reps will keep a player on the injury report (and given the short week, that comes as no surprise). Smith was held to limited practice Tuesday but was listed as a full participant Wednesday. With a probable designation, he is expected to play.



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.

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