<
>

Larry likely Fitz for Sunday

So I'm in San Francisco, still glowing from the 49ers' performance on Monday night (which helps minimize the disorientation from the time change) and hustling to get the injury blog up on the board. Without further ado, let's take a look at what might have fantasy owners concerned during their do-or-die playoff matchups ...

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals: Fitzgerald had his right knee bent in an awkward direction when San Francisco 49ers defensive back Michael Lewis fell on him. The tough Fitzgerald was clearly uncomfortable as he exited the field, then stretched out on the sideline to be examined. The positive sign was that Fitzgerald returned to the game, something he likely could not have managed if this had been a season-threatening injury. For now, the team simply is terming the injury a knee sprain. Nonetheless, Fitzgerald is expected to have an MRI on Tuesday to see what his knee looks like on the inside, according to the Cardinals' official Web site. For what it's worth, Fitzgerald tweeted that his knee was "sore, but OK." Barring something unforeseen, expect Fitzgerald to be ready to play come Sunday.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: Sunday's game taught us a few things about the Eagles' star young wide receivers. DeSean Jackson is healthy to the tune of 178 receiving yards and a couple of touchdowns, including one beauty on a punt return. There is no question about his status going forward. Unfortunately, his teammate did not fare so well. Maclin, whose left foot seemingly had been bothering him a bit more of late, had to be carted off the field after tearing his plantar fascia, the thick fibrous tissue that supports the arch of the foot. Inflammation of the plantar fascia is very painful; tearing that tissue can be excruciating. Eagles coach Andy Reid told The Philadelphia Inquirer that this would be a "week-or-two injury," but there's no guarantee Maclin will rebound that quickly. Fantasy owners should make alternate plans. Although it's true that Kevin Curtis (who has been sidelined since October knee surgery) may be on the verge of returning, it's likely that he would be eased back into game plans.

Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans: Young was questionable heading into Sunday's contest after aggravating his right knee during last week's practice. He was moving around well enough to start the game but certainly wasn't moving that well to finish things off. Young strained his right hamstring while making a big running play Sunday, and that ended his day early. Young later told reporters that he could have returned if it were a playoff situation (Doesn't he know that it was a playoff situation, at least for fantasy owners?) but did not want it to get worse. According to the Tennessean, coach Jeff Fisher is calling Young day-to-day. Although that is encouraging, it's quite possible that Young will not be at his best by Sunday. For someone who counts on making plays with his feet, this could present a challenge for Young.

Correll Buckhalter, RB, Denver Broncos: This is the second time we have seen Buckhalter on crutches after a game this season. Earlier this year it was an injury to his left ankle, this time Buckhalter suffered a right ankle sprain. In fact, Buckhalter told the Colorado Springs-Gazette that this injury was the same injury that forced him to miss a game earlier this year, just on the other side. If we take our cues from that comment, expect Buckhalter to be sidelined in Week 15 but hopefully return the next week.

Other quick hits:

Detroit Lions running back Kevin Smith is done for the season after suffering a major knee injury that will require surgery. The extent of damage will not be known until after surgery, at which point it will be easier to project whether Smith will be ready for the start of the 2010 season.

Eagles running back Brian Westbrook returned to practice with the scout team last week and could be activated for Week 15. The Delaware County Times is reporting that Westbrook could return to action this week, and that certainly seems to be a reasonable possibility. Keep in mind that this decision-making process is fluid and ultimately will come down to not only medical clearance but also Westbrook's comfort with returning to the field of play. Stay tuned.

Fantasy owners of Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart should make contingency plans just in case. Although Stewart has navigated the season quite well despite an ongoing Achilles issue, he suffered a new injury Sunday. According to the Rock Hill Herald, Stewart sustained a big toe injury, but it is not yet known how severe the injury is or whether it's to the same toe on which he underwent surgery before his rookie season. Because Stewart routinely takes every Wednesday off to rest his Achilles, it may not become clear until Thursday just how serious this injury is. Fantasy owners would be wise to assume the worst and hope for the best.

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Nate Burleson is in a boot after injuring his ankle on Sunday. Burleson underwent an MRI Monday, then told KJR radio in Seattle that he had a high ankle sprain. By now everyone knows that these sprains are more challenging than most to recover from. Although he has not been ruled out, expect Burleson to sit in Week 15.

The Oakland Raiders suffered a major setback after showing sparks of life in recent weeks. Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski, who seemingly had lifted the whole team's level of play, exited Sunday's game with not one, but two knee injuries. As in, both knees are now compromised. Gradkowski reportedly injured the medial collateral ligament in both knees and, according to The Oakland Tribune, already declared himself out for Week 15. Frankly, it would be surprising if he returned at all this season, although it's not completely out of the realm of possibility, depending on the extent of damage and the level of pain he is experiencing. To add further insult to injury, tight end Zach Miller, who has been a top receiving target for the Raiders, suffered his second concussion of the season this past week. There is a very good chance that Miller will not be available in Week 15.

See you at the injury chats (Tuesday 11 a.m.-noon, Friday 11 a.m.-noon and Sunday pregame 10-10:30 a.m.), and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 15 in the Saturday morning blog!