Stephania Bell: Ben Roethlisberger



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

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

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

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

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

Already ruled out for Week 14


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

Quick Hits


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And on a final note


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

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



Week 13 is in the books! Unfortunately, so is the season of another promising young player who succumbed to injury. The Detroit Lions seemed to have unleashed another talented wide receiver in Ryan Broyles (who many a fantasy owner added to the roster when Titus Young was, ahem, demoted). After notching over 100 yards receiving in Week 12, Broyles didn't get through the first quarter of Sunday's game before suffering a knee injury. Sadly Broyles, who tore his left ACL in November 2011 while at Oklahoma, tore his right ACL and will now relive the surgery and lengthy rehab process. On the bright side, he knows what to expect and has proved he can return to an elite level of play. In the meantime, Mike Thomas becomes the next in line to fill in at wide receiver for the Lions.

Up in Boston, it appears the New England Patriots will have to do without the services of wide receiver Julian Edelman. Edelman injured his foot in Sunday's game and ESPN Boston cites a report from WBZ-TV saying Edelman's foot is broken, which will require surgery. This is unfortunate for the Patriots and unfortunate for fantasy owners who benefited from Edelman's production in recent weeks.

On the other side of the ball, the Chicago Tribune reports Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher will miss the next three games and potentially the remainder of the regular season after suffering a Grade 2 (moderate) right hamstring strain late in Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks. Urlacher entered the season with questions about his left knee after spraining his MCL and PCL late last season, but has managed to play every game until now.

As we head into Week 14:

[+] EnlargeCecil Shorts
(AP Photo/AJ MastCecil Shorts has been one of this season's biggest surprises, but will he be able to go this week?
• The Jacksonville Jaguars had two wide receivers who suffered injuries in last Thursday's practice, but both Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts were healthy enough to play by Sunday. Unfortunately, only Blackmon emerged from the game unscathed. Shorts, along with teammate running back Rashad Jennings, suffered a concussion. Both Jennings and Shorts will follow the standard protocols of evaluation and required clearance for return to play. It is too early in the week to know what their status will be.

Montell Owens stepped in the game when Jennings went down. With Maurice Jones-Drew still "very questionable" for Week 14 according to coach Mike Mularkey, Owens may be in line for a start. The Jaguars have seen Jones-Drew, Jennings and Jalen Parmele (now on injured reserve) all go down with injuries at various points this season. There are still four games to play, however, and the Jaguars do not seem inclined to automatically shut Jones-Drew down, nor should they be, assuming he progresses to the point of being able to return.



Despite Jones-Drew's projection in early November that he was about two weeks away from returning, it never really seemed plausible to count on him before December. Well, it's now December and while there's no urgency for the Jaguars in terms of needing victories to secure a playoff berth, there is still rationale from a rehab perspective to return a player to competition IF he is healthy enough to go. If Jones-Drew does not progress, the Jaguars certainly won't expose him to further injury by playing him unnecessarily. If he can return to practice in the next week or two, however, there is still a chance he returns for the final weeks of the season.



Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson injured his hamstring again. During pregame warm-ups Sunday, Nelson reportedly aggravated the same hamstring that caused him to miss time earlier this season. According to news reports, Nelson attempted to play despite the injury but was unable to do so successfully and left in the first quarter (deja vu for fantasy owners who experienced similar pain in Week 9 when Nelson, already hampered by a recent hamstring injury, left early after injuring his ankle).



Nelson is a classic example of how hamstring injuries can resurface even after a player has had a successful post-injury outing (he had 71 yards and a touchdown in Week 12). With an eye on playing deep into the postseason, it's hard to imagine the Packers returning Nelson quickly, even if head coach Mike McCarthy says the injury does not appear serious. Of course McCarthy already tipped us off that Nelson will likely miss Week 14, saying he would be "pressed hard" to face the Detroit Lions on Sunday.



[+] EnlargeNelson_Jordy
Scott Kane/US PresswireJordy Nelson has dealt with his share of injuries this season.
Maybe this is the week we see the return of the pre-injury Greg Jennings? While the numbers in his first game back from surgery to repair a torn abdominal muscle may not have been what fantasy owners were hoping for, he was targeted more than any other receiver Sunday and he emerged from the game feeling, well, "great." According to ESPNMilwaukee.com, Jennings said after the game, "I felt great, feel great now, felt great getting hit a couple times, hitting the ground, getting dirty, making some plays." Quarterback Aaron Rodgers offered this observation: "It's nice having him back. He's a big-time player. He can make big catches down the field. ... We've got to give him more opportunities." With Nelson expected to be out, maybe this is the week for Jennings to get those opportunities.

• Despite the positive reports on Oakland Raiders running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson as they returned to practice last week, both were held out of Sunday's game. Perhaps they weren't quite ready for competition, perhaps there was concern about the weather, or perhaps there was thought given to the fact the Raiders would have two games very close together (they face the Denver Broncos on Thursday). Or maybe it's simply that Marcel Reece has provided enough security to allow for the extra cushion of recovery time.



No matter the reasons for last Sunday's absence, both backs are expected to be available for Thursday night. The question then becomes how the workload will be divided given McFadden and Goodson are coming off high ankle sprains while Reece and fellow back Jeremy Stewart have played well. According to the Contra Costa Times, offensive coordinator Greg Knapp said the Raiders will know more by Wednesday or Thursday as to how they will use them. Reece is also dealing with quadriceps and hamstring injuries that could compromise his effectiveness. Interestingly, Knapp also expects the return of tackle Khalif Barnes (he returned in Week 11 after a nine-week absence following groin surgery) to bode well for McFadden's productivity. It may be tough for fantasy owners to count on a huge boost from McFadden in his first game in five weeks, but a solid outing would be encouraging for a couple of upcoming favorable matchups.

• The Philadelphia Eagles have named Nick Foles the starter for the rest of the season according to head coach Andy Reid. That doesn't necessarily mean Michael Vick is out for the remainder of the season, just that if and when he does return, he will be the backup. Vick is still working his way back through an exercise progression post-concussion. The bottom line for fantasy owners who may have been holding out hope is that it's time to move on. It appears the Eagles have. As for running back LeSean McCoy, he is also in recovery mode post-concussion. According to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Reid says McCoy is in Phase 3 of the Eagles' five-phase concussion recovery program. He is not a lock to play this week and when he does return could very well find himself sharing time with Bryce Brown who, minus a fumble here and there, has been exceptional in McCoy's absence.

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Brandon LaFell injured his foot in the third quarter of Sunday's game and is now in a walking boot. LaFell underwent an MRI on Monday but there is no word yet as to the specifics of his injury. Teammate Jonathan Stewart (high ankle sprain) is improving according to the Charlotte Observer, but the running back has no timetable for a return.

• Neither wide receiver Percy Harvin of the Minnesota Vikings nor Danny Amendola of the St. Louis Rams played last Sunday. Harvin has now missed three games due to an ankle sprain and is no lock to play this week. After one attempt at limited practice last Wednesday, Harvin could not repeat the effort and was still having trouble running. As for Amendola, he did not practice at all last week with his injured heel and the Rams opted to rest him Sunday. For both players, the next meaningful update is not expected before Wednesday practice.

Speaking of Wednesday practice, all eyes will be on Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (SC joint and first rib injury) to see how he looks throwing the ball. According to ESPN's Ed Werder, the soreness in Roethlisberger's shoulder and chest has diminished. If he demonstrates he is healthy enough to function at the position, he could return to face the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.



Many teams are fighting and clawing -- no, make that limping -- toward a spot in the fantasy playoffs. As such, all hands are needed on deck to make the final push to qualify. The byes are over, so every team is available, but will key fantasy scorers be able to contribute?



That, of course, is the question we would all like answered in advance. Since no team is actually going to fork over that information, we'll turn to the injury and practice reports to see how things are shaping up heading into Week 13.

Here's who we're keeping an eye on:

Running Backs

[+] EnlargeDarren McFadden
AP Photo/Derek GeeDarren McFadden, who has been out since Week 9, will likely suit up this weekend. But how effective will he be?
Matt Forte (ankle), Chicago Bears: Forte said that he expects to play Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, according to Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times. Forte has been practicing on a limited basis this week and said he is "feeling good." Whether Forte's confidence translates into a full workload remains to be seen. When Forte injured his ankle earlier this season, he sat out one week but returned for the subsequent game and managed 13 carries. (For what it's worth, Michael Bush carried the ball 10 times the week Forte returned from injury.) If Forte can practice again Friday, his outlook for Sunday remains positive.

Darren McFadden (ankle), Oakland Raiders: McFadden is looking as if he will make his return to the playing field this weekend after missing three games with a high ankle sprain. He participated in practice on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday, reportedly running well without hesitation. The larger question is what type of workload McFadden will be granted in his first game back. Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times reported that the Raiders plan to continue using fullback Marcel Reece at the halfback position to ease the workload for McFadden. Reece has been a pleasant surprise for fantasy owners during McFadden's absence, averaging 4.7 yards per carry while also notching a handful of receptions each week. Fantasy owners will face the dilemma of not knowing whether there will be a feature back or a timeshare in Week 13.



Wide Receivers

Percy Harvin (ankle), Minnesota Vikings: Harvin remains an example of just how difficult it can be for a skill-position player to return to full activity after a serious ankle sprain. Ankle sprains happen so routinely that they often automatically get lumped in the category of minor injuries. While many are mild enough that players (depending on the demands of their position) can avoid missing time, a more severe sprain can incapacitate a player for a longer period of time, especially if his position relies heavily on quick directional changes and rapid acceleration/deceleration. Harvin's initial comment that his ankle was sprained in three places hinted at a more severe injury -- as did the extensive swelling he experienced. He only began doing light work in practice Wednesday, and as Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com noted, Harvin seemed to tolerate straight-line movement but appeared to struggle with route running, limping visibly. Apparently Pelissero wasn't the only one to notice, since Harvin did not participate in practice Thursday. Coach Leslie Frazier told reporters the team will see what Harvin can do Friday, "if he can do anything." As of now, fantasy owners should plan for the possibility that Harvin will be absent another week.

Antonio Brown (ankle), Pittsburgh Steelers: In Week 9, Brown suffered what head coach Mike Tomlin referred to as a mild high ankle sprain. Four weeks later, it appears Brown has recovered to the point of being able to play. He returned to limited practice last week but the Steelers have certainly had their share of injuries this season -- including players who returned from one injury only to suffer another -- and there was no need to take a chance on Brown. This week, he has again been practicing -- full practice both Wednesday and Thursday -- so we should expect to see him suit up for the game.

Quick Hits


Despite improvement in his overall condition, it doesn't appear that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be ready to face the Baltimore Ravens this weekend. Roethlisberger has been out of his sling and began light throwing this week. However, he acknowledged that he has a ways to go to be game-ready, and the ultimate determination is functionality. In other words, can he throw the ball effectively enough to start? For most players, one would have to assume another week's absence. But since it's Roethlisberger, there's reason to wait to see how he does with one more day of practice. He's not going to be able to hide an inability to make certain throws, so the team should have a pretty good idea of what his status will be by tomorrow.

Ben Roethlisberger
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarIt's shaping up to be another long Sunday for Steelers fans and Roethlisberger owners, as Big Ben is still banged up and unlikely to play.
Is this the week we finally see DeMarco Murray? It's starting to look that way. Murray has been practicing on a limited basis this week, but his sprained left foot passed one big test by putting in back-to-back practices on Wednesday and Thursday. There has been a repeated mantra out of Dallas that Murray would not return to action until there was complete confidence that he was fully healthy, but it appears that confidence is building. According to the Dallas Morning News, offensive coordinator Bill Callahan said of Murray, "I got great confidence in him and I'm hopeful that we'll see him Sunday." It would be nice to see Murray do a bit more on Friday to test his foot, but even then it's hard to know what mix of Murray and Felix Jones the Cowboys will employ on Sunday. Meanwhile, wide receiver Miles Austin was a limited practice participant on Wednesday and Thursday. If he can do the same Friday, his chances of being active Sunday night are favorable.

Here's something we never like to see: Two wide receivers were added to the injury report Thursday for the Jaguars. Cecil Shorts is listed with a hamstring injury and Justin Blackmon is listed with a groin ailment. No word yet as to the severity of their respective lower extremity issues, but the Friday practice watch begins in earnest.

Beanie Wells sure had a nice return to the field for the Cardinals last week; however, he once again appears on the injury report. Wells had been on the injured reserve/designated for return list because of turf toe. He declared himself healthy, though, and feeling the best he had in a year prior to returning in Week 12. This week, the Cardinals' lead running back is again on the report -- but because of his knee, something he's had issues with in the past. Whether he's just experiencing soreness as a result of returning to game action for the first time in months -- or if there is any real cause for concern -- is unclear. If Wells practices again Friday, take that as a sign he is in line to start again this week.

Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman practiced on a limited basis both Wednesday and Thursday after being listed on the injury report with a concussion. No word as to the likelihood he plays Sunday but his activity early in the week is encouraging. However, we still have to assume final clearance protocols are in place.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted that Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola was back in a walking boot to start the week. He hasn't practiced and remains in question for Sunday. On Tuesday, we noted that Amendola was active last week despite being listed as doubtful, though he contributed very little. As a result, it wouldn't be surprising to see a similar situation unfold Sunday for the Rams' divisional matchup against the 49ers. Coach Jeff Fisher already said it would take Amendola some time to get healthy, so it's not as if he'll be completely recovered from the heel injury by then. It's just a question of whether he can effectively contribute. While rest may be the best thing to advance his chances by Sunday, it makes it tough for fantasy owners to evaluate just how much -- or how little -- progress he has made.

Lions running back Mikel Leshoure missed Wednesday's practice with an ankle injury, making his fantasy owners understandably nervous. He returned to limited practice Thursday and as is their custom, the Lions have offered no detail as to the nature or severity of LeShoure's injury. Just take it as a good sign that he returned Thursday and expect to see him back Friday in advance of Sunday's game. If for some reason LeShoure does not practice Friday, then fantasy owners can be legitimately nervous.

Chargers wide receiver Danario Alexander was in full practice Wednesday and wasn't even listed on Thursday's injury report after suffering what the team called a thigh injury on Sunday. It didn't seem severe, but given Alexander's history, particularly as relates to his knee, any injury is cause for concern. Alexander was also limited by a hamstring issue in the preseason. Fortunately, this looks to be just a minor issue and not threatening to Alexander's status for Week 13.

Not as encouraging is the status of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who continues to be sidelined as a result of his concussion. Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the Eagles said Vick has not yet returned to baseline on his neurocognitive (ImPACT) testing. Running back LeSean McCoy also remains sidelined. Expect Nick Foles at quarterback and Bryce Brown at running back this week.

Expect the Packers to have wide receiver Greg Jennings in the mix Sunday. Jennings continues to put in full practices and, as noted Tuesday, the team expects to have him on the field. The biggest question will be how Jennings will adapt to four quarters of football after being sidelined for the better part of two months.

Jennings ready to return

November, 27, 2012
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With Week 12 in the books, it's almost playoff time -- fantasy football playoff time, that is -- so returning players who may be able to help spark a roster immediately are key. With that in mind, we begin this week by turning our attention to one such player, a wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers who is itching to get back on the playing field after a seven-game absence.

When Greg Jennings suffered a groin injury in the Packers' season opener against the 49ers, no one would have predicted he would be essentially sidelined until December, let alone that the injury would later require surgery. In fact, it seemed as if his absence in Week 2 was largely due to the game coming on a Thursday night, just four days after the original injury. Jennings did indeed return for Week 3 and saw a significant amount of playing time. A week later, however, he netted but one catch and was forced out early after aggravating the groin. That would be the last time he played.

Jennings and the team projected the same message from that point forward; he would not risk another setback by returning before he was 100 percent healthy. Jennings dedicated himself to rehab and conditioning, working out in the pool and on land under the watchful eye of the medical staff with the goal of being able to run full power. Unfortunately, running remained problematic. When asked in October how the injury limited him, Jennings told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "Creating separation. I just can't get that last gear right now."

[+] EnlargeGreg Jennings
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesA "core muscle injury" robbed Greg Jennings of his ability to run away from defenders.
As it turns out, difficulty generating the power and explosiveness necessary for running is one of the hallmark signs of a core muscle injury (more specifically a muscle in the anterior hip, groin and abdominal region). Commonly referred to as a "sports hernia" in the past, the term has fallen out of favor with those who are the most expert in dealing with these injuries, primarily because the "hernia" portion of the term is a misnomer. There is no true hernia present; instead the injury represents a tear or a defect in one of the core muscles in the anterior pelvic region and the muscle(s) involved can vary. For this reason experts such as Dr. William Myers, who operated on Jennings and is considered one of the foremost authorities on this topic, are now referring to this collection of injuries as core muscle injuries. When pain and inability to perform athletic functions persists, surgery is often required. While it's naturally preferable to avoid any surgery when possible, the positive with this procedure is that the success rate is very high. Rarely do athletes suffer a setback that requires a repeat surgical procedure and they often return at or close to their pre-injury level. As the entity has become better recognized and understood, athletes in multiple sports such as football, baseball, soccer and hockey have been able to obtain proper treatment and return to an elite level of play.

The post-surgical rehab is fairly straightforward. There are no crutches or splints required. The athlete can walk immediately and exercise can be initiated quickly. Beyond cardiovascular conditioning, core exercises are gradually ramped up and running is ultimately restored, with a timetable of approximately three weeks to push full speed. As the athlete gains confidence he can test the boundaries of jumping and extending, both vertically and laterally, something athletes are initially hesitant about since those same movements were typically painful prior to surgery. Depending on the degree of complexity of the injury and the extent of surgery, most athletes are able to resume full activity within four to six weeks. For Jennings, who underwent surgery Nov. 1, this marks the four-week point. As important as his physical recovery is the confidence Jennings has regained since surgery. He was a limited practice participant last week -- including a day in pads -- and was pushing to play Sunday night. His eagerness to get back on the field of play shows he is comfortable with the repair, a different Jennings than the one who was hesitant earlier this season to commit to a timetable after repeated setbacks. "It's frustrating," Jennings told the Journal-Sentinel, "because your body, you feel like everything is OK, but the moment you go do something you're accustomed to doing, it's just not there."

As we head into Week 13 ...

Let us first acknowledge a few players whose seasons have come to an early close due to injuries suffered this past week. Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson suffered multiple rib fractures on Monday night, adding injury to insult in another Eagles loss. Jackson's timeframe for healing exceeds the time left in the regular season. The San Francisco 49ers lost two players to season-ending injuries in a single play. Even more strange is that the two injuries were sustained completely independent of one another yet both had devastating results. The team lost kick returner and wide receiver Kyle Williams to an ACL tear on a non-contact play. Frank Gore's primary backup Kendall Hunter was initially reported to have injured his ankle Sunday. The Sacramento Bee reports Hunter suffered an Achilles tear, citing a source with knowledge of the injury. Both Hunter and Williams have been placed on injured reserve. Brandon Jacobs saw his first action of the season when Hunter was injured and is now available to back up Gore along with Anthony Dixon and rookie LaMichael James. The New York Giants also lost depth at running back when Andre Brown suffered a broken fibula Sunday. Brown has been placed on IR/designated for return but would not be expected back before late in the playoffs, possibly the Super Bowl should the Giants make it that far. On Tuesday, the team announced the signing of Kregg Lumpkin to bolster their running back squad.

[+] EnlargeDeAngelo Williams
Patrick McDermott/Getty ImagesAn injury to Jonathan Stewart could be an opportunity for DeAngelo Williams to re-establish himself as a startable fantasy back.
In other news, two more running backs left games early this week with ankle injuries. Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears was injured in the third quarter and did not return. Coach Lovie Smith did not elaborate on his condition Monday. This could be one of those watch-to-see-what-happens-in-practice situations and may even come down to a game-time decision. Fantasy owners should prepare for the possible absence of Forte. In Carolina, the Panthers will likely be without Jonathan Stewart, who suffered a high ankle sprain Monday night, according to coach Ron Rivera. While Rivera would only call Stewart day-to-day, the nature of the injury combined with a short week for the Panthers make it unlikely Stewart will be available.

Raiders running back Darren McFadden could be in line for a return this week. At least his teammates think so. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, fellow Raiders believe McFadden will return to practice this week. McFadden has been doing some individual running so this doesn't seem unrealistic. More to come with Wednesday practice reports.

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy and quarterback Michael Vick remain on the recovery pathway from their respective concussions. The Eagles are now dealing with injuries to their starting quarterback, running back and wide receiver. While Jackson is done for the year, the Eagles plan on getting McCoy and Vick back. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, both still have to clear testing requirements to be eligible to return and there's no guarantee it happens for either of them this week.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin injured his left ankle in Week 9 and hasn't been able to practice, much less play. Harvin did not travel with the team to Chicago and his status for this week remains in question. Although his swelling has reportedly decreased, Harvin has yet to field test the ankle in a substantive manner, making it impossible to predict at this point whether we will see him in Week 13. Even coach Leslie Frazier, who has tried to sound optimistic about his star receiver the past two weeks, told 1500ESPN.com that there is no timetable for Harvin's practice schedule this week.

Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin left in the first quarter of Thursday's game with what was initially referred to as a strained right hip. The Dallas Morning News reports Austin thinks he'll be able to practice Wednesday but head coach Jason Garrett, who described Austin's ailment as a "hip/low back thing," didn't sound as confident. In fact, Garrett described Austin as "fighting through" the hamstring issues this year suggesting he's really not been at 100 percent, despite the fact he has yet to miss a game. According to ESPN's Ed Werder, the expectation is that Austin will play against the Eagles Sunday night, despite the recent injury. Speaking of missing games, Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray has missed six games since spraining his left foot and may remain out again this week. Remember shortly after the injury when team owner and president Jerry Jones said on the Cowboys' official website, "I don't think it's long term. I think we'll have him back in the foreseeable future"? To be fair, he also said he wouldn't predict, but his updates over the next few weeks continued to convey optimism with regards to Murray's progress. It's an interesting sign that the tone of his outlook seems to have changed. According to ESPN.com NFC East blogger Dan Graziano, following Thursday's game Jones had this to say about Murray: "We can't get a prognosis that another week's rest will do anything." (Translation: No more projections.) Murray has been doing some individual work and is certainly further along than when he was sporting a walking boot and crutches. But the true test of pushing his foot through practice drills has yet to happen although Werder reports the first attempt to do so is scheduled to take place Wednesday. Until it does- and until the team can see how Murray responds to the activity, the uncertainty about his status will continue.

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown could be approaching a return from his high ankle sprain. Brown rejoined the team in practice last week but was not quite ready for game action. If he gets another uneventful week of practice under his belt, he should be in good shape to face the Ravens. As to who will be throwing the ball to Brown, head coach Mike Tomlin says the "door is open" for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to return, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Roethlisberger, who suffered a sternoclavicular and first rib injury in Week 10, is out of his sling and is beginning to test his arm. It really comes down to how effectively Roethlisberger can function and whether he can make the necessary throws to be on the field. After this particular injury, hard cross-body throws are likely to be the most challenging, along with deep vertical passes. The Post-Gazette notes that the team is preparing for Charlie Batch to be under center once again, but will monitor Roethlisberger's efforts in practice.

Danny Amendola has been a regular on the injury report this season and this week is no different. The Rams' athletic wide receiver suffered a foot injury in Week 11 which had him in a walking boot early last week and kept him out of practice entirely. After being listed as doubtful (technically with less than a 25 percent chance of playing), Amendola was a surprise active but, not surprisingly, wasn't very active. He had one reception for 38 yards but was essentially removed from action for the bulk of the game because of persistent foot soreness. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports coach Jeff Fisher sounded more optimistic Monday about Amendola's chances for returning to practice this week. Still, while Fisher doesn't offer specifics about the injury, he does not suggest that Amendola is healthy by any stretch. "He's healing, but it's going to take time until he gets back to 100 percent." In other words, this has the sounds of Amendola being active again this week but there's no telling how much playing time he'll actually be able to deliver.

Maurice Jones-Drew is not expected to return for the Jaguars this week, according to head coach Mike Mularkey. Jones-Drew continues to recover from a significant midfoot sprain and has not yet returned to team practice. Jalen Parmele injured his groin during the game and despite a valiant effort to play through it, the injury was too much to overcome. The Jaguars announced Tuesday that they have placed Parmele on injured reserve and thus it appears Rashad Jennings will be the starting running back against the Buffalo Bills this Sunday.



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

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

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



Concussions

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

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

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

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

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



Rounding out Week 10 ...

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

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

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

Roethlisberger injury update

November, 13, 2012
11/13/12
5:30
PM ET


Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger added to his injury history Monday night when he suffered an unusual injury to his right throwing shoulder. According to coach Mike Tomlin, Roethlisberger suffered "an SC sprain," (a sternoclavicular joint sprain) and his status for this week is questionable.

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
Jason Bridge/US PresswireBen Roethlisberger's shoulder injury is rather unusual in football circles.
The SC joint is located at the front of the chest, where the clavicle, or collarbone, meets the sternum, or breastbone. Although it might seem strange to classify this as a shoulder injury, the SC joint is part of the global shoulder girdle: the scapula (shoulder blade), upper humerus (arm bone) and clavicle. When the shoulder moves, it creates movement at the SC joint. If there is an injury to the SC joint, it can affect any movement of the shoulder girdle, making it particularly problematic for a throwing athlete such as Roethlisberger.

A sprain describes a ligamentous injury. The SC joint is reinforced by ligaments in front of and behind the joint. It also has ligaments that attach it to the first rib. The ligaments are particularly strong, and injury here is relatively uncommon. A fall on the arm usually results in an acromioclavicular (AC) sprain (often referred to as a separated shoulder if there is displacement of the collarbone away from the shoulder blade) or a fracture of the clavicle. If the forces are transmitted in just the right manner, however, the SC joint becomes the victim -- as was the case with Roethlisberger -- and the ligaments or joint capsule (fibrous tissue around the joint) become stretched or torn.



There has been no indication from the Steelers as to the degree of injury suffered by Roethlisberger, making it somewhat challenging to prognosticate. ESPN's Ed Werder reports that Roethlisberger also suffered a rib injury Monday night. It is unclear which of his 12 ribs is injured, but at the very least it adds to the pain problem for Roethlisberger.

Standard treatment for most SC injuries is nonoperative. The primary goal initially is to reduce the pain and inflammation to the point that the athlete can begin range-of-motion and strengthening work. The time frame for recovery can vary widely, from days to weeks. The key factor in returning to play will be when Roethlisberger can function effectively at the quarterback position. It's not just concern about contact from an opposing player or a takedown to the ground. Because the SC joint moves every time there is any motion in the shoulder, return to activity will test his pain tolerance. Then again, this is a quarterback who has shown he can play through significant pain. Whether he is able to be effective throwing the ball might be another matter, though.



There aren't many examples of comparable injuries, given how infrequently it occurs. St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola suffered an SC injury in Week 5 this season but returned in strong fashion in Week 10. Amendola suffered a potentially serious posterior dislocation of his SC joint that required immediate medical attention to restore the joint to its proper position. Amendola initially was projected to miss six to eight weeks but was able to beat that timetable. Not only are their injuries not identical, but the functional demands of a receiver and a quarterback are quite different, making it difficult to draw any substantial comparison between Amendola and Roethlisberger.



Perhaps more relevant is the case of Brett Favre who, like Roethlisberger, was known for playing through significant pain. Yet even Favre could not maintain his consecutive start streak after he suffered an SC sprain in 2010 while with the Minnesota Vikings. Still, despite the expectation that he might be sidelined multiple weeks with that injury, Favre missed only one game before returning to start for the Vikings. His return was cut short when he suffered a concussion, and he was forced to miss the remaining two games of the season, making it impossible to know just how well the SC joint would have held up.

It seems highly unlikely that Roethlisberger will be available this Sunday, but he has yet to be officially ruled out. Even a return next week would be quick, given the nature of his injury and the degree of pain he reportedly is experiencing. But the Steelers have come to know that, when it comes to injuries, Roethlisberger has a history of defying expectations. Perhaps he will do so again.

Expect Brady, Romo, Big Ben to play

December, 29, 2011
12/29/11
6:36
PM ET


If you're still alive in your fantasy playoffs, your new year is getting off to a good start. With a full slate of games on New Year's Day, you have 32 teams that could help crown you champion. Or, you could have 32 teams that combine to sink your season by resting their star players, particularly those who are at less than 100 percent health (who is at 100 percent health at this stage anyway?), in advance of the real playoffs or because they have no hope for the playoffs. Whom can you count on? We are in search of that answer as the final games of the 2011 regular season approach. Here's what we're hearing midweek.

Quick Hits

Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots: This is the biggest nonstory story of the week. Brady took a number of hits to his nonthrowing (left) shoulder last week, and Tom Curran of Comcast SportsNet New England reported that Brady underwent X-rays to rule out a shoulder separation. Apparently there were no significant findings, and after sitting out practice Wednesday (noninjury related, according to the Patriots), Brady was at least present for the portion of practice open to the media Thursday, although how much activity he did is unclear. It sounds as if the team is understandably conserving his stamina for Sunday, when the Patriots are playing for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Brady has played through far worse, including, as many longtime fantasy players might remember, a sore throwing shoulder that had him on the injury report for record time. He will play Sunday, and while he perhaps would prefer not to take hard hits on his left shoulder, it should not affect his game.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Roethlisberger's high ankle sprain got an extra week of recovery when he sat out Week 16, and he now appears on track to play this Sunday. Roethlisberger was listed as a full participant in practice both Wednesday and Thursday, and acknowledges that while he still has pain in the ankle, he is improving. Expect Roethlisberger to play Sunday, barring a setback. Whether he will play the entire game is impossible to predict at this stage, and it might ultimately depend on how his ankle responds that day.

[+] EnlargeTony Romo
Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesTony Romo sat out most of last week's game with a hand injury but appears to be in good shape for the season finale.
Tony Romo, QB, and Felix Jones, RB, Dallas Cowboys: Both players are on track to play Sunday night in the game against the New York Giants that will determine who lives to play another week. Jones benefited from the rest he got in Week 16 (he was removed from the game after just four carries) and has been practicing on a limited basis. Of course, the ultimate test for his hamstring will come in the demands of a full game, but his issue was only ever described as "tightness," never a true strain. Romo meanwhile has been working on getting the swelling down in his bruised right hand. The less swelling, the less there are any issues with functionality of the hand that would affect grip and, ultimately, ball control. Romo's presence in practice throughout the week indicates the team is fully expecting he will start.

Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans: Johnson has missed three games since suffering his second hamstring injury of the season and made it clear he wanted to get back into a regular-season game before heading into the playoffs. It appears he will get his wish, as Johnson has practiced this week and coach Gary Kubiak indicated he is in line to play Sunday. It appears the Texans do not plan to use Johnson the entire game, as Kubiak suggested they would aim for 15 to 20 plays. Who can blame them after the spate of severe injuries their key players have endured this season? So while they will support Johnson getting some in-game work, they are not likely to take excessive risk. The question for fantasy owners is whether a limited appearance from Johnson will translate to significant point production.

Roy Helu, RB, Washington Redskins: After being a pregame scratch in Week 16 because of a painful toe, Helu has returned to limited practice this week. He says he expects to play, but the combination of his being less than 100 percent and a nice performance last week by Evan Royster makes this week's outlook unclear.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants: Bradshaw has settled into a routine of not practicing early in the week but returning Friday and playing Sunday. It appears that could be the case again, and the Giants have everything to play for Sunday night.

Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders: You probably are not in your fantasy championship if you were counting on McFadden to be back, since he now has gone 67 days without practicing. He is not headed to injured reserve, so there still is an opportunity if the Raiders make the playoffs. However, fantasy owners are left hoping for a full offseason recovery.

Jacoby Ford, WR, Oakland Raiders: Ford now is back in practice on a limited basis. His participation on back-to-back days is encouraging, but it is not yet clear whether he will be in the lineup Sunday.

James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers: Starks did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, and his status for Sunday is looking grim. At this point, it's more important for the Packers to have him healthy for the playoffs, so do not plan on seeing him in Week 17.

[+] EnlargeMark Ingram
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireIt'll be hard for either the Saints or fantasy owners to rely on Mark Ingram down the stretch.
Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints: Uh-oh. Not good news here for the Saints. Ingram has missed the past three games with a turf toe injury but in the past week had appeared to be making some progress. Unfortunately, his return to light practice Wednesday resulted in a setback, one the New Orleans Times-Picayune suggests could keep him out of the playoffs. Wise fantasy owners probably already made the move to secure Chris Ivory, who is expected to play again this Sunday.

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: Jones-Drew had an ankle injury heading into last week's game and managed to play through it. He has not practiced yet this week, but there seems to be little doubt that this is just rest in advance of Sunday's game.

Reggie Bush, RB, Miami Dolphins: Bush has had a resurgence of his career in Miami and wants to finish the season strong. His absence from practice both Wednesday and Thursday is a bit worrisome, considering he downplayed last week's injury to his right knee. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Bush is walking without a limp, but a knee injury to a running back with a history of knee issues is still concerning. If Bush is not practicing Friday, fantasy owners should be making alternate plans.

Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham, WRs, New York Giants: On Saturday, Nicks aggravated the hamstring he injured earlier this season, and it kept him out of practice Wednesday and Thursday. He made it clear he plans to play, however. According to ESPN New York, Nicks said, "It is all or nothing. It is playoffs now." That's not to say he'll be completely past it. Nicks and teammate Manningham both present some risk in that neither is expected to be completely beyond his injuries by the time Sunday rolls around. Manningham's struggles with swelling in his knee have been ongoing, but he turned in some limited work Wednesday and Thursday. Coach Tom Coughlin seems encouraged that Manningham will be available for this critical matchup.

[+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
Dale Zanine/US PresswireLeSean McCoy is the leading rusher in fantasy this season, but will he get to build on his stats?
LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: Finally, Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin are off the injury report, but McCoy gets added this week. McCoy hurt his ankle in Week 16 and was given Wednesday off. Eagles coach Andy Reid expressed optimism early in the week that McCoy would be fine, and his return to limited practice Thursday seemed to support that statement. McCoy is expected to play Sunday.

Kevin Smith, RB, and Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions: Smith's ankle is still in recovery mode, but he has turned in full practices this week. As noted Tuesday, the Lions signed Joique Bell from the practice squad, so it is difficult to assess just how Sunday's lineup will shape up. Johnson is listed on the injury report with an Achilles injury and did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. There has been no indication that there is anything major to be concerned about regarding his health but his status for Sunday is unclear. While the Lions have made it sound as if it will be business as usual, it's hard to imagine their starters not being removed early at the very least, as this game does not hold much value (they're playing to keep the 5-seed in the playoffs).

Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert, RBs, San Diego Chargers: Not what fantasy owners want to see -- both Chargers running backs returned to the injury report. Mathews, again listed with a calf injury, sat out Wednesday but was back to limited practice Thursday, suggesting he'll be available Sunday. Tolbert, however, was out both Wednesday and Thursday with a hamstring injury, and his status is less certain.

See you at the injury chat Friday at 11 a.m. ET, and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 17 in the Saturday morning blog.

How long will Adrian Peterson be out?

December, 27, 2011
12/27/11
5:06
PM ET


Congratulations to all who took home the championship trophy in Week 16 and, frankly, to all who gutted out the season, regardless of how you ended up placing in your league(s). We appreciate those who play hard right up until the bitter end. Speaking of which, a number of fantasy leagues take their championship matches right through the bitter end, otherwise known as Week 17, seeking a challenge by playing in a week where teams may alter their rosters either because they have nothing to lose or everything to gain by fielding backups. If you're playing for glory this Sunday, then the injury news is of import, but be forewarned: The picture of who sits and who starts may be even cloudier with the playoffs looming next month.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Peterson
Geoff Burke/US PresswireAdrian Peterson is obviously out for the rest of 2011, but his 2012 future is also very hazy.
One player we already know will not be present on Sunday has been a staple in virtually every fantasy football league for several years running. Unfortunately, the most dramatic -- and devastating -- injury of Week 16 was the one suffered by Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who took a blow to his left knee that left him visibly in pain and on the ground. The video, difficult as it was to watch, showed Peterson's knee moving into an awkward combination of valgus (bowing inward) and rotation, finally coming to rest at an odd angle underneath the weight of his body. Even in the absence of any specific knowledge of anatomy, the visceral reaction viewers collectively experienced while watching a knee bend in ways that it shouldn't told us something had gone terribly wrong. Peterson officially has a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and a torn medial collateral ligament (MCL) along with some damage to both the medial and lateral meniscus. He is expected to undergo reconstructive surgery in the next week to 10 days. The true extent of the damage within the joint may not be fully appreciated until that surgery takes place. For now, the Vikings remain hopeful that Peterson will be ready to contribute early next season, but understandably the timeline must remain fluid to allow for the many unpredictable variables that accompany this type of injury and subsequent rehabilitation.



Working in Peterson's favor are his youth (he is 26 years old with only five NFL seasons under his belt), his physical fitness and his work ethic. He has also shown resilience in responding to past injuries that were expected to either keep him down longer or potentially hint at future problems. While a junior in college at Oklahoma, Peterson broke his clavicle, which forced him to miss the last seven weeks of the season. He entered the NFL the following year with some concern about whether the collarbone would be a problem. It was not. In Peterson's first NFL season (2007), he did suffer a less common knee ligament sprain, a lateral collateral ligament (LCL) injury (incidentally, which was to his right knee). Not only was Peterson back on the field within three weeks, the knee healed well and did not prove to be a liability going forward. In fact, since that time, Peterson had missed only one game until suffering a left high ankle sprain just five weeks ago. Peterson returned in Week 15 after missing three games, but just one short week later, his world turned upside down with this latest injury.

Peterson will be challenged to return to form in 2012. There is no reason at this moment to believe he cannot be back to playing football next season. It is also reasonable, however, to allow for the possibility that it will take some time for him to show the explosiveness and aggressive style for which he is known. It's not just the physical recovery; there is the mental aspect of regaining confidence in a leg that has been severely damaged, believing it will hold up to the physical demands of the game, including, of course, the contact it will naturally be expected to absorb. Not only do the stats show that players typically perform better in the second year following reconstructive knee surgery, but athletes will often say it takes a year of playing on that leg until they get their "feel" back or until they believe they are playing like themselves again.



At this point, we simply wish Peterson well on his road to recovery and hope for positive updates along the way.

Quick hits


All the games for Week 17 will come your way Sunday, with the season ending that night with New York Giants hosting the Dallas Cowboys for the NFC East title.



[+] EnlargeAndre Johnson
Brett Davis/US PresswireAndre Johnson wants to get some work in the regular-season finale to get him ready for the playoffs.
• There is a possibility, a probability even, that Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson will make an appearance Sunday. Johnson has missed three games while recovering from his second hamstring injury of the season and has made it clear he would like to see some regular-season action before entering the playoffs. Last Friday, following a loss to the Indianapolis Colts, coach Gary Kubiak told the Texans official website, "I'm hoping [Johnson] is back out there this week." Johnson did return to practice Monday and said, "We're just trying to see how this week goes, see if I can make it through the week, first of all, without any soreness or anything like that. ... I'll be doing a little rehab tomorrow and I'll go back at it on Wednesday." If Johnson has a good week of practice, expect him to see some time Sunday. How much time that will be is unclear, but hopefully we'll get a better hint later in the week.

• Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones was removed from Saturday's game as soon as the announcement came that the New York Giants had won (rendering the Cowboys' game essentially meaningless). The good news for Jones is that his hamstring held up for the four carries he managed, but the rest he got afterward probably served him better. Expect Jones to be ready to go this weekend.

• The bigger question for the Cowboys this week might be the status of quarterback Tony Romo, who hit his right (throwing) hand against Jason Babin's helmet Saturday, causing the hand to swell to roughly twice its normal size. Fortunately, tests were negative for any fracture and, presuming the swelling resolves enough to allow Romo to function effectively, he will indeed play Sunday night. Coach Jason Garrett, a former quarterback who innately understands the physical demands of the position, captured the issue perfectly when he spoke to reporters Monday. "I don't think it's that complicated," Garrett said. "Can you take a snap? Can you grip the ball? Can you throw it? What's the ball look like when you throw it? Can you hand off? Quarterbacks that have had injuries in the past, and really, it's a functional type thing. ... How accurate is he when he's throwing it? Does everything have to be perfect for him to throw it well? Because, as you know, that position is a spontaneous one and he's certainly a spontaneous quarterback. So we'll evaluate all those things as the week goes on." And that pretty well sums it up.

• It is unclear whether the Pittsburgh Steelers will have Ben Roethlisberger under center Sunday or whether there will be another Charlie Batch sighting. Roethlisberger sat out Week 16 to rest his left ankle following a high ankle sprain suffered in Week 14. Roethlisberger played the Monday night game in Week 15 but struggled to step into his throws and was clearly limited in his mobility. There won't be any clues as to a decision until the Steelers can evaluate what Roethlisberger can do in practice.

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lance Moore was questionable coming into Monday night's game because of a sore hamstring injured late last week in practice. He did end up playing but didn't last through the first half, as the injury forced him out in the second quarter. It remains to be seen whether he will be well enough to play Sunday.

[+] EnlargeMcCoy
Debby Wong/US PresswireLeSean McCoy is the leading fantasy scorer among running backs this year, but will he be around in Week 17 to secure that honor?
• The Philadelphia Eagles saw LeSean McCoy leave Saturday's game for a period of time with an ankle injury. McCoy was able to return after X-rays were negative, but there seemed to be some discrepancy between McCoy's opinion as to whether he'd be available this week and coach Andy Reid's thought on the matter. For now, we'll go with Reid's interpretation, which is that McCoy has a "slight" ankle sprain and should be available Sunday.

Detroit Lions running back Kevin Smith played Saturday and posted decent fantasy numbers, but at times looked to be struggling with his right ankle. The Lions signed running back Joique Bell on Monday, which certainly gives pause as to Smith's availability for this week. With the playoffs looming, it would seem the Lions would not want to risk Smith's health for when it is most needed. Fantasy owners may want to avail themselves of other options.

Miami Dolphins running back Reggie Bush injured his right leg late in Saturday's game, but the non-specific injury appears mild. As Bush told the Palm Beach Post, "I don't think it's serious. I mean, I'm walking." Good point. So far, there's no indication Bush will be forced to miss this week's game. Meanwhile teammate Anthony Fasano missed Week 16 due to a concussion. He will need to be medically cleared to return to practice before his game status can be evaluated.

Green Bay Packers running back James Starks suffered yet another setback with his injured right ankle. It's tough to imagine him playing this week when the Packers' biggest goal might be trying to maximize the health of their team going into the playoffs.



• And finally, if you were holding out any hope for the return of either Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler or running back Matt Forte, you can now let it go. The Bears officially ended their seasons Tuesday, and they can focus on getting healthy for next year.

Late Week 16 injury updates

December, 23, 2011
12/23/11
8:24
PM ET


With the majority of NFL matchups taking place on Saturday, there is one fewer day for teams, coaches and, most importantly, fantasy owners to prepare! Never fear, championship contenders. We won't let something as small as a schedule change get in the way of bringing you all the latest information. With the NFL injury reports hot off the presses, here are the players whose status may have you concerned heading into this week's games.

Good luck in Week 16, everyone! May your players stay healthy and win for you.

Quarterbacks

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
Frank Victores/US PresswireBen Roethlisberger likely will play against the Rams only in case of an emergency.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers, ankle (Q): The Steelers have been preparing Charlie Batch all week to face the St. Louis Rams, with Roethlisberger active only in an emergency scenario. This is not a huge surprise, as Roethlisberger is coming off a short week following the Monday night game in which he was clearly limited. With the playoffs forthcoming, the extended rest can only help. It's too soon to say whether the Steelers plan to have him active or not in the final week of the regular season.

Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles, ribs, (P): Vick will probably be on this list through the end of the regular season as his rib injury continues to heal. There's no question, however, that Vick will be the quarterback for the Eagles against the Dallas Cowboys.

Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, right shoulder, (P): Freeman is now at the point where he can play despite the shoulder soreness. He practiced fully this week and will start against the Carolina Panthers.

Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals, head, (Q): Kolb suffered a concussion in Week 14 and has still only returned to limited practice. It's expected that John Skelton will start again.

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams, ankle, (D): Bradford has been struggling with his ankle, saying it feels as if it's "going backwards." Not good. Neither is a doubtful tag. With backup A.J. Feeley already ruled out, it appears recently signed Kellen Clemens will get the start.

Running Backs

Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans, ankle, (Q): Johnson sprained his ankle Sunday and has been gradually increasing his activity throughout the week in an effort to return. While Johnson escaped major structural injury, the ankle has still been sore and could affect his overall performance, particularly with lateral movement and cutting. Johnson returned to limited practice Thursday and Friday and is expected to play, but likely will not be at top form.



Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants, foot, (P): Bradshaw is following the same pattern of limited work during the week and playing on Sunday. Expect him to play again this week.

[+] EnlargeFelix Jones
Douglas Jones/US PresswireThe oft-injured Felix Jones is once again a question mark for fantasy owners.
Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys, hamstring, (Q): Jones hasn't done much ... and that's the worry. Although he has been doing some running on the side, he has not fully tested the hamstring. While the Cowboys hold out hope he'll be available, it's Sammy Morris who has taken all the first-team reps in practice. As another signal the Cowboys want insurance, they promoted running back Chauncey Washington from the practice squad, according to ESPNDallas.com. To complicate matters, this is a late game and the decision will not likely be announced until inactives are due. Even if Jones plays, there has to be some concern about what exactly one can expect in live game conditions.

Michael Bush, Oakland Raiders, shoulder, (Q): Bush has been on the injury report but it seems only logical he would be. After all, there are many other Raiders there to keep him company but, most importantly, he has been the workhorse of the backfield, enduring a physical toll. After he has been limited in practice each day, the questionable tag does raise some eyebrows. The signals out of Oakland all week have been that the Raiders expect to have Bush play, but it will be important to check pregame inactives.

Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos, hamstring, (P): McGahee has been bothered intermittently by the hamstring since hyperextending his knee but the probable tag tells us the Broncos plan to have him on the field. McGahee practiced in full every day, which should also help put fantasy owners' collective minds at ease.



Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions, ankle, (P): Smith's status is an upgrade over last week, indicating the team is feeling far more confident about his ankle. Smith's activity this week was a positive sign, as he was able to practice in full each day. While there's no way to be certain he can get through the game unscathed, this is certainly a better situation than last week.

Roy Helu, Washington Redskins, toe/knee, (Q): Helu downplayed his injuries, but according to The Washington Post, he felt much better after practice Thursday than he did earlier in the week. Despite the questionable tag, it appears Helu will play.



Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars, ankle, (P): His ankle got tangled up during the Week 15 game, but Jones-Drew, one of the most durable and productive running backs this season, was never really in danger of missing the game. He was given fewer reps in practice but participated on a limited basis every day. Jones-Drew is expected to start against Tennessee.

Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals, knee, (Q): After he was listed as probable the past couple of weeks, it's a little concerning that Wells has been downgraded this week to questionable. He did practice daily, but on a limited basis; however, that has been the pattern for some time as the team has been attempting to manage his knee condition. The Arizona Republic reports that Wells is expected to play Saturday, despite the questionable tag.



James Starks, knee/ankle and Brandon Saine, concussion, Green Bay Packers, (P): Starks sat out last week's game to give his ankle some additional rest. It only made sense after Starks struggled for several weeks in a row. This week has gone much better for Starks, who was able to participate fully in practice each day. Saine missed Week 15 with a concussion but returned to limited practice Wednesday, then full practice Thursday and Friday. Both backs are expected to be available along with Ryan Grant. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, there is likely to be a shared workload in place.

Shonn Greene, New York Jets, rib/shoulder, (P): Greene has been on the injury report for a few weeks now and his latest injury (torn tendon in finger) isn't even listed. The probable tag indicates the Jets expect him to play.

Marion Barber, Chicago Bears, calf, (D): Barber is listed as doubtful, meaning there is little doubt that Kahlil Bell will be carrying the load for the Bears on Saturday.

Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints, toe, no designation yet: Ingram is still not practicing, and with the game on Monday night, fantasy owners should avoid him in their lineups.

Wide Receivers

[+] EnlargeA.J. Green
Scott Rovak/US PresswireAfter missing part of last week's game with an injury, A.J. Green appears poised to carry a full load this week.
A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals, shoulder, (P): Knowing that Green comes into this game fresh off a Grade 3 shoulder separation, the probable tag is very encouraging. Green has maintained all along that he would be able to play this weekend, and now it appears all but certain that he will. He was catching passes as early as Tuesday, practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday, and returned to a full practice Friday. If Green lands hard on the recently injured shoulder, it certainly won't feel terrific and he may be challenged to reach directly overhead, but he managed to finish the game last week after suffering the injury. It's hard to imagine it being much worse Saturday.

Steve Johnson, Buffalo Bills, groin, (P): Last Sunday Johnson appeared to aggravate the groin injury that has plagued him throughout the season and was removed from the game as a result. Johnson said he could have re-entered the game and expressed little doubt that he would be back in Week 16. He practiced on a limited basis daily and appears on track to play as usual. It's worth noting that Johnson has performed well this season despite the presence of injury.



Laurent Robinson, Dallas Cowboys, shoulder (Q): Robinson was listed this way last week but we all know he played. Expect him to do the same again after practicing daily.

Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles, hamstring/shoulder (P): Maclin looked better last week than he did the week before and the probable tag tells us the Eagles are confident he'll be out there again. Maclin practiced fully each day and looks to be overcoming the injury.

Mario Manningham, New York Giants, knee, (D): Manningham has managed to play through his knee issue for the last two weeks but it appears he will miss this one. Swelling in the knee has returned, and he did not practice at all this week. Fantasy owners should make other plans.

Nate Washington, Tennessee Titans, ankle, (P): Washington has already shown he can play through the ankle injury, even coming in at far more questionable status. After practicing in full daily, Washington appears good to go against Jacksonville.

Brandon Marshall, Miami Dolphins, knee, (P): Marshall apparently had been dealing with some knee soreness but nothing so serious that he might have to miss this matchup against the New England Patriots. Marshall didn't practice Wednesday but returned to light work Thursday and full practice Friday. Expect him to play.

[+] EnlargeChargers' Vincent Jackson
Kirby Lee/US PRESSWIREA groin injury may keep out Vincent Jackson at the worst time for fantasy owners.
Vincent Jackson, San Diego Chargers, groin, (Q): Jackson did not practice at all this week because of the groin issue, making his Saturday status far less certain. Jackson has played through injuries before, but this time may be different. It seemed like a foregone conclusion earlier in the week that Jackson would go, but Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Jackson's groin has not responded as hoped to treatment during the week. Late game alert.

Wes Welker, knee and Deion Branch, groin, New England Patriots, (Q): Once again the Patriots have roughly half their roster at questionable after limited practice all week. Welker has been at this status for several weeks and has played without incident. Branch, however, missed last week and there is legitimate question as to whether he is ready to return. Branch says he's improving, but the team will make the final decision, just before game time.

Santonio Holmes, New York Jets, hip, (P): Holmes was an addition to the Thursday injury report after being limited in practice, but coach Rex Ryan said the Jets expected him to be ready by Saturday. The probable tag supports that, and fantasy owners can put him in their lineups.

Denarius Moore, Oakland Raiders, foot, (P): Moore was able to make it back last week but didn't do too much. Another week of practice (full practices daily) should have him on track for more action.

OUT


This space is intended for a list of key fantasy players, not including those who have been moved to injured reserve status, who are officially listed as "out" for the upcoming game.

Anquan Boldin, WR, Baltimore Ravens, knee: Boldin underwent knee surgery this week and will miss the remainder of the regular season.

Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay Packers, knee: Jennings suffered a sprained MCL in Week 14 and is likely out for the remainder of the regular season.

[+] EnlargeJake Ballard
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesJake Ballard won't be able to take advantage of a Jets defense that struggled to stop fellow tight end Brent Celek last week.
Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears, knee: Forte suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain, and the Bears still hope he will be able to return before the regular season is complete, but it is far from certain.

Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears, thumb: The Bears' starting quarterback remains out alongside their starting running back. Cutler is recovering from surgery to repair his broken right thumb.

Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders, foot: McFadden is still removed from practice but the team still holds out hope he can return at some point. It won't be this week.

Jacoby Ford, WR, Oakland Raiders, foot: Ford has still not been able to practice this week as he recovers from a foot injury.

Jake Ballard, TE, New York Giants, knee: Ballard injured his PCL and, as expected, will miss this week.

Anthony Fasano, TE, Miami Dolphins, head: Fasano was diagnosed with a concussion Thursday, at which point it appeared obvious he would sit out this week. The team made it official Friday.

Be sure to check out Fantasy Football Now on Saturday this week, on ESPN2 at 11:30 a.m. ET and Fantasy Surround on ESPN.com starting at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday for last-minute inactives, rankings, injury impact and more!

Schaub, Cassel likely done for season

November, 15, 2011
11/15/11
3:06
PM ET


What key fantasy player on the Houston Texans hasn't missed time due to injury this year? A few days ago the best answer might have been Matt Schaub, but not any longer. To make matters worse, Schaub's injury appears as if it will be season-ending. Schaub suffered a Lisfranc injury to his midfoot and is being evaluated by specialists this week to determine the course of treatment, which may include surgery.

[+] EnlargeMatt Schaub
Margaret Bowles/AP PhotoMatt Schaub was 11-for-15 for 242 yards and two TDs against the Bucs in what might be his last game of the season.
According to the Houston Chronicle, coach Gary Kubiak indicated Schaub's injury happened during a quarterback sneak. "Somebody fell on the back of his foot, and his foot got caught in the pile," Kubiak said. A force placed on the heel while the athlete's forefoot is fixed firmly on the ground (picture a push-off position with the heel in the air at the time the load is sustained) is the most common mechanism for this type of injury in football. It is often difficult for the athlete to continue to play, and in the most serious situations, it is virtually impossible to bear weight. The surprise with Schaub, who managed to play the majority of the game in spite of the second-quarter injury, came Monday when the team discovered just how significant the injury was. According to the Chronicle, the Texans were "stunned" by the news.

Other noteworthy players have suffered Lisfranc injuries -- some severe enough to require surgery -- and have returned to play, although in some cases not to their prior level of play. Running backs Ronnie Brown (injured while a member of the Miami Dolphins in 2009) and Kevin Jones (injured while with the Detroit Lions in 2006) went through lengthy rehabilitation efforts, as did Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney, who was injured in 2007. Although the term "Lisfranc" is more easily recognizable now that several prominent athletes have suffered the injury, what it describes remains a mystery to most. Many have asked on Twitter "What exactly is a Lisfranc?" to which the only response is that the answer deserves more than 140 characters. To help explain the complexity of the injury, along with the origin of its unique name, I returned to an entry I wrote in 2007 when Freeney was recovering from his surgery:

So what is this thing they call a Lisfranc injury? There is a region in the middle of the foot where the long bones of the forefoot (metatarsals) articulate with the small tarsal bones in the middle of the foot. This joint is thus called the tarsometatarsal joint. It is also referred to as the Lisfranc joint.

Why? Frenchman Jacques Lisfranc, a field surgeon in Napoleon's army, described an amputation technique through this region to address forefoot gangrene following frostbite. There is also the story that soldiers wounded in battle would fall from their horses, but a foot would often remain caught in the stirrup, right at that tarsometatarsal joint. Such an injury often resulted in amputation of part of the foot, from the injured joint forward. In fact, amputation to that region still bears the same name (although NFL players, thankfully, don't need part of their foot amputated when they suffer Lisfranc injuries).

Since NFL players aren't riding horses, how does this injury happen to them? There are several mechanisms for this type of injury, but in sports, especially football, the primary scenario is that the player is running forward, with his weight on the ball of his foot, and he gets hit or stepped on from behind against his heel. The resultant force through the portion of the foot in between the ball and the heel (midfoot) causes it to buckle, and the midfoot is injured.

Are all Lisfranc injuries the same? No. In fact, the name Lisfranc refers to the region of the foot, not necessarily the severity of the injury. By virtue of its important location (the midfoot essentially forms the arch), any injury to this region needs to be taken seriously. That said, not all Lisfranc injuries are created equal. When the midfoot buckles, the ligaments that connect the various bones can become damaged. Ligament injury without any bony impact would be the mildest version of a Lisfranc injury. The problem is that damage to the ligaments can affect the relative position of the bones in the area, and they can shift or dislocate, which is often accompanied by a fracture. Now it's getting more serious. In the worst-case scenario, an artery passing over that area can also be damaged, affecting blood supply to the foot. A shift of the bony alignment typically requires surgery to realign the joint and provide stability. Failure to do so can result in chronic instability and pain, eventually leading to major arthritis in the area. Even with surgery, it appears that people who have suffered a significant Lisfranc injury are more at risk for arthritis down the road, simply because of the trauma to the joint.

The bottom line is that players who suffer these injuries must have their treatment managed carefully, not only with surgery, but in the postsurgical rehabilitation process as well.

Apparently it was a bad week to be a quarterback named Matt when it came to injuries. Kansas City Chiefs signal-caller Matt Cassel suffered an injury to his right (throwing) hand near the end of Sunday's game that coach Todd Haley said was "significant and could end his season." According to the Kansas City Star, Haley said Cassel's injury will require surgery, although specific details as to the structures involved were not provided. Looks like it will be Tyler Palko facing the New England Patriots next Monday night. Nothing like jumping in under the bright lights.

[+] EnlargeMichael Vick
Howard Smith/US PresswireMichael Vick's status for this week is up in the air after he suffered broken ribs last Sunday.
Maybe it was just a bad week to be a quarterback whose name starts with the letter M. It only took two plays into Sunday's game for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick to suffer another injury, this time two broken ribs. According to the Philadelphia Daily News, coach Andy Reid says Vick broke his two lower ribs but the severity of his injury was not immediately obvious. As to whether Vick will be available this Sunday, Reid was uncertain. "We'll see. I'll see in the next little bit. He's a tough nut." Maybe. But his ability to throw effectively may be compromised by the injury (which perhaps we saw on Sunday). His status should become clearer later in the week.

And then there were several more season-ending injuries, including two to offensive players who may be on your fantasy roster. Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno tore his right ACL, effectively ending a season that had already been limited by hamstring injuries. Teammate Willis McGahee came out of the same game with a left hamstring strain, but the Denver Post reports he has been cleared to return to practice Tuesday. If McGahee has a solid practice, he could start Thursday night. Meanwhile, Washington Redskins rookie wide receiver Leonard Hankerson's season came to an abrupt end when he injured his hip in the fourth quarter, leaving the stadium afterward on crutches. According to the Washington Post, Hankerson suffered a torn labrum. Fortunately for him, youth is on his side and he should make a full recovery.

Quick Hits


• The New York Jets will return to action Thursday night to face the Denver Broncos, just four days after their difficult showing against the New England Patriots. We know the Broncos will be without Knowshon Moreno, but will the Jets also be down a running back? It certainly appears that will be the case, as LaDainian Tomlinson suffered a sprained MCL in Sunday's contest. While the MRI reportedly showed no major damage, four days' rest is a very brief recovery period. Tomlinson was not practicing with the team Tuesday, generally the biggest practice day before a Thursday night game. Fantasy owners who were hoping for a flex play from Tomlinson are advised to look elsewhere.

• Uh-oh. Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune is reporting that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a broken right thumb. However, the Steelers are on a bye this week, and according to Brown, Roethlisberger says he will play in Week 12. But it's best to keep an eye on practice reports heading into that week.

• Now that Matt Schaub is out, quarterback Matt Leinart will take over under center when the Houston Texans return to action in Week 12. All indications are that wide receiver Andre Johnson will be there to help him out. Coach Gary Kubiak said he expects Johnson to participate in practice in advance of the next game, although he acknowledged nothing is set in stone.

[+] EnlargeTBD
Rob Carr/Getty ImagesJeremy Maclin was supposed to pick up the slack for the deactivated DeSean Jackson on Sunday, but instead he left the game twice with injuries.
• Even if Michael Vick does return to action for the Eagles on Sunday, he could very well be without receiver Jeremy Maclin. Maclin suffered not one but two injuries Sunday, a sprained AC joint (commonly referred to as a separated shoulder) and a hamstring injury. Maclin suffered the shoulder injury in the first half but returned to the game, then exited for good in the fourth quarter after straining his hamstring. Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported following Sunday's game that Maclin was moving "very slowly and with a limp." On Monday, coach Andy Reid said the shoulder injury was the more serious of the two. Either injury on its own could be enough to limit Maclin. We will see whether he is able to return to practice this week.

San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore returned from a left ankle sprain to play in Sunday's game but delivered no fantasy points. It wasn't even his ankle that was the issue. Gore took a hard fall on his knee but emerged with only a bruise, according to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. However, running backs coach Tom Rathman did not want Gore to return to the field and risk further injury. Gore has indicated he does not expect to miss any playing time, and Maiocco says Gore was walking without a limp Monday, another encouraging sign. The San Francisco Chronicle is echoing the sentiment, reporting coach Jim Harbaugh expects Gore to play. Harbaugh also expressed confidence in "the stable of backs" the 49ers have available, which could hint at a timeshare. The Niners will have a Thursday night game following this Sunday's contest, so spreading the workload around could be a strategy.



• The Detroit Lions do not expect to have running back Jahvid Best this week. Perhaps the most telling quote from coach Jim Schwartz when asked about Best was, "We're status quo with that." According to the Detroit Free Press, Schwartz added, "When we get clearance from the doctors, we'll get him back. But he needs to be symptom-free before we get clearance from the doctors." The inference there is that Best is not yet symptom-free, and as is typical with these injuries, there remains no timeline.



[+] EnlargeMatthew Stafford
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastLions QB Matthew Stafford shouldn't expect to see a lot of blitzes from the 49ers on Sunday.
Teammate Calvin Johnson was evaluated for a concussion following a big hit in Sunday's contest but passed his tests, according to Dave Birkett of the Free Press. Johnson says he will play Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is also expected to play, despite a fractured index finger on his throwing hand. Stafford entered the game with the injury, which went under the radar with the Lions on bye in Week 9, but it became a topic of conversation after Stafford's less than, well, Stafford-like performance. The Free Press reports that Stafford blames the gusty winds for affecting his play more than the finger. Hmmm. It's difficult to imagine between the tape on his finger and a glove over the tape that there was zero effect from the injury, but Stafford has never made excuses based on his health as long as he could physically take the field. We'll see. This week the Lions play at home, in a dome. No wind there.

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones left Sunday's game early because of a hamstring injury. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports this injury is to Jones' right hamstring, the opposite leg of Jones' prior injury that caused him to miss Weeks 6 and 7. His status for Week 11 is uncertain.

• Fellow rookie receiver A.J. Green also had an injury scare Sunday when he landed awkwardly during a touchdown grab in the end zone, hyperextending his right knee. Although his knee was stiff, Green told the Cincinnati Enquirer he did not hear a "pop," usually a good sign, and a follow-up MRI that came back negative was even more encouraging. The Cincinnati Bengals expect him to play Sunday.

• It's too soon to have any meaningful update on New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who sat out Week 10 to rest his healing foot. Bradshaw had improved to walking without pain last week. The key will be when he can progress to running. As coach Tom Coughlin told ESPN New York, "There is no sense speculating. He is going to have to go out and practice." Let's see if he does just that.

Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis (hamstring) has already been ruled out for Week 11. No word on Montario Hardesty's status (calf) just yet, but we will need to see if he can return to practice.

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

Keep close eye on injured Steelers

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


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

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

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



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

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

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

Quick Hits


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Week 4 continued to provide thrills, drama and, naturally, injuries. Where, oh where, to begin?

[+] EnlargeAndre Johnson
Brett Davis/US PresswireAndre Johnson is likely out this week, and probably for a few more games.
How about starting with one of the few wide receivers who rated a first-round draft pick in most fantasy leagues? Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson was running Sunday, and then all of a sudden, he wasn't. He went from vertical to face-down in a split-second, untouched.



While many thought he had suffered a knee ligament injury, in actuality, it didn't really have the look of a Wes Welker-like ACL/MCL injury, in which the athlete plants and changes direction, and the knee wobbles and fails. This had the look of failure, as in the sudden failure of a major muscle/tendon unit that just stops a runner midstride. The Texans are reporting that Johnson suffered a hamstring strain and that he is seeking additional opinions. Nothing more specific has been offered up yet.

Johnson could be seen grabbing the lower part of his hamstring, just above the knee, at the time of his injury, which would suggest that the injury was near the tendinous attachment. Those injuries are often slow to heal because of poorer blood supply to the tendon. As of now, it certainly appears the team will be without Johnson for an extended time; fantasy owners should plan on a replacement (although you can't really "replace" Johnson) who can fill in for multiple weeks.

And now on to the rest of the injury happenings in Week 4.

• The Pittsburgh Steelers will have an expanded injury report this week. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger continues to take a lot of hits and this week it took a toll. Roethlisberger suffered a sprained left foot (Monday tests revealed no fracture). Although it will undoubtedly limit his mobility, he is expected to play Sunday, according to head coach Mike Tomlin. ... Running back Rashard Mendenhall's status is up in the air after he strained a hamstring in Sunday's game. ESPN's Bob Holtzman reports Mendenhall is not likely to do much in practice this week, meaning this could translate to a gametime decision. Isaac Redman is looking like a guy who should be picked up. ... The Steelers also lost linebacker James Harrison for an extended period with a facial fracture. He is expected to undergo surgery this week.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne left the Week 4 contest early with an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder. Henne downplayed the injury initially and despite sporting a sling after the game, he said that he expected to play through it. According to Jeff Darlington of NFL.com, the Dolphins are concerned about a separated shoulder, which could threaten Henne's season. Darlington adds that the team is seeking a second opinion, but if Henne were to be done, this could be the beginning of the Matt Moore era.



[+] EnlargeJackson
AP Photo/Gregory BullVincent Jackson scored a TD last week but then was sidelined again in the second with a leg injury.
San Diego Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson was able to play through an abdominal strain and deliver some of the best visual highlights of the week with his acrobatic catches. It certainly looked as if it wasn't holding him back. But then Jackson exited the game in the second quarter, raising the suspicion he had indeed aggravated the injury. Jackson returned in the second half but on a very limited basis. Later the San Diego Union-Tribune reported the Chargers indicated Jackson had suffered a "leg strain" as the result of compensating for the abdominal issue. Vague and somewhat bizarre. It's not clear what exactly is going on with Jackson just yet, but it does appear the Chargers plan to follow the same plan for him -- very little practice with the hopes of suiting up Sunday -- heading into Week 5.

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Mike Williams suffered a concussion in Week 4 and, as is the case with all NFL players, will have to pass a battery of tests and receive medical clearance before he can return.

New England Patriots running back Danny Woodhead left the game early with a left ankle injury, although there's no indication yet as to whether he'll miss any playing time.

Washington Redskins running back Tim Hightower played second fiddle to Ryan Torain this week, and after the game, head coach Mike Shanahan hinted at a shoulder injury for Hightower, according to the Washington Post. Hmmm. It's hard to know what to expect from the running back committee in Washington, but naturally we will be looking to see who ends up on the injury reports.

Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden continues to impress. Teammate Michael Bush, talented in his own right but often injured, suffered an ankle injury late in Sunday's game. His status for this week is uncertain.

• Best wishes to Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman Eric Foster, who dislocated his right ankle Monday night. Anyone who saw the injury won't soon forget it. He has already undergone surgery and will remain in the hospital for several days before beginning his lengthy rehab process.

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

Matt Cassel undergoes appendectomy

December, 9, 2010
12/09/10
5:16
PM ET


This week's Thursday night matchup has the Tennessee Titans hosting the Indianapolis Colts.

For the Titans, wide receiver Kenny Britt is off the injury report and is expected to see his first game action since tearing his hamstring six weeks ago. While his recent practice activity and this "noninjury" status are good news, he is still not out of the woods. Hamstring strains, as we've seen many times this season, are very susceptible to aggravation. For that reason, especially given the severity of Britt's injury, it would not be surprising for Britt to see a light workload in his first game back. Fantasy owners who have better options may want to hold him for this week, but if he comes through unscathed, he could be very valuable the rest of the way.

For the Colts, the injury list remains as lengthy as ever. Already ruled out are Austin Collie, Joseph Addai and Mike Hart. None of those three being out is particularly surprising, but it does make those with a questionable status more critical. Donald Brown was on the injury report because of his ankle, but the injury appears to be minor. He practiced fully Tuesday and Wednesday and is expected to start. Tight end Jacob Tamme is listed as questionable with a knee ailment (note that early in the week it was called a hamstring). Tamme returned to limited practice Wednesday after sitting out early in the week. My sources seem to think he will play and that he may have been given additional rest because of the short week. Nonetheless, be sure to check game-time inactive reports. Wide receiver Reggie Wayne, also listed as questionable, practiced fully Tuesday and Wednesday and is expected to play, as he always does.



Here's who else you might be concerned about heading toward the Week 14 playoff rounds:

Quarterbacks

[+] EnlargeMatt Cassel
Tim Umphrey/Getty ImagesIt's very possible Matt Cassel could play just days after an appendectomy, but it would be very risky for fantasy owners.
Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs: Cassel might be the most discussed injury concern in the past 24 hours as it was discovered that Cassel underwent a laparoscopic appendectomy on Wednesday morning. Essentially, he had his appendix removed using a more modern, less invasive approach that includes a scope or camera, as opposed to the old-fashioned "open" procedure which is a bigger cut and longer recovery.

The big question for fantasy owners, since the Chiefs have indicated Cassel's status is questionable and that there is really a 50 percent chance he plays, is will he indeed suit up against division rival the San Diego Chargers?

The answer: Maybe, but fantasy owners need to have insurance and probably should look elsewhere for a playoff-round quarterback.

To better outline the variables involved in determining whether Cassel could play this weekend, I spoke with Dr. Efren Rosas, Chief of Surgery at Kaiser Permanente in San Jose, Calif. Rosas has performed thousands of laparoscopic procedures and is an advocate of the less invasive approach, in part, because of the more rapid recovery for the patient. He was quick to say that not all laparoscopic procedures are identical, nor are all presentations of appendicitis, and several factors could influence whether Cassel could be available Sunday. It should be noted that Rosas has no specific knowledge regarding Cassel's care.

First comes the question of whether Cassel had a three-incision or single-incision surgery (in other words, how many surgical cuts are there on the abdomen). Three incisions are more standard, although one incision is gaining popularity in some places (such as Los Angeles), because there is only one surgical scar. With three cuts, each incision can be smaller, whereas with one cut, all of the surgical instruments have to pass through the same entry so the cut is larger. Following surgery, smaller incisions (typically one-quarter to one-half inch in size) mean less likelihood of developing a hernia (where abdominal contents push outward -- not pretty). That translates to less activity restriction after surgery with three incisions versus one.



Rosas, who treats patients of all ages, including competitive athletes, said, "I release all my patients, no matter what type of job or sport they have, to return at two weeks and if they're doing really well, they're clear within one." When asked if four days would be possible for an NFL quarterback, Rosas said that while it may not be likely, "If he's not too sore and can function effectively, I wouldn't completely rule it out." Rosas pointed out that from a medical standpoint, the tissue should heal within a few days, and that the biggest limitation, presuming no setbacks (such as infection) along the way, would be pain from where the surgical cuts were made. That pain may be amplified by the fact that a throwing athlete uses his oblique abdominal muscles, especially for distance and velocity, meaning long downfield throws might be tougher to make.

Another variable would be the condition of the appendix at the time of surgery. A severely inflamed or ruptured appendix would result in significant abdominal inflammation, complicating the recovery. A minor case of appendicitis in a healthy younger male may mean less inflammation in the surrounding tissue and quicker healing time. Only the surgeon who was involved in Cassel's case has an appreciation for all of the factors in play and ultimately will make the decision as to Cassel's status when appropriate.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger underwent a laparoscopic appendectomy in 2006 and did not play in the first game of the season, a Thursday night game just days after surgery. Roethlisberger did start 10 days later in Week 2. It is worth noting, however, that Roethlisberger also was coming off a summer filled with injuries, having suffered facial fractures, a jaw fracture and a concussion in a motorcycle accident about three months earlier.



It would not be surprising if Cassel were to travel to San Diego with the team and ultimately be held back from starting. And although it appears unlikely, it's not completely inconceivable that he could play. Nonetheless, this is a fantasy situation to avoid for many reasons. This is a late game, so Cassel would likely be listed as questionable at best and even if he starts, may prove not quite up to finishing. It's best to wait a week and see how he's faring. The Chiefs may ultimately opt to do the same.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers: Roethlisberger has a recently surgically repaired nose to go with his ailing right foot this week. Actually, the rest for his nose may have given his foot a little extra time off. Roethlisberger has been fitted with a protective shield that he will wear Sunday. Most importantly, there has been really no doubt about the fact he is expected to play.



Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings: As of this writing, Favre has not yet tested his throwing. Thursday was to be the test date. Favre rested the arm early in the week to allow his sprained sternoclavicular (SC) joint some healing time. Tick tock ...

Running Backs

Ryan Torain, Washington Redskins: Torain was listed as a limited participant in Wednesday's practice although, according to The Washington Post, coach Mike Shanahan indicated that Torain did full work. Torain told the Post that he "feels great" and is eager to get back into the lineup. It looks as though he is on pace to rejoin his team on the field this week. Torain has essentially been out since Halloween after injuring his hamstring that day. He tried to return a couple of weeks later but aggravated the injury in warm-ups. Naturally, there will be some concern as to how Torain's hamstring will fare in his first game in over a month, and more concern over how the workload will be divided. Torain is likely to resume a lead role, but whether fantasy owners can count on that in his first outing is questionable.



Wide Receivers

[+] EnlargeHakeem Nicks
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesHakeem Nicks has missed the past two games with a leg injury, so if he returned this week, it would be a week ahead of schedule.
Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith, New York Giants: This tandem affects many fantasy rosters and everyone is eager to see what its status is for this week. Nicks was able to do about 60 percent of team drills Wednesday, according to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. Nicks seemed confident that he would be playing; the medical staff gave him the official clearance Thursday, according to Mike Garafolo of the Newark Star-Ledger. Nicks practiced on a limited basis again Thursday, and if Friday goes well, looks as if he'll play. Teammate Smith has been practicing on a limited basis as well but also appears as if he'll return to game action this week. Smith has been nursing a partially torn pectoral muscle.

Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee, San Diego Chargers: The Chargers face a critical game without some critical personnel. Then again, that won't be a new scenario for them as they've played musical chairs at the wide receiver position all season. Jackson is still recovering from his calf strain and while it still seems likely that he will not play this weekend, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported Jackson did practice on Thursday. Naanee, who had come back from a hamstring strain two weeks ago but suffered a setback, is unlikely to play. That leaves Floyd, who so far is doing well. Or at least well enough to not be on the injury radar right now. It appears that Floyd will play this week and likely have more opportunities.

Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu, Seattle Seahawks: Williams has an ankle sprain superimposed on his foot injury and it's not looking good for him as of now. Although the Tacoma News-Tribune reports Williams is out of his walking boot, he has not practiced and likely won't all week. While the Seahawks hold out some hope that Williams could feel well enough to play Sunday, even they don't sound overwhelmingly convinced. Obomanu suffered a deep laceration on his right hand that could make it difficult to catch balls. As a receiver, that does comprise a significant portion of the job description, meaning this injury may prevent him from being able to play. Obomanu will also have until Sunday to see how his hand is healing, but they could both be late-afternoon game-time decisions.



Tight Ends

Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers: Gates' condition hasn't changed much, but his status midweek has. Gates told the San Diego Union-Tribune "Antonio Gates will play," acknowledging the third-person reference. Maybe it's easier to deal with the pain by taking oneself out of one's body. He admits the pain is still excruciating but knows this is a must-win situation. Barring some unforeseen dramatic setback, Gates will gut it out again.

Todd Heap, Baltimore Ravens: Heap's own words belied his concern about his injured hamstring. Heap told the Baltimore Sun that he has rushed back in the past from a hamstring injury, "and that pretty much cost me the rest of the season." The Ravens play on Monday night and Heap has not practiced this week, both of which signal to fantasy owners that they should seek a replacement.

Other


• Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin did not practice Wednesday or Thursday as he continues to battle his latest migraine episode. Fantasy owners need to at least start being a bit concerned, as Harvin sat out Week 13 and has not returned to practice.



• Vikings running backs Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart were limited early in the week but, at this point, seem in no danger of sitting out. Proactive rest seems to be the rationale here.

• In addition to their wide receiver concerns, the New York Giants saw running back Ahmad Bradshaw on the injury report this week because of his wrist. Bradshaw did not practice Wednesday but returned to full practice Thursday and is expected to play Sunday.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Marshall
Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty ImagesBrandon Marshall has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury and he's scored just one touchdown all season.
Miami Dolphins wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Brian Hartline are both on the injury report this week. Marshall has resumed limited practice after sitting out another game in Week 13 and appears on track to play this Sunday. Hartline had surgery on his finger and was not in practice Wednesday. There has been some concern as to whether he would return at all this season. The Dolphins have not formally ruled him out but it appears he will miss Week 14, maybe longer. This might mean a lot of Davone Bess.

New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas continues to practice fully this week and is expected to return to the playing field Sunday. Chris Ivory is probably in no danger of losing significant touches, but Thomas owners who have patiently held on to him may want to keep an eye on how he performs. He could have value in the home stretch.

Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best (toes), and wide receivers Calvin Johnson (groin) and Nate Burleson (hamstring) all appear on the injury report this week but all are expected to play Sunday.

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker returned to limited practice Wednesday after missing Week 13 with his high ankle sprain. This is somewhat encouraging, but given that Sims-Walker reported his injury as a high ankle sprain, we need to see him successfully complete the week before getting too excited.



• The Tampa Bay Buccaneers version of Mike Williams is nursing a sore knee which could present a problem for Sunday. According to the St. Petersburg Times, coach Raheem Morris says Williams has been working through this "for a couple of weeks." The Buccaneers are hopeful that some rest during the week will allow him to play Sunday but he could be a game-time call.

Oakland Raiders tight end Zach Miller continues to be limited by his foot, which seriously impacted his pass-catching productivity. It's hard to hope for much based on the past few weeks and fantasy owners should be securing another option at least for early playoff rounds. The bad news for tight ends moves over to the Pittsburgh Steelers, where Heath Miller was on the receiving end of a scary hit last Sunday night that left him with a concussion. Miller did not practice Wednesday and is not expected to play this week. Fortunately in Atlanta, Tony Gonzalez's sprained ankle does not appear to be affecting his chances of playing Sunday. He told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he would be fine, adding, "Especially at my age, I have to enjoy this." Gonzalez sees the playoffs coming and he's not going to miss out.



See you at Friday's injury chat (3-4:00 p.m.) and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 14 in the Saturday morning blog!

p>This just in. The New England Patriots are a pretty good team. Just as important for fantasy owners, their key skill position players are pretty healthy too. Enough said. The New York Jets' skill position players are actually fairly healthy. Let's hope that their performance Monday night -- or lack thereof -- didn't cost you a playoff spot.

As we approach fantasy playoff time, every player on your fantasy roster matters. It's not just a question of who's active or not, it's whether that active player can be productive, especially if he's coming off an injury or trying to play through one.



With that in mind, here's who fantasy owners might be concerned about heading into Week 14:

[+] EnlargeBrett Favre
AP Photo/Hannah FoslienA clavicle injury is the latest ailment that threatens Brett Favre's consecutive games streak.
• Why not start with the one player who seems to draw the most attention when he's injured? Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre lasted only a few plays Sunday before exiting with what is being called a sprained sternoclavicular (SC) joint. The SC joint is where the clavicle (collarbone) meets the sternum (breastbone). In other words, the joint is located right at the center of the chest, just below the neck. Because the other end of the clavicle forms the point of the shoulder (acromioclavicular or AC joint), an injury to the SC joint will affect the ability to throw. The SC joint is protected by strong ligaments to help prevent displacement of the clavicle and injuries here are relatively uncommon, but can occur, usually as a result of trauma. In sports, the trauma is either a direct hit to the joint (kick or blow to the chest) or a fall on the shoulder which translates force through the clavicle, injuring the joint. There can be a fracture or break of the clavicle (there was no fracture in Favre's case) or a sprain.

A sprain is any ligament injury, and as with all sprains, the degree of ligament damage determines the severity of the sprain. In Favre's case, we do not know the degree of sprain, so this could range from minor ligament damage to subluxation or displacement resulting from more serious ligament damage. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, coach Leslie Frazier said doctors did not tell him the degree of sprain but did say the injury is "not something that can surgically be attended to." The fact that Favre did not require surgery tells us that it was not the most serious version of a subluxed SC joint (typically where the collarbone is displaced behind the sternum, dangerously encroaching on delicate structures). In the absence of a surgical situation, the standard treatment is rest and ice to help control pain and swelling, perhaps some treatment of the soft tissue in the area which may be in spasm (some of the neck muscles, for instance) and then a lot of wait and see. Sometime a few days of rest will allow the bulk of the pain to resolve, depending on the severity of the injury.

Presuming Favre is medically cleared to play, the main concern will be whether he is able to throw the ball effectively. Doctors can provide pain-relieving injections for the game, but given the location of the injury, there is no external brace or harness that would offer much in the way of support. It's always important, however, to place an athlete's injury in the context of that particular player. Favre has started 297 consecutive games. If he doesn't start this week, do we really expect Favre to start again in two or three weeks? Is his career going to end with him sidelined because of pain (as opposed to not being medically cleared to play), thus fading away into the end of the season? It's a hard scenario to envision. While he may have no choice if the injury is insurmountable, at this point it's too early to bet against him. As far as fantasy owners are concerned, there are better choices at quarterback for Week 14. This could come down to a game-time decision and even if Favre starts, it's always possible that he doesn't finish. This situation is too risky on which to hang fantasy playoff hopes.

• Sticking with the Vikings, running back Adrian Peterson actually seemed to emerge from the game better than when he started it! Three touchdowns and over 100 yards would make anyone feel better, but most importantly, Peterson's ankle reportedly felt no worse after all the work. He should be good to go again this Sunday.

[+] EnlargeRoethlisberger
Rafael Suanes/US PresswireBen Roethlisberger's foot seemed to hold up Sunday, but he emerged from the game with a broken nose.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had his face slightly rearranged Sunday night by Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. As if Roethlisberger's ailing foot wasn't enough, he endured a bloody and broken nose and emerged victorious. Pretty impressive. Roethlisberger underwent surgery Monday to reset his nose and is expected to miss some practice time this week, which probably benefits his right foot as well. The Steelers plan to have him available Sunday.

Carolina Panthers running back Mike Goodson sprained his right AC joint late in the game Sunday. According to the Gaston Gazette, Goodson says he originally injured the shoulder several weeks ago and it was aggravated during a kickoff return by an opponent's direct blow with a helmet. Goodson seems to think the injury is not too severe, but this may have cemented Jonathan Stewart as the primary back going forward.



Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan told reporters Monday that he expects running back Ryan Torain to be in practice this week. Torain actually was listed as a limited participant Friday, but the team was not comfortable returning him to the lineup just yet. Looks like this could be the week he returns, but fantasy owners beware of the dreaded timeshare.

• Another returning running back this week is likely to be the New Orleans Saints' Pierre Thomas, who has not played since injuring his ankle in Week 2. Thomas was far more active in last week's practice than in previous weeks, and the Saints were hinting even then at a Week 14 sighting. The likelihood of his return was confirmed Monday by coach Sean Payton. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Payton says he remains "cautiously optimistic" about Thomas' availability Sunday, adding, " ... I would say based on the way he practiced last week, that there is a lot of optimism he will be involved in this plan." Still, the Saints have shown that they will be cautious with a running back in his first game back (think: Reggie Bush on Thanksgiving Day) and Chris Ivory did enough last week to earn the majority share of carries. Thomas may be decent insurance for fantasy owners to have though in the event something happens to Ivory.

• There were a couple of tight ends added to the injury list Sunday. Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez rolled his left ankle Sunday, which he blamed on the slick surface at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Gonzalez said he wore long cleats because of the surface and they "roll easily." The good news is that he expects to play in Week 14. Meanwhile, Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap strained his hamstring Sunday night and so far the outlook is not too encouraging for this week. Fantasy owners should plan on an alternative.

[+] EnlargeSteve Smith
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonThe Giants' Steve Smith is hoping to return from injury in time for the fantasy playoff push.
• The New York Giants are hoping to get their two injured wide receivers back in the near future. Hakeem Nicks may be available this week depending on whether he can practice in advance. Nicks, who has a healing leg wound following a fasciotomy procedure, is hopeful to return to practice Wednesday. Teammate Steve Smith is recovering from a partial tear of his pectoral muscle. He has missed four games and could miss another, depending how this week goes. Smith hopes to try practicing Wednesday with the goal of seeing some playing time Sunday but knows he would still be limited. In fact, according to the Newark Star-Ledger, Smith says he expects to be uncomfortable for the remainder of the season. The muscle is under strain when being stretched (when the arm is extended to make a catch) and when contracting (as it would with bringing the arm across the body or pushing off) and the goal is to ensure that Smith does not suffer a setback. To that end, he will likely wear a protective harness that limits his motion but will still need to guard against overdoing it.



• The San Diego Chargers continue to be challenged by various injuries. Fantasy owners are eager to hear whether receiver Vincent Jackson will be available, something that won't be known until later in the week. The plan is to test his calf strain with some running in the early part of the week. Meanwhile, Legedu Naanee suffered an apparent setback to his hamstring and is looking doubtful for this weekend. Tight end Antonio Gates continues to have pain but also continues to fight through it. Running back Ryan Mathews was active Sunday but did not get in the game. That's one way to stay healthy.

Seattle Seahawks receiver Mike Williams returned from a foot injury Sunday only to leave the game early with a sprained ankle. The Tacoma News-Tribune reports that it is a first degree sprain (the most minor) and the Seahawks are optimistic that he could be available Sunday. More to come later in the week.

• The Indianapolis Star reports that running back Mike Hart aggravated his ankle injury Sunday. With Joseph Addai appearing still a ways away from returning, expect Donald Brown to start again Thursday night.

• Thursday night should herald the return of one of the Tennessee Titans from injury. Wide receiver Kenny Britt, who has missed time with a serious hamstring strain, is no longer on the injury report. Britt practiced last week but the Titans opted to give him a few more days. The first game back is always a big test for a hamstring injury, but fantasy owners should keep an eye on Britt's performance. If he does well, it could be a good sign for his value throughout the remainder of the fantasy playoffs.



We will continue to update these injuries and others as the week progresses. Check back for the latest injury updates affecting Week 14 on Thursday and Saturday!



This week's Thursday night matchup has the Philadelphia Eagles hosting the Houston Texans.



Tight end Owen Daniels already has been ruled out for the Texans, meaning Joel Dreessen should get another start. Despite being listed on the injury report with a knee issue, Dreessen participated fully in practice Tuesday and Wednesday and is listed as probable. Quarterback Matt Schaub also is listed as probable because of his knee. He practiced fully each day and will start.

For the Eagles, one of the biggest health concerns is on the defensive side of the ball. Cornerback Asante Samuel has a sprained left medial collateral ligament that kept him out of Week 12, and he was limited in practice throughout this week. Signs are pointing toward him playing Thursday night despite being listed as questionable, although he might not be 100 percent. Samuel will be a game-time decision. Running back LeSean McCoy has been playing through a shoulder injury and, listed as probable, likely will do so again.

Here's who you might be concerned about heading toward the Week 13 showdowns:

Quarterbacks

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
AP Photo/Don HeupelNo matter the extent of the foot injury, it looks like Ben Roethlisberger will play this week.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers: Roethlisberger remains in a boot to protect his injured right foot. He has been limping around the Steelers' facilities since this past Sunday's game with what was originally called a sprained foot. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Roethlisberger's injury was actually a broken fifth metatarsal. The fifth metatarsal is the long bone in the outer forefoot that connects the fifth toe to the midfoot. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports, however, that the Steelers are refuting accounts of a new fracture. Via a statement from team spokesman Dave Lockett, the Steelers maintain Roethlisberger aggravated scar tissue at the site of an old injury. Either way, Roethlisberger has pain in his right foot, but the absence of a new fracture could be significant in that it might affect the course of treatment.

In the immediate sense, Roethlisberger has taken steps toward playing in Week 13. He shed the boot only long enough to participate in a limited practice session Wednesday, but the term "limited" might be a bit misleading. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Roethlisberger said, "I only missed probably 10-15 snaps," adding, "It hurts because it's my plant foot, my right foot." While Roethlisberger acknowledges the discomfort, he remains confident in his ability to be able to play Sunday night, especially after putting in another practice Thursday. The Post-Gazette notes that Roethlisberger also is wearing a reinforced shoe to accommodate the foot when on the field. The shoe provides support but also limits flexibility, which can help decrease the pain associated with excess motion. Adapting to how the foot feels along with the modified shoe is perhaps the biggest key, so seeing Roethlisberger on the field early in the week is a very encouraging sign.



Kerry Collins, Tennessee Titans: Collins has been recovering from a calf strain, and with Vince Young on injured reserve, that has forced Rusty Smith into action. But this might be the week Collins returns to lead the offense. He was able to put in limited practice Wednesday followed by a full practice Thursday. In the absence of a setback, expect Collins to take the field Sunday.



Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings: Add another ailment for Favre. Now his neck has been added to the already-listed ankle and shoulder. Favre sat out Wednesday but returned to limited practice Thursday, and I think we all know by now that he is planning on playing Sunday.

Running Backs

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings: Not surprisingly, Peterson did not practice Wednesday as he rested his sprained ankle. On Thursday, Judd Zulgad of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that Peterson continues to rest the ankle and receive treatment but plans to test the ankle Friday. According to Zulgad, Peterson indicates the swelling has subsided some and he does note improvement. "I know my body better than anyone else," Peterson said, adding, "If I can go, I'll definitely be going." That's a sight fantasy owners would like to see. It certainly sounds as if there's reason to be optimistic, but Friday practice will yield better clues.



Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert, San Diego Chargers: Mathews' return to the practice field is an encouraging signal he is nearing a return. He has missed the past two weeks while recovering from the setback to his high ankle sprain, originally suffered in Week 2.



Tolbert has filled in ably with Mathews down, but he suffered a hand injury of his own in Week 12. He did not practice Wednesday but, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, that was a precautionary measure. If both backs are available this week, there is going to be a sharing of the workload. Fantasy owners would like to have an idea in advance as to just how that workload will be divided, but unfortunately, that's not likely to happen.



If we go by recent past events, when Mathews was working his way back after the initial ankle injury, his time on the field was significantly limited. It's hard to imagine, particularly with the way Tolbert has performed, that Mathews would see the bulk of the carries right out of the gate, but there are new variables to consider. Tolbert has a hand injury, and although the specifics have not been revealed, there are always concerns about ballhandling when the hand, fingers or thumb are involved. Mathews, who had some rookie issues of his own along with the high ankle sprain, was guarded in terms of playing time after the injury. This might just be a scenario that plays out during the game, assuming both backs are available.



[+] EnlargeBrian Westbrook
AP Photo/ Bill NicholsIt didn't take long for Brian Westbrook to land back on the injury list.
Brian Westbrook, San Francisco 49ers: On Tuesday, we noted Westbrook's strong performance when Frank Gore was lost to injury. We also noted Westbrook's well-chronicled injury history. Imagine the concern of many a Westbrook waiver-wire acquiring fantasy owner when he was held out of Wednesday practice because of an ankle. Not to worry ... much. Westbrook's ankle is one of the joints that needs to be protected from excessive pounding, so a day of rest following a Monday night game, especially knowing that his workload will remain elevated, is not a huge surprise. The 49ers have indicated they will control the amount of work Westbrook sees, as they don't want to risk running him into the ground too quickly. Fantasy owners hoping for another 23-touch game might be reaching a little high; Anthony Dixon probably will be balancing Westbrook more. Nonetheless, Westbrook has proved he is part of the 49ers' game plan for the remainder of the season, as long as he stays healthy.

Ryan Torain, Washington Redskins: Torain is still out with a hamstring strain and has not returned to practice as of yet. He has made some progress in that he is doing some running on the side, but he doesn't appear far enough along to return this week. Last week, Keiland Williams saw his playing time cut into by James Davis. The bottom line for fantasy owners is that it's hard to know whom to count on in Washington for the running game.

Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints: Bush returned from his fibula fracture for the Saints' Thanksgiving Day game but was used in a limited role. A fumble during a punt return exposed the potential problems associated with extended downtime, but at least Bush's leg held up. Bush says he is feeling "great," according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and should see more work going forward. Teammate Thomas has returned to practice on a limited basis, the most encouraging progress in weeks, but still is likely another week or two away from returning.

Wide Receivers

Brandon Marshall, Miami Dolphins: Marshall has returned to limited practice for the Dolphins this week. He sat out Week 12 with a hamstring injury suffered during the previous game but has been able to do some work on back-to-back days. Hamstring injuries can be delicate for receivers and running backs, however, so until game time comes and Marshall is in the mix, there remains some uncertainty. Even if Marshall is on the field, the question first is whether he will be able to go full speed and then how his body is able to respond to that higher gear. Still a bit risky from a health perspective.

Malcom Floyd, San Diego Chargers: The above noted concern for Marshall is exactly what Floyd experienced when he first returned from a hamstring injury. Floyd tweaked his hamstring in his first game back from injury (Week 11), and while it did not appear to be a major setback, his role was limited in last week's game as a result. Floyd did not practice Wednesday but returned Thursday and is still considered in the mix for the matchup against the Oakland Raiders.

Tight Ends

[+] EnlargeAntonio Gates
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesAntonio Gates likely will be a regular on the injury report the rest of the season.
Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers: It was great to see Gates back on the playing field but, as we noted Tuesday, he did not look fully recovered. Nor should we expect him to be at this point. The pain from the torn plantar fascia is not the type of thing to disappear suddenly. Apparently it was more painful for Gates to play than initially suspected.

Gates did not practice Wednesday in an effort to rest his foot and might not practice the entire week. At this point, he is no lock to play Sunday, but knowing Gates, he will give himself every opportunity to at least give it a shot. This might come down to another game-time decision.

Zach Miller, Oakland Raiders: Miller recently revealed that he, like his division counterpart Gates, tore his plantar fascia. This would explain why it has been so difficult for Miller to play effectively since the injury. His playing time has been limited by arch pain that increases as the game goes on. Last week, he added a contusion to his lower leg to his injury report.



A few days ago, it seemed as if Miller might be in danger of missing time again, but Wednesday he was spotted in practice, albeit on a limited basis. Interestingly, the Chargers host the Raiders this Sunday, and one of the top fantasy questions this week surrounds the two star tight ends who are dealing with similar injury concerns. Will they or won't they take the field? As both Gates and Miller know, their status at kickoff is only a part of the issue. Whether or not they can make it through the game is a far more challenging prospect and something Miller has not been able to do of late.

Other


• Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice sat out Thursday, but this is likely precautionary to rest his surgical hip (Rice did not practice last Thursday, either). Percy Harvin was out with an illness, a term the team has used in the past when Harvin has had migraine episodes. It sounds like the headaches have surfaced again in what has become a routine of wait-and-see.

• Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt has returned to limited practice, but fantasy owners need not get overexcited just yet. Britt began some light running last week and had progressed enough to return to a very small amount of practice. But given the seriousness of his hamstring injury (remember, the Titans were relieved to discover his season was not over when he first was injured in Week 7), there is no reason to believe the Titans will rush him back into action, especially given the high likelihood of a setback. Fantasy owners should not expect him before Week 14.

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Mike Williams, who has an injured foot, did some running Wednesday but still has not returned to practice. This will be a situation to watch through the end of the week, as he could be another game-time decision.

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker returned to practice Thursday on a limited basis after sitting out Wednesday to rest his ankle. Sims-Walker was a surprise active in Week 12 after reporting his injury as a high ankle sprain. Although he appeared limited in that game, it's hard to imagine he sits this one out.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant was a late addition to the injury report Thursday, listed as limited because of his back. While there is no indication yet that he will miss Sunday's game, what he does Friday will be telling.

• The Detroit Lions are placing kicker Jason Hanson (sprained knee) on injured reserve, which means Dave Rayner has the job going forward. The Lions also will have another quarterback this week. Drew Stanton has been practicing with the first team to get ready for Week 13 -- and probably longer -- as Shaun Hill is out with a broken finger on his throwing hand. That's two broken bones this season for Hill. Hope he's drinking some milk.

See you at Friday's injury chat at 3 p.m. ET. We'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 13 in the Saturday morning blog.

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