Stephania Bell: Brian Griese

Here's what we know as we head into Week 6 contests.

[+] EnlargeCarson Palmer
G. Newman Lowrance/Getty ImagesCarson Palmer gets another week off this week. Ryan Fitzpatrick should be just as good, right?
Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati Bengals: Palmer is listed as doubtful this week but the Bengals have already indicated that backup Ryan Fitzpatrick will start. Palmer still has soreness in his throwing elbow, and after not practicing all week, was relegated to non-starter this week. Whether Palmer is completely sidelined or whether he suits up as the No. 2 quarterback remains to be seen. It appears that the team is being protective of Palmer's elbow in the interest of his long-term health. With Fitzpatrick having an extra week of snaps with the first team, and Palmer being so critical to the franchise, it is not surprising that the team would opt to rest him. What is a bit surprising is they have not completely ruled him out of the game. It seems that if the Bengals wanted him to rest his elbow, the safest play would be to make him unavailable. After all, the No. 2 quarterback would then be Carson's younger brother, Jordan. Surely he's picked up a tip or two from his older sibling. In any event, fantasy owners want to find a replacement for Week 6 and it wouldn't be a bad idea to keep a second quarterback on your reserve list. This could be a week-to-week situation.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB and Deion Branch WR, Seattle Seahawks: What is in the drinking water in Seattle? There has to be a big reward waiting for whoever can discover the antidote to the injury plague attacking the Seattle quarterback and receiving crew.

Seattle will be starting its No. 3 quarterback Sunday if Charlie Frye takes the field at 4:15 p.m. EST. I say "if" because although Hasselbeck has not yet been cleared for contact, there is an outside chance that could happen by Sunday -- a very teeny, tiny outside chance. Hasselbeck hyperextended his knee last week and although a subsequent MRI revealed no ligament or meniscal damage, he did sustain a painful bone bruise and has been unable to practice all week. Early in the week, coach Mike Holmgren indicated that he expected Hasselbeck to be ready by game time, a point that was reiterated as late as Thursday by offensive coordinator Gil Haskell. But Hasselbeck was still not practicing Friday and, according to ESPN reports, Holmgren offered this explanation: "The thing just has not responded. He can't do much with his leg. It's not ligaments, it's not anything like that. It's just sore." Holmgren does not want to put a potentially vulnerable Hasselbeck on the field when his inability to move well could result in more hits and further injury. So, enter backup quarterback Seneca Wallace. Oops! He's not available because of a calf strain that has had him sidelined since he was prepping for filling in as the fifth or sixth wide receiver. Fortunately for Frye, he has been taking the first team snaps all week, and he did some filling in for Hasselbeck in preseason games while Hasselbeck nursed a sore lower back.

But the injuries don't stop there. Branch, who was so excited about making his regular-season NFL return last week from anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery, was forced out early Sunday with a new injury. Branch is listed as questionable but is not expected to play.

Branch suffered a heel bruise on his left side. Sure, a bruise doesn't sound major, but if you were to take a hammer and slam it against your heel, then walk around on it, you might be able to appreciate just how limiting this type of thing can be. Now attempt to run, where your heel has to hit the ground harder. Even better, try jumping and landing on that foot alone. That's right. You really can't. (Hopefully no one actually tried this, but you get the picture.) Now complicate that picture by having a newly reconstructed knee on the other side. Although Branch was doing well from a healing perspective on his surgically reconstructed right knee, he was just getting his confidence back in that leg. Part of that help is having another "sound" leg. With his left leg now compromised, it potentially alters the way he moves on his right leg, and that is not something you want to see from a rehab perspective, as you're just getting an athlete back to competition.

If you want to take the glass-half-full approach, there is a bit of good news in Seattle. Last week the Seahawks saw receiver Bobby Engram enter the lineup for the first time in 2008 after being out with a fractured shoulder. He played well and is expected to see increased activity this week. Recently re-signed receiver Koren Robinson appears to be on the mend from the knee soreness that kept him out of the lineup thus far. After practicing all week, he is expected to start Sunday also.

Justin Fargas, RB and Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders: The bye week helped both Oakland running backs, but one is clearly healthier than the other at this point. Fargas, who suffered a groin injury in Week 3 that caused him to miss Week 4, took advantage of the bye to get healthy. He practiced fully all week, is listed as probable and is expected to start.

McFadden has been dealing with a turf toe injury for several weeks that clearly limited him in Week 4. The bye week also afforded him some much-needed rest, but the fact that McFadden was still wearing a protective boot early this week let on that the toe was not 100 percent. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee reports that McFadden feels much better but is still stiff and still requires protection in his shoe. McFadden is listed as questionable but is expected to play Sunday. Given their relative health, expect Fargas to get the bulk of the work this week.

Brian Griese, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: In a move that surprises no one, Jeff Garcia has been announced as this week's starting quarterback in Tampa Bay. Griese took a hit last week that left him with a bruised elbow and a shoulder strain in his throwing arm, and although he is listed as questionable, it is more likely that Luke McCown will serve as Garcia's backup. Rick Stroud of the St. Petersburg Times reported that inflammation in Griese's elbow has essentially kept him from being able to throw at all this week, and unless that changes Sunday morning, which appears unlikely at this point, he will be in street clothes. Griese's timeline for return really depends on how the inflammation resolves and how functional his arm is, something that will be evaluated on a day-to-day basis next week.

[+] EnlargeMarques Colston
Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesDrew Brees is probably counting down the days until Marques Colston is available to throw to.
Marques Colston, WR and Jeremy Shockey, TE, New Orleans Saints: The injury-plagued Saints appear to have been sharing tainted drinking water with the Seahawks. It now appears the Saints will be without the services of defensive tackle Antwan Lake as a result of a groin injury. Lake was filling in for the injured Sedrick Ellis, who is still recovering from knee surgery to address a torn meniscus. Wide receiver David Patten (doubtful) will likely miss another week because of his groin injury.

Everyone is looking for some good news on the injury front in New Orleans and Colston may be just the spark. But don't get too excited yet. Colston, coming off ligament-repair surgery in his thumb, is listed as questionable and may not see the field just yet. Colston came out of his cast last week and was able to participate in practice to some degree this week, wearing only limited padding on his thumb. In fact, Colston told the New Orleans Times-Picayune how surprisingly good his thumb felt when catching the ball: "I really don't feel it out there and I'm catching the ball well. It really doesn't feel like I'm trying to catch the ball any different."

Nevertheless, he is still on the early side of recovery and the medical staff needs to feel confident that no matter what Colston might encounter on the field, he will not be at risk for a setback. It's not just catching the ball and holding onto it, which certainly requires a great deal of thumb control and an ability to absorb impact. He has to be able to hit that thumb against a helmet or the ground and have that repair hold up. As much as they would like to see him active, the Saints may just have him sit tight another week. In fact, if he does suit up, expect him to see limited action.

Meanwhile, much was made of Shockey's return to practice Wednesday following sports hernia surgery a few weeks ago. Shockey did not practice Thursday or Friday, however, suggesting, as does his doubtful tag, that he will not see action for at least another week.

Other noteworthy items

&#8226 Cleveland Browns star tight end Kellen Winslow has spent the past two nights in a local hospital after not feeling well earlier in the week. There has been no word thus far as to the nature of the injury, but certainly hospitalization affords Winslow the chance to be observed and to ensure that he is receiving appropriate fluids and any necessary medications. The Browns have him listed as questionable for Monday night, but in addition to recovering from the illness itself, one concern has to be weakness after being in this state for a few days. Stay tuned.

&#8226 Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Lloyd is listed as doubtful with his sprained knee. Lloyd has yet to practice and the doubtful tag makes it virtually certain that he will not play. Expect his status to be shaky at best for the next couple of weeks.

&#8226 Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White dismissed his collision with Lawyer Milloy on Wednesday as minor, and it appears the team held him out of practice Thursday as a precautionary measure. But White did not practice Friday either and is now listed as a game-time decision. Head injuries are nothing to sneeze at, but White's injury was not seen as serious enough to require any formal testing. The rest may have been a means of ensuring he would be available for Sunday and it sounds as if he will play. The game is early, so fantasy owners should check inactive lists before game time, but there is reason to be optimistic.

&#8226 It looks as if there will be another backup quarterback starting Sunday, this time in Detroit. Jon Kitna has been dealing with lower back spasms that began during last week's game, and he is listed as doubtful. Backup Dan Orlovsky reportedly injured his ankle last week, yet he is listed as probable and it sounds as if he will get the start ahead of Drew Stanton. Receivers Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson were both listed as questionable this week; Johnson has a minor knee ailment, the result of banging it in practice earlier in the week, and Williams has been bothered by his hip. Both were held out of practice Friday but are expected to play Sunday.

&#8226 New England has listed running back LaMont Jordan as doubtful with a calf injury and running back Laurence Maroney as questionable with his shoulder injury. While Jordan did not practice all week and is almost certain to sit, Maroney practiced fully Wednesday but then saw limited action Thursday and Friday. He has not divulged even the slightest bit of information relative to his shoulder but acknowledges that he has "issues" he is trying to address, and sounds less than 100 percent. Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk may be your guys this week.

&#8226 San Diego Chargers receiver Chris Chambers managed to injure his ankle on the last play of the team's loss to Miami on Sunday. He was unable to practice all week, is listed as doubtful and is unlikely to play. Teammate Vincent Jackson is listed as probable after missing a day of practice Thursday with a sore knee. Jackson was back full-bore Friday and is expected to start, especially in light of Chambers' situation.

&#8226 Denver Broncos receiver Eddie Royal is listed as questionable because of an ankle bruise that kept him out of practice Wednesday and limited him the remainder of the week. ESPN's John Clayton said Royal will be a game-time decision. With Tony Scheffler and Selvin Young out this week, Denver's offense could be in a bit of trouble.

Out: This is a list of key fantasy players, not including those who have been moved to Injured Reserve status, who are officially added to the "out" listing for Week 6.

Brian Westbrook, RB and Reggie Brown, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: Westbrook's absence this week is not a huge surprise although it is a huge disappointment for fantasy owners. Westbrook has two broken ribs along with a still-recovering right ankle and, with a bye in Week 7, the Eagles have to be hoping that this will get him to a healthy place for the remainder of the season. Brown is dealing with his third soft tissue injury of the season (Achilles, hamstring, now groin) and will sit this one out.

Anquan Boldin, WR, Arizona Cardinals: Despite the fact Boldin was not officially ruled out until Friday, his absence does not come as a major surprise. Boldin is still recuperating from a procedure to address a sinus fracture. The Cardinals have a week off in Week 7, but you can expect him back in action in Week 8.

Joey Galloway, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Galloway is out again. The difference this week is that Galloway did some limited practice. Very limited in fact, as in just one day of light work. Apparently his foot is still healing. But at least that is some progress to report and with any hope, he'll be steadily increasing his activity from here.

Terence Newman, CB, Dallas Cowboys: Officially listed as out because of an abdominal injury, there have been murmurings that Newman has a sports hernia that could require surgery and cause him to miss more than a month. Whenever an athlete has a groin injury followed by an abdominal injury, it begins to sound like a sports hernia. This is not good news for the Cowboys' secondary, because they have their fair share of challenges all around.

Tony Scheffler, TE and Selvin Young, RB, Denver Broncos: Groin injuries for everyone. Scheffler was on crutches after injuring himself in Week 5, so his absence from the lineup this week is not much of a surprise. Early on, it sounded as if this could be a more serious injury, but coach Mike Shanahan told the Denver Post he expects Scheffler to return for next week's Monday night game in New England. Shanahan offered essentially the same prognosis for Young, who has the same injury and did not practice all week either.

Be sure to check out our site Sunday for pregame chats and Fantasy Football Now at noon ET. Good luck in Week 6!

No matter how many injuries you have on your fantasy team, you can't be harder hit by the injury bug than the New Orleans Saints. Sure, the Seattle Seahawks have gone through six wide receivers, but at least they got Bobby Engram back. But the Saints have lost key players at almost position, including at wide receiver, and the list just got longer on Monday night. Rookie cornerback Tracy Porter suffered a dislocated wrist and had surgery Tuesday. He has been placed on injured reserve and is done for the season. Will the Saints have any good news this week? How about your fantasy team?

Let's take a look at how things are shaping up in preparation for Week 6.

Brian Westbrook
Eric Hartline/US PresswireBrian Westbrook now has a rib injury to go with his injured ankle.
Brian Westbrook, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: Westbrook's availability for Sunday's game against the 49ers is still uncertain. We now know he has two fractured ribs on his right side. We also know, even if we've never had broken ribs, that this is a painful injury. (As a friend of mine says, "I don't have to travel to the North Pole to know it's cold.") Whether the pain will have subsided enough to allow Westbrook to perform is still unknown. Westbrook knows his body well and will not put himself in the lineup if he cannot contribute, as seen in Week 4 when he sat out with an ankle injury.

The other issue is where the fractures are and how significant the crack or break is in each rib. The ribs provide a protective cage around the lungs. One of the risks of playing a contact sport with a rib fracture is taking a hit that forces a splintered piece into a lung, which could lead to lung collapse. However, this a relatively rare occurrence, and not every rib poses such a risk, so whether this is a factor in Westbrook's case depends on where his injuries are, a detail that the team has not provided.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Westbrook was unable to sleep earlier in the week because of pain, a not uncommon side effect. However, Westbrook said that this episode was less painful than the rib fractures he suffered in 2004. (Incidentally, he missed a game as a result of that injury.) When healthy, Westbrook changes the Eagles' offense. He changes your fantasy team, too. Like the Eagles, be prepared to insert Correll Buckhalter into your lineup, as Westbrook will probably be limited, even if he does suit up.

Brian Griese, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Griese is apparently still suffering the ill effects of last Sunday's monster hit from Champ Bailey that left him with what was initially referred to as a bruised elbow. Rick Stroud of the St. Petersburg Times noted that Jeff Garcia took all the reps in practice Wednesday morning and it appears as if he will start. There have been no other specifics given by the team as to the severity of Griese's injury, so we will watch to see when he returns to practice.

Jeremy Shockey
AP Photo/Jack DempseyJeremy Shockey is hoping to come back this week but likely won't return until Week 7.
Marques Colston, WR, and Jeremy Shockey, TE, New Orleans Saints: Might the Saints have good news on the horizon? Perhaps, but the horizon is off in the distance. Colston is expected to be out of his cast this week, and then it will be a matter of getting both his range of motion and his strength back in his thumb before he can return. Remember, the thumb is critical for the wide receiver in terms of both catching the ball and controlling it. It is no small task to regain normal function after being in a cast. The joint gets very stiff, and the muscles atrophy and shorten. They don't just snap back to attention automatically when the cast comes off. According to Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Colston would like to return when the Saints face the San Diego Chargers on Oct. 26 in London. Although that's not out of the question, consider that the Saints have a bye in Week 9. If Colston's readiness is at all questionable headed into Week 8, the team will wait.

Although Shockey's recovery from sports hernia surgery has reportedly gone well, the Times-Picayune reports that coach Sean Payton is still hinting at a Week 7 return date. It's possible he could be activated for this week's contest against the Oakland Raiders, but Shockey would have to practice with the team. Prior to this week, he has done only individual running on the side. As sports hernia surgeries go, this would still be an early return for Shockey, so the Oct. 19 date seems more likely. Nonetheless, keep an eye on the practice reports this week to see if his status changes.

Some other players to keep an eye on as the week progresses ...

Laurence Maroney did come back for the Patriots this past Sunday after missing Week 3 with a shoulder injury, but he didn't do much. There's no indication that it's an injury issue that's limiting him, and coach Bill Belichick consequently found himself coming to Maroney's defense. When prodded about Maroney's performance, Belichick told the Boston Herald, "I think he's a good back. He's played well, and I think he'll continue to play well." Not a lot of insight for fantasy owners, but you can't expect much from the notoriously evasive coach. Running backs Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris will remain in the mix for this week's contest against the San Diego Chargers. Lamont Jordan, who left Sunday's game with a leg injury, is questionable at this point, but we will see if he can get back to practice.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck underwent an MRI earlier in the week and according to the Seattle Times, tests confirmed coach Mike Holmgren's diagnosis of a "tweak" in his knee. I'm not sure what that means medically speaking, but I do know that the team expects Hasselbeck will practice this week, which means he escaped any serious injury. The news is not as good for receiver Deion Branch, who suffered a bruised heel. The Seahawks likely will be more conservative in Branch's case because this injury was on his "good" side, as in the side that did not undergo ACL reconstruction eight months ago. Compromised status of his nonsurgical leg could potentially put his surgical leg at more risk. The newly injured heel will be required to absorb impact on landing while not forcing him to overload the surgical knee. If his heel is too painful to permit that, don't be surprised if Branch is absent this weekend. More catches for Bobby Engram.

Darren McFadden
Julie Scheidegger/US PresswireDarren McFadden has something he'd rather not have in common with LaDainian Tomlinson.
Oakland Raiders running back Justin Fargas returned to practice this week after missing time with a groin injury, making it look as if he will be ready to play Sunday. Meanwhile, teammate Darren McFadden did not practice and is still wearing a protective boot on his toe. The fact that he was not practicing following the bye suggests the toe is still bothering him, and with Fargas looking as though he will return, the Raiders may be more interested in protecting their rookie investment for the long haul. We have seen not only how hard it is for these turf toe injuries to heal, but how easy it is to suffer a setback. If McFadden can't perform well and is still having pain, why not hold him back? Much better to have him return when he can be productive. We've seen how limiting an injured big toe can be for a running back (ahem, LaDainian Tomlinson).

As usual, practice throughout the week will give us a better hint as to what the final status of these players will be heading into Week 6. Remember there are bye weeks for Buffalo, Tennessee, Kansas City and Pittsburgh, so we will not get much information on player injury updates for those teams until next week (but I do expect Willie Parker back next Sunday).

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

Westbrook suffers a new injury

October, 6, 2008
Now that we're a month into the season, we have begun to see the effects of guys playing when they are less than 100 percent healthy. Most football players will tell you that after a week or two of the regular season, nobody on the roster is 100 percent, simply because of the physical nature of the game. Bumps, bruises, sprains and strains are all part of the job, and many times players are practicing and playing through these minor ailments, with no formal mention on the team injury report.

Sometimes, however, as evidenced by the injury reports, players will experience injuries that are serious enough to keep them out for a week or longer but are not enough to sideline them for the remainder of the season. Nonetheless, these are often the types of injuries that might require an offseason of rest to fully heal. Although an athlete might be cleared to play, the possibility remains that the still-recovering tissue might be more easily re-injured. For example, a mild ankle sprain might heal enough to allow a player to play, even at a high level, but one wrong move or one awkward landing can send the athlete back to the training room for the week, and perhaps cost him even more recovery time.

This week we saw several instances of players aggravating prior injuries, now rendering their status uncertain. And, of course, there are always a few new injuries to add to the list. Unfortunately, as you'll see, the list of disabled quarterbacks continues to grow.

Here's a first look at Week 5 injuries as we begin to focus on Week 6:

Brian Westbrook
AP Photo/Tom MihalekBrian Westbrook missed time in Week 5 because of an injury not related to his Week 3 injury.
Brian Westbrook, RB, Eagles:

Westbrook's fantasy owners have reason to be concerned -- and not because of his ankle. Westbrook, who played Sunday despite being listed as questionable, left the game early and went to the locker room, prompting speculation that he had aggravated the ankle injury he sustained in Week 3. It turns out Westbrook had taken a shot to the ribs, although he was cleared to return later in the game.

In his Monday news conference, coach Andy Reid indicated Westbrook suffered fractured ribs, although he did not include any more details (how many ribs, which ones, projected time out, etc). There are a number of variables that will factor into whether Westbrook can play and whether he will require protection, such as rib padding, if he does play. Although Westbrook shows up on the injury report regularly, he also manages to play through a great deal of ailments, so it's important not to count him out just yet. After all, he did finish the game and even made some nice plays after sustaining the injury. That definitely gets him my vote in the toughness category. That said, a wise Westbrook owner will secure a backup for Week 6.

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers:

Unfortunately for Tomlinson, he is the case study this week for aggravating a previous injury. Tomlinson, who injured his big toe in the season opener, has not been himself in the early going, which is no surprise given the nature of his injury and the relevance of the big toe for pivoting, cutting and pushing off. Each week, though, Tomlinson had maintained that he was improving, that the toe was finally feeling better, particularly while running straight ahead. As such, he rushed for more than 100 yards against Oakland in Week 4 and looked to be on the upswing.

That all changed in Week 5, when Tomlinson exacerbated his toe injury against the Dolphins. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Tomlinson had his toe "twisted into the ground" when he was stepped on by a member of the Dolphins' defense. These big toe problems occur primarily where the big toe meets the ball of the foot, and any excessive force across that joint -- either from hyperextension, torsion (twisting) or impact -- will potentially injure the ligaments and the capsule around the joint. The risk is that if the tissue does not completely heal, the joint can become arthritic down the line -- a very painful scenario.

It would not be surprising to see Tomlinson limited this week in practice, and his return to top form might now require an extended timeline as well.

Antonio Gates, TE and Chris Chambers, WR, Chargers:

Gates is another Charger who has been playing while recovering from injury. Gates' offseason toe surgery has been well-documented, and he was very upfront about the toe limiting him throughout the preseason and early into the regular season. But even as his toe has improved, Gates also has been dealing with a hip injury that he sustained early in the season. Although it has not kept him out of any games, the hip injury has limited him in practice, and this week it also limited him on the field. Gates was held to only one reception and seemed to have limited mobility Sunday. Gates' comment to the San Diego Union-Tribune reflects the mentality of tough athletes trying to play through pain, knowing their bodies are not fully cooperating but not letting that be the rationale for subpar performance: "Obviously there are some things I need to do physically ... But once you decide to get on the field, you have to put everything else behind you." It's an admirable stance, but it does not hide that being at less than full health impacts his performance. It will be interesting to see if Gates has a lighter work week in advance of Game 6.

Meanwhile, Gates' teammate, Chris Chambers, injured his leg on the last play of the fourth quarter Sunday. The Union-Tribune is calling Chambers' injury an ankle sprain, and there is no word yet as to the severity of the injury. The Chargers have to be hoping this injury is not a long-term concern.

Trent Edwards, QB, Bills:

Edwards took a shot from Arizona Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson, who flew in untouched and sent Edwards reeling. Edwards was on the ground for several minutes after the hit and was eventually helped off the field. Later seen on the sidelines, and even later as he was carted into the locker room, Edwards still appeared dazed. According to Associated Press reports, after visiting with his injured quarterback after the game, coach Dick Jauron said Edwards was "responding, but he was still a little groggy." Jauron added, "It's a good time to have a bye." That might be the ultimate understatement. Edwards will have an extra week to recover from his concussion, but as is typical of head injuries, it is impossible to predict a recovery time frame -- it will simply be measured by how Edwards feels from day to day.

Brian Griese, QB, Buccaneers:

Griese took a big hit from Champ Bailey on Sunday, and it was anyone's guess as to which body part was injured. It looked as if it could have been his head, his neck or a shoulder. But the St. Petersburg Times is reporting Griese said he sustained an "elbow bruise" as a result of the hit. He also reported immediate swelling, which is not surprising but perhaps very limiting as far as the function of the elbow. The elbow might just have been the body part that got the worst of it. At this point there are no further specifics, but we will keep an eye on Griese's status this week.

Matt Hasselbeck
Jarrett Baker/Getty ImagesThe Seahawks' injury woes continue. … This week Matt Hasselbeck got hurt.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, and Deion Branch, WR, Seahawks:

Hasselbeck was hit on the first drive of Sunday's game and sustained what the Tacoma News-Tribune is reporting as a hyperextended knee. Hasselbeck said he was initially in a great deal of pain, which subsided to some degree over the next few minutes. He is scheduled for an MRI on Monday.

After the near depletion of their receiving corps, the Seahawks were very excited about the return of their two injured stars, Bobby Engram and Deion Branch. Engram's season debut was quite successful; Branch's was not. Branch, approximately eight months removed from left ACL reconstruction, suffered an injury to his right heel, according to the Seattle Times. Coach Mike Holmgren implied that Branch's injury could cause him to miss time, but there are no further specifics as of yet. Nonetheless, Branch's fantasy owners may want to make other plans.

Eddie Royal, WR and Tony Scheffler, TE, Broncos:

Rookie Eddie Royal, who was initially projected to be primarily a special teams player, had quite a welcome to the NFL as a wide receiver in Week 1 when he put up 146 receiving yards and a touchdown versus the Raiders. That was also the week Royal initially injured his ankle. Royal has been listed on the injury report since that time, because of the ankle, but has been able to practice and play with the injury, which appeared to be minor.

That minor injury might have become more significant in Week 5 -- Royal aggravated the ankle on a punt return in the third quarter. The Denver Post reports that although X-rays were negative, Royal left the locker room on crutches and limping well after the game was over.

Teammate Tony Scheffler left the locker room in the same condition as Royal -- on crutches and limping -- but for a different reason. The Post is reporting that Scheffler suffered a left groin injury. After initially experiencing some discomfort in the first half, Scheffler continued to play, but the problem seemed to worsen on his final catch of the game. As Scheffler put it, "You go through the game, and there's some soreness and tightness in there, and then something happens at the end that kind of puts it over the edge."

You never like to see athletes on crutches, since it implies a degree of seriousness to the injury, but crutches also permit unloading (non-weight bearing) of the injured part, which can go a long way in the early stages to improve tissue healing. It certainly helps prevent worsening of the injury, and it also helps keep an athlete from compensating by limping, which can lead to problems in another area. As a result, it is important not to read too much into these injuries just yet. We will hear more from the teams as the week progresses, and we will see what Scheffler and Royal are able to do in practice (if they are able to practice). Meanwhile, receiver Darrell Jackson, sidelined since Week 1 because of a calf strain, can help fill a potential void if he is ready to go in Week 6. As Mike Shanahan told the Denver Post, "That's why you have to have depth." Yes, Mike, fantasy owners know all about that.

Other noteworthy injuries:

Aaron Rodgers
Chris Livingston/Icon SMIAaron Rodgers admitted to having pain Sunday, but he was able to play well despite it.

On a positive note for Week 5, Aaron Rodgers was able to throw for his first 300-yard game at Lambeau Field, despite his sprained shoulder. Rodgers was a game-time decision to start because he had not been able to throw much during the week and had to prove to the coaches Sunday morning that he had the strength in his arm to get the job done. Rodgers was able to deliver some nice sharp passes in the Packers' loss, although he acknowledged to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that his shoulder was painful throughout the game. Don't be surprised if he is allowed to rest his shoulder in practice this week in preparation for Week 6.

Jon Kitna was removed as the Lions' quarterback because of back spasms. Although some speculated his removal was due to poor performance, coach Rod Marinelli said in his postgame news conference that the switch was made as a result of Kitna's back problems. Kitna has dealt with back spasms before, so this is nothing new. How limiting this episode will be remains to be seen. Backup Dan Orlovsky sustained a high ankle sprain late in the game, so it is unclear who will get the start for the ailing Lions this week.

New York Giants receiver Domenik Hixon, taking advantage of the absence of Plaxico Burress (suspension), suffered a concussion that kept him out of the second half, or his numbers might have been even better. The Newark Star-Ledger is reporting that Hixon wanted to return, suggesting his injury might not be too serious, but the team declined his request, choosing to err on the side of caution. Never a questionable call when it comes to head injuries.

Patriots running back LaMont Jordan left Sunday's game with an undisclosed injury on a non-contact play in the first half. He did not return to the game, and his status for Week 6 is uncertain. We may not hear much more as to the nature of his injury from the Patriots, but as always, we will stay tuned to the practice and injury reports.

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

Why waste time with an intro? We all know what (and who) everyone is talking about heading into Week 11.

Running Backs

Adrian Peterson, Vikings: Coach Brad Childress announced on Monday afternoon that Peterson suffered a Grade II+ lateral collateral ligament sprain. And everyone was a bit unsure what to make of it. After all, this is not an ordinary, everyday injury. And Peterson has shown that he is not an ordinary, everyday player. All Day? Certainly. Ordinary? Never. Just ask my friend Merril Hoge, who has been singing his praises since the preseason on the "ESPNEWS Fantasy Insider" show. So what are concerned fantasy owners to make of a not-so-ordinary injury happening to an extraordinary player? Let's break it down.

The LCL is one of the four main stabilizing ligaments of the knee, situated on the outer aspect of the joint, and it runs from the far end of the thigh bone (femur) to the near end of the outer bone of the lower leg (fibula). It is opposite the medial collateral ligament, which occupies the same spot on the inner aspect of the knee joint, running from femur to tibia (larger lower leg bone). The main function of the LCL is to protect the knee from excess bowing outward (also called varus stress), or more simply, it helps control lateral stability. It is injured if a bowing or varus force is applied that exceeds what the ligament can handle, typically as a result of direct contact. Peterson told Minneapolis' Star Tribune that he felt a helmet or a shoulder hit his knee and then felt the pain.

It is far less common to sustain an injury to this ligament than to its counterpart, the MCL. The MCL, injured when the knee is forced inward excessively (valgus stress), has already been a source of pain for several key players this year (Brandon Jacobs, Travis Henry and J.P. Losman). There are a few possible reasons for this. First, it is simply more natural to either sustain a blow to the outer knee or cut toward the inside off a plant leg during sports, the two main mechanisms for MCL injury. It is far less common to sustain a blow to the inner knee, the primary mechanism for pure LCL injury. Second, the MCL sits very flat against the joint, so a minor unnatural stress puts it at risk for injury. The LCL has a little more room to tolerate movement because it does not lie flat against the knee. (Fun with biology: it is not really possible to distinguish the MCL by feel, but if you want to feel your own LCL, cross one ankle over the opposite knee, as if making a figure 4, and you can feel a tight ropy band on the outer knee. It is easier to feel because it is not flat against the joint.)

When the LCL is injured in isolation, as reports say is the case with Peterson, the result is instability in the lateral knee, or a decreased tolerance for bowing (varus) stresses. An even bigger concern would be if additional structures that make up the back outside corner of the knee were damaged simultaneously (not the case with Peterson, supposedly); this could mean significantly increased disability and more potential knee joint problems down the line. In the preseason we talked about grades of ligament injuries with Grade I (mild) representing minor injury or overstretching, Grade II (moderate), the most common, representing incomplete tearing, and Grade III (severe) indicating a complete tear or rupture. A Grade II+ LCL injury translates to extensive, but incomplete, ligament damage. Since a portion of the ligament remains intact, surgery is not necessarily indicated. Rehabilitation involves first letting the bruising and swelling settle while immobilizing the knee to let the ligament scar and prevent further injury. The focus then centers on strengthening the muscles (primarily quadriceps and lateral hip muscles) that can provide stability to the lateral aspect of the knee to help compensate for any laxity (looseness) resulting from the ligament damage.

So, now that you know what the injury is, let's get to the questions you really want answered.

  1. How long will Peterson be out?

    This is a tough one to gauge -- which is why Childress did not give a time frame -- because of the infrequent occurrence of this type of injury. You may have heard Childress' comment at his Monday news conference that if this were a lineman, he could be braced and come back and play the next game. But a lineman and an Adrian Peterson are two different species. One of the main challenges Peterson will face that a lineman would not is the need to make sharp directional movements with speed. Stability is critical in order for that to occur. In fact, I asked three orthopedic surgeons, all of whom have worked with professional athletes, what their expectations are for this type of injury with this type of player. Each of them had concern about Peterson returning too soon after such an injury, and each felt that the timetable was hard to judge (note that this was merely medical opinion; none of them examined Peterson). Lateral knee injuries are, in essence, more complex than medial injuries. Given that there has to be enough time to allow ligament healing (which typically takes up to six weeks), followed by strengthening, it is fair to expect Peterson's return to take several weeks. The biggest concern if Peterson returns too soon is that another incident, or even stress on a still unstable knee, could result in more severe damage, which could then translate to chronic problems. On the other hand, he is young and strong and could heal fairly quickly. His progression of activity will be determined on an ongoing basis, depending upon how his knee looks and feels day to day, again making it hard to project a time frame with any certainty. I know, I know. You want to have some idea of how to plan around this situation. For now, assume Peterson is out two weeks at an absolute minimum, with the stronger likelihood being at least four weeks. Don't be surprised if it takes even longer, in which case the Vikings may decide to shut Peterson down for the season.

  2. How will he be affected when he comes back?

    Peterson will be left with some decreased lateral stability in his knee; the ligament is forever altered based on the extent of his injury. However, his ability to compensate for it with muscular support (and he may wear a protective brace as an additional measure) could allow him to return looking like the same running back. Part of this answer depends on how well-healed his injury is when he returns.

  3. Is he at more risk for injury?

    Probably so, especially on the outer part of that right knee. It doesn't mean that he definitely will reinjure it, simply that it won't be as hard to do a second time. This is true for all incomplete ligament injuries however, so it is not terribly unusual. Again, the bigger concern would be that future stresses to this knee may put other stabilizing structures more at risk.

The bottom line is that if you have Adrian Peterson on your fantasy team, you should secure a backup now that you can plan to utilize indefinitely. There is no way of knowing for sure at this point how long Peterson will be out, or if he'll return at all. This may not be what fantasy owners or Vikings fans want to hear. But we have enjoyed his amazing talent for the first half of this season, and we would like to continue to enjoy it for years to come. Let's root for Peterson to come back healthy, even if it means we all have to wait just a little longer.

Larry Johnson, Chiefs: You can take your best cues from the statement issued by the Chiefs on their official Web site Monday. Johnson was listed as out for Week 11, meaning there was no question that he could not play six days later. This early announcement reflects the relative seriousness of the injury. The statement adds that Johnson's swelling continues to decrease and that he will meet with a foot specialist on Nov. 19. In other words, the swelling may be going down, but he needs another week before the specialist can assess his condition. This suggests that the swelling in Johnson's foot continues to prevent the team from having a definitive picture of the injury. We know these midfoot injuries are delicate, and the risk of doing too much too soon can mean the demise of an athlete. There have been murmurings of Johnson potentially having a broken bone in the foot, but that has not been confirmed by the team. As we said last week, swelling can cloud the images that would identify a fracture, so the swelling must subside before accurate pictures can be taken. Rehab right now for Johnson is no doubt focused on minimizing pain and swelling, so that further assessment of his foot can occur. If, in fact, Johnson does have a broken bone, he could miss up to six weeks (or for all intents and purposes, the remainder of the season). If there is no fracture, his return will hinge primarily on how long it takes for the pain and swelling to subside, followed by the time it takes to regain his strength and speed when running, cutting and pushing off. Assume Johnson misses three to four weeks at a minimum, unless there is a fracture, then up the minimum to six weeks from the time of injury.

Reggie Bush, Saints: The only update since Bush injured his head Sunday is that coach Sean Payton told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that he expects Bush to play this week. Bush's stepfather had indicated after Sunday's game that Bush suffered a concussion. The Saints had Tuesday off and return to practice Wednesday, so we will not know Bush's practice status until a bit later.

Marshawn Lynch, Bills: No word yet on the status of Lynch's left ankle. Initial postgame reports on the Bills' official site indicated that X-rays were negative and although Lynch was scheduled for an MRI, those results have not been made public at the time of this posting. It sounds as if Lynch is dealing with a sprain. We will monitor his practice activity throughout the week.

LenDale White, Titans: According to coach Jeff Fisher's comments on the Titans' official Web site, he expects White to practice this week. Not exactly revealing with regard to the nature of White's knee problem, but it does not make the condition sound particularly serious. White is another one to monitor in practice.

Kevin Jones, Lions: Uh-oh. Jones is having pain in his left foot again, yes, the one that had the surgery following his Lisfranc injury last season, the same one that kept him out the first third of this season. Jones had only four carries in Sunday's game and had pain in his foot that kept him out of the second half, according to ESPN's John Clayton. It is not uncommon for Jones to have some postgame soreness, but the fact that he was so limited Sunday is cause for concern. According to The Detroit News, coach Rod Marinelli will limit Jones in practice in an effort to ensure his availability for this week.

DeShaun Foster, Panthers: According to The Charlotte Observer, coach John Fox listed Foster as one of the injured players from Sunday's game. It appears that Foster aggravated the condition in his big toe that was giving him trouble a few weeks ago. Fox indicated that Foster's status was unclear for this week.


Brian Griese, Bears: Griese has what coach Lovie Smith referred to as a left shoulder sprain in his Monday news conference. It does not appear serious.

Vinny Testaverde and David Carr, Panthers: The Rock Hill Herald reports that coach John Fox thinks Carr will be medically cleared to return from his concussion this week. He also stated that Testaverde made it through the Week 10 game "healthy." So who will it be in Week 11? No commitment yet from Fox, so we will watch practice reports to see how things shape up during the week.

Steve McNair, Ravens: This just in. McNair has yet another injury. According to ESPN's John Clayton, McNair has a subluxing left shoulder (meaning it slips slightly out of the joint but doesn't dislocate). No word on when or how this occurred, but the timing is most interesting. Kyle Boller will start this week in his place, officially because McNair is injured, unofficially, well, you have seen the Ravens recently, right?

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Isaac Bruce, Rams: Bruce apparently aggravated his hamstring during Sunday's contest against the Saints. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Bruce may miss a week or two as a result. More catches for Drew Bennett.

James Thrash, Redskins: Although James Thrash was seen on crutches after the game, the Washington Post is reporting that the Redskins say that he sustained a Grade I (mild) high ankle sprain. He is not expected to play this week, but is expected to return in Week 12.

Don't see your player here? Be sure to check back after practice reports when we check in on expected Week 11 returning players Andre Johnson, Laveranues Coles, Deion Branch, David Garrard and many others.