Stephania Bell: Antonio Gates

Week 3 Thursday injury update

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
10:05
PM ET
Here is what we're looking at so far for Week 3:

Quarterbacks

Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars (glute): Gabbert was a full participant in practice Wednesday and Thursday. He appears on track to play Sunday.

John Skelton, Arizona Cardinals (ankle): Skelton missed Week 2 because of his ankle sprain, and Kevin Kolb started in his place. Will Kolb start again in Week 3? Early signs point to that being the case. While Skelton was "walking around," according to the Cardinals' official website, he did not practice Wednesday. Skelton did manage a limited practice Thursday, but it seems hardly enough to suggest he'll take over the reins again this weekend.

Running backs

[+] EnlargeRyan Mathews
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesAll signs point to Ryan Mathews returning to the Chargers' backfield this week.
Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers (shoulder): Well, well, well. It looks like we are about to see the highly anticipated season debut of a certain Chargers running back. The timing does not come as a complete surprise, as it's consistent with the typical healing timeframe for this type of injury (fractured clavicle).

This is from my entry on Mathews in the 2012 Fantasy Football Draft Kit: "... Before a player is cleared to resume contact, there must be sufficient evidence of bony repair to alleviate concerns of reinjury. Every fall onto the shoulder, direct hit to the shoulder (especially if the player is hit from both sides simultaneously), even a stiff-arm move, will translate force through the collarbone area. For an athlete such as Mathews, who will incur contact through his clavicle (directly or indirectly) on virtually every play in which he carries the ball, the confidence that the bone will remain intact must be high before allowing him to compete. Normal bone healing takes approximately six weeks, which, given Mathews' injury date, would suggest he could be ready by Week 3."

Mathews was cleared for contact late last week but had very limited practice reps and was held out of competition for another week. That was smart. Now Mathews has had a chance to turn it up a notch in practice, and his collarbone has had another week of bone remodeling. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Mathews said, "I feel great; I feel healthy and strong." That's what fantasy owners like to hear.

Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams, (groin): On Tuesday, we noted that Jackson missed time in Sunday's game because of a groin injury and nothing else. While coach Jeff Fisher and Jackson made it seem as though the injury was not serious -- and an MRI seemed to confirm as much -- it remains to be seen whether Jackson will be ready to go this weekend. He did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, but according to the Rams' official website, he "remains hopeful" he'll be ready by Sunday. This may well come down to a game-time decision.

Matt Forte, Chicago Bears (ankle): As we noted Tuesday, we said it would be a surprise to see Forte this week, and his non-participation in practice Wednesday or Thursday supports that idea. While it does seem that the injury was not as serious as initially expected, it's still looking like, barring a Friday surprise, Michael Bush will start for the Bears in Week 3.

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks (back): Lynch has been on the injury report since prior to Week 1 because of his back. So far he has managed to play in the first two games of the season. Since the Seahawks play Monday night, there is only one day of practice (Thursday) to report so far, and Lynch again appeared as a limited participant. No reason for major concern as of now.

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs (knee): Charles fell on his surgically reconstructed knee in Week 2 and sustained a knee bruise, according to the Kansas City Star. He was able to return to full practice Wednesday and followed it up again Thursday, boding well for him playing Sunday.

Rashard Mendenhall (knee) and Jonathan Dwyer (toe), Pittsburgh Steelers: Mendenhall has again been listed as a full participant in practice both Wednesday and Thursday this week. Here's what I said last week after he practiced both days: "Pittsburgh does have an early bye week (Week 4), and it's possible we do not see Mendenhall before then." I still feel the same way. Each week, Mendenhall has been exposed to increasingly more work and increasingly more contact. Like others coming off ACL surgery, there is a process for evaluating how the player -- and his knee -- responds to each upgrade in activity. There is nothing official from the team to indicate he will wait another week, so it remains possible that he could be activated. If that does happen, he would not likely get a heavy workload in his first outing.

Meanwhile, Dwyer is dealing with a case of turf toe, which may have hindered his productivity somewhat in Week 2. He rested Wednesday but was back in full practice Thursday, hinting at him being active for Week 3.

Rashad Jennings, Jaguars, (knee): Again this week, Jennings has not practiced due to a knee injury. It will be the Maurice Jones-Drew show on the ground in Indianapolis when the Jaguars visit the Colts regardless.

Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins (concussion): Thomas missed last week's game due to a concussion but returned to full practice Wednesday. Barring a setback, he should be available this weekend, although he will serve as a backup to Reggie Bush.

Wide receivers

[+] EnlargeCalvin Johnson
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezNo worries, Megatron owners. Calvin Johnson is expected to play Sunday.
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions (ankle): Last week it was his foot, this week it's his ankle. Johnson will probably appear on the injury report fairly regularly; hopefully, he will continue the pattern of resting early in the week and playing later. He did not practice Wednesday but was back in limited practice Thursday. If he continues the trend, expect him to play Sunday.

Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers (groin): Jennings sat out last week's game because of a groin injury. It wasn't much of a surprise considering he had suffered the injury just four days prior, The expectation was that the extra time off would have him in good shape for Week 3. In fact, coach Mike McCarthy told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel late last week he would be surprised if Jennings did not play in Monday night's contest.



Then came Tuesday's practice. Jennings was on the field in full pads, and all seemed to be progressing well. It turns out Jennings didn't do much Tuesday other than run, and on Thursday he was unable to practice at all. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, McCarthy said Jennings was limited to rehab Thursday and was not progressing "as well as hoped." While there are still a few more days before game time, if Jennings is still this limited 11 days post-injury, how much improvement can realistically be expected by Monday? His status could come down to a game-time decision, but if he isn't able to practice at all Friday, fantasy owners should be concerned.

Jeremy Maclin (hip) and DeSean Jackson (hamstring), Philadelphia Eagles: These two were both on the Thursday injury report last week, and both ended up playing Sunday. The difference is that this week Maclin was forced out of the game because of his hip. Jackson finished the game -- and played well -- despite a hamstring strain late in the week. While Maclin was unable to practice Wednesday, he did return on a limited basis Thursday. Jackson practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and returned to full practice Thursday.

At this point, Jackson appears to be in better shape heading toward Sunday, presuming there are no setbacks beforehand. As far as Maclin's status is concerned, he does appear to be making progress and as long as he shows he can perform sufficiently before kickoff, there is still a reasonable chance he plays. Friday's practice should yield better clues for both receivers.

Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins (foot): Even though he did not play Sunday, the rest might not have been enough for Garcon's foot. He participated in limited practice Wednesday and Thursday, but according to the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, coach Mike Shanahan says Garcon's injury is "nagging him a little bit more than I was hoping it would." That's certainly not the most optimistic sounding assessment. If Garcon continues to experience this level of discomfort, it's hard to imagine him suiting up in Week 3.

Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints (foot): Colston was listed on the injury report last week because of his foot, but still managed to play Sunday. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Saints interim coach Aaron Kromer says the foot injury is affecting Colston's speed. Perhaps the limited reps in practice this week will help him get back up to speed. He is expected to play Sunday.

Julio Jones (thigh) and Roddy White (knee), Atlanta Falcons: Jones and White both on the injury report? Not to worry. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that coach Mike Smith offered this explanation: "The reason a lot of those guys are limited in their participation is [because] we are on a short week." They did play Monday night, and it was, after all, a very long game. Both were restricted to limited work in practice Wednesday and Thursday, but from the sounds of things, both are expected to play Sunday.

Brandon Lloyd, New England Patriots (thigh): Lloyd was limited both Wednesday and Thursday with what is being listed as a thigh injury. There has been nothing to suggest the injury is serious, though, including the fact that Lloyd did not completely miss a practice. The Patriots do not play until Sunday night, so hopefully there will be a better indication after Friday's session.

Tight ends

Antonio Gates, Chargers (ribs): Despite missing Sunday's game due to sore ribs, Gates did get right into practice this week, an encouraging sign for this week's status. Although he was limited Wednesday, his response to practice was positive enough to bump him up to a full workload Thursday. Thankfully, it does not appear he will be a game-time decision this week.

Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers (abdomen): Miller has not practiced yet this week because of a rib cartilage injury. Any injury in the rib area can be exceptionally painful; Antonio Gates missed last week's game with a similar ailment. This could come down to a game-time decision.

Dustin Keller, New York Jets (hamstring): Keller missed last week's game because of his hamstring injury but appears to be making progress. He wasn't in practice Wednesday but did return to limited work Thursday. Now the test will be to see how the leg responds and whether he can repeat the effort Friday.


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.

Week 2 Thursday injury update

September, 13, 2012
9/13/12
7:03
PM ET


Thursday practice reports are perhaps the most torturous. They can breed false hope -- athlete practices Thursday and looks like a lock to play only to have more soreness the next day and end up downgraded in Friday practice -- or insecurity -- injured athlete is still not doing much by Thursday, so there's no way he'll be ready by Sunday, right? Except the past three times you thought that, he not only showed up Sunday, he was also the top scorer.

Welcome to our world. While Thursdays bring us a little closer to game time, there are still many things that can change in the next 72 hours. Still, there are often hints as to which way a player's status is trending, and we want you to be tormented right along with us.

Here's what we're looking at so far in Week 2:

Running Backs

Arian Foster, Houston Texans, illness: Foster's knee (or the "area around [his] knee") turned out to be a nonissue in Week 1, and his prediction that he would play was accurate. He did not practice Wednesday due to an unspecified illness but was back in business Thursday. Expect Foster to be his usual self Sunday.

Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers, shoulder: Mathews is approaching five weeks since his surgery to repair a fractured clavicle. Although he has done individual drills and worked out intensely, the protocol shifted Wednesday. Mathews did not practice with the team Wednesday, which, as reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune, was a part of the team's plan, not a reflection of a step in the wrong direction.

"He worked pretty hard to the side," coach Norv Turner told the Union-Tribune. "He just didn't practice. We'll get him out there as soon as we can."



The protocol shifted again Thursday when Mathews turned up in practice in helmet and shoulder pads, the first time he has been in equipment since his injury. This is an encouraging sign, as clearance for contact represents the final barrier to Mathews' return.

Still, the team is not saying he is ready to suit up Sunday just yet. There is no doubt the Chargers will want to see how he responds to this level of practice and perhaps follow up with additional evaluation Friday. With any luck, there will be some indication as to his game status before the actual game time.

Rashard Mendenhall, knee, and Jonathan Dwyer, foot, Pittsburgh Steelers: Mendenhall has been listed as a full participant in practice on Wednesday and Thursday. He continues to make strides in his recovery from ACL reconstruction, but it is not clear whether he is ready to face his first game action just yet. Pittsburgh does have an early bye week (Week 4), and it's possible we do not see Mendenhall before then.

Meanwhile, Dwyer showed up on Wednesday's report because of a sore foot. Not to panic. He was in full practice Thursday, and the expectation is that he will play. Coach Mike Tomlin complimented Dwyer's Week 1 performance in his Tuesday news conference, saying he thought Dwyer "represented himself well and will probably get an increased opportunity because of it."



Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers, ankle: Stewart did not play in Week 1 because of a sprained ankle even though he had resumed planting and cutting late in the week. Apparently he has improved on those fronts. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Stewart was moving more decisively this week, according to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. Knowing how rarely Stewart misses games, it's hard to imagine him missing Week 2 with his improving mobility.



Rashad Jennings, Jacksonville Jaguars, knee: Despite coach Mike Mularkey's comment after Sunday's game that Jennings' knee injury did not appear serious, there has still been no indication as to the specifics of the injury. Mularkey told reporters Wednesday that an MRI showed no significant damage, which leaves us to wonder as to the nature of the problem. Last year, Jennings suffered a sprained knee that resulted in him landing on injured reserve. This latest injury was reportedly to the same knee, although there has been no indication as to whether the two injuries are related. The strongest indicator that he will not be ready by Sunday: Jennings has not practiced this week. Looks like the rock will go to Maurice Jones-Drew.



Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins, head: Thomas, who suffered a concussion in Sunday's game, did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. He is expected to miss Week 2.

Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills, knee: Jackson is out this week; this we already know. What remains less clear is how long he will be out. On Tuesday, I explained the reasoning for re-evaluation within seven to 10 days. Jackson essentially confirmed as much on the Bills' official website stating, "What we're going to go re-evaluate is my healing. That's what we're going to look at in seven to 10 days. We've got a good picture of it and know what we need to do to get it right."

His point was that the MRI gave a good picture of the injury, but how his knee responds initially is to be determined. He is optimistic that he can return on the shorter end of the timetable. "Hopefully sooner, but I'll definitely be back in four weeks," said Jackson. "Without a doubt." Love the attitude.

Wide Receivers

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, foot: Johnson made everyone nervous when he missed Wednesday's practice with what was termed a foot injury. After all, ever since he was anointed the face of "Madden NFL 13," superstitious types have been fearing the worst. (Most who appear on the cover go on to be beset by injury that season, never mind the odds of any football player sustaining an injury in a given year).

Put those fears to rest, at least for now. Johnson returned to practice Thursday. Now might be a good time to point out that the physical play of Johnson has often left him bruised, battered and sitting out midweek practices in the past. If a similar pattern plays out this year but Johnson still shows up big on Sundays, no one is going to complain. It just might make for a case of the nerves each week.

Jeremy Maclin, hip, and DeSean Jackson, hamstring, Philadelphia Eagles: Maclin's right hip continues to be an issue, as he did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. According to CSNPhilly.com, Maclin said he felt better than he did earlier in the week and then was off to test his hip with some running. There's no word on how that went, but since it was not followed by practice, it's reasonable to assume it was less than ideal.

The surprise was the addition of Jackson to the injury report. Jackson was a regular participant Wednesday, but on Thursday, coach Andy Reid informed the media before practice that Jackson would not be present due to a hamstring injury. According to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Jackson hurt the hamstring at the end of Wednesday's practice and was seen sporting an ice wrap on his left leg.

There's no telling the severity of Jackson's injury by the limited information available, but late additions to the injury report are never popular. The closer it is to Sunday when an injury crops up, the riskier the player's status given the minimal recovery time. If an athlete returns to Friday practice, most concerns are alleviated. What Jackson does -- or does not do -- Friday could swing fantasy owners' hopes one direction or another.

Reid made it sound Thursday as if both players were improving and that they could both play Sunday. It would feel so much better if we could see both of them in some form of practice before the weekend.



If there's some good news to be found, receiver Riley Cooper (fractured clavicle) returned to limited practice for the first time Wednesday. It still seems like a stretch that he would be available in Week 2.

Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins, foot: Remember how coach Mike Shanahan said the team would know more after Garcon tested his foot in Wednesday's practice? Well, he didn't practice Wednesday. He didn't practice much Thursday either. Grant Paulsen of 106.7 The Fan quoted Shanahan as calling Garcon "very limited" Thursday. Now Shanahan says the team should know more Friday. Early in the week, Garcon seemed confident he would be able to play.

Foot injuries are often difficult to assess for a receiver until he tries to make high-speed pivots and cuts where the foot is subject to increased shear forces. At this point, it does not look encouraging, but there is still another day to go -- another day to worry for fantasy owners. Heck, it could be another three days to worry if this goes down to Sunday.

Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers, knee: Smith was officially limited at practice Wednesday and Thursday because of soreness in his right knee, but it does not seem to be a major concern. The Charlotte Observer quotes Rivera as saying Smith is expected to play Sunday.

Nate Washington, leg, and Kenny Britt, knee, Tennessee Titans: Washington is listed with a leg injury on this week's report (no head injury as was initially suspected). He did not practice Wednesday or Thursday but expects to play Sunday. If he returns to practice Friday, it would go a long way toward confirming his availability.

Meanwhile, Britt is back and practicing with the team. He was a limited participant Wednesday and Thursday. According to Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean, coach Mike Munchak expects Britt to be in the range of 15 to 25 plays Sunday. It's worth remembering that this will be Britt's first game action since undergoing three knee surgeries, one of which was an ACL reconstruction. His participation in the game could evolve -- or devolve -- depending how his knee responds. There is little doubt the Titans are eager to reincorporate him into the offense given his talent, but whether he is ready to pick up where he left off remains to be seen.

Denarius Moore, Oakland Raiders, hamstring: Moore has been a full participant in practice and impressing his teammates. According to the Contra Costa Times, quarterback Carson Palmer said of Moore, "He looked like the Denarius of old." Moore also said his conditioning was improved, another indication that holding him out of Monday's game was probably wise. It appears he will be ready to play in Week 2.

Devery Henderson, New Orleans Saints, concussion: Henderson did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and appears unlikely to play in Week 2.

Tight Ends

Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers, ribs: Gates has not practiced this week due to sore ribs. Before anyone panics, remember the Chargers played in a Monday night game, so he has had one fewer day of recovery. If anyone can take a couple of days off from practice and still perform in a game, it's Gates. I'm not overly concerned ... yet.

Quarterbacks

Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans, left shoulder: Locker returned to limited practice Wednesday and increased his participation Thursday, strongly hinting at a return Sunday.



John Skelton, Arizona Cardinals, ankle: On Tuesday, it seemed highly unlikely that Skelton would be ready to return this week after getting carted from the field with an ankle injury. Coach Ken Whisenhunt did not want to commit to Kevin Kolb early, but by Thursday, ESPN's Adam Schefter was reporting a decision had been made. Kolb will be the starter in Week 2 against the New England Patriots.



Week 1 is in the books! And yes, unfortunately, there are injuries to report. Here's what we know so far:

Running backs

[+] EnlargeFred Jackson
Ed Mulholland/US PresswireFred Jackson is out at least three weeks, but will it be more?
Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills (knee): What a shame for Jackson, coming off a season that ended prematurely because of a broken right fibula, to be forced out in Week 1 with a serious injury to the same leg. Jackson is going to miss some time, the question now is how much. The Bills report that Jackson has a lateral collateral ligament injury and is expected to miss at least the next three weeks. The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) is one of the four primary stabilizing ligaments of the knee, reinforcing the outer (lateral) aspect of the knee joint. It is injured less frequently than its counterpart on the inner knee, the medial collateral ligament (MCL), primarily because the typical mechanism of injury for an LCL (blow to the inside of the knee) is less common. The LCL can also be injured during a hyperextension or rotational injury. This appears to have been the case with Jackson as he was actually hit on his left leg by New York Jets safety LaRon Landry, yet his right knee sustained the injury. Jackson told the Buffalo News he was immediately worried when his knee "popped." The biggest concern with these injuries is damage to any surrounding structures on the lateral and particularly the posterolateral aspect of the knee. Structures in this area which lie close to the LCL help control stability in the back corner of the knee, an area which is subject to high biomechanical forces during normal movement. Any instability can be threatening to the overall health of the knee.

Thus far reports out of Buffalo have only referenced the LCL itself. If it is an isolated sprain of minor to moderate degree, there is a good chance it can heal with restricted motion (via bracing) and rest to protect the ligament. Even minor damage to other surrounding tissues can respond well to early treatment. This explains the report that the Bills will see how Jackson responds over the next 7 to 10 days. If his knee is improving over that time and showing good stability, the chances of him returning in several weeks are encouraging. If he still has marked pain, swelling and instability, the time frame could be extended. Everyone, including Jackson and the Bills, is in a wait-and-see mode right now.

Rashad Jennings, Jacksonville Jaguars (knee): Jennings got the start on Sunday but he didn't last long. Jennings exited the game in the first half with what was later reported to be a knee injury. There have been no more specifics released as to the nature of the ailment but the Florida Times-Union reports coach Mike Mularkey said of Jennings' injury, "I don't think it's serious." Still, this opens the door for more of Maurice Jones-Drew, perhaps sooner than expected.

Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins (head): Thomas suffered a concussion in Sunday's game and will be monitored closely throughout the week. There has been no official word as to his status for Week 2 but it would not be surprising if he is out.

Wide receivers

Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers (groin): Jennings suffered a groin injury late in Sunday's game and was sore afterward, according to coach Mike McCarthy. Jennings was not in practice Tuesday during the portion that is open to the media. The concern here is that the Packers have a Thursday night game. Jennings' status should become clearer Wednesday.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Maclin
AP Photo/Brian GarfinkelJeremy Maclin put up solid numbers against the Browns despite Michael Vick's woes, but he suffered a hip injury in the contest.
Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles (hip): Maclin had a good day Sunday (96 yards, 1 TD) but it came at a price. Maclin injured his right hip, although the exact nature of the injury remains a bit unclear. ESPN's Adam Shefter reported Maclin had a hip pointer injury per coach Andy Reid. Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer referred to the injury as a hip flexor. There are differences. The hip flexor is a muscle that sits deep in the pelvis and, as the name implies, is responsible for flexing the hip as well as contributing to overall stability and power at the hip. Not only is a strain of the muscle painful, it diminishes the ability to drive the leg forward while running. A hip pointer refers to a deep bruising of the pelvis, typically not far from where several muscles attach. If the bruising impacts muscles which contribute to moving the hip, then the function of those muscles can be affected.

No matter which injury it is, the end result may not vary much. Maclin is undoubtedly sore and moving slowly as a result. He will receive treatment to reduce any associated swelling or bruising and may be limited in or even removed from practice early in the week, depending on the severity. It is too soon to say whether he will be available in Week 2, as it may well depend on his progress over the next few days. Teammate and fellow receiver Riley Cooper is still recovering from a fractured clavicle and will not be available in Week 2.

Nate Washington, Tennessee Titans (leg): Washington took a hard hit in Sunday's game and left with what the team later called a leg contusion (bruise). There was some question as to whether Washington had also suffered a head injury, but Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean later reported there was no concussion. Wyatt also said Washington should be available to play this week.

Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins (foot): And he was off to such a great start! Garcon was forced out of Sunday's game with a foot injury, but X-rays were reported to be negative. Garcon later told Grant Paulsen of 106.7 The Fan DC he felt good and expected to play in Week 2. Coach Mike Shanahan offered an explanation which really provided no clarity as to the nature of Garcon's injury. "It's kind of like when you have turf toe but it's not the toe," Shanahan told reporters Monday. According to the Washington Post, the team will know more after Garcon tests the foot in Wednesday's practice.

Devery Henderson, New Orleans Saints (head): Henderson left in the second quarter with what was later announced to be a head injury. Presume the protocol of close evaluation and monitoring as the week progresses.

Quarterbacks

Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans (shoulder): Locker injured his left (non-throwing) arm while trying to make a tackle after throwing an interception (note to Locker: no more tackling). Reported by The Tennessean as a shoulder separation, Locker underwent an MRI on Monday. According to news reports, Locker is expected to return to practice in some capacity by midweek but likely will wear a brace. As long as he can perform the functions of quarterback, he will play. The Titans sound at this point as if they do not expect him to miss any time but as coach Mike Munchak said after Sunday's game, "We'd rather him not go in there and tackle anybody." Right.

John Skelton, Arizona Cardinals (ankle): When Skelton was carted off the field Sunday, the natural assumption was that he had a serious enough injury to force him out for multiple weeks. Maybe not. X-rays of Skelton's ankle reportedly came back negative and initial fears of a high ankle sprain were alleviated. Coach Ken Whisenhunt says Skelton's ankle sprain is of the "low" variety and he has not yet been ruled out for Week 2, according to the Cardinals' official website. It's worth reminding that even lateral ankle sprains can be problematic, making it difficult to bear weight normally, much less move around in the pocket or scramble when necessary. It seems highly unlikely Skelton will be ready to play in Week 2, but between health and performance, the quarterback situation could remain fluid in Arizona.

Tight ends

Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers, (ribs): Gates looked to be in pain while being evaluated on the sideline for sore ribs during Monday night's game. He even left the game briefly in the third quarter to be further examined in the locker room. Tough player that he is, Gates returned to the game, although he clearly appeared to be in some discomfort throughout the remainder of the night. His return to the game is a good early sign with regard to Week 2.

And we're keeping an eye on

[+] EnlargeRyan Mathews
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesRyan Mathews missed Week 1 but there's still a chance he could play in Week 2.
Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers (shoulder): Mathews sat out Week 1 as his healing collarbone has not yet allowed him to be cleared for contact. The big question now is whether he will be available for Week 2. No word on that front yet; this is purely a matter of the doctors giving him clearance. Mathews has been maintaining his cardiovascular fitness and working in individual drills in anticipation of being ready to go as soon as he's given a green light.



Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee Titans (knee): Britt is coming off three surgeries since last season, two on his right knee and one on his left. He was forced to sit out Week 1, serving his one-game, league-imposed suspension. Britt is expected to return to team practice Wednesday, and the Titans expect him to be available Sunday, barring a setback. It's worth remembering he was just activated from the PUP list on Aug. 28 and has had very limited work with the team. (Translation: His knees, one of which is post-ACL reconstruction, have hardly been tested.) All of this makes his being "available" very vague in terms of what type of contribution he can actually make on the field in his first appearance. Still, the threat of Britt is a nice thing for the Titans to have in their arsenal.



Let the games begin! There are no bye teams this week, so there will be a full complement of games. The only fantasy roster substitutions will be because of injury, of which there are plenty, unfortunately. Tonight also marks the first of the Thursday night games, which will run through all but the final week of the regular season. The Oakland Raiders face the San Diego Chargers in a division matchup with plenty of key fantasy players in the mix. Be sure to set those lineups early!

The Raiders will be without running back Darren McFadden, who has yet to resume running since suffering a midfoot sprain in Week 7. According to the Vittorio Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Raiders will leave him behind on this trip in the hopes of having him in Week 11 against the Minnesota Vikings. McFadden is still in a walking boot, so he is not close to returning. In the meantime, Michael Bush starts in his place.



Kicker Sebastian Janikowski returned in Week 9 after missing a game with a hamstring injury and kicked a 48-yard field goal. Although there was no word on his status immediately after that game, Janikowski did not practice at all this week. He is listed as questionable, but given that he is the only kicker on the roster headed into Thursday night's game, the plan is clearly for him to play. Still, as if there isn't enough evidence by now, the hamstring is unpredictable. The Raiders have to hope that Janikowski will not suffer any in-game setbacks.

[+] EnlargeMalcom Floyd
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireIt's probably safest for fantasy owners to sit Malcom Floyd for the Thursday night game.
The Chargers are expected to be without wide receiver Malcom Floyd, who apparently aggravated a hip injury in the Week 8 Monday night game. Floyd sat out the Week 9 game just four days ago, has not practiced at all this week and is listed as doubtful. He has a chance to be available (he played once this year already after being listed as doubtful), but clearly he would not be expected to contribute much.



On a positive note, the Chargers will be getting running back Ryan Mathews back after he missed Sunday's game with a groin injury. Mathews, currently listed as probable, was able to return to full practice Tuesday, the heaviest workday for teams playing Thursday.



Wide receiver Vincent Jackson has been contending with a hamstring injury for a number of weeks but has managed to play despite not being at full health. However, on Sunday, Jackson turned in one of his strongest performances of the season and seemed to emerge no worse for the wear. He is expected to play after practicing in full all week and is no longer listed on the injury report.



Meanwhile, tight end Antonio Gates has an all too familiar plantar fascia problem that has plagued him since last season. Recently, however, Gates has been able to play and practice on a fairly consistent basis, albeit in a controlled manner. It appears Gates will play in Thursday night's game, his fourth straight game after missing three weeks earlier in the season.

Quick Hits


• It's admittedly fatiguing reporting repeatedly on the status of Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson, because it seems the story is unchanged. Johnson continues to do some work on his own, primarily running and individual workouts with the rehab staff, but so far, persistent soreness has prevented him from taking that next step and returning to the lineup. Johnson has not practiced, but on Thursday, coach Gary Kubiak said Johnson is "doing extremely well," according to Nick Scurfield of HoustonTexans.com. He suggests if Johnson is able to practice Friday, he could be a game-time decision. It's worth noting that this has also been the case in previous weeks, but he hasn't played.

The Texans have maintained they would not automatically rest Johnson through the bye in Week 11, but the timing is hard to ignore. It has been clear since the date of the procedure that the goal of surgery was to have Johnson avoid dealing with a nagging, chronic injury. It makes sense, then, that he would not return prematurely following the procedure and risk a setback that would yield the same result. While Johnson has looked good running, he has not yet felt like himself. Until he does, he will not return, and again this week, the decision likely will be in Johnson's hands.



New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram returned to limited practice Wednesday, his first since suffering a heel bruise in Week 7. Ingram followed up Wednesday's effort with a Thursday practice, a good sign that he is healing, but perhaps not enough to convince us that he's ready for games. It remains to be seen what he does on Friday but at this point, Ingram's status still appears questionable. Teammate Lance Moore was not in practice Thursday because of a tight hamstring, so keep an eye on what he is able to do Friday.

[+] EnlargeHakeem Nicks
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesHakeem Nicks hopes to get back on the field after missing last week's Patriots game.
• The New York Giants have two big question marks heading into this weekend's big contest against the San Francisco 49ers. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks sat out Week 9 with a hamstring injury but is making progress daily. Nicks ran on the side Wednesday, then followed that up with individual drills Thursday. According to the Newark Star-Ledger, if he continues to feel no aftereffects from these consecutive workouts, he could return to practice Friday and hopefully play Sunday. We know better now that with regard to hamstring injuries, it is too soon to lock Nicks into your lineup, but he is at least headed in the right direction.

Running back Ahmad Bradshaw has a known stress fracture in his foot and has not practiced this week. The criterion for his return revolves around when he can resume running without pain. Until we see him doing just that, it is hard to see him taking to the field.



• The 49ers have an injury concern impacting one of their own key players. Running back Frank Gore sustained an ankle injury in Week 9 and has been limited in practice this week. Gore finished Sunday's game and is expected to suit up again. But Gore was seen favoring his ankle in practice, according to CSN Bay Area, and if it is still bothering him Sunday, Kendall Hunter might see some additional work.

Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones did some increased work Monday to test his recovering left ankle. Jones has not practiced since. His return to rehab instead of the practice field suggests he will sit out his fourth consecutive game.

• Just as receiver Plaxico Burress seems to be getting in a rhythm with his quarterback, his back starts to act up. Last week, Burress entered the game questionable because of back spasms but managed to endure. This week, Burress has not practiced because of his back, but at his age and coming off extended time away from football, he may be awarded a little more recovery time. Stay tuned to see whether he returns to Friday practice.

See you at the injury chat Friday at 11 a.m. and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 10 in the Saturday morning blog!

It turns out Thursday was a good reminder day.

We were reminded that no two injuries, even with the same classification, are identical. Witness the "hamstring strain." So far we have seen a range of missed games for players who have suffered this injury, from zero games missed (Mike Wallace, WR, Steelers) to two games missed (Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans, albeit nonconsecutive) to four games missed and counting (Andre Johnson, WR, Texans), with a surgery involved.

The point is, while an injury might be labeled the same way, technically, on numerous team injury reports, the severity, treatment, recovery time and any number of other factors can be quite different. Perhaps most importantly, the rate at which an individual heals cannot be quantified or predicted with any degree of certainty for any particular injury. There are time ranges for certain types of tissue repair (up to six weeks typically for bone healing, for instance), and therefore there are projection estimates. But there also are variations in treatment. Sometimes there is debate -- yes, debate! -- about whether a particular condition is better managed aggressively with surgery, conservatively with rehabilitation or the hybrid, an initial conservative approach followed by offseason surgery.

On Thursday, Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw and his injured foot reminded us there are many variables that factor into how an injury affects an athlete. Those variables can render the outlook either bleak (Bradshaw out indefinitely because of a cracked bone in his foot, as reported by the Newark Star-Ledger) or promising (Bradshaw's injury is not serious and he should play Sunday, per ESPN's Adam Schefter), depending on how the information is packaged. Typically, much to the dismay of those seeking instant definitive responses on Twitter, it's impossible to determine simply from one strand of information, even if it involves a specific diagnosis, what the expectation for missed time will be.

[+] EnlargeAhmad Bradshaw
Chris Faytok/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireIt's still too early to tell what Ahmad Bradshaw's status is for Week 9.
Technically, both statements regarding Bradshaw could be true. Bradshaw could have a cracked bone, and the injury still could be considered not serious, as in not season- or career-threatening. Bradshaw still could be out indefinitely ... which ultimately could turn out to be three days or three weeks (or more). According to ESPN New York, even Giants coach Tom Coughlin seemed in the dark about the course Bradshaw's care will take and whether surgery will be an option. "I'm not going to speculate on what the doctors are going to decide or say. I don't know," the coach said. For now, the biggest hint Coughlin gave us was that the guys who are practicing will play, and Bradshaw has not yet practiced this week.

Athletes have physically performed with foot fractures in the past. Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones ran at the 2011 NFL combine with a fracture in his fifth metatarsal (incidentally, the same bone Bradshaw had surgically repaired and that appears to be the source of his current discomfort) and went on to have surgery later. Some might recall Jones ran rather well despite the broken bone. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger played last season with what was originally called a sprained foot. The injury was actually a small fracture (also on the fifth metatarsal), and later his injury was described as a broken foot. As in Bradshaw's case, the injury was related to a prior incident. While the word "fracture" sounded ominous and the injury was undoubtedly painful, he never missed time.

The ultimate message is this: No matter what information we might have about an injury, the human body does not subscribe to fantasy football deadlines. And so we continue to suffer as we move closer to Sunday ...

Quick Hits


• It might be another week of waiting for Andre Johnson. This would be his fifth missed game, but he is just one month removed from the surgical procedure to address his torn hamstring. The hope was that he could return in three to four weeks, so it's not as if Johnson is way past the projected timeline, but as Johnson has noted, doctors told him it could take up to six weeks to fully recover (and here you can refer back to the above note on how individuals heal at different rates).

The primary issue is how Johnson feels. Reports suggest he has looked good running when participating in practice, but Johnson still has an awareness of the injured part. The team, wisely, does not want him on the playing field until he is symptom-free. It would be a far worse scenario for him to return only to suffer another injury that could cost him additional time. While his absence is frustrating to fantasy owners -- and no doubt to the Texans and Johnson himself -- imagine how frustrating an early departure to further injury would be. It's worth the wait ... and it looks as if we'll be waiting beyond Week 9. The Texans continue to maintain Johnson is being evaluated on a daily basis and will not "automatically" sit out through their Week 11 bye.

Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden was observed leaving the practice facility on crutches and in a walking boot Wednesday evening. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Raiders coach Hue Jackson indicated the team would consider holding a guy who was "close" to being ready out of Sunday's game, given the Raiders will play again four days later. The Raiders face the San Diego Chargers next Thursday in the first of a series of Thursday night games. Since McFadden is still protecting the foot from bearing weight, he's not in line to run up and down the field by this weekend. His presence in Week 10 isn't looking automatic at this point, either, but there's still time for him to progress.

• Chargers tight end Antonio Gates had a normal practice Wednesday, and that makes it two weeks in a row. It's perhaps more impressive this week since the Chargers played Monday night. Also practicing for the Chargers on Wednesday was running back Mike Tolbert, who was held out Monday because of a strained hamstring. It's a good thing he's looking healthy, because teammate Ryan Mathews has not practiced since injuring his groin Monday night, and it's looking as if he will miss Week 9. Emerging running back Curtis Brinkley suffered a concussion Monday night, and he does not look as if he'll be available, either. Receiver Vincent Jackson did not practice Wednesday, but so far this season, he has missed more midweek practices than he has made. At least it seems that way. Still, he returned to practice Thursday and has played each week, so it's tough to imagine him missing this one. Malcom Floyd didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday, either, but after racking up 100 receiving yards Monday night after coming off a hip injury, you could say he earned some rest. If Floyd doesn't return Friday, it's time to start getting nervous.

[+] EnlargePeyton Hillis
Kyle Terada/US PresswireGood news: Peyton Hillis was back at practice Thursday.
&#8226 Alert, alert: good fantasy news! There's so much gloom among fantasy owners contending with injured players, it's nice to be able to insert something positive in this blog once in a while. Just when Peyton Hillis owners were resigning themselves to another week without him, his status took a turn for the better Thursday. Hillis returned to practice Thursday, and according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer (via Twitter), he was in full pads, participated in team drills and looked good. Cabot also quoted Hillis as saying if today were Sunday, he'd play. While this all is very encouraging, we flash back to last week, when Hillis practiced and then was increasingly sore the next day, after which he did not return ... until today. If Hillis can put in back-to-back practices, then fantasy owners and Browns fans can start getting excited.

&#8226 According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, Cardinals running back Beanie Wells has said he expects his knee to be an issue all season. On Sunday, just one week from suffering what the team thought could be a season-ending injury, Wells ran as if nothing was wrong. Yet this week he reminds us it could be a problem all year, and he remained limited in practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday. This appears as if it will be the weekly scenario going forward when it comes to practice. The question is, will Wells' weekly productivity be that consistent?

&#8226 New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram has not practiced at all this week, and the bruised heel that caused him to miss last week's game is likely to keep him out again.

&#8226 Broncos running back Willis McGahee just might be true to his word. McGahee indicated he expected to play in Week 9 after fracturing the fourth metacarpal in his right hand in Week 7. He had a plate and screws put in to stabilize the fracture, but he has been back on the field, practicing with his hand wrapped. The primary issue is gripping the ball. Given the wide grip required to carry a football, it's easier on the recently repaired bone than if, for example, McGahee needed to close his hand around a baseball, which requires more motion in the hand. That's not to say it will be comfortable, but pain is something McGahee can potentially overcome. If the medical staff is confident the hand can be adequately protected and McGahee can carry/protect/block to the satisfaction of his coaches, he has a decent chance of being in the lineup Sunday.

&#8226 The aforementioned Julio Jones is set to return from his hamstring injury this week. Jones missed two games, then entered a well-timed bye week. He has been practicing all week and is expected to play Sunday.

&#8226 As if the Bradshaw situation weren't enough, the Giants could be without starting wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who strained his hamstring Sunday. Nicks has not yet practiced, but he also has a history of going right up to game day before a decision on his status is made. The Giants did not appear overly concerned about the severity of the injury, but they certainly don't want it to take a turn for the worse. Expect this to possibly come down to pregame warm-ups.

&#8226 Cincinnati Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham hasn't practiced this week after sitting out Week 8. Gresham felt his hamstring tighten up in pregame warm-ups, and the decision was made to hold him out. Apparently it's more than just a pregame issue; things aren't looking good for Gresham's chance of suiting up in Week 9.

&#8226 And finally, expect Cowboys running back Felix Jones to miss this week's game. It would have been early to expect him to return from the high ankle sprain he suffered in Week 6, and he hasn't practiced at all this week. More DeMarco Murray!

See you at my injury chat Friday at 11 a.m. ET, and I'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 9 in my Saturday morning blog.


As the injury world turns: In today's episode, a running back (Peyton Hillis) who showed promise early in the week for playing in Week 8 has a more discouraging outlook Thursday, a receiver (Andre Johnson) who in two days went from "definitely a possibility" to play Sunday to a maybe then back to a definite possibility, and a running back (Beanie Wells) who declared himself fully healthy just two weeks ago is not practicing at all now. These stories and more as the injury world turns.

Quarterbacks

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: Stafford (ankle) did light stretching and exercise Wednesday in what constituted a limited practice effort. On Thursday, he took it up a notch by working with the first-team offense. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reported via Twitter that coach Jim Schwartz acknowledged that Stafford had increased his activity. "He is improved today over yesterday, and I think that he's on a pretty good track right now," Schwartz said. Signs are certainly pointing in the direction that Stafford could play Sunday.

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams: Last week, we outlined the concern for Bradford's mobility to protect himself as a factor in whether he could play. That concern remains as Bradford, who was still in a walking boot early this week, has yet to practice. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the Rams are not even certain that Bradford will try to test the injured leg in practice. The left high-ankle sprain he suffered in Week 6 is looking likelier to cause Bradford to miss another game.

[+] EnlargePeyton Hillis
Kyle Terada/US PresswireIt seems pretty tough to trust Peyton Hillis on your fantasy team this week.

Running Backs

Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns: Hillis returned to a limited practice Wednesday because of his injured left hamstring. Browns head coach Pat Shurmur gave a vote of confidence, saying Hillis would return as the feature back when ready (and sounded hopeful for Sunday). As is often the case when a player is recovering from injury, the day after can be very telling in terms of how far along the healing truly is. Lingering soreness suggests the muscle may have been overworked, and in the interest of avoiding a more serious setback, the response to that soreness is typically rest. Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported via Twitter on Thursday that Hillis would not practice Thursday because of soreness in the hamstring after Wednesday's workout. Even if Hillis returns to limited work Friday, his status for Sunday is iffy at best because the team will want to see how he responds the following day. And if Hillis is deemed ready to play, the leg will undergo a more strenuous test during the game. Any sign of strain would temper his workload, and given this latest development, the Browns might proactively alter his workload, should he play. It's a very cloudy picture right now for fantasy owners. The best bet is to have insurance for Hillis, which may come in handy, even if he suits up.

Wide Receivers

Andre Johnson, Houston Texans: Johnson returned to limited practice Wednesday, an expected step in his recovery from a procedure on his torn hamstring tendon and an encouraging sign he would return in Week 8. Coach Gary Kubiak seemed pleased with what he saw from Johnson, telling the Houston Chronicle, "He looked good running to me." Then there was Johnson's take. Johnson told the Chronicle he still feels "tugging and stuff" on his leg when he runs. Johnson added that if he feels Sunday the way he did Wednesday, he probably won't play. Kubiak supported that notion,.understanding that ultimately how Johnson feels will drive the decision as to his status.

The Texans already have experience with one of their star players, running back Arian Foster, suffering a setback with a hamstring injury this season and they don't want to see it happen again. The worry in Johnson's case is not so much with the precise location of the procedure (near the tendon attachment at the knee) but in the muscle itself, which could suffer injury if he has not returned it to full strength before resuming play. As Kubiak pointed out, it's a long season and "we need to make sure we do the right thing here." On Thursday, the Texans showed renewed optimism, however, after Johnson was again able to practice. According to the Houston Texans' Twitter page, Kubiak said of Johnson, "He was better today. He told us that he felt better ... He had his normal day of practice ... We took another step forward." So fantasy owners, it appears Johnson will be a game-time decision Sunday. The progress is encouraging, but Johnson could sit one more week if he has any doubts.

Quick Hits

[+] EnlargeJahvid Best
AP Photo/Rick OsentoskiJahvid Best does have a history of concussions in his playing career going back to college.
• Lions running back Jahvid Best is still not practicing after the concussion he sustained in Week 6. The Detroit Free Press cites a source close to Best as saying he is not expected to play in Week 8. The Lions have a bye in Week 9, so it's possible that Best has two more weeks away from football.

San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates had a normal practice Wednesday, the first time he has done so since the week following the season opener. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson (hamstring) was also a participant Wednesday, as was running back Ryan Mathews. Running back Mike Tolbert rested his sore hamstring Wednesday, and Malcom Floyd sat out because of his hip. The Chargers have a Monday night game this week, so there will be no official report until after Thursday's practice.

Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells did not practice Wednesday, not a huge surprise considering he's dealing with significant swelling in his knee. Despite Wells' routine projections of optimism that he will play (and think of how many times he hasn't), the bottom line is that an athlete can't run (which presumably is what running backs are charged with doing) when there is swelling present. Beyond the direct impact to the joint, swelling in the area will inhibit muscle performance, making a player even more susceptible to injury. At this point, there is little reason to expect Wells to dress for Sunday.

• The Minnesota Vikings need Adrian Peterson. The fantasy world needs Adrian Peterson. Everyone can now breathe a little easier because Peterson returned to practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday. Peterson limped off the field late in Sunday's game after suffering what appeared to be an ankle injury. He downplayed the injury after the game, and the day of rest could only help. It looks as if he'll be available as usual Sunday. Teammate Percy Harvin also returned to practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday to rest his sore ribs, an injury he aggravated last week despite wearing protective gear. That serves as a reminder of how hard it is to minimize the pain of a rib injury, and Harvin's recent struggles underscore the point. Even an active Harvin has to be considered questionable to produce.

[+] EnlargeMark Ingram
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireIf Mark Ingram does sit out this week with a heel injury, the Saints are still more than covered at running back.
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram has not practiced this week after suffering a bruised heel Sunday. Bruising on the bottom of the heel seems like an obvious limitation to running, and heel bruises can be slow to wane. The New Orleans Times-Picayune hints at Ingram's missing Week 8, although the Saints have yet to rule him out. The Saints did activate Chris Ivory from the physically unable to perform list, giving themselves another option in the event of Ingram's absence. With Ivory just returning to football, it's expected the Saints will ease him back into game situations, meaning Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles would handle the bulk of the workload Sunday.

• The New York Giants hope to have running back Brandon Jacobs back in the lineup Sunday. Jacobs missed two games with an MCL sprain, and persistent knee swelling has kept him off the practice field. He put in some work Monday and official limited practices Wednesday and Thursday. Barring a sudden recurrence of swelling, expect Jacobs to play Sunday.

• When Indianapolis Colts running back Joseph Addai exited Sunday night's game early with a hamstring injury, it was reasonable to believe he had aggravated the injury that caused him to miss the previous week. Not so, says coach Jim Caldwell. According to the Indianapolis Star, Caldwell says this is not the same injury that caused Addai to be questionable heading into Sunday night's game, but the new injury may leave him with the same designation for this week. Addai did not practice Wednesday, and Caldwell says he is awaiting word from the medical staff as to whether Addai will be able to return. Still seems to be a risky fantasy situation.



See you at the injury chat Friday at 11 a.m., and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 8 in the Saturday morning blog.



Never a dull moment in the world of injuries. Whose health could impact your fantasy roster this week?

Quarterbacks

[+] EnlargeSam Bradford
Jeff Curry/Getty ImagesSam Bradford may not be able to take advantage of newly acquired wideout Brandon Lloyd this week.
Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams: Coach Steve Spagnuolo told reporters Bradford suffered a high ankle sprain Sunday, and Bradford has been wearing a protective boot on that left leg since. Wednesday, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that Bradford will not test his ankle until Friday. According to ESPN.com, Bradford is expected to start Sunday, despite the injury, "because although mobility would be compromised, the plant leg is not affected." While it's true that the injured ankle is on Bradford's front leg, as he noted, "Obviously, I have to be able to drop back. I have to be able to have some mobility where I'm not just standing back there." Mobility is important for Bradford to function effectively and protect himself. Quarterbacks are more at risk in the pocket, and if Bradford were to get tackled with his left foot planted, it could easily aggravate the injury, turning what appears to be a mild high ankle sprain into something more serious. No doubt all these factors will be taken into consideration when the team evaluates what Bradford can do Friday and before a final determination about his status for Sunday is made. Don't consider him a lock just yet.

Running Backs

Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns: Hillis was still not practicing Wednesday because of his injured left hamstring. Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported via Twitter that Hillis would do pool running Thursday (this allows him to practice running gait in water resistance with less impact) and noted the Browns are calling him day-to-day. It will be interesting to see if Hillis can practice at all Friday, which would certainly hint more at his availability Sunday. At the very least, it's reasonable to expect Hillis will not be at full strength by the time the weekend rolls around, suggesting that even if he is active, he's likely to share the workload with Montario Hardesty.

Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions: The Lions haven't said much about Best's condition since he suffered a concussion last Sunday, but their roster moves may be saying a little more. ESPN.com reported James Davis was signed to the practice squad, while Keiland Williams and Maurice Morris split reps in practice. The Lions had acquired Ronnie Brown from the Eagles for Jerome Harrison, but that trade was voided Wednesday after Harrison failed his physical (ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Harrison has a brain tumor). The Lions have been challenged by injury at the running back position since rookie Mikel Leshoure went down in the preseason with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Best has now suffered his third concussion in two years; the first caused him to miss the last four games of his final season at Cal and the second occurred during this preseason. There is much that remains unknown when it comes to concussions, but it is no secret that returning to play before the brain has completely recovered places the athlete at greater risk for subsequent and potentially more severe injury. While there's no way of knowing when Best will return, it appears highly unlikely he will be on the field in Week 7.



Wide Receivers

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons: Jones was not in practice Wednesday, but according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, coach Mike Smith has not yet ruled him out for Sunday. Smith acknowledged that Jones would likely try to push himself to return but will leave the decision-making to the medical staff. The Falcons do have a bye in Week 8, and while that alone would not drive the decision to sit Jones, it certainly could help sway in the direction of rest if there is any question as to his health. There should be clearer indications by Friday as to whether Jones will indeed miss another week.

Tight Ends

[+] EnlargeAntonio Gates
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesAntonio Gates hasn't had a catch since Week 1 against the Vikings.
Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers: For a couple of weeks, we have heard rumblings that Gates was targeting a Week 7 return, and the signs are still pointing in that direction. Gates practiced Monday and participated in an official limited workout Wednesday. The hope is that he will continue to increase his activity and be available Sunday. Gates has stayed away from guaranteeing that he'll play Sunday, understanding first-hand that his condition has the ability to flare up at any time. Even if he does return, there is no way of knowing how he will respond to his first game action in more than a month. Gates has expressed hope that once he returns he could stay "active," but he has also learned from experience that this will be an ongoing management issue. For fantasy owners, it appears Gates will be in line to suit up Sunday, but you will want to check Sunday morning to be sure.

More news:


• The bye week looks to have helped a lot of other Chargers dealing with injuries. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who had a hamstring injury heading into Week 5, did not return to practice Wednesday but is expected to return Thursday and play Sunday. Jackson has been playing through abdominal and hamstring injuries and has been largely productive. The hope is there will be no setbacks and Jackson's health will continue to improve. On the running back front, Mike Tolbert and Ryan Mathews were back in practice Wednesday. Tolbert (concussion) and Mathews (calf) are expected to play Sunday.

LeGarrette Blount may have traveled across the pond to London with his Tampa Bay Buccaneers teammates, but he is not practicing with them. The Bucs still have not said much about Blount and his injured knee (reported to be an MCL sprain) but his action, or lack thereof, says plenty about his not being ready to return. Indications are that Earnest Graham will again start in Blount's place.



Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson is making progress with his activity but is not yet back in practice. The Houston Chronicle reports coach Gary Kubiak has not ruled Johnson out for Sunday's game but he acknowledges Johnson still has a ways to go to return to action. According to Kubiak, Johnson is "right on schedule," running routes and catching some passes. Earlier in the week, Johnson noted there was still some weakness in the leg, which is perfectly reasonable, considering it has been exactly two weeks since his surgical procedure to address the torn hamstring tendon. Johnson's comment that he had been told at the time of the procedure it could take "six weeks at most" to recover set off alarm bells, but it's important to look at Johnson's entire statement. He also noted that he felt like he would be ready sooner and that he was making progress. The key for Johnson, beyond the immediate healing of the area following surgery, is returning to normal strength so as not to risk a subsequent injury in another part of the hamstring. Based on his current activity, it's looking like a Week 8 return is possible, which would be consistent with early projections following his procedure.

[+] EnlargeAndre Johnson
Brett Davis/US PresswireAndre Johnson is making progress from his hamstring injury but it's tough to rely on him in your lineup this week.
• Johnson's teammate, quarterback Matt Schaub, is a bit beat up but is still expected to play. Schaub has a sore chest, hip and knee and has been held to limited practice to allow his body some recovery. He is still expected to start this week at Tennessee but will need to try to avoid incurring additional physical abuse.

Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Mike Wallace is another star receiver dealing with a strained hamstring. Wallace's injury was referred to as minor from the start, but his absence from Wednesday's practice had many wondering whether he could make it back for Sunday. There seems to be little concern that Wallace will be able to play, but fantasy owners should keep an eye on his practice participation over the next two days.

Miami Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas seemed to emerge just fine from Monday night's game. Wednesday, Thomas was kept to a limited practice, understandable given the recent injury and the late game. Thomas told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that he thinks he could handle a bigger workload, and he may have to. Teammate Reggie Bush did not practice Wednesday, not because of the neck injury that caused him to exit the Monday night game early but because of a groin injury suffered in Week 2, according to the Palm Beach Post. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall also sat out Wednesday practice with a sore quad. Bush and Marshall practiced Thursday, however, so another effort on Friday should secure their status for Sunday.

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen did not practice Wednesday because of a turf toe ailment, although by all accounts it looks to be a mild case. Coach Ron Rivera told the Gaston Gazette the team wanted to let it "calm down a little bit" but that he expected Olsen to return Thursday. If Olsen practices without issue the next two days, it should not affect him Sunday.

Indianapolis Colts running back Joseph Addai strained his right hamstring in Week 5 and has not yet returned to practice. Addai is not expected to play Sunday night against the New Orleans Saints.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson has been doing perhaps better than expected since suffering a pectoral strain in Week 5, but that doesn't mean he'll be under center on Sunday. Charlie Whitehurst has been taking the first team reps thus far, and coach Pete Carroll told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the team was preparing for Whitehurst to start. Jackson's activity does indicate, however, that his return may not be far off.

See you at the injury chat Friday at 11 a.m., and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 7 in the Saturday morning blog!



Fantasy rosters are already challenged with bye week rotations and mounting injuries around the league. That didn't stop the injury toll from rising in Week 6, with some players sustaining their second major injuries of the season, and we're only one-third of the way through.



[+] EnlargeJason Campbell
AP Photo/Ben MargotJason Campbell was hoping to return in six weeks from his broken collarbone, but the trade for Carson Palmer probably seals his fate for this year.
The biggest news is the fractured collarbone suffered by Oakland Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell. While Campbell's injury is significant, perhaps more so is the deal to acquire Carson Palmer from the Cincinnati Bengals. Campbell underwent surgery Monday to repair the fracture and was hoping for a possible return in six weeks. Such a timeline would presume full healing and a full return to normal throwing, a lofty ambition and certainly far from guaranteed. By acquiring Palmer, it appears the Raiders are indeed moving forward with the goal of "trying to win now." At least that was coach Hue Jackson's response to the question of whether Campbell would be placed on injured reserve, according to Vittorio Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. If Palmer helps the Raiders continue to move forward without missing a beat, Campbell will have all the time he needs to recover.

Week 6 also marked a first with two coaches suffering major injuries during a game (there's a reason players recovering from injury are not immediately cleared to be on the sidelines). New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton was in the path of his own tight end, Jimmy Graham, as Graham was being tackled, and Payton took a shot to his left knee. The injury, a tibial plateau fracture with concurrent soft tissue damage, required surgery, and Payton will be non-weight-bearing for nearly two months. He'll be undergoing his own lengthy rehab well beyond the regular season. Across the field during the same game in which Payton was injured, Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant coach Jimmy Lake ruptured his patellar tendon while jumping up to celebrate an interception made by one of his defensive backs. Not a quick rehab on that front, either. Neither will be on the sidelines in the immediate future.

Quick Hits

[+] EnlargeJones
Elsa/Getty ImagesFelix Jones, already dealing with a shoulder injury, sprained his ankle against the Patriots on Sunday.
• The Dallas Cowboys finally had all their top offensive playmakers on the field for the first time since Week 1, but it lasted less than half a game. Running back Felix Jones, who was already nursing a sore shoulder after dislocating it in Week 2, suffered a left high ankle sprain and is expected to be sidelined for several weeks. The Dallas Morning News cites a source as saying Jones is expected to miss between two to four weeks. The reality with high ankle sprains is that the timetable is highly variable, depending in part upon the degree of the injury as well as the demands of the position.



The most serious high ankle sprains with complete ligament tears typically require surgery and are season-ending. The most mild, with no significant ligament damage and no measure of instability, can resolve within a couple of weeks. A key issue is whether there is enough ligamentous injury to cause a widening of the space between the two lower leg bones where they form the roof of the ankle joint. Gapping in that region can lead to chronic instability and arthritic changes. In essence, the area has to be allowed proper healing to allow for normal function of the ankle joint and to prevent long-term issues. The primary stress to that area is full weight bearing (every time the athlete takes a step). Cutting toward the inside can add further strain, but the biggest risk of aggravation comes from another player landing on the foot while the athlete is trying to rotate toward the inside (which is how Jones was injured in the first place). Running backs who have tried to return too quickly have struggled and often suffer setbacks (see the Atlanta Falcons' Michael Turner in 2009). It is impossible to state with certainty how long Jones will be sidelined, but fantasy owners should be prepared for a window that extends into November.

St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford also is nursing an injured ankle. Coach Steve Spagnuolo referred to Bradford's injury as a high ankle sprain when speaking to reporters Monday. Bradford is in a walking boot, and his status is in question for Week 7. While he does not have the same mobility demands as a Felix Jones, he still needs to step into his throws to be effective. Spagnuolo perhaps best summed up how the injury could affect Bradford: "In my experience with the high ankle sprains, you just never know how long they're going to take. Fortunately, it's not the plant foot, so that helps a little bit. But my limited knowledge about throwing the football quarterback-wise is, it is from the bottom up. So you still need your legs and ankles to throw the ball effectively." Truth. The quarterback also needs them to protect himself from sustaining further injury. Don't be surprised if Bradford is out.



[+] EnlargePeyton Hillis
Kyle Terada/US PresswireIs Peyton Hillis the latest player to suffer the Madden Curse?
Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis is the latest fantasy starter to suffer a hamstring injury. Or so it seems. According to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Hillis exited early Sunday after he strained his hamstring by overextending his leg on the Browns' second drive of the game. Hillis ultimately came out in the second quarter and remained out for much of the game (no injury announcement was made by the team until the third quarter, adding to the confusion about his absence), yet tried to return in the fourth quarter to try to help his struggling team. A bit puzzling to be sure, but according to Hillis, he felt like he had to do something. He quickly realized he couldn't play. Hillis told the Plain-Dealer, "Yeah, it probably wasn't the smartest thing to do," hoping he had not made the injury worse. So far there is no indication as to what the Browns expect from Hillis this Sunday, but the good news is that the injury is not severe enough for the team to rule him out at this stage. We'll see whether he can get any practice time in this week, but fantasy owners should prepare for his potential absence.

Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best suffered his second concussion of the year Sunday (his first came during the preseason). Coach Jim Schwartz said Best's symptoms did not appear until after the game, not an entirely unusual occurrence. While the Lions have not ruled out Best for Week 7, he will have to go through the same routine (resolution of symptoms, return to baseline of neurocognitive testing, return to exercise without a return of symptoms, clearance by an independent neurological consultant to return to play) before he can take the field. We could see more of Maurice Morris or potentially Ronnie Brown, whom the Lions acquired Tuesday for Jerome Harrison.

• The San Diego Chargers had Mike Tolbert (concussion), Ryan Mathews (calf) and Antonio Gates (foot) back in practice Monday, but no one is declaring game status just yet. Vincent Jackson was not in practice early in the week but hopes to return by Wednesday, according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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

Keep close eye on injured Steelers

October, 6, 2011
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The season has ended for two more players: Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne will undergo surgery to repair a separated left (nonthrowing) shoulder suffered in Week 4, and St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola will need surgery to repair a torn left triceps. Amendola has been out since the season opener after dislocating his elbow. As if the injuries alone weren't bad enough, ESPN sports business contributor Andrew Brandt points out that both players were in the final year of their respective contracts. Entering free agency with the uncertainty of coming off season-ending surgeries is less than desirable. At least Henne can point to Matthew Stafford as someone who had a similar surgery on his throwing shoulder, and we all (especially appreciative fantasy owners) know how well his recovery has turned out.

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

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



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

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

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

Quick Hits


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good news for Vick, Foster, Colston

September, 29, 2011
9/29/11
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Quarterbacks

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



Running Backs

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

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

Wide Receivers

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

Quick Hits


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Week 3 remained true to form. There was another season-ending injury to a key fantasy player (Kenny Britt), a big blow was dealt to a top-rated quarterback (Michael Vick) and, well, there were plenty of other nicks and bruises.



[+] EnlargeKenny Britt
Jim Brown/US PresswireKenny Britt, in the midst of the best start of his career, will have season-ending surgery to repair a torn ACL and MCL.
The Tennessee Titans lost wide receiver Britt for the rest of the season, not to the ailing hamstring that had bothered him since camp, but to a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee. Britt landed awkwardly on his right leg as he spun away from contact with a defender and his knee buckled. Between Britt's obvious pain and the dreaded cart driving him off the field, it had all the signs of being serious from the outset. Britt will soon undergo season-ending reconstructive surgery.



The Philadelphia Eagles lost Vick for a portion of the game, just as they did in Week 2, but the injury was not as severe as initially reported. Vick's injury was originally reported to be a broken hand, but upon further evaluation Monday, it was determined to be a contusion (a deep bruise). No fracture was present. Coach Andy Reid indicated that a blood vessel in the area of the bone being examined gave the illusion of a fracture on X-rays taken at the stadium, but a more detailed CT scan taken Monday showed no break.

Quick Hits


• Prior to the season, Antonio Gates' foot was raising some red flags. Now there's more reason to be concerned. Gates is dealing with increased pain in the foot and is being forced to evaluate how to proceed moving forward. Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote a detailed piece explaining the options Gates faces -- essentially trying to play through the discomfort on a weekly basis or rest for a few weeks in the hope it helps him get through the latter part of the season -- but also the frustration Gates is experiencing. He is expected to see a specialist Tuesday and we should learn more in the coming days. For fantasy owners, even if Gates opts to try to play, his status may be in doubt from week to week.



Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones aggravated his right shoulder late in Monday night's game, but according to ESPN Dallas, owner Jerry Jones doesn't seem overly concerned about him missing time. The concern with Felix Jones is that every time the shoulder absorbs contact, it has the potential to increase pain as well as prevent the involved tissue from healing.



[+] EnlargeJeremy Maclin
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesJeremy Maclin has gotten off to a decent start, but a hamstring injury makes his status a question mark heading into this week.
• Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin strained a hamstring and, like his quarterback, was forced out of Sunday's game early. Maclin underwent an MRI on Monday after which coach Andy Reid told reporters the injury was not as bad as originally feared. That said, the MRI does not tell the whole picture and it will be far more telling to see how Maclin looks in practice this week. Fantasy owners should have a backup plan, just in case he ends up sitting out against the San Francisco 49ers this week.

• Speaking of the 49ers, running back Frank Gore was on the sidelines for the bulk of the second half in Week 3 with a sprained right ankle. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Gore said his ankle was injured in the second quarter on a tackle by Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga and was noncommittal about his status for Week 4. Coach Jim Harbaugh, who usually says very little when it comes to injuries, did tell the Chronicle that in his mind Gore was "good to go." It sounds like the 49ers are not overly concerned about Gore's availability.



• Across the bay, Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden suffered a groin strain after racking up 171 yards on the ground against the New York Jets. McFadden, currently the league's leading rusher, downplayed the issue after the game, suggesting he will not miss any time with the injury. Head coach Hue Jackson also seemed confident that McFadden would be fine for Week 4, but he's not taking any chances in practice this week. According to the Oakland Tribune, Jackson told reporters, "I'm going to be very cautious with him to make sure he's OK."

• We're hearing a lot about internal organs on the injury report this year. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo suffered a punctured lung last week, and this week Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant suffered a bruised kidney. Painful, yes, but depending on the degree of bruising, it may not be a long-term issue. New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston suffered a similar injury last year in the preseason finale but played in the season opener. The Packers will monitor Grant closely and we should hear more about his status later in the week.

• There is early optimism on a couple of other players, as both Houston Texans running back Arian Foster and Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells are expected to return in Week 4 after both missed Sunday's game due to hamstring strains. As we all know by now, the final verdict will come down to how they are able to get through the practice week.



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



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

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

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



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

Quarterbacks

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

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

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

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

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

Running Backs

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

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



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

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

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

Wide Receivers

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

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



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



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

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

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



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

Tight Ends

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

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

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

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



For those still playing for titles in their fantasy football leagues, this is the final countdown, the last hurrah, the one for all the marbles. This is also the only week of the season when all games will be played on Sunday. Of course, that doesn't count Tuesday night's game between the Philadelphia Eagl
es
and the Minnesota Vikings, which really is a remnant of Week 16. It also presumes that no games will be postponed because of weather-related issues. Assuming all games tip off as scheduled, half those contests will be late games, making fantasy roster decisions that much more challenging. Between some teams potentially sitting their stars in advance of the playoffs and others not risking further player injury when there will be no postseason, havoc could be wreaked on many fantasy football lineups.

Although personnel decisions may not be made until late in the week, some injury situations are already on the radar. If one of the players below is on your fantasy team, there is reason to be at least a little concerned. Start plotting your insurance strategy and keep in mind that waivers will be processed one day later than usual because of the Tuesday night game.

[+] EnlargeMike Tolbert
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesMike Tolbert was carried off the field on a stretcher on Sunday, but his injury was not serious.
• The theme for the San Diego Chargers this season has been injuries. Although they did their best to plug the injury holes by rotating personnel, it simply was too much to overcome. Now eliminated from the playoffs and just looking to wrap up the season without further damage, the Chargers likely will be without several of their ailing players. Running back Mike Tolbert suffered a scary hit in Week 16 that left him facedown on the turf for a brief period. Tolbert was taken off on a stretcher but was fortunate to come away with an injury that was less serious than it initially appeared. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Tolbert has a neck sprain and a shoulder bruise and already has been ruled out of the Week 17 game. Ryan Mathews, who picked up the load when Tolbert went down, is expected to get the start.

As far as pass-catchers for the Chargers, tight end Antonio Gates and wide receivers Malcom Floyd and Patrick Crayton are expected to miss Week 17. Gates has been nursing a painful foot, the result of a torn plantar fascia, for weeks and can now truly focus on his recovery. Floyd, who has injured both hamstrings this season, is not likely to be completely healthy by Sunday, and there is no reason to risk a more serious setback. Crayton has been out since Week 11 after wrist surgery. There had been some thought he might return for the final week of the season, but it appears he will remain out. It looks as though Vincent Jackson and Legedu Naanee will be the starting wide receivers with Randy McMichael handling tight end duties.

• The Seattle Seahawks are preparing as though Charlie Whitehurst will start at quarterback. At least that's what head coach Pete Carroll told the team's website. With Matt Hasselbeck potentially sidelined because of a left hip injury, Carroll wants to eliminate any uncertainty. As Carroll pointed out, "We're going with Charlie because we know he's ready to go and he'll be able to have a great week, practice every snap and go full speed and all that."

As far as what's ailing Hasselbeck, it's a bit of a mystery. After Sunday's game Hasselbeck denied that his back was at fault, telling reporters, "It's embarrassing, but it's more my butt." It's worth noting that low-back and hip issues often go hand in hand. Even a history of disc problems in the low back can be associated with subtle hip muscle weakness and pain. There is also the very real possibility of a completely independent injury to the hip itself. Inflammation around the joint can severely affect the function of the muscles that support the hip, making mobility and power difficult to achieve.



According to the Seahawks' website, the onset of injury occurred when Hasselbeck took a helmet hit to his hip in Week 3. He then aggravated the injury in Week 10 when trying to move quickly on a play-action play to his left, and his hip has been somewhat problematic since. Carroll says the issue for his starting quarterback is with certain types of motions. "He's not in a lot of discomfort, but when he has to turn and move and stride and all that kind of stuff, that's where it enters in," Carroll said. Carroll also said that Hasselbeck believes he'll be ready to play Sunday night in what will decide the NFC West. Fantasy owners would be advised to see what progress Hasselbeck is able to make during the week before setting their lineups in stone.

• The Dallas Cowboys saw yet another quarterback leave a game with an injury. The Cowboys lost Tony Romo to a broken collarbone in Week 7, and he was ultimately placed on injured reserve. Jon Kitna, who has been filling in since Romo went down, left the Week 16 game with what appeared at the time to be an injury to his hip. As Calvin Watkins of ESPN Dallas reports, however, the team is calling it a left oblique muscle injury. Kitna pretty well summed up the problem with this type of injury for a thrower, saying, "I can't do any athletic movements and things you got to do at quarterback. Anything that requires any torque." Coach Jason Garrett told reporters the door is still open for Kitna to start if he improves enough through the week. If he is unable to go, Stephen McGee will start.

Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno played in Week 16 despite his sore ribs, but he didn't last, as he left the game early after aggravating the injury. Lindsay Jones of The Denver Post tweeted that coach Eric Studesville said Moreno could have returned to play, but "Buck [Correll Buckhalter] was rolling." It sounds as though the setback was not enough to keep Moreno out of this week's game.

[+] EnlargeDarren McFadden
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesDarren McFadden was limited to just 45 rushing yards against the Colts on Sunday partly because of his injury.
Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden injured himself during the third quarter of the Week 16 game. According to the Contra Costa Times, McFadden said he rolled his ankle, while coach Tom Cable called it a turf toe injury. Given McFadden's history of turf toe, that particular diagnosis might be more concerning. There was no hint in the report at McFadden's status for Week 17 being in jeopardy, but this will be a situation to monitor in practice.



Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson did not play in Week 16 because of the increased pain in his ankle. Coach Gary Kubiak already has indicated that Johnson will let him know if he is able to go this week. According to Nick Scurfield of HoustonTexans.com, Kubiak said Johnson will not practice this week, but if he says he can play this weekend, he will. This situation could be heading toward another game-time decision.

Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson has an ankle issue that was giving him trouble in Week 16, causing him to leave the game in the fourth quarter. However, it's unclear whether it will be enough to keep him out Sunday. Head coach Jim Schwartz told the Detroit News that Johnson could sit out practice this week and play Sunday. If Johnson does play, quarterback Shaun Hill likely will be the one to throw to him, but that has not been confirmed.

• The New York Jets have to decide whether to rest quarterback Mark Sanchez or play him in Week 17. Sanchez and his sore throwing shoulder were the subject of much discussion heading into last week's contest, but he did not appear hindered by the injury at all. The decision may be more about keeping Sanchez in a routine heading into the playoffs as anything else. Stay tuned.

Indianapolis Colts running back Joseph Addai saw a decent amount of work in his first game back in more than two months. More importantly, he emerged apparently no worse for the wear and should appear again in Week 17, although his number of carries may not change drastically.

• As for two running backs who sat out Week 16 -- the Jacksonville Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew and the New Orleans Saints' Chris Ivory -- it is too soon to predict whether either will be available in Week 17. Jones-Drew had swelling in his knee, and Ivory was still working his way back from a hamstring injury. Practice reports this week should yield further clues as Sunday approaches.

We will continue to update these injuries and others as the week progresses. Check back on Thursday and Saturday for the latest injury updates affecting Week 17.



This week's Thursday night matchup has the Pittsburgh Steelers hosting the Carolina Panthers in the most anticipated matchup of the season (hint: sarcasm intended). There's not even a lot to get excited about from a fantasy perspective. Thankfully, most of the relevant fantasy players are not on the injury report this week, with the exception of one or two notables.



For the Panthers, running back Mike Goodson may have helped you a few weeks back but he has not been a fantasy factor recently. Nonetheless, for those who might have raised their eyebrows when they saw his name on the injury report, Goodson did not practice Tuesday because of illness, not injury. He returned to full practice Wednesday and listed at probable, is expected to play. Still, Jonathan Stewart remains the primary running back for the Panthers as he has been since DeAngelo Williams was placed on injured reserve.

On the Steelers' roster, defensive leader Troy Polamalu has already been ruled out for Thursday night. This does not come as a huge surprise as there were hints when Polamalu missed Week 15 that he could miss additional time. The All-Pro safety is listed on the report with an ankle injury, but the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports Polamalu is dealing with a strained right Achilles, an injury he originally sustained in mid-November. Polamalu continued to play with the injury, but it worsened after the Week 14 game against the Cincinnati Bengals when quarterback Carson Palmer fell on the back of his leg. The Tribune-Review cited sources saying Polamalu could miss the remainder of the regular season. Officially, he has been ruled out for only this week but fantasy owners should keep an eye on his practice activity early next week for further clues.

Meanwhile Steelers tight end Heath Miller, who has missed the past two weeks following a concussion, is off the injury report and is expected to play, barring any late setback.

Here's who else you might be concerned about heading into Week 16:

[+] EnlargeMaurice Jones-Drew
Michael DeHoog/Sports Imagery/Getty ImagesMaurice Jones-Drew's streak of six straight games with at least 100 yards rushing was snapped last week.
• Alarms are sounding in Jacksonville after Maurice Jones-Drew sat out Wednesday and Thursday's practices because of his sore knee. The Florida Times-Union asked coach Jaguars head coach Jack del Rio if there was any chance Jones-Drew might not play Sunday and his answer was not definitive. "I hope not," del Rio said. "We're just, the way I look at it, we're always optimistic. ... We get the information to go through the week, get the feedback from the player, from the trainer, from the doctors and all that, then make a determination." Even Jones-Drew acknowledged he did not "look too good" in last Sunday's contest. It's worth remembering that there was some question about a knee issue for Jones-Drew as far back as the preseason. Jones-Drew missed some preseason practice and game time and has quieted concerns, especially recently, with his strong output. With a significant drop in performance in Week 15, however, coupled with the news that his knee is bothering him, there is reason for fantasy owners to keep an eye on Jones-Drew's Friday activity and reason to pick up Rashad Jennings, just in case. Meanwhile, teammate Mike Sims-Walker also missed practice Wednesday and Thursday to rest his ailing ankle. According to the Jaguars' official Twitter account, the status of both players will be announced Friday.



Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was a surprise scratch Monday night and has not shown much improvement since. Peterson had something to say about his status Tuesday on Twitter writing, "I'm rehabbing. Fully expect to go on Sunday." It's worth noting that Peterson was optimistic in advance of Monday night's game as well, and fantasy owners saw how that turned out. Peterson did not practice Wednesday, and according to Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier described his situation this way: "Very, very sore, lots of pain and makes it difficult to turn, twist and do the things Adrian Peterson does." Not the most encouraging words to start the week. Insurance is the best strategy here and if Toby Gerhart is available, he won't be for long. Although Peterson returned to limited practice, Pelissero noted that he seemed to be favoring his injured thigh. Both Frazier and Peterson indicate he is much improved over last week but also acknowledge he has a ways to go. This may come down to another game-time decision.

Houston Texans running back Arian Foster gave fantasy owners a scare when he left last week's contest early with what he described as a muscle spasm in his "glute." Foster was a full participant in Wednesday's practice, though, and appears on track to start Sunday. Head coach Gary Kubiak, while reassuring in his assessment of Foster's status, sounded the alarm bells when he referred to wide receiver Andre Johnson as a game-time decision. According to the Texans' official website, Kubiak followed up by saying, "We'll do our normal deal this week and see where he is at." Johnson has had little to no practice most weeks since injuring his ankle, which typically has allowed him to play Sunday. So far he has missed Wednesday and Thursday. We'll see if Johnson tests the ankle at all Friday.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be back running the offense this week, assuming all goes well between now and Sunday. Rodgers missed Week 15 after suffering his second concussion of the season but was back in full practice Wednesday. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said Rodgers "threw the ball with authority" in the portion of practice open to the media. Rodgers will be wearing a different helmet going forward, but it should be noted that no helmet is concussion-proof. In fact, some helmets have demonstrated better resistance to impact (and controlled studies on helmets have only studied linear or straight-line impact, not rotational, which is often how players are concussed) but the brain is injured when it moves within the skull, something no helmet can control. Still, Rodgers has passed all necessary tests to resume physical activity and barring any return of symptoms, is expected to start against the New York Giants this weekend.

[+] EnlargeMark Sanchez
AP Photo/Tom E. PuskarMark Sanchez cracked double-digit fantasy points for the first time in four weeks on Sunday.
• The New York Jets announced Wednesday that quarterback Mark Sanchez suffered a "slight cartilage tear" in his throwing shoulder, something that was revealed on MRI. The New York Daily News reported that Sanchez injured his arm landing awkwardly in the first quarter of last Sunday's game, yet he was able to finish. Soreness in his shoulder led to this week's MRI, but no one seemed particularly concerned about Sanchez's potential availability for Sunday's game. Until Thursday that is, when coach Rex Ryan suggested Sanchez would be a game-time decision. USA Today reported that Sanchez was limited again in Thursday's practice. His throws lacked velocity and he could not have played if the game were today. The issue is not so much whether the injury will worsen, but rather effectiveness. If Sanchez cannot start it will be Mark Brunell at the helm.



• Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes is also less than 100 percent healthy with a turf toe issue that kept him out of practice Wednesday. Holmes returned to limited practice Thursday, suggesting the injury is not of the most serious variety, but it still remains to be seen whether he can be fully effective pushing off and running routes.

Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis was not in practice Wednesday, getting a day of rest, according to the Browns. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported Hillis was seen limping in the locker room Wednesday, suggesting the body part noted on the report (knee) might be more injured than tired. Hillis seemed to dismiss the concern, telling the Plain-Dealer, "I feel great. ... It is a long season. It's tough on your body, but I think my body's holding up well." He returned to some form of practice Thursday, easing many a fantasy owner's concern. While he's not necessarily out of the woods, this is definitely an encouraging sign. Hillis will need his strength to face the Baltimore Ravens, who no doubt would like to erase the memory of his stellar performance against them earlier this season.

Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton knows he will be on the sideline this weekend as Tim Tebow continues to start. But what about running back Knowshon Moreno, who left last week's game early with a rib injury and was not on the practice field Wednesday. Bruised ribs are painful and even breathing hard when running can be excruciating. Moreno did return to limited practice Thursday. If he is able to do the same or more Friday, it would hint at him being available for Sunday.

Dallas Cowboys running back Marion Barber was a full practice participant Wednesday, lending more support to the idea that he could be back on the playing field Sunday. Barber has been out since injuring his calf on Thanksgiving Day. Teammate Felix Jones has a shin contusion, which also kept him out of practice Wednesday. There seems to be less concern about Jones' availability; the challenge for fantasy owners will be trying to predict how the touches are distributed if all three backs (Barber, Jones and Tashard Choice) are active. Meanwhile, teammate wide receiver Roy E. Williams was in limited practice Wednesday, a week after suffering a groin injury which kept him out of the Week 15 game. Fantasy owners should wait to see how Williams fares as the week progresses.



• Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap has been sidelined with a hamstring injury the past two weeks but returned to limited practice Wednesday. He is by no means a lock to play, but this is a good first step.

• New York Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham was questionable last week because of a hip flexor strain but delivered a solid performance (despite his team's stunning loss). Manningham appeared on this week's injury report because of his heel. He went from limited work Wednesday to full practice Thursday, however, hinting that he will be fine come Sunday.

[+] EnlargeMalcom Floyd
AP Photo/Gregory BullMalcom Floyd was a bit of a surprise scratch last week, but the extra days off may get him back in the lineup this week.
• The San Diego Chargers are trying to dry out from all the recent rainfall and trying to determine who will be available to play the Cincinnati Bengals. Running back Ryan Mathews missed Wednesday's practice due to illness but was back on Thursday. Tight end Antonio Gates has not practiced and is not expected to appear again in the regular season. Fantasy owners who have not yet made the move to replace him on the roster can do so with confidence now. And the biggest question heading into this week is the status of wide receiver Malcom Floyd, who has been beset by another hamstring injury that kept him out of last week's game. The North County Times reports that Floyd sustained an injury to the opposite hamstring in practice Dec. 14. Floyd summed it up by saying, "It isn't as bad as the other one, but it is a disappointment that I'm dealing with another injury just after getting healthy again." Floyd has yet to practice this week and his status is certainly murky heading into Sunday's contest.



• After sitting out last week's contest and undergoing a platelet-rich-plasma (PRP) injection, New Orleans Saints running back Chris Ivory thinks he is about 90-95 percent recovered, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Ivory told the Times-Picayune he could still not run at top speed Thursday but hopes to be able to play Monday night. Given the fickle nature of recovering hamstring injuries and the late game, this may be a fantasy situation to avoid.



• And finally, the Indianapolis Colts continue to watch players end their seasons prematurely. Wide receiver Austin Collie has been placed on injured reserve following his Week 15 concussion. Despite losing a receiver, they may be gaining a running back. Joseph Addai was a full participant in Wednesday practice and according to Associated Press reports, if the game were Thursday he could play. Let's make sure he's not getting ahead of himself and that he feels as good or better at the end of a full week of practice. It sounds as if Addai could return, but how much work he would see versus recent starter Donald Brown is unknown.



Have a Merry Christmas and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 16 in the Saturday morning blog!

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