Stephania Bell: Mario Manningham
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.
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.
It's an NFC West matchup tonight as the Seattle Seahawks travel south to visit the San Francisco 49ers. Here is the status of key fantasy players on the injury report for tonight's game, and they're all members of the home team.
Mario Manningham, WR, San Francisco 49ers, shoulder (Q): Manningham saw a season-high number of targets in last week's outing against his former team, but it came at a price. He suffered a shoulder injury, the specifics of which have not been disclosed, which was enough to keep him a limited participant in practice all week. For what it's worth, Manningham did play the entire game Sunday and it sounds as if he will be available. Best to check the pregame inactives in advance.
Brandon Jacobs, RB San Francisco 49ers, knee (Q): This seems to have been Jacobs' status for multiple weeks, and he made his frustration with not playing known recently. That led to a conversation with coach Jim Harbaugh, and Jacobs appears to have backed down somewhat since, acknowledging the importance of the bigger picture. This week, Jacobs has been a full participant in practice and, as Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea noted, Jacobs is likely to be available "if coaches decide to use him." In other words, his knee seems to have recovered to the point that it is no longer an issue. His playing status is.
Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers, right finger (P): The injury was present last week and Smith played through it, so there's no doubt that he will play again, especially after practicing in full daily. Some wondered whether the finger factored into last Sunday's performance when Smith, not known for committing turnovers, threw three interceptions. Of all the fingers to injure, the third is one of the "best" in the sense that it is not nearly as critical to ball control as the thumb, index or pinkie finger, as noted by ESPN's Tim Hasselbeck. Credit the New York Giants defense with creating difficulties for Smith, who also lost tackle Joe Staley in the third quarter to a concussion. Staley (questionable) is uncertain for tonight after going through limited practice Tuesday and Wednesday.
Also, the 49ers' all-pro kicking squad is on the injury report this week. Place-kicker David Akers has been battling illness this week and did not practice Tuesday. He did return Wednesday to a full practice and is listed as probable. He is expected to play. Punter Andy Lee has a hand injury, but luckily that shouldn't impact his role. He practiced fully every day and is also, at probable, expected to play.
The Ravens lost their inspirational leader and team captain, veteran linebacker Ray Lewis, for the season because of a torn triceps. They also lost star cornerback Lardarius Webb to a torn left ACL. Webb tore his right ACL three years ago but successfully returned the following year and had developed into a premier player at his position. The combined loss of Webb and Lewis is difficult enough, but the Ravens also are dealing with a defensive injury up front. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata suffered a sprained MCL on Sunday, but the good news is the Ravens expect to have him available in Week 7. He might be limited in terms of mobility, but his presence on the field will be key, considering the other absences the team is facing.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Best will not consider retirement yet and maintains a desire to return. The Lions are continuing to support Best, which was reflected later on in Mayhew's statement: "Jahvid will continue to work with our medical and training staffs with the hope that he ultimately will be cleared to return to the playing field." Given the length of time that has passed, however, since Best's most recent injury and his failure to progress beyond his current level of activity, it would appear his chances of returning to football are slim.
Naturally, there are other injury situations worth tracking. Here's who we're keeping an eye on heading into Week 7:
Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals (ribs): According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Kolb will be out this week and beyond because of a significant multiple-rib injury, along with a sprained sternoclavicular joint (the same joint Rams receiver Danny Amendola injured). There's no doubt about how painful this injury is. Just breathing is bound to be uncomfortable, and any additional movement makes matters worse. Fortunately for the Cardinals, John Skelton's (ankle) health was improving anyway. He stepped in Sunday after Kolb's injury and looked, well, as if he'd been absent for five weeks. This week Skelton will have the opportunity to get all the practice reps as the team prepares him for a Week 7 start.
Running backsDeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys (foot): According to ESPN's Ed Werder, an MRI confirmed a left foot sprain for Murray, who was injured in the first half of Sunday's game. Murray is currently in a walking boot and on crutches, but Werder reports the Cowboys are saying he did not suffer a Lisfranc injury and will not need surgery. On Tuesday, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones confirmed Murray will miss the team's Week 7 game, as expected, but noted the team was relieved the injury was not more serious.
The team has not specified where in the foot the sprain is or the severity of the injury, other than saying it appears to be nonoperative; that makes it difficult to project with any accuracy just how compromised Murray is. While the news of no immediate need for a procedure is encouraging, it's worth pointing out that last year around this time, fellow running back Darren McFadden suffered what was thought to be a mild foot sprain and ended up missing the remainder of the season. He initially was expected to miss only a week or two, but he never could get to the point of running well on the foot. That's not to say Murray is destined for the same fate, but the point is, foot injuries can be tricky and unpredictable. This is not the same leg Murray injured last season (he suffered a right ankle fracture and high ankle sprain late in 2011, which required surgery and ended his season prematurely).
For now, the team is calling Murray's status week to week, and fantasy owners should plan on a multiple-week absence. Murray, however, is telling teammates he plans to play in Week 8, according to Werder. Let's see him get back on the practice field first before we count on him returning so quickly.
Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns (rib): Richardson left Sunday's game with what was later determined to be a right-side rib cartilage injury. The running back's status is day to day, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. This is the type of injury that usually comes down to whether pain inhibits functionality or not. Richardson has a few days to rest it and see how it responds. While he seemed to express little doubt he'd be available, the team likely will take the wait-and-see approach. Fantasy owners might want to add Montario Hardesty to their rosters as insurance.
Mario Manningham, San Francisco 49ers (shoulder): Manningham was listed as a limited participant for the team's Monday practice -- which is an estimation since it was only a walk-through -- because of a shoulder issue. No details were offered by the team. The 49ers play Thursday night, so everything on the injury report becomes relevant, but there is no hint as of now that Manningham's game status is in jeopardy.
And a few more players we're keeping an eye on:
Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints (ankle): Graham was seen wearing a walking boot after the Week 5 game, then the team headed into a bye. Mike Triplett of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Monday that Saints coach Aaron Kromer would have no player updates until Wednesday practice. It's probably a good idea to secure a backup tight end, just in case.
Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington Redskins (foot): The Washington Times reported Garcon is dealing with a sprained capsule (the tissue that surrounds a joint) under his second toe, which is still painful for him when pushing off or trying to run full speed. After watching Garcon try to push through the pain only to have that pain increase, the team has encouraged him to take some time to let it heal. Just how much time that will be is unclear, but it sounds as if it will be at least a couple of weeks.
Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants (knee/foot): Nicks managed to get through Sunday's game without a setback, although he wasn't quite himself. According to ESPN New York, Nicks says he knows the injury will continue to improve. If there are no immediate setbacks, it looks as if he will be available again this week.
If you're still alive in your fantasy playoffs, your new year is getting off to a good start. With a full slate of games on New Year's Day, you have 32 teams that could help crown you champion. Or, you could have 32 teams that combine to sink your season by resting their star players, particularly those who are at less than 100 percent health (who is at 100 percent health at this stage anyway?), in advance of the real playoffs or because they have no hope for the playoffs. Whom can you count on? We are in search of that answer as the final games of the 2011 regular season approach. Here's what we're hearing midweek.
Quick HitsTom Brady, QB, New England Patriots: This is the biggest nonstory story of the week. Brady took a number of hits to his nonthrowing (left) shoulder last week, and Tom Curran of Comcast SportsNet New England reported that Brady underwent X-rays to rule out a shoulder separation. Apparently there were no significant findings, and after sitting out practice Wednesday (noninjury related, according to the Patriots), Brady was at least present for the portion of practice open to the media Thursday, although how much activity he did is unclear. It sounds as if the team is understandably conserving his stamina for Sunday, when the Patriots are playing for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Brady has played through far worse, including, as many longtime fantasy players might remember, a sore throwing shoulder that had him on the injury report for record time. He will play Sunday, and while he perhaps would prefer not to take hard hits on his left shoulder, it should not affect his game.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Roethlisberger's high ankle sprain got an extra week of recovery when he sat out Week 16, and he now appears on track to play this Sunday. Roethlisberger was listed as a full participant in practice both Wednesday and Thursday, and acknowledges that while he still has pain in the ankle, he is improving. Expect Roethlisberger to play Sunday, barring a setback. Whether he will play the entire game is impossible to predict at this stage, and it might ultimately depend on how his ankle responds that day.
Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans: Johnson has missed three games since suffering his second hamstring injury of the season and made it clear he wanted to get back into a regular-season game before heading into the playoffs. It appears he will get his wish, as Johnson has practiced this week and coach Gary Kubiak indicated he is in line to play Sunday. It appears the Texans do not plan to use Johnson the entire game, as Kubiak suggested they would aim for 15 to 20 plays. Who can blame them after the spate of severe injuries their key players have endured this season? So while they will support Johnson getting some in-game work, they are not likely to take excessive risk. The question for fantasy owners is whether a limited appearance from Johnson will translate to significant point production.
Roy Helu, RB, Washington Redskins: After being a pregame scratch in Week 16 because of a painful toe, Helu has returned to limited practice this week. He says he expects to play, but the combination of his being less than 100 percent and a nice performance last week by Evan Royster makes this week's outlook unclear.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants: Bradshaw has settled into a routine of not practicing early in the week but returning Friday and playing Sunday. It appears that could be the case again, and the Giants have everything to play for Sunday night.
Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders: You probably are not in your fantasy championship if you were counting on McFadden to be back, since he now has gone 67 days without practicing. He is not headed to injured reserve, so there still is an opportunity if the Raiders make the playoffs. However, fantasy owners are left hoping for a full offseason recovery.
Jacoby Ford, WR, Oakland Raiders: Ford now is back in practice on a limited basis. His participation on back-to-back days is encouraging, but it is not yet clear whether he will be in the lineup Sunday.
James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers: Starks did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, and his status for Sunday is looking grim. At this point, it's more important for the Packers to have him healthy for the playoffs, so do not plan on seeing him in Week 17.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: Jones-Drew had an ankle injury heading into last week's game and managed to play through it. He has not practiced yet this week, but there seems to be little doubt that this is just rest in advance of Sunday's game.
Reggie Bush, RB, Miami Dolphins: Bush has had a resurgence of his career in Miami and wants to finish the season strong. His absence from practice both Wednesday and Thursday is a bit worrisome, considering he downplayed last week's injury to his right knee. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Bush is walking without a limp, but a knee injury to a running back with a history of knee issues is still concerning. If Bush is not practicing Friday, fantasy owners should be making alternate plans.
Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham, WRs, New York Giants: On Saturday, Nicks aggravated the hamstring he injured earlier this season, and it kept him out of practice Wednesday and Thursday. He made it clear he plans to play, however. According to ESPN New York, Nicks said, "It is all or nothing. It is playoffs now." That's not to say he'll be completely past it. Nicks and teammate Manningham both present some risk in that neither is expected to be completely beyond his injuries by the time Sunday rolls around. Manningham's struggles with swelling in his knee have been ongoing, but he turned in some limited work Wednesday and Thursday. Coach Tom Coughlin seems encouraged that Manningham will be available for this critical matchup.
Kevin Smith, RB, and Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions: Smith's ankle is still in recovery mode, but he has turned in full practices this week. As noted Tuesday, the Lions signed Joique Bell from the practice squad, so it is difficult to assess just how Sunday's lineup will shape up. Johnson is listed on the injury report with an Achilles injury and did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. There has been no indication that there is anything major to be concerned about regarding his health but his status for Sunday is unclear. While the Lions have made it sound as if it will be business as usual, it's hard to imagine their starters not being removed early at the very least, as this game does not hold much value (they're playing to keep the 5-seed in the playoffs).
Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert, RBs, San Diego Chargers: Not what fantasy owners want to see -- both Chargers running backs returned to the injury report. Mathews, again listed with a calf injury, sat out Wednesday but was back to limited practice Thursday, suggesting he'll be available Sunday. Tolbert, however, was out both Wednesday and Thursday with a hamstring injury, and his status is less certain.
See you at the injury chat Friday at 11 a.m. ET, and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 17 in the Saturday morning blog.
With the majority of NFL matchups taking place on Saturday, there is one fewer day for teams, coaches and, most importantly, fantasy owners to prepare! Never fear, championship contenders. We won't let something as small as a schedule change get in the way of bringing you all the latest information. With the NFL injury reports hot off the presses, here are the players whose status may have you concerned heading into this week's games.
Good luck in Week 16, everyone! May your players stay healthy and win for you.
Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles, ribs, (P): Vick will probably be on this list through the end of the regular season as his rib injury continues to heal. There's no question, however, that Vick will be the quarterback for the Eagles against the Dallas Cowboys.
Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, right shoulder, (P): Freeman is now at the point where he can play despite the shoulder soreness. He practiced fully this week and will start against the Carolina Panthers.
Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals, head, (Q): Kolb suffered a concussion in Week 14 and has still only returned to limited practice. It's expected that John Skelton will start again.
Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams, ankle, (D): Bradford has been struggling with his ankle, saying it feels as if it's "going backwards." Not good. Neither is a doubtful tag. With backup A.J. Feeley already ruled out, it appears recently signed Kellen Clemens will get the start.
Running BacksChris Johnson, Tennessee Titans, ankle, (Q): Johnson sprained his ankle Sunday and has been gradually increasing his activity throughout the week in an effort to return. While Johnson escaped major structural injury, the ankle has still been sore and could affect his overall performance, particularly with lateral movement and cutting. Johnson returned to limited practice Thursday and Friday and is expected to play, but likely will not be at top form.
Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants, foot, (P): Bradshaw is following the same pattern of limited work during the week and playing on Sunday. Expect him to play again this week.
Michael Bush, Oakland Raiders, shoulder, (Q): Bush has been on the injury report but it seems only logical he would be. After all, there are many other Raiders there to keep him company but, most importantly, he has been the workhorse of the backfield, enduring a physical toll. After he has been limited in practice each day, the questionable tag does raise some eyebrows. The signals out of Oakland all week have been that the Raiders expect to have Bush play, but it will be important to check pregame inactives.
Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos, hamstring, (P): McGahee has been bothered intermittently by the hamstring since hyperextending his knee but the probable tag tells us the Broncos plan to have him on the field. McGahee practiced in full every day, which should also help put fantasy owners' collective minds at ease.
Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions, ankle, (P): Smith's status is an upgrade over last week, indicating the team is feeling far more confident about his ankle. Smith's activity this week was a positive sign, as he was able to practice in full each day. While there's no way to be certain he can get through the game unscathed, this is certainly a better situation than last week.
Roy Helu, Washington Redskins, toe/knee, (Q): Helu downplayed his injuries, but according to The Washington Post, he felt much better after practice Thursday than he did earlier in the week. Despite the questionable tag, it appears Helu will play.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars, ankle, (P): His ankle got tangled up during the Week 15 game, but Jones-Drew, one of the most durable and productive running backs this season, was never really in danger of missing the game. He was given fewer reps in practice but participated on a limited basis every day. Jones-Drew is expected to start against Tennessee.
Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals, knee, (Q): After he was listed as probable the past couple of weeks, it's a little concerning that Wells has been downgraded this week to questionable. He did practice daily, but on a limited basis; however, that has been the pattern for some time as the team has been attempting to manage his knee condition. The Arizona Republic reports that Wells is expected to play Saturday, despite the questionable tag.
James Starks, knee/ankle and Brandon Saine, concussion, Green Bay Packers, (P): Starks sat out last week's game to give his ankle some additional rest. It only made sense after Starks struggled for several weeks in a row. This week has gone much better for Starks, who was able to participate fully in practice each day. Saine missed Week 15 with a concussion but returned to limited practice Wednesday, then full practice Thursday and Friday. Both backs are expected to be available along with Ryan Grant. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, there is likely to be a shared workload in place.
Shonn Greene, New York Jets, rib/shoulder, (P): Greene has been on the injury report for a few weeks now and his latest injury (torn tendon in finger) isn't even listed. The probable tag indicates the Jets expect him to play.
Marion Barber, Chicago Bears, calf, (D): Barber is listed as doubtful, meaning there is little doubt that Kahlil Bell will be carrying the load for the Bears on Saturday.
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints, toe, no designation yet: Ingram is still not practicing, and with the game on Monday night, fantasy owners should avoid him in their lineups.
Steve Johnson, Buffalo Bills, groin, (P): Last Sunday Johnson appeared to aggravate the groin injury that has plagued him throughout the season and was removed from the game as a result. Johnson said he could have re-entered the game and expressed little doubt that he would be back in Week 16. He practiced on a limited basis daily and appears on track to play as usual. It's worth noting that Johnson has performed well this season despite the presence of injury.
Laurent Robinson, Dallas Cowboys, shoulder (Q): Robinson was listed this way last week but we all know he played. Expect him to do the same again after practicing daily.
Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles, hamstring/shoulder (P): Maclin looked better last week than he did the week before and the probable tag tells us the Eagles are confident he'll be out there again. Maclin practiced fully each day and looks to be overcoming the injury.
Mario Manningham, New York Giants, knee, (D): Manningham has managed to play through his knee issue for the last two weeks but it appears he will miss this one. Swelling in the knee has returned, and he did not practice at all this week. Fantasy owners should make other plans.
Nate Washington, Tennessee Titans, ankle, (P): Washington has already shown he can play through the ankle injury, even coming in at far more questionable status. After practicing in full daily, Washington appears good to go against Jacksonville.
Brandon Marshall, Miami Dolphins, knee, (P): Marshall apparently had been dealing with some knee soreness but nothing so serious that he might have to miss this matchup against the New England Patriots. Marshall didn't practice Wednesday but returned to light work Thursday and full practice Friday. Expect him to play.
Wes Welker, knee and Deion Branch, groin, New England Patriots, (Q): Once again the Patriots have roughly half their roster at questionable after limited practice all week. Welker has been at this status for several weeks and has played without incident. Branch, however, missed last week and there is legitimate question as to whether he is ready to return. Branch says he's improving, but the team will make the final decision, just before game time.
Santonio Holmes, New York Jets, hip, (P): Holmes was an addition to the Thursday injury report after being limited in practice, but coach Rex Ryan said the Jets expected him to be ready by Saturday. The probable tag supports that, and fantasy owners can put him in their lineups.
Denarius Moore, Oakland Raiders, foot, (P): Moore was able to make it back last week but didn't do too much. Another week of practice (full practices daily) should have him on track for more action.
This space is intended for a list of key fantasy players, not including those who have been moved to injured reserve status, who are officially listed as "out" for the upcoming game.
Anquan Boldin, WR, Baltimore Ravens, knee: Boldin underwent knee surgery this week and will miss the remainder of the regular season.
Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay Packers, knee: Jennings suffered a sprained MCL in Week 14 and is likely out for the remainder of the regular season.
Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears, thumb: The Bears' starting quarterback remains out alongside their starting running back. Cutler is recovering from surgery to repair his broken right thumb.
Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders, foot: McFadden is still removed from practice but the team still holds out hope he can return at some point. It won't be this week.
Jacoby Ford, WR, Oakland Raiders, foot: Ford has still not been able to practice this week as he recovers from a foot injury.
Jake Ballard, TE, New York Giants, knee: Ballard injured his PCL and, as expected, will miss this week.
Anthony Fasano, TE, Miami Dolphins, head: Fasano was diagnosed with a concussion Thursday, at which point it appeared obvious he would sit out this week. The team made it official Friday.
Be sure to check out Fantasy Football Now on Saturday this week, on ESPN2 at 11:30 a.m. ET and Fantasy Surround on ESPN.com starting at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday for last-minute inactives, rankings, injury impact and more!
Heading into the Thursday night game between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers, there are, thankfully, only a couple of fantasy question marks. For the Browns, running back Peyton Hillis appeared on this week's injury report with a hip strain. He is listed as questionable after practicing on a limited basis this week, but the general sense in Cleveland is that he will play. Teammate Montario Hardesty returned in Week 13 to active status but never touched the ball. Hardesty was only in for a few snaps but claims the calf injury is behind him. After practicing fully earlier in the week, Hardesty is listed as probable and is expected to be available. If Hillis ends up not being able to go, Hardesty would get the start.
For the Steelers, there were a number of players listed on the injury report but all were able to practice. From a fantasy perspective, running back Rashard Mendenhall (back), quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (thumb) and safety Troy Polamalu (knee) are all listed as Probable and all are expected to play.
Quick HitsNot Practicing Thursday:
Here is a list of players who are worth monitoring based on the fact that they are not practicing as of Thursday afternoon:
Kevin Smith, RB, Detroit Lions: Smith returned in Week 13 just 10 days after suffering a high ankle sprain and it did not yield a good result. Smith struggled in his outing, then left the game after aggravating the ankle. Given the setback (and Smith's long history of injury issues), it appears Smith will not be participating this Sunday. Maurice Morris would get the start in his place.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants: At this time last week, Bradshaw had not tested his foot in practice and seemed unlikely to play. Then Friday came, he had a solid practice and then played Sunday. While he did not post stellar numbers, most importantly Bradshaw emerged with his foot no worse for the wear. His absence from practice on Wednesday and Thursday of this week might have signaled concern, but the New York Daily News' Ralph Vacchiano reports that coach Tom Coughlin says he expects both Bradshaw and Jacobs (who has been out with a sore hamstring) to return to practice Friday. Both backs are in line to play Sunday night in a big divisional matchup in Dallas.
Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders: In what now sounds like a broken record, McFadden is still not practicing with the team. Even Raiders coach Hue Jackson seemed at a loss for words on the subject Wednesday when he told reporters he has given up on guessing when any of his injured star players will return. Expect McFadden to be out again in Week 14, with Michael Bush continuing to carry the load.
Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore, WR, Oakland Raiders: See the note above on McFadden. Neither player has returned to practice and neither, at this point, can be expected to play Sunday.
James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers: Starks aggravated his ankle injury yet again in Week 13 and this time it looks as if he will be forced to miss a game. Starks has not practiced this week but still has a shot to return to practice Friday, although that appears unlikely. If he does not practice Friday, it is expected he will sit Sunday.
Willis McGahee, RB, Denver Broncos: McGahee did not practice Wednesday or Thursday but has told reporters he plans to play. He was listed on the injury report because of his knee, but there has been no news of anything new and significant. Recently, McGahee has dealt with a strained hamstring (the result of hyperextending his knee) along with hand surgery to address a fractured metacarpal (long bone of the hand). He has been remarkably resilient, missing only one game and has performed well since suffering those injuries, including rushing for more than 100 yards rushing last week. The rest during the week may go a long way towards helping him perform on Sundays. Barring a surprise, McGahee is expected to face the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints: Ingram has a case of turf toe (injury to the ligaments anchoring the big toe at the ball of the foot), which has kept him off the practice field this week. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that Ingram's toe injury appears to be mild, but Ingram says he will let what's in the best interest of the team take precedence. "If I feel like I can bring my best to the table, I'm gonna go," Ingram said. "If I can't, I'll sit if that's what's best for the team. But I always wanna try to go." The Saints are in a much better position with the overall health of their running backs now compared to the same time last year. Chris Ivory hasn't been active recently only because he's the fourth guy in a stable of healthy backs. If Ingram does not go -- and at this point it would not be surprising if the Saints rested him with the playoffs looming -- then Ivory will likely take his place.
Here is a list of several key fantasy players who were back in the mix by Thursday.
Michael Vick, QB and Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: Vick has missed three games with two broken ribs but can now throw the football without cringing. Vick graduated from throwing the football Monday to returning to full practice, and he plans to start Sunday. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Vick insists he plans to alter his style to slide more and avoid some contact, but that is no guarantee of avoiding a setback. After all, this latest rib injury happened in the pocket when Vick was hit as he threw the ball. Vick's fantasy value has come largely in the form of supplementing his throwing yards with plays made on his feet, so it will be interesting to see how this new strategy shakes out. The first step is getting him back under center, though, and it appears that will happen in Week 14. Meanwhile, teammate Maclin may join Vick on Sunday if he continues to feel as he did Thursday. Maclin has now put in back-to-back practices, an important step after last week's practice attempt resulted in a setback with his hamstring. The concern naturally will be if Maclin has not tested the leg at full speed whether he can survive a game situation without the threat of re-injury.
Mario Manningham, WR, New York Giants: Manningham sounded discouraged about the status of his knee last week, even hinting at a possible early end to his season. Well, things are looking up in Week 14, as Manningham has been able to practice on a limited basis for two days. While he is no lock to play Sunday night, coach Tom Coughlin sounded encouraged saying Manningham looked "good, sharp, quick," according to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. Stay tuned, but it looks as if Manningham has a chance to be on the field against the Dallas Cowboys. Manningham's knee will likely not be fully healthy again this season and he may yet need surgery once the season is over, but the key question has been whether the swelling would be manageable enough to allow him to continue.
Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Freeman sat out the Week 13 contest after injuring his shoulder late in the game one week earlier. Freeman reportedly suffered no major injury other than bruising in the shoulder, but acknowledged that it was extremely painful even at rest. The rest appears to have paid off, however, as Freeman's pain eased up, his range of motion has improved and he returned to limited practice this week. On Wednesday, Freeman only did light throwing with backup Josh Johnson handling most of the reps with the first team. On Thursday, the Tampa Tribune reported Freeman was back "making all the throws" in practice, a somewhat stronger indication that he is likely to start Sunday.
See you at the injury chat Friday at 10 a.m. and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 14 in Saturday's blog!
This week's fantasy hand-wringing game-time decision on Thursday night involves Eagles' running back LeSean McCoy. McCoy is listed as questionable because of a sprained toe. [Editor's Note: McCoy is active for Thursday's game.] A few positive signs for McCoy: He finished the game in Week 12. He practiced daily this week. Granted, it was on a limited basis but he was out there on back-to-back days, and most importantly on Tuesday, which is considered the primary prep day for Thursday night games. Both McCoy and head coach Andy Reid expressed optimism early in the week about McCoy's availability. One of the benefits of a player testing the toe in practice is that the medical staff also gets a chance to evaluate how the athlete's toe is responding to any supportive taping or shoe inserts, and adjustments can be made. The plan is for McCoy to test the toe in pregame warmups but the expectation is largely that he will play, barring a surprise. The unpredictable element then becomes whether the toe will limit him, particularly as the game progresses. McCoy has performed well in the presence of other ailments in the past and if he is deemed well enough to start, then the team is expecting a similar result.
The Eagles have already announced they will be without quarterback Michael Vick (ribs) and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (shoulder, hamstring). Vince Young and Riley Cooper start in their respective places. The Seahawks will be without wide receiver Sidney Rice, who has been placed on injured reserve after suffering another concussion, his second this season.
Quick HitsNot Practicing Thursday: Here is a list of players whose status is in serious question based on the fact that they are not practicing as of Thursday afternoon.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings: Peterson missed Week 12 because of a high left ankle sprain and has not yet practiced this week. Nonetheless, he claims he is progressing and hopes to test his ankle more Friday in the hopes he can play Sunday. According to the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, Peterson did some jogging Wednesday and said, "I can sit here and say I am improving ... I'm getting more movement." Peterson says it may come down to a game-time decision but thinks he'll have a better idea after Friday as to what he can realistically expect. The question for the Vikings then becomes whether it's worth having Peterson attempt to play if he is less than fully healthy, despite his determination. Don't be surprised if there is another week of rest before he returns.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants: Bradshaw has not returned to practice as he continues to recover from a stress fracture in his foot. Despite his declarations that he would play even if he did not practice, coach Tom Coughlin seems to be of another mindset. Mike Garafolo of the Newark Star-Ledger reported via Twitter that Coughlin says Bradshaw must return to practice first. Part of that may be to prove that he can indeed run on the foot without a setback before testing it in a game situation. So far Bradshaw has not resumed running, so the likelihood of an appearance this Sunday appears to be fading. Week 14 is looking like the soonest option.
Mario Manningham, WR, New York Giants: Recurrent knee swelling kept Manningham out of Monday night's game and he has not practiced since. More discouraging were his comments Thursday, when he hinted at the situation possibly being season-ending, according to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. Chronic swelling is reflective of irritation within the joint which can range from tiny floating bits of cartilage or "debris" to minor tears or fraying of a meniscus. While rest, compression and cold therapy can reduce swelling temporarily, if the source persists, the swelling (and associated pain and limitation) will recur. The decision often comes down to whether the condition can be managed effectively or whether surgery is required. Right now his status for this week appears in doubt.
Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders: Despite a McFadden sighting in Oakland, he does not look as if he will be ready for Sunday. McFadden has been out of his boot and walking around but he is not yet working with the team. We heard over a week ago from coach Hue Jackson that the Raiders would not return him before he was 100 percent healthy (the luxury of having Michael Bush on your roster) and they clearly are not rushing McFadden back. While frustrating for fantasy owners now, this will be of benefit to McFadden's foot and ankle health in the longer term. Week 14 could be a possibility, but even then, expect McFadden to be eased back into play.
Jacoby Ford, WR, Oakland Raiders: Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times reported earlier this week that Ford hoped to be back in practice Thursday but was not optimistic about his chances for playing in Week 13. He must be even less so now since he was not practicing Thursday after all. Ford continues to recover from a foot injury and will likely be sidelined Sunday.
Miles Austin, WR, Dallas Cowboys: Earlier this week, Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones expressed optimism that Austin would play Sunday. By Thursday he had changed his tune. According to Calvin Watkins of ESPN Dallas, Jones said Thursday he does not expect Austin to play Sunday against the Cardinals. Like the Raiders having the luxury of Bush filling in for an injured McFadden, the Cowboys have enjoyed the surprise performance of Laurent Robinson. With Austin on his second hamstring injury of the season, there is no desire to press him into action only to lose him for good at the most important time of the year. Austin has not practiced and now probably won't until next week. More Robinson this Sunday.
Julio Jones, WR and Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons: Jones played in Week 12, coming off his second hamstring injury of the season, but was limited in that effort and had no catches. The team is giving him some rest again this week but the hope remains that he can be available Sunday. More surprising was the appearance of Turner on the injury report Wednesday because of a groin issue. Turner's absence again Thursday is causing a bit more concern, especially considering he underwent groin surgery in the offseason. There has been no word as to the severity of this incident or whether it is precisely the same area that is injured, but for a running back known for his power, any groin ailment can be problematic. Friday's practice status should be telling for both of these players.
Practicing Thursday: Here is a list of some key fantasy players who were back in the mix Thursday.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions: Stafford was participating last week too, but this week he is throwing without gloves or a protective splint on his index finger. According to the Detroit Free Press, Stafford believes his finger is improving, although he doesn't blame his recent struggles on the finger alone. Still, the closer to normal the throwing conditions for a quarterback, the more he is likely to succeed. Fantasy owners are hopeful.
Kevin Smith, RB, Detroit Lions: After spraining his ankle on Thanksgiving and not practicing Wednesday, there was concern about whether Smith could return in Week 13. Thursday, however, was another story as Smith returned to the practice field. According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Smith appeared to be cutting well doing cone drills and was working first in the running back rotation. While he may not be at full strength, if Smith does not have a setback following Thursday's workout he could be in line to start again Sunday.
See you in the injury chat, Friday at 11 a.m., and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 13 in the Saturday morning blog!
Week 12 is in the books and with three games happening on Thanksgiving, at least the pain of the cumulative injuries was spread out over several days.
• On Thursday, the Detroit Lions lost Kevin Smith late in the first half to an ankle sprain. The injury was reported as a high ankle sprain, but after the game Smith said the injury was not that bad. He told the Detroit News that he was cutting when someone fell on his ankle but pointed out he had 10 days to recover before the Lions' next game. Still, there are no guarantees with this type of injury that Smith will be ready to return. If Smith is unable to play, Maurice Morris would once again be in line for the start. As for Jahvid Best, he was placed on IR and is done for the season.
• In the Thursday nightcap, the Baltimore Ravens were without the services of linebacker Ray Lewis, but it didn't stop the defense from halting the San Francisco 49ers' win streak. Lewis is still nursing a toe injury and may not be ready to return in Week 13.
• Sunday was supposed to be a happy day for the Houston Texans as they saw the return of wide receiver Andre Johnson after six games missed due to a hamstring injury. Johnson managed to get through the game just fine (albeit a little tired, per head coach Gary Kubiak) but the Texans lost their second quarterback in two games when Matt Leinart, replacing injured starter Matt Schaub, suffered a fractured clavicle. The Texans confirmed that Leinart will undergo season-ending surgery. This is not Leinart's first experience with a broken collarbone. In October 2007, Leinart, then with the Arizona Cardinals, broke his left clavicle and was placed on injured reserve. For now, the Texans' starting quarterback is T.J. Yates, with newly acquired Jake Delhomme and Kellen Clemens as backups.
There were a number of players who sat out Week 12 and fantasy owners are hoping to get them back soon with fantasy playoffs approaching. Will they be back in Week 13?
• Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was optimistic last week that he would play but fantasy owners who have seen the impact of high ankle sprains knew better. Peterson never really tested the ankle last week and was not ready for action. He may not be ready this week, either. While he's reportedly improving, until he takes the practice field, there's no independent way to judge how close he is to game action. Fantasy owners should prepare for the possibility of another week without Peterson.
• The Philadelphia Eagles play Thursday night and it won't likely be enough time to get two key players back. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, whose already ailing hamstring tightened up in practice last week, is trying to work his way back from two injuries. He did not practice Tuesday, the big prep day for a Thursday game, and is not expected to be available. Vince Young led the Tuesday practice for the quarterback position, indicating Michael Vick will almost assuredly miss another week because of his broken ribs. With 10 days between this game and the next one, both players have a chance to be ready for Week 14. A good sign for Vick is that, according to Jeff McLane of the Philadephia Inquirer, he was throwing some balls to receivers on the side. No word on how uncomfortable -- or accurate -- he was.
• The Oakland Raiders have their share of walking wounded, many of interest to playoff-bound fantasy owners. Running back Darren McFadden has now missed four games since suffering a midfoot sprain in Week 7. Largely invisible over the past few weeks as he received treatment on the foot, McFadden was out of the boot and walking around the team facility early this week. He was also seen working out on the side during team practice. While those are the most encouraging signs thus far for McFadden, there is still quite a bit more for him to do to return to action. The Raiders certainly have the luxury of ensuring McFadden's gradual progress, given how well Michael Bush has been playing in his place. Even when McFadden returns, which appears as if it won't be before Week 14, the team is likely to ease him back into action alongside Bush.
• Receivers Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford both missed Week 12 with foot injuries. Moore was a bit of a surprise addition to last week's injury report when he showed up with a walking boot on his right foot after apparently injuring it in Week 11. Ford has been out for two weeks now, and while he claims his injury is different than McFadden's, it is similarly slow to progress. According to Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times, Ford expects to return to practice Thursday but does not hold out much hope for playing Sunday. It looks like another week of drought for fantasy owners when it comes to some key Raiders.
• Finally, Seattle Seahawks receiver Sidney Rice suffered a concussion Sunday, his second of the season. With the Seahawks playing Thursday, the expectation is that Rice will not be available.
See you on Thursday as the practice updates start to shape up the game plans for Week 13.
Oh yes, there were plenty of injuries in Week 2. Just ask the Kansas City Chiefs, who lost their third starter to an ACL tear. Running back (and top-5 fantasy pick) Jamaal Charles landed awkwardly near the end zone, grabbed his leg in pain and then was carted off the field. That told us all we needed to know about how serious the injury was.
There were plenty more, so here we go.
Here is the official statement released Monday by the Cowboys, separated into sections, with some thoughts as to what it means.
Cowboys' official statement: Additional testing on the fractured rib of Tony Romo today revealed that he also has evidence of a pneumothorax -- a condition that is not unusual for an injury such as the one Romo sustained in the game in San Francisco.
Analysis: A pneumothorax essentially occurs when air enters the pleural cavity (the space between the chest wall and the lung). One of the mechanisms that can lead to a pneumothorax is blunt trauma, most often from a motor vehicle accident, assault (knife, gunshot) or rib fracture. The more air accumulating in the space between the lung and the chest wall, the more pressure there is against the lung. This pressure can eventually cause the lung (or a portion of it) to collapse. The obvious immediate complication is difficulty breathing, and in extremely serious cases, the condition can be life-threatening. In some cases, however, when the puncture is very tiny, the symptoms are much more subtle.
It is important to note that the "additional testing" Romo underwent back in Dallas involved a CT scan, a more sophisticated imaging technique than the initial X-ray taken at the stadium. A small pneumothorax might not be visible on X-ray but could show up on a CT scan. This underscores the importance of the physical evaluation of the athlete that is taking place at the stadium. If Romo showed evidence of serious complication from a pnuemothorax, such as extreme shortness of breath, a drop in blood pressure or confusion, he would not be allowed to return to competition.
Cowboys' official statement: Varying degrees of a pneumothorax can heal in differing time frames.
Analysis: A larger pneumothorax requires insertion of a tube into the chest to help evacuate the extra air. With a very small pneumothorax, there might be no treatment at all, just observation while the lung heals. As noted above, the time to heal varies based on the size of the pneumothorax and the individual's healing rate.
Cowboys' official statement: The Cowboys medical team will continue to monitor the situation and conduct additional tests as the week progresses.
Analysis: Repeat imaging is often performed to determine how the healing is progressing. Beyond the imaging, there is the issue of how Romo is feeling. Is the pain improving? Can he breathe, reach, twist and throw without significant pain? With a nondisplaced rib injury, the primary determining factor for return to play is typically pain. The presence of the pneumothorax suggests extra caution in this case. It should become clearer as the week progresses as to whether Romo has a chance to play Monday night.
Miles Austin, WR, and Felix Jones, RB, Dallas Cowboys: Romo is not the only member of Dallas' walking wounded. Of course, there's wide receiver Dez Bryant, who sat out Week 2 with a thigh contusion (the Cowboys are hopeful he will be available this week). Fellow wideout Austin suffered a setback to his hamstring, the same one he injured in the preseason. After turning in a three-touchdown performance against the 49ers, Austin aggravated the hamstring during the fourth quarter. According to ESPN's Ed Werder, Austin is not expected back until after the team's bye week (Week 5).
And then there's Jones. One might even refer to him as the oft-injured Jones (although Bryant likely eclipses that title). Jones displayed his own toughness though returning to the game after suffering a dislocated right shoulder. The injury was variably reported as a separated shoulder or a dislocated shoulder, but Werder confirmed the injury to be a dislocation, per sources. Dislocation means the humerus (arm bone) actually slipped out of the socket (on the shoulder blade or scapula). Jones was outfitted with a harness to support the shoulder and returned to play but is feeling plenty of postgame discomfort. It sounds as if the Cowboys expect to have him Monday night. He might be in a harness again and he might not be leaned on as much if he is limited. DeMarco Murray and Tashard Choice are there for this reason.
Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans: Originally referred to as "fatigued" by coach Gary Kubiak, Foster acknowledged his left hamstring had tightened up on him at halftime Sunday and he opted to remove himself from the game. Disappointing as this was for fantasy owners, this setback does not sound serious. Foster might not have been his explosive self in the first half, but he didn't limp off the field, either. The tightness he felt served as perhaps a good warning signal that it was best not to push his luck in his first game back after suffering a setback in the preseason. This development does create a fantasy dilemma, however, as the Texans have indicated that Ben Tate now will be the lead back, at least in the short term. Kubiak indicated it would be a "process" to work Foster back to a full load, so fantasy owners might want to observe that process before trusting his health.
• The New York Giants continue to rack up injuries, with their offense almost as nicked up as their defense. Wide receiver Mario Manningham, expected to perhaps see increased targets with teammate Hakeem Nicks questionable up until game time, exited early with a concussion. Nicks did suit up for the game and delivered a touchdown, plus he felt fine coming out of the game, undoubtedly a relief for the Giants. Finally, Domenik Hixon, seeing some time at wide receiver after missing all of 2010 with a torn ACL, made a spectacular catch in the end zone. However, the catch came at a price, as he walked off the field gingerly, headed straight for the locker room and did not do much afterward. According to ESPN New York, Hixon injured his right calf, the same leg that underwent the ACL repair. It sounds as if the injury was relatively minor, but keep an eye on Hixon's practice this week.
• New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was seen limping after Sunday's game, and now we know why. Hernandez reportedly suffered a medial collateral ligament injury, but the degree of injury is unclear. Reports of how much time he will miss have varied, but plan on at least a couple of weeks without him.
• Add wide receiver Eddie Royal to the list of injured Denver Broncos. Royal suffered a groin injury Sunday, which the Denver Post reports will keep him out two to four weeks. Teammate Brandon Lloyd sat out last week with his own groin injury but had returned to limited practice late in the week, hinting at possible availability this week. As for running back Knowshon Moreno, we saw none of him and his injured hamstring last week, so we will have to wait and see whether he turns up in practice this time around. Right now, Willis McGahee is handling the load just fine.
We will continue to update these injuries and others as the week progresses.
This week's Thursday night matchup has the Pittsburgh Steelers hosting the Carolina Panthers in the most anticipated matchup of the season (hint: sarcasm intended). There's not even a lot to get excited about from a fantasy perspective. Thankfully, most of the relevant fantasy players are not on the injury report this week, with the exception of one or two notables.
For the Panthers, running back Mike Goodson may have helped you a few weeks back but he has not been a fantasy factor recently. Nonetheless, for those who might have raised their eyebrows when they saw his name on the injury report, Goodson did not practice Tuesday because of illness, not injury. He returned to full practice Wednesday and listed at probable, is expected to play. Still, Jonathan Stewart remains the primary running back for the Panthers as he has been since DeAngelo Williams was placed on injured reserve.
On the Steelers' roster, defensive leader Troy Polamalu has already been ruled out for Thursday night. This does not come as a huge surprise as there were hints when Polamalu missed Week 15 that he could miss additional time. The All-Pro safety is listed on the report with an ankle injury, but the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports Polamalu is dealing with a strained right Achilles, an injury he originally sustained in mid-November. Polamalu continued to play with the injury, but it worsened after the Week 14 game against the Cincinnati Bengals when quarterback Carson Palmer fell on the back of his leg. The Tribune-Review cited sources saying Polamalu could miss the remainder of the regular season. Officially, he has been ruled out for only this week but fantasy owners should keep an eye on his practice activity early next week for further clues.
Meanwhile Steelers tight end Heath Miller, who has missed the past two weeks following a concussion, is off the injury report and is expected to play, barring any late setback.
Here's who else you might be concerned about heading into Week 16:
• Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was a surprise scratch Monday night and has not shown much improvement since. Peterson had something to say about his status Tuesday on Twitter writing, "I'm rehabbing. Fully expect to go on Sunday." It's worth noting that Peterson was optimistic in advance of Monday night's game as well, and fantasy owners saw how that turned out. Peterson did not practice Wednesday, and according to Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities, Vikings coach Leslie Frazier described his situation this way: "Very, very sore, lots of pain and makes it difficult to turn, twist and do the things Adrian Peterson does." Not the most encouraging words to start the week. Insurance is the best strategy here and if Toby Gerhart is available, he won't be for long. Although Peterson returned to limited practice, Pelissero noted that he seemed to be favoring his injured thigh. Both Frazier and Peterson indicate he is much improved over last week but also acknowledge he has a ways to go. This may come down to another game-time decision.
• Houston Texans running back Arian Foster gave fantasy owners a scare when he left last week's contest early with what he described as a muscle spasm in his "glute." Foster was a full participant in Wednesday's practice, though, and appears on track to start Sunday. Head coach Gary Kubiak, while reassuring in his assessment of Foster's status, sounded the alarm bells when he referred to wide receiver Andre Johnson as a game-time decision. According to the Texans' official website, Kubiak followed up by saying, "We'll do our normal deal this week and see where he is at." Johnson has had little to no practice most weeks since injuring his ankle, which typically has allowed him to play Sunday. So far he has missed Wednesday and Thursday. We'll see if Johnson tests the ankle at all Friday.
• Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be back running the offense this week, assuming all goes well between now and Sunday. Rodgers missed Week 15 after suffering his second concussion of the season but was back in full practice Wednesday. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel said Rodgers "threw the ball with authority" in the portion of practice open to the media. Rodgers will be wearing a different helmet going forward, but it should be noted that no helmet is concussion-proof. In fact, some helmets have demonstrated better resistance to impact (and controlled studies on helmets have only studied linear or straight-line impact, not rotational, which is often how players are concussed) but the brain is injured when it moves within the skull, something no helmet can control. Still, Rodgers has passed all necessary tests to resume physical activity and barring any return of symptoms, is expected to start against the New York Giants this weekend.
• Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes is also less than 100 percent healthy with a turf toe issue that kept him out of practice Wednesday. Holmes returned to limited practice Thursday, suggesting the injury is not of the most serious variety, but it still remains to be seen whether he can be fully effective pushing off and running routes.
• Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis was not in practice Wednesday, getting a day of rest, according to the Browns. The Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported Hillis was seen limping in the locker room Wednesday, suggesting the body part noted on the report (knee) might be more injured than tired. Hillis seemed to dismiss the concern, telling the Plain-Dealer, "I feel great. ... It is a long season. It's tough on your body, but I think my body's holding up well." He returned to some form of practice Thursday, easing many a fantasy owner's concern. While he's not necessarily out of the woods, this is definitely an encouraging sign. Hillis will need his strength to face the Baltimore Ravens, who no doubt would like to erase the memory of his stellar performance against them earlier this season.
• Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton knows he will be on the sideline this weekend as Tim Tebow continues to start. But what about running back Knowshon Moreno, who left last week's game early with a rib injury and was not on the practice field Wednesday. Bruised ribs are painful and even breathing hard when running can be excruciating. Moreno did return to limited practice Thursday. If he is able to do the same or more Friday, it would hint at him being available for Sunday.
• Dallas Cowboys running back Marion Barber was a full practice participant Wednesday, lending more support to the idea that he could be back on the playing field Sunday. Barber has been out since injuring his calf on Thanksgiving Day. Teammate Felix Jones has a shin contusion, which also kept him out of practice Wednesday. There seems to be less concern about Jones' availability; the challenge for fantasy owners will be trying to predict how the touches are distributed if all three backs (Barber, Jones and Tashard Choice) are active. Meanwhile, teammate wide receiver Roy E. Williams was in limited practice Wednesday, a week after suffering a groin injury which kept him out of the Week 15 game. Fantasy owners should wait to see how Williams fares as the week progresses.
• Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap has been sidelined with a hamstring injury the past two weeks but returned to limited practice Wednesday. He is by no means a lock to play, but this is a good first step.
• New York Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham was questionable last week because of a hip flexor strain but delivered a solid performance (despite his team's stunning loss). Manningham appeared on this week's injury report because of his heel. He went from limited work Wednesday to full practice Thursday, however, hinting that he will be fine come Sunday.
• After sitting out last week's contest and undergoing a platelet-rich-plasma (PRP) injection, New Orleans Saints running back Chris Ivory thinks he is about 90-95 percent recovered, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Ivory told the Times-Picayune he could still not run at top speed Thursday but hopes to be able to play Monday night. Given the fickle nature of recovering hamstring injuries and the late game, this may be a fantasy situation to avoid.
• And finally, the Indianapolis Colts continue to watch players end their seasons prematurely. Wide receiver Austin Collie has been placed on injured reserve following his Week 15 concussion. Despite losing a receiver, they may be gaining a running back. Joseph Addai was a full participant in Wednesday practice and according to Associated Press reports, if the game were Thursday he could play. Let's make sure he's not getting ahead of himself and that he feels as good or better at the end of a full week of practice. It sounds as if Addai could return, but how much work he would see versus recent starter Donald Brown is unknown.
Have a Merry Christmas and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 16 in the Saturday morning blog!
This week's Thursday night matchup has the San Diego Chargers hosting the San Francisco 49ers.
Vincent Jackson, who injured his calf in his 2010 debut, is now off the injury report and is clearly expected to start. Legedu Naanee, who dealt with setbacks of his own the past two weeks following a hamstring injury, is probable after full practice Tuesday and Wednesday. The most notable fantasy star of the group, tight end Antonio Gates, is not expected to play this week. The team lists him as doubtful and he has not been able to practice because of pain in his foot. Keep in mind, if Gates rests this week, by the time of the Chargers' Week 16 contest he will have been out close to three weeks. The reprieve might be able to help him return and contribute at that point. But expect Randy McMichael to start at tight end for the Chargers this week.
For the visiting 49ers, there are not many question marks from a fantasy perspective. Running back Brian Westbrook is listed as probable for non-injury-related reasons and is fully expected to play. On the defensive side of the ball, linebackers Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes have been practicing with casts on their right hands this week. Although both are listed as questionable, they are expected to play.
Here's who else you might be concerned about heading into Week 15:
• Green Bay Packers signal-caller Aaron Rodgers is looking less likely to play Sunday against the New England Patriots. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports Rodgers has not even been allowed to return to the Packers' practice facility. Clearly, the medical staff wants his brain to rest, meaning no film study, no game plan preparation and no activity whatsoever that could interfere with healing. In the absence of any preparation, coupled with the likelihood that Rodgers will miss the entire week of practice (coach Mike McCarthy said Rodgers will not practice Wednesday or Thursday and his chances of working Friday are "slim to none"), it is hard to imagine he will be ready to absorb all of the mental and physical load required to start Sunday's game. Fantasy owners should prepare to start another quarterback this week.
• Fantasy owners should know at this point that they cannot count on Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre to play. While his status remains up in the air, there are so many question marks heading into Monday night -- including whether the game will indeed be played outdoors at the University of Minnesota's stadium -- that's it's best to avoid the situation. Tarvaris Jackson has a turf toe injury and has now been placed on injured reserve, making Joe Webb the likely starter, although he has a hamstring issue of his own. The Vikings signed Patrick Ramsey as insurance. Stand clear of these quarterbacks.
• As far as the other Vikings with injury concerns, running back Adrian Peterson, who did not help his fantasy owners last week, is dealing with a knee contusion that is not expected to limit him this week. Maybe if you're still in the playoffs, he can help make it up to you Monday night. Wide receiver Percy Harvin has missed the past two games because of migraines, but coach Leslie Frazier says he expects Harvin to return to practice this week. With the Vikings not playing until Monday night, there will be no official practice report until Thursday night, but at least early signs are positive for these two.
• The Cleveland Browns are making Colt McCoy the starting quarterback for the remainder of the season. It sounds as if the ankle issue is far enough behind him to no longer be a concern to the team.
• Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton was held to limited practice Wednesday because of "soreness" in his throwing arm and his ribs. The Denver Post reports coach Eric Studesville referred to Orton's condition as "bumps and bruises" and does not seem overly concerned about his quarterback's availability this weekend. Teammate Brandon Lloyd showed up on Wednesday's injury report as a non-participant in practice because of his calf. Whether this was some helpful midweek rest or an injury to be concerned about should become apparent as the week progresses.
• The New York Giants' wide receiver news was not so positive to start the week. Steve Smith, who returned in Week 14 from a pectoral strain, left the game after one catch when he injured his knee. The Giants released a statement Wednesday indicating that Smith suffered articular cartilage damage and would be placed on season-ending injured reserve. His teammate, Hakeem Nicks, fared much better in his return from injury, catching seven passes for 96 yards, and emerged no worse for the wear, not even appearing on Wednesday's injury report. He will likely be Eli Manning's big target with Smith out and Mario Manningham questionable this week. Manningham left Monday's game early with what was called a hip flexor strain and did not practice Wednesday. We will see what Manningham is able to do later in the week, but he tells ESPN New York that he plans to play in the team's big matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.
• Some fantasy owners may have been concerned seeing Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw with his wrist and forearm on ice Monday night. Bradshaw is not on the team's injury report this week, consistent with his assurances that the wrist is "fine."
• Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver and premature touchdown celebrator DeSean Jackson did not practice Wednesday because of a sprained foot. The team is calling him day-to-day according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, but it's hard to imagine him sitting this big game out. Stay tuned.
• The Baltimore Ravens won their Monday night game without the services of tight end Todd Heap, who was sidelined with a hamstring injury. Heap was listed as a non-participant Wednesday, although the team only held a walkthrough. Fantasy owners should prepare for the eventuality that Heap may not be available again this week, but his practice status going forward should give better clues.
• Oakland Raiders tight end Zach Miller is back in full practice and his performance last Sunday was the best fantasy owners have seen in a while. If Miller can continue to practice daily without a setback, he might be worth a consideration for your fantasy team, with a matchup against the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
• Dallas Cowboys running back Marion Barber returned to limited practice Wednesday. Barber has been out since injuring his calf in the Thanksgiving Day game. As the San Antonio Express News reports, however, this may only add to the rotation at running back for the Cowboys. While Barber is far from a lock to play Sunday, when he does return he potentially adversely affects the fantasy running back scenario. Owners of Tashard Choice will want to keep an eye on Barber's status throughout the week. Meanwhile, ESPN Dallas reports wide receiver Roy E. Williams suffered a groin injury in Wednesday's practice. No word as to the seriousness of Williams' ailment, but it will be worth watching what he is able to do the remainder of the week.
• The Indianapolis Colts continue to watch players on the injury carousel. Running back Joseph Addai looks to be status quo with limited practice Wednesday. Wide receiver Austin Collie was a full participant Wednesday, though, and if he maintains that throughout the week it could signal his return Sunday. The big question then will be how Peyton Manning divides up the passes. After Pierre Garcon's big fantasy performance last Thursday, it's a little harder to anticipate who will be the lead scorer. Tight end Jacob Tamme remains on the injury report but was a full participant in practice. Expect him to play again this week.
See you at the injury chat on Friday at 3 p.m., and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 15 in the Saturday morning blog!
The Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys are all off this week.
For the Vikings, it means tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and the hamstring he injured in Week 3 get some extra rest. Wide receiver Percy Harvin and quarterback Brett Favre, both of whom have been dealing with various ailments, should also appreciate a less physical week.
In Dallas, Cowboys tight end Jason Witten suffered a concussion in Week 2 but played in Week 3, only to add a sprained MCL to his list of injuries. Witten's sprain was reportedly mild and he likely would have pressed to play this week if necessary, but that decision won't have to be made now. Witten can rest his knee and wide receiver Dez Bryant can rest his fractured rib.
Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was in the hospital Monday undergoing gall bladder surgery and will have an easier recovery week given the bye. Not that it sounds like he would have missed any time. After all, Weis put up with the intense pain from the infection in his gall bladder through last weekend so that he could help orchestrate the Chiefs' demolition of the San Francisco 49ers in Arrowhead Stadium. It will be tough for any of the Chiefs' players to complain about their own aches and pains during the off week.
Down in Tampa, Buccaneers tight end Kellen Winslow has been playing despite experiencing pain in his surgically repaired knee. While Winslow has been able to play through the pain, the well-timed rest could help boost his productivity going forward.
Teams do not have to provide the same injury reports during their bye weeks, so fantasy owners will have to wait until next week for updates on any of their players who are taking a week off. In the meantime, here are some updates on other players of interest which may affect bye-week pickups:
Brees has been wearing a brace, however, which provides some compression and support and makes it easier for him to move around. Apparently, he was moving well enough for the Saints since he was not on the injury report Wednesday. Brees should be expected to start as usual this weekend.
Jake Delhomme, Cleveland Browns: Delhomme was out of practice again Wednesday because of his injured ankle but put in some limited work Thursday. Coach Eric Mangini has maintained all along that even if Delhomme were limited in practice, it would not prevent him from starting Sunday. If Delhomme is able to get back into the mix enough this week, it's quite possible he could take the reins this weekend.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: Despite the pronouncement that Stafford would begin throwing this week, he did not throw in the portion of practice open to the media Wednesday and was listed on the injury report as not participating in practice. He will have to move through a throwing progression before he can even return to practice. Do not expect him back this week.
Running BacksRay Rice, Baltimore Ravens: Rice did not practice Wednesday, which comes as no surprise. Diagnosed with a knee contusion after Sunday's game, Rice's activity will be limited at best early on. The Baltimore Sun quoted a source close to Rice as saying the injury "is not that bad." Sure, it's not a ligament sprain or a fracture, but one shouldn't underestimate how limiting swelling around the knee can be for a running back. The big unknown is how much time it will take for the swelling to subside so that Rice has complete, easy motion of the knee and the ability to perform at full strength. Rice is eager to play; it's just a question of how the knee and the clock cooperate. Fantasy owners should prepare a backup plan but keep an eye on Rice's activity for the next two days.
Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams:
On Tuesday, we described how Jackson strained his groin in a rather atypical fashion. It's no shock then that he did not participate in practice Wednesday. Jackson continues to undergo rehabilitation for the injury but may not actually do much throughout the week. This is looking like it will be headed for a game-time decision, but savvy Jackson fantasy owners know to have a backup plan. He will want to go, he will try his best to get there, but the team may decide it's too risky to play him if he is anything at less than full speed.
Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals: Wells was impressive in his return to the field Sunday after missing time for what we now know was an arthroscopic surgical procedure. The fact that he performed well on the field, along with no reports of unusual postgame swelling or soreness, suggests that his workload will only go up. Tim Hightower is expected to continue to start, but fantasy owners should feel comfortable that Wells will see significant action.
Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints: Thomas got his ankle twisted Sunday and the sight of it made it look like he might not return. But he did return and finished the game. Apparently his ankle didn't forget how it felt, though, as Thomas was out of Wednesday's practice. It's too soon to speculate as to his Sunday availability, but it is worth noting that rookie teammate Chris Ivory made his season debut last week. Ivory, who missed the first two games of the season with an MCL sprain, did not appear on Wednesday's injury report.
Jerome Harrison, Cleveland Browns: Harrison sat out last Sunday's game after missing practice all week with a thigh injury. He returned to limited work Wednesday but how he feels as the week goes on will ultimately determine his availability. If you happen to be one of those Peyton Hillis fantasy owners who celebrated last week, there's a chance you might do the same thing this Sunday. Stay tuned.
Mario Manningham, New York Giants: Manningham was out of practice Wednesday with a concussion, initially casting doubt as to whether he will be available for this week's contest. It's no secret that managing players who suffer concussions is being taken seriously in the NFL, but Manningham was apparently well enough to return to some form of practice Thursday. Let's see how he responds as the week progresses.
• Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, which does not exactly support the notion of his return Sunday. Tuesday we outlined the problems with this type of injury and the difficulty it presents for a running back in particular. Fantasy owners need to make alternate plans.
• Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno was a late scratch last week after injuring his hamstring in practice. He was projected to miss more than one week initially, so it comes as no surprise that he was not practicing Wednesday. While he has not yet officially been ruled out, Moreno's fantasy owners should plan as if that's going to be the case.
• Indianapolis Colts running back Joseph Addai remains on the injury report because of his knee but was able to play last week and should again Sunday. Teammate Pierre Garcon remained out of practice because of his injured hamstring. It looks as if Austin Collie might be reprising his role this weekend.
• New England Patriots running back Fred Taylor has not practiced this week. It certainly looks as if his availability for Week 4 is in doubt.
• Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson showed up on Wednesday's injury report as a non-participant because of his knee. There is not much in the way of detail but unless Benson ends up out of practice for an extended period, this could just be a means of giving him additional rest.
• Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis appears on the injury report again this week because of his wrist. Portis has played the last two weeks despite the wrist ailment. He fully participated in practice Wednesday so he appears to be in line to play again.
• Oakland Raiders tight end Zach Miller did not practice Wednesday because of an undisclosed injury.
I won't have an injury chat Friday but I will have the latest injury updates affecting Week 4 in the Saturday morning blog!
Usually we don't get much information from the teams that are on bye weeks as they quietly rest their injured players and give everyone some much-needed downtime. That said, there are a few interesting tidbits from a couple of teams who are not playing in Week 9.
While there is other news swirling among the Oakland Raiders, fantasy owners might want to note that running back Darren McFadden has returned to practice for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in October to address a torn meniscus. The Oakland Tribune reports that McFadden practiced without experiencing any setbacks. Of course, the all-important test is how the knee responds in subsequent days. If McFadden continues to practice, this is a good sign that he will be available in Week 10. The Tribune indicates that the Raiders expect McFadden to play next Sunday, but that the status of wide receiver Chaz Schilens, who is still slowly recovering from foot surgery, remains questionable.
On the opposite coast, Buffalo Bills quarterback Trent Edwards has returned to light practice following a concussion. The Buffalo News quotes a team source as saying that Edwards will return to his starting role in Week 10, assuming no setbacks as he continues to increase his practice activity.
The New York Jets are literally taking the week off as coach Rex Ryan gave everyone six days of vacation. Most players indicated that they had never had this kind of time off midseason. It will be interesting to see whether it proves to be the beginning of a fresh start for the slumping Jets. It could certainly help all the recovering muscle strains on that team.
Thankfully this is the last of the six-team bye weeks so fantasy owners have to contend with only one more frantic search to find substitutions. The Bills, Raiders, Jets, Cleveland Browns, St. Louis Rams and Minnesota Vikings all have this week off.
Here are some status updates to help you shape your roster as we look ahead to Week 9.
QuarterbacksAaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: Rodgers is nursing two sore feet and did not practice Wednesday as expected. According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Rodgers has a sprained big toe on his left foot (sustained during last week's game) as well as a right foot sprain which he has been dealing with for two weeks. Rodgers broke the fifth metatarsal (long forefoot bone that connects to the fifth or pinkie toe) in 2006, so this new left toe injury is in a completely different location. The big toe is critical for push-off, so Rodgers' mobility may be compromised a bit more than usual, making his pocket protection that much more important.
Veteran tackle Mark Tauscher, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last December and has not played since, may make his season debut at right tackle this Sunday. It appears that Rodgers will also have his veteran left tackle Chad Clifton back in the lineup this week. Clifton, who has had recurring problems with an ankle sprain, was active last week but did not see playing time. That could very well change this week when the Packers face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Look for Rodgers to do very little physical activity until Friday, as a measure for ensuring his availability for Sunday.
Jake Delhomme, Carolina Panthers: Delhomme was a full participant in practice Wednesday despite suffering a chest contusion in Week 8. As of now, it appears he is ready to take the field Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.
Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants: As expected, Bradshaw did not practice Wednesday to rest his foot and ankle. Bradshaw likely will do limited work before the game and then play Sunday when the Giants host the San Diego Chargers. Bradshaw did not have his best statistics Sunday and it is no secret that he is playing in pain. Nonetheless he has performed well overall despite playing with the injury and there is no reason to think that he won't continue to do so.
Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts: Brown did not play in Week 8 because of his shoulder injury but was back in practice Wednesday trying to make his case for this Sunday. In fact, fantasy owners may think he's in the clear since Brown did not even appear on the Colts' official practice injury report for Wednesday. Not so fast. The Colts are holding off on making a decision as to whether or not Brown will be available until late in the week. No doubt they will want to see that he can practice on consecutive days without limitation. This could result in a game-time decision, but for what it's worth, the Colts face the Houston Texans in an early matchup.
Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions: Smith injured his left shoulder in Sunday's game, taking him out of the game early. Apparently it was not so serious that Smith could not have returned, but since Maurice Morris was running well, the Lions went with him. This is not the same shoulder Smith injured earlier in the season (which did not result in any missed time). Smith did not practice Wednesday but was back in practice Thursday. Jim Schwartz went to the trouble of explaining that the workload split in Sunday's game between Smith and Morris was a result of that shoulder injury, but that Smith is the Lions' "workhorse running back, getting most of the carries." So it appears that if Smith is able to go, he certainly will. The Lions have tended to earmark their injured players as game-time decisions, so expect Smith to fall into that category as well. If he practices again Friday, it would certainly support the notion that he will start.
Wide ReceiversCalvin Johnson, Detroit Lions: After a few weeks of doing little or nothing in practice, Johnson has returned to increased practice activity this week. Johnson reportedly moved well in practice, but the Lions remain noncommittal about his availability in Week 9. The fact that Johnson is appearing in back-to-back practices on Wednesday and Thursday is already more encouraging than anything he has done since the injury. The Lions clearly need him on the field not only to provide the obvious target for quarterback Matthew Stafford, but also to force opposing defenses to respond to him. That said, they do not want him to be at risk for something more significant in terms of injury. The Detroit Free Press is reporting that coach Jim Schwartz says Johnson's availability will likely be a game-time decision (not surprising as this has been the case before) but this is an early game so fantasy owners can take some consolation there.
Meanwhile, Anthony Gonzalez is not any closer to returning to the field. Gonzalez sprained his knee (PCL) early in the season and was originally projected back after the team's bye but has not yet been able to even participate in practice. Gonzalez did not take part in team drills Wednesday and is seeking outside consultation for his injured knee.
According to Tom James of the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, Colts head coach Jim Caldwell is not sure as to exactly where Gonzalez stands in his recovery. Says Caldwell, "I know he's trying to get to the point where he feels like he can function at his normal level. He is not there yet. How long that takes him just depends. I know he's taken a look at it and getting some more opinions and things of that nature and moving forward."
At this point, fantasy owners who were still holding out hope for Gonzalez need to relinquish the space on their bench and find an alternate player who can contribute now. While Gonzalez may yet return this season, there are still too many question marks as to if and when that will be, not to mention how he will perform.
Anquan Boldin, Arizona Cardinals: His status is becoming "iffier" by the day. Boldin, who has acknowledged that he does not expect his ankle to be 100 percent healthy, did not practice Wednesday and there seems to be some momentum building toward resting Boldin for a week to afford the ankle some opportunity to heal. While it's unlikely that one week will allow the ankle to recover completely, it certainly could go a long way toward improving his chances of making it through a full game.
Boldin has played the past two weeks despite the injury but has struggled after the first half. According to the Cardinals' official Web site, coach Ken Whisenhunt is evaluating the situation and insists, "We always try to make the decision that's in the best interest of the team." Fantasy owners think it would be in their best interest to find out before game time, especially since the past two weeks have resulted in frustration. At least the Cardinals play early this week, but it's fair to say that unless Boldin makes a miraculous recovery, it certainly seems as if the team is leaning toward sidelining him for Week 9.
Mario Manningham, New York Giants: Manningham sat out Week 8 after injuring his shoulder in practice late last week. The good news is that he's been back in practice this week and looks as if he will be available Sunday.
Donald Driver, Green Bay Packers: Driver suffered a stinger in Sunday's game but early indications were that it was not serious and that he would play in Week 9. It is a bit concerning that Driver did not practice Wednesday or, apparently, Thursday. The Green Bay Press-Gazette reports that Driver was on the field but not in pads during the portion of practice open to the media. It certainly could be the case that the team is being cautious with Driver and avoiding any contact during the week. So far there is no indication that his status for Sunday is in doubt, but Friday's practice should yield more clues.
Be sure to check back on Saturday for post-Friday NFL injury report updates on all your fantasy players heading into the weekend.
See you at the injury chats (Tuesday 11:00 a.m.-noon, Friday 11 a.m.-noon and Sunday pre-game (10-10:30 a.m.). And check out Fantasy Football Now on Sundays at ESPN.com from 11:30 a.m. ET to kickoff for last minute inactives, rankings and more!
This past weekend was tough for linemen. Several teams suffered big losses up front on defense, perhaps most notably those in Cincinnati and New York. The Cincinnati Bengals lost defensive end Antwan Odom to a ruptured right Achilles tendon. Odom had had some problems with the Achilles during the preseason, and it appears those symptoms were a precursor to the tendon's ultimate failure. He had surgery Monday to repair the Achilles and faces a long rehabilitation process but should be ready for next season. The New York Jets' vaunted defense may have gone down several notches when its star defensive tackle, Kris Jenkins, went down with a left ACL tear. Jenkins also faces surgery and a lengthy rehab, but he, too, should be ready for next season. Jenkins has been through this process before with his right knee, so he knows exactly what to expect.
But what are fantasy owners to expect from their injured players? Here's what we're looking at so far after Week 6:
That's an interesting slant, especially when it's unclear whether Boldin will indeed be ready to play Sunday. In any case, Boldin had X-rays taken of the ankle, which showed no fracture, so it will come down to just how well he can perform throughout the week. Boldin certainly has dealt with his share of soft tissue injuries. At least so far, this latest ailment does not appear particularly serious.
Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings: Harvin already was dealing with a sore shoulder heading into Week 6, and let's just say it's not feeling any better. Harvin, who suffered a shoulder injury in Week 5, did not practice Wednesday but was able to increase his activity Thursday and Friday. His questionable designation heading into Sunday's contest reflected the fact that he was not yet fully recovered.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports Harvin then suffered a setback during a fourth-quarter kickoff return on Sunday. Although Vikings coach Brad Childress later told reporters that X-rays revealed "nothing extra in there," the sight of Harvin sporting a sling on his left arm after the game was not a positive. The Vikings have not offered any specifics as to the nature of Harvin's injury, but there is some early concern about his potential availability for this week's matchup against Pittsburgh.
Donnie Avery, WR, St. Louis Rams: Injuries have not been kind to Avery. He suffered a stress fracture in his foot in August, causing him to miss a couple of weeks of preseason action. Avery was able to recover more quickly than expected and managed to play in the Rams' season opener. A series of minor ailments (bruised ribs, hamstring strain) nagged at him, although nothing kept him off the field on Sundays. In Week 5, Avery was at his best for the season and looked to have put the injuries behind him. Then came Week 6.
Avery left Sunday's game with a left hip injury and had to be concerned based on past experience. Last season, Avery had a stress fracture in the same hip that forced him to miss most of training camp. The good news is that an MRI on Avery's hip reportedly turned out normal, and he is dealing with a bruise. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo is calling Avery's status day-to-day and adds that Avery is eager to get back out on the practice field. We will see what he's able to do as the week goes on.
Sammy Morris, RB, New England Patriots: There has not been much in the way of specifics out of New England about Morris' health. We do know he left Sunday's snowy contest in the first quarter with a leg injury. The Boston Globe reports that Patriots coach Bill Belichick says the team will do "like we normally do, and assess his availability for practice and ultimately at the end of the week for the following game." That translates into a daily practice situation, meaning fantasy owners likely will not have anything definitive until late in the week.
Trent Edwards, QB, Buffalo Bills: Edwards suffered his second concussion in two years on Sunday and was forced out of the game against the Jets in the second quarter. According to the Bills' official Web site, coach Dick Jauron did not offer a prognosis on Edwards, but based on what we know about concussions, that is a virtually impossible task. Concussion recovery is assessed on a daily basis, and until Edwards improves enough to return to physical activity, the team cannot even begin to consider his availability for Week 7. Fantasy owners should make alternate plans.
Other quick hits:
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson feels good after tweaking his ankle. Coach Brad Childress told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that Peterson is dealing with "overall body soreness," so it doesn't appear that anyone in the Vikings' organization is terribly concerned.
New York Giants wide receiver Mario Manningham hurt his back during Sunday's game, and that led to Hakeem Nicks seeing more playing time. Manningham told the Newark Star-Ledger that the injury is not serious.
Tennessee Titans running back LenDale White was carted off with a knee injury but was seen leaving the facility without crutches, according to the Nashville Tennessean.
Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones and wide receiver Roy E. Williams were back in practice Monday after sitting out during the team's bye week. Both expect to play this week, but it is worth keeping an eye on them in practice to see just how much they can do.
See you at the injury chats (Tuesday 11 a.m.-noon, Friday 11 a.m.-noon and Sunday pregame 10-10:30 a.m.), and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 7 in the Saturday morning blog.