Stephania Bell: Green Bay Packers
There is little doubt that Aaron Rodgers and his injured calf benefited from the extra week of rest that came with earning a playoff bye. There is also wide acceptance that he will not be 100 percent healthy by Sunday afternoon when the Packers host the Cowboys in a divisional playoff game
Everything else is unclear.
The last time the Packers played, Week 17 of the regular season against the Detroit Lions, Rodgers aggravated his calf strain but gamely returned to finish the game, despite his impaired mobility. There was no reason to think he might be in danger of missing the team’s first playoff matchup, especially with an added week of recovery. Rodgers’ continued absence from practice in the early part of this week, however, only led to further discussion about the severity of his injury and how it might potentially impact his performance.
Despite all the continued conversation, has anything really changed since Rodgers last set foot on the field?
The answer is simple: No, not really.
This injury has always been reported as a calf strain; initially Rodgers suffered an injury in Week 16 to the medial gastroc, or inner calf, followed by a more lateral pull a week later, according to ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky. A strain is the term applied to injuries of a muscle or tendon. Strains, ranging from mild (Grade 1) to moderate (Grade 2) to severe (Grade 3), represent a continuum of tissue damage from microscopic in the most minor cases to complete disruption of the structure in the most severe. The severity of Rodgers’ injury has never been reported, but given his level of function -- including finishing his last game -- it’s fair to assume it was not a complete tear. Beyond that, only the medical personnel caring for Rodgers have information (such as imaging and physical examination) that indicates specifically where within his calf the injury is located and the extent of tissue damage.
Here’s why those details don’t matter:
At the end of the day, it has been and continues to be a question of how functional Rodgers can be on Sunday. Rodgers has relied on his mobility throughout the course of his career to extend plays, presenting the dual threat of a quarterback with pinpoint accuracy who can deliver on the move. Just how mobile he can be in the presence of a still-healing calf injury is unknown, both in terms of pushing off his left foot and in absorbing load through his left leg. The Packers are likely to make adjustments to help minimize some of the normal game stress on Rodgers’ calf. For instance, more snaps from the shotgun would decrease dropbacks and the associated footwork. His spontaneous movement outside the pocket is unscripted, however, and just how effective he can be there remains to be seen.
If there is a silver lining, the injury is on Rodgers’ left side, meaning the right “plant” leg he uses to drive the ball when he throws is unaffected. In fact, Packers quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt acknowledged one such glass-half-full observation for his star right-hander Thursday. “It’s better than a right calf [injury],” Van Pelt said. “As your plant foot, your right foot, it takes a lot of the pressure anytime you have an injury to your plant leg, it’s difficult to drop.”
All the treatment Rodgers has received thus far in conjunction with his activity restriction the past two weeks has been aimed at readying him -- to the degree that it is possible -- for competition this Sunday. Rodgers participated in a limited practice session Thursday, taking about 50-60 percent of the reps during team drills and did “everything we asked him to do,” according to head coach Mike McCarthy. Even if Rodgers were to put in a full practice, there is no way to fully simulate the demands of an actual game nor the adrenaline that comes with it, all of which can influence the stress on the injured limb and the ability to overcome any potential in-game setback. The Packers just have to hope those game demands will not exceed the healing that has occurred to date. Of course, the only way to know for sure will be if Rodgers gets through the weekend unscathed.
As for Rodgers, he seems to know there is no use in dwelling on uncertainties. When asked just how much he’ll be able to do Sunday, his answer was about as honest as it gets. “We’ll see,” he said.
He’s right. We’ll see.
Still, the challenge in Week 5 is that the Vikings’ matchup comes just four days after Bridgewater’s injury. Even in the instance of a mild sprain, that's a quick turnaround time to be able to perform at the level of an NFL quarterback. Of primary concern is whether Bridgewater can be mobile enough to protect himself, escape a pass rush or get out of bounds when necessary. Secondary concerns include whether he can function effectively at quarterback by making dropbacks, pivoting to hand off the ball, step into his throws to deliver the ball accurately, and move well enough in and out of the pocket to lead the team. After resting Tuesday, Bridgewater was able to get some limited work in Wednesday and is officially listed as questionable. The team may want to see how his ankle responds before making an official decision. It would not be surprising if Bridgewater is held out this week to allow him another 10 days of recovery before the Vikings’ next game. If Bridgewater does not suit up, Christian Ponder will be in line to take the reins, which could trigger roster moves Thursday afternoon, according to ESPN.com’s Ben Goessling. In other words, Bridgewater’s questionable status should start to clear up well in advance of game time.
Jerick McKinnon, RB, Minnesota Vikings, ankle (P): McKinnon saw a sharp increase in activity in Week 4, carrying the ball 18 times for 135 yards. Prior to last week’s game, the rookie third round draft pick had a total of just five carries on the year totaling just 7 yards. Did all the extra work land him on the injury report? Perhaps, but thankfully this doesn't appear to be anything serious. McKinnon was listed because of his ankle but put in full practices and at probable, is expected to play Thursday night.
Jarrett Boykin, WR, Green Bay Packers, groin (OUT): The news that the Packers will be without Boykin this week does not come as a huge surprise. Boykin missed last Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears after suffering a groin strain in practice earlier in the week. He had appeared to be on the mend from a knee ailment prior to the groin injury, which ultimately sidelined him. The concern for the Packers is that his absence may extend beyond this week, even with 10 days before the next game. As Coach Mike McCarthy told reporters, “I don’t know if he’s going to be ready for Miami.” Groin injuries are a challenge for any position, but particularly for receivers in terms of their overall ability to generate power and explosiveness, in addition to the difficulties with lateral mobility. Like hamstring strains, groin injuries can be susceptible to setbacks, extending the overall recovery time. Expect the Packers to err on the side of caution with Boykin as Week 6 approaches, which could mean more looks for rookie Davante Adams.
An interesting side note to this is that Lacy plans to return to the helmet he wore last season, according to Demovsky. After suffering a concussion last year, Lacy entered this season wearing the new Riddell “SpeedFlex” helmet, which, according to the company’s website, “features The Flex System, with flexibility engineered into the helmet’s shell, face mask and face mask attachment system with hinge clips to help reduce impact force transfer to the athlete.” While the website does not state the helmet will reduce concussions, according to Demovsky, Lacy was under the impression -- along with some of his teammates -- that it would. "That's what we all thought," said Lacy, who indicated several Packers' players with a history of concussions also wore the new helmet.
Let this be a reminder: Helmets do provide a means of head protection but they do not prevent concussions as there is no established way to effectively prevent the brain from moving within the skull. Concussion injury and management is still an evolving entity, and though the injury may not be preventable, there are certainly improved measures in place to control an athlete’s return to activity.
It is good to see a healthy Lacy back in practice. Barring any recurrence of symptoms prior to kickoff, it appears he will indeed take the field this Sunday.
Aaron Rodgers, QB (collarbone): It's official! Aaron Rodgers is back as the starting quarterback for the Packers. Coach Mike McCarthy made the announcement at an eagerly anticipated news conference Thursday morning. Here's how the week unfolded:
There was no real news on the Rodgers front Wednesday; the team did not conduct a practice, but per the requisite injury report, Rodgers was listed as a limited participant, the same status he has held for the past two weeks.
On Thursday, the weekly will-he-or-won't-he tease began, with Rodgers taking first-team reps in the individual drills portion of practice open to the media. While media members were not able to observe 11-on-11 drills, there was a sense that Rodgers would garner the start, since starters usually take those first-team reps in practice. After practice, where Rodgers was cited as a full participant, McCarthy announced to reporters that Rodgers would be the starter on Sunday.
This dilemma has always been about whether it was safe for Rodgers to play from a medical standpoint. It hasn't been about safety at making throws in the pocket, in running around and handing off or throwing the football, but rather about how much confidence there was in the ability of Rodgers' left clavicle to absorb major contact and stay intact. Rodgers seemed to understand the imprecision around the decision when he said that a "risk-reward" conversation would probably have to happen at some point. That concept has no doubt been a consideration for the organization all along, even if not openly stated. And if the evidence of callus formation (bone healing) has been insufficient until this point, then a conversation about any potential reward remained unnecessary, given the obvious risk.
Now it appears that such a dialogue has occurred. No one can say with certainty that Rodgers is 100 percent risk-free. However, the Packers can now say that there is adequate confidence in his healing to date, along with his demonstrated ability to perform at the position, that the reward outweighs the risk. In fact, McCarthy referenced this when he said Rodgers "has accepted the level of risk." McCarthy went on to comment about how good Rodgers has looked in practice lately.
It's hard to imagine this news doesn't boost the Packers' entire squad a notch in terms of projected performance, based on emotion alone.
Eddie Lacy, RB (ankle): On Tuesday, we noted that Lacy aggravated his sprained right ankle in Week 16
Randall Cobb, WR (leg): Cobb took another step toward returning to game action Thursday when he participated in practice in full pads. Cobb has been increasing his involvement in practice over the past two weeks but remains on the IR/designated-for-return list since fracturing his right tibia. Whether the final regular season game is the site of Cobb's postinjury debut remains uncertain, as the team may opt to see whether playoffs are on the horizon before exposing him to contact. On Thursday, McCarthy noted that Cobb looked good in practice and that a decision likely would be made Friday.
Aaron Rodgers, QB (collarbone): The question of whether Rodgers will or won’t play isn’t going away but the answer, at least heading into last week’s game, remained the same: He had not been medically cleared to return. As ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky wrote on Monday, coach Mike McCarthy indicated he had not yet discussed Rodgers’ situation with team physician Pat McKenzie. It would seem, however, that medical clearance is the single biggest determinant in whether Rodgers can or will take the field. He continues to practice and to get more comfortable with physical activity, but it won’t mean a thing if there is still concern over his ability to absorb contact.
Last week, Matt Flynn worked almost exclusively with the first team, an early sign the team expected him to start even though it did not make an official announcement regarding who would start until late in the week. This week, according to Demovsky, McCarthy plans to announce that decision earlier. "I think it's important for us to make a quicker decision,” McCarthy said. “This has obviously been frustrating and stressful for Aaron, rightfully so, but also our football team. I want them to know who the quarterback's going to be.”
McCarthy also stated the decision will come after he meets with general manager Ted Thompson, thus reflecting the “organizational” decision. On Tuesday, Rodgers indicated the decision would be made by Thursday.
Eddie Lacy, RB (ankle): Lacy has been dealing with a sprained right ankle for the past two weeks but has managed to play strong nonetheless. He aggravated the ankle injury in the second half of Sunday’s game and will get some extra rest during the week as a result. McCarthy said Lacy will not practice until Thursday, but so far there is no indication that Lacy is in jeopardy of missing this Sunday's game.
Randall Cobb, WR (leg): Last week, Cobb turned in limited practices each day as he worked toward regaining his conditioning. Cobb has been on the IR/designated-for-return list since fracturing his tibial plateau during the middle of the season. Despite getting in some consistent practice last week, the Packers felt he was not ready to be activated last Sunday, but the door is still open for that to happen this week. McCarthy said Cobb will get more reps in practice this week. However, even if Cobb were to be activated in advance of Sunday, it’s hard to imagine him getting a full workload.
Here’s an update surrounding the Packers’ key injured players:
Aaron Rodgers, QB (collarbone): It looks as if the Packers could be without their starting signal-caller for the seventh week in a row. As of Thursday, ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky reports Rodgers has not been medically cleared to return and Matt Flynn continues to take the first-team reps in practice. This decision has not been set in stone, though. Coach Mike McCarthy told reporters after Thursday’s practice that he would have an announcement about Rodgers’ status Friday.
On an encouraging note, McCarthy commented on just how much better Rodgers looked in practice this week as compared to last week, noting that “He looks sharp. He looks ready to play.” McCarthy then reminded reporters that Rodgers has not yet been medically cleared to play. There has been no word of additional testing since Rodgers underwent a follow-up scan last week. Essentially the story around the injury remains unchanged; this comes down to a medical decision.
It should be pointed out that the medical decisions about Rodgers are clearly being made, as they should be, with his health in mind. There is ultimately one person who retains responsibility for signing off on Rodgers’ return to play: Green Bay team physician Pat McKenzie. Understandably, the evidence has to largely be in favor of the collarbone demonstrating sufficient healing to allow Rodgers to return with a minimal risk of re-injury. However, it was Rodgers who said earlier this week that “there has to be some level of risk-reward conversation." It would seem that conversation is imminent based on how well Rodgers is doing functionally. Still, the deciding vote goes to the medical professional in this situation, regardless of how frustrated the player and his fans might be.
Eddie Lacy, RB (ankle): There’s not nearly so much angst around Lacy’s situation this week. After playing in Week 15 despite a significant ankle sprain, Lacy got some practice time off this week to rest his ankle and was back in his protective boot. McCarthy indicated that he expects Lacy to play Sunday. Judging by how well he performed just one week after the initial injury, there are no overarching concerns here.
Randall Cobb, WR (leg): As for Cobb, who seemed as if he had a chance to return to action this week once he returned to the practice field, it appears he is not ready to do so just yet. Cobb suffered a fracture in his tibia Oct. 13 and was placed on injured reserve/designated for return. He has been eligible to return since Week 15, but his recovery is requiring some additional time. As Demovsky notes, Cobb was just cleared to resume running last week, and his biggest hurdle now is reconditioning himself to game shape. He is practicing on a limited basis at this point, and while he would likely be available for the Packers should they enter the postseason, his return for any regular-season play is uncertain at best.
Eddie Lacy, RB (ankle): As noted here Tuesday, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said it was too early in the week to predict whether Lacy would play Sunday at Dallas after injuring his right ankle in Week 14. On Thursday, the prognosis appeared better, despite Lacy remaining out of practice. As ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky noted, McCarthy was encouraged by what he was hearing from the team’s medical staff. Although Lacy was still in a walking boot, McCarthy said he would be re-evaluated in the morning, after which a practice plan would be determined. It appears that even if his work is limited, as long as there are no setbacks, Lacy’s outlook for Sunday will be positive.
"Based on Eddie's specific injury, the training staff feels confident he'll be ready to go," McCarthy said.
Ideally, it would be reassuring to know he had tested the ankle on the practice field, but it is worth noting Lacy did return to last weekend’s game after the injury.
Aaron Rodgers, QB (collarbone): The outlook is far less certain for Rodgers, who is expected to undergo another CT scan on his left collarbone Friday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Rodgers has not been medically cleared to play, and inadequate healing of the bone is at least partially responsible for that decision. This scan will come 10 days after the previous one. Rodgers was also experiencing pain with certain movements at the time of his last scan, adding to the team’s rationale for being cautious. His progress in practice would suggest he is improving in that area as well and, according to Demovsky, Rodgers confirmed he felt better in practice this week compared to last. As for whether he is able to play this week, obviously the medical staff would need to clear him to return. Rodgers says he would also “need to take the majority of the reps” in Friday’s practice if he were going to play Sunday.
From a functional standpoint, this makes sense. To help remove any lingering anxiety around the injury itself, an athlete has to regain confidence that his body is going to respond in the way to which he is accustomed. Practice is not an exact replica of a game situation, but getting reps is certainly a means of building confidence. Since becoming the starter in Green Bay, Rodgers has missed virtually no time. Now in his sixth week of being sidelined, completely unfamiliar territory for Rodgers, a full slate of reps in Friday’s practice would at least reassure him that his shoulder feels ready. If the medical staff says it also looks ready, then there’s a chance Rodgers could make his return in Week 15.
But most important is how comfortable the medical staff is with Rodgers stepping on the field to potentially absorb another blow to his left collarbone. As of Tuesday, he was not medically cleared to return based on the latest imaging results, something McCarthy referenced when he said Rodgers had passed “two out of the three” parts to the medical clearance tests, the other two being range of motion and strength. While the team has said there have been no conversations about shutting Rodgers down for the season, a return this weekend would appear unlikely. Matt Flynn has been working with the first team all week, and barring surprise news regarding Rodgers’ status, will be in line to start Sunday against the Falcons.
As has been widely reported, Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers underwent testing Tuesday to evaluate the healing progress of his left collarbone. The decision about whether he will return this week -- or even this season -- goes beyond the imaging results. Of course, if there is poor healing, the decision to hold him out is easy. If there is good evidence of healing, the decision becomes more difficult.
Even after there is evidence of healing on imaging, the bone continues to remodel itself for an extended period following a fracture, often months. It then becomes a bit of guesswork to estimate the risk of re-injury, which is what everyone in the Green Bay organization no doubt fears. Rodgers might be fine to perform his normal quarterbacking functions, but he becomes at risk when absorbing contact, particularly if he is taken to the ground in a fashion similar to how he sustained the injury. Another blow to a still-healing bone represents a risk of re-injury, potentially even a worse injury, one that could require surgery. If it weren’t for the Packers positioning in terms of a possible playoff spot, the decision might be easier. The Packers haven’t won since Rodgers was hurt. But if he returns to assist in leading them to victory but suffers a season-ending (re-)injury in the process, will it have been worth it? And could they really expect to contend without him?
This week’s decision may be a difficult one, but it will without a doubt be made with Rodgers’ long-term health as the primary consideration. If Rodgers does sit out Sunday’s game and the Packers fall out of playoff contention, then it becomes increasingly likely we might not see him return in 2013, despite McCarthy’s statement on Tuesday that there have been no internal conversations about shutting him down for the season. There is a precedent for this: Cowboys QB Tony Romo suffered a similar injury to his non-throwing shoulder in 2010, and, like Rodgers' ailment, the injury was managed non-surgically. Shortly after it became apparent in December that the Cowboys were not making the postseason, Romo was placed on IR. He returned without any lingering issues in 2011.
Packers team physician Pat McKenzie could be seen examining Rodgers on the sideline, specifically the quarterback’s left clavicle (collarbone), presumably evaluating the area for tenderness and any deformity. The Packers would later qualify it as a “left shoulder injury,” and coach Mike McCarthy told reporters after the game there would be further testing for Rodgers on Tuesday.
ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported Tuesday that initial tests showed a fracture in the collarbone, something Rodgers later confirmed. The plan at this time is for Rodgers to rest and allow the bone to heal; no surgery is anticipated.
The plan suggests that Rodgers suffered a non-displaced fracture, meaning the bony ends remained in alignment. Other than the possible use of a bone stimulator to help facilitate the healing, there is little to do in terms of treatment at the injury site. He can maintain his conditioning through lower-extremity workouts, as long as they are not jarring so as not to threaten the healing of the bone (think bike, not run). Gradually, Rodgers will be allowed to increase his range of motion and basic strengthening of his arm. One of the benefits of this injury being to Rodgers’ non-throwing shoulder is that he does not have to regain an overhead motion, nor will he lose valuable arm (throwing) strength with the down time.
While Rodgers did not offer a timetable for his return, Schefter cited a league source as saying Rodgers could miss three weeks. Based on this preliminary information, the soonest he would return would be for the Packers’ Thanksgiving game. It is possible that there could be adequate healing -- especially given that the injury is to his non-throwing shoulder -- to allow him to return at that time, but nothing is guaranteed. Even as bone shows evidence of repair on imaging, it continues to remodel itself and further strengthen with time. The biggest concern for the Packers in determining Rodgers’ readiness to return is the risk of re-injury, should he take another hard fall on that shoulder too soon.
In the meantime, it appears backup QB Seneca Wallace, who replaced Rodgers on Monday, will be under center in Green Bay for the near future.
After being admitted to the ICU and undergoing extensive testing, Finley made enough improvement by Monday evening to be transferred out of intensive care, although he remained in the hospital. Finley posted this note about his progress on Twitter: “I’m happy to report that I have been transferred out of the ICU and that I have full feeling in my arms and legs. As importantly, I was able 2 walk to & from the shower today, which was badly needed after yesterday’s victory!” On Tuesday afternoon, ESPN’s Ed Werder reported that Finley is expected to be released from the hospital within 24 hours.
So what does his future hold? It’s too early to say. In the immediate sense, the primary goal following an injury where there is bruising of the spinal cord is to ensure the patient is stable, both medically (e.g., cardiac) and from an anatomical standpoint: Are the cervical vertebrae and the ligaments that support them intact? Is there a fracture that is either displaced or that could displace with movement, which would threaten the spinal cord?
The other immediate priority is to reduce any swelling around the cord. Swelling can cause compression, which impairs nerve function, something the patient perceives as loss of feeling and/or loss of strength in the extremities. The more pronounced the swelling and the longer it endures, the greater the risk of permanent damage. As the swelling resolves, the patient is observed carefully to see how the return of nerve function is progressing. In Finley’s case, based on his increased activity later in the day, he was progressing quite well.
But he is hardly out of the woods. There will be additional tests and consultations with various spine experts to evaluate what factors may have contributed to this episode. In some cases, the athlete is found to have underlying spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal which houses the spinal cord. Decreased space around the spinal cord means there is less room for the spinal cord to move (which it normally does when the spine bends) without abutting up against another structure. Rapid extreme movements -- such as those resulting from a violent directional blow to the head and neck area -- that force the cord to collide with an adjacent structure can result in bruising (contusion) of the delicate tissue. A narrow canal increases the risk of such contact for the spinal cord, and therefore potentially increases the risk of serious injury. Stenosis can be something the athlete is born with (congenital), or it can be acquired as a result of changes in the tissue. A bulging disc, for instance, can occupy valuable space within the canal.
According to Werder, doctors told Finley that they believe his injury was caused by extreme torque and that it will not require surgery. Some athletes have returned to play following spinal cord contusions, including Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain, but much depends on what unfolds over the course of testing following an injury. The athlete’s complete history -- including any prior episodes of neurological events -- will be evaluated in the context of determining the next steps. That process, along with the time allotted to ensure full recovery from this latest episode, is not quick, nor should it be. The Packers are not issuing any timetable for Finley, a perfectly reasonable approach given all the uncertainty around this injury.
In the meantime, the Packers are forced to evaluate their pass-catcher situation. With Finley out indefinitely, and Randall Cobb out until at least Week 15 with a fractured fibula, the status of James Jones becomes all the more important. Jones sat out Week 7 with a sprained PCL, not surprising based on the nature of the injury. The question now is if he will miss another week, or if he can return to help the team in Week 8.
Coach Mike McCarthy told reporters Monday that the team would have a better idea of Jones’ outlook Wednesday. McCarthy said the timeline provided to him regarding Jones’ injury was “probably two, possibly three weeks,” adding, “He’s genetically gifted, so we'll see what happens.”
The key for Jones is having enough quadriceps strength to control his knee with dynamic movement. Until he tests it on the practice field, there is no way to measure how close he is to a return.
First it was Jordy Nelson, who was sidelined by an arthroscopic knee procedure that kept his status in question until shortly before the season opener. Since then, tight end Jermichael Finley has suffered a concussion and a toe injury, and all three running backs -- Eddie Lacy, James Starks and Johnathan Franklin -- have sustained various injuries. Then, in Week 6, their other two top receivers – Randall Cobb and James Jones -- exited the game with knee injuries.
For the time being, Nelson, Finley, Lacy and Franklin are all healthy. Here’s a look at the injury status of Starks, Cobb and Jones.
James Starks, RB (knee): Starks has an undisclosed knee injury, but has been making steady progress. Last week, there were hints he could return in Week 7, but after not practicing through Thursday, that plan is on hold for a bit longer. Starks has already been ruled out for Sunday’s game, leaving Franklin to back up Lacy.
Randall Cobb, WR (broken fibula): Last Sunday, Cobb took a blow to the front of his knee that could have resulted in myriad problems. The body part that ended up absorbing the damage was the fibula (the skinny bone located on the outside of the leg that runs from the knee to the ankle). Cobb’s fibula fracture, despite the obvious severity of breaking a bone, was better than a potentially season-ending multiligament tear, and the team placed him on the IR/designated for return. The soonest he will be eligible to return is Week 15.
James Jones, WR (knee): Jones suffered what the team has only referred to as a left knee injury, but ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported it to be a PCL sprain. As with any ligamentous injury, the down time is linked to the severity of the damage. The fact that there is even a hint that Jones might be available as soon as one week following the injury suggests it was a relatively minor sprain. That said, the PCL can be tricky because it is responsible for helping control posterior translation -- the movement of the lower leg relative to the thigh in the backward direction. Even a minor injury can give the athlete a feeling of instability, or that the knee is slipping backward. Obviously that can translate to difficulty landing from a jump when making a catch, or changing direction while running a route. The ligament lies deep within the joint, and the athlete can feel the uncomfortable sensation strongly, even if the actual movement, or slipping, is subtle -- making this a problem not easily remedied by a brace.
On Wednesday, coach Mike McCarthy indicated Friday would be the day the Packers learn more about Jones’ status. “He’s very positive about where he is, how he feels, but I think he’s gearing up for a possible test in his rehab schedule,” McCarthy said. As ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky reports, Jones has a chance to play on Sunday, but it would not come as a surprise if he sits.
The play ended with Lacy's concussion on a helmet-to-helmet collision with Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather. (Meriweather would exit the game early in the second quarter with a concussion of his own.) As is generally the case with concussions, there is no predicting a recovery timetable because each injury is different.
As any lingering at-rest concussion-related symptoms clear, Lacy will gradually be introduced to increasing physical and cognitive activity, a rehab program of sorts for the brain’s response to stimulation following a concussion.
Each team has its own program, but generally the plan involves introducing light cardiovascular work and cognitive tasks (such as quiet reading), followed by more aggressive football-related drills and advanced cognitive demands (such as watching film, participating in meetings).
In order to return to play, however, Lacy will have to meet the NFL league guidelines. He will have to be free of symptoms both at rest and with exertion; his neurocognitive (ImPACT) tests will need to return to baseline; and he will need to be cleared by both team physicians and an independent neurological consultant.
Depending on the severity of his symptoms, it’s possible a decision on his status could remain undetermined until late in the week.
Thursday night's matchup pits the Green Bay Packers against the Chicago Bears. There is one particularly key fantasy player in question and it looks as though he could be a game-time decision.
It seems the odds are against Jennings suiting up. There has been little recovery time between games. Even if he demonstrated improvement in individual drills, the test of real game action is always more demanding [e] and riskier. The potential for aggravating a groin injury and having it turn into a multi-week problem always exists when the athlete is operating at less than full health. And if he does play, what will his contribution be? Will he see fewer snaps in an effort to limit his exposure? Will he be able to shake defenders as easily if his mobility is compromised? One of the biggest challenges with a groin injury is losing power with straight running and losing sharp lateral mobility with directional change. Veterans like Jennings will often push to play despite being at less than 100 percent, but the body does not always cooperate. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, if Jennings does end up active, there will be uncertainty as to just how well he is able to perform.
James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers (toe [D]): This doubtful tag leaves far less doubt in its interpretation. Starks has been dealing with a turf toe injury since the preseason and just returned to limited practice Wednesday. It appears too early for him to be game ready, but with the extra time between now and the Packers' Week 3 contest, it's possible he could be in the mix then.
Brian Urlacher, LB, Chicago Bears (knee [P]): Before this season began, Urlacher, who sprained his left MCL and PCL late last season and underwent arthroscopic surgery in August, noted that he would likely have to "manage" his knee throughout the course of the year. The coaches are helping him to do just that as he was removed from Sunday's game early and was held out of practice through Tuesday. Urlacher returned to full practice Wednesday, however, and is expected to play tonight.
Charles Tillman, CB, Chicago Bears (shin [Q]): Tillman left Sunday's game early after injuring his lower right leg and the team has not elaborated on the specifics. He did not practice early in the week but returned Wednesday for the team's pregame walk-through (officially listed as a limited participant). At questionable, his status for Thursday's game is up in the air. If he does not go, Kelvin Hayden is expected to assume his role.
It's finally here! The last week of the NFL regular season is upon us and there is chaos everywhere. Who's resting? Who's playing? Who's playing a series, a quarter, a half, the entire game and into overtime if need be? This might be the most challenging week for fantasy owners making key sit/start decisions. Multiple variables factor into which players will rest and which will roll Sunday, but fortunately there are a few clues in the Friday team injury reports to help guide us.
Good luck in Week 17, everyone! May your players stay healthy and win for you.
Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys, hand, (P): The probable tag tells you all you need to know: The Cowboys plan on having Romo under center. As far as the injury itself, on Thursday we noted the issues Romo could face if swelling persisted in his bruised hand. Obviously Romo has shown through the week of practice (in which he participated daily on a limited basis) that he can handle the duties. The game is too important to the Cowboys to have him out there at a significant disadvantage. As long as he doesn't aggravate the injury during the game, Romo should be able to function, just as he has through other ailments.
Tom Brady, New England Patriots, shoulder, (P): On Thursday we discussed the non-separated non-throwing shoulder of the Patriots' quarterback. After sitting out Wednesday's practice (non-injury-related, according to the Patriots), Brady, while limited, did enough in Thursday and Friday's practice to demonstrate he could play. With 16 other Patriots listed as questionable and Brady holding the only probable designation on the team, it's clear they expect to have him on the field Sunday. According to ESPNBoston.com, teammate Wes Welker hints at Brady playing the entire game. From an injury perspective at least, it does not appear the shoulder will be a factor.
Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings, concussion, (P): Ponder left last week's game early with a concussion but was cleared to return to practice by Wednesday. After putting in full practice sessions all week, Ponder is expected to start Sunday.
Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals, head, (Q): Kolb is still experiencing concussion-related symptoms when trying to practice. John Skelton will start again.
Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans, ankle, (Q): Johnson's ankle is in better shape after another week of healing time. He did not practice Wednesday or Thursday but was back to full practice Friday. The Nashville Tennessean reported that Johnson said he was having trouble just walking on the ankle last week. Johnson indicated the ankle was much improved this week and that the rest early on helped prevent setbacks. It seems a healthier Johnson would want to end his season on a much brighter note. It remains to be seen how effective he can be against the Houston Texans, although there is admittedly little at stake, considering their playoff berth is secure.
Arian Foster, Houston Texans, knee, (P): There is no real injury concern with Foster here, other than the potential of suffering one if he plays too long in Week 17. It's hard to imagine the Texans, who have been so decimated by injuries at numerous key positions this year, risking Foster for an entire game. Foster can clearly score even in a short time but expectations for him putting in a full workload should be tempered.
Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants, foot, (P): Bradshaw is following the same pattern of limited work during the week and playing Sunday. Expect him to play again in this critical Sunday night matchup against the Cowboys.
Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys, hamstring, (Q): Despite the questionable tag, Jones is expected to start Sunday night in a game in which the Cowboys' season hangs on the brink. Jones was removed early from last Sunday's game, which was perhaps the best move for his tight hamstring. He was able to return to daily limited practice this week and the Cowboys are planning on him being the featured tailback. His hamstring will not be fully tested until the game but the conservative approach so far in managing his work over the past two weeks will hopefully pay off now.
Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions, ankle, (P): Smith still appeared to be struggling with his ankle to some degree in Week 16 but he was on the field. Smith practiced fully all week and at probable, is expected to play. The question is how much the Lions plan to use him. Joique Bell was signed by the Lions this week as insurance but coach Jim Schwartz has been vague as to whether he would actually play in Week 17.
Ryan Mathews, calf, (Q) and Mike Tolbert, hamstring, (P), San Diego Chargers: Earlier in the week it seemed Mathews was faring better with his injury concerns than Tolbert. That seems to have changed Friday. Mathews sat out Wednesday with a sore calf but participated to some degree Thursday. Post-practice soreness led the Chargers to give Mathews another day off Friday in the hope he'd be well enough to play Sunday. Even if active, his response to Thursday's light workout suggests he could struggle to get through an entire game. And this is nothing new. Mathews dealt with a calf injury in October but benefited from a bye week immediately afterward. His status will not likely be known until game time. If he plays, he will be sharing with Tolbert who was bothered this week by a sore hamstring. Tolbert did not practice until Friday but participated in a full workout his first day back. Barring a setback, listed as probable, Tolbert will play.
Roy Helu, Washington Redskins, toe/knee, (Q): Helu says he feels better this week after sitting out Week 16. But Evan Royster delivered such a solid performance in his absence, it's hard to know how the workload will be divided even if Helu plays. Tricky.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars, ankle, (P): Jones-Drew has been remarkably durable this season and leads the league in rushing. So much for those who doubted him before the season began. He can help increase his chances of securing that title by playing Sunday, which he is fully expected to do. After getting some rest for his ankle Wednesday and Thursday, Jones-Drew turned in a full practice Friday.
Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns, elbow, (P): It's no secret to fantasy owners how much the injury bug has impacted Hillis this season. Now he's on the report because of his elbow but the Browns plan to have him on the field after he put in limited practices daily. Hillis faces a tough Steelers defense but undoubtedly would like to finish the season strong after what can otherwise only be called a disappointing year.
Chris "Beanie" Wells, Arizona Cardinals, knee, (Q): Again Wells is listed as questionable for the Cardinals but again he is expected to play. The Arizona Republic reports Wells is likely to have offseason surgery on his right knee, not entirely unexpected given the chronic irritation he has dealt with since injuring his knee in Week 6. Still, with one final outing awaiting him, Wells is expected to gut it out once more.
Shonn Greene, rib/shoulder and LaDainian Tomlinson, quadriceps, (P): Greene has been playing through the rib injury for weeks and will do so again. Tomlinson has a sore quad that kept him out of practice Wednesday but he returned to full practice Thursday and Friday. The probable tag for both indicates the Jets expect them to play.
Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons, groin, (P): The groin injury has kept Turner on the injury report and appears to have hampered his effectiveness in the latter portion of the season. Nonetheless, the probable tag indicates the Falcons are planning on him being in Sunday's lineup, although how much time he'll see is questionable.
Marion Barber, Chicago bears, calf, (D): Barber is again listed as doubtful, making Kahlil Bell the feature back for the Bears again Sunday.
A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals, shoulder, (P): Green suffered a third-degree shoulder separation in Week 15 but returned to finish the game. He was active in Week 16 and although his numbers weren't extraordinary, he did make an impressive catch while well-defended, suggesting the shoulder was not holding him back. Another week of recovery should only help. After limited practice Wednesday and Thursday, Green returned to a full practice Friday and, at probable, is expected to face the Ravens on Sunday.
Laurent Robinson, Dallas Cowboys, shoulder (P): Robinson practiced fully each day and will be in the lineup again Sunday night.
Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers, ankle, (P): Wallace was limited Wednesday but fully practiced Thursday and Friday. At probable, the Steelers plan on having him Sunday.
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, Achilles, (P): Johnson rested Wednesday and Thursday but returned to limited practice Friday. At probable, he is expected to play Sunday at Green Bay.
Mario Manningham, knee and Hakeem Nicks, hamstring, New York Giants, (P): Manningham has struggled off and on with swelling in his knee but managed to practice every day this week. Nicks has been dealing with a hamstring issue but insisted early in the week it would not keep him down. After resting Wednesday and Thursday, Nicks returned to a limited workout Friday. Both players are now expected to be available in the game that will determine whether their season continues or ends abruptly.
Brandon Marshall, Miami Dolphins, knee, (P): Marshall played through the knee soreness in Week 16 just fine and is expected to do so again Sunday. Marshall practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday but was back in full practice Friday.
Vincent Jackson, San Diego Chargers, groin, (P): Jackson did not practice until Friday as he rested the sore groin that plagued him last week. He was available for a full workout Friday, however, and the Chargers obviously feel confident he will go against the Raiders this Sunday. It's worth noting that Jackson has typically played well despite injuries in the past but was clearly not up to par in Week 16. The layoff during the week no doubt helped move him along and with the team feeling more confident about his status this week, Jackson is presumably faring better.
Wes Welker, knee and Deion Branch, groin, New England Patriots, (Q): Both Welker and Branch were listed similarly last week and both played without limitations. While the receivers are being kept to limited work during the week, both are expected to be on the field again in Week 17. That is, of course, unless the Patriots decide to surprise us all and rest their starters. Welker told ESPNBoston.com that he expects to play all four quarters. Fantasy owners would be wise to check pregame inactives just in case.
Santonio Holmes, New York Jets, hip, (P): Holmes was an addition to the Thursday injury report after being limited in practice but coach Rex Ryan said they expected him to be ready by Saturday. The probable tag supports that and fantasy owners can put him in their lineups.
Jacoby Ford, Oakland Raiders, foot, (Q): Ford is looking to make his return after missing the last seven weeks because of a foot injury. He was able to practice on a limited basis all week but has yet to test his foot in a game situation. While he presents another option for Carson Palmer, it is unclear how much Ford would be utilized after missing so much time, and with Denarius Moore demonstrating last week that he is back to full strength.
Anquan Boldin, Baltimore Ravens, knee, (D): Boldin underwent knee surgery last week and missed Week 16. Originally projected by the Ravens to miss the remainder of the regular season, it was a bit surprising that he was not officially ruled out in advance of this week's game. Perhaps that was due to the encouraging sight of Boldin back in practice Friday, albeit on a limited basis. The doubtful tag confirms though that Boldin is likely to be out again this week.
Tight endsJermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers, knee, (P): Finley didn't practice early in the week but managed to make it back to limited workouts Thursday and Friday. At probable, he is expected to play but the Packers have already hinted at resting a number of their starters. It does not seem likely that Finley will play the entire game.
Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts, neck, (Q): Clark missed the last two games after suffering a stinger-type injury but was back in full practice for the first time this week. It would seem he has a chance to play, but check the pregame inactive list to be sure.
Anthony Fasano, Miami Dolphins, head, (P): Fasano missed Week 16 with a concussion but returned to full practice daily this week and is expected to play.
Owen Daniels, Houston Texans, knee, (P): Daniels only practiced on a limited basis and although he is expected to play Sunday, that too may be on a limited basis. The Texans already have their playoff berth secure and may want to limit the risk exposure for their key starters.
This space is intended for a list of key fantasy players, not including those who have been moved to injured-reserve status, who are officially listed as "out" for the upcoming game.
Reggie Bush, RB, Miami Dolphins, knee: This one is a bit surprising since Bush made it seem like the injury was not a big deal. He never was able to practice this week, however, so with the Dolphins out of contention, resting him Sunday seems wise.
Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay Packers, knee: Since spraining his MCL three weeks ago, it always seemed the Packers would keep him sidelined until the playoffs. Jennings has returned to running but will not see game action again until the postseason.
James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers, knee/ankle: Starks has struggled to get his ankle healthy, suffering multiple setbacks over the last month. The decision to hold him out in advance of the playoffs is no surprise.
Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints, (toe): As noted Thursday, Ingram suffered a setback to the toe in practice this week and it sounds as if it could be a problem for the playoffs. All fantasy owners need to know is that it will be a problem for this week, as in, he won't play.
Lance Moore, WR, New Orleans Saints, (hamstring): Moore suffered an in-game setback with his strained hamstring in Week 16 and was forced to leave the game early. After not practicing at all this week, Moore's status for this Sunday is not surprising, especially with the playoffs looming for the Saints.
Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders, (foot): McFadden isn't coming back after all, at least not during your fantasy season. He might not be available during the playoffs, either, but first the Raiders have to get there.
Jackie Battle, RB, Kansas City Chiefs, foot: Battle was in a walking boot mid-week and never really seemed as if he would be ready to play.
Jake Ballard, TE, New York Giants, knee: Ballard injured his PCL and, as expected, will miss the game again this week.
Delanie Walker, TE, San Francisco 49ers, jaw: Walker left Week 16's game holding his jaw after inadvertently getting kicked in the head, and a break was later confirmed.
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