Stephania Bell: Darren McFadden

Week 16 fantasy injury notebook

December, 19, 2013
12/19/13
7:18
PM ET
It’s getting ever closer to championship weekend for fantasy owners, when setting optimal lineups is critical. Unfortunately, the injuries of the season are taking a toll as some players are being sent to injured reserve while others are being rested in anticipation of an NFL team’s real playoff chances. All a fantasy owner really wants to know at this point is who can be counted on come Sunday. There is still some uncertainty with three days yet to go, but here are some clues as of late Thursday.

Don’t count on ...

Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants: After Sunday’s game where Cruz sustained both a head injury and a knee injury, it appeared we might have seen the last of him in 2013. Now we know we have. The Giants announced that Cruz underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee with Dr. James Andrews Thursday. It was formally called a debridement, a lovely French term essentially describing a cleanup procedure for the knee. This season may be finished, but there is nothing here to suggest Cruz will face any lingering issues into next year.

Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins: Fantasy owners already knew not to count on Reed after he had been struggling with post-concussion symptoms for multiple weeks. Reed appeared poised to return in Week 13 but was scratched just before kickoff due to recurrent headaches. Sadly for him he has continued to experience these symptoms intermittently for several weeks. On Thursday, Reed consulted with noted concussion specialists in Pittsburgh who recommended three weeks of no practice activity, effectively terminating his season. Consequently the Redskins placed him on IR. First and foremost the hope is that Reed will make a full recovery. After that, the talk for next season can commence.

Ben Tate, RB, Houston Texans: Who could help but admire the toughness of a guy who insisted on playing despite dealing with fractures in four ribs? Tate remained on the injury list each week because of the ribs but continued to play and played pretty well, considering the extremely painful nature of his injury. In Week 15, however, he took another hit which set him back, and the Texans, knowing their season was drawing to a close in short order, placed him on IR. Tate should be ready to go when next season rolls around.

Cecil Shorts III, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars: Shorts missed Week 15 after suffering a setback with a nagging groin injury that he had managed to play through for a significant portion of the season. He acknowledged he would need surgery after the season to help correct the issue. That day came a bit sooner than expected as Shorts underwent surgery Thursday for a sports hernia, coach Gus Bradley announced. The good news is that players do very well following this type of procedure and Shorts should be healthy by the time OTAs roll around.

Jordan Cameron, TE, Cleveland Browns: Cameron’s case is an example of how tricky concussion symptoms can be. He experienced a delayed onset of those symptoms (on Monday) after not exhibiting any outward signs or complaining of any concussion-type symptoms either in the game Sunday or immediately afterward. The development of symptoms triggered the initiation of the league-mandated concussion protocol and Cameron has not practiced this week. He is not expected to play.

Wes Welker, WR, Denver Broncos: Welker missed Week 15 with a concussion and is still in recovery mode. As of Thursday he was not participating in team practice but he has made strides as far as his activity. According to ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold, coach John Fox indicated Welker did work in the weight room Thursday as well as some running work outside. This has the sound of the light activity phase of the graded exercise return that is a component of the league-mandated concussion protocol. Fox also noted that Welker was “doing better every day,” suggesting he has not had any recurrence of symptoms thus far with the increased activity. There are still more aggressive hurdles to cross before Welker will be declared fit to return to football and he would still need to be cleared by an independent neurological consultant, in addition to the team’s own medical staff. As of Thursday night, it's expected that he will be out for Week 16.

Things are looking good for ...

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals: Fitzgerald suffered a concussion in Week 15 and as everyone knows by now, the recovery path for each episode and each individual is unique. Fitzgerald is also a unique athlete, incredibly fit and extremely hardworking; it comes as no surprise that his body seems to be rebounding well from this injury. He returned to full practice Thursday after undergoing exertional tests earlier in the week and responding well. He has yet to be cleared by an independent neurological consultant but that could happen Friday, as reported by ESPN.com’s Josh Weinfuss. As of now, Fitzgerald appears on track to play against the Seahawks, barring a setback.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings: Peterson was looking good, surprisingly good in fact, as early as last Friday despite spraining his right midfoot a week earlier, but the team thought it wiser to hold him out for Week 15. Good luck keeping a healthy -- or at least healthier -- Adrian Peterson sidelined, no matter what the team’s standing. Peterson did some limited practice Wednesday but was held out Thursday for what coach Leslie Frazier termed precautionary reasons. As ESPN.com’s Ben Goessling reported, Frazier said he expects Peterson to play Sunday unless something unexpected occurs. The Vikings undoubtedly have more confidence in the health of Peterson’s foot this week with the benefit of some additional recovery time and after seeing him test it in more than one practice session. Peterson will likely be joined Sunday by fellow back Toby Gerhart, who missed Week 15 with a hamstring strain but appears to be much improved.

Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders: Remember him? He would like to help refresh your memory by playing in the team’s last two games of the season. McFadden most recently has been dealing with an ankle injury that caused him to miss the past two games. In the interim Rashad Jennings has been the primary running back for the Raiders. McFadden’s presence would be as the second back behind the starter Jennings, but it might be enough to dip into Jennings’ stats on Sunday against the Chargers.

The biggest question marks

Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: The competitor in him wants to play but his body may not allow it. Jones-Drew missed last week’s game due to a hamstring strain, which still has not allowed him to practice. His veteran status has earned him the right to test the injury late in the week but, as of now, things are not looking promising. ESPN.com’s Mike DiRocco wrote this in his Thursday mailbag when asked if MJD was going to play:

“I talked to Maurice Jones-Drew on Thursday, and it doesn’t sound likely. He said he’s going to try, but it all depends on how the hamstring responds on Friday when he tests it for the first time this week. If it still doesn’t allow him to accelerate with power, prevents him from sudden changes of direction and robs him of his burst, he’s not going to play. Then we’d see another huge dose of Jordan Todman, who filled in pretty well for Jones-Drew last week.”

There you have it. Jones-Drew has a chance to play, but it appears to be a relatively slim one.

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers: Rodgers looks good. He feels good. His coach thinks he looks ready to play. He believes he is ready to play. But he does not yet have medical clearance to return. An announcement is expected Friday regarding his status for Sunday’s game, but so far this week, Matt Flynn has taken all the first-team reps. For more details on Rodgers and the Packers' injuries, click here.
Michael VickElsa/Getty ImagesIn order to be most effective, Michael Vick needs his hamstrings to be healthy.
The notoriously vague nature of hamstring injuries is frustrating for fantasy football owners, as it's difficult to project when players can return and be productive members of the lineup; furthermore, even after returning, re-injury is fairly common. Several players around the league are affected by hamstring problems heading into Week 6. Here’s what we’re hearing about their status as of Thursday.

Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: Vick strained his left hamstring in Sunday’s game on a run play, and as I noted Tuesday, it’s difficult to project a return timeline without any indication of severity. However, it must not be terribly severe, since Vick was listed as a limited participant in practice both Wednesday and Thursday. In comments on Thursday, Vick said he is improving daily, according to ESPN.com's Phil Sheridan, adding, “It’s feeling 10 times better than it did yesterday.”

Vick also hinted at being ready to go in Week 7, even if he is sidelined this weekend, something that has yet to be officially determined. While Vick does have a few more days of recovery before the game, he also seems to understand the importance of erring on the side of caution to avoid exacerbating the injury and missing more time. It’s looking like Nick Foles will get the start Sunday, but perhaps the bigger takeaway is that as of now, Vick does not appear as if he will be sidelined for long.

Miles Austin, WR, Dallas Cowboys: Austin has now missed two consecutive games because of a hamstring strain suffered in Week 3. The biggest health worry for Austin coming into the fall was that he would suffer another hamstring injury after dealing with them each of the last two seasons. That is precisely what happened, despite his -- and the team’s -- best efforts to take preventative measures in the offseason, although reports suggest this injury is not particularly severe. Still, the third such injury in three years is part of the rationale for a cautious treatment plan. Austin returned to full practice Wednesday, and practiced again Thursday, which is an encouraging sign. The Cowboys play Sunday night, and it’s unclear whether Austin will have done enough to be game-ready.

Darren McFadden and Rashad Jennings, RBs, Oakland Raiders: Jennings replaced McFadden as the starting running back Sunday night, while McFadden was sidelined with a hamstring injury suffered the week before. By halftime, Jennings had joined McFadden on the sideline, hampered by a hamstring injury of his own. Both backs took part in limited practice Wednesday, and both were back at it again Thursday, which bodes well for their availability against the Chiefs on Sunday. Since Oakland is traveling to Kansas City, fantasy owners will benefit from an early (1 p.m. ET) kickoff to help with making decisions.

Santonio Holmes, WR, New York Jets: Holmes missed the Jets’ Monday night contest due to a hamstring injury suffered in Week 4. He has not yet returned to practice, and appears likely to sit out again this week.
Danny Amendola and Rob GronkowskiAP Photo/Stephan SavoiaDanny Amendola (No. 80) and Rob Gronkowski (87) are nearing their return to the field.

Here are updates on more of the fantasy-relevant injury situations that I've been following ahead of Week 5 of the NFL season.

New England Patriots
Rob Gronkowski, TE (back/forearm): It feels like a broken record when discussing the injury status of Gronkowski and Danny Amendola; both are practicing on a limited basis, and both will likely be listed as questionable heading into Sunday's game in Cincinnati. Another week of practice means another week of confidence for Gronkowski, which seems to be one of the primary issues for him in stepping back onto the playing field. From a practice perspective, he may still be limited on reps, but Gronkowski is participating in all forms of drills. Other than facing a true opponent -- which is a legitimately different experience from practicing with teammates -- there is little left for Gronkowski to test. But after nearly a full year of recovery from various surgeries, and the setbacks associated with some of those surgeries, who can blame him for wanting to feel extra confident that he is prepared to take the field again?

After sitting out last week’s game in Atlanta, it seems unlikely Gronkowski will opt to test his readiness in Cincinnati just one week later. But a Week 6 home game in New England against the New Orleans Saints just seems more likely. It has the makings of an exciting matchup, taking place in Foxborough, where Gronkowski will be surrounded by friends and family and undoubtedly welcomed with thunderous applause. More important, he will have just passed the 16-week mark since undergoing back surgery (the operation was June 18). Three months post-surgery is typically the soonest return for an athlete after this type of procedure; this is Gronkowski's second such operation (albeit at a different spinal level). Tacking on another month's worth of additional training and conditioning can have a profound impact on confidence level.

The extra time also allows the forearm more time to adapt to the workout stresses being placed on it, which in turn helps prepare it for the in-game loads it will encounter. Of course, no one can offer a foolproof guarantee that there is zero rate of reinjury, and the last time Gronkowski set foot on a playing field, he reinjured himself. Whatever hesitancy he may be experiencing is certainly justified. Look at it this way, fantasy owners: While he's out, readying himself for his NFL return, at least Gronkowski isn't adding any new injuries to the list.

Danny Amendola, WR (groin): Meanwhile, Gronkowski's teammate Amendola continues to make progress, but is no sure bet to return in Week 5 either. He remains on a limited practice schedule as he increases the level of demand on what is certainly a still-healing adductor tear. The hardest part about gauging Amendola's return is trying to determine when the risk-reward changes so the reward of him playing outweighs the risk of reinjury. If Amendola is still lacking power or mobility (particularly with hard breaks on routes or any sharp directional changes), he runs the risk of further injury. These things are always hard to measure in practice, but even more so if the athlete is not consistently working at full speed. By Amendola's account, the progress has been substantial, but the Patriots tend to be conservative with these soft tissue injuries and Amendola's history has to make them a bit more cautious than usual. If Amendola does manage to play in Week 5, it's hard to envision him playing at full speed for a full game.

Stevan Ridley (knee) and Brandon Bolden (knee), RBs: Also among the Patriots' MASH unit is running back Stevan Ridley. Ridley bruised the area above his knee in last week's game, and has not practiced. If he has been dealing with significant swelling, the rest will move him further toward the goal of being available Sunday than trying to practice. That said, Ridley should be on the field Friday to improve his chances of playing this week. Meanwhile, Brandon Bolden has been a regular on the injury report because of his knee and so far this week, he has been kept to limited practices. The fact that he has been a participant to some degree bodes well for his chances of suiting up this weekend, barring a setback.

Indianapolis Colts
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB (neck): The news for Bradshaw is not good. He was held out of Sunday's game after suffering a neck injury in the Week 3 contest against the San Francisco 49ers, and the word from the Colts was that he was still being evaluated. The evaluative process continued into this week, as Bradshaw traveled to California for a consultation with noted spine surgeon Dr. Robert Watkins (who operated on both Peyton Manning and Rob Gronkowski). According to ESPN.com reports, Bradshaw is still undecided about surgery, but in the meantime, he has yet to practice since the injury. Last year, Bradshaw suffered a neck injury in Week 2 which caused tingling in his hands. He underwent a battery of tests and later revealed the injury to be a bulging disc.

"It's pretty much like an inflamed disc, and it's just sitting right on the spinal cord, I guess," Bradshaw told the Newark Star-Ledger at the time. After the symptoms subsided, Bradshaw was cleared to return to play but he knew then the symptoms could return at some point. The Colts have not indicated whether this current injury is related to the problem Bradshaw had last year, but it would certainly make sense, particularly given the chronic nature of disc injuries. These injuries can go through quiet phases, not provoking any symptoms, until there is an event which triggers a worsening of the injury and an inflammatory reaction. While Bradshaw considers his options, fantasy owners should consider whom they would choose to replace him for this week and, quite possibly, for the remainder of the season.

Oakland Raiders
Darren McFadden (hamstring) and Marcel Reece (knee), RBs: McFadden left Sunday's game in the first half with a right hamstring injury, and only returned to the sideline as an observer for the second half. Although the Raiders did not specify the severity of the injury, McFadden's absence from practice is telling. He is no stranger to lower extremity injuries and has missed numerous games throughout his career as a result. Although McFadden entered the season healthy, it seemed only a matter of time before another soft tissue injury cropped up. One month into the season, McFadden is contending with a hamstring ailment and looks to be in danger of missing at least Week 5, if not longer. The Raiders will play in an unusually late Sunday night game (the result of sharing a stadium with the Oakland Athletics, who will host a playoff game hours before), so fantasy owners should make alternate plans in advance.

Reece also left Sunday's game early with a non-specific knee injury (sprain) that warranted an MRI, but he returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday, then followed it up with another limited practice Thursday. Apparently the injury is not as serious as it first appeared, and with McFadden likely out, Reece's availability as a complement to Rashad Jennings becomes more important.

Green Bay Packers
Eddie Lacy, (concussion) and Johnathan Franklin (foot), RBs: Lacy suffered a concussion on his first carry of Week 2, and was held out of the following game. The Packers had a bye in Week 4, giving Lacy some additional down time. Coach Mike McCarthy indicated prior to the Week 3 game that Lacy had made good progress, so it came as no surprise that he was back practicing with his teammates this week. In fact, Lacy has been a full participant and barring a setback, he'll play this Sunday.

With James Starks already ruled out, Franklin would figure to be next in line behind Lacy, but he is dealing with an injury of his own, a foot ailment suffered late in the Week 3 game where he replaced the injured Starks. Franklin was able to practice fully both Wednesday and Thursday and should be available for Sunday's contest against the Lions.

Jermichael Finley, TE (concussion): Finley suffered a concussion in Week 3, then provided some insight into just how sobering an experience that can be when he posted a video describing the event on his personal website. As ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky pointed out, Finley's video was the first time that the media had heard from him following the injury. In his video, Finley talks about the play where the injury occurred, and the initial symptoms he experienced after regaining consciousness, which included visual disturbances and balance issues. Finley has made great improvements since the injury, as evidenced by his clearance to return to football activity after passing numerous tests. As Demovsky reports, Finley called the testing process a "long haul," but seems to appreciate the steps that are in place, perhaps as a result of his personal encounter with a head injury. "You have to do several things to get back, and you have to respect the league for doing it," Finley said. "It's much respect from me."

Kansas City Chiefs
Jamaal Charles, RB (toes): Charles popped up on the injury report with the body part listed as "toes," presumably because of the "extensive blisters" coach Andy Reid described after the Week 4 game. ESPN.com's Adam Teicher reports that Charles participated in the team walk-through Wednesday despite not formally practicing, a good sign for his likelihood of playing Sunday against the Titans. Charles was upgraded to limited practice Thursday, and appears to be on track for Week 5.
Jackson-SpillerAP Photo, Getty ImagesBoth Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller are dealing with injuries heading in the Bills' Thursday night game.
Here's a look at some key injuries in the fantasy football world that we'll be following ahead of Week 5 of the NFL season.

C.J. Spiller (ankle) and Fred Jackson (knee), RBs, Buffalo Bills: Spiller came into the Week 4 contest fresh off a quad injury but practiced daily leading up to the game, hinting at a swift recovery. By the second half of Sunday’s game, however, Spiller had another ailment. With the Bills’ next contest slated for Thursday, just four days later, Spiller is now dealing with an ankle injury and sat out practice Monday.

Spiller has indicated that he hopes to play in Week 5, not an unreasonable possibility given that he returned to Sunday’s game after the injury. However, the short turnaround doesn't allow much recovery time, and even Spiller said he’d like to get to 80-85 percent to be well enough to play. It begs the question as to just how much fantasy owners can expect from what will certainly be a less-than-fully-healthy Spiller, if he takes the field. “The last two games I haven’t even completed a half,” Spiller noted, according to the Bills’ official website.

As for Jackson, he sustained a sprain of the medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his right knee. This is not a first for Jackson, who suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain in the same knee last December and ended up missing the Bills’ final three games. "I sprained my MCL again, but it's not as significant [as in the past]," Jackson said. He did practice on a limited basis Monday and expects to be ready to go by Thursday night. Both running backs will enter Thursday’s game at less than 100 percent and on short rest, not an ideal scenario.

Darren McFadden (hamstring) and Marcel Reece (knee), RBs, Oakland Raiders: Another team, another tandem of running backs impacted by injury. McFadden injured his hamstring in the first half of Sunday’s game and the sight of him in street clothes in the second half made it clear he would not return. Reece injured his knee in the same game, but a subsequent MRI indicated his is a non-surgical situation. Coach Dennis Allen has not given any hints as to whether he expects either or both backs to be available this week, saying it’s “too early to speculate.” That won’t stop fantasy owners from speculating about the possible scenarios they’ll have to contend with if both RBs sit out, which includes the prospect of Rashad Jennings taking the lead.

Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins (ribs): Morris gingerly exited the field Sunday and looked to be in a fair amount of discomfort on the sideline. The injury was reported as a rib contusion and Morris did not return. X-rays were reportedly negative but even the absence of a fracture does not necessarily diminish the pain associated with a bruising shot to the ribs. Morris admitted to being “a little tender,” and perhaps the greatest point in his favor is that the Redskins have a bye in Week 5. Given his level of discomfort, he very well could have been forced to sit this week out. Expect little in the way of updates on Morris over the next seven days, as the primary focus for him is likely to be rest. Look for news once pregame practices and injury reports resume for the Redskins in advance of Week 6.

Santonio Holmes, WR, New York Jets (hamstring): Holmes has been a little slow to get started this season in his return from Lisfranc surgery, and it’s going to get even slower. Holmes injured his hamstring in Sunday’s game and it looks as if it’s going to sideline him for an extended period. ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini reports the Jets will sign veteran wide receiver David Nelson in anticipation of Holmes missing extended time.
Week 14 is in the books. Unfortunately for those of you still playing meaningful games this fantasy football season, your player options may have decreased yet again as more players were lost to injury.

The biggest injury news of the weekend centers on one Robert Griffin III, the exciting rookie quarterback for the Washington Redskins. He suffered a knee injury in Sunday's game while making one of his signature scrambles. The video of Griffin's leg whipping through the air looked frighteningly violent, causing many to fear he had suffered a significant injury. Fortunately, that was not the case. On Monday, Griffin underwent an MRI, which revealed his injury to be a Grade 1 lateral collateral ligament (LCL) sprain. Coach Mike Shanahan informed reporters of the injury, noting that Griffin's ACL, which he had surgically reconstructed in 2009, looked "great." Shanahan said Griffin will be evaluated "day by day," and the team is hopeful his knee will improve quickly with rehab.

As for the nature of Griffin's injury, given the mechanism of the hit, it's not surprising that he sustained an injury to the LCL, the outer-most primary stabilizing ligament of the knee. He took a hit to the body and thigh from Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata as he was in the process of falling, with his right leg whipping forward. The blow resulted in an abrupt stop to the forward momentum of his thigh, but the lower leg continued on its trajectory, snapping to a hard stop when the soft tissue restraints that guard the movement became taut. Perhaps Griffin is most fortunate that his leg was in the air when this happened. Had he absorbed a similar blow with his foot planted, the consequences would likely have been far worse.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Doug Kapustin/MCT/Getty ImagesRobert Griffin III's knee wrapped around the back of Ravens DT Haloti Ngata during the hit.
The LCL can be injured when an athlete takes a blow to the inside of the knee; it also can be injured during a hyperextension or rotational injury. Griffin's knee was extending and slightly rotating at the same time he encountered the blow to his thigh. The biggest concern with these injuries is damage to any surrounding structures on the lateral and particularly the posterolateral aspect (the back outside corner) of the knee. Structures in this area that lie close to the LCL help control stability in that quadrant of the knee, an area that is subject to high biomechanical forces during normal movement. Any lingering instability can be threatening to the overall health of the knee. The best news in Griffin's case is that this sprain is of the most minor (Grade 1) variety.

An isolated minor sprain has a good chance of healing with restricted motion (via bracing) and rest to protect the ligament. Griffin also will engage in rehab to help with pain and swelling while restoring normal joint mobility. The criteria for his return will include his ability to demonstrate that he can perform at his position without significant compromise and without increasing the risk of more substantial injury. As a running quarterback, he will not be encouraged to return if he cannot run, change direction or decelerate normally. Beyond this aspect of his game being part of his DNA as a quarterback, a player who is thinking about accommodating his style of play to avoid injury suddenly becomes more of an injury risk, not to mention he's often less effective.



Shanahan says they will see how Griffin looks Wednesday but indicated that as of now, no decision has been made as to who will be the starting quarterback Sunday. It would not be surprising if Griffin is forced to sit out, given the rationale noted above. It's also worth remembering that everyone heals at different rates, and no two injuries are identical. And as the Redskins are no doubt appreciating this week, Griffin's case also serves as a reminder that no matter how nasty an injury looks at first glance on video, it may not always be indicative of how severe the injury actually is.

Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey announced Monday that running back Fred Jackson is done for the season and has been placed on IR. Jackson suffered a Grade 2 sprain of the medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his right knee Sunday. Gailey noted that the recovery timetable for Jackson's injury is likely closer to 4-5 weeks, longer than the time left in the regular season. This is the same knee he injured in Week 1 when he sustained an LCL sprain and missed two weeks -- hmm, maybe RG III should chat with Jackson about what he did to return from that injury -- and this is also the same leg in which Jackson suffered a fractured fibula which prematurely ended his 2011 campaign.

With regard to his latest injury, Jackson shared the following thoughts with ESPN's Josina Anderson: "Technically it's a tear off the bone, because you tear the ligament away from the bone. So that's why some people say it's a tear, but the ligament itself is intact. It's just pulled away from the bone a little." We're sorry to see his second season in a row ended by an injury after playing all 16 games in each of the three previous seasons. In the meantime, C.J. Spiller will undoubtedly get a bump in his workload.

• Tight end Jared Cook of the Tennessee Titans also has played his last game of the 2012 season. Cook left Sunday's game with a right shoulder injury. Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean later reported that Cook had torn his rotator cuff and is done for the year. Cook had a left shoulder injury early in the season, an AC sprain which had him in a sling briefly, but he did not miss a game. Unfortunately, he will now miss the rest of the season, and coach Mike Munchak indicated that Cook will be placed on IR.

• Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe suffered broken ribs in Sunday's game and already has been ruled out for Sunday's game, according to the Kansas City Star. He may, in fact, be done for the season. The Star suggests that it also could signal the end of his time with the Chiefs.

As we head into Week 15 ...

[+] EnlargeDez Bryant
AP Photo/Sharon EllmanDez Bryant's status for Sunday is not yet known.
• Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant suffered a fractured index finger in his left hand Sunday, an injury that could end his season. According to ESPN's Ed Werder, Bryant has met with a hand specialist. The decision comes down to whether Bryant requires surgery now, or whether this is an issue he can play through, allowing him to postpone the surgery. While a broken finger might not sound like the worst injury in the world, the reality is that a resultant deformity or lack of normal motion could impact a receiver permanently. This is not insignificant, which probably is the reason there has been no official decision made as of this writing.

• Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was again forced to leave a game early, this time because of a neck injury. Speaking on his weekly radio show on ESPN1000 Monday, Cutler described his neck as "stiff" and said he was "getting spasms" during the game. He is currently receiving treatment and said he expects to be able to play this week, "unless something drastic happens."

New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw was in and out of Sunday's game because of a left knee injury. Coach Tom Coughlin said Bradshaw underwent an MRI and other tests Monday, but there has been no word yet as to the results. When Bradshaw injured his neck early in the season, the results of his tests were not immediately shared either. It was Bradshaw who later indicated he had an "inflamed disc" in his neck. Perhaps he will share an update on his knee later this week. In any event, don't expect Bradshaw to practice Wednesday since he usually sits out. Barring the emergence of definitive information to rule him out, Bradshaw's status could once again come down to a late-week decision.

• Concussions have forced the absence of several key players for the Philadelphia Eagles for a few weeks, and now they can add tight end Brent Celek to the list. Celek suffered a concussion during Sunday's game and will not play Thursday night. As for the health of quarterback Michael Vick and running back LeSean McCoy, it appears both are making progress. Both are engaging to a limited degree in practice, and according to Eagles head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder, Vick is now in the final phase (Phase 5) of the Eagles' concussion recovery protocol. Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports neither is likely to play Thursday despite not officially being listed as "out" yet by the Eagles. Both players still need to be cleared by an independent neurologist and both need to re-introduce contact. Burkholder has implemented a mandatory 24-hour waiting period to monitor whether symptoms recur after advancing within the protocol. Given the short week, it's likely that both will miss another game, though if all progresses well, both could be available in Week 16 (although in Vick's case it will be in a backup role, as Nick Foles has been named the starter going forward).

• Despite re-aggravating his ankle injury in last week's game, Raiders running back Darren McFadden was in practice Monday and moving well, according to Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times. He appears on track to play this weekend.

• Coach Mike McCarthy has hope that Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson will return from his injured hamstring this week. Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports McCarthy says Nelson is improving. That may be, but we know the true test comes with full-speed running. Keep an eye on practice reports this week to gauge Nelson's progress, but right now it's too early to realistically project his return. Remember this is the recurrence of a prior hamstring injury for Nelson, so it would not be surprising if the team is cautious.

• As the Florida Times-Union reported, coach Mike Mularkey was not available for his usual Monday news conference due to illness, so there was no update on the status of running back Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) or wide receiver Cecil Shorts (concussion).

Broncos-Raiders injury report

December, 6, 2012
12/06/12
11:14
AM ET


It's fantasy football playoff time in most leagues, so the choices of whom to start and sit become ever more important. This week, a big-name running back is expected to return to action, but his presence could make a fantasy owner's lineup decisions even more difficult.

Here are the players we're talking about for Thursday night's contest between the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders.

Darren McFadden, ankle; Marcel Reece, hamstring/quadriceps; Mike Goodson, ankle; Taiwan Jones, ankle, RBs, Oakland Raiders, (P): One thing is clear: The Raiders expect to have a stable of backs available to participate Thursday night. It only clouds the picture for fantasy owners who are likely agonizing over the decision of whom to start in this playoff week. With that in mind, here are the things to consider with regard to the injury-plagued Raiders backfield.

McFadden and Goodson have been out for an identical period of time (four weeks) with high ankle sprains. After practicing on a limited basis last week and appearing as if they had a chance to play, both players were ultimately held out of Sunday's game. Presumably the prospect of another game just four days later contributed to that decision. Both McFadden and Goodson put in limited practice Tuesday and full practice Wednesday this week. Both are expected to be active Thursday night against Denver. Goodson has never topped more than four carries in a game, although he did contribute some as a pass-catcher before Reece's emergence.

Reece has been shouldering the load with McFadden and Goodson sidelined. He has been effective both running and catching the ball despite not scoring since Week 9. The work has taken a toll on Reece's legs, however, and he has been fighting through a sore hamstring for several weeks. This week, he added a sore quad to the list of ailments. After practicing fully on Wednesday, Reece was listed as probable, indicating the team expects to have him. He's certainly not going to be removed from the offense after his performance over the past few weeks, but the presence of McFadden in particular is likely to cut into his numbers. It would seem McFadden and Reece are in line for the bulk of the touches with Goodson coming in somewhere behind them. The Raiders may wish to ease McFadden back into game action to see how he responds.

Jones is likely not in the mix for anyone's fantasy team and does not present a real threat in terms of stealing touches. Jones saw very limited action when both Goodson and McFadden were out, so it's likely we'll see even less on Thursday. To further that notion, one needs to go back only two weeks ago, when coach Dennis Allen said Jones would need to demonstrate some improvements before being entrusted with a bigger workload. According to the Contra Costa Times, Allen said, "He's got to prove to us that he can stay healthy, that he's got to know what to do on every single play and he's got to protect the football." That's a lot to prove.

Brandon Myers, TE, Oakland Raiders, shoulder, (P): Myers has proved to be a nice surprise at tight end for fantasy owners and has become a favored target for Carson Palmer. He has been on the injury report in recent weeks with a concussion (sustained in Week 11) and a shoulder injury (since before Week 13) but hasn't missed a game. In fact, last week Myers saw the most targets in a game of his entire season and notched more than 100 yards receiving as a result. After a limited practice Tuesday, he resumed full practice Wednesday. Designated as probable, is expected to play.

Brandon Stokley, WR, Denver Broncos, hip, (Q): Stokley missed Sunday's game with a hip injury, and it does not appear four additional days will be enough to allow him to play Thursday. Stokley, according to the Denver Post, isn't sure how he injured his hip, but he has been limited in practice again this week. If he does not play, the biggest beneficiary of his absence may be tight end Jacob Tamme, just as he was on Sunday when he recorded a season-high nine catches. Be sure to check pregame inactives to verify Stokley's status.



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

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

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

As we head into Week 14:

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

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



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



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



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



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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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

Running Backs

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

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



Wide Receivers

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

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

Quick Hits


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jennings ready to return

November, 27, 2012
11/27/12
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With Week 12 in the books, it's almost playoff time -- fantasy football playoff time, that is -- so returning players who may be able to help spark a roster immediately are key. With that in mind, we begin this week by turning our attention to one such player, a wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers who is itching to get back on the playing field after a seven-game absence.

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

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

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

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

As we head into Week 13 ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



This is an unusual week with three games taking place on Thursday because of Thanksgiving. Six teams are dealing with the challenge of recovery in a four-day window as we move into Week 12.



Houston Texans at Detroit Lions

Out

Titus Young, WR, Detroit Lions (not injury related, knee): Young was sent home from the Lions' facility at the start of the week by coach Jim Schwartz for "repeated selfish behavior," according to the Detroit Free Press. He has been on the injury report because of his knee for several weeks now but that seems to have improved. Now he needs to work on his attitude.

Other injuries

Ben Tate, RB, Houston Texans (hamstring): Tate has missed several games because of injuries to his toe and his hamstring. In late October coach Gary Kubiak indicated it would be a while before Tate would be ready to return to game action. Three weeks later and he has yet to return. Initially, Kubiak said Tate had "a good chance" for that return to happen Thursday, but after not participating Tuesday, his status remains unclear. The Texans' official website indicates he will be a game-time decision, but given he's been out for nearly a month, it's hard to count on Tate even if he does go.

Owen Daniels, TE, Houston Texans (back): Daniels was active last Sunday even though his back was not 100 percent recovered. The hope is that a light practice week helps move him along further. Daniels is expected to play again Thursday.

Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions (knee/thumb): Johnson has been on a limited practice regimen for weeks, and the pattern continues. His productivity has increased over the past couple of weeks as well with Johnson seeing the end zone in each of the past two games. Fantasy owners hope that pattern continues.

Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys

Out

Brandon Meriweather, S, Washington Redskins (knee): It's a very tough break for Meriweather, who in his first game of the season (he had missed time because of problems with his left knee) tore his right ACL. He has been placed on injured reserve.

Other injuries

Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington Redskins (foot): Garcon returned to action last week and was able to emerge from that game no worse for the wear. His contribution from a fantasy perspective was invisible, but head coach Mike Shanahan insists Garcon's presence on the field represents a big-play threat. Right now, that threat may be limited as Garcon tries to play through an injury that is not truly healed. The combination of extended rest, treatment and a shoe insert to support his damaged toe did allow him to get through his first game in weeks without incident. Shanahan notes that the turf in Cowboys Stadium may present an additional challenge for Garcon's sensitive foot, however, making his status questionable for Thursday. He is expected to test his toe pregame before a final decision is made.

DeMarco Murray (foot) and Felix Jones (knee), RB, Dallas Cowboys: Murray is still limited to working on the side and has not resumed practicing with the team. Last week we said a return Thursday would be unlikely and that remains the case. The week to watch will be Week 13 as Murray will have had an additional 10 days to increase his workload. Meanwhile, Jones was out of practice Tuesday after injuring his knee last Sunday. This is not the same knee that has been bothering him for weeks. As coach Jason Garrett told the Dallas Morning News, "He was dealing with a knee going into last week and hurt his other knee in the ballgame." The Cowboys are taking it day by day -- as if there is any other choice -- and will have to wait to see if Jones will be well enough to take the field Thursday. Otherwise, Lance Dunbar could be in line to start for the Cowboys on Thanksgiving.

Kevin Ogletree, WR, Dallas Cowboys (concussion): Ogletree suffered a concussion in Week 11 and has not practiced so far this week. His status for Thursday appears to be in doubt.

New England Patriots at New York Jets

[+] EnlargeRob Gronkowski
AP/Michael DwyerPatriots tight end Rob Gronkowski won't be doing any spiking for a while.
Rob Gronkowski (forearm/hip) and Aaron Hernandez (ankle), TE, New England Patriots: Gronkowski is not listed yet as "out," but after undergoing surgery Monday to repair a fractured left forearm, it is safe to say we won't be seeing him. The team has not confirmed which bone was broken (there are two in the forearm, the radius and the ulna, and either one or both can be fractured, depending on the mechanism), although the ulna -- which runs from the elbow towards the fifth (pinkie) finger -- is most vulnerable and most commonly broken on blocking plays in football. Assuming the fracture was not comminuted (multiple pieces) and did not involve the joint but was limited to the shaft of the bone itself, repair is fairly straightforward. Surgical stabilization with a plate is typically done to help facilitate the healing process and then the bone does the rest. It bears repeating that bone tends to heal well in an otherwise healthy individual and the timetable is generally consistent (approximately six weeks). Clearance for contact requires evidence of callus formation on imaging (a sign the bone is repairing itself, which is usually evident around four weeks, give or take) and players can return with a protective shell around the forearm as long as it is wrapped and padded. Gronkowski will be able to maintain his aerobic conditioning and, if the wrist is not involved, he can begin to work with the wrist and hand shortly. Contact is the last element permitted and it all depends on the healing status of the bone. If all goes well (and if Gronkowski's injury is of the least complicated variety as described above), a return within four weeks is not out of the question. Additional time could be required depending on the healing process.

Meanwhile, Hernandez appears on track to return Thursday after continuing his limited participation in practice. Hernandez has not taken the field since the last time the Patriots faced the Jets in Week 7, and with Gronkowski sidelined, his return will be welcomed. As to how much the team looks to him in his first game back since exiting for the second time because of his ankle, it remains to be seen.

Wes Welker (ankle) and Brandon Lloyd (knee), WR, New England Patriots: Both receivers are expected to play Thursday just as they did Sunday despite their presence on the injury report. Their limitation in practice early this week is to be expected given the short turnaround between games.

Jeremy Kerley, WR, New York Jets (hamstring/heel): Kerley was on the injury report last week with these ailments and despite his very questionable status, he was active. His productivity was limited and his practice so far this week has been limited as well. According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Kerley has soreness as a result of his game play Sunday and he will be a game-time decision for Thursday night.

Beyond Thursday

Concussions

This is also a week where a large number of players are on the injury report because of concussions. As is the case with all concussions, there is no ability to predict the exact timetable for recovery. Even players who make progress during the week may not meet all the necessary criteria to be cleared to play in a game. Just ask San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who suffered a concussion in Week 10, returned to limited practice during the week but was not cleared to play for a Monday night game. Two other starting quarterbacks, Jay Cutler and Michael Vick, also were sidelined this past week because of concussion. Not one is a lock to play in Week 12; the teams maintain, properly, that their status is day-to-day. In addition to the quarterbacks, several other key fantasy players have recently suffered concussions. Their status is also in question for Week 12. While it is not possible to guarantee when any of the concussed players will return, they are listed below as a means of reminding fantasy owners who they need to keep an eye on as game day approaches.

[+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
AP Photo/Brian GarfinkelThis is definitely not what LeSean McCoy owners or Eagles fans wanted to see.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: McCoy suffered a concussion late in Sunday's game. While the Eagles' Monday night appearance will grant him an extra day to recover, he still must complete all of the necessary requirements before he can return to game play. Fantasy owners may want to secure Bryce Brown.



Donnie Avery, WR, Indianapolis Colts: Avery was among those suffering concussion injuries Sunday. He'll be one more to monitor throughout the week.

Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills: Jackson is reportedly feeling better this week and so far is on track to return to play. Coach Chan Gailey told the Bills' official website that Jackson was going through the final phases of the concussion protocol. He practiced Wednesday and is cleared to play Sunday. After C.J. Spiller's impressive performance last Thursday night while Jackson was out with the injury, it's not clear how the load would be divided this week.



Isaac Redman, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers' running back corps cannot seem to get through a week without being dealt an injury blow. This week it was Redman who was the victim, suffering a concussion against the Ravens. According to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, coach Mike Tomlin is optimistic about Redman's chances for this week. We will see.

Dennis Pitta, TE, Baltimore Ravens: Pitta suffered a concussion early in Sunday's game against the Steelers but on an encouraging note, his symptoms reportedly subsided quickly. Count him among the many who will be going through a battery of tests this week.



More injuries to watch

Running Backs:

Darren Sproles, New Orleans Saints (hand): Sproles didn't play last week but he was very close. Close enough in fact, to have traveled with the team to Oakland and been a game-time decision. The Saints held him out because of persistent swelling in his left hand on which he had surgery three weeks earlier to repair a fracture. He did practice fully leading up to the game and assuming he does so again this week and that the swelling is down, you have to like his chances of participating Sunday.

Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos (knee): McGahee knows a thing or two about knee injuries, but his instincts were a little off last weekend. McGahee thought the injury he suffered in Sunday's game wasn't serious but as it turns out, it was serious enough to end his regular season. McGahee suffered a torn MCL and a compression fracture in his right knee, according to the Denver Post. He is non-weightbearing on crutches and will have to patiently wait for his body to heal. The Broncos placed on injured reserve/designated to return, meaning he would be able for the postseason.



Wide Receivers:

[+] EnlargeJulio Jones
Josh D. Weiss/US PresswireJulio Jones was already a game-time decision heading into last week, and could be even more of a question mark this week.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons (ankle): Jones lobbied to play Sunday despite not being able to practice all week with his injured ankle. He managed three receptions before aggravating the ankle and exiting early. The question is just how much of a setback Jones suffered and will he be able to overcome it to play again this Sunday? Until the Falcons issue practice reports this week, there won't be any indication as to how much activity he can do, but there might be more resistance to playing Jones this week if he cannot participate.



Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs (neck): Bowe injured his neck in Sunday's game and his status for this week is uncertain. Coach Romeo Crennel would not rule him out just yet according to the Kansas City Star, but he also offered no details on the injury or any assurances Bowe would play. As of now that gives fantasy owners very little to go on other than making sure to have a plug-in for Bowe this week.

Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears (knee): After missing more than a month with a fractured bone in his right hand, Jeffrey returned to action this week only to injure his knee. He is scheduled to undergo arthroscopic surgery Wednesday and Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times reports he is projected to miss anywhere from two to four weeks. Players often have to combat the return of swelling as they are reintroduced to football activity following even a minor scope (see: Donald Brown) so consider four weeks a more realistic timeframe.

Quick Hits


Minnesota Vikings receiver Percy Harvin had the bye week to rest his sprained ankle after sitting out Week 10 but is still dealing with soreness. Only two weeks removed from a sprain that Harvin described as being "in three places," residual soreness is not unusual. According to 1500ESPN.com, coach Leslie Frazier said the swelling is mostly resolved and he hopes to get Harvin back in practice Wednesday. Harvin's activity level by the end of the week will go a long way in determining the confidence level for him to not only play but stay in the game this Sunday against the Bears. There's no doubting Harvin's toughness (he has played through ankle injuries and performed well in the past) but it's a matter of functionality (can he run, stop sharply, cut, pivot) and risk of re-injury. After all, Falcons receiver Julio Jones was convincing enough to get in the game last week despite his ankle injury but was forced out early after aggravating it while playing.
Addendum: Harvin was not able to practice Wednesday generating a little more cause for concern related to his status for Sunday.

New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw was a participant in practice Monday. There was no extensive explanation of Bradshaw's test results performed during the bye week after his neck was a problem for him again in Week 10 (Bradshaw experienced neck-related symptoms in Week 2 and was later diagnosed with a bulging disc in his neck). According to Jenny Vrentas of the Newark Star-Ledger, he confirmed that he had repeat X-rays of his neck that came back "clean." It's not necessarily surprising that X-rays would be unremarkable; there is likely more to his clinical scenario than is being shared. In any case, his presence in practice has to be taken as an encouraging sign because he was obviously cleared to be there. Don't be surprised if Bradshaw is granted some of his usual down time during the week but as of yet, there is nothing to suggest he is in danger of sitting in Week 12.

[+] EnlargeBeanie Wells
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesBeanie Wells is taking advantage of the new rule that allows certain players to return after being placed on injured reserve.
Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells will be activated this week, according to the team's official website. Wells was placed on the injured reserve/designated for return list when he suffered a turf toe injury earlier this year. Wells is expected to play Sunday when the Cardinals host the St. Louis Rams. As noted last week, Wells has been practicing with the team and is eager to return to play. The Cardinals have to be hoping he can proceed without issue through the remainder of the season. While his toe may not be perfect, his legs should be fresh given that he has not seen game action (and therefore contact) since Week 3.

• Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger (sternoclavicular joint/first rib) and Byron Leftwich (multiple rib fractures) are incapacitated this week. Roethlisberger was injured a week ago Monday and while his injury was serious (and undoubtedly excruciatingly painful), it was not necessarily a season-ender. In fact, if his healing progresses well, it's conceivable that Roethlisberger could rejoin the team in December. Leftwich, filling in for Roethlisberger in Week 11, sustained multiple broken ribs and will not be under center this Sunday. The starting quarterback for the Steelers in Week 12 will be Charlie Batch.

• Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola left Sunday's game briefly after appearing to injure his foot. He did return to finish the game but was reportedly seen limping afterward. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, coach Jeff Fisher expressed some concern about Amendola, given his soreness in what is being called a foot/heel injury. His practice status will be something to monitor throughout the week. Amendola has proven to be so talented when on the field but the injuries seem to keep piling up.

• Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is making progress from the high ankle sprain he suffered in Week 9. He has not yet been ruled out for Sunday's game and it remains to be seen whether he can ramp up to full practice this week. A big test will be whether Brown can pivot and break to the inside, a movement that stresses the injured region of the ankle. With Jerricho Cotchery out with rib fractures, the Steelers have signed receiver Plaxico Burress. This team started the season off with a running back carousel as a result of injuries; it now seems like the quarterbacks and receivers are following suit.

Oakland Raiders running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson were both absent in Week 11 because of their respective high ankle sprains. Goodson has not done much outside of his regular rehab work. McFadden did test the ankle running last week so it will be interesting to see if he can increase his activity level and return to practice. Even if McFadden isn't quite ready to return Sunday against the Bengals it sounds as if he may not be too far off.

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew suggested he was a couple of weeks from returning last week. In other words don't expect him this Sunday, something coach Mike Mularkey echoed on the Jaguars' official website.



Week 9 is in the books! This feels like that time of year when the grueling toll of the season begins to make itself widely felt. A number of players left last week's games with new injuries, aggravations of prior injuries or some variation of a new injury superimposed on a not fully recovered injury. While a couple of those with new ailments look as if they might not miss any time (Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles and Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo), others seem likely to miss a week if not more (Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown, Minnesota Vikings WR Percy Harvin, and Oakland Raiders RBs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson).



In the meantime, many of the key running backs who have suffered foot injuries in recent weeks (DeMarco Murray Maurice Jones-Drew, Cedric Benson) continue their rehabilitation efforts but with no specific return date on the horizon. None of these backs is expected for this week (Benson and Jones-Drew are definitely out, and ESPN's Ed Werder reported Tuesday that the Dallas Cowboys do not expect to have Murray this Sunday).

There are still plenty of folks we're keeping an eye on as we head into Week 10.

[+] EnlargeMcFadden
Cary Edmondson/US PresswireOnce again, Darren McFadden has gone down with an injury that could keep him out multiple weeks.
Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson, RBs, Oakland Raiders (high ankle sprains): Both running backs left Sunday's game with similar injuries. McFadden was tackled during a run. On video, he appeared to rotate his foot outward relative to his lower leg, the hallmark mechanism for a high ankle sprain. Although there has been no word as to the severity of the injury, it may be to his benefit that his foot was not squarely planted in the ground when it happened. Still, with the known history of lower-extremity injuries McFadden has dealt with in his career, any additional incident raises concern. His teammate Goodson was also forced out of the game with a similar injury in the third quarter. (Goodson had been dealing with a turf toe injury throughout the week heading into Sunday's game.)

As of now, it would appear that Marcel Reece and Taiwan Jones will be responsible for the workload in the near future, but how much time McFadden and Goodson could miss -- if any -- is anyone's guess. The severity of their injuries will be as important as the injuries' location to determine how long they'll be out. As of yet, the Raiders have not revealed anything. Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times reports that McFadden has not yet been ruled out for Week 10. Of course, many a fantasy owner remembers when he was not ruled out in advance of multiple games last season, and thus might be suspicious. At this point, there's not enough information to suggest this injury is on the same order of severity as last year's, but it would make sense to plan on a backup nevertheless.



Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings (ankle): Harvin went into Week 9 with hamstring concerns -- and he appeared to be laboring during the game -- but he exited with a new, more significant injury. Harvin sprained his left ankle "in three different places," according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and is experiencing swelling and pain. Harvin was on crutches Monday to protect him from bearing weight on the injured limb, and while he wouldn't declare himself out for this week's game, he admitted his chances of playing are slim. The report that he sprained the ankle in three different places suggests that he has multiple injured ligaments, which explains the substantial pain and swelling, but also hints at greater instability. No specific grading of the injury was offered, but Harvin's appearance and description indicate this is more than a mild injury. Even though the MRI showed no fracture, the extent of soft tissue damage and associated instability can still project a multiweek absence. The Vikings do have a bye upcoming in Week 11 and it would be a big surprise if Harvin plays beforehand.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (neck): Charles was forced out of last Thursday night's game with what the Chiefs called a neck injury. Charles did tell the Kansas City Star he was tested for a possible concussion, so it will be worth monitoring how he responds to practice during the week. The Chiefs don't play until Monday night, which is good in that it gives Charles the benefit of an extra day, but it also means no official injury report is due from the team until Thursday. As of now, it does look favorable for Charles to suit up in Week 10.

Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys (back): Romo injured his back late in the Sunday night game and there were multiple reports of him walking "gingerly" afterward. On Monday, head coach Jason Garrett told reporters Romo was feeling much better. On Tuesday, ESPN's Ed Werder reported the Cowboys expect Romo to play in Week 10.

Donald Brown, RB, Indianapolis Colts (knee): Brown was downgraded Saturday after experiencing swelling in his surgically repaired knee. He recovered to the point of being activated for Sunday's game, but the pain and swelling recurred, forcing Brown to the sideline early. With only four days until the Colts' next game, it would not be a surprise if he is out. There is also a chance he could rest for four days and still be active (though he did not practice Tuesday, also considered the "big" practice day for Thursday night games), but the bulk of the workload would still likely shift to Vick Ballard.

Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (ankle): Brown was the first to say he had suffered a high ankle sprain, and his assessment was later confirmed by coach Mike Tomlin, who called it "mild." Nonetheless, Brown is doubtful for Monday night's game against the Chiefs and was kind enough to share that tidbit early (Tomlin also said running back Jonathan Dwyer should return Monday) so that fantasy owners could make the proper adjustments. Well, perhaps that wasn't his reasoning, but it's still nice to get an early jump on fill-ins. In Pittsburgh, they know all about filling in at the running back position and now will get a taste of it at wide receiver. More Emmanuel Sanders, perhaps. As for how long the Steelers will be without Brown, that is not yet clear, but given that even Brown initially thought he might be able to play this week, it sounds like they anticipate a short absence.

Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers (hamstring/ankle): Nelson missed Week 8 because of a hamstring strain but was deemed healthy enough to go in Week 9 after testing the leg in a Friday workout. He never had a chance to make an impact as he went down with an ankle injury in the first quarter of Sunday's game while trying to make a catch. The Packers fortunately have a bye this week and coach Mike McCarthy sounds confident Nelson will be ready by Week 11.

[+] EnlargeJohnson
Brett Davis/US PresswireA thigh injury slowed down Steve Johnson in an already tough matchup against the Texans.
Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills (thigh): Johnson suffered a bruised thigh early in Sunday's game and tried to play through it but struggled. For those who might wonder why something as seemingly benign as a bruise should limit a high-level athlete, it's important to remember that a bruise involves bleeding. If there is bleeding into a contained area of soft tissue, like the thigh, it makes the tissue very tight and the athlete is unable to fully extend (lengthen) the involved muscle or fully contract it. And it hurts. The result is a shorter stride length, sometimes an apparent dragging of the leg, a loss of burst and power, and early fatigue. Johnson essentially said as much after the game, telling the Bills' official website, "I couldn't run down the passes or elevate when I needed to. It just wasn't working so I had to come out." The good news is that this should respond well to treatment and hopefully resolve quickly. Bills head coach Chan Gailey said he expects to have Johnson on the field in Week 10, even if he is not able to practice early in the week.

Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions (knee): Johnson played despite not practicing all week with a sore knee and racked up his third-highest yardage total of the season. Given the team's success at managing his knee during the week and still garnering a favorable Sunday outcome, expect the pattern to continue. There has been no word as to what's ailing him but Johnson confirmed that it's likely to bother him throughout the season, telling MLive.com, "It's something that I expect to linger."



Danny Amendola, WR, St. Louis Rams (shoulder): Amendola teased fantasy owners when he traveled to London with the team two weeks ago and was seen catching some balls in practice. Only three weeks removed from his sternoclavicular joint injury, however, he seemed an extremely long shot to play. Now his chances are looking up. With another two weeks under his belt, Amendola is confident he will be on the field to face the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.



During last week's practice, Amendola told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch his range of motion and strength were back to normal. The other aspect that is harder to measure is the healing of the tissue around the joint itself. The hope is that it will be strong enough to withstand another hard fall on the shoulder or direct contact from a hard hit without displacing again. Sitting at the junction of the collarbone (clavicle) and the sternum (chest), it's not an area that lends itself to effective bracing or taping. While there are ways to offer some additional protection, the goal is to have it be healed to the point where the risk is low to negligible. Unfortunately, there is only so much that visual and manual testing can do and at some point the athlete has to test it by playing in a game. It looks as if that test could come this weekend and, if Amendola is able to pass it, things should be looking up for him for the remainder of the season.

Aaron Hernandez, TE, New England Patriots (ankle): Hernandez, who did not travel with the team to London, is coming off of two weeks' rest after the bye. On Tuesday he was absent from practice, as he was attending the birth of his child, but there should be updates later in the week.

Week 4 Thursday injury update

September, 27, 2012
9/27/12
10:41
PM ET


Welcome back, NFL referees! Tonight will mark their season debut in Baltimore as the Ravens host the Cleveland Browns. I have no doubt that they, like players who do not start the season on time because of contract disputes, have been maintaining their workout programs in order to be ready at the drop of a hat. But I wonder if they, like the players, will take some time to adapt to the speed of the game and will we potentially see an increased injury rate in the referees in-season this year? Something to keep an eye on.

Here's who else we're keeping an eye on in Week 4.

Quarterbacks

[+] EnlargeMatthew Stafford
AP Photo/Rick OsentoskiMatthew Stafford looks like he'll go Sunday after leaving last week's game early.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (hamstring): On Tuesday we discussed Stafford's hamstring/glute injury, which was labeled "hamstring" on the NFL official injury report Wednesday. Later that day, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweeted that the team had revised it to a "hip" ailment. To add less clarity to the situation, consider the remarks of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who told reporters, "I don't really consider him injured. He's just dealing with something that's been uncomfortable ..." Based on Stafford's original remarks, this does not have the sounds of a true muscle pull but rather of an issue in the back or hip that is causing some referred pain into the gluteal or hamstring area. That leaves open a range of possibilities, but in the end the actual diagnosis may not be particularly significant, at least not yet. It will come down to functionality. Does he have enough mobility and power in the leg to function effectively, even if there is some lingering soreness? As long as that soreness does not progress into more disabling pain or weakness, then Stafford should be able to press through it. For what it's worth, he indicated he was feeling better Thursday than Wednesday.

However they decide to label it, here's what we know: Stafford did not practice Wednesday but did return Thursday, a good sign that he is preparing to be available Sunday.



Tom Brady, New England Patriots (right shoulder): If you've missed seeing Brady's name on the injury report this year, well, he's back. And it's the same body part he was listed with when he went on that record streak of injury report appearances a few years running. He was limited at practice Wednesday but expect him to play, as always.

John Skelton, Arizona Cardinals (ankle): Skelton began limited practices last Thursday and that's how he started off this week. Still recovering from a sprained ankle, he returned to limited practice again this week. Right now it looks as if Kevin Kolb will stay under center.

Running Backs

[+] EnlargeAhmad Bradshaw
Mark L. Baer/US PresswireAhmad Bradshaw looks like he will start this week after missing the Week 3 contest.
Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants (neck): The Giants weren't saying much about Bradshaw's neck injury last week but he offered up some insight Thursday. The culprit, it appears, is a bulging disc. According to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN New York, Bradshaw experienced tingling in his hands during the Week 2 game but didn't attribute it to a specific hit. It happened a second time in the game, which is when Bradshaw decided he should get it checked out.

Tingling is a hallmark nerve symptom; when the tingling happens in both hands at the same time, it's a signal that the spinal cord is involved. The medical staff was understandably cautious when Bradshaw reported the symptoms and, after evaluating him, determined he could remain at the game, but could not return to play in the game. Bradshaw underwent a subsequent MRI, where the disc issue was detected. While disc injuries can be serious, they can also be fairly benign. It's not uncommon for bulging discs to be present and be completely asymptomatic. If there is an event that results in inflammation, it can become painful or provoke nerve tissue in the area (this is perhaps what Bradshaw was trying to explain when he referenced an "inflamed disc"). Often once the inflammation resolves, the symptoms do as well. It appears this was the case with Bradshaw.

Bradshaw has practiced fully both Wednesday and Thursday and is on track to resume his starting role Sunday against the Eagles. The Giants would not return him to play if he was at any significant risk, and his clearance to return indicates his neurological symptoms have resolved. The unknown aspect is whether these symptoms will return. There is no true predictability one way or another, however, it is not uncommon to have more than one episode once a disc injury is present. Those episodes can be weeks, months or even years apart. And in some cases, there is no recurrence.



Those who make their living at a computer are at as much, if not more, risk than professional football players for developing disc problems in their neck and back. So if everyone on a laptop is going to continue to work, Bradshaw can too. If Bradshaw's neck does turn into a recurring problem then his status may change, but until that time, he can be expected to play.

[+] EnlargeFred Jackson
Ed Mulholland/US PresswireFred Jackson might be ready to return to action for the first time since leaving during the season opener.
Fred Jackson (knee) and C.J. Spiller (shoulder), Buffalo Bills: Flash back to Sunday, Spiller clearly in pain on the ground, carted off the field with medical personnel holding his shoulders. Now it's four days later and Spiller is back in practice, albeit on a very limited basis. Quite surprising. Perhaps the reassurance he received after going through further tests was enough to encourage his rapid recovery. He is still has a ways to go before playing in a game and it would not be surprising if he is out this Sunday, but that has not yet been decided.

Jackson has made an impressive recovery of his own from a right lateral knee sprain. He returned to limited practice Wednesday but emerged seeming less than thrilled with the result. Jackson told the Buffalo News on Thursday, "I was a little sore ... a little swollen." It's not terribly surprising that Jackson's knee would respond that way to the increased activity; the question was whether he would have to scale it back further on the second day. Apparently not. There were no lingering effects into Thursday afternoon's practice and Jackson participated in most of it, according to the News. After practice, coach Chan Gailey told reporters, "I think if we make it through the next couple days and continue to improve I think [Jackson] will have the opportunity to play."

There is still plenty of time for things to change but it appears to be shaping up for Jackson to be available along with a healthy Tashard Choice, while Spiller likely rests another week.

Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams (groin): Jackson did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, but this week isn't so much about whether he'll play or not, it's about what can be expected. Last Sunday, Jackson gained only 29 yards rushing on 11 carries, most of which were very short gains with the exception of one run for 13 yards. Jackson acknowledged the injury affected him but also said he didn't suffer any setbacks. Until we see him running full speed, there will be some question as to whether the injury is truly behind him.

Arian Foster, Houston Texans (knee): Foster took in a light practice Wednesday but was back at it in full on Thursday. So far, so good.

Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders (shoulder): McFadden's presence here is a reminder that sometimes players appear on injury reports with very minor ailments -- bumps and bruise from a game -- because they take fewer reps in practice to preserve their bodies. Of course we all understand why there is a slight panic for fantasy owners when it's McFadden's name that appears here. While Oakland's official Thursday injury report is not in at the time of this writing, a source tells me he is participating and is "fine."



[+] EnlargeMatt Forte
Joe Camporeale/US PresswireMatt Forte could be back this week, but will fantasy owners be able to wait until Monday night for the decision?
Matt Forte, Chicago Bears (ankle): If only the Bears didn't have a Monday night game. Forte's status could very well come down to the wire, which will make this a tough decision for fantasy owners. In general, things are looking up. Forte returned to practice Wednesday and repeated the effort Thursday. His chances of returning are looking better, but hopefully there will be a better indication by Friday afternoon.

Reggie Bush, Miami Dolphins (knee): On Tuesday we highlighted Bush's knee concerns, but the real question was whether we would see him in practice. After being held out Wednesday, Bush returned to limited practice Thursday and was running well. If he can put in another good effort Friday, it appears he will play Sunday.

Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos (rib): On Tuesday, we discussed what would determine whether McGahee could play this week, and his limited participation in practice Wednesday with a bump up to full participation Thursday shows he is on track.

LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles (rib): Another running back, another rib injury. There isn't much concern here because McCoy practiced fully both Wednesday and Thursday.

Mikel Leshoure, Detroit Lions (groin): Leshoure was limited in practice because of a groin injury but keep in mind, he is coming into this season off major surgery (Achilles repair). There is no indication that his Sunday status is in jeopardy, but Friday's practice should yield better clues.

Ryan Williams, Arizona Cardinals (knee): With teammate Beanie Wells going on IR (designated for return, meaning he can return in Week 12), Williams has an opportunity to shine. He is listed on the report but put in full practice. His value is on the rise.

Evan Royster, Washington Redskins (knee): Royster strained his patellar tendon and has been held to limited practice so far this week. Roy Helu (turf toe) is now on IR, but Ryan Grant was just added to the mix so the Redskins can continue with a running back carousel.

Peyton Hillis, Kansas City Chiefs (ankle): Hillis has been in a walking boot since the game ended and has not practiced. It's not looking great for his chances to suit up this week. Teammate Jamaal Charles is not on the injury report this week, however. Kudos to Charles, who had an outstanding performance Sunday (233 rushing yards!) and showed some of the pre-injury speed on a 91-yard breakaway run. With Hillis possibly out and Charles showing improvement, he could be poised for a big week.

Wide Receivers

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions (ankle): Johnson has now been on the injury report each week but has never been at risk of not playing. Limited Wednesday, full practice Thursday, play Sunday.

Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles (hip): Maclin's hip benefited from the rest in Week 3 and he claims he's much improved. Full practice both Wednesday and Thursday, and he is expected to play in the big matchup against the New York Giants on Sunday night.



[+] EnlargePierre Garcon
John David Mercer/US PresswireIt doesn't look good for Pierre Garcon to return this week.
Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins (foot): Judging from all the questions coming my way regarding Garcon, people are very suspicious about his injury. It's important to remember that a foot injury, even a relatively mild one (no fracture or dislocation) can be extremely incapacitating because of the load that goes through the foot with running and the shear forces it experiences when changing direction.



The Redskins have maintained that Garcon can proceed based on how the foot feels, which tells us they're not overly concerned about the injury worsening. Still, pain exists to help prevent us from doing things that would lead to further injury, and depending on the location and quality of it, it is not necessarily something that can or should be overridden. With coach Mike Shanahan telling reporters Thursday that Garcon's foot is still sore and with Garcon continuing to be limited in practice (although he is making progress according to Shanahan), it appears he could miss another week.



Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants (foot): I said it here Tuesday and I'll say it again: Expect Nicks to play in Week 4. He got the benefit of some extra rest for his sore foot last week, but returned to limited practice Thursday. He will be ready for Sunday night in Philadelphia.

Andre Johnson, Houston Texans (groin): Johnson practiced on a limited basis both days. There is reason to keep an eye on this, as Johnson suffered a groin injury in the preseason. But this has more the appearance of preserving a veteran star than anything else.

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons (hand): The Falcons announced that Jones suffered a laceration (cut) to his hand, which is why he left the game briefly Sunday. He has been limited in practice, likely to protect the hand and help it to heal. He is expected to play.



Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans (ankle): According to the Tennessean, Britt described his cascade of injury after injury as "very frustrating." Britt went on to say, "It's like something I can't get right, injury after injury. The last healthy season I had was my rookie year." This has been an overarching concern with Britt for the last few years. A very serious hamstring injury derailed his season two years ago. He headed into 2011 with his quad and hamstring nagging at him, then tore his ACL later that year. During his recovery following reconstructive knee surgery, he needed a follow-up scope and an additional scope on the opposite knee. The Titans articulated their concern when he made his debut in Week 2, saying they planned to limit his touches. A week later he has yet another injury. And, although it is considered relatively minor, he has yet to practice this week. He still hopes to play, but the injury concerns will not disappear when he returns.

Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers (groin): Jennings played in the Monday night game but we all know his performance is hardly the thing we'll remember. He did appear to be at less than full speed at times but managed to play in the game and emerge no worse for the wear. He's been limited in practice since but looks to be in line to play this weekend when the Packers host the Saints.

Dexter McCluster, Kansas City Chiefs (elbow): On Tuesday we commented on how painful McCluster's injury looked so no one would have been surprised if he was not in practice this week. But there he was on Wednesday, wearing a brace and participating only in non-contact drills but he was out there nonetheless. On Thursday, he put in another limited practice. He's surprised so far, maybe he will again on Sunday.

Julian Edelman, New England Patriots (hand): Edelman has not practiced since injuring his hand in Sunday night's game. There's not much to go on here, but two missed practices aren't encouraging for Sunday.

Tight Ends

Dustin Keller, New York Jets (hamstring): Keller has not played since Week 1 because of his injured hamstring but it looks as if things will change this Sunday. He has been practicing on a limited basis and according to ESPNewYork's Rich Cimini, coach Rex Ryan says he expects Keller to play.

Jared Cook, Tennessee Titans (shoulder): On Tuesday we said Cook would need to show he could perform well enough to play and he appears to be on his way. Cook got Wednesday off but returned to limited practice Thursday. If he can do so again Friday, there is a good chance he will return this week.

Jacob Tamme, Denver Broncos (groin): The groin can't be bothering him too much since he was able to practice fully both Wednesday and Thursday. It looks as if he'll be available in Week 4.



Other notes

New Orleans Saints WR Marques Colston does not appear on the injury report this week. He has been bothered by a case of plantar fasciitis that seemed to have limited him over the last two weeks. He played in Week 3 but had only three receptions for 40 yards. Perhaps his move off the injury report is a sign things are improving.

Don't forget to adjust your lineups! This is the first week of team byes. Both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Indianapolis Colts are off this week so they do not appear on the NFL official injury report.

Expect Brady, Romo, Big Ben to play

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


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

Quick Hits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Late Week 16 injury updates

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


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

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

Quarterbacks

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

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

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

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

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

Running Backs

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



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

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

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

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



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

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



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

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



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

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

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

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

Wide Receivers

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OUT


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good news for Peterson; Big Ben murky

December, 15, 2011
12/15/11
5:58
PM ET


The only players fantasy owners are wondering about heading into the Thursday night game are Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Michael Turner. Jones, who has strained both hamstrings this season, put on a nice display Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Limited practice for Jones on a short week did not likely come as a surprise to most, but seeing the word "back" next to his name on the injury report may have. While the Falcons have not said much about Jones with regards to this back ailment, it's not uncommon to have low back and hamstring issues simultaneously. The large sciatic nerve in the back of the thigh is formed from nerve roots in the lumbar (low back) region (which is why herniated disks in the back often result in leg pain when the sciatic nerve is affected). That is not to suggest by any stretch that is the case here, only that it is not unusual to have overlapping back and hamstring conditions. There is no reason to expect any limitations with Jones, but until he survives the remainder of the season incident-free, it's only natural to be a little nervous. Meanwhile Turner has also been on the injury report for several weeks because of his groin but has managed to play nonetheless. He is expected to do so again Thursday night.

Quick Hits

Not Practicing Thursday

Ben Roethlisberger
Jason Bridge/US PresswireIt appears fantasy owners may have to wait until Monday night to figure out whether to use Ben Roethlisberger in their lineups.
Here is a list of players who are worth monitoring based on the fact that they are not practicing as of Thursday afternoon:

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Roethlisberger's high ankle sprain sustained a week ago is no secret, but his status for Monday night remains murky. Roethlisberger is in a walking boot and may not practice at all before Monday's game. If anyone has defied all medical logic when it comes to returning from injury, it's Roethlisberger, but this one could prove to be a huge challenge. Roethlisberger need only look at Sam Bradford's struggles over a month removed from a similar injury. (Bradford now says he feels like he's "going backwards") Bradford had difficulty stepping into his throws and was clearly hampered with his mobility in Monday night's game. If Roethlisberger is similarly limited, is it worth playing him and risking a setback besides? That will be the question the Steelers will be considering as Monday approaches. This could come down to a game-time decision.

Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans: Despite the fact the Texans are referring to Johnson as day-to-day with his latest hamstring injury, all the signals out of Texas suggest he will not return to action this week. Johnson has resumed some running but is not practicing with the team. After he sustained his second hamstring injury of the season (and with the Texans having earned a playoff berth), the team is bound to exercise caution.



[+] EnlargeGiants' Ahmad Bradshaw
Jim O'Connor/US PRESSWIREAhmad Bradshaw is still slowed down a bit but still looks like he will play this weekend.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants: Last week Bradshaw did not practice Wednesday or Thursday but still suited up for Sunday. Of course, fantasy owners weren't expecting him to be benched for the first half of the game for violating team rules, but one has to imagine that won't happen twice in a row. Bradshaw should return to some form of practice Friday and play on Sunday against the Washington Redskins.



Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders: We summed up the latest discourse regarding <a href="http://espn.go.com/fantasy/blog/_/name/bell_stephania/id/7350107/demarco-murray-greg-jennings-likely-done-year-ben-roethlisberger-darren-mcfadden-iffy-return"McFadden's midfoot injury Tuesday and nothing has really changed. He is not practicing and there is no timetable on his return. It's worth noting that Taiwan Jones also remains out with a hamstring injury. The Raiders have to be crossing their fingers on Michael Bush staying healthy.

Jacoby Ford, WR, Oakland Raiders: Like his running back brethren, Ford has not yet returned to practice as he recovers from a foot injury.

James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers: Starks attempted to work out Tuesday but according to the Green Bay Post-Gazette, his ankle did not respond well. Starks did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and is not looking likely to play Sunday. Brandon Saine remains out of practice as well following a concussion sustained in Week 14. Ryan Grant is likely to get the bulk of the work.



Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints: Ingram's turf toe kept him out of last week's game and he did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. At this point, it appears Chris Ivory will make another appearance for the Saints alongside Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles.

Nate Washington, WR, Tennessee Titans: Washington was clearly in pain near the end of Sunday's game but he fought through it to deliver some nice playoff points for fantasy owners. Washington had been dealing with a sprained ankle, which kept him out of practice the entire week. According to the Titans' website, Washington had back spasms to go along with his balky ankle. It shouldn't come as any surprise then that Washington has not yet practiced to allow him some recovery time. Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean reported Washington is expected to return to practice Friday. If Washington does play, it looks as if he might have Matt Hasselbeck to throw him the ball. Hasselbeck, who left last Sunday's game early after feeling a "pop" in his calf, returned to limited practice Thursday and the team is encouraged.

Practicing Thursday:

Here is a list of several key fantasy players who were back in the mix by Thursday.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Peterson
AP Photo/Andy KingAdrian Peterson has missed three games so far with an ankle injury but may finally return in time for the fantasy playoffs.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings: Peterson seems to have turned a corner with regards to his ankle health. He has been in practice both Wednesday and Thursday and, according to Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave noted Peterson was cutting better, even answering in the affirmative when asked if he was confident Peterson would play. Last week, Peterson had initiated running but still exhibited a limp and struggled with cutting maneuvers. The Vikings wisely gave him an additional week off (he has now missed three games) and it appears the time has helped. Barring a setback, Peterson looks to be making his return in Week 15.

Michael Vick, QB, and Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: Vick returned to action in Week 14, but his ribs are still sore. Since he is still on the mend, the Eagles did not have him practice Wednesday, but he returned to a full workout Thursday. The good news is the Eagles expect him to start; the not-so-good news is that the Eagles face the New York Jets this weekend. The Jets will have to account for Jeremy Maclin at the receiver position, as he is also expected to play despite not being able to finish last week's game. Maclin, who had missed the previous three games with both a hamstring strain and a shoulder separation, had only one catch in the game and was clearly at less than full strength. Maclin had a limited practice Wednesday followed by a full practice Thursday. As long as there are no setbacks between now and Sunday, Maclin will play. The big question for fantasy owners is whether he can deliver a full 60 minutes or whether the hamstring will act up again.

Kevin Smith, RB, Detroit Lions: Smith made an early exit from the Week 13 game after aggravating his high ankle sprain and was not able to make it back for last Sunday's contest. This week, Smith has taken an encouraging step in returning to practice Thursday, albeit on a limited basis. If all continues well, the Lions plan to have him on Sunday. It will be interesting to see how the workload shapes up since Smith will still not likely be at full health.

Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints: Graham fought through back spasms last Sunday but still managed to be productive. More importantly, Graham returned to full practice Wednesday and has all but assured his fantasy owners that he will be back in Week 15.

See you at the injury chat Friday at 11 a.m. and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 15 in the Saturday morning blog!

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