Stephania Bell: Matt Forte



It's the final week of the NFL regular season and, well, if you're still playing fantasy football, it's clearly the final week for that too. Championship games in Week 17 are always tricky since some NFL teams may opt to rest their starters. And even if their starters play, they may get pulled halfway through a game if there is no meaningful result associated with the outcome.

While teams may not reveal their respective strategies when it comes to how much playing time their starters will see, the injury reports may yield some clues as to who might be watching from the sidelines.

Players with the biggest question marks heading into Week 17:

Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots (forearm/hip): We haven't heard from the big tight end in a long time as he's been kept to limited practice and away from the media. However, on Wednesday Gronk spoke to reporters and made it clear that the decision as to his playing status remains a medical one. "When the doctors clear me, when the training staff clears me, when I'm medically ready to play and they let me play, I'm sure that's when I'll be out there," said Gronkowski, according to ESPN Boston. Gronkowski has been practicing for nearly two weeks and this Sunday marks the six-week milestone since he fractured his left forearm. He underwent surgery to implant hardware and stabilize the fracture a day later.

The earliest a player would typically be cleared to play following a fracture is around the four-week mark, with six weeks being more common. Still, there are individual differences in healing and individual circumstances to take into account. It is possible that Gronkowski, who will likely be listed as questionable this week -- just as he has been for the last two weeks -- could be activated Sunday. But for now his status remains uncertain.

[+] EnlargeMatt Forte
Mike DiNovo/US PresswireEven if Forte's ankle is healthy enough for him to suit up on Sunday, how much will he play?
Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears (ankle): Forte's right ankle was again aggravated during a game, forcing him to leave last Sunday's contest. After not practicing Wednesday, Forte returned Thursday to a limited session, lending credence to his expectation that he will play on Sunday. Throughout the season, Forte has been remarkably resilient when it comes to playing through his sprained ankle (he has only missed one game). It appears he will play Sunday, barring a setback, but it is also clear after these multiple setbacks that his ankle is not 100 percent. There is a risk that this week could be a short outing for him.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants (knee/foot): Bradshaw had his usual off day Wednesday but returned to limited practice Thursday, always a good sign for his weekend playing outlook. After injuring his knee in Week 14 and sitting out the following week, Bradshaw was active in Week 16 but was a limited contributor. Part of that may be a result of how the game unfolded; regardless, Bradshaw still touched the ball more than teammate David Wilson. With another week between him and the injury, Bradshaw should be in better form this week and as of now, his chances of suiting up look good.

Quick Hits


Here's one you don't see every day on the injury report: arrhythmia. That's the descriptor next to Arian Foster's name. Foster left last week's game early with an irregular heartbeat, something he experienced in the past, but received medical clearance to return to work this week and has been a full practice participant. Teammate Owen Daniels was out Thursday with tightness in his hamstring, although coach Gary Kubiak said he expects him to play Sunday.

Last week, we noted that running back Adrian Peterson didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday. Peterson openly acknowledged the rest was geared at getting him ready for Sunday. He has already declared his intention of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record, so we already know he plans to be on the field -- a lot.

Titans running back Chris Johnson has not practiced this week after spraining his right ankle on Sunday. However, Johnson said that he will play this weekend, telling the Tennessean that he still wants to "go out there and fight." Fantasy owners would appreciate the effort.

Wide receiver Jordy Nelson has been on the injury report for a few weeks due to an ailing hamstring, but his status seems to have taken a turn for the better. Nelson has been a full participant in practice this week and looks as if he could make a return Sunday. Fellow receiver Randall Cobb was limited last week because of a shoulder injury but played Sunday, only to sustain an ankle injury in the process. Cobb participated in limited practice Wednesday but then did not return to the practice field Thursday. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that this was part of the plan, according to coach Mike McCarthy. Cobb went through light work Wednesday then received treatment on the ankle Thursday and will test the ankle Friday for the medical staff to determine whether he can practice. This is one to keep an eye on as Cobb's status may come down to the weekend. Running back Alex Green has been a full participant throughout the week after missing Week 16 with a concussion. If he is active -- which it appears he will be if there is no setback -- there will be a timeshare situation for the Packers at running back.

Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks continues to be limited by his sore knee. Nicks was off Wednesday then did limited work Thursday; however, coach Tom Coughlin said Nicks did not do "a whole lot," according to the Newark Star-Ledger. Nicks has typically played despite being less than 100 percent healthy, but it sounds as if he might not be a lock to go this week. We should know more after Friday's practice.

[+] EnlargeTrent Richardson
Larry French/Getty ImagesRichardson, who has piled up more than 1,300 all-purpose yards and 12 TDs, is uncertain for Sunday with an injured ankle.
Browns running back Trent Richardson injured his left ankle in Week 16. Fortunately, there was no fracture, but Richardson was placed in a walking boot to start the week. Although the injury does not appear to be as serious as Richardson initially feared, he has not practiced this week and his status is uncertain. Thankfully for fantasy owners, coach Pat Shurmur said he will not wait until game time to reveal Richardson's status, according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. Given the injuries Richardson has dealt with throughout the season -- and given the Browns' non-postseason status -- it makes little sense to risk him.



Despite the fact Falcons receiver Roddy White has not practiced this week, it's hard to get too worked up about his playing status. After all, the week after the injury when his Sunday availability was most questionable, he played. It hardly seems likely that he would miss a game two weeks later due to the same injury. A more reasonable concern, however, would be White's potential playing time, given the Falcons have secured the top spot in their division. Tough call here for fantasy owners as the team is not likely to give away its plan in advance.

Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant (finger) and running backs DeMarco Murray (foot) and Felix Jones (knee) have been full participants in practice throughout the week. With their game against the Redskins not tipping off until Sunday night, fantasy owners can at least feel confident about the status of these three.

This week, the 49ers will be without receiver Mario Manningham, who suffered a brutal season-ending knee injury in Week 16. But will they also be without tight end Vernon Davis? He sustained a concussion last Sunday and did not practice Wednesday. However, Davis received an encouraging boost Thursday when he received medical clearance to resume non-contact activity and returned to limited on-field work, according to CSNBayArea.com. The final step before Sunday will be receiving clearance for contact. If Davis has no recurrence of symptoms after Friday's efforts, his chances of a Sunday return appear promising.



Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin left Sunday's game with a shoulder injury, but according to the Ravens' official website, the diagnosis was a bruise. Though Boldin has been held to limited practice this week, it appears he will be healthy enough to play come Sunday.

Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis appeared on Thursday's injury report as a non-participant due to illness. There is no indication that this poses a threat to his Sunday status, but it will be worth noting whether he returns to practice on Friday. Meanwhile, teammate Mike Nugent has been sharing kicking responsibilities with Josh Brown while dealing with a calf injury. He returned to full practice Wednesday but did not practice Thursday; as a result, the team's kicker status for Sunday is still up in the air.

After putting in a limited practice on Wednesday, Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart (high ankle sprain) did not practice Thursday. Carolina coach Ron Rivera acknowledged that Stewart suffered a setback with his ankle, according to the Charlotte Observer. It has been a gloomy end to an unspectacular season for Stewart, who looks as if he will miss his fifth game in a row.

Running back Pierre Thomas, who appeared on the Saints injury report last week because of his knee, played Sunday and there was no immediate report of a setback. However, this week Thomas has yet to practice, raising some concern as to whether he'll be in the Sunday lineup. Teammate Chris Ivory, who has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, returned to full practice Wednesday and repeated the effort Thursday. After Friday, we should have a better idea as to who will be healthy enough to play Sunday.

Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew has not played or even practiced since suffering a high ankle sprain three weeks ago. It seems unlikely his status will change this week; however, as has been the custom so far, the Lions are not ruling him out.

Week 16 did not go well for the Steelers. Not only did their season virtually come to an end, but they also lost tight end Heath Miller to a knee injury. Wide receiver Mike Wallace was also reported to have a hamstring injury following the game, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Wallace continues to be listed on the injury report because of a "hip" ailment and has not practiced this week. His status for Sunday remains iffy at best.

Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was limited Wednesday because of a knee injury (he left practice early, according to the Philadelphia Daily News), then did not practice at all on Thursday. There is no reason to trot him out Sunday if the knee is a significant issue. Regardless, Maclin told the Daily News that he would return to practice Friday. Maclin's fantasy owners will have to take a wait-and-see approach this week.

New York jets tight end Dustin Keller is still not practicing and appears very unlikely to return this weekend. Quarterback Greg McElroy was already on the injury report for an abdominal injury, and had a concussion added next to his name on Thursday. He will not play Sunday; as a result, Mark Sanchez will reclaim the starting role.



Many teams are fighting and clawing -- no, make that limping -- toward a spot in the fantasy playoffs. As such, all hands are needed on deck to make the final push to qualify. The byes are over, so every team is available, but will key fantasy scorers be able to contribute?



That, of course, is the question we would all like answered in advance. Since no team is actually going to fork over that information, we'll turn to the injury and practice reports to see how things are shaping up heading into Week 13.

Here's who we're keeping an eye on:

Running Backs

[+] EnlargeDarren McFadden
AP Photo/Derek GeeDarren McFadden, who has been out since Week 9, will likely suit up this weekend. But how effective will he be?
Matt Forte (ankle), Chicago Bears: Forte said that he expects to play Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, according to Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times. Forte has been practicing on a limited basis this week and said he is "feeling good." Whether Forte's confidence translates into a full workload remains to be seen. When Forte injured his ankle earlier this season, he sat out one week but returned for the subsequent game and managed 13 carries. (For what it's worth, Michael Bush carried the ball 10 times the week Forte returned from injury.) If Forte can practice again Friday, his outlook for Sunday remains positive.

Darren McFadden (ankle), Oakland Raiders: McFadden is looking as if he will make his return to the playing field this weekend after missing three games with a high ankle sprain. He participated in practice on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday, reportedly running well without hesitation. The larger question is what type of workload McFadden will be granted in his first game back. Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times reported that the Raiders plan to continue using fullback Marcel Reece at the halfback position to ease the workload for McFadden. Reece has been a pleasant surprise for fantasy owners during McFadden's absence, averaging 4.7 yards per carry while also notching a handful of receptions each week. Fantasy owners will face the dilemma of not knowing whether there will be a feature back or a timeshare in Week 13.



Wide Receivers

Percy Harvin (ankle), Minnesota Vikings: Harvin remains an example of just how difficult it can be for a skill-position player to return to full activity after a serious ankle sprain. Ankle sprains happen so routinely that they often automatically get lumped in the category of minor injuries. While many are mild enough that players (depending on the demands of their position) can avoid missing time, a more severe sprain can incapacitate a player for a longer period of time, especially if his position relies heavily on quick directional changes and rapid acceleration/deceleration. Harvin's initial comment that his ankle was sprained in three places hinted at a more severe injury -- as did the extensive swelling he experienced. He only began doing light work in practice Wednesday, and as Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com noted, Harvin seemed to tolerate straight-line movement but appeared to struggle with route running, limping visibly. Apparently Pelissero wasn't the only one to notice, since Harvin did not participate in practice Thursday. Coach Leslie Frazier told reporters the team will see what Harvin can do Friday, "if he can do anything." As of now, fantasy owners should plan for the possibility that Harvin will be absent another week.

Antonio Brown (ankle), Pittsburgh Steelers: In Week 9, Brown suffered what head coach Mike Tomlin referred to as a mild high ankle sprain. Four weeks later, it appears Brown has recovered to the point of being able to play. He returned to limited practice last week but the Steelers have certainly had their share of injuries this season -- including players who returned from one injury only to suffer another -- and there was no need to take a chance on Brown. This week, he has again been practicing -- full practice both Wednesday and Thursday -- so we should expect to see him suit up for the game.

Quick Hits


Despite improvement in his overall condition, it doesn't appear that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be ready to face the Baltimore Ravens this weekend. Roethlisberger has been out of his sling and began light throwing this week. However, he acknowledged that he has a ways to go to be game-ready, and the ultimate determination is functionality. In other words, can he throw the ball effectively enough to start? For most players, one would have to assume another week's absence. But since it's Roethlisberger, there's reason to wait to see how he does with one more day of practice. He's not going to be able to hide an inability to make certain throws, so the team should have a pretty good idea of what his status will be by tomorrow.

Ben Roethlisberger
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarIt's shaping up to be another long Sunday for Steelers fans and Roethlisberger owners, as Big Ben is still banged up and unlikely to play.
Is this the week we finally see DeMarco Murray? It's starting to look that way. Murray has been practicing on a limited basis this week, but his sprained left foot passed one big test by putting in back-to-back practices on Wednesday and Thursday. There has been a repeated mantra out of Dallas that Murray would not return to action until there was complete confidence that he was fully healthy, but it appears that confidence is building. According to the Dallas Morning News, offensive coordinator Bill Callahan said of Murray, "I got great confidence in him and I'm hopeful that we'll see him Sunday." It would be nice to see Murray do a bit more on Friday to test his foot, but even then it's hard to know what mix of Murray and Felix Jones the Cowboys will employ on Sunday. Meanwhile, wide receiver Miles Austin was a limited practice participant on Wednesday and Thursday. If he can do the same Friday, his chances of being active Sunday night are favorable.

Here's something we never like to see: Two wide receivers were added to the injury report Thursday for the Jaguars. Cecil Shorts is listed with a hamstring injury and Justin Blackmon is listed with a groin ailment. No word yet as to the severity of their respective lower extremity issues, but the Friday practice watch begins in earnest.

Beanie Wells sure had a nice return to the field for the Cardinals last week; however, he once again appears on the injury report. Wells had been on the injured reserve/designated for return list because of turf toe. He declared himself healthy, though, and feeling the best he had in a year prior to returning in Week 12. This week, the Cardinals' lead running back is again on the report -- but because of his knee, something he's had issues with in the past. Whether he's just experiencing soreness as a result of returning to game action for the first time in months -- or if there is any real cause for concern -- is unclear. If Wells practices again Friday, take that as a sign he is in line to start again this week.

Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman practiced on a limited basis both Wednesday and Thursday after being listed on the injury report with a concussion. No word as to the likelihood he plays Sunday but his activity early in the week is encouraging. However, we still have to assume final clearance protocols are in place.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted that Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola was back in a walking boot to start the week. He hasn't practiced and remains in question for Sunday. On Tuesday, we noted that Amendola was active last week despite being listed as doubtful, though he contributed very little. As a result, it wouldn't be surprising to see a similar situation unfold Sunday for the Rams' divisional matchup against the 49ers. Coach Jeff Fisher already said it would take Amendola some time to get healthy, so it's not as if he'll be completely recovered from the heel injury by then. It's just a question of whether he can effectively contribute. While rest may be the best thing to advance his chances by Sunday, it makes it tough for fantasy owners to evaluate just how much -- or how little -- progress he has made.

Lions running back Mikel Leshoure missed Wednesday's practice with an ankle injury, making his fantasy owners understandably nervous. He returned to limited practice Thursday and as is their custom, the Lions have offered no detail as to the nature or severity of LeShoure's injury. Just take it as a good sign that he returned Thursday and expect to see him back Friday in advance of Sunday's game. If for some reason LeShoure does not practice Friday, then fantasy owners can be legitimately nervous.

Chargers wide receiver Danario Alexander was in full practice Wednesday and wasn't even listed on Thursday's injury report after suffering what the team called a thigh injury on Sunday. It didn't seem severe, but given Alexander's history, particularly as relates to his knee, any injury is cause for concern. Alexander was also limited by a hamstring issue in the preseason. Fortunately, this looks to be just a minor issue and not threatening to Alexander's status for Week 13.

Not as encouraging is the status of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who continues to be sidelined as a result of his concussion. Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the Eagles said Vick has not yet returned to baseline on his neurocognitive (ImPACT) testing. Running back LeSean McCoy also remains sidelined. Expect Nick Foles at quarterback and Bryce Brown at running back this week.

Expect the Packers to have wide receiver Greg Jennings in the mix Sunday. Jennings continues to put in full practices and, as noted Tuesday, the team expects to have him on the field. The biggest question will be how Jennings will adapt to four quarters of football after being sidelined for the better part of two months.



A fourth of the season has passed already and the injuries keep piling on. The New York Jets have been on the receiving end of two of the biggest blows, losing cornerback Darrelle Revis to a torn ACL in Week 3 and wide receiver Santonio Holmes this past Sunday to a Lisfranc injury. Holmes is expected to undergo surgery in the near future and faces a lengthy rehabilitation and recovery process. The good news for both Revis and Holmes is that they should make full recoveries.

Every other team is facing their own injury concerns as they try to field healthy squads from one Sunday to the next. Here's who else we're keeping an eye on in Week 5.

Quarterbacks

Tom Brady, New England Patriots, (right shoulder): It's Brady versus Manning this Sunday in New England. Brady will play.

Running Backs

[+] EnlargeRashard Mendenhall
Sam Riche/MCT via Getty ImagesRashard Mendenhall will see his first game action since New Year's Day this week.
Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers, (knee): It's showtime! Mendenhall is set to make his season debut following reconstructive surgery to address a torn ACL in his right knee. Mendenhall has impressed recently in practice and the Steelers have been gradually increasing his activity and his contact. This week Mendenhall has been careful not to say he is definitively playing as the final determination has not been made but he sounds like he is ready to take it to the next level. "I have been taking steps accordingly so I feel confident in everything I have been able to do," said Mendenhall on the Steelers' official website. "It feels good." It will feel good to have Mendenhall as a fantasy option but he's unlikely to see the maximum workload in his first game action.

Ben Tate, Houston Texans, (toe): Tate's sprained toe has kept him out of practice so far this week, enough to raise some concern for his availability in Week 5. According to Nick Scurfield of HoustonTexans.com, coach Gary Kubiak said Tate will also be held out Friday to give his toe additional rest. The team will allow him to test it Saturday but will also prepare Justin Forsett, "just in case." The Texans don't play until Monday night meaning fantasy owners should also make alternate plans, "just in case."

Matt Forte, Chicago Bears, (ankle): Forte has been held to limited practices this week but that's no surprise given the Monday game. He came through without a setback but is still in the process of recovering. He's expected to play this Sunday.

Reggie Bush, Miami Dolphins, (hip): The good news is we're not talking about Bush's knee. Unfortunately he is still on the injury report but Bush bumped up his practice level Thursday to full after being limited Wednesday. This does not seem to present a serious threat to his status for Sunday.

LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles, (knee): After last week's game coach Andy Reid indicated McCoy had "tweaked" his knee. It certainly doesn't appear serious since he has practiced fully every day this week.

Evan Royster, Washington Redskins, (knee): Royster remains on the injury report as a limited participant with his strained patellar tendon. Alfred Morris is the unquestioned leader here, the actual question is where Royster will mix in with recently acquired Ryan Grant.

Peyton Hillis, Kansas City Chiefs, (ankle): Hillis is still not practicing this week due to a sprained ankle and should not be counted on for Sunday.

Brandon Jacobs, San Francisco 49ers, (knee): Jacobs appears to be making good progress with his knee which he injured in the preseason. He participated in full practice Wednesday and looks as if he could be available this Sunday. It was Jacobs who told the 49ers official site," I want to get out there and really be a part of it." No word yet on whether he'll be given the green light.

Wide Receivers

Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants, (foot/knee): Nicks continues to struggle with soreness in his surgically repaired foot and persistent swelling in his knee. The Giants have already ruled him out for Week 5, and at this point are offering no forecast as to when he might return. While the team attributes his absence to both body parts, there hasn't been anything to suggest he has gone backwards with his foot. His absence in Week 3 was not completely out of the realm of reasonable after only three days' rest following his first significant post-surgical game action. The following week, it was the issues with his knee which didn't allow him to test himself in practice. If his foot is still sore, which is not unexpected in light of his recently ramped up activity, there is no way the team would allow him to push it when he also has a swollen knee. If Nicks is compromised because of his knee it raises the possibility of creating a far more serious problem with his still recovering foot and simply makes for a bad combination. The worry will go up next week if we hear that his knee is still failing to progress. For now there is not much definitive information to go on and so Nicks' status remains in a holding pattern. Looking ahead to this Sunday, Ramses Barden is still recovering from a concussion sustained in Week 4, meaning the Giants are again lean at wide receiver. Domenik Hixon will presumably get the start in place of Nicks.

Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers, (groin): On Tuesday we talked about the possibility that Jennings would sit out to allow the groin to heal completely. It appears he is doing just that as he has already been ruled out for Week 5. For those who are wondering just how long Jennings can be expected to be sidelined, he told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "We don't know what the timetable is." He's being truthful. As is the case with most soft tissue injuries, progression is made based on how the player feels. Typically that progression is advanced more slowly when a player has already suffered a setback like Jennings did in Week 4. Translation: Wait and see.

Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins, (foot): It does finally appear as if Garcon has turned a corner with regards to his ailing foot. It's not a full 180 degree turnaround just yet, perhaps it's more like a soft curve which is trending in the right direction. Garcon managed to get through last week's game -- his first since Week 1 -- without a setback and this week he has resumed full practice with the team. He told the Washington Post, "It's going to take some time to feel back like my old self, like it was in training camp," but added, "It's getting better every day." That is exactly what fantasy owners want to hear.

Andre Johnson, Houston Texans, (groin): Johnson was limited on Thursday but the Texans have been routinely resting him early in the week. Although they don't play until Monday night there seems to be little reason to doubt Johnson will suit up, so plan on using him as you normally would.

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons, (hand): Jones appeared to be impaired by the laceration on his hand in Week 4, catching only one ball. Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Eight targets and one catch is not a good percentage. Julio's hand is not 100 percent." For his part, Jones told the Falcons' official website that last week's performance had nothing to do with the hand and more to do with the defensive coverage he was facing. With regards to this week Jones said simply, "I'm ready to go." The good news is that regardless of whether his hand affected him or not, with another week there has been more time for the cut to heal. Jones was a full participant in practice Wednesday and Thursday and is expected to be a full go this weekend.

Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans, (ankle): Britt did not play in Week 4 because of an ankle injury and it now looks as if he could miss another game. He has not practiced this week although he is doing some individual work on the side, including some running. According to the Tennessean, coach Mike Munchak said of Britt on Wednesday, "There's no doubt he's going to have to improve the next couple of days to help us on Sunday.

Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens, (ankle): Smith left last week's game appearing to favor his ankle but he's practiced fully every day this week and is on track to play.

Lance Moore, New Orleans Saints, (hamstring): Moore has been added to the Saints injury report with a hamstring strain and has not practiced so far this week. That makes his status iffy at best and the Saints don't play until Sunday night. It might be best to make an alternate plan.

Julian Edelman, New England Patriots, (hand): Edelman has still not practiced at all this week. Not encouraging for his chances for Sunday.

Tight Ends:

Rob Gronkowski (hip) and Aaron Hernandez (ankle), New England Patriots: Gronkowski played last week despite the hip injury so he should play again this Sunday. He sat out Wednesday practice but was back on a limited basis Thursday. The more interesting tidbit is seeing the return of Aaron Hernandez to a limited practice on Thursday. Hernandez has been out since suffering a high ankle sprain in Week 2. This is very early in the return-to-activity phase so color me skeptical about any rumor he will return this Sunday. This is a great sign that he is making progress as expected but there is a long ways to go before returning to game action where there is easy risk of re-injury.

Jared Cook, Tennessee Titans, (shoulder): Cook remains limited in practice so far this week but it appears to be a proactive measure. After playing last Sunday, albeit in a limited role coming off his shoulder injury, the expectation is Cook will play again this week when the Titans visit the Vikings.

Dustin Keller, New York Jets, (hamstring): As if the Jets don't have enough injury issues, Keller continues to be sidelined with a hamstring strain. He has not practiced yet this week and with the Jets playing on Monday night, his uncertain status is risky.

And on a final note ...

Bills running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are both off the injury report this week.

Despite all their injury news at other positions, Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw is no longer on the injury report.

Week 4 Thursday injury update

September, 27, 2012
9/27/12
10:41
PM ET


Welcome back, NFL referees! Tonight will mark their season debut in Baltimore as the Ravens host the Cleveland Browns. I have no doubt that they, like players who do not start the season on time because of contract disputes, have been maintaining their workout programs in order to be ready at the drop of a hat. But I wonder if they, like the players, will take some time to adapt to the speed of the game and will we potentially see an increased injury rate in the referees in-season this year? Something to keep an eye on.

Here's who else we're keeping an eye on in Week 4.

Quarterbacks

[+] EnlargeMatthew Stafford
AP Photo/Rick OsentoskiMatthew Stafford looks like he'll go Sunday after leaving last week's game early.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (hamstring): On Tuesday we discussed Stafford's hamstring/glute injury, which was labeled "hamstring" on the NFL official injury report Wednesday. Later that day, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press tweeted that the team had revised it to a "hip" ailment. To add less clarity to the situation, consider the remarks of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who told reporters, "I don't really consider him injured. He's just dealing with something that's been uncomfortable ..." Based on Stafford's original remarks, this does not have the sounds of a true muscle pull but rather of an issue in the back or hip that is causing some referred pain into the gluteal or hamstring area. That leaves open a range of possibilities, but in the end the actual diagnosis may not be particularly significant, at least not yet. It will come down to functionality. Does he have enough mobility and power in the leg to function effectively, even if there is some lingering soreness? As long as that soreness does not progress into more disabling pain or weakness, then Stafford should be able to press through it. For what it's worth, he indicated he was feeling better Thursday than Wednesday.

However they decide to label it, here's what we know: Stafford did not practice Wednesday but did return Thursday, a good sign that he is preparing to be available Sunday.



Tom Brady, New England Patriots (right shoulder): If you've missed seeing Brady's name on the injury report this year, well, he's back. And it's the same body part he was listed with when he went on that record streak of injury report appearances a few years running. He was limited at practice Wednesday but expect him to play, as always.

John Skelton, Arizona Cardinals (ankle): Skelton began limited practices last Thursday and that's how he started off this week. Still recovering from a sprained ankle, he returned to limited practice again this week. Right now it looks as if Kevin Kolb will stay under center.

Running Backs

[+] EnlargeAhmad Bradshaw
Mark L. Baer/US PresswireAhmad Bradshaw looks like he will start this week after missing the Week 3 contest.
Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants (neck): The Giants weren't saying much about Bradshaw's neck injury last week but he offered up some insight Thursday. The culprit, it appears, is a bulging disc. According to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN New York, Bradshaw experienced tingling in his hands during the Week 2 game but didn't attribute it to a specific hit. It happened a second time in the game, which is when Bradshaw decided he should get it checked out.

Tingling is a hallmark nerve symptom; when the tingling happens in both hands at the same time, it's a signal that the spinal cord is involved. The medical staff was understandably cautious when Bradshaw reported the symptoms and, after evaluating him, determined he could remain at the game, but could not return to play in the game. Bradshaw underwent a subsequent MRI, where the disc issue was detected. While disc injuries can be serious, they can also be fairly benign. It's not uncommon for bulging discs to be present and be completely asymptomatic. If there is an event that results in inflammation, it can become painful or provoke nerve tissue in the area (this is perhaps what Bradshaw was trying to explain when he referenced an "inflamed disc"). Often once the inflammation resolves, the symptoms do as well. It appears this was the case with Bradshaw.

Bradshaw has practiced fully both Wednesday and Thursday and is on track to resume his starting role Sunday against the Eagles. The Giants would not return him to play if he was at any significant risk, and his clearance to return indicates his neurological symptoms have resolved. The unknown aspect is whether these symptoms will return. There is no true predictability one way or another, however, it is not uncommon to have more than one episode once a disc injury is present. Those episodes can be weeks, months or even years apart. And in some cases, there is no recurrence.



Those who make their living at a computer are at as much, if not more, risk than professional football players for developing disc problems in their neck and back. So if everyone on a laptop is going to continue to work, Bradshaw can too. If Bradshaw's neck does turn into a recurring problem then his status may change, but until that time, he can be expected to play.

[+] EnlargeFred Jackson
Ed Mulholland/US PresswireFred Jackson might be ready to return to action for the first time since leaving during the season opener.
Fred Jackson (knee) and C.J. Spiller (shoulder), Buffalo Bills: Flash back to Sunday, Spiller clearly in pain on the ground, carted off the field with medical personnel holding his shoulders. Now it's four days later and Spiller is back in practice, albeit on a very limited basis. Quite surprising. Perhaps the reassurance he received after going through further tests was enough to encourage his rapid recovery. He is still has a ways to go before playing in a game and it would not be surprising if he is out this Sunday, but that has not yet been decided.

Jackson has made an impressive recovery of his own from a right lateral knee sprain. He returned to limited practice Wednesday but emerged seeming less than thrilled with the result. Jackson told the Buffalo News on Thursday, "I was a little sore ... a little swollen." It's not terribly surprising that Jackson's knee would respond that way to the increased activity; the question was whether he would have to scale it back further on the second day. Apparently not. There were no lingering effects into Thursday afternoon's practice and Jackson participated in most of it, according to the News. After practice, coach Chan Gailey told reporters, "I think if we make it through the next couple days and continue to improve I think [Jackson] will have the opportunity to play."

There is still plenty of time for things to change but it appears to be shaping up for Jackson to be available along with a healthy Tashard Choice, while Spiller likely rests another week.

Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams (groin): Jackson did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, but this week isn't so much about whether he'll play or not, it's about what can be expected. Last Sunday, Jackson gained only 29 yards rushing on 11 carries, most of which were very short gains with the exception of one run for 13 yards. Jackson acknowledged the injury affected him but also said he didn't suffer any setbacks. Until we see him running full speed, there will be some question as to whether the injury is truly behind him.

Arian Foster, Houston Texans (knee): Foster took in a light practice Wednesday but was back at it in full on Thursday. So far, so good.

Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders (shoulder): McFadden's presence here is a reminder that sometimes players appear on injury reports with very minor ailments -- bumps and bruise from a game -- because they take fewer reps in practice to preserve their bodies. Of course we all understand why there is a slight panic for fantasy owners when it's McFadden's name that appears here. While Oakland's official Thursday injury report is not in at the time of this writing, a source tells me he is participating and is "fine."



[+] EnlargeMatt Forte
Joe Camporeale/US PresswireMatt Forte could be back this week, but will fantasy owners be able to wait until Monday night for the decision?
Matt Forte, Chicago Bears (ankle): If only the Bears didn't have a Monday night game. Forte's status could very well come down to the wire, which will make this a tough decision for fantasy owners. In general, things are looking up. Forte returned to practice Wednesday and repeated the effort Thursday. His chances of returning are looking better, but hopefully there will be a better indication by Friday afternoon.

Reggie Bush, Miami Dolphins (knee): On Tuesday we highlighted Bush's knee concerns, but the real question was whether we would see him in practice. After being held out Wednesday, Bush returned to limited practice Thursday and was running well. If he can put in another good effort Friday, it appears he will play Sunday.

Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos (rib): On Tuesday, we discussed what would determine whether McGahee could play this week, and his limited participation in practice Wednesday with a bump up to full participation Thursday shows he is on track.

LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles (rib): Another running back, another rib injury. There isn't much concern here because McCoy practiced fully both Wednesday and Thursday.

Mikel Leshoure, Detroit Lions (groin): Leshoure was limited in practice because of a groin injury but keep in mind, he is coming into this season off major surgery (Achilles repair). There is no indication that his Sunday status is in jeopardy, but Friday's practice should yield better clues.

Ryan Williams, Arizona Cardinals (knee): With teammate Beanie Wells going on IR (designated for return, meaning he can return in Week 12), Williams has an opportunity to shine. He is listed on the report but put in full practice. His value is on the rise.

Evan Royster, Washington Redskins (knee): Royster strained his patellar tendon and has been held to limited practice so far this week. Roy Helu (turf toe) is now on IR, but Ryan Grant was just added to the mix so the Redskins can continue with a running back carousel.

Peyton Hillis, Kansas City Chiefs (ankle): Hillis has been in a walking boot since the game ended and has not practiced. It's not looking great for his chances to suit up this week. Teammate Jamaal Charles is not on the injury report this week, however. Kudos to Charles, who had an outstanding performance Sunday (233 rushing yards!) and showed some of the pre-injury speed on a 91-yard breakaway run. With Hillis possibly out and Charles showing improvement, he could be poised for a big week.

Wide Receivers

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions (ankle): Johnson has now been on the injury report each week but has never been at risk of not playing. Limited Wednesday, full practice Thursday, play Sunday.

Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles (hip): Maclin's hip benefited from the rest in Week 3 and he claims he's much improved. Full practice both Wednesday and Thursday, and he is expected to play in the big matchup against the New York Giants on Sunday night.



[+] EnlargePierre Garcon
John David Mercer/US PresswireIt doesn't look good for Pierre Garcon to return this week.
Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins (foot): Judging from all the questions coming my way regarding Garcon, people are very suspicious about his injury. It's important to remember that a foot injury, even a relatively mild one (no fracture or dislocation) can be extremely incapacitating because of the load that goes through the foot with running and the shear forces it experiences when changing direction.



The Redskins have maintained that Garcon can proceed based on how the foot feels, which tells us they're not overly concerned about the injury worsening. Still, pain exists to help prevent us from doing things that would lead to further injury, and depending on the location and quality of it, it is not necessarily something that can or should be overridden. With coach Mike Shanahan telling reporters Thursday that Garcon's foot is still sore and with Garcon continuing to be limited in practice (although he is making progress according to Shanahan), it appears he could miss another week.



Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants (foot): I said it here Tuesday and I'll say it again: Expect Nicks to play in Week 4. He got the benefit of some extra rest for his sore foot last week, but returned to limited practice Thursday. He will be ready for Sunday night in Philadelphia.

Andre Johnson, Houston Texans (groin): Johnson practiced on a limited basis both days. There is reason to keep an eye on this, as Johnson suffered a groin injury in the preseason. But this has more the appearance of preserving a veteran star than anything else.

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons (hand): The Falcons announced that Jones suffered a laceration (cut) to his hand, which is why he left the game briefly Sunday. He has been limited in practice, likely to protect the hand and help it to heal. He is expected to play.



Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans (ankle): According to the Tennessean, Britt described his cascade of injury after injury as "very frustrating." Britt went on to say, "It's like something I can't get right, injury after injury. The last healthy season I had was my rookie year." This has been an overarching concern with Britt for the last few years. A very serious hamstring injury derailed his season two years ago. He headed into 2011 with his quad and hamstring nagging at him, then tore his ACL later that year. During his recovery following reconstructive knee surgery, he needed a follow-up scope and an additional scope on the opposite knee. The Titans articulated their concern when he made his debut in Week 2, saying they planned to limit his touches. A week later he has yet another injury. And, although it is considered relatively minor, he has yet to practice this week. He still hopes to play, but the injury concerns will not disappear when he returns.

Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers (groin): Jennings played in the Monday night game but we all know his performance is hardly the thing we'll remember. He did appear to be at less than full speed at times but managed to play in the game and emerge no worse for the wear. He's been limited in practice since but looks to be in line to play this weekend when the Packers host the Saints.

Dexter McCluster, Kansas City Chiefs (elbow): On Tuesday we commented on how painful McCluster's injury looked so no one would have been surprised if he was not in practice this week. But there he was on Wednesday, wearing a brace and participating only in non-contact drills but he was out there nonetheless. On Thursday, he put in another limited practice. He's surprised so far, maybe he will again on Sunday.

Julian Edelman, New England Patriots (hand): Edelman has not practiced since injuring his hand in Sunday night's game. There's not much to go on here, but two missed practices aren't encouraging for Sunday.

Tight Ends

Dustin Keller, New York Jets (hamstring): Keller has not played since Week 1 because of his injured hamstring but it looks as if things will change this Sunday. He has been practicing on a limited basis and according to ESPNewYork's Rich Cimini, coach Rex Ryan says he expects Keller to play.

Jared Cook, Tennessee Titans (shoulder): On Tuesday we said Cook would need to show he could perform well enough to play and he appears to be on his way. Cook got Wednesday off but returned to limited practice Thursday. If he can do so again Friday, there is a good chance he will return this week.

Jacob Tamme, Denver Broncos (groin): The groin can't be bothering him too much since he was able to practice fully both Wednesday and Thursday. It looks as if he'll be available in Week 4.



Other notes

New Orleans Saints WR Marques Colston does not appear on the injury report this week. He has been bothered by a case of plantar fasciitis that seemed to have limited him over the last two weeks. He played in Week 3 but had only three receptions for 40 yards. Perhaps his move off the injury report is a sign things are improving.

Don't forget to adjust your lineups! This is the first week of team byes. Both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Indianapolis Colts are off this week so they do not appear on the NFL official injury report.



Week 3 is in the books! What a week for injuries. Several players suffered season-ending injuries, including New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, who tore his left ACL and is expected to undergo season-ending surgery within the next few weeks. The Dallas Cowboys lost defensive back Barry Church to a torn right Achilles tendon. And Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Austin Collie, who was making his season debut after a delayed start because of concussion, suffered a season-ending patellar tendon rupture. Given Collie's extensive and serious injury history, his future in the NFL appears uncertain. As for the slate of other injuries, here's what we're looking at to start the week.

Quarterbacks

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (leg): Stafford told the Detroit Free Press after Sunday's game that he felt a pull in his hamstring or glute area and he just couldn't run at full power, hence his fourth-quarter exit. He also indicated this was something he'd felt earlier in the week during practice and then it flared up during the game. He was scheduled for an MRI on Monday, but there has been little in the way of specifics since. As is his routine, head coach Jim Schwartz offered nothing substantial, but he did tell reporters he would make a decision about Stafford's status by Friday.

Matt Schaub, Houston Texans (ear): This might be a first, listing "ear" as the injured body part. Schaub took a vicious hit that knocked his helmet off, and he immediately grabbed the side of his head. The reason, it turned out, was the helmet took a piece of his left ear with it when it sailed off his head. Schaub, remarkably, missed only one play. He also visited the locker room in the third quarter for X-rays on his left shoulder (which obviously came back negative). Bruised but not broken, Schaub was back in practice Monday, according to the Texans' official website. Looks like it will be business as usual come Sunday.

Running Backs

[+] EnlargeC.J. Spiller
AP Photo/Tony DejakC.J. Spiller had been putting up big numbers all season long before injuring his shoulder on Sunday.
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills (shoulder): Spiller went down hard on his left shoulder under the weight of his tackler and was in immediate visible pain. The two most common results from having the point of the shoulder driven into the turf are a broken clavicle (collarbone) (see: Ryan Mathews) or a sprained acromioclavicular (AC) joint, the joint where the tip of the shoulder blade or acromion (A) and the clavicle (C) meet. The AC joint is bound together by several ligaments; any ligamentous injury is a sprain, but if the sprain is severe enough to allow the bones to move apart, the injury is often referred to as a separated shoulder. In Spiller's case, the mechanism of injury combined with his response suggested something serious. It appears, however, that that is not the case.

The Bills have not formally declared the nature of Spiller's injury, referring to it only as his shoulder. During an appearance on "The Fred Jackson Show" in Buffalo on Monday night, Spiller said when asked what the injury was being called, "I'm not sure yet." Spiller noted that he had undergone several tests but, most importantly, commented on how much improvement there had been in just over 24 hours. "Actually, I'm very surprised the movement that we have in it," Spiller said. "I got the full range of motion, which is really weird when you have an injury like I do."

Spiller remained guarded about his availability for Week 4. "I definitely want to get out there, but we also want to be smart about it." According to the Buffalo News, head coach Chan Gailey said Spiller was unlikely to play but added the Bills were "not going to completely rule him out."

Reggie Bush, Miami Dolphins (knee): Bush left Sunday's game against the Jets in the first half with a left knee injury. He was seen limping slightly, then riding the stationary bike later. Bush, who has an injury history that includes a sprained PCL, a torn meniscus, a fractured fibula (the latter to his right leg) and several arthroscopic knee surgeries, underwent an MRI on Monday to assess the damage. The good news is that there was no major damage to report, and Bush has not yet been ruled out for Week 4. Until he gets through some practice reps, he is not a lock to play, but this is certainly more encouraging than initially thought. Unfortunately, there is a potential cumulative toll of these injuries on Bush's knee health over the long haul.



Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos (ribs): McGahee left Sunday's game against the Texans because of a rib injury. On Monday, the Denver Post reported McGahee's status as day-to-day according to head coach John Fox. Fox also indicated McGahee's injury involved the rib cartilage (which connects the ribs to the sternum). From a pain perspective, there isn't much difference. The ribs themselves can fracture, but the cartilage can also crack if the damage is significant enough. There are also numerous small muscles in the rib cage that can cause pain if bruised or torn. The problem with all of these injuries is they are often slow to completely heal, but the decision to play typically comes down to whether a player can perform in the presence of pain or not.



Wide Receivers

Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys (rib): Austin left Sunday's game in the fourth quarter to get X-rays on his ribs. Clearly the results were negative since he returned to the game shortly thereafter and continued to add to his fantasy numbers. No one was talking about his hamstring or ribs after he posted more than 100 yards.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Oakland Raiders (concussion/neck): The sight of any player lying motionless on the ground, then being spine boarded and transported to a hospital for evaluation, is frightening. The best news possible came the next day when it was announced that Heyward-Bey had been released from the hospital after suffering a neck strain and a concussion and that he is expected to make a full recovery. No fracture, no spinal cord injury. And no talk of football right now. As is the case with all athletes who sustain head injuries, Heyward Bey's progress will be monitored closely and his activity will be increased on a gradual basis.

Dexter McCluster, Kansas City Chiefs (elbow): McCluster landed awkwardly on an outstretched arm and his elbow appeared to buckle. He was in obvious pain and the medical staff tended to him briefly on the field before escorting him off. After the game, the Kansas City Star noted McCluster was in a sling, but the Chiefs have not offered a specific injury update since then. McCluster had been on the injury report the previous week with a shoulder injury. It would not be a surprise if he ends up missing at least this week.

Tight Ends

Jared Cook, Tennessee Titans (shoulder): Cook injured his shoulder late in the first half and it was reported by The Tennessean to be an AC sprain (see: C.J. Spiller note). Cook was in a sling following the game, but the Titans sound as if they expect him to be available in Week 4. Still, he'll need to show in practice that he can get his arm sufficiently elevated and absorb some contact through that side in order to play.

We're keeping an eye on

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants (neck): Bradshaw missed Week 3 with a neck injury and the team offered no details as to the specifics, including how much time he might miss. After visiting with team doctors Monday, however, Bradshaw, who had just received clearance to return to practice, tweeted the following: "Great news! Thanks everyone for ur thoughts and prayers. But u dnt understand, I'm Ready to rock #bigblue #health." Bradshaw's level of activity in practice this week should offer clues as to his readiness to return to play. Of course, teammate Andre Brown filled in admirably during Bradshaw's absence and he won't disappear completely when Bradshaw returns.

[+] EnlargeFred Jackson
Ed Mulholland/US PresswireFred Jackson might be able to return just in time to replace injured backfield mate C.J. Spiller.
Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills (knee): Jackson has made progress more quickly than anyone anticipated and looks as if he will return to practice this week. Shortly after suffering a sprained LCL, Jackson targeted the game against the Patriots in Week 4 as a return date. Now it's possible he may actually reach that goal. Jackson gave himself a "70-75 percent chance" of playing this Sunday, although even if he does return, the likelihood would be that he yields some of the work, perhaps to Tashard Choice if Spiller is out.

Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears (ankle): According to the Chicago Tribune, coach Lovie Smith says "hopefully" Forte will return to practice this week. That's still quite a ways removed from returning to play. The Bears are also working out running back Ryan Grant on Tuesday, according to ESPN Chicago.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (hip): After sitting out Week 3 because of a hip injury, Maclin is expected to return to practice this week and be available Sunday.

Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants (foot): Nicks missed the Thursday night game in Week 3 because of soreness in his surgically repaired foot. After the extra rest, he is expected to return in Week 4.

Week 3 Thursday injury update

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
10:05
PM ET
Here is what we're looking at so far for Week 3:

Quarterbacks

Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars (glute): Gabbert was a full participant in practice Wednesday and Thursday. He appears on track to play Sunday.

John Skelton, Arizona Cardinals (ankle): Skelton missed Week 2 because of his ankle sprain, and Kevin Kolb started in his place. Will Kolb start again in Week 3? Early signs point to that being the case. While Skelton was "walking around," according to the Cardinals' official website, he did not practice Wednesday. Skelton did manage a limited practice Thursday, but it seems hardly enough to suggest he'll take over the reins again this weekend.

Running backs

[+] EnlargeRyan Mathews
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesAll signs point to Ryan Mathews returning to the Chargers' backfield this week.
Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers (shoulder): Well, well, well. It looks like we are about to see the highly anticipated season debut of a certain Chargers running back. The timing does not come as a complete surprise, as it's consistent with the typical healing timeframe for this type of injury (fractured clavicle).

This is from my entry on Mathews in the 2012 Fantasy Football Draft Kit: "... Before a player is cleared to resume contact, there must be sufficient evidence of bony repair to alleviate concerns of reinjury. Every fall onto the shoulder, direct hit to the shoulder (especially if the player is hit from both sides simultaneously), even a stiff-arm move, will translate force through the collarbone area. For an athlete such as Mathews, who will incur contact through his clavicle (directly or indirectly) on virtually every play in which he carries the ball, the confidence that the bone will remain intact must be high before allowing him to compete. Normal bone healing takes approximately six weeks, which, given Mathews' injury date, would suggest he could be ready by Week 3."

Mathews was cleared for contact late last week but had very limited practice reps and was held out of competition for another week. That was smart. Now Mathews has had a chance to turn it up a notch in practice, and his collarbone has had another week of bone remodeling. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Mathews said, "I feel great; I feel healthy and strong." That's what fantasy owners like to hear.

Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams, (groin): On Tuesday, we noted that Jackson missed time in Sunday's game because of a groin injury and nothing else. While coach Jeff Fisher and Jackson made it seem as though the injury was not serious -- and an MRI seemed to confirm as much -- it remains to be seen whether Jackson will be ready to go this weekend. He did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, but according to the Rams' official website, he "remains hopeful" he'll be ready by Sunday. This may well come down to a game-time decision.

Matt Forte, Chicago Bears (ankle): As we noted Tuesday, we said it would be a surprise to see Forte this week, and his non-participation in practice Wednesday or Thursday supports that idea. While it does seem that the injury was not as serious as initially expected, it's still looking like, barring a Friday surprise, Michael Bush will start for the Bears in Week 3.

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks (back): Lynch has been on the injury report since prior to Week 1 because of his back. So far he has managed to play in the first two games of the season. Since the Seahawks play Monday night, there is only one day of practice (Thursday) to report so far, and Lynch again appeared as a limited participant. No reason for major concern as of now.

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs (knee): Charles fell on his surgically reconstructed knee in Week 2 and sustained a knee bruise, according to the Kansas City Star. He was able to return to full practice Wednesday and followed it up again Thursday, boding well for him playing Sunday.

Rashard Mendenhall (knee) and Jonathan Dwyer (toe), Pittsburgh Steelers: Mendenhall has again been listed as a full participant in practice both Wednesday and Thursday this week. Here's what I said last week after he practiced both days: "Pittsburgh does have an early bye week (Week 4), and it's possible we do not see Mendenhall before then." I still feel the same way. Each week, Mendenhall has been exposed to increasingly more work and increasingly more contact. Like others coming off ACL surgery, there is a process for evaluating how the player -- and his knee -- responds to each upgrade in activity. There is nothing official from the team to indicate he will wait another week, so it remains possible that he could be activated. If that does happen, he would not likely get a heavy workload in his first outing.

Meanwhile, Dwyer is dealing with a case of turf toe, which may have hindered his productivity somewhat in Week 2. He rested Wednesday but was back in full practice Thursday, hinting at him being active for Week 3.

Rashad Jennings, Jaguars, (knee): Again this week, Jennings has not practiced due to a knee injury. It will be the Maurice Jones-Drew show on the ground in Indianapolis when the Jaguars visit the Colts regardless.

Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins (concussion): Thomas missed last week's game due to a concussion but returned to full practice Wednesday. Barring a setback, he should be available this weekend, although he will serve as a backup to Reggie Bush.

Wide receivers

[+] EnlargeCalvin Johnson
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezNo worries, Megatron owners. Calvin Johnson is expected to play Sunday.
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions (ankle): Last week it was his foot, this week it's his ankle. Johnson will probably appear on the injury report fairly regularly; hopefully, he will continue the pattern of resting early in the week and playing later. He did not practice Wednesday but was back in limited practice Thursday. If he continues the trend, expect him to play Sunday.

Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers (groin): Jennings sat out last week's game because of a groin injury. It wasn't much of a surprise considering he had suffered the injury just four days prior, The expectation was that the extra time off would have him in good shape for Week 3. In fact, coach Mike McCarthy told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel late last week he would be surprised if Jennings did not play in Monday night's contest.



Then came Tuesday's practice. Jennings was on the field in full pads, and all seemed to be progressing well. It turns out Jennings didn't do much Tuesday other than run, and on Thursday he was unable to practice at all. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, McCarthy said Jennings was limited to rehab Thursday and was not progressing "as well as hoped." While there are still a few more days before game time, if Jennings is still this limited 11 days post-injury, how much improvement can realistically be expected by Monday? His status could come down to a game-time decision, but if he isn't able to practice at all Friday, fantasy owners should be concerned.

Jeremy Maclin (hip) and DeSean Jackson (hamstring), Philadelphia Eagles: These two were both on the Thursday injury report last week, and both ended up playing Sunday. The difference is that this week Maclin was forced out of the game because of his hip. Jackson finished the game -- and played well -- despite a hamstring strain late in the week. While Maclin was unable to practice Wednesday, he did return on a limited basis Thursday. Jackson practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and returned to full practice Thursday.

At this point, Jackson appears to be in better shape heading toward Sunday, presuming there are no setbacks beforehand. As far as Maclin's status is concerned, he does appear to be making progress and as long as he shows he can perform sufficiently before kickoff, there is still a reasonable chance he plays. Friday's practice should yield better clues for both receivers.

Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins (foot): Even though he did not play Sunday, the rest might not have been enough for Garcon's foot. He participated in limited practice Wednesday and Thursday, but according to the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, coach Mike Shanahan says Garcon's injury is "nagging him a little bit more than I was hoping it would." That's certainly not the most optimistic sounding assessment. If Garcon continues to experience this level of discomfort, it's hard to imagine him suiting up in Week 3.

Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints (foot): Colston was listed on the injury report last week because of his foot, but still managed to play Sunday. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Saints interim coach Aaron Kromer says the foot injury is affecting Colston's speed. Perhaps the limited reps in practice this week will help him get back up to speed. He is expected to play Sunday.

Julio Jones (thigh) and Roddy White (knee), Atlanta Falcons: Jones and White both on the injury report? Not to worry. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that coach Mike Smith offered this explanation: "The reason a lot of those guys are limited in their participation is [because] we are on a short week." They did play Monday night, and it was, after all, a very long game. Both were restricted to limited work in practice Wednesday and Thursday, but from the sounds of things, both are expected to play Sunday.

Brandon Lloyd, New England Patriots (thigh): Lloyd was limited both Wednesday and Thursday with what is being listed as a thigh injury. There has been nothing to suggest the injury is serious, though, including the fact that Lloyd did not completely miss a practice. The Patriots do not play until Sunday night, so hopefully there will be a better indication after Friday's session.

Tight ends

Antonio Gates, Chargers (ribs): Despite missing Sunday's game due to sore ribs, Gates did get right into practice this week, an encouraging sign for this week's status. Although he was limited Wednesday, his response to practice was positive enough to bump him up to a full workload Thursday. Thankfully, it does not appear he will be a game-time decision this week.

Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers (abdomen): Miller has not practiced yet this week because of a rib cartilage injury. Any injury in the rib area can be exceptionally painful; Antonio Gates missed last week's game with a similar ailment. This could come down to a game-time decision.

Dustin Keller, New York Jets (hamstring): Keller missed last week's game because of his hamstring injury but appears to be making progress. He wasn't in practice Wednesday but did return to limited work Thursday. Now the test will be to see how the leg responds and whether he can repeat the effort Friday.


Week 2 is in the books. This week there was a new set of players added to the injury list as well as a few carryovers from Week 1. Here's what we're looking at to start the week.

Running Backs

[+] EnlargeAhmad Bradshaw
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty ImagesThe short week will make it tough for fantasy owners and the Giants to decide whether Ahmad Bradshaw can play Thursday.
Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants (neck): Bradshaw left Sunday's game early with a neck injury. He had X-rays taken at the game facility, and early reports were only that Bradshaw had suffered a neck sprain, relatively vague terminology but suggestive of a soft tissue injury. Bradshaw did return to the sidelines and watched the remainder of the game from that vantage point, cheering on his teammates and not appearing to be in any particular distress. He had an MRI scheduled Monday in New York and was listed as a non-participant in practice. (It's worth noting that the team conducted only a walk-through in advance of a Thursday game, but for reporting purposes, Bradshaw would not have participated had it been a regular practice.)

On Tuesday, coach Tom Coughlin did not elaborate on Bradshaw's injury, other than to say he is holding out hope he can play Thursday.

With the Giants having only four days between games this week, Bradshaw's status is clearly in question. The Giants have been very effective in managing the practice time of some of their key players during the week (e.g., Hakeem Nicks this past week and Bradshaw much of the second half of last season) so they can play on Sunday. The issue this week is whether there will have been enough recovery between games to allow Bradshaw to safely participate.

Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams (groin): When Jackson was suddenly out of Sunday's game and the last thing anyone saw was him spiking a ball, there was a question as to whether there was a message being sent. Not so. Shortly after the game, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford said during a Sirius XM radio interview that Jackson had injured his groin. That was later confirmed by coach Jeff Fisher, who noted Jackson had a strained groin, which was the reason for his absence. In fact, Fisher told reporters Jackson could have returned if Daryl Richardson, who replaced Jackson, had struggled. Clearly, Richardson held his own and Jackson did not return.

As to what to expect from Jackson this week, it is too soon to know. He has dealt with groin injuries in the past that have caused him to miss time. While this did not have the initial appearance of anything serious (after all, no one even saw it happen, and if hadn't sat out the remainder of the game, there would have been no question), it is often not until players test these ailments that we get an idea of how much an injury will limit them. Late-week practice should provide further clues but it might be wise to secure a backup (Richardson, perhaps?) just in case.

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs (knee): Charles was not involved much in the second half of Sunday's game, which prompted the question as to whether he was injured or just resting. It sounds like a little of both.

The Kansas City Star reports Charles had soreness in his surgically reconstructed knee and the thought was that it was better to rest him the remainder of the game rather than expose him to further risk. It does not appear to have been anything serious, and the early rest in Week 2 might prove helpful in protecting the health of his knee. It sounds as if the Chiefs are expecting him to return in Week 3.



Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh Steelers (foot): Dwyer was listed on last week's injury report because of his foot but was expected to play and did. Now the Beaver County Times reports Dwyer has a turf toe injury, which might explain his limited production in Week 2. After all, coach Mike Tomlin had indicated after the season opener that Dwyer had earned a bigger opportunity. With Rashard Mendenhall returning to pads in practice this week, the running back situation becomes more complex in Pittsburgh. It seems likely the Steelers will hold Mendenhall out until after their early bye week, though, to allow him some more time to adapt to the increased activity.

Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills (knee): Jackson obviously did not play in Week 2 after suffering a sprained LCL in the season opener. After a week of rehabilitation and recovery, Jackson received some positive news. It appears he is going to be able to begin some light running in a brace this week, and, according to the Buffalo News, Jackson expects to return on the shorter end of his projected timetable. "The doc said that it's coming along, that at this rate it wouldn't be the full eight weeks," Jackson said. "Like I said before, I wanted to be back in four weeks, and he said that was a definite possibility and it will happen as long as we don't hit a snag anywhere."



Wide Receivers

Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles (hip): Maclin was questionable heading into Week 2 with a hip injury, was active for the game, then left early because of the same hip. Now he'll be a bigger question mark heading into Week 3. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, coach Andy Reid called Maclin "day-to-day." The Inquirer also noted that after the game, Maclin described this injury as more serious than the first. That doesn't bode well for him, considering Friday was his only day of practice last week. If he is unable to practice at all, he will be a big question mark.

Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants (foot): Seeing Nicks limping during Sunday's game had some fantasy owners panicking, despite his stellar performance. It turns out Nicks had his foot stepped on during the game and he was understandably experiencing some additional soreness. Nicks has been playing in the presence of some residual soreness since undergoing foot surgery this summer, but Sunday he showed he was returning to football shape.



Although he was listed as a non-participant for Monday's practice, he is expected to play Thursday night.

Tight Ends

[+] EnlargeAaron Hernandez
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaAaron Hernandez will be out at least a few weeks with an ankle injury.
Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots (ankle): AFC East blogger James Walker reports Hernandez is expected to miss a few weeks as a result of the injury to his right ankle. He has already been ruled out for Week 3, and while a definitive timetable has not been established, according to Walker, a source says Hernandez will not return before October. Tuesday's signing of veteran tight end Kellen Winslow adds support to the notion that he will miss multiple weeks. In other words, October is upon us in two weeks, but there is no reason to think the source was referencing early October.

The Patriots have not labeled the injury to Hernandez other than acknowledging it is his ankle, but the sight of him leaving the stadium on crutches and in a walking boot conveys the seriousness of it. Don't be surprised if Hernandez is out upward of a month. It is critical -- especially since he is so early in his career -- that his ankle heals completely before he returns to protect against long-term instability and degenerative changes. Expect the Patriots to take this one slowly to protect their big investment.

And we're keeping an eye on

Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers (shoulder): After being cleared for contact last Thursday, Mathews knew his return date was approaching, but waiting another week might have been the best plan. Mathews was working diligently to stay in shape, but there's nothing quite like actual practice reps to prepare for a game. The prevailing feeling in San Diego is that he will make his season debut this coming weekend, assuming all goes well in practice this week.

Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers (ribs): Gates was a surprise inactive Sunday, especially given his return to the game the previous Monday night after the injury and his return to practice last Friday. That is what makes projecting his status for this week far more difficult. Here's hoping he's back in practice by late week so there are fewer questions heading into Sunday.

Greg Jennings, WR Green Bay Packers (groin): Jennings was not able to play in Week 2 with a groin injury after only four days' rest. The Packers' next game, though, is Monday night, meaning Jennings will have had extra recovery time. And let's not forget, he wanted to try to give it a go in Week 2. We'll see how he fares in practice but expect to see him back in Week 3.

Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears (ankle): Coach Lovie Smith says it's not a high ankle sprain, so what are fantasy owners to do now? Worry less about what the team is calling it and more about what Forte is actually doing. Either type of sprain can be minor or severe; it's just that high ankle sprains tend to be more disabling across the board. But Forte was outside Monday, and as noted by ESPN Chicago, he was not wearing a brace or a boot and "trotted" off the field, something we wouldn't necessarily have expected just four days after injury. While Smith said not to expect Forte to necessarily return to practice immediately, he also said Forte had not yet been ruled out of anything. More guessing for fantasy owners, but it certainly looks as if Forte escaped a more serious injury. It still would be a surprise to see him this week; however, it's looking as if his recovery could be quicker than initially expected.

How long will Adrian Peterson be out?

December, 27, 2011
12/27/11
5:06
PM ET


Congratulations to all who took home the championship trophy in Week 16 and, frankly, to all who gutted out the season, regardless of how you ended up placing in your league(s). We appreciate those who play hard right up until the bitter end. Speaking of which, a number of fantasy leagues take their championship matches right through the bitter end, otherwise known as Week 17, seeking a challenge by playing in a week where teams may alter their rosters either because they have nothing to lose or everything to gain by fielding backups. If you're playing for glory this Sunday, then the injury news is of import, but be forewarned: The picture of who sits and who starts may be even cloudier with the playoffs looming next month.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Peterson
Geoff Burke/US PresswireAdrian Peterson is obviously out for the rest of 2011, but his 2012 future is also very hazy.
One player we already know will not be present on Sunday has been a staple in virtually every fantasy football league for several years running. Unfortunately, the most dramatic -- and devastating -- injury of Week 16 was the one suffered by Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who took a blow to his left knee that left him visibly in pain and on the ground. The video, difficult as it was to watch, showed Peterson's knee moving into an awkward combination of valgus (bowing inward) and rotation, finally coming to rest at an odd angle underneath the weight of his body. Even in the absence of any specific knowledge of anatomy, the visceral reaction viewers collectively experienced while watching a knee bend in ways that it shouldn't told us something had gone terribly wrong. Peterson officially has a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and a torn medial collateral ligament (MCL) along with some damage to both the medial and lateral meniscus. He is expected to undergo reconstructive surgery in the next week to 10 days. The true extent of the damage within the joint may not be fully appreciated until that surgery takes place. For now, the Vikings remain hopeful that Peterson will be ready to contribute early next season, but understandably the timeline must remain fluid to allow for the many unpredictable variables that accompany this type of injury and subsequent rehabilitation.



Working in Peterson's favor are his youth (he is 26 years old with only five NFL seasons under his belt), his physical fitness and his work ethic. He has also shown resilience in responding to past injuries that were expected to either keep him down longer or potentially hint at future problems. While a junior in college at Oklahoma, Peterson broke his clavicle, which forced him to miss the last seven weeks of the season. He entered the NFL the following year with some concern about whether the collarbone would be a problem. It was not. In Peterson's first NFL season (2007), he did suffer a less common knee ligament sprain, a lateral collateral ligament (LCL) injury (incidentally, which was to his right knee). Not only was Peterson back on the field within three weeks, the knee healed well and did not prove to be a liability going forward. In fact, since that time, Peterson had missed only one game until suffering a left high ankle sprain just five weeks ago. Peterson returned in Week 15 after missing three games, but just one short week later, his world turned upside down with this latest injury.

Peterson will be challenged to return to form in 2012. There is no reason at this moment to believe he cannot be back to playing football next season. It is also reasonable, however, to allow for the possibility that it will take some time for him to show the explosiveness and aggressive style for which he is known. It's not just the physical recovery; there is the mental aspect of regaining confidence in a leg that has been severely damaged, believing it will hold up to the physical demands of the game, including, of course, the contact it will naturally be expected to absorb. Not only do the stats show that players typically perform better in the second year following reconstructive knee surgery, but athletes will often say it takes a year of playing on that leg until they get their "feel" back or until they believe they are playing like themselves again.



At this point, we simply wish Peterson well on his road to recovery and hope for positive updates along the way.

Quick hits


All the games for Week 17 will come your way Sunday, with the season ending that night with New York Giants hosting the Dallas Cowboys for the NFC East title.



[+] EnlargeAndre Johnson
Brett Davis/US PresswireAndre Johnson wants to get some work in the regular-season finale to get him ready for the playoffs.
• There is a possibility, a probability even, that Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson will make an appearance Sunday. Johnson has missed three games while recovering from his second hamstring injury of the season and has made it clear he would like to see some regular-season action before entering the playoffs. Last Friday, following a loss to the Indianapolis Colts, coach Gary Kubiak told the Texans official website, "I'm hoping [Johnson] is back out there this week." Johnson did return to practice Monday and said, "We're just trying to see how this week goes, see if I can make it through the week, first of all, without any soreness or anything like that. ... I'll be doing a little rehab tomorrow and I'll go back at it on Wednesday." If Johnson has a good week of practice, expect him to see some time Sunday. How much time that will be is unclear, but hopefully we'll get a better hint later in the week.

• Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones was removed from Saturday's game as soon as the announcement came that the New York Giants had won (rendering the Cowboys' game essentially meaningless). The good news for Jones is that his hamstring held up for the four carries he managed, but the rest he got afterward probably served him better. Expect Jones to be ready to go this weekend.

• The bigger question for the Cowboys this week might be the status of quarterback Tony Romo, who hit his right (throwing) hand against Jason Babin's helmet Saturday, causing the hand to swell to roughly twice its normal size. Fortunately, tests were negative for any fracture and, presuming the swelling resolves enough to allow Romo to function effectively, he will indeed play Sunday night. Coach Jason Garrett, a former quarterback who innately understands the physical demands of the position, captured the issue perfectly when he spoke to reporters Monday. "I don't think it's that complicated," Garrett said. "Can you take a snap? Can you grip the ball? Can you throw it? What's the ball look like when you throw it? Can you hand off? Quarterbacks that have had injuries in the past, and really, it's a functional type thing. ... How accurate is he when he's throwing it? Does everything have to be perfect for him to throw it well? Because, as you know, that position is a spontaneous one and he's certainly a spontaneous quarterback. So we'll evaluate all those things as the week goes on." And that pretty well sums it up.

• It is unclear whether the Pittsburgh Steelers will have Ben Roethlisberger under center Sunday or whether there will be another Charlie Batch sighting. Roethlisberger sat out Week 16 to rest his left ankle following a high ankle sprain suffered in Week 14. Roethlisberger played the Monday night game in Week 15 but struggled to step into his throws and was clearly limited in his mobility. There won't be any clues as to a decision until the Steelers can evaluate what Roethlisberger can do in practice.

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Lance Moore was questionable coming into Monday night's game because of a sore hamstring injured late last week in practice. He did end up playing but didn't last through the first half, as the injury forced him out in the second quarter. It remains to be seen whether he will be well enough to play Sunday.

[+] EnlargeMcCoy
Debby Wong/US PresswireLeSean McCoy is the leading fantasy scorer among running backs this year, but will he be around in Week 17 to secure that honor?
• The Philadelphia Eagles saw LeSean McCoy leave Saturday's game for a period of time with an ankle injury. McCoy was able to return after X-rays were negative, but there seemed to be some discrepancy between McCoy's opinion as to whether he'd be available this week and coach Andy Reid's thought on the matter. For now, we'll go with Reid's interpretation, which is that McCoy has a "slight" ankle sprain and should be available Sunday.

Detroit Lions running back Kevin Smith played Saturday and posted decent fantasy numbers, but at times looked to be struggling with his right ankle. The Lions signed running back Joique Bell on Monday, which certainly gives pause as to Smith's availability for this week. With the playoffs looming, it would seem the Lions would not want to risk Smith's health for when it is most needed. Fantasy owners may want to avail themselves of other options.

Miami Dolphins running back Reggie Bush injured his right leg late in Saturday's game, but the non-specific injury appears mild. As Bush told the Palm Beach Post, "I don't think it's serious. I mean, I'm walking." Good point. So far, there's no indication Bush will be forced to miss this week's game. Meanwhile teammate Anthony Fasano missed Week 16 due to a concussion. He will need to be medically cleared to return to practice before his game status can be evaluated.

Green Bay Packers running back James Starks suffered yet another setback with his injured right ankle. It's tough to imagine him playing this week when the Packers' biggest goal might be trying to maximize the health of their team going into the playoffs.



• And finally, if you were holding out any hope for the return of either Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler or running back Matt Forte, you can now let it go. The Bears officially ended their seasons Tuesday, and they can focus on getting healthy for next year.

Late Week 16 injury updates

December, 23, 2011
12/23/11
8:24
PM ET


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.

Quarterbacks

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
Frank Victores/US PresswireBen Roethlisberger likely will play against the Rams only in case of an emergency.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers, ankle (Q): The Steelers have been preparing Charlie Batch all week to face the St. Louis Rams, with Roethlisberger active only in an emergency scenario. This is not a huge surprise, as Roethlisberger is coming off a short week following the Monday night game in which he was clearly limited. With the playoffs forthcoming, the extended rest can only help. It's too soon to say whether the Steelers plan to have him active or not in the final week of the regular season.

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 Backs

Chris 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.

[+] EnlargeFelix Jones
Douglas Jones/US PresswireThe oft-injured Felix Jones is once again a question mark for fantasy owners.
Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys, hamstring, (Q): Jones hasn't done much ... and that's the worry. Although he has been doing some running on the side, he has not fully tested the hamstring. While the Cowboys hold out hope he'll be available, it's Sammy Morris who has taken all the first-team reps in practice. As another signal the Cowboys want insurance, they promoted running back Chauncey Washington from the practice squad, according to ESPNDallas.com. To complicate matters, this is a late game and the decision will not likely be announced until inactives are due. Even if Jones plays, there has to be some concern about what exactly one can expect in live game conditions.

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.

Wide Receivers

[+] EnlargeA.J. Green
Scott Rovak/US PresswireAfter missing part of last week's game with an injury, A.J. Green appears poised to carry a full load this week.
A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals, shoulder, (P): Knowing that Green comes into this game fresh off a Grade 3 shoulder separation, the probable tag is very encouraging. Green has maintained all along that he would be able to play this weekend, and now it appears all but certain that he will. He was catching passes as early as Tuesday, practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday, and returned to a full practice Friday. If Green lands hard on the recently injured shoulder, it certainly won't feel terrific and he may be challenged to reach directly overhead, but he managed to finish the game last week after suffering the injury. It's hard to imagine it being much worse Saturday.

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.

[+] EnlargeChargers' Vincent Jackson
Kirby Lee/US PRESSWIREA groin injury may keep out Vincent Jackson at the worst time for fantasy owners.
Vincent Jackson, San Diego Chargers, groin, (Q): Jackson did not practice at all this week because of the groin issue, making his Saturday status far less certain. Jackson has played through injuries before, but this time may be different. It seemed like a foregone conclusion earlier in the week that Jackson would go, but Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Jackson's groin has not responded as hoped to treatment during the week. Late game alert.

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.

OUT


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

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.

[+] EnlargeJake Ballard
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesJake Ballard won't be able to take advantage of a Jets defense that struggled to stop fellow tight end Brent Celek last week.
Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears, knee: Forte suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain, and the Bears still hope he will be able to return before the regular season is complete, but it is far from certain.

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!



If you're fortunate enough to be left standing in your fantasy league after another injury-filled Sunday, you may be limping your way into the playoffs.

[+] EnlargeAndre Johnson
Brett Davis/US PresswireThis is not a sight fantasy owners wanted to see from Andre Johnson again.
Exhibit A: One of my fantasy teams finally had its original ensemble back together ... for a week. Then Sunday came, and two of the players who had helped successfully launch my fantasy season were injured again. Running back Peyton Hillis and wide receiver Andre Johnson left their respective games with injuries. While neither was an aggravation of their original ailments, they do seem to be somehow connected, if only by the running theme of steady misfortune. Hillis turned in a decent performance, providing both rushing and receiving yards, but was absent late in the game. Hillis was seen lying on the treatment table, appearing to have his leg worked on by members of the Cleveland Browns' medical staff. On Monday, the Browns indicated Hillis had a "left hip strain" and was considered day-to-day. The diagnosis is vague, making it difficult to interpret just how serious this is, but with Hillis just coming off an extended injury absence, there has to be concern. The Browns play on Thursday night, casting further doubt on Hillis' availability.

As for Johnson, he was due for a big game with newly anointed quarterback T.J. Yates (filling in for the injured Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart, both now on injured reserve) looking to get the ball to the All-Pro receiver. Johnson was actually converging on 100 yards receiving when a familiar -- and scary -- sight unfolded. In the third quarter, Johnson pulled up while running a deep route, then went to the ground in pain. Eventually he hopped off the field, keeping his left foot in the air, and he was tended to on the sideline. As it turns out, the injury was to his other (nonsurgical) leg, which is a relief from the standpoint that there is no setback to the right side. On the other hand, Johnson has joined the ranks of fellow wide receivers Julio Jones and Miles Austin in suffering bilateral hamstring injuries within the same season. The Houston Chronicle reports the Texans believe that this latest injury to Johnson is far less severe than the previous one. Coach Gary Kubiak is calling Johnson day-to-day, but the sense is he will be out for at least Week 14.

Despite the aforementioned injury catastrophes, my team will indeed limp into the playoffs and hope to benefit from waiver-wire pickups suggested by my colleagues at ESPN.com. Hopefully you will do the same.

And then this happened ...

[+] EnlargeMatt Forte
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhThere's still some hope that Matt Forte could return by the end of the regular season.
• As significant as the injuries to the two above players seemed at the time, at least in my world, there was perhaps no more devastating and surprising blow than the one dealt to the Chicago Bears when running back Matt Forte hurt his knee. Forte was upended by a tackle, which at first glance appeared to deliver the most force to his left knee area. It was Forte's right knee, however, that sustained the injury, a Grade 2 MCL (medial collateral ligament) sprain. The MCL reinforces the inner aspect of the knee joint, and an injury here particularly compromises lateral mobility, making cutting and directional changes difficult.



Not all Grade 2, or moderate, sprains are equal and can represent a range of damage (from roughly 30 percent to 70 percent tearing of the ligament), hence the variability of the timetable. The more damage, the greater instability results at the knee and the longer it takes to heal. Presuming all other structures remain intact (and the confirmation after Forte's MRI was that the ACL was not torn), an isolated tear of the MCL presents a better prognosis than a more complex tear involving other ligaments, the meniscus or the fibrous tissue of the joint capsule itself. Forte could miss as little as two weeks or upward of a month. It's worth noting that Forte suffered a mild MCL sprain in his left knee in 2009 and played through the injury but struggled on the field. The Bears are optimistic that Forte will return before the regular season is over, but his progress over the next week to 10 days will give better clues.

Green Bay Packers running back James Starks was on the injury report heading into Week 13. Starks was injured in Week 11 with sprains to his right knee and ankle. Despite the short week heading into the Thanksgiving Day game, Starks was able to suit up and managed to get through the game, albeit with a sore ankle. After a 10-day respite between games, it appeared Starks was in better shape when the Packers traveled to play the New York Giants. But it was not meant to be. Starks was injured in the second quarter and did not return. After three straight weeks of problems with the ankle, it stands to reason that Starks will have to scale his activity back. Consider him highly questionable for Week 14.

Quick hits

[+] EnlargeMichael Vick
Jeffrey G. Pittenger/US PresswireMichael Vick has missed three games since injuring his ribs against the Cardinals last month.
• The Philadelphia Eagles see signs of hope that quarterback Michael Vick will return in Week 14. Vick resumed throwing Monday and told reporters he expects to play Sunday. He has not fully recovered from the two broken ribs he sustained in Week 10, as the bones are still healing, but the key to his return is whether he can be effective enough both throwing the ball and running with it. If Vick can practice every day this week and gradually ramp up his activity, it's conceivable he could rejoin his team this weekend.



• Teammate Jeremy Maclin would like to be on the field with Vick and says he hopes to return to practice this week. Maclin, who is dealing with a shoulder sprain and a strained hamstring, suffered a setback with the hamstring the last time he tried to practice. According to the Eagles' website, Maclin said the hamstring is the limiting factor. "There's ways around the shoulder," Maclin said. "We just have to make sure the hamstring's right." Wednesday will be a big day at the Eagles' practice facility.

• The Minnesota Vikings would like to have Adrian Peterson on the field in Week 14, but we've heard optimism early in the week before, only to find out late in the week it was premature. Peterson did make some progress last week, doing some light jogging and increasing his overall activity. His ankle was not ready for agility and cutting maneuvers, however, and Peterson was not yet able to practice. While coach Leslie Frazier called Peterson "very close" to returning, Peterson's activity this week will go a lot further in convincing us one way or the other.

• The Detroit Lions thought Kevin Smith had made enough progress in 10 days after his ankle injury to return him to the field. Unfortunately, it took only two-plus quarters of football to find out otherwise. Smith aggravated his ankle injury Sunday night when he went down without contact (never a good sign) and was struggling with his mobility prior to that moment. It appears unlikely that he would be ready to test it again by Sunday.

• Things are not looking good for running back Darren McFadden. Despite all the positive-speak initially from coach Hue Jackson, his latest remarks have a different tone, suggesting progress is not being made as expected. McFadden has already missed more than a month because of a midfoot sprain, and his absence is expected to continue.



Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times reported that Jackson does not expect McFadden to miss the rest of the season. Well, neither did we. In fact, it had not been a real thought until Jackson introduced it as a possibility. Jackson also noted that there was no timetable for McFadden's return. Those two comments cause concern as to what the real status of McFadden and his foot is going forward. After the initial MRI, Jackson said there was no major structural damage and hinted at a speedy recovery. While the structure of the midfoot is complex, and pain or inflammation in the area, even in the absence of major disruption to the anatomy, can be severely limiting, the slow progress of McFadden after such early optimism is frustrating. At this point it is difficult to have confidence in McFadden's status, especially as long as he is absent from the practice field.

Thursday's Week 2 injury update

September, 16, 2010
9/16/10
12:51
PM ET

Quarterbacks

Kevin Kolb
Howard Smith/US PresswireThe Eagles will be very cautious with Kevin Kolb's concussion.
Kevin Kolb, Philadelphia Eagles: On Tuesday we outlined Kolb's injury and the steps that must occur before a player can return from a concussion.



Since then, his failure to make significant progress suggests he will be sidelined this week. Despite coach Andy Reid's declaration that Kolb would be the starter if healthy (which does not appear he will be by Sunday), Kolb has not undergone any mental preparations in advance of this week's matchup, never mind any physical work. Everyone knows that a quarterback's decision-making is equally important as his ability to get the ball down the field, making it that much less likely that he will play.

Michael Vick took all the reps with the first team Wednesday and is expected to do so again Thursday. Expect Vick to be leading the Eagles against the Detroit Lions this Sunday.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: Stafford is not expected to play this week. He is expected to get a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews on his sprained right shoulder, although any discussion of surgery would be a surprise. On Tuesday, we outlined the nature of Stafford's injury and the range of time he could be out. Fantasy owners should prepare for an absence of at least a few weeks.

Jake Delhomme, Cleveland Browns: Delhomme injured his ankle during last Sunday's game and while he stayed in the entire four quarters, he has not seen any practice time yet this week. The Browns thought enough of Delhomme's injury to schedule an MRI, the results of which have not been made public. The fact that Seneca Wallace took all the first-team snaps in practice is no secret, however, and ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that Delhomme will be a game-time decision. In the meantime, Delhomme wears his protective boot, continues to get treatment and hopes for the best.



Running Backs

Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams: What started out as no big deal Monday seemed a little more worrisome Wednesday when Jackson was held out of practice. Apparently the decision to rest him was a precautionary move according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, as Jackson's knee MRI showed no significant injury. Jackson is expected to play this weekend against the Oakland Raiders, so fantasy owners can breathe a little easier.



Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals: After sitting out Week 1, Wells is hopeful to return from a knee bruise in Week 2, but much will depend on how he tolerates practice Thursday. Wells did limited work Wednesday and the team is expected to challenge him with a full workout Thursday to see how his knee responds. Following a deep bruise, one of the concerns is the return of swelling to the joint. If Wells' knee can tolerate practice and there are no aftereffects, it would certainly be a good indicator that he is likely to play Sunday in Atlanta.

Fred Taylor, New England Patriots: Who says a thirty-something can't be the starting running back in a potent offense? Not Taylor, who had a nice showing Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Unfortunately Taylor's efforts also resulted in him showing up on the Wednesday injury report with a toe injury. While toe injuries are nothing to sneeze at, the good news is that Taylor did participate on a limited basis, suggesting the injury is minor. With the Patriots trading away Laurence Maroney to the Denver Broncos, it appears that they were not overly concerned about Taylor's health, either. Naturally, practice reports throughout the week will provide more insight, but this does not appear to be a big concern for fantasy owners, at least not yet.

Wide Receivers

Larry Fitzgerald
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesLarry Fitzgerald was sidelined with a knee injury for much of the preseason and he's trying to get back into midseason form.
Larry Fitzgerald and Early Doucet, Arizona Cardinals: Fitzgerald owners who were worried about his status heading into the season had to be relieved to see him on the field Sunday. But even Fitzgerald acknowledged that he wasn't quite up to speed. Literally.



According to Associated Press reports, Fitzgerald related his injury and the time missed during the preseason to being out of sync with his quarterback. "We haven't worked extensively together and that's going to come with time," said Fitzgerald. "We're going to be better than we were last week." And as one has come to expect with Fitzgerald being the consummate professional, he took it upon himself to be better. "I need to get myself together so I can be the best player I can be for [QB Derek Anderson] and this ballclub," Fitzgerald said. To that end, he was a full participant in Wednesday's practice.

Doucet suffered what was called a groin injury in Week 1 and has already been declared out for Sunday's game, according to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. Somers reports that Doucet is undergoing further tests to determine if he indeed has a sports hernia. Doucet had preseason issues with what the team called an abdominal strain. It is often the case if an athlete has abdominal and groin pain, a sports hernia is the culprit. If a sports hernia is the diagnosis, Doucet will undergo surgery and could be sidelined for a few weeks.



Quick Hits


Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis appears on the injury report again this week but not because of his ankle. Portis has a wrist ailment, but it didn't limit him at all in practice Wednesday. Expect him to play Sunday.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver and all-around scoring threat Percy Harvin sat out Wednesday's practice with a hip ailment. There haven't been many specifics, but it is yet another practice session where Harvin is out. For what it's worth, quarterback Brett Favre was a full participant, although "back" has been added to his injury ailments, along with his ankle.



• After being named NFC Offensive Player of the Week, Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte showed up on the injury report because of a knee ailment. The good news is that he did participate in some portions of Wednesday practice, but this is worth keeping an eye on.

• Last year Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez earned a spot in this column after Week 1 when he suffered a PCL sprain. Although initial projections had him missing about a month, he never did return during the 2009 season. Gonzalez is back in the column for all the wrong reasons. He suffered what is being called a high ankle sprain, and Schefter is reporting that he is already ruled out for this week. Savvy fantasy owners know that high ankle sprains are not typically a one-week injury.

See you at the injury chats (Tuesday and Friday, 3 p.m ET) and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 2 in the Saturday morning blog!

Many RBs are questionable for this key week

December, 20, 2008
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Championship week at last! Or close to it for most fantasy teams. Who is playing and will those players be effective? That's all most fantasy owners care about; no one is particularly interested in whether a guy will be better in four weeks or three months at this time of year. So today's blog is designed just for you fantasy playoffs people. Let's cut to the chase.

Marion Barber, RB, Cowboys: Saturday night game warning! Set your lineups early. And you might not want Barber in your lineup. Officially listed as questionable, Barber will test his injured toe in warm-ups to see whether he will be active. Despite the fact that he has not practiced all week, it's quite possible the Cowboys will keep him as an active option. After all, he did catch a few passes in Week 15. His running game was largely ineffective, though, and he clearly is still limited by his injuries. As if that wasn't bad enough, the Cowboys have to face the Ravens' tough run defense. Expect Tashard Choice to handle the bulk of the running game; he's proved to be quite capable so far. Incidentally, Tony Romo (probable) will play despite a sore back, but if the Ravens get to him early and often, this could be a problem.

Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants: Jacobs rested his sore left knee Friday, and despite the questionable tag, is expected to play against Carolina on Sunday. In fact, coach Tom Coughlin said after Friday's practice that Jacobs will play barring a setback. Keep in mind that although his symptoms appear to have settled, at least enough that he could practice on a limited basis all week, this is not an injury that "heals." As Jacobs himself indicated, this most recent setback is an aggravation of a previously sprained knee (posterior cruciate ligament), and that means he has some residual instability in that left knee. It's conceivable that he could perform very well. It's also conceivable that he could get rolled up from behind, fall directly on the front of a flexed left knee or slip and slide on a wet field (wintry mix weather conditions expected), any of which could aggravate the knee and cause him to leave early. Jacobs undoubtedly will share some work with Derrick Ward (probable), who is recovering from an ankle injury, but assume that Jacobs will get the majority of the carries as long as his knee cooperates.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings: Put him in your lineup. Peterson, listed as probable, most certainly will be on the field for the Vikings, who are in playoff contention. Not to mention that Peterson is vying for the league rushing title. He had a sore ankle following Sunday's contest and was limited in practice throughout the week. But he shrugged it off, calling the issues with his ankle just the "normal wear and tear of the season," according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. It does not sound as if this is an injury that will affect his ability to run or cut, perhaps just a mild sprain, and fantasy owners should expect a typical "All-Day" performance.

Frank Gore, RB, 49ers: Gore is listed as questionable and is another game-time decision with his sprained ankle that kept him out in Week 15. Despite Gore's remarks in the San Francisco Chronicle earlier in the week that his ankle felt much better, he still has not participated in practice, doing only side work individually. While we're happy to see that he's coming along, you have to be skeptical that he is really ready to go. And the fact that the game will be on the artificial turf in St. Louis might present even more of a challenge for Gore's already limited ankle. Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat adds that even if Gore suits up, "it seems unlikely that he would have a big role in the game." The 49ers were happy with what they saw from DeShaun Foster in Week 15 and likely will lean on him again Sunday.

Anquan Boldin, WR, Cardinals: Sorry, fantasy owners. Start scrambling for a replacement, if you haven't already, because Boldin is likely to sit this one out. He has had some struggles recently, perhaps due to some of the new offensive plays he has been learning, perhaps due to a sore shoulder. Either way, coach Ken Whisenhunt said on the Cardinals' Web site this week that he would be willing to rest Boldin on Sunday in the interest of having him at full strength for the playoffs. In general, the game does not stack up well for the Cardinals: travel to the East Coast, cold and snowy weather, and an already secure playoff spot. Although he's listed as questionable and a game-time decision, Boldin did not practice all week and seems quite unlikely to play. Expect Steve Breaston to get the majority of the work.

Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins: Portis developed some back spasms Friday that kept him out of practice. According to The Washington Post, Portis was having difficulty bending and was moving slowly. Hmmm. Those symptoms sound awfully consistent with a flare-up of a disc in the back. Not the kind of thing that goes away quickly. Portis was expected to seek treatment, and his status (questionable) remains uncertain for Sunday's matchup against the Eagles. Despite his ability to play through just about everything else, I don't like the way this sounds. If you have a viable alternative, use him, because Portis' availability and ability to play through this are far from sure things.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Bills: We know Trent Edwards will be back calling the plays for the Bills' offense Sunday, but will Lynch be running? Lynch is listed as questionable because of a sore shoulder, but the Bills have not made much of this injury. In fact, Lynch was able to increase his practice workload throughout the week, and it looks as if he will be available against Denver. What is uncertain is how much the Bills will utilize him, given their non-playoff status. Perhaps they will be motivated to wrap up their season on a high note, beginning with a hard rushing game against a weak run defense.

Jeff Garcia, QB, Buccaneers: In Week 15, it sounded on Friday as if Garcia might play, but some fantasy owners found themselves scrambling to find a replacement Sunday when it was announced Brian Griese was starting instead. This week, the news out of Tampa Bay sounds a little more convincing that Garcia will indeed start, and he has had the benefit of an added week of rest for his ailing calf. He is listed as questionable, but he has put in limited practice every day this week and expects to be under center when the game gets underway. The St. Petersburg Times reported that coach Jon Gruden seemed to echo that sentiment when he said after Friday's practice, "I believe he'll be the starter." Garcia is a scrambler and often jumps in the air to throw, and a sore calf might affect his typical moves a bit. He obviously has shown enough in practice to at least secure the start, and being the tough player he is, this injury should not hold him back.

Matt Forte, RB, Bears: This game isn't until Monday night, so Forte's absence from most of the week's practices might have some owners in a panic. Breathe deeply -- it appears Forte will play. He is listed as questionable after injuring his right big toe in Week 15's Thursday night game, but coach Lovie Smith said Forte would return to practice Friday, and he did. Smith also said Forte would play Monday, and so far, he has been good on his remarks. It appears the Bears were proactively giving Forte extended rest, knowing how problematic toe injuries can be. Assume that Forte will play in this Monday night game, which is meaningful for the Bears, and unless he suffers a setback in the game, expect him to get his usual workload.

Good luck in Week 16! Be sure to check out our site Sunday for pregame chats and Fantasy Football Now at noon ET.

Backfield Brittleness

December, 17, 2008
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The status of star running backs has fantasy owners who are in the throes of championship matchups panicking. Week 15 saw Joseph Addai, Brandon Jacobs and Frank Gore sitting on the sideline. Marion Barber played but perhaps should have rested. Will any of them return this week? Based on early reports, here's what we've heard on the injury front so far:

Joseph Addai, RB, Colts: The Colts travel to Jacksonville for Thursday night's matchup, and early signs suggest Addai will play. He was held out of Sunday's contest with a sore shoulder, and as noted in Monday's blog, coach Tony Dungy said it would have been doubtful for Addai to have managed to play two games in five days. The rest allowed every sore body part some recovery time, and Addai returned to practice Tuesday. After practice, Dungy said he expected Addai to play and see his usual playing time (meaning roughly a 60-40 split with Dominic Rhodes, perhaps with a little splash of Chad Simpson thrown in). Colts team president Bill Polian later told the NFL Network that Addai was "questionable," raising concern about Addai's true status. On Wednesday before practice, Dungy confirmed Addai's official status as questionable but hinted he would play.

According to Tom James of the Terre Haute Star-Tribune, Addai and teammate safety Bob Sanders, who also is listed as questionable, are excited to play. James quotes Dungy as saying, "My sense is they'll [play], but we'll see what happens in the next 36 hours." In other words, both players ultimately will be game-time decisions. Dungy has been very clear since Addai originally injured himself two weeks ago that if there were any question at all about his readiness, the Colts would err on the side of caution. If Addai is able to practice without a setback before Thursday night, the Colts likely would give him an opportunity to see the field. Because it's an early game, fantasy owners should be cautious and check the inactives list just before kickoff.

In other news out of Colts camp, James also reports that receiver Marvin Harrison is questionable with a hamstring injury. Apparently, Harrison sustained the injury when the Colts faced Detroit and did not practice Tuesday. Harrison underwent an MRI on Wednesday (results are not yet known), and Dungy said he is questionable for Thursday night's game. A hamstring strain and a receiver are never a good combination, especially during a short week. With the Colts emphasizing their cautious approach, it would not come as a surprise if they were to hold Harrison out of Thursday's game. Fantasy owners should plan on using someone else in place of Harrison.

Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants: Even Jacobs has announced he'll play this weekend, according to the New York Daily News, which quoted Jacobs while in attendance at a local high school event. Jacobs, who sat out Sunday's game to rest his knees, hopes to practice Wednesday and return to the lineup for Sunday's game. Jacobs hinted that his knees felt good enough to play Sunday but that in the interest of the impending playoffs, the decision was made to rest him. This will turn out to be a wise decision as Jacobs is nursing a PCL injury in his left knee and has a history of an MCL injury on the right. Even if Jacobs plays Sunday, he will share some time with Derrick Ward and perhaps even Ahmad Bradshaw, and the manner in which he is used may depend on how the team fares. Naturally, his participation in practice bears watching throughout the remainder of the week, but fantasy owners should expect Jacobs in the lineup.

Some other players to keep an eye on as the week progresses:

&#8226 49ers feature running back Frank Gore is still dealing with soreness in his ankle. As disappointed as he might have been not to be able to suit up in his hometown of Miami on Sunday, the fact that he was limping all week is enough to confirm that resting was a smart move. The next question is whether he will be ready for a favorable matchup Sunday against the Rams. At this point, he is very questionable, and fantasy owners should prepare a backup plan. But if he makes major progress with the ankle, we will upgrade his status.

[+] EnlargeMarion Barber
Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesBarber is hoping to be on the field to help the Cowboys' playoff push.
&#8226 Cowboys running back Marion Barber may have aggravated his injured pinkie toe. ESPN's Ed Werder reported Tuesday that Barber was seen limping from the team's locker room toward the part of the building where MRIs are performed. Werder also reported that team owner Jerry Jones said in the locker room that Barber felt something pop. The team was not clear whether this was a setback or some scar tissue tearing. So far, there has been no official word from the Cowboys as to any test results or updating of Barber's status. Tuesday was the players' day off, so whether Barber can participate in practice won't be known until Wednesday afternoon. Stay tuned for updates, but at this point, nothing in this report spells good news for Barber. If anything, it casts further doubt on his availability for Sunday.

&#8226 Matt Forte left Thursday's game with an injured toe. He returned to the game eventually but played in only a limited capacity. A source close to the team in Chicago confirmed that the affected toe was Forte's right big toe but added that Forte says he's fine. No one in Chicago seems too concerned, even though Forte did not practice Tuesday. Apparently the Bears decided to proactively rest a number of their players Tuesday in advance of a planned day off Wednesday. In the meantime, Forte has tried to get treatment for his toe because, as he said on the team's Web site, "A lot of people think it's just a toe. But a toe's very important when you're a running back because you have to make cuts and things like that." He expects to be at full strength when the team plays Monday night, and the extra few days of rest between contests has to help.

&#8226 In Tampa Bay, coach Jon Gruden is hopeful that Jeff Garcia will be back under center this week after sitting out Sunday with a calf strain. The St. Petersburg Times reports that Gruden wants to make a decision on his starting quarterback by Wednesday, so fantasy owners should get some lead time. Because Garcia was somewhat able to practice by Friday, he should be ready to play this week, barring a setback in practice.

Don't forget that the Colts face the Jaguars on Thursday, so get your lineups in early. We'll have the latest injury updates affecting the Week 16 Sunday and Monday contests and any postmortem on Thursday injuries in the Saturday blog.

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