Happy Thanksgiving week, fantasy football owners! What could be better? In addition to the usual Sunday merriment, we get to have a Thursday full of food, family and ... football! There are three games to be played Thursday, and naturally there are injury concerns clouding the picture. Whom can you trust and whom should you avoid in Week 12? Here's what we know so far ...
Thanksgiving Day players
Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions: Johnson missed a couple games earlier this season because of a non-specific knee injury. Last week, he was on the injury report with a hand injury. The knee issue seemed to be mostly behind him, and the hand appeared to be a nonfactor heading into Week 11. But Johnson sustained some bumps and bruises in the game against the Cleveland Browns, especially in the final moments, and was subsequently held out of Tuesday practice because of problems with the knee and hand. The Lions have a short week, so resting him does not come as much of a surprise, but given that Wednesday is expected to be a light practice day, Johnson will not test himself much before the Thanksgiving Day game. Expect a game-time decision for Johnson on Thursday.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions: After a valiant touchdown pass in the final seconds to lead his team to victory, his painful left arm hanging at his side, Stafford may be forced to sit this one out. Stafford suffered a separated left shoulder (sprained acromioclavicular joint, where the clavicle [collarbone] meets the acromion [tip of the shoulder blade]) and is experiencing significant soreness. While he is fortunate that the injury was to his non-throwing arm (an injury to his throwing arm could have threatened the remainder of his season), the pain will need to subside to a degree before Stafford can safely resume his position. In the presence of a separated shoulder, any jarring (running) or direct contact (landing on the turf again) will exacerbate the condition. If the sprain is anything less than a complete ligament tear, trauma this soon after the injury could worsen the injury. While the Lions have not officially ruled Stafford out, fantasy owners should expect that Daunte Culpepper will be the starting quarterback against the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving.
Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants: Good news for Jacobs, not so good news for Bradshaw. Jacobs took a hit in the third quarter of Sunday's game just above the knee and remained out the rest of the game. He told reporters that he probably could have returned, but that the medical staff was being cautious. It's worth noting that he did not appear on the team's Monday "projected" injury report. Bradshaw did appear on the Monday report, though, as "Did Not Participate in Practice" -- meaning if the Giants actually had practiced, they expected him to sit out. Anyone who has been paying attention to Bradshaw for the past couple of months knows that this has been standard procedure to protect his injured right foot from overuse during the week. But wait! Bradshaw has a new ankle injury, this time on his left side, according to the New York Daily News. In fact, the Daily News reports that he is now wearing a protective boot on that ankle, suggesting it is indeed more serious than a minor sprain. Bradshaw is not practicing Tuesday, and his status for Thursday appears very questionable, especially given that his right foot was already compromised by a fracture.
Ryan Grant, RB, Green Bay Packers: Grant was listed as a limited participant in the Monday projected practice reports with a neck injury. The Green Bay Press-Gazette reports that Grant suffered a stinger, but that the Packers did not seem to think it serious. Grant is expected to play Thursday.
Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys: It appears that Romo will be fine to play Thursday after being listed as a limited participant in the Monday projected practice reports. Romo took a knee in the back in Sunday's game, but coach Wade Phillips indicated that his starting quarterback was already feeling much better by Monday. He is expected to play Thanksgiving Day.
Kyle Orton, QB, Denver Broncos: Well, the Chris Simms era didn't last too long. Orton, who did not start Sunday's game because of a sprained left ankle, came in to replace the struggling Simms in the second quarter and managed to tough it out for the remainder of the game. He managed to move around decently despite the occasional limp and has already indicated that he is ready to play Thursday.
Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons: Turner is doing his best not to reveal too much about his Week 12 status to the opposition, but the uncertainty he expresses about his own timetable is revealing enough. Turner, who missed Week 11 with a high right ankle sprain, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday, "I'm just taking it easy right now and hoping for the best." He added, "Some guys take six weeks to bounce back, but I don't think I'll take that long. I'm just trying to get back to my normal self again." His comments are accurate in that high ankle sprains can derail players for multiple weeks, but everyone heals at different rates; depending on the degree of injury, a return could come sooner. That said, we would need to see Turner doing at least some running and side drills to think there is hope of a return in the near future, something that has yet to occur. Keep a close eye on Turner's activity, but it appears that Jason Snelling will get his second consecutive start.
Cedric Benson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals: Last week, Benson insisted that if he didn't play in Week 11 because of his strained hip muscle, he would certainly be ready to go by Week 12. That may not be entirely true. While Benson's injury never appeared terribly serious, having him available in the final weeks of the season and into the playoffs is quite serious for the Bengals. They will certainly not rush him back onto the field if there is any evidence of lingering effects, which, even if minor, could turn into something major if aggravated. In other words, the Bengals are facing the Cleveland Browns and may opt to continue with rookie Bernard Scott for another week. The completion of Friday's practice should yield more clues.
Julius Jones, RB, Seattle Seahawks: The good news for Jones is that he is expected to rejoin the team for limited practice this week. The bad news for fantasy owners is wondering whether it will be Jones or Justin Forsett on the field Sunday. According to The Seattle Times, Jones is expected to return to the starting lineup when the team faces the St. Louis Rams this weekend. It's a little early to be confident that that will actually happen. It will be telling to see how Jones responds to activity, particularly whether he has any difficulty or discomfort with breathing. Once again, clues are likely to emerge later in the practice week.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Roethlisberger left Sunday's game in overtime after suffering a blow to the head and was reported to be experiencing concussion-like symptoms. On Tuesday, coach Mike Tomlin indicated that Roethlisberger was feeling good and ESPN.com's James Walker reports that Big Ben is expected to make his Sunday start against the Baltimore Ravens. Walker quoted Tomlin as saying about Roethlisberger, "The battery of tests that he took showed that he showed no symptoms. So we will continue to monitor his condition and where he is on a day-to-day basis and let that guide our decision-making. But as I sit here today, he is symptom-free and feeling fine." Barring any recurrence of symptoms as Roethlisberger returns to practice, it looks optimistic for a Week 12 return.
Other quick hits:
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner also left Sunday's game early following a blow to the head. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt was encouraged by how Warner felt on the flight home, but according to the Cardinals' official Web site, Warner indicated that he still did not feel 100 percent. As with all concussions, this will continue to be evaluated on a daily basis. Fantasy owners, stay tuned.
St. Louis Rams quarterback Marc Bulger suffered a tibial plateau fracture (fracture along the top of the tibia or shinbone) in addition to a groin/hamstring strain and a possible concussion. Needless to say, Bulger is in a world of hurt. The fracture is estimated to keep him out anywhere from three to six weeks, but it is worth noting that he can't bear weight on it initially to allow it to heal, then Bulger has to work his way back to game shape. With only six weeks left in the season, it might not be a surprise to see Bulger go the way of injured reserve.
Speaking of injured reserve, that's where Washington Redskins running back Ladell Betts finds himself after suffering an ACL and MCL injury. Betts had done a nice job filling in for Clinton Portis, who is still sidelined with concussion-related symptoms. Rock Cartwright will be the starting running back for the time being as Portis has already been ruled out for Week 12.
There will be no injury blog Thursday due to the Thanksgiving holiday, but check back Saturday and I will have all the latest injury news heading into the Sunday games.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!