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Keeping close tabs on Westbrook, Parker

9/24/2008

Since Monday, we have received some good news for one high-profile fantasy running back and some not-so-good news for another. One quarterback could be making a return from injury this Sunday, but could another be sidelined?

Let's take a look at how things are shaping up in preparation for Week 4.

Brian Westbrook, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: I made the case Monday that in the absence of major MRI findings, this could be one of those classic Brian Westbrook weeks where he is banged up one Sunday, rests during the week, then returns to outperform everyone else the following week. Well, the MRI on Westbrook's ankle came back negative, meaning that no major structural damage to ligaments, tendons or bone was uncovered. So everyone wants to know: Will he suit up on Sunday or won't he?

The answer is ... we don't know yet. One positive is that Westbrook was walking without a boot when he went to a Philadelphia radio station to do his Monday night show. On that show, Westbrook indicated that his ankle was still sore. He classified his injury as "closer to a high ankle sprain than anything else," and if you saw how he hurt himself, this is not surprising. Westbrook was attempting to jump over teammate Tra Thomas' leg but ended up landing on him with his left foot. This resulted in Westbrook's right foot coming down awkwardly and catching in the turf, causing him immediate pain. His leg twisted relative to his foot in a way that is consistent with the mechanism for a high ankle sprain.

When asked if he would be ready to go Sunday, Westbrook did not answer directly, but said that his plan is to "rehab his butt off" and do everything he needs to do to be ready to go. He said that he will see where he is Saturday and Sunday to determine whether he can go. Right now this is a situation that is too early to call. It likely will come down to a gametime decision, so be sure to have a backup ready. But know this: Westbrook knows his body and if he plays, he expects to perform.

Willie Parker, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Tuesday news conferences can be full of surprises. And so it was when Mike Tomlin ran down his injury list for the media. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was notably absent, which implies that his hand injury from Sunday doesn't have the team too concerned. The big surprise, however, was Willie Parker who, before Sunday, had been off to a fabulous start in 2008. Now we learn that he has a sprained left knee and that he will not play Monday night when the Steelers host the Baltimore Ravens. Welcome to the NFL, Rashard Mendenhall! Nothing like getting your first start under the bright lights of Monday night.

In the meantime, the Steelers have released no specifics about Parker's knee, making a timetable impossible to project. Tomlin's comment, however, that Parker's status is "week-to-week" suggests that there is reason to fret about him missing extended time.

Brett Favre, QB, New York Jets: Favre reportedly sprained his ankle during Monday night's beatdown by the San Diego Chargers. ESPN's Ed Werder indicated that a source close to Favre says his ankle is "very sore," but added that Favre is expected to play Sunday. Based on past performance, and his record consecutive games streak, we know that Favre will play through some pain. An ankle sprain could certainly hamper his mobility, and for a quarterback who is known to save plays at times with his feet, it could become a factor. The bigger factor, however, has to be whether he misses valuable practice time, as he is still working to solidify his familiarity with the playbook and his receivers.

Willis McGahee, RB, Baltimore Ravens: McGahee returned to full capacity Sunday, and he did rush for 64 yards and a TD. Unfortunately, he suffered a cut over his right eyelid, but according to the Baltimore Sun, he is expected to play this week. A word of caution is in order, though. Everyone in Baltimore -- the coaches and the running backs themselves -- seems to be very comfortable with the concept of a running-back rotation, so expect McGahee, Le'Ron McClain and Ray Rice to continue to share time.

Damon Huard, QB, Kansas City Chiefs: Huard could be back under center for the Chiefs this week, according to Associated Press reports. Coach Herm Edwards has hinted that he's leaning toward starting Huard, who was sidelined following a neck/head injury in Week 2. Tyler Thigpen replaced him and remained the starter in Week 3, but the results were not so good. The team's original starting signal-caller, Brodie Croyle, suffered a separated shoulder in Week 1 and is not expected to return until mid-October.

On Monday, we indicated that a positive injury note coming out of Week 3 was the seemingly no-worse-for-wear statuses of Adrian Peterson and Darren McFadden. Add LaDainian Tomlinson to that group. Tomlinson told the San Diego Union-Tribune that he, too, was feeling better after Monday night's game. Although he clearly wasn't 100 percent, the LT we know and love was spotted at times during the game, and he appeared able to run and drive harder. As he told the Union-Tribune, "If my toe feels like it does now, I think I'll practice for the full week this week." Don't be surprised if his practice activity is limited given the relatively short week, but this news is certainly encouraging.

There are some players whose practice activity this week should give us more information by Saturday (Devin Hester, ribs; Ryan Grant, hamstring; Justin Gage, groin; Justin Fargas, groin; to name a few). Remember there are bye weeks for Detroit, Indianapolis, New England, Miami, New York Giants and Seattle, so we will not get much information on player injury updates from those teams until next week.

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