Stephania Bell: Dez Bryant

With the NFC East crown on the line against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17, the Dallas Cowboys have two very significant injury situations that we've been monitoring all week.

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

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

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

Still, Bryant aggravated his back recently, and was removed from practice early Thursday to instead focus on rehab. For his part, Bryant told ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins there is "no doubt" he will play, and his effectiveness throughout the season -- even after being limited in practice sessions because of his back -- should encourage fantasy owners. After all, if Orton is under center Sunday as appears to be likely, he will need some help from the big playmaker.
WhiteKevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesRoddy White looks like he could be back for the Falcons this week.

It appears to be a “Welcome Back!” week for several key fantasy players who may be able to help owners bail out of some tough roster situations, given other injuries around the league and a four-team bye week.

At least one of the returning names comes as quite a surprise (we’re talking about you, Jay Cutler), given the original projection of at least a month’s absence. With perhaps the highest-profile signal caller in the league, Aaron Rodgers, going down with a broken left collarbone on Monday night, the value of a capable fantasy backup quarterback was highlighted. The return of both Cutler and EJ Manuel this week suddenly becomes even more important. They’re not the only players returning from injury, but the expectation (or at least the plan) is that the quarterbacks will play the entire game. Can the same be said of the others? Don’t count on it.

Here are a few of the names returning to game action:

Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons (hamstring): It was White himself who told ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure he expects to return to action Sunday, the most definitive declaration he’s made about game status in a while. White has been out since injuring his left hamstring in Week 5. The Falcons had a bye the following week but it wasn’t nearly enough time for White’s hamstring, superimposed atop a high ankle sprain he suffered in the preseason, to heal. In fact, White did not even return to practice until late last week and that was only on a limited basis.

This week he has practiced on back-to-back days, increasing his workload, an encouraging sign not only for the coaching staff but also for the player.

"You know, I wanted to get out there and have a full week of practice before I actually played in a game,” White said.

Does this ensure he won’t have any issues whatsoever when the Falcons take on the Seahawks? Of course not, but he finally appears to have gotten the rest his body needed to allow him to function as more than a decoy. This may be the healthiest White has been since the season officially got underway.

RBs Andre Brown (not on injury report), Brandon Jacobs (hamstring), David Wilson (neck) and Victor Cruz, WR (neck), New York Giants: Brown was assigned IR/Designated for Return status after fracturing his left fibula in the preseason. The Giants’ Week 9 bye forced an extra week of rest on him but it appears he is ready to make his season debut after being activated Thursday. Although Brown may have physically been able to beat the timetable required by IR designation, it’s hard to argue with the team’s decision to place him on the shorter-term IR given that he had fractured the same bone in the same leg just last year. That sent him to surgery and season-ending Injured Reserve. Brown has had some extra time to increase his conditioning and build up strength in his leg muscles and seems to be full of excitement as he approaches his return to the field.

"I haven't been able to sleep, because it's like Christmas," Brown said. As ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano notes, Brown may be limited to certain packages in his first outing but those are likely to come on third downs and at the goal line.
[+] EnlargeAndre Brown
AP Photo/Seth WenigAndre Brown is eligible to return for the Giants.

In the meantime, Jacobs is still recovering from a hamstring injury sustained in his standout appearance for the Giants in Week 6, when he rushed for over 100 yards with two scores. He has not played since however and this week only returned to limited practices. It is not clear whether he will be available Sunday but with Brown back and Peyton Hillis functioning in the place of the injured Jacobs the last few weeks (and with Hillis perhaps in line for more work than Brown to start), it appears they may not be pressed to utilize Jacobs.

The Giants also placed fellow back Wilson on season-ending Injured Reserve this week. He injured his neck in Week 5, and it was later reported to be a herniated disc. The good news for Wilson is that after consultations with various specialists it does not appear he will need surgery, at least not at this time. Unfortunately, the time frame envisioned for his recovery extends beyond the time left in the season, hence the decision to shut him down.

Cruz suffered a neck injury in the Giants’ Week 8 game, so the bye could not have come at a better time. Cruz was held out of practice Wednesday but did return Thursday on a limited basis, although the Giants required him to don a red non-contact jersey. It makes sense. Just as players coming back from certain other injuries are re-introduced to practice without contact as a starting point, it allowed Cruz to participate and get a feel for doing football activity without the extra risk of absorbing hits. Coach Tom Coughlin told reporters afterward that they would evaluate his response to the day’s activity and if all went well, there would likely be no red jersey Friday. Assuming Cruz is able to ramp it up a notch Friday without incident, it appears he will be available come Sunday.

Mario Manningham, WR, San Francisco 49ers, (knee): Manningham is not actually on the injury report but he’s been considered an injured player since last season after undergoing multi-ligament reconstructive surgery in his knee. The 49ers removed Manningham from the PUP list, indicating there is a possibility he could play as soon as this week, although the team has not fully committed to that yet. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman referred to Manningham as “day-to-day,” per ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson. Still, Manningham has been a full participant in practice and quarterback Colin Kaepernick sounded like he was excited about the prospect of his availability.

“Mario, he’s a receiver that’s easy to throw to,” Kaepernick said. “So it’s not going to take much time for him to get back up to speed.”

This may be true but, as we’ve seen with other players coming back from major knee surgeries, it often does take some adjustment to ramp up to the speed of the game. Fantasy owners should temper expectations for Manningham’s early outings, but it will be interesting to see how he factors in as a receiving option as he regains his form.

Problems for premier RBs

On a less encouraging note, it appears Texans running back Arian Foster could be in danger of missing Sunday’s game. Foster left with a back injury in the first series of the Week 9 game and has not yet practiced. Instead he has been spending time with the medical staff as they sort through the nature of his injury. Foster’s teammate and fellow back Ben Tate continues to work on a limited basis with his rib injury and is expected to play.

Meanwhile, it appears the window of opportunity for a return for Buccaneers’ running back Doug Martin is closing. Although Martin has made progress in both the pain level and range of motion of his injured shoulder, it appears the team is re-evaluating the risks versus the benefits of his trying to return this season. The risks appear to be winning.

It was never a question of whether Martin would need surgery but whether he would be able to resume play and contribute this year and undergo surgery in the offseason. The team is expected to make a decision before Monday night’s game against the Dolphins according to the Tampa Bay Times and is reportedly leaning toward a move to injured reserve. Even if his season does come to a close, Martin’s time has not been wasted. Improved range of motion and less pain heading into surgery can help him on the other side and he should have plenty of opportunity to recover prior to next year’s camp activities.

And quickly ...

Bengals’ running back Giovani Bernard (ribs) practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday. It appears he will be ready to play come Sunday ... Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant has had some recurring issues with tightness in his back but the condition does not appear worrisome for the Cowboys. While it has the potential to act up at any time, the plan is clearly for Bryant to play Sunday night in New Orleans ... When the Saints host the Cowboys, it’s possible they could be without receiver Marques Colston for a second week. Colston sat out Week 9 because of his knee and has only practiced on a limited basis so far. It’s worth noting he has done more this week than last but clearly is not past the issue which sidelined him ... Colston's teammate, tight end Jimmy Graham, returned to practice Thursday after a Wednesday off and running back Darren Sproles, who left last week’s game with a concussion, was a full participant as of Wednesday. Both are expected to play.
Peyton Manning AP Photo/Michael ConroyPeyton Manning should be coming out of the tunnel to start Sunday's game against Washington.

After a brutal Week 7 on the injury front, there are some big names with concerns heading into Week 8, but none is bigger than the one that tops this week's injury notebook.

Peyton Manning, QB, Denver Broncos (ankle): Manning missed practice Wednesday due to a sore ankle. As if Manning would let a little ankle issue get in the way of playing this week. By the way, he still threw during the walk-through on Wednesday because, as we might expect, Manning doesn’t really rest. He was back in full practice on Thursday with business as usual. It’s not as if anyone is counting on Manning to run, so there should be little concern about his readiness for Sunday.

James Jones, WR, Green Bay Packers (knee): Jones sat out the Week 7 contest with a sprained PCL. Last week we discussed the challenges of this specific injury, but Tuesday coach Mike McCarthy sounded as if it could be this week or next when Jones might return. Jones did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, casting doubt on his availability for this week.

Cecil Shorts (shoulder) and Justin Blackmon (hamstring), WRs, Jacksonville Jaguars: After a long trip to London for the Week 8 game, both players were given Wednesday off. If Shorts played last week, he will play this week. In fact, given the SC sprain he sustained in Week 6, an incredibly painful injury, his performance last Sunday was impressive. The best thing about this week’s game is that it comes seven days later, giving Shorts some additional healing time. He returned to practice Thursday on a limited basis and has already indicated he plans to play.

Blackmon returned to practice Thursday on a limited basis. He continues to press on despite a hamstring ailment and is expected to do so again.

DeMarco Murray, RB (knee) and Dez Bryant, WR (hamstring/wrist), Dallas Cowboys: Murray returned to limited practice Wednesday after sitting out the Week 7 contest with an MCL sprain. In fact, Murray was doing some running as early as Monday. The fact he has been able to increase the workload a bit each day is a very positive sign heading toward Sunday’s game. His effort so far this week suggests he’ll play. Murray was reluctant to sit out last week as he tries to shed the injury-prone label that has been attached to him. The week off may have helped his outlook going forward though, at least as far as his knee is concerned.

Bryant was limited in Wednesday’s practice due to a sore hamstring and a wrist ailment, but he was out there in full on Thursday. There is no real concern about Bryant’s availability.

Brandon Jacobs, RB, New York Giants, (hamstring): Jacobs’ dramatic comeback to the football field in Week 6 was followed by an absence due to a sore hamstring in Week 7. Surely he would like to get back out to the field. That did not happen Wednesday as Jacobs was held out of practice again because of the hamstring. He remained out on Thursday and it looks increasingly as if he could miss another week.

Key fantasy injuries for Week 2

September, 14, 2013
9/14/13
5:13
PM ET
Jamaal Charles and Roddy WhiteAP Photo, USA TODAY SportsWill Jamaal Charles and Roddy White be healthy enough to make a fantasy impact in Week 2?
Week 2 of the 2013 NFL season is here along with a mounting number of players with injuries. Several new names cropped up this week on the injury report (Tony Romo, Jamaal Charles and Larry Fitzgerald, to name a few), and, sadly, another player is lost for the season (Vick Ballard). However, in the larger scheme of things, many players appear to have a good chance of suiting up Sunday despite their presence here.

As always, injury concerns regarding players heading into the Sunday and Monday games can be critical. Each week in the Saturday blog, we run down a list of key fantasy players, by position, who appear in the Friday injury report, along with the injured body part(s) as listed on the report, player status, and any relevant developments or insights. The primary fantasy positions are covered (quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end). Our injury designations include “out” (O), “probable” (P), “questionable” (Q) and “doubtful” (D).

With that in mind, good luck in Week 2! May your players stay healthy and lead you to victory.




Quarterbacks

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys, ribs (P): Romo impressed when he came back for the second half of Sunday night’s game after taking a big shot to the ribs. No one should be surprised, given that he has played with worse, including rib fractures. Romo was a full participant in practice throughout the week and, again, it comes as no surprise that he is expected to play Sunday in Arrowhead Stadium.

Running backs

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs, quadriceps (P): Speaking of Arrowhead, the team hosting the Cowboys has been dealing with its own injury concern. Charles suffered a contusion (deep bruise) to his quad in the season opener. After getting a day off Wednesday, he has made steady progress throughout the week -- upgrading to full practice Friday -- and is on track to play Sunday. In fact, Charles declared his readiness Friday. The fact Charles had good range of motion early in the week was a positive indicator that the injury would not severely limit him. There’s always potential the quad will tighten up on him in the game, but no doubt Charles will go through extensive warm-ups before taking the field.

Arian Foster (calf) and Ben Tate (shoulder), Houston Texans (P): Foster and Tate contributed in Sunday’s outing, although the division of work was not quite the 50-50 split coach Gary Kubiak had hinted at before the game. Foster carried the ball 18 times to Tate’s nine, and Foster wants more moving forward. Kubiak maintains that he would prefer the carries to be more even, at least in these early games. In reality, who knows how this will actually play out? The number of actual carries each back has in this week’s game against the Tennessee Titans might have more to do with how the game unfolds. Despite the presence of Foster and Tate on the injury report, both practiced in full throughout the week and the “probable” tags tell us both are expected to play. The only question is how much each back will produce.

Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions, finger/groin/knee (P): On Tuesday, we discussed the injuries Bush suffered in Week 1, and a hyperextended knee was later added to the mix. We also noted that Lions coach Jim Schwartz has no plans to limit Bush’s workload. (As long as he stays on the field, that is.) Full practice every day and a “probable” tag mean Bush will be playing in Arizona this weekend.

Rashard Mendenhall, Arizona Cardinals, hamstring (P): Mendenhall came into Week 1 listed as “probable” because of knee soreness that had cropped up in the preseason. He played. This week, Mendenhall is on the injury report with a hamstring ailment. He was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday but moved up to full practice Friday, just like last week. Expect Mendenhall to play Sunday, barring a setback.

Daryl Richardson, St. Louis Rams, foot (P): As noted earlier, Richardson sat out Wednesday with a foot ailment (coach Jeff Fisher described it as “sore”) but returned Thursday, sounding confident. On Friday, Richardson was listed as a full participant, and his “probable” tag indicates the Rams expect him to play against the Falcons.

Da’Rel Scott, New York Giants, knee (P): With Andre Brown on the IR/designated-for-return list, the Giants are counting on David Wilson and, to a lesser extent, Scott to shoulder the load (and perhaps recently signed Brandon Jacobs). Scott was limited Wednesday because of his knee but was able to practice fully Thursday and Friday. The Giants plan to have him available Sunday.

Bernard Pierce, Baltimore Ravens, thigh (Q): Pierce emerged from Week 1 with a thigh injury and was subsequently limited in practice throughout the week. Despite the “questionable” tag, he is expected to play against the Browns, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Wide receivers

Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys, foot (P): After putting in full practices every day this week, Bryant does not appear to be limited by the mild foot sprain he suffered Sunday night. With a “probable” designation, Bryant is expected to play Sunday, and no doubt he is eager to display some of his trademark big-play ability. As long as he does not aggravate his foot in the game, there’s a good chance Bryant will make us forget about the injury.

Roddy White (ankle) and Julio Jones (knee), Atlanta Falcons (Q): The Falcons are listing their top two wideouts as “questionable.” After last week’s last-minute fiasco surrounding White’s status and the true nature of his ankle injury, what are fantasy owners to believe this week? Falcons coach Mike Smith says White will play, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. However, it should be noted that White returned to only limited practice Friday after sitting out Wednesday and Thursday. If White is to be believed, those missed practices are a red flag as to just how healthy (or unhealthy) he is. There is no evidence yet that White can perform up to his previous high level.

Consequently, we would expect more from Jones. Oh, wait. Jones is also on the injury report, listed as “questionable” with a knee injury. Jones missed Wednesday’s practice, as well, but did return for limited work Thursday and Friday. There has been no strong suggestion that Jones would miss Sunday’s game, but the "questionable" tag mean it’s worth double-checking before kickoff. After all, the Falcons have already shown they might not be forthcoming when it comes to injuries to their star players.

Wes Welker (ankle) and Eric Decker (shoulder), Denver Broncos (P): Welker came into the season opener with the residuals of an ankle sprain but proved it was not going to limit him. He resumed full practice Friday (after being limited Wednesday and Thursday) and is expected to be on the field Sunday. Decker cropped up on this week’s injury report with a shoulder ailment. His season-opening appearance did not match Welker’s, and no doubt he is looking for a better outing against the Giants. He should at least get the opportunity as he practiced in full Thursday and Friday and is expected to play Sunday.

Larry Fitzgerald, hamstring (Q) and Andre Roberts, quadriceps (P), Arizona Cardinals: Fitzgerald has been bothered by a hamstring that tightened up on him Wednesday but was able to participate on a limited basis each day this week. Barring a pregame setback, it appears Fitzgerald will play Sunday. Roberts was on the injury report because of the quadriceps issue last week, but he played and, given his “probable” tag, is expected to do the same this week.

Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints, foot (P): Colston may well appear on the injury report regularly because of his foot, given that it has been bothering him since last year. It did not seem to limit him in Week 1, though, and Colston, a gritty player, is likely to play through it again Sunday unless the pain becomes unmanageable. This week, he was able to practice fully every day and the foot does not seem to be limiting him. He is expected to play against the Buccaneers.

Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars, groin (P): Shorts was kept to limited workouts throughout the week, undoubtedly part of the plan to preserve him for Sunday’s matchup against the Oakland Raiders. Listed as “probable,” he is expected to play.

Sidney Rice, Seattle Seahawks, knee (P): Rice’s knee might keep him on the injury report throughout the season as the team could routinely give him an extra day off from practice. After sitting out Wednesday, Rice returned to full practices Thursday and Friday. Just as he played this past Sunday, expect him to do so again when the Seahawks host their division rival San Francisco 49ers.

DeVier Posey, Houston Texans, Achilles (P): Posey continues to practice fully with the team throughout the week, and the "probable" tag indicates the Texans expect him to be available Sunday.

Tight ends

Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers, toe (P): There was reason for concern when Finley appeared on the Packers’ injury report Wednesday because of a toe injury suffered in the season opener. His surprise return to a limited practice Thursday was a positive sign; the fact he repeated the effort Friday was an even better one. There’s no telling how a toe injury will fare in the course of a game, so this is something that could bother Finley as a result of pushing off and route running as the game progresses. But, given the “probable” tag, it’s clear the Packers plan on Finley being available at the start.

Owen Daniels, Houston Texans, back/groin (P): We’re accustomed to seeing Daniels on the injury report, but we’re also accustomed to seeing him play through various ailments. He was back in full practice Friday after lighter workouts the previous two days. It appears Daniels will again take the field when the Texans host the Titans in Week 2.

Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts, hip (D): Originally listed as questionable on the injury report because of a hip problem that kept him out of practice throughout the week, Allen was downgraded to doubtful Saturday and is not expected to play.

Kickers

Kai Forbath, Washington Redskins, right groin (Q): Forbath popped up on the injury report Friday with a right groin injury, although he was still listed as a full participant. The Redskins had an available substitute at the ready, and, as of Saturday morning, there are reports that the sub might be called upon to fill in. According to ESPN 980, a source says John Potter will be the placekicker for the Redskins on Sunday. Although the team has not declared Forbath out, fantasy owners should plan to find another option at the position.

Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland Raiders, right calf (P): Janikowski’s sore right calf keeps him on the injury report as he takes Wednesdays off, but he is still playing. Expect him to play again when the team hosts the Jaguars on Sunday.




Out

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

Vick Ballard, RB, Indianapolis Colts, knee: Ballard suffered a knee injury in practice Thursday, but the seriousness of the ailment was not immediately revealed. On Friday, the team announced that Ballard had torn his right ACL and was done for the year.

Blaine Gabbert, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars, right thumb/right hand: After suffering a cut that required 15 stitches on his already-injured hand, Gabbert will sit out Sunday’s game. Chad Henne gets the start in Oakland.

Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers, foot: Despite Bell’s optimism that he could be ready in Week 2, he has not even returned to individual drills in practice. This appears to be progressing the way foot sprains often do; the athlete starts in a boot, gets the boot removed, walks without pain and thinks his return is around the corner so increases his work load -- only to find out the recovery won’t be so quick after all. The Steelers do not want an injury that could become a chronic problem; as such, they will be smart and cautious when it comes to treating Bell’s foot injury. Consider Bell week-to-week going forward.

Heath Miller, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers, knee: Miller continues to upgrade his rehab as a limited practice participant but does not appear quite ready for competition. He will not play Monday night.

Kenjon Barner, RB, Carolina Panthers, foot: Barner missed last week’s contest and, after not practicing at all this week, will also sit Sunday.




Off the injury report

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Indianapolis Colts: This announcement couldn’t come soon enough. With Ballard being out for the year, the Colts will lean more heavily on Bradshaw, who, after a gradual buildup in practice work leading to Week 1, is in good shape to absorb the load. Bradshaw will be backed up by Donald Brown.

Be sure to check out "Fantasy Football Now," Sundays on ESPN2 at 11 a.m. ET, for last-minute inactives, rankings, injury impact and more.

Fantasy injury notebook update

September, 13, 2013
9/13/13
8:04
AM ET
Dez Bryant Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsWill Dez Bryant's fantasy owners see him celebrating any TDs on Sunday?
Here are some of the key fantasy-relevant injury situations that I'm following heading into Week 2 of the NFL season.

Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys, (foot): On Tuesday, we learned that Bryant had suffered a foot sprain in Sunday night's game, but that both he and the team were optimistic about his chances of playing this week. Their optimism is supported by the fact that Bryant was a full participant in both Wednesday and Thursday practices. According to the Dallas Morning News, Bryant says his foot "feels great." He appears to be on track for Sunday.

Reggie Bush, RB, Detroit Lions, (finger, groin): In a post earlier this week, we outlined just what Bush had to endure as he racked up points for his fantasy owners in Week 1. We also noted that coach Jim Schwartz made it clear that they weren't going to lighten his workload in games. Heck, they didn't even lighten it in practice this week. Bush was a full participant on both Wednesday and Thursday, making it appear he will also be a full participant Sunday.

Jermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay Packers, (toe): Finley suffered a toe injury in the first game of the season. He did not practice Wednesday, but was able to return on a limited basis the next day. This was a bit of a surprise, since coach Mike McCarthy had expressed doubt Finley would practice Thursday. According to ESPN.com, McCarthy noted Finley was making progress and hoped he would be able to go again on Friday. While it's a good sign that Finley was out on the field a day earlier than that, it's still not clear whether he'll be able to push off hard enough or cut sharply enough to be game ready come Sunday. First things first: let's see what he's able to do on Friday.

Daryl Richardson, RB, St. Louis Rams, (foot): Richardson was given a day off on Wednesday to rest a sore foot, but he did return to limited work on Thursday. The team has not offered any specifics as to the nature of Richardson's foot ailment, but according to ESPN.com, Richardson says the foot feels "great," adding, "It ain't nothing a cold tub can't take care of." We'll see. Teammate Isaiah Pead was suspended for Week 1, but rejoined his team at practice this week and could be available Sunday.


Week 15 is in the books! Whether you're heading into your championship game or your semifinals, a win this week is no doubt critical. Naturally, injuries factor into the equation as to who will make your starting roster and, naturally, there are fewer options to choose from as yet another player says goodbye to the 2012 season.



San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews missed the first two weeks of the season due to a broken clavicle and now he will miss the last two weeks of the season due to a broken clavicle. In the preseason he fractured his right collarbone; now it is his left. At least he knows what rehab he has in store for him. This puts an end to the season in which Mathews scored just one touchdown. Backup Ronnie Brown was forced to sit out Week 15 with a hamstring injury. This week coach Norv Turner says Brown has "a chance" to play, reports Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune.



As we head into Week 16:

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
David Richard/USA TODAY SportsRobert Griffin III hopes to do more than just watch on the sidelines on Sunday.
Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III cheered on teammate Kirk Cousins on Sunday as the backup led the team to victory. Griffin was held out due to the sprained LCL in his right knee amidst doctors' concern that he would be risking further injury. A return this week remains a possibility and, as The Washington Post reports, coach Mike Shanahan noted, "If the doctors give their OK, he's going to play." Griffin moved increasingly well as last week progressed, an encouraging sign given how painful the injury appeared at the time. If he can continue to make strides this week and if the swelling has resolved and doctors believe the knee is stable, look for Griffin to be pressing for a return. After all, he was doing that last week and made it clear it was not his decision to sit. Resting was a wise move by the team, which has to balance the weight of the lengthy career of a star player against any single-game benefit. Hopefully, the decision for Week 16 will come well before game time.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant played last Sunday despite a fractured left index finger (which will ultimately require surgery to repair) and it certainly affected him at times. Bryant wore a customized splint created for him by the Cowboys' medical staff; however, his finger, too bulky to fit inside the glove, was exposed (the finger of his glove was cut out to accommodate the splint). Although Bryant performed better than might have been expected, there were some dropped passes or missed plays likely attributable to the finger. Bryant has already said he plans to play against the New Orleans Saints this weekend. He will continue to have the finger protected and he likely will face the same challenges from week to week. As long as it does not worsen, he should be able to perform as he did. His performance may even improve a bit as he adapts to the feeling of having the finger splinted. Of course, the unknown remains how any given hit or fall during the course of a game could affect his hand. Don't expect him to do much to jeopardize the relative health of his finger during the week. As Bryant told ESPN Dallas, "We're just going to be careful with it throughout the week and get ready for the game."

[+] EnlargeAhmad Bradshaw
AP Photo/Bill KostrounAhmad Bradshaw was a surprise scratch in Week 15 but could be ready to go just in time for the fantasy championships.
New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw was held out of Week 15 because of a sprained knee. Despite his toughness and known willingness to play through pain, Bradshaw's knee concerned the team enough for the Giants to keep him at home as they traveled to Atlanta. The Giants are certainly ready to move on from that game, and Bradshaw is hopeful, expectant even, that he will play. Bradshaw paid a visit to the ESPN campus Tuesday and told me he has full range of motion in his knee again, a critical determinant of him being permitted to upgrade his activity. The knee is still sore (he had a bag of ice handy so that he could carry out his treatment, even while visiting) but Bradshaw says it feels significantly better than it did at the time of injury. Oh, yes, he's still battling pain in his foot, but as he indicated, the knee issue has essentially made him forget about anything with the foot. And as he pointed out, "I've played with broken feet. I know that's not going to stop me." I am under the impression Bradshaw will be returning this week, barring a setback.

• Another player who could return this week is Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy. McCoy has missed four weeks since suffering a concussion and has been working his way back through the team's five-phase concussion recovery protocol. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports McCoy has been cleared by a neurologist to return, and head coach Andy Reid says there is "a chance" he plays. From a rehab perspective, there is no benefit to shutting him down if, in fact, he has made a complete recovery. Expect McCoy to participate in practice and, as the week progresses, there should be some insight from the team as to whether the Eagles plan on utilizing him in Sunday's game.

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey continues to leave the door open for running back Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) to return. John Oehser of the Jaguars' official website reports that Mularkey indicated Jones-Drew's pain had improved. The plan was to work him out Tuesday to see how the foot would respond. Mularkey changed Jones-Drew's status from "very questionable" (which it has been for several weeks) to questionable. Still, it is clear the team is being cautious in returning him from a serious foot sprain. Right now, it seems unlikely Jones-Drew will make the necessary progress to play in a game, but as Mularkey noted, the Jaguars are not yet ruling him out. You probably don't want to invest your championship hopes in him.



St. Louis Rams receiver Danny Amendola played his first game in three weeks last Sunday. He had a decent outing, considering Amendola isn't fully recovered from the plantar fascia injury he sustained in Week 11. He managed 58 yards and a touchdown along with a two-point conversion for good measure. Amendola told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "The foot felt pretty good for the most part." The best takeaway is that Amendola made it through the entire game and had no setbacks. The foot will not be 100 percent healthy until he has more time to rest it in the offseason, but if he can perform well enough to deliver fantasy points -- and it appears he can -- then he might just be worth inserting into your lineup.

• The Chicago Bears have placed running back Michael Bush on injured reserve. He suffered a rib injury in Week 13, managed just one carry the following week before pain forced him out, and then was sidelined completely for Week 15.

• The Tennessean reports Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kendall Wright says he suffered at least one cracked rib in Monday night's game. Wright exited the game in the fourth quarter after the injury. His status for this week is uncertain, but given the short time frame, it would not be a surprise if he is held out.

Griffin III uncertain, Bryant to play

December, 13, 2012
12/13/12
9:14
PM ET


The additions to injured reserve keep piling up.

This week, the Arizona Cardinals placed quarterback Kevin Kolb on injured reserve. Kolb has complex rib, chest and shoulder injuries, which have sidelined him since Week 6. After giving John Skelton a shot at the starting job last week, the Cardinals have reverted back to Ryan Lindley. (We feel for you Larry Fitzgerald fantasy owners.)

Also, the Indianapolis Colts placed running back Donald Brown on injured reserve. Brown has a severe high-ankle sprain, which would have taken longer to recover from than the season permitted. Vick Ballard will be the starter for the remainder of the season.

Players with the biggest question marks heading into Week 15:

Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins (knee): RG III has impressed many by participating in limited practice both Wednesday and Thursday. His presence Wednesday was a bit of a surprise after the frightening blow he took in Sunday's game, which resulted in an LCL sprain. More encouraging was that he returned the following day, which indicated that he did not experience any setback from Wednesday's activity. "He looked more comfortable," coach Mike Shanahan said of RG III's effort on Thursday, according to the Washington Post.

RG III has been fit with a brace to protect his knee and offer some stability. The final decision regarding his game status sounds as though it will not be made until Sunday. This gives RG III the maximum possible time to recover and keeps the Redskins' opponent (the Cleveland Browns) guessing, both of which benefit the Redskins. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan outlined the key questions to determine whether Griffin will be under center. "I think Robert's going to be able to show us that he can move well, [but] it's more," Shanahan said. "If his knee is stable enough, can he protect himself in there and is there a risk of further injury?" Griffin is trending in the right direction in terms of his health, but come Sunday, the team could still elect to hold him out to buy him some additional recovery time. Fantasy owners should plan for a game-time decision.

Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys (finger): On Tuesday, we noted what the concerns might be for Bryant and his finger if he postpones recommended surgery. However, it appears that Bryant plans to take on that risk. He returned to limited practice Thursday, telling reporters, "Only thing y'all need to know is I'm playing," according to ESPN Dallas.

[+] EnlargeCowboys
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezDespite his broken finger, Dez Bryant said he will play on Sunday.
What we all would like to know is just how well Bryant will be able to catch the ball. The two challenges will be trying to protect the injured finger and pain. When a bone is broken, vibration is perhaps the most pain-inducing sensation; a ball thrown from the quarterback with any measure of speed will certainly be painful when it hits the injured finger. Add to the mix the challenge for the medical staff to provide protection for the receiver's finger while not impeding his ability to catch the ball -- and pour on some swelling for good measure. It's difficult to function at a high level with this injury. The best sign so far was that Bryant was able to catch some passes Thursday; the next test will be to see how his finger is Friday and whether he can repeat the effort.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants (knee): When Bradshaw misses practice to rest his sore foot, it almost goes unnoticed because the expectation has become that he will play come Sunday. However, Bradshaw is contending with a new injury this week, and there seems to be a lot less confidence that it will be business as usual on game day. Bradshaw underwent an MRI and the team reports he has a sprained knee, although in the absence of any specifics, the diagnosis is essentially unhelpful as it could represent a multitude of scenarios.

The bottom line is that he has not practiced -- and may not this week. Coach Tom Coughlin referred to Bradshaw's toughness when addressing reporters Thursday after practice. As reported by ESPN New York, Coughlin offered this response to questions about Bradshaw's status: "I am not going to speculate -- because of the toughness of this young man -- on how long it would be," Coughlin said. "I am not going to rule him out of anything." Bradshaw is likely to appeal to play because he is, well, tough and competitive. However, the Giants' coaching and medical staffs may help make the decision for him. The Giants travel to Atlanta to play the Falcons, so if Bradshaw does not make the trip, the question will be answered. If he does travel, then add him to the game-time decision list.

Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons (knee): Knee. MRI. No details. Game-time decision. Sound familiar? The matchup between the Giants and the Falcons on Sunday has two stars whose injury situations are tenuous. Falcons coach Mike Smith told reporters Wednesday that White had a knee injury but he expected him back Thursday. After White did not practice Thursday, Smith called him a game-time decision, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Smith did say that White felt "much better" Thursday compared to how he did Wednesday, but he also noted the team would exercise caution leading up to Sunday.

This is, after all, the time of the season when teams headed for the playoffs exercise careful judgment about returning players with even a minor ailment to action for fear it will develop into something more significant. White never misses games -- he hasn't missed one in eight years with the Falcons -- even when he's less than 100 percent healthy. However, this week it sounds as though he will have to be convincingly healthy come Sunday. For fantasy owners, it's another toss-up until Sunday morning.

Danny Amendola, WR, St. Louis Rams (foot): Amendola has missed two games in a row (and most of a third game considering he had one catch in Week 12) because of his sore foot and heel. He has been a limited participant in practice this week, and could make a return Sunday, though it is likely to be another game-time call. Coach Jeff Fisher said Amendola needs the foot to heal sufficiently before returning, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Danny needs to be close to 100 percent to be effective -- to be able to protect himself," Fisher said. Whether he will reach that mark by Sunday is the big question.

Quick Hits

[+] EnlargeAdrian Peterson
Bruce Kluckhohn/US PresswireAdrian Peterson should be good to go this weekend despite battling an abdominal injury.
Oh no, not Adrian Peterson on the injury report. After being limited Wednesday, Peterson did not practice Thursday because of an abdominal injury. According to Judd Zulgad of 1500ESPN.com, Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he expects Peterson back on Friday. It would appear that all of Peterson's fantasy owners can now exhale.

Detroit Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew has missed two practices following his ankle injury in Week 14. The Lions have not hinted at his status, but they play in a late game on Sunday. It would be wise to have a backup plan.

Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy described the chances of wide receiver Jordy Nelson suiting up on Sunday as a "long shot," which is all fantasy owners should need to hear. Nelson has not practiced this week, and with an eye on the postseason, expect the Packers to hold him out this week.

Concussions kept Jaguars running back Rashad Jennings and wide receiver Cecil Shorts out in Week 14. It looks as though Jennings will be sidelined again, as he has not yet returned to practice. Shorts has returned to limited practice this week and appears on track in his progression. Still, as the Florida Times-Union reports, Shorts has seen up close the difficulties some of his teammates have had after sustaining concussions, and he plans to take it one step at a time. "I'm definitely going to be smart about this," Shorts said. "As much as I want to play and would like to play, my health is more important." That sounds smart.

After getting a much-needed Wednesday off (along with the majority of his teammates), Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler returned to practice Thursday on a limited basis. Expect him to play on Sunday.

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice suffered a hip pointer on Sunday, but has been a limited participant in both Wednesday and Thursday practices. His injury did not sound serious, and his presence on the practice field supports that notion. Expect him on the field Sunday.

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Sidney Rice suffered a foot injury, and ended up in a walking boot to start the week. He has not practiced, but the Seattle Times reports he was moving without the boot Thursday, which is encouraging. For what it's worth, quarterback Russell Wilson told the Seattle Times that he expects Rice to play. It would be a good sign to see Rice practice on Friday in order to feel better about his Sunday status.

Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden was reportedly moving well in practice early this week despite suffering a minor setback to his ankle in Week 14. He has been a full practice participant this week and is expected to play this weekend.

Don't expect to see Carolina Panthers wide receiver Brandon LaFell (turf toe) or running back Jonathan Stewart (ankle) this weekend as neither player has practiced this week.

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).

Post-Week 8 injury report

October, 30, 2012
10/30/12
6:29
PM ET


Week 8 is in the books! The season is approaching the halfway mark, the point where some fantasy teams attempting to reach the playoffs must decide whether to fish or cut bait when it comes to players with injury concerns. Unfortunately, there are still a number of question marks out there with players whose return status is unclear.



[+] EnlargeNelson/Jennings
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesGreg Jennings may not be back for a while, but Jordy Nelson could return this week.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings was impacted by Hurricane Sandy in an unusual way. Jennings was scheduled to undergo abdominal surgery in Philadelphia on Tuesday, but due to travel difficulties associated with the storm, surgery has been postponed. No word as of yet as to how long until Jennings' operation is rescheduled. While a delay of a few days is not likely to significantly impact his overall recovery, every week counts. It would not be a surprise if he doesn't return until December.



Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) has already been ruled out for Week 9, according to coach Mike Mularkey, but there is no definitive word on when to expect him back. (I still expect him to return this season, but whether it's in the next two or three weeks or more than a month away is unclear.).



San Diego Chargers wide receiver Vincent Brown was an exciting prospect in the preseason, then a fractured ankle sent him to IR/designated for return. The question now is when he will return, as he has yet to practice and hasn't even begun running. Head coach Norv Turner acknowledged Monday, "I don't expect him back real soon." Brown was always projected to miss at least eight weeks and the Chargers indicated he was on track throughout his recovery process. Once he became eligible to join the team in practice, though, his absence became more noteworthy. It's not a huge surprise given the challenges of regaining functional strength and mobility in an ankle after a fracture, even if the bone has healed. Still, given the notion that Brown is still multiple weeks away from a return, fantasy owners should consider looking elsewhere for midseason help.



There are some other players whose status is worth tracking. Here's who we're keeping an eye on heading into Week 9:

Peyton Manning, QB Denver Broncos, (thumb): The Broncos have to be breathing a sigh of relief that Manning did not suffer a more serious injury when he hit his thumb on a helmet. Manning said afterward he was "lucky" that the impact was on the nail (as opposed to further down on the bone itself) and coach John Fox told reporters Monday that Manning's thumb was fine. Whew.



[+] EnlargeJonathan Dwyer
AP Photo/Don WrightJonathan Dwyer has two straight 100-yard rushing games, but now he's dealing with the injury bug.
Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles), Jonathan Dwyer (quad) and Isaac Redman (ankle), RBs, Pittsburgh Steelers: The three lead running backs for the Steelers are all on the injury report and there is some uncertainty around the status of each. Mendenhall strained his Achilles in Week 6 and has not practiced since. Although the indications are that the injury was not serious, the Steelers would prefer it not become serious, and Mendenhall is still early in his return from ACL surgery. Last week, head coach Mike Tomlin indicated Mendenhall was making progress and he will begin individual drills Wednesday. It would not be surprising if he is able to return this week, although much depends on how he responds to increased work.



Redman is still recovering from an ankle injury also sustained in Week 6. He did make it back to limited practice late last week and, if he gets through a week of practice, he should be available by Sunday. Dwyer got the start last Sunday with both Mendenhall and Redman sidelined, but he was reported to have a strained right quad after the game, leaving the question as to who will be available (and starting) this week. On Monday, Tomlin announced that Dwyer would not practice Wednesday but could be back in the mix Thursday. In other words, this situation will not likely shake out until late in the week.

DeMarco Murray (foot) and Felix Jones (knee), RBs, Dallas Cowboys: Murray has been out since suffering a foot sprain in Week 6 but it sounds as if he is making some progress. According to the Dallas Morning News, head coach Jason Garrett said, "It seems like he's moving around a little bit better." Garrett also cautioned that it is the type of injury that warrants caution and that Murray is day-to-day. Foot injuries are very tricky, even those that don't require surgery, as we have seen in the past (Exhibit A: Raiders running back Darren McFadden, who was unable to return after his midseason injury last year). Murray moving better is a far cry from hard running and making sharp cuts in practice. Consider me skeptical until we see evidence that he can do these things without limitation before declaring him ready to return. In the meantime, Jones entered the Week 8 game with a bone bruise in his knee and managed to escape without further injury. Jones would likely get the start again if Murray remains out.

Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys (hip): Anyone watching the Cowboys this weekend probably saw the spectacular catch that Bryant made in the end zone late in the game, the one that was just fingertips shy of a touchdown. While many were watching the multiple replays of the catch, some may have noticed that Bryant seemed a bit shaken up on the play and even appeared to be limping as he left the field. He did return to finish the game but there were still questions about his hip. On Monday, coach Jason Garrett told reporters the Cowboys did not think the injury was "that severe." It appears Bryant should be fine to play in Week 9.

Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers (hamstring): Nelson was out in Week 8 because of a hamstring strain suffered in last Wednesday's practice. Nelson should get back to practice this week. How he responds should offer further clues about his availability for Sunday.

Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions (knee): Johnson is on the playing field weekly despite being a regular on the injury report, so it hardly merits a mention. Most of the time. This week, however, Johnson made some postgame comments suggesting his knee is more of a problem than he has let on. When referencing a dropped pass, Johnson told reporters, "It's tough to stick my foot in the ground with my knee hurting, but that's not [an] excuse." Johnson is not typically one to make excuses, nor is he one to complain about physical ailments, but his words suggest that the pain is literally impacting his performance. Will that alter his status heading into Week 9? Don't count on it. Coach Jim Schwartz said of Johnson Monday that he is "plowing through," suggesting that he will continue to do so until or unless it becomes physically impossible. Expect Johnson to get a big break in practice this week to help preserve him for Sunday.

Ben Tate, RB, Houston Texans (hamstring): Tate was dealing with a toe injury recently, and now he's got a strained hamstring. As Texans head coach Gary Kubiak told reporters Monday, "It seems like it's been one thing after another." The Houston Chronicle reports that Tate maintained a regular rehab schedule during the Texans' bye week in the hopes of being ready for Monday practice, yet he still could not participate. The cumulative injuries have prompted Kubiak to suggest that Tate will miss some time to try to get his health right. No indication whether that time is the span of a few days or more than a week, but it hints at an absence for Week 9. Justin Forsett suddenly becomes more interesting.

[+] EnlargeTannehill
AP Photo/Seth WenigThe Dolphins cruised to a win in Week 8, even with Ryan Tannehill leaving with an injury.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, Miami Dolphins (knee): Tannehill suffered a bone bruise in his left knee along with a quadriceps contusion (deep bruise) early in Week 8 and Matt Moore came in to finish the game. According to ESPN news reports, an MRI did not reveal any more specific structural damage, but Tannehill's status for Sunday remains uncertain.

Wes Welker, WR, New England Patriots, (ankle): Welker sprained his left ankle in the fourth quarter of the Patriots' London game against the St. Louis Rams and did not return. As reported by ESPN Boston, Welker said his foot got "stuck in the turf" and he remained walking the sidelines following the injury. There doesn't seem to be much concern about Welker's chances for Week 10, as he will have the benefit of a bye week to recover.



Aaron Hernandez, TE, New England Patriots (ankle): Hernandez, who did not travel with the team to London, should also benefit from the bye week. Although Hernandez has returned to play since injuring his ankle in Week 2, he was still experiencing some limitations with mobility and agility. Eliminating a long road trip combined with two weeks of relative rest and focused treatment should have Hernandez in better shape by Week 10.

Week 1 Giants-Cowboys injury updates

September, 5, 2012
9/05/12
12:00
PM ET


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

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

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

Witten


Witten


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

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

Nicks


Nicks


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



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



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



Bryant


Bryant


Austin


Austin


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



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

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

Bradshaw


Bradshaw


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

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



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

Murray


Murray


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

Tony Romo, Michael Vick progressing

September, 22, 2011
9/22/11
7:28
PM ET


Quarterbacks

[+] EnlargeTony Romo
AP Photo/LM OteroA special vest could help Tony Romo absorb hits to his rib cage and allow him to play Monday night.
Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys: On Tuesday we outlined Romo's injury and what we learned from the Cowboys' official statement. ESPN's Ed Werder reported Wednesday that Romo is being outfitted for a special protective vest in the event he suits up Monday night. A similar vest was created for Michael Vick after he suffered a rib cartilage injury last season, something Vick credited with allowing him to play despite continuing to absorb hits. Romo is certainly taking the steps toward being protected Monday night, but will he play? Most importantly, the lung will need to show evidence of healing. Romo, who is not practicing so far this week, underwent a CT scan Thursday to evaluate the status of his injury. Those results are not known at the time of this writing, but if the lung has healed, the decision to play largely comes down to pain tolerance. Romo has shown his ability to press through pain but he also needs to show he can perform effectively and move well enough to protect himself. There should be better clues as to his status in the next few days.

Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles: Like Romo, Vick is being evaluated on a daily basis to determine his readiness to return to action. He appeared to take another step forward as he returned to practice Thursday after going through morning walkthroughs and mild exertional and balance tests Wednesday. After suffering a concussion, all players must meet the guidelines outlined by the NFL before they can return to play. Those guidelines include: the absence of symptoms both at rest and with exertion, a normal neurological exam, normal neurocognitive tests (these are the ImPACT tests which measure how the brain processes information; results must return to baseline pre-concussion values) and clearance to return from both the team physician and an independent neurological consultant. While Vick certainly appears to be making progress, the key is that there are no setbacks with each gradient of increasing activity. If Vick is able to take part in consecutive practices this week and suffers no setbacks going forward, it paves the way for a Sunday start.

Running Backs

Arian Foster and Derrick Ward, Houston Texans: The Texans are lucky to have so much depth at running back; fantasy owners everywhere wish they could say the same. After complaining of tightness in his hamstring Sunday, Foster did not play in the second half of the game. While the symptoms of "tightness" do not sound severe, it does raise a caution flag when it comes to Foster's overall recovery, as in he's not quite there yet. With Ben Tate ably handling the duties, it looks as though he will get the start Sunday with Foster, at best, contributing only slightly. Ward, who sat out Week 2 with a high ankle sprain, did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and is not expected to play.



Steven Jackson and Cadillac Williams, St. Louis Rams: The news on Jackson is not as encouraging as one would have hoped it would be by this point. When Jackson, who strained his right quadriceps muscle in Week 1, took to the field to test his leg before Monday night's game, it seemed as though his return was not far off. This week however Jackson's first practice did not come until Thursday and he was still limited. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports Jackson could be headed for another game-time decision. Williams, who started in place of Jackson on Monday night, strained a hamstring Monday and has not practiced this week.

Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos: Moreno and hamstring injuries seem to go hand in hand. After not playing in Week 2, Moreno returned to limited practice this week. That said, it's hard to imagine he's 100 percent past the injury by Sunday. The Broncos have to be concerned about a setback with him and may opt to limit his carries, even if he does play Sunday.

Wide Receivers

Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys Bryant sat out Week 2 with a thigh bruise and now that teammate Miles Austin is potentially out for a few weeks because of his hamstring, the Cowboys would like to have Bryant back in the mix. Bryant still was not practicing Thursday making his Monday status much less certain. The team is hopeful that an extra day before game time will help his cause; his returning to practice Friday would help ours.

Quick Hits


Uh-oh. Late-week practice injury alert: Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells now has a hamstring injury to add to the list of ailments that have touched him in his young career. According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic via Twitter, Wells suffered the injury in Thursday's practice. While it's not known just how severe the injury is, we never like to see these things crop up late in the week.

Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Lloyd (groin) was back at full practice Thursday after doing limited work Wednesday. Lloyd sat out Week 2 but the team could really use him now that teammate Eddie Royal, also with a groin injury, is expected to miss time. If Lloyd practices again Friday it will be a good sign he's heading for a Sunday start.

In Detroit, wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who sprained his left ankle in Week 1 but delivered on the field again in Week 2, is expected to play in Week 3. Johnson is following last year's routine of doing less in practice and more on Sunday. It seems to be working for him.

New Orleans Saints' wide receiver Lance Moore made his season debut in Week 2 coming off a groin injury that cost him much of the preseason. Although his targets were limited, Moore emerged from the game no worse for the wear. After putting in a full practice Wednesday, Moore did not appear on Thursday's injury report. With teammate Marques Colston down for another couple of weeks with a fractured collarbone, Moore's health could provide the Saints and fantasy owners a boost in Week 3.

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson clearly looked to be struggling with his nagging groin injury late in the Week 2 contest. He did not practice Wednesday but did return to a full workload Thursday. The question is how much this injury will affect him during play. It certainly appears as though he will suit up but he will not be fully recovered. The Bills have to hope that he does not take a turn for the worse.

It's a little difficult to know how concerned to be about the San Diego Chargers. Tight end Antonio Gates did not do much in Week 2 but whether that was due to good defensive coverage or lack of mobility -- or a little of both -- is up for debate. Gates sat out Wednesday's practice, which is likely to be a season-long theme -- but is expected to play in Week 3. Running back Mike Tolbert did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and is listed on the injury report with a calf ailment. If he's not out there Friday it's officially time to get nervous. Wide receiver Malcom Floyd is not practicing because of a groin injury and is quite possibly out Sunday.

The Oakland Raiders still list running back Darren McFadden as a limited participant in practice this week because of his shoulder but he is expected to play this weekend. In the wide receiver department, neither Jacoby Ford (hamstring) nor Louis Murphy (groin) is practicing. Murphy is expected out and Ford is not looking like he'll be ready. Then there's Darrius Heyward-Bey, who missed Week 2 after injuring his knee in practice last week. A return to full practice Thursday was encouraging. If he does it again Friday it improves the outlook for Sunday.

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Sidney Rice has been absent so far this season after suffering a shoulder injury (labral tear) during preseason drills. Perhaps the best news on the receiver so far is that he took part in full practice Wednesday but he will need to do so throughout the week to have a shot at playing in Week 3. Given the injury, there's no expectation that it will heal. The question becomes whether Rice can function effectively and consistently.

New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez sprained his MCL and is all but certain to miss this week and next. Whether he will require more time away from the game is up in the air.

See you at the injury chat Friday at 11 a.m. and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 3 in the Saturday morning blog.

Holmes, Bryant, Nicks among iffy WRs

September, 18, 2011
9/18/11
1:09
AM ET


After a stellar performance in Week 1, San Diego Chargers running back Mike Tolbert gave everyone a scare when he exited the game in the fourth quarter with what appeared to be a knee injury. Tolbert was medically cleared to return to practice by the start of the week, however, and never even showed up on the team's injury report. In other words, he put in a normal week of practice and is ready to face the New England Patriots.



Also off the injury report: Matt Cassel (QB, Kansas City Chiefs), Steve Breaston (WR, Chiefs), Austin Collie (WR, Indianapolis Colts) and Visanthe Shiancoe (TE, Minnesota Vikings)

Good luck in Week 2, everyone! May your players stay healthy and win for you.

Quarterbacks

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams, index finger, (P): The Rams play in the Monday night game, so it is nice to know there is every indication that he will play. On Thursday, we noted the team's optimism after Bradford returned to practice and how he was going about treating his finger . The concern after this injury, naturally, is how well Bradford can grip and deliver the ball, but those concerns were put to rest early in the week with the accuracy Bradford showed in practice. After doing limited work Wednesday and Thursday, Bradford put in a full practice Friday, enhancing his chances of leading his team in New York on Monday night.

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals, right wrist, (P): Dalton's bruised right forearm made it difficult for him to effectively use his wrist and hand to grip the ball early in the week, but as the inflammation has improved, so has his function. Dalton was able to do some work with the right hand Thursday (after using only his left on Wednesday) and on Friday was able to put in a full practice. He showed the team what he needed to for them to list him as probable. Plan on Dalton starting Sunday.

Jason Campbell, Oakland Raiders, foot, (P): Despite being added to the injury report this week with a foot ailment, Campbell put in a full practice daily. He is expected to start in Buffalo.

Running backs

Arian Foster
AP Photo/Eric GayAfter missing Week 1, Arian Foster is looking good to play on Sunday against the Dolphins.
Arian Foster, Houston Texans, hamstring, (Q): Still the most intensely observed fantasy player in Week 2, Foster appears on track to play this week after sitting out the season opener. This really doesn't come as a shock after tracking Foster's progress throughout the past two weeks. Although he didn't practice last week, he did increase the intensity of his running workouts daily. This week, Foster returned to practice, and though he was listed as limited each day, head coach Gary Kubiak noted as early as Wednesday that Foster was taking the normal reps of a starter. By Friday, Kubiak sounded confident in Foster's recovery. With teammate Derrick Ward already ruled out (ankle, shoulder), it appears Foster is in line to start, with Ben Tate available to come off the bench. It is worth noting that Kubiak indicated Foster would likely not take his usual number of snaps, but these are the types of things that often change during the game. If Foster shows any signs of discomfort or suffers a setback, Tate could come in early. But if Foster shows that the hamstring issue appears to be a thing of the past and he's running well, he could see the bulk of the action. Despite the desire of fantasy owners to make it so, it is impossible to be certain an athlete is fully recovered from a muscle strain until he is able to prove it on the field. Game situations are more demanding and are simply not duplicated in practice. So everyone hopes for the best, knowing the week of rest undoubtedly benefited Foster in his recovery process. The Texans have shown they are interested in his availability for the long haul by not pressing him into service in Week 1. No doubt Foster is eager to prove to everyone -- even himself -- that the worst of this injury is behind him.

Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams, quadriceps, (Q): Like teammate Sam Bradford, Jackson plays Monday night, only his status is less certain. While Jackson maintained late in the week that there was still an "outside chance" he could suit up Monday, that chance appears to be very small indeed. Jackson left the Week 1 contest shortly after delivering a touchdown on a 47-yard play and hasn't practiced since. As noted Thursday, the team has confidence in Jackson's ability to recognize how his body is responding, but the signs are not encouraging. Even Jackson, while trying to keep the door open for a Monday night appearance, acknowledged to reporters that it's still early in the season and they want to be smart. The uncertainty, combined with a Monday night game, makes Jackson a risky play. Cadillac Williams would get the start in his place.

Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos, hamstring, (Q): Moreno again appears on an injury report because of a hamstring ailment. Moreno has missed time in the past because of hamstring problems and it had to be a concern for fantasy owners coming into the season. This week, it's a particular concern because Moreno has not practiced at all. To complicate the fantasy scenario, this is a late game Sunday. Coming off a Monday night game (translation: less recovery time) with no practice whatsoever, it appears unlikely Moreno will be on the field to face the Cincinnati Bengals.



Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders, shoulder, (P): After taking his share of hits Monday night, McFadden was limited Wednesday and Thursday with a sore shoulder but returned to a full practice Friday, much to the relief of fantasy owners everywhere. The buzz in Oakland, along with the probable tag, indicates he is ready to play Sunday.

Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins, hamstring, (P): Thomas injured his hamstring Sept. 7 in practice and was held out of the season opener as a result. Thomas returned to full practice this week, and as his probable designation would suggest, is expected to play. Between coming off the injury and a less than stellar preseason, Thomas is not likely to get the majority of carries. Teammate Reggie Bush is expected to start Sunday, but it's worth keeping an eye on Thomas, whose role could expand going forward.

Wide receivers

Santonio Holmes, New York Jets, knee/quadriceps, (Q): Holmes suffered a knee injury in last week's contest against the Dallas Cowboys, but it did not appear particularly serious given that Holmes practiced fully Wednesday. On Thursday, however, Holmes injured his quadriceps (front of the thigh muscle) during practice and told reporters he did it while running. It's unclear whether the two injuries were on the same side, but since the quadriceps crosses the knee joint, the injuries could certainly compound one another. Coach Rex Ryan's concern about Holmes' status was evident and even Holmes, after expressing confidence about playing Thursday, told "The Michael Kay Show" on Friday that the decision would be up to the doctors. In other words, this likely comes down to pregame warm-ups and evaluation, but it also suggests Holmes is not likely to be at full strength by game time. Murky.

Plaxico Burress, New York Jets, ankle, (P): Burress played last week, practiced fully every day this week and is expected to play this week as well.

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, ankle, (Q): Despite being listed as questionable, there is every expectation Johnson will play. Swelling in an ankle he sprained in Week 1 kept him off the practice field Wednesday and Thursday, but he did return to limited practice Friday. All along, Johnson did not seem overly concerned about his status and he has certainly rested during the week in past seasons in order to recover for Sunday. While it may not be a full recovery for his ankle, it's likely enough to allow him to be a big-play guy for Matthew Stafford to target.

Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants, knee, (Q): Just what fantasy owners love. A Monday night game-time decision for a star player who has indicated he plans on playing but may not be up to full speed. That essentially summarizes the Nicks situation. Swelling in his knee kept him out of practice Wednesday and Thursday and he did only limited individual work Friday. While the New York Daily News reported Friday that Nicks indicated he would be "out there Monday" and that the pain and swelling were gone, head coach Tom Coughlin reiterated it would be a medical decision. The fact that Nicks got in a couple of days of limited work is a positive, but there's no telling how his knee will be feeling come Monday. The bottom line is if the swelling has returned to a degree where it compromises his ability to move effectively, he will be held out. On the other hand, an additional day of rest this week allows for more recovery. Given how Nicks has responded in the past and his late-week progress, the scale tips in his favor to play, but this is why they're called "dreaded" game-time decisions.



Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys, thigh, (Q): Bryant is not only questionable, he's very questionable. After looking clearly impaired in the second half of last Sunday's game, Bryant did not practice all week because of a deep thigh bruise. Although team owner Jerry Jones sounded confident Thursday about Bryant's chances of playing, he retreated a bit from his remarks on Friday. While the Cowboys have indicated they would give Bryant up until game time, it's not just a question of desire on the part of Bryant. A deep bruise indicates bleeding within the muscle, which can render the tissue stiff and painful. The athlete will not be at full strength, will lack flexibility and, depending how limited he is, could be at risk for further injury. It would not be a surprise if Bryant sits; if he does not, it's hard to picture him performing at full capacity.

Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys, knee, (P): Last week, he was probable. He played. He scored. This week, he's probable as well. He plays again and perhaps gets more attention given teammate Bryant's status.

Brandon Lloyd, Denver Broncos, groin, (P): Despite telling reporters he was not injured in the Monday night game, Lloyd appeared on the injury report and did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. He did make an appearance Friday, increasing his chances of making an appearance Sunday. That said, he will undoubtedly warm up before the game before a decision is made. It's hard to feel confident about a receiver with a groin injury coming off a short week and practicing only once, and on a limited basis at that.

Lance Moore
Patrick Green/Icon SMILance Moore could make his season debut Sunday against the Bears, but how effective will he be?
Lance Moore, New Orleans Saints, groin, (Q): Another receiver, another groin injury. In Moore's case, however, the injury was several weeks ago, he rested the first week of the season and he has been able to practice all week, albeit on a limited basis. With teammate Marques Colston out with a broken clavicle, Moore has an opportunity to be the beneficiary. It appears he might begin that campaign this week. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that, as early as Thursday, head coach Sean Payton expressed optimism Moore would play this week. That said, even if he does play, it's hard to project how much action he will see. Everyone knows by now that quarterback Drew Brees has a multitude of receiving weapons and Moore is coming off a multiweek injury to an easily aggravated body part. And he is, after all, questionable, so be sure to check pregame inactive reports.

Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers, foot, (Q): Crabtree will likely be a game-time decision and last week's scenario had to be a bit unnerving for fantasy owners. Crabtree, who dealt with a foot injury that required surgery in the offseason, left the game early because of pain. According to the Sacramento Bee, Crabtree later said he would likely have to play through pain all season and would just "remove himself from the game" when it becomes unbearable. Not exactly what fantasy owners want to hear.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Oakland Raiders, knee, (Q): Heyward-Bey's status becomes more important this week with teammates Louis Murphy and Jacoby Ford already ruled out due to injury. Heyward-Bey has a knee issue that limited him on Thursday (he did not finish practice after sustaining the injury) and he did not practice on Friday. The Raiders under Hue Jackson are being very mum on injuries, but there is definitely some concern about Heyward-Bey's late-week injury, perhaps even more so because the team is already thin at receiver this week. If he plays, it's not likely his well-documented speed will be up to par.

Tight ends

Chris Cooley, Washington Redskins, knee, (Q): Cooley, not surprisingly, struggled in Week 1. He did increase his practice activity this week, however, fully participating daily. It seems likely that if he could play last week, he will again this week, but how effective he can be is still questionable. Keep in mind this is an issue Cooley said he expected to have to manage throughout the season, so until we see him perform better, it's hard to have confidence.

Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville Jaguars, calf, (D): Lewis did not practice at all Wednesday or Thursday and was limited Friday. The doubtful tag tells you all you need to know. He is highly unlikely to play in Week 2.

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.

Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts, neck: Get used to this one. Manning will be out for several months after undergoing a cervical (neck) fusion.



Sidney Rice, WR, Seattle Seahawks, shoulder: The Seahawks spared everyone another Sunday lineup decision by announcing in advance that Rice is out for Week 2. He did do some practicing this week, though, so keep an eye on him for next Sunday.

Be sure to check out Fantasy Football Now, Sundays on ESPN2 at 11:30 a.m. ET, and don't forget our game-day chat and the online version of Fantasy Football Now on ESPN.com starts at 10 a.m. ET for last-minute inactives, rankings, injury impact and more!


Quarterbacks

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams: On Tuesday, we outlined Bradford's injury concerns following the hit to his index finger in Week 1. On Wednesday, the Rams got some good news (one might say deservedly so, after all of the blows they were dealt on Sunday). Bradford returned to practice sooner than expected and looked better than expected. He was making numerous throws in practice Wednesday, prompting wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker to say, "I would've never thought he had a hand problem today, if I'd never seen the game Sunday," according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Post-Dispatch notes that Bradford has been wearing a glove connected to an electrical stimulation unit to help with swelling reduction. Apparently, something has been helping. Bradford said his hand felt, "10 times better than it did on Sunday" and plans to play Monday night. Naturally one of the keys, beyond the finger feeling better, is how effectively he can deliver the ball. Based on what his teammates are saying, that question appears to have been answered. Barring a setback, Bradford's quick progress suggests he will be under center Monday night.



Running backs

[+] EnlargeArian Foster
AP Photo/Eric GayArian Foster hopes not to be sitting on the bench again this week after missing the season opener with a hamstring injury.
Arian Foster and Derrick Ward, Houston Texans: After sitting out Week 1, Foster returned to practice Wednesday and, according to coach Gary Kubiak, took the normal reps "for a starter" in the workout. Officially listed as a limited participant on the NFL injury report, Foster said that while he felt "pretty fluid" during the workout, he was still taking it day-by-day. The Texans were eager to see how Foster's hamstring responded to getting back into practice mode. It must have been no worse for the wear, considering he did it all again Thursday. HoustonTexans.com writer Nick Scurfield posted via Twitter that Kubiak described Foster as "much better" today and indicates if the trend continues, Foster will play Sunday. Meanwhile, Ward, who started in place of Foster in Week 1 but left early with an ankle injury, did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. He appears unlikely to practice Friday either but an official decision as to his status may not come until the weekend.



Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams: Jackson, who exited Week 1 early with a right quadriceps strain, did not practice Wednesday but instead spent time receiving treatment on his thigh. Although he has not yet been ruled out for Monday night's contest, he was deemed unlikely to play early in the week by coach Steve Spagnuolo. Spagnuolo told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he trusts Jackson with regard to his injuries noting, "He knows better than anybody how his body reacts." Given that Jackson has a bit of a history with soft tissue injuries but also works to keep himself at peak fitness, that trust in knowing when he can or can't push it is deserved. Jackson quickly removed himself from the game last week suggesting he was concerned about doing further damage and a Week 2 appearance seems unlikely. He has not practiced this week and it appears he won't.

Wide receivers

Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants: On Tuesday, we noted that Nicks was dealing with postgame swelling in his knee, but an MRI showed no major trauma. Nicks suffered a bone bruise but pointed out that he was injured in the first quarter yet remained in the game, which confirmed to him the injury was not particularly serious. Often, though, the swelling will come later, as it did for Nicks, leading to the follow-up testing. On Wednesday, Nicks did not practice, as expected, but told reporters that the swelling was beginning to subside and he thought he would be able to play Monday night. On Thursday, Nicks, who remained out of practice, told ESPN New York that the decision to play Monday will ultimately be his call. He indicated the swelling had gone down and it was just a matter of pain, which he described as "not too bad." He plans to go through some individual drills Friday and will evaluate how his knee responds. Nicks has proven his toughness before, so discomfort is not likely to keep him down. If the knee swells again, however, it makes it difficult to contract the muscles around the joint, making him not only potentially ineffective as a receiver but also at risk for further injury. If he does not play, Domenik Hixon (returning from 2010 ACL surgery) will likely start opposite Mario Manningham, so fantasy owners may want to get him as Monday night insurance.

More notes


• The Denver Broncos have two major offensive fantasy players on the injury radar. Both running back Knowshon Moreno (hamstring) and wide receiver Brandon Lloyd (groin) suffered injuries Monday night, both have undergone MRIs (the results of which have not been made public) and neither has practiced since. It is not looking optimistic for either player at this point, especially coming off a shortened week.

[+] EnlargeCalvin Johnson
AP Photo/Margaret BowlesCalvin Johnson has a very good matchup this week, as long as he's healthy enough to play.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who sprained his left ankle in Week 1, told the Detroit Free Press on Wednesday, "Get the swelling out and I'll be ready." His non-participation in practice is likely aimed at doing exactly that, with the goal of having him available Sunday. Johnson has often been restricted or even held out of practice during past seasons in an effort to rest him for game days, so this is not unusual. Every time Johnson gets up in the air to make big plays, fantasy owners are simultaneously thrilled by the awesome catches and dreading the hard landings for fear of an injury. Somehow he manages to play through the majority of them and it appears he will again this week, barring an unexpected development.

• We can always count on Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to update us on the status of his top players. On Wednesday, Jones told the Dallas Morning News that he expects wide receiver Dez Bryant (thigh contusion) to play Sunday, suggesting the rest will help him to get ready. Anyone watching the Sunday night game in Week 1 could see that Bryant was hampered. Given his extensive injury history, it would be helpful to see him doing something in practice before the Cowboys face the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Friday will be important to gauge just how recovered Bryant appears.

• The New Orleans Saints know they will be without wide receiver Marques Colston for at least a month following surgery to repair a broken clavicle. But what about teammate Lance Moore, who suffered a groin injury in the preseason that sidelined him for the season opener against the Green Bay Packers? The extra time may have been just what the doctor ordered as Moore returned to limited workouts Wednesday. The last time Moore attempted practice he was out for several days -- and the first game -- as a result. This time he followed up Wednesday's practice with another (limited) practice Thursday. Not yet a lock to play Sunday, but certainly encouraging.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was able to make throws with his bruised right forearm Thursday and coach Marvin Lewis tells the Cincinnati Enquirer he expects Dalton to start Sunday. Dalton was having trouble gripping the ball and was using his left hand in Wednesday's practice. According to the Enquirer, Dalton handled short and medium throws Thursday and will test longer throws Friday. If the swelling has diminished to the point where he can grip and throw effectively, there is no reason for Dalton to be held out of Sunday's contest.

[+] EnlargeMcFadden
Cary Edmondson/US PresswireDarren McFadden was dealing with a shoulder injury and missed Wednesday's practice but still seems on track to start Sunday.
Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden was kept to a limited practice Wednesday because of a sore shoulder, much to the alarm of fantasy owners everywhere. McFadden certainly absorbed his share of contact Monday night and, given his injury history, there was legitimate concern. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, McFadden was back Thursday, however, and is a "full go" for Sunday.



Chicago Bears running back Marion Barber (calf) returned to limited practice Wednesday but then didn't practice Thursday. Not a good sign. Wide receiver Roy Williams (groin) hasn't practiced at all. More ominous sign. Looks like both could be on the sidelines in Week 2.

• Bad news: Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Sidney Rice, despite returning to a limited practice Wednesday, is being called a "long shot" by coach Pete Carroll to play this week. During an appearance on ESPN 710 in Seattle, Carroll spoke about Rice's talent, which they have yet to really see unfold in a game because of his absence. Rice is dealing with a shoulder injury he sustained during training camp.

• Good news: San Diego Chargers running back Mike Tolbert is not on the injury report.

See you at the injury chat Friday at 11 a.m. and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 2 in the Saturday morning blog!



This week's Thursday night matchup has the Philadelphia Eagles hosting the Houston Texans.



Tight end Owen Daniels already has been ruled out for the Texans, meaning Joel Dreessen should get another start. Despite being listed on the injury report with a knee issue, Dreessen participated fully in practice Tuesday and Wednesday and is listed as probable. Quarterback Matt Schaub also is listed as probable because of his knee. He practiced fully each day and will start.

For the Eagles, one of the biggest health concerns is on the defensive side of the ball. Cornerback Asante Samuel has a sprained left medial collateral ligament that kept him out of Week 12, and he was limited in practice throughout this week. Signs are pointing toward him playing Thursday night despite being listed as questionable, although he might not be 100 percent. Samuel will be a game-time decision. Running back LeSean McCoy has been playing through a shoulder injury and, listed as probable, likely will do so again.

Here's who you might be concerned about heading toward the Week 13 showdowns:

Quarterbacks

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
AP Photo/Don HeupelNo matter the extent of the foot injury, it looks like Ben Roethlisberger will play this week.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers: Roethlisberger remains in a boot to protect his injured right foot. He has been limping around the Steelers' facilities since this past Sunday's game with what was originally called a sprained foot. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Roethlisberger's injury was actually a broken fifth metatarsal. The fifth metatarsal is the long bone in the outer forefoot that connects the fifth toe to the midfoot. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports, however, that the Steelers are refuting accounts of a new fracture. Via a statement from team spokesman Dave Lockett, the Steelers maintain Roethlisberger aggravated scar tissue at the site of an old injury. Either way, Roethlisberger has pain in his right foot, but the absence of a new fracture could be significant in that it might affect the course of treatment.

In the immediate sense, Roethlisberger has taken steps toward playing in Week 13. He shed the boot only long enough to participate in a limited practice session Wednesday, but the term "limited" might be a bit misleading. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Roethlisberger said, "I only missed probably 10-15 snaps," adding, "It hurts because it's my plant foot, my right foot." While Roethlisberger acknowledges the discomfort, he remains confident in his ability to be able to play Sunday night, especially after putting in another practice Thursday. The Post-Gazette notes that Roethlisberger also is wearing a reinforced shoe to accommodate the foot when on the field. The shoe provides support but also limits flexibility, which can help decrease the pain associated with excess motion. Adapting to how the foot feels along with the modified shoe is perhaps the biggest key, so seeing Roethlisberger on the field early in the week is a very encouraging sign.



Kerry Collins, Tennessee Titans: Collins has been recovering from a calf strain, and with Vince Young on injured reserve, that has forced Rusty Smith into action. But this might be the week Collins returns to lead the offense. He was able to put in limited practice Wednesday followed by a full practice Thursday. In the absence of a setback, expect Collins to take the field Sunday.



Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings: Add another ailment for Favre. Now his neck has been added to the already-listed ankle and shoulder. Favre sat out Wednesday but returned to limited practice Thursday, and I think we all know by now that he is planning on playing Sunday.

Running Backs

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings: Not surprisingly, Peterson did not practice Wednesday as he rested his sprained ankle. On Thursday, Judd Zulgad of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that Peterson continues to rest the ankle and receive treatment but plans to test the ankle Friday. According to Zulgad, Peterson indicates the swelling has subsided some and he does note improvement. "I know my body better than anyone else," Peterson said, adding, "If I can go, I'll definitely be going." That's a sight fantasy owners would like to see. It certainly sounds as if there's reason to be optimistic, but Friday practice will yield better clues.



Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert, San Diego Chargers: Mathews' return to the practice field is an encouraging signal he is nearing a return. He has missed the past two weeks while recovering from the setback to his high ankle sprain, originally suffered in Week 2.



Tolbert has filled in ably with Mathews down, but he suffered a hand injury of his own in Week 12. He did not practice Wednesday but, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, that was a precautionary measure. If both backs are available this week, there is going to be a sharing of the workload. Fantasy owners would like to have an idea in advance as to just how that workload will be divided, but unfortunately, that's not likely to happen.



If we go by recent past events, when Mathews was working his way back after the initial ankle injury, his time on the field was significantly limited. It's hard to imagine, particularly with the way Tolbert has performed, that Mathews would see the bulk of the carries right out of the gate, but there are new variables to consider. Tolbert has a hand injury, and although the specifics have not been revealed, there are always concerns about ballhandling when the hand, fingers or thumb are involved. Mathews, who had some rookie issues of his own along with the high ankle sprain, was guarded in terms of playing time after the injury. This might just be a scenario that plays out during the game, assuming both backs are available.



[+] EnlargeBrian Westbrook
AP Photo/ Bill NicholsIt didn't take long for Brian Westbrook to land back on the injury list.
Brian Westbrook, San Francisco 49ers: On Tuesday, we noted Westbrook's strong performance when Frank Gore was lost to injury. We also noted Westbrook's well-chronicled injury history. Imagine the concern of many a Westbrook waiver-wire acquiring fantasy owner when he was held out of Wednesday practice because of an ankle. Not to worry ... much. Westbrook's ankle is one of the joints that needs to be protected from excessive pounding, so a day of rest following a Monday night game, especially knowing that his workload will remain elevated, is not a huge surprise. The 49ers have indicated they will control the amount of work Westbrook sees, as they don't want to risk running him into the ground too quickly. Fantasy owners hoping for another 23-touch game might be reaching a little high; Anthony Dixon probably will be balancing Westbrook more. Nonetheless, Westbrook has proved he is part of the 49ers' game plan for the remainder of the season, as long as he stays healthy.

Ryan Torain, Washington Redskins: Torain is still out with a hamstring strain and has not returned to practice as of yet. He has made some progress in that he is doing some running on the side, but he doesn't appear far enough along to return this week. Last week, Keiland Williams saw his playing time cut into by James Davis. The bottom line for fantasy owners is that it's hard to know whom to count on in Washington for the running game.

Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints: Bush returned from his fibula fracture for the Saints' Thanksgiving Day game but was used in a limited role. A fumble during a punt return exposed the potential problems associated with extended downtime, but at least Bush's leg held up. Bush says he is feeling "great," according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and should see more work going forward. Teammate Thomas has returned to practice on a limited basis, the most encouraging progress in weeks, but still is likely another week or two away from returning.

Wide Receivers

Brandon Marshall, Miami Dolphins: Marshall has returned to limited practice for the Dolphins this week. He sat out Week 12 with a hamstring injury suffered during the previous game but has been able to do some work on back-to-back days. Hamstring injuries can be delicate for receivers and running backs, however, so until game time comes and Marshall is in the mix, there remains some uncertainty. Even if Marshall is on the field, the question first is whether he will be able to go full speed and then how his body is able to respond to that higher gear. Still a bit risky from a health perspective.

Malcom Floyd, San Diego Chargers: The above noted concern for Marshall is exactly what Floyd experienced when he first returned from a hamstring injury. Floyd tweaked his hamstring in his first game back from injury (Week 11), and while it did not appear to be a major setback, his role was limited in last week's game as a result. Floyd did not practice Wednesday but returned Thursday and is still considered in the mix for the matchup against the Oakland Raiders.

Tight Ends

[+] EnlargeAntonio Gates
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesAntonio Gates likely will be a regular on the injury report the rest of the season.
Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers: It was great to see Gates back on the playing field but, as we noted Tuesday, he did not look fully recovered. Nor should we expect him to be at this point. The pain from the torn plantar fascia is not the type of thing to disappear suddenly. Apparently it was more painful for Gates to play than initially suspected.

Gates did not practice Wednesday in an effort to rest his foot and might not practice the entire week. At this point, he is no lock to play Sunday, but knowing Gates, he will give himself every opportunity to at least give it a shot. This might come down to another game-time decision.

Zach Miller, Oakland Raiders: Miller recently revealed that he, like his division counterpart Gates, tore his plantar fascia. This would explain why it has been so difficult for Miller to play effectively since the injury. His playing time has been limited by arch pain that increases as the game goes on. Last week, he added a contusion to his lower leg to his injury report.



A few days ago, it seemed as if Miller might be in danger of missing time again, but Wednesday he was spotted in practice, albeit on a limited basis. Interestingly, the Chargers host the Raiders this Sunday, and one of the top fantasy questions this week surrounds the two star tight ends who are dealing with similar injury concerns. Will they or won't they take the field? As both Gates and Miller know, their status at kickoff is only a part of the issue. Whether or not they can make it through the game is a far more challenging prospect and something Miller has not been able to do of late.

Other


• Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice sat out Thursday, but this is likely precautionary to rest his surgical hip (Rice did not practice last Thursday, either). Percy Harvin was out with an illness, a term the team has used in the past when Harvin has had migraine episodes. It sounds like the headaches have surfaced again in what has become a routine of wait-and-see.

• Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt has returned to limited practice, but fantasy owners need not get overexcited just yet. Britt began some light running last week and had progressed enough to return to a very small amount of practice. But given the seriousness of his hamstring injury (remember, the Titans were relieved to discover his season was not over when he first was injured in Week 7), there is no reason to believe the Titans will rush him back into action, especially given the high likelihood of a setback. Fantasy owners should not expect him before Week 14.

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Mike Williams, who has an injured foot, did some running Wednesday but still has not returned to practice. This will be a situation to watch through the end of the week, as he could be another game-time decision.

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker returned to practice Thursday on a limited basis after sitting out Wednesday to rest his ankle. Sims-Walker was a surprise active in Week 12 after reporting his injury as a high ankle sprain. Although he appeared limited in that game, it's hard to imagine he sits this one out.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant was a late addition to the injury report Thursday, listed as limited because of his back. While there is no indication yet that he will miss Sunday's game, what he does Friday will be telling.

• The Detroit Lions are placing kicker Jason Hanson (sprained knee) on injured reserve, which means Dave Rayner has the job going forward. The Lions also will have another quarterback this week. Drew Stanton has been practicing with the first team to get ready for Week 13 -- and probably longer -- as Shaun Hill is out with a broken finger on his throwing hand. That's two broken bones this season for Hill. Hope he's drinking some milk.

See you at Friday's injury chat at 3 p.m. ET. We'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 13 in the Saturday morning blog.



The joy in the city of New Orleans is palpable as the NFL season gets under way tonight. As I walked the streets Wednesday, an always friendly city seemed even friendlier, almost giddy, with "Who Dats" all around as everyone gears up for opening night. The start of the NFL season has a holiday feel here as schools and businesses close early today so that everyone can enjoy the festivities. Isn't that what the start of the football season is all about?

It's true that the New Orleans Saints' fans are still celebrating their Super Bowl victory. But everyone has reason to be excited about the start of the NFL season, because at this point, everyone's a winner. And that includes you, the fantasy owners. No matter who you've drafted or what your leaguemates think of your roster, everyone is on even par until the first week of matchups is complete.

The key to making sure you celebrate at the end of your fantasy season as much as you do at the start is managing your team well week in and week out. Injuries have always been one of the big levelers in any fantasy football league and it will be no different this year. As any fantasy owner knows, injuries are already making their mark on the 2010 season. Here are a few to consider as we head into Thursday's season opener.

Brett Favre
Tom Dahlin/Getty ImagesBrett Favre's consecutive games streak is still intact, but an ankle injury could give him trouble for a good part of the season.
Brett Favre, QB, Minnesota Vikings (P): Favre's left ankle is likely to be a topic of discussion throughout the season. Unlike last year, when Favre underwent a minor procedure on his throwing shoulder, which allowed him to resume play without incident, this year's ankle procedure is not a quick fix. The surgery to remove loose bodies no doubt alleviated some of the pain and improved Favre's ankle mobility, but this was his third surgery on the ankle and there are arthritic changes that cannot be undone. That was evident when Favre indicated he had recently received an injection of a lubricant into the joint. These injections provide a soothing effect for the cartilage and can help with pain and mobility, but the underlying condition remains.



The key to keeping Favre on the field will be protection up front, minimizing the contact he absorbs and granting him enough time to make plays without being forced to scramble regularly. Favre's offensive options have taken a hit with the loss of Sidney Rice for multiple weeks and the extended absence of Percy Harvin during the preseason. Favre himself has seen only limited preseason action given his late arrival and in an effort to protect his health. It will be interesting to see in the first week how all of these factors come together and how playing an entire game impacts Favre.

Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings: Harvin's preseason migraine challenges got everyone's attention, including that of his teammates, but here's what should get fantasy owners' attention: Harvin is not on the injury report in advance of the Thursday night opener. Barring a late surprise, Harvin will be on the field and he is expected to see plenty of action not only as a receiver but also as a kickoff return specialist. Harvin may be a favored target for Favre in the passing game with Sidney Rice out following hip surgery. There will be lingering uncertainty for fantasy owners as to whether Harvin will be limited because of migraines down the road, but at least for Week 1 it appears to be all systems go.

Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints (P): Colston reportedly suffered a bruised kidney during the Saint's final preseason game, but the condition apparently wasn't that serious, as he was cleared to return to practice. Colston was a full participant in workouts throughout this week and has indicated that he is feeling fine heading into Thursday's game. Colston, who also underwent minor offseason knee surgery, should not have any limitations. Breathe a sigh of relief, fantasy owners.

Robert Meachem, WR, New Orleans Saints: No, Meachem is not on the injury report, but he is someone fantasy owners may have been keeping their eye on given that he missed part of the preseason. Meachem underwent surgery on the second toe on his right foot in May to address a problem that actually began late last year. According to NewOrleans.com, despite resting his toe following the Super Bowl run, it continued to nag at Meachem during the team's offseason program, leading to the decision to undergo surgery. As a result he was on the active/physically unable to perform (PUP) list to start training camp but was activated in mid-August.

Meachem has practiced since and even played in a couple of preseason contests. However, at times he has appeared to be bothered by the toe and not quite back to his deep threat ways. Knowing that Meachem had his shoe customized to include a shank support under the insole (which helps protect a toe by limiting mobility), I thought perhaps the shank might alter how his foot feels when pushing off, which athletes sometimes complain about while adjusting to it. When I spoke with Meachem after Wednesday's practice, he indicated that the presence of the shank does not bother him, and that it feels "natural." In fact, he says he is working on getting all of the natural elements of his position to come together, which I took to mean that he is just working his way back toward receiver shape. It will be worth watching how Meachem fares in the season opener to gauge just how far he's come.

Other quick hits


• Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was back in full practice Wednesday for the Arizona Cardinals. He missed several weeks of the preseason after sustaining an MCL sprain but this news points to his readiness for the season opener. A bigger concern might be the fact that teammate Beanie Wells was not in practice Wednesday after suffering a knee injury in the final preseason game. Wells has downplayed this injury since it happened, but absence from practice days before the season opener is a concern. At this point, the expectation is that he will still play, but what he does in practice later in the week could be telling.

• One major bit of news is that Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart was not on the team's midweek injury report. That might be the most positive sign since Stewart returned to team practices following offseason Achilles surgery.

• Also off the injury report this week is Dallas Cowboys rookie wide receiver Dez Bryant. Bryant, who was sidelined through the bulk of training camp with a high ankle sprain, is eager to showcase his skills and it looks like he will have that opportunity this weekend. ... Meanwhile, quarterback Donovan McNabb is the expected starter on Sunday night when the Washington Redskins face the Dallas Cowboys. As if there were really any doubt. McNabb has been nursing a sprained ankle during the preseason but practiced fully Wednesday. While McNabb maintains that the ankle might not yet be 100 percent, this is not going to be the type of thing to get in the way of football.

Maurice Jones-Drew
Sam Greenwood/Getty ImagesMaurice Jones-Drew is not on the injury list right now, but questions about his knee still remain.
• Perhaps the most significant fantasy player with an injury concern is Maurice Jones-Drew. The concern revolves primarily around the lack of information related to his supposed ailing knee. Jones-Drew was held out of practices for more than a week for "rest" while he and the Jacksonville Jaguars quashed reports of an alleged surgical procedure. Jones-Drew has insisted all along that he's fine and ready to play, but fantasy owners have been understandably mystified. One positive sign for fantasy owners is Jones-Drew's absence from the Jaguars' midweek injury report. It appears there is no doubt he will be in Sunday's starting lineup but whether this is something that will crop up again down the road remains to be seen.

• The Denver Broncos are looking forward to the return of running back Knowshon Moreno, who has missed most of the preseason with a hamstring injury. Moreno was a full participant in Wednesday's practice and his status for Sunday does not appear to be in doubt. The bigger question for him will be how his hamstring holds up to the test of game play.

Oakland Raiders running back Michael Bush continues to impress following surgery to repair a Bennett's fracture in his thumb. Bush has participated in limited practice this week with his thumb splinted, but head coach Tom Cable says Bush is doing more and more. Cable even went so far as to tell the Oakland Tribune that there is "a real chance" that Bush could play in Week 1. Fantasy owners should not get overly excited just yet. Even if Bush plays -- and it would be surprising if he did -- his work is likely to be very limited. Nonetheless, his progress is encouraging and he will almost certainly beat out initial projections of a lengthier absence.

Be sure to check back Saturday for the late updates on key players heading into Sunday's contests. In the meantime, enjoy the season opener and celebrate the start of fantasy football leagues everywhere!

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