Stephania Bell: Detroit Lions
Here's a look at injuries surrounding two key Detroit Lions players ahead of their Week 17 game at Minnesota.
Calvin Johnson, WR, knee/ankle: It was clear last week that Johnson was hampered by his knee and ankle. The injuries were enough of a concern that his status for the Week 16 game was uncertain until just prior to kickoff. His struggles during the game were proof that his legs were not cooperating. Now heading into Week 17, with no postseason hopes in the balance, one wonders if Johnson will be sidelined. So far this week he has not been a participant in practice, and coach Jim Schwartz has already indicated that Johnson's status, once again, may not be known until Sunday. Fantasy owners should plan ahead in the possibility that Johnson sits this one out.
Joique Bell, RB, knee: Bell was not present in practice Wednesday due to a sore knee but returned Thursday. It would appear that Bell is in line to play Sunday. Reggie Bush is no longer on the injury report, but given his ball-control challenges, it wouldn't be surprising to see Bell get more consistent work in the team's final outing of the season.
Well, a return to practice would be a nice start. After being held out Thursday for what he described as precautionary reasons, Bush says he expects to practice Friday, according to Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com. How much or how little he does could go a long way toward setting expectations for Monday’s game. Bush told the Detroit Free Press he had not missed a game because of a muscle pull prior to last week. Perhaps not, but he has only played all 16 regular-season games just twice in his career. And while he is just 28 years old, one could make the argument that the accumulated wear and tear of being a running back in the NFL combined with his previous injuries qualifies him as an injury risk.
Bush has certainly looked strong when he’s taken the field this year, reinvigorated even, in this Detroit offense. But calf injuries can be stubborn, even when they are minor. And the explosiveness Bush has displayed this season may be compromised if his calf is not fully cooperating. Bush said he expects to play this week, but until he takes the field Monday night and gets through the game without a setback, he retains some risk.
Bush was present on the field Thursday, working on the side in what appeared to be ball-control drills. After all, the injury is not to his upper body and Bush has had three fumbles in his past five games, something he would obviously like to correct. There does not appear to be a high level of concern about Bush’s game-day status, and if he returns to practice Friday, it will reinforce the notion that he is indeed expected to play. Nevertheless, teammate Joique Bell remains a regular on the field, and if Bush should have any problems with his legs (he has been bothered intermittently by a knee issue, which kept him off the field in Week 3) or his hands, Bell’s responsibilities will increase.
In retrospect, perhaps it shouldn’t have come as such a big surprise. We’ve become accustomed to seeing Johnson on the weekly practice injury reports, the result of a big, physical player often going up high and falling hard in an effort to make those spectacular catches. But we’ve also become accustomed to his playing through various ailments, rarely missing games no matter what the injury.
In fact, prior to Sunday, Johnson had missed only four games in his career, the most recent being the season finale in 2010. Over the past few years, Johnson has been troubled by a sore knee intermittently and has often been limited in practice early in the week -- even given an extra day off routinely -- to enable him to play on game day.
Last week, however, the pattern changed. Johnson did not practice at all Wednesday or Thursday and did only limited work Friday. He also came into last week’s game as “questionable,” not the “probable” status usually associated with his name. It turned out that the questionable tag was indeed legitimate, as Johnson said he could not get comfortable with his knee during warm-ups, which ultimately became the deciding factor to hold him out.
This week, Johnson again sat out Wednesday but returned to practice Thursday on what appears to be a very limited basis. He engaged in positional drills only and was wearing a brace, according to the Detroit Free Press. At the start of this week, Johnson said he was close to playing last Sunday, hinting at a return for this week, but if swelling continues to be a problem, it may be something he is not able to overcome.
The Lions have not offered any clues as to the specifics of the injury, and the incidence of swelling only tells us that something within the joint remains enough of an irritant to produce increased fluid. Swelling will block range of motion and can inhibit the quadriceps muscle from firing at full strength, in addition to whatever mechanical problems the actual source of the swelling can cause.
The biggest concern beyond being able to function effectively is the risk of further injury, something the Lions clearly have to take into consideration when determining whether it is safe to let Johnson play. If the injury is not a serious one, trying to get that swelling under control can still be tricky and could take us up to game time for a decision on Johnson again this week.
The latest injury did not happen on the football field but was the result of a single-car accident in which Burleson was the driver. According to ESPN's Ed Werder, the accident did not involve alcohol but appears rather to have been a case of distracted driving. Burleson is expected to undergo surgery Wednesday to repair the two forearm bones, the radius and the ulna. The team has not issued a timetable for his return, but, according to ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein, coach Jim Schwartz says the Lions do expect Burleson to return this season.
Although complete assessment of the injury will take place during surgery, it would appear Burleson's recovery timetable would make him a good candidate for the IR/designated for return. Unfortunately, that is not an option for the Lions because they have already used that singular designation on running back (and special-teams player) Montell Owens, who is out with a knee injury.
So, how long will the Lions be without Burleson? As noted, more will be known after surgery. Beyond evaluating and repairing the fractures themselves -- stabilizing with hardware, most likely plates and screws -- surgeons will have the opportunity to more closely examine the soft tissue in the area. Presuming there are no substantial injuries to blood vessels, nerves, or muscles and tendons in the forearm, the recovery focus will center on the healing of the bones. Fractures typically take about six weeks to heal, but there is the additional demand for a football player of being able to absorb heavy contact through the forearm. Even after a fracture has visibly healed, bone tissue is still undergoing a remodeling process as it continues to shape and strengthen post-injury.
Given the requirements of being able to absorb impact with blocking, or falling onto the forearm (potentially with other bodies superimposed on the player's own weight) for a wideout such as Burleson, there has to be confidence that the bones are sufficiently healed to withstand those stresses. There is a certain element of risk of re-fracture with forearm breaks, as has already been demonstrated by Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who re-fractured his surgically repaired ulna in 2013, and Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith, who fractured his previously repaired radius in 2010.
It seems unlikely that Burleson would be ready to take the field much sooner than eight weeks, and it certainly could be longer. In addition to the bone healing, he will need to perform aggressive range of motion exercises at the wrist, elbow and forearm to help prevent any residual stiffness commonly associated with these injuries. Strengthening the entire arm and restoring "game-ready" football conditioning also will be a part of Burleson's program in the weeks ahead.
It's finally here! The last week of the NFL regular season is upon us and there is chaos everywhere. Who's resting? Who's playing? Who's playing a series, a quarter, a half, the entire game and into overtime if need be? This might be the most challenging week for fantasy owners making key sit/start decisions. Multiple variables factor into which players will rest and which will roll Sunday, but fortunately there are a few clues in the Friday team injury reports to help guide us.
Good luck in Week 17, everyone! May your players stay healthy and win for you.
Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys, hand, (P): The probable tag tells you all you need to know: The Cowboys plan on having Romo under center. As far as the injury itself, on Thursday we noted the issues Romo could face if swelling persisted in his bruised hand. Obviously Romo has shown through the week of practice (in which he participated daily on a limited basis) that he can handle the duties. The game is too important to the Cowboys to have him out there at a significant disadvantage. As long as he doesn't aggravate the injury during the game, Romo should be able to function, just as he has through other ailments.
Tom Brady, New England Patriots, shoulder, (P): On Thursday we discussed the non-separated non-throwing shoulder of the Patriots' quarterback. After sitting out Wednesday's practice (non-injury-related, according to the Patriots), Brady, while limited, did enough in Thursday and Friday's practice to demonstrate he could play. With 16 other Patriots listed as questionable and Brady holding the only probable designation on the team, it's clear they expect to have him on the field Sunday. According to ESPNBoston.com, teammate Wes Welker hints at Brady playing the entire game. From an injury perspective at least, it does not appear the shoulder will be a factor.
Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings, concussion, (P): Ponder left last week's game early with a concussion but was cleared to return to practice by Wednesday. After putting in full practice sessions all week, Ponder is expected to start Sunday.
Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals, head, (Q): Kolb is still experiencing concussion-related symptoms when trying to practice. John Skelton will start again.
Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans, ankle, (Q): Johnson's ankle is in better shape after another week of healing time. He did not practice Wednesday or Thursday but was back to full practice Friday. The Nashville Tennessean reported that Johnson said he was having trouble just walking on the ankle last week. Johnson indicated the ankle was much improved this week and that the rest early on helped prevent setbacks. It seems a healthier Johnson would want to end his season on a much brighter note. It remains to be seen how effective he can be against the Houston Texans, although there is admittedly little at stake, considering their playoff berth is secure.
Arian Foster, Houston Texans, knee, (P): There is no real injury concern with Foster here, other than the potential of suffering one if he plays too long in Week 17. It's hard to imagine the Texans, who have been so decimated by injuries at numerous key positions this year, risking Foster for an entire game. Foster can clearly score even in a short time but expectations for him putting in a full workload should be tempered.
Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants, foot, (P): Bradshaw is following the same pattern of limited work during the week and playing Sunday. Expect him to play again in this critical Sunday night matchup against the Cowboys.
Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys, hamstring, (Q): Despite the questionable tag, Jones is expected to start Sunday night in a game in which the Cowboys' season hangs on the brink. Jones was removed early from last Sunday's game, which was perhaps the best move for his tight hamstring. He was able to return to daily limited practice this week and the Cowboys are planning on him being the featured tailback. His hamstring will not be fully tested until the game but the conservative approach so far in managing his work over the past two weeks will hopefully pay off now.
Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions, ankle, (P): Smith still appeared to be struggling with his ankle to some degree in Week 16 but he was on the field. Smith practiced fully all week and at probable, is expected to play. The question is how much the Lions plan to use him. Joique Bell was signed by the Lions this week as insurance but coach Jim Schwartz has been vague as to whether he would actually play in Week 17.
Ryan Mathews, calf, (Q) and Mike Tolbert, hamstring, (P), San Diego Chargers: Earlier in the week it seemed Mathews was faring better with his injury concerns than Tolbert. That seems to have changed Friday. Mathews sat out Wednesday with a sore calf but participated to some degree Thursday. Post-practice soreness led the Chargers to give Mathews another day off Friday in the hope he'd be well enough to play Sunday. Even if active, his response to Thursday's light workout suggests he could struggle to get through an entire game. And this is nothing new. Mathews dealt with a calf injury in October but benefited from a bye week immediately afterward. His status will not likely be known until game time. If he plays, he will be sharing with Tolbert who was bothered this week by a sore hamstring. Tolbert did not practice until Friday but participated in a full workout his first day back. Barring a setback, listed as probable, Tolbert will play.
Roy Helu, Washington Redskins, toe/knee, (Q): Helu says he feels better this week after sitting out Week 16. But Evan Royster delivered such a solid performance in his absence, it's hard to know how the workload will be divided even if Helu plays. Tricky.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars, ankle, (P): Jones-Drew has been remarkably durable this season and leads the league in rushing. So much for those who doubted him before the season began. He can help increase his chances of securing that title by playing Sunday, which he is fully expected to do. After getting some rest for his ankle Wednesday and Thursday, Jones-Drew turned in a full practice Friday.
Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns, elbow, (P): It's no secret to fantasy owners how much the injury bug has impacted Hillis this season. Now he's on the report because of his elbow but the Browns plan to have him on the field after he put in limited practices daily. Hillis faces a tough Steelers defense but undoubtedly would like to finish the season strong after what can otherwise only be called a disappointing year.
Chris "Beanie" Wells, Arizona Cardinals, knee, (Q): Again Wells is listed as questionable for the Cardinals but again he is expected to play. The Arizona Republic reports Wells is likely to have offseason surgery on his right knee, not entirely unexpected given the chronic irritation he has dealt with since injuring his knee in Week 6. Still, with one final outing awaiting him, Wells is expected to gut it out once more.
Shonn Greene, rib/shoulder and LaDainian Tomlinson, quadriceps, (P): Greene has been playing through the rib injury for weeks and will do so again. Tomlinson has a sore quad that kept him out of practice Wednesday but he returned to full practice Thursday and Friday. The probable tag for both indicates the Jets expect them to play.
Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons, groin, (P): The groin injury has kept Turner on the injury report and appears to have hampered his effectiveness in the latter portion of the season. Nonetheless, the probable tag indicates the Falcons are planning on him being in Sunday's lineup, although how much time he'll see is questionable.
Marion Barber, Chicago bears, calf, (D): Barber is again listed as doubtful, making Kahlil Bell the feature back for the Bears again Sunday.
A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals, shoulder, (P): Green suffered a third-degree shoulder separation in Week 15 but returned to finish the game. He was active in Week 16 and although his numbers weren't extraordinary, he did make an impressive catch while well-defended, suggesting the shoulder was not holding him back. Another week of recovery should only help. After limited practice Wednesday and Thursday, Green returned to a full practice Friday and, at probable, is expected to face the Ravens on Sunday.
Laurent Robinson, Dallas Cowboys, shoulder (P): Robinson practiced fully each day and will be in the lineup again Sunday night.
Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers, ankle, (P): Wallace was limited Wednesday but fully practiced Thursday and Friday. At probable, the Steelers plan on having him Sunday.
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, Achilles, (P): Johnson rested Wednesday and Thursday but returned to limited practice Friday. At probable, he is expected to play Sunday at Green Bay.
Mario Manningham, knee and Hakeem Nicks, hamstring, New York Giants, (P): Manningham has struggled off and on with swelling in his knee but managed to practice every day this week. Nicks has been dealing with a hamstring issue but insisted early in the week it would not keep him down. After resting Wednesday and Thursday, Nicks returned to a limited workout Friday. Both players are now expected to be available in the game that will determine whether their season continues or ends abruptly.
Brandon Marshall, Miami Dolphins, knee, (P): Marshall played through the knee soreness in Week 16 just fine and is expected to do so again Sunday. Marshall practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday but was back in full practice Friday.
Vincent Jackson, San Diego Chargers, groin, (P): Jackson did not practice until Friday as he rested the sore groin that plagued him last week. He was available for a full workout Friday, however, and the Chargers obviously feel confident he will go against the Raiders this Sunday. It's worth noting that Jackson has typically played well despite injuries in the past but was clearly not up to par in Week 16. The layoff during the week no doubt helped move him along and with the team feeling more confident about his status this week, Jackson is presumably faring better.
Wes Welker, knee and Deion Branch, groin, New England Patriots, (Q): Both Welker and Branch were listed similarly last week and both played without limitations. While the receivers are being kept to limited work during the week, both are expected to be on the field again in Week 17. That is, of course, unless the Patriots decide to surprise us all and rest their starters. Welker told ESPNBoston.com that he expects to play all four quarters. Fantasy owners would be wise to check pregame inactives just in case.
Santonio Holmes, New York Jets, hip, (P): Holmes was an addition to the Thursday injury report after being limited in practice but coach Rex Ryan said they expected him to be ready by Saturday. The probable tag supports that and fantasy owners can put him in their lineups.
Jacoby Ford, Oakland Raiders, foot, (Q): Ford is looking to make his return after missing the last seven weeks because of a foot injury. He was able to practice on a limited basis all week but has yet to test his foot in a game situation. While he presents another option for Carson Palmer, it is unclear how much Ford would be utilized after missing so much time, and with Denarius Moore demonstrating last week that he is back to full strength.
Anquan Boldin, Baltimore Ravens, knee, (D): Boldin underwent knee surgery last week and missed Week 16. Originally projected by the Ravens to miss the remainder of the regular season, it was a bit surprising that he was not officially ruled out in advance of this week's game. Perhaps that was due to the encouraging sight of Boldin back in practice Friday, albeit on a limited basis. The doubtful tag confirms though that Boldin is likely to be out again this week.
Tight endsJermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers, knee, (P): Finley didn't practice early in the week but managed to make it back to limited workouts Thursday and Friday. At probable, he is expected to play but the Packers have already hinted at resting a number of their starters. It does not seem likely that Finley will play the entire game.
Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts, neck, (Q): Clark missed the last two games after suffering a stinger-type injury but was back in full practice for the first time this week. It would seem he has a chance to play, but check the pregame inactive list to be sure.
Anthony Fasano, Miami Dolphins, head, (P): Fasano missed Week 16 with a concussion but returned to full practice daily this week and is expected to play.
Owen Daniels, Houston Texans, knee, (P): Daniels only practiced on a limited basis and although he is expected to play Sunday, that too may be on a limited basis. The Texans already have their playoff berth secure and may want to limit the risk exposure for their key starters.
This space is intended for a list of key fantasy players, not including those who have been moved to injured-reserve status, who are officially listed as "out" for the upcoming game.
Reggie Bush, RB, Miami Dolphins, knee: This one is a bit surprising since Bush made it seem like the injury was not a big deal. He never was able to practice this week, however, so with the Dolphins out of contention, resting him Sunday seems wise.
Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay Packers, knee: Since spraining his MCL three weeks ago, it always seemed the Packers would keep him sidelined until the playoffs. Jennings has returned to running but will not see game action again until the postseason.
James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers, knee/ankle: Starks has struggled to get his ankle healthy, suffering multiple setbacks over the last month. The decision to hold him out in advance of the playoffs is no surprise.
Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints, (toe): As noted Thursday, Ingram suffered a setback to the toe in practice this week and it sounds as if it could be a problem for the playoffs. All fantasy owners need to know is that it will be a problem for this week, as in, he won't play.
Lance Moore, WR, New Orleans Saints, (hamstring): Moore suffered an in-game setback with his strained hamstring in Week 16 and was forced to leave the game early. After not practicing at all this week, Moore's status for this Sunday is not surprising, especially with the playoffs looming for the Saints.
Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders, (foot): McFadden isn't coming back after all, at least not during your fantasy season. He might not be available during the playoffs, either, but first the Raiders have to get there.
Jackie Battle, RB, Kansas City Chiefs, foot: Battle was in a walking boot mid-week and never really seemed as if he would be ready to play.
Jake Ballard, TE, New York Giants, knee: Ballard injured his PCL and, as expected, will miss the game again this week.
Delanie Walker, TE, San Francisco 49ers, jaw: Walker left Week 16's game holding his jaw after inadvertently getting kicked in the head, and a break was later confirmed.
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