Stephania Bell: Dallas Cowboys

Video: Tony Romo's recovery

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
Stephania Bell joins Jeannine Edwards to discuss Tony Romo's recovery from back surgery.
With the NFC East crown on the line against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17, the Dallas Cowboys have two very significant injury situations that we've been monitoring all week.

Tony Romo, QB, (back): On Tuesday, I outlined the concerns for Romo given the news of his herniated disc and any potential nerve compromise. After undergoing an epidural injection early in the week, the key would be whether he could make enough real improvement to allow him to take the field by Sunday. It appears the team is still awaiting a final verdict in that regard, but as of Thursday, the outlook is somewhat gloomy.

According to ESPN's Ed Werder, Romo has only "slightly improved" following the injection and other treatment. He has not attended practices or game-planning meetings. The team is still leaving the door open for Romo to demonstrate improvement, but Kyle Orton continues to take the first-team reps. As recommended Tuesday, fantasy owners should make alternate plans.

Dez Bryant, WR, (back): Romo isn't the only member of the Cowboys dealing with a back problem. Of course, the issue Bryant is dealing with is long-standing, and he has managed to play despite the condition several times this season. Bryant's problem has centered around back spasms and muscular tightness; he has not reportedly experienced pain radiating into his leg, which suggests that there isn't a nerve compromise as in Romo's case.

Still, Bryant aggravated his back recently, and was removed from practice early Thursday to instead focus on rehab. For his part, Bryant told's Calvin Watkins there is "no doubt" he will play, and his effectiveness throughout the season -- even after being limited in practice sessions because of his back -- should encourage fantasy owners. After all, if Orton is under center Sunday as appears to be likely, he will need some help from the big playmaker.
There’s certainly been a whirlwind of news surrounding Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo’s injured back over the past 24 hours. Amid conflicting statements as to whether Romo’s season is decidedly finished, one thing is clear: He has a serious spine condition which will not be 100 percent resolved by Sunday.

The question then becomes whether he could hypothetically function well enough to play in a game that will determine the NFC East title. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind:

1) ESPN’s Chris Mortensen has reported that Romo has a herniated disc that will require surgery. It is worth noting that not all disc injuries require surgery; in fact, the majority resolve on their own with time. One of the key factors in determining the need for surgery is neurologic compromise. In essence, if a nerve is being compromised to the degree where the athlete is experiencing sensory loss or motor (muscle) weakness, particularly if it is progressively worsening, then surgery may be the treatment of choice to prevent lingering nerve damage. The goal is to determine whether a herniated disc is actually compressing the nerve root or whether it is inflammation associated with the disc injury that is causing problems for the nerve. If inflammation is the issue and the inflammation can be adequately treated, the nerve may respond positively and surgery may not be necessary. If the disc material is directly compressing the nerve, then surgery may be required to remove it.

2) If in Romo’s case inflammation is the primary culprit, then the primary treatments he is undergoing now are specifically aimed at addressing that inflammation. On Tuesday, ESPN Dallas reported that Romo received an epidural injection, a steroid injection directed in the area surrounding the inflamed nerve root in the hopes of reducing inflammation and pain. Epidurals vary widely in their rate of success and the speed with which they take effect. Sometimes a series of injections is required but that generally happens over a broader time frame than is available until the Cowboys’ next game (versus the Eagles on Sunday). Romo would have to demonstrate significant improvement, not only as far as pain, but more importantly, as far as neurologic function (sensation and muscular performance) in order to safely return to the field.

Ultimately, time may not be on Romo’s side. Being the competitor that he is (let’s not forget he has played with broken ribs), it’s understandable that he wants to have every opportunity to see if he can recover to the point of being able to play this weekend. And he certainly does not need to be rushed to surgery unnecessarily. In fact, depending on his exact signs and symptoms and how he responds to this early treatment, even if he does not play this weekend it isn’t necessarily a foregone conclusion that he will have surgery. That said, if there are hallmark indicators for surgery, there will be little time wasted in moving him toward that next step.

We will wait until this season ends and the treatment course for Romo is more formally outlined before projecting into next year. In the meantime, fantasy owners with games this weekend should plan on plugging in an alternate quarterback since Romo, should he even get the opportunity to take the field, may not be able to hold up for an entire four quarters.

Dallas Cowboys injury update

October, 17, 2013
The Dallas Cowboys are among NFL teams suffering the most in terms of injuries. Here’s an injury update surrounding three of the team’s key players heading into Week 7.

DeMarco Murray, RB (knee): On Tuesday, we talked about the variability in MCL injuries (which is what Murray suffered in Week 6), but noted that Murray was unlikely to play this weekend against the Eagles. That still appears to be the case. Murray has not practiced this week and it seems the team is inclined to give him a week of rest. Murray may not be done pleading his case for playing, but at this point it seems likely the team will err on the side of caution, perhaps mindful of his injury history. With Lance Dunbar also out with a hamstring injury, Joseph Randle is expected to start at RB for the Cowboys.

Miles Austin, WR (hamstring): After returning to the field last Sunday in unspectacular fashion, perhaps the best thing one could say about Austin is that he did not suffer any setbacks. Or did he? Austin practiced Wednesday but was not present at practice on Thursday. According to’s Todd Archer, the move was more of a proactive measure than a response to a setback. Per Archer, Austin rested Thursday to help ensure his readiness for Sunday. The Cowboys have tried everything to help prevent his hamstrings from acting up; mixing up the practice schedule is another part of that equation.

Austin is expected to play this weekend, but we have yet to see the explosive, unrestrained version of him this season. It’s hard to imagine that it isn’t a concern for him at some level, as well, wondering whether his legs will hold up if and when he does play. There’s no getting around the fact this will be an ongoing challenge for Austin -- as well as for the Cowboys’ medical and coaching staffs -- throughout the season.

DeMarcus Ware, DE (quadriceps): Perhaps the biggest injury blow for the Cowboys in Week 7 -- at least in terms of what his presence means to the team -- would be the potential sidelining of DeMarcus Ware. He suffered a strained right quadriceps in last Sunday’s game and has not practiced so far this week. While Ware has not ruled himself out of anything yet (why would he when he has never missed a game in his professional career?), his body may not cooperate.

Ware is smart enough to know whether he can be effective and whether the injury will compromise him too much to play on Sunday. After all, he came out of last week’s game when he realized he couldn’t power off his leg the way he should have been able to. And with a soft tissue injury, there’s always the risk of a setback if he pushes too hard too soon. Given the injuries he’s managed to play through during his career, Ware remains hopeful. However, the reality is that this may be the one that forces him to sit out a game for the first time.
Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray sprained the medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his left knee in Week 6, and it appears that he will be out this week. ESPN cites a source as saying Murray is unlikely to play in Week 7, but did not offer a formal timetable.

MCL sprains vary in how much time they cost a player, depending on the severity of the injury. Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson sprained his MCL in Week 4 and played the following week. Actually, Jackson suited up just four days later for the Bills' Thursday night game, and maintained the lead back role as teammate C.J. Spiller was compromised with an ankle injury. On the other hand, Ravens wide receiver Jacoby Jones just played in his second game of the season Sunday, five weeks after injuring his MCL in Week 1.

Clearly, Jackson suffered a mild or Grade 1 injury (where there is no visible structural damage, but there is inflammation and pain in the area), while Jones most likely suffered a Grade 2 (moderate) sprain, where there are damaged fibers within the ligament but not a complete tear. The more substantial the damage is to the tissue, the longer the recovery.

Murray could wear a brace with medial and lateral struts to protect against stresses to the side of the knee, presuming he is healthy enough to perform. Ultimately as a running back, he needs to be able to plant and cut to the inside on that knee without hesitation. Murray desperately wants to show he can get through a season without being limited by injury after missing multiple weeks each of his first two years in the league. Regardless of his past history, Murray needs to be able to run effectively to be on the field, while not placing himself at undue risk of further injury and that will be the determining factor as to when he makes his return. At this point, he should not be counted on for Sunday's matchup against the Eagles.

Week 1 Giants-Cowboys injury updates

September, 5, 2012

It's here! It's here! The excitement generated by the arrival of the first official NFL game of the season puts it on par with many a national holiday. Tonight's matchup between the Super Bowl champion New York Giants and one of their fiercest division rivals in the Dallas Cowboys is certainly buzz-worthy.

Nothing, of course, can compare to the launch of fantasy football rivalries worldwide. All the preparation, all the intense study, all the chatter, banter and braggadocio now comes down to the actual playing of games and the strategic setting of lineups. And what could be more threatening to an ideal lineup than injury concerns?

With those concerns in mind, here are the official injury report designations for Wednesday night's game, along with a few thoughts as to what it means for your fantasy teams.



Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys, (abdomen [D]): Witten might have the most talked about spleen in the history of sports. After suffering a laceration to his abdominal organ in his first preseason game, Witten was put on strict rest to allow the spleen to heal. After escaping the original threat of surgery, the biggest risk for Witten is possible reinjury. Returning too soon before the spleen has returned to normal would make it vulnerable to retearing, which could lead to serious internal bleeding. In the worst-case scenario, it could present a life-threatening situation. It is with those concerns in mind that the decision about Witten's return to football have been made.

The good news is that Witten appears to have suffered the least serious form of injury (Jerry Jones referred to Witten's laceration as a Grade 1) and that he seems to be healing well (Witten returned to practice Saturday, although he was limited to noncontact). Still, the doubtful tag strongly suggests Witten will sit out the opener. With an additional 11 days until the Cowboys' second game, it seems likely that his season debut will be postponed for at least a week.



Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants (foot [Q]): Nicks suffered a fifth metatarsal fracture in minicamp and immediately underwent surgery to repair it, giving him the best chance of being ready for the season opener. Despite being listed as questionable, Nicks is expected to play Wednesday night, according to's Ohm Youngmisuk.

Nicks has been working his way back from the surgery throughout the preseason, gradually increasing his activity and only joining the team in practice in mid-August. He did see game action, albeit very limited, in the team's preseason finale. Some soreness in the foot kept him out of practice for several days afterward, raising some eyebrows as to his game status. Nicks did return to a limited practice Tuesday, and for his part, he has insisted he will play.

Soreness post-surgery, especially as workload is ramping up, is not unusual. The bigger challenge for Nicks initially will be performing at game speed for an entire game after seeing only limited reps throughout the preseason. Nicks has certainly played and performed well through significant discomfort in the past. It may take a bit to get his football conditioning back to where he expects it to be, but the foot will not keep Nicks from seeing the field tonight.





Miles Austin (hamstring) and Dez Bryant (knee), WR, Dallas Cowboys, (P): Austin has been sidelined for much of the preseason, just as he was last year, by a balky hamstring. In 2011, Austin started the season on time but was injured again by Week 2. Ultimately, injuries to both hamstrings resulted in six missed games.

The big question headed into this season was how well his hamstrings would hold up, a question that got an unfavorable response when Austin felt the hamstring act up during practice in early August. That was enough for the Cowboys to decide to hold him out the rest of the preseason. Instead, Austin worked out on his own and under the watchful eye of the rehab staff until he returned to full practice late last week. He is expected to start Wednesday night and there will no doubt be fingers crossed that he makes it through the game unscathed. There is no doubt that Austin is productive when he's on the field; the concern is whether his legs will support him for a full season.

There is equal concern about whether Austin's teammate Dez Bryant can stay healthy. Bryant has dealt with ankle and thigh injuries over the past two seasons and this preseason did little to quiet the concerns. Bryant was limited by a sore hamstring early in camp. Midway through August, he suffered a separate injury during practice involving his right knee. Tests showed no apparent significant structural damage and the team termed Bryant's condition as patellar tendinitis, something not typically associated with an acute injury. In any event, he remained limited in practice until just last week. Bryant is expected to play Wednesday night, but the concern going forward is whether the knee will flare up again sooner rather than later.



Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants (hand [P]): Bradshaw underwent another procedure on his ailing foot in the offseason, which he believes helped him turn the corner in what had become a chronic pain situation. After suffering a stress fracture in his foot near his surgically implanted screw during the season, Bradshaw underwent a procedure this spring that involved injection of a stem cell paste (utilizing his own cells drawn from bone marrow in his hip) into the foot. During my visit to Giants camp, Bradshaw told me he felt like he was running "free and easy," adding that it was the best he had felt in a long time. In fact, it was the first camp in which he had been able to run and practice every day without hesitation.

Then came the Giants' second preseason game and Bradshaw exited early, not because of a problem with his foot but because of an injury to his right hand, the result of a hit to another player's helmet. According to The (Newark) Star-Ledger, Bradshaw said afterward that he popped a cyst on the top of his hand, near his index finger. Nothing was broken and the injury was minor. Still, the Giants held Bradshaw out of the final two preseason games as a precaution.

Bradshaw is listed on the injury report because of his hand, not his foot, which is a good thing. He was a full participant in practice in the days leading up to this first game of the season. At probable, he is expected to play and there are no real concerns that this will impact his performance.



DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys (wrist [P]): Murray's 2011 season ended early when he fractured his right ankle, but he bounced back after surgery to deliver a strong training camp and preseason performance. In the Cowboys' preseason finale, Murray banged his hand and thus is listed on the injury report. Murray did re-enter the game briefly and has practiced fully all week, so this is not a major concern. Expect Murray to be a full go for the season opener.

Late Week 17 injury updates

December, 31, 2011

It's finally here! The last week of the NFL regular season is upon us and there is chaos everywhere. Who's resting? Who's playing? Who's playing a series, a quarter, a half, the entire game and into overtime if need be? This might be the most challenging week for fantasy owners making key sit/start decisions. Multiple variables factor into which players will rest and which will roll Sunday, but fortunately there are a few clues in the Friday team injury reports to help guide us.

Good luck in Week 17, everyone! May your players stay healthy and win for you.


[+] EnlargeTony Romo
Douglas Jones/US PresswireWith the Cowboys' season on the line, expect Tony Romo under center.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers, ankle (P): Roethlisberger practiced fully all week and is expected to play. He indicated the week off had allowed his ankle some recovery time and felt better moving around this week. The bigger question might be how long he remains in the game. At stake for the Steelers is a bye in the first round of the playoffs and home-field advantage (which also depends on the outcome of the Ravens game), so there is little doubt that they would like to secure a victory. But Roethlisberger, while improving, is not past the injury and there is no telling how the ankle will respond as the game progresses. If the Steelers get a big lead early, it leaves the possibility that Roethlisberger's day might be shortened. Of course, that might also mean fantasy owners would have gotten their points' worth by that time.

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys, hand, (P): The probable tag tells you all you need to know: The Cowboys plan on having Romo under center. As far as the injury itself, on Thursday we noted the issues Romo could face if swelling persisted in his bruised hand. Obviously Romo has shown through the week of practice (in which he participated daily on a limited basis) that he can handle the duties. The game is too important to the Cowboys to have him out there at a significant disadvantage. As long as he doesn't aggravate the injury during the game, Romo should be able to function, just as he has through other ailments.

Tom Brady, New England Patriots, shoulder, (P): On Thursday we discussed the non-separated non-throwing shoulder of the Patriots' quarterback. After sitting out Wednesday's practice (non-injury-related, according to the Patriots), Brady, while limited, did enough in Thursday and Friday's practice to demonstrate he could play. With 16 other Patriots listed as questionable and Brady holding the only probable designation on the team, it's clear they expect to have him on the field Sunday. According to, teammate Wes Welker hints at Brady playing the entire game. From an injury perspective at least, it does not appear the shoulder will be a factor.

Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings, concussion, (P): Ponder left last week's game early with a concussion but was cleared to return to practice by Wednesday. After putting in full practice sessions all week, Ponder is expected to start Sunday.

Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals, head, (Q): Kolb is still experiencing concussion-related symptoms when trying to practice. John Skelton will start again.

Running backs

[+] EnlargeMcCoy
Debby Wong/US PresswireLeSean McCoy should get his usual touches in Week 17.
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles, ankle, (Q): The questionable designation is a bit mysterious since even coach Andy Reid has indicated that McCoy is expected to play Sunday. Naturally this allows for any pregame setbacks. But McCoy was a full participant in Friday's practice after a day of rest Wednesday and a limited workout Thursday. There seems to be little doubt that McCoy will play and will be given the ball plenty Sunday.

Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans, ankle, (Q): Johnson's ankle is in better shape after another week of healing time. He did not practice Wednesday or Thursday but was back to full practice Friday. The Nashville Tennessean reported that Johnson said he was having trouble just walking on the ankle last week. Johnson indicated the ankle was much improved this week and that the rest early on helped prevent setbacks. It seems a healthier Johnson would want to end his season on a much brighter note. It remains to be seen how effective he can be against the Houston Texans, although there is admittedly little at stake, considering their playoff berth is secure.

Arian Foster, Houston Texans, knee, (P): There is no real injury concern with Foster here, other than the potential of suffering one if he plays too long in Week 17. It's hard to imagine the Texans, who have been so decimated by injuries at numerous key positions this year, risking Foster for an entire game. Foster can clearly score even in a short time but expectations for him putting in a full workload should be tempered.

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

Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys, hamstring, (Q): Despite the questionable tag, Jones is expected to start Sunday night in a game in which the Cowboys' season hangs on the brink. Jones was removed early from last Sunday's game, which was perhaps the best move for his tight hamstring. He was able to return to daily limited practice this week and the Cowboys are planning on him being the featured tailback. His hamstring will not be fully tested until the game but the conservative approach so far in managing his work over the past two weeks will hopefully pay off now.

Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions, ankle, (P): Smith still appeared to be struggling with his ankle to some degree in Week 16 but he was on the field. Smith practiced fully all week and at probable, is expected to play. The question is how much the Lions plan to use him. Joique Bell was signed by the Lions this week as insurance but coach Jim Schwartz has been vague as to whether he would actually play in Week 17.

Ryan Mathews, calf, (Q) and Mike Tolbert, hamstring, (P), San Diego Chargers: Earlier in the week it seemed Mathews was faring better with his injury concerns than Tolbert. That seems to have changed Friday. Mathews sat out Wednesday with a sore calf but participated to some degree Thursday. Post-practice soreness led the Chargers to give Mathews another day off Friday in the hope he'd be well enough to play Sunday. Even if active, his response to Thursday's light workout suggests he could struggle to get through an entire game. And this is nothing new. Mathews dealt with a calf injury in October but benefited from a bye week immediately afterward. His status will not likely be known until game time. If he plays, he will be sharing with Tolbert who was bothered this week by a sore hamstring. Tolbert did not practice until Friday but participated in a full workout his first day back. Barring a setback, listed as probable, Tolbert will play.

Roy Helu, Washington Redskins, toe/knee, (Q): Helu says he feels better this week after sitting out Week 16. But Evan Royster delivered such a solid performance in his absence, it's hard to know how the workload will be divided even if Helu plays. Tricky.

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars, ankle, (P): Jones-Drew has been remarkably durable this season and leads the league in rushing. So much for those who doubted him before the season began. He can help increase his chances of securing that title by playing Sunday, which he is fully expected to do. After getting some rest for his ankle Wednesday and Thursday, Jones-Drew turned in a full practice Friday.

Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns, elbow, (P): It's no secret to fantasy owners how much the injury bug has impacted Hillis this season. Now he's on the report because of his elbow but the Browns plan to have him on the field after he put in limited practices daily. Hillis faces a tough Steelers defense but undoubtedly would like to finish the season strong after what can otherwise only be called a disappointing year.

Chris "Beanie" Wells, Arizona Cardinals, knee, (Q): Again Wells is listed as questionable for the Cardinals but again he is expected to play. The Arizona Republic reports Wells is likely to have offseason surgery on his right knee, not entirely unexpected given the chronic irritation he has dealt with since injuring his knee in Week 6. Still, with one final outing awaiting him, Wells is expected to gut it out once more.

Shonn Greene, rib/shoulder and LaDainian Tomlinson, quadriceps, (P): Greene has been playing through the rib injury for weeks and will do so again. Tomlinson has a sore quad that kept him out of practice Wednesday but he returned to full practice Thursday and Friday. The probable tag for both indicates the Jets expect them to play.

Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons, groin, (P): The groin injury has kept Turner on the injury report and appears to have hampered his effectiveness in the latter portion of the season. Nonetheless, the probable tag indicates the Falcons are planning on him being in Sunday's lineup, although how much time he'll see is questionable.

Marion Barber, Chicago bears, calf, (D): Barber is again listed as doubtful, making Kahlil Bell the feature back for the Bears again Sunday.

Wide receivers

Andre Johnson
AP Photo/Bill BaptistFeeling lucky? Andre Johnson's status could be dicey.
Andre Johnson, Houston Texans, hamstring, (P): Johnson will play; this much coach Gary Kubiak has indicated. Kubiak also shared that Johnson is likely to be restricted to approximately 15 to 20 plays. From a health standpoint Johnson appears ready, but how much can he do for fantasy owners in that window? That, friends, is the roll of the dice inserting Johnson into your lineup will require.

A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals, shoulder, (P): Green suffered a third-degree shoulder separation in Week 15 but returned to finish the game. He was active in Week 16 and although his numbers weren't extraordinary, he did make an impressive catch while well-defended, suggesting the shoulder was not holding him back. Another week of recovery should only help. After limited practice Wednesday and Thursday, Green returned to a full practice Friday and, at probable, is expected to face the Ravens on Sunday.

Laurent Robinson, Dallas Cowboys, shoulder (P): Robinson practiced fully each day and will be in the lineup again Sunday night.

Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers, ankle, (P): Wallace was limited Wednesday but fully practiced Thursday and Friday. At probable, the Steelers plan on having him Sunday.

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, Achilles, (P): Johnson rested Wednesday and Thursday but returned to limited practice Friday. At probable, he is expected to play Sunday at Green Bay.

Mario Manningham, knee and Hakeem Nicks, hamstring, New York Giants, (P): Manningham has struggled off and on with swelling in his knee but managed to practice every day this week. Nicks has been dealing with a hamstring issue but insisted early in the week it would not keep him down. After resting Wednesday and Thursday, Nicks returned to a limited workout Friday. Both players are now expected to be available in the game that will determine whether their season continues or ends abruptly.

Brandon Marshall, Miami Dolphins, knee, (P): Marshall played through the knee soreness in Week 16 just fine and is expected to do so again Sunday. Marshall practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday but was back in full practice Friday.

Vincent Jackson, San Diego Chargers, groin, (P): Jackson did not practice until Friday as he rested the sore groin that plagued him last week. He was available for a full workout Friday, however, and the Chargers obviously feel confident he will go against the Raiders this Sunday. It's worth noting that Jackson has typically played well despite injuries in the past but was clearly not up to par in Week 16. The layoff during the week no doubt helped move him along and with the team feeling more confident about his status this week, Jackson is presumably faring better.

Wes Welker, knee and Deion Branch, groin, New England Patriots, (Q): Both Welker and Branch were listed similarly last week and both played without limitations. While the receivers are being kept to limited work during the week, both are expected to be on the field again in Week 17. That is, of course, unless the Patriots decide to surprise us all and rest their starters. Welker told that he expects to play all four quarters. Fantasy owners would be wise to check pregame inactives just in case.

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 they expected him to be ready by Saturday. The probable tag supports that and fantasy owners can put him in their lineups.

Jacoby Ford, Oakland Raiders, foot, (Q): Ford is looking to make his return after missing the last seven weeks because of a foot injury. He was able to practice on a limited basis all week but has yet to test his foot in a game situation. While he presents another option for Carson Palmer, it is unclear how much Ford would be utilized after missing so much time, and with Denarius Moore demonstrating last week that he is back to full strength.

Anquan Boldin, Baltimore Ravens, knee, (D): Boldin underwent knee surgery last week and missed Week 16. Originally projected by the Ravens to miss the remainder of the regular season, it was a bit surprising that he was not officially ruled out in advance of this week's game. Perhaps that was due to the encouraging sight of Boldin back in practice Friday, albeit on a limited basis. The doubtful tag confirms though that Boldin is likely to be out again this week.

Tight ends

Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers, knee, (P): Finley didn't practice early in the week but managed to make it back to limited workouts Thursday and Friday. At probable, he is expected to play but the Packers have already hinted at resting a number of their starters. It does not seem likely that Finley will play the entire game.

Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts, neck, (Q): Clark missed the last two games after suffering a stinger-type injury but was back in full practice for the first time this week. It would seem he has a chance to play, but check the pregame inactive list to be sure.

Anthony Fasano, Miami Dolphins, head, (P): Fasano missed Week 16 with a concussion but returned to full practice daily this week and is expected to play.

Owen Daniels, Houston Texans, knee, (P): Daniels only practiced on a limited basis and although he is expected to play Sunday, that too may be on a limited basis. The Texans already have their playoff berth secure and may want to limit the risk exposure for their key starters.


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.

Reggie Bush, RB, Miami Dolphins, knee: This one is a bit surprising since Bush made it seem like the injury was not a big deal. He never was able to practice this week, however, so with the Dolphins out of contention, resting him Sunday seems wise.

Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay Packers, knee: Since spraining his MCL three weeks ago, it always seemed the Packers would keep him sidelined until the playoffs. Jennings has returned to running but will not see game action again until the postseason.

James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers, knee/ankle: Starks has struggled to get his ankle healthy, suffering multiple setbacks over the last month. The decision to hold him out in advance of the playoffs is no surprise.

Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints, (toe): As noted Thursday, Ingram suffered a setback to the toe in practice this week and it sounds as if it could be a problem for the playoffs. All fantasy owners need to know is that it will be a problem for this week, as in, he won't play.

Lance Moore, WR, New Orleans Saints, (hamstring): Moore suffered an in-game setback with his strained hamstring in Week 16 and was forced to leave the game early. After not practicing at all this week, Moore's status for this Sunday is not surprising, especially with the playoffs looming for the Saints.

Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders, (foot): McFadden isn't coming back after all, at least not during your fantasy season. He might not be available during the playoffs, either, but first the Raiders have to get there.

Jackie Battle, RB, Kansas City Chiefs, foot: Battle was in a walking boot mid-week and never really seemed as if he would be ready to play.

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

Delanie Walker, TE, San Francisco 49ers, jaw: Walker left Week 16's game holding his jaw after inadvertently getting kicked in the head, and a break was later confirmed.

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