Stephania Bell: Matt Hasselbeck

Good news for Peterson; Big Ben murky

December, 15, 2011
12/15/11
5:58
PM ET


The only players fantasy owners are wondering about heading into the Thursday night game are Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Michael Turner. Jones, who has strained both hamstrings this season, put on a nice display Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Limited practice for Jones on a short week did not likely come as a surprise to most, but seeing the word "back" next to his name on the injury report may have. While the Falcons have not said much about Jones with regards to this back ailment, it's not uncommon to have low back and hamstring issues simultaneously. The large sciatic nerve in the back of the thigh is formed from nerve roots in the lumbar (low back) region (which is why herniated disks in the back often result in leg pain when the sciatic nerve is affected). That is not to suggest by any stretch that is the case here, only that it is not unusual to have overlapping back and hamstring conditions. There is no reason to expect any limitations with Jones, but until he survives the remainder of the season incident-free, it's only natural to be a little nervous. Meanwhile Turner has also been on the injury report for several weeks because of his groin but has managed to play nonetheless. He is expected to do so again Thursday night.

Quick Hits

Not Practicing Thursday

Ben Roethlisberger
Jason Bridge/US PresswireIt appears fantasy owners may have to wait until Monday night to figure out whether to use Ben Roethlisberger in their lineups.
Here is a list of players who are worth monitoring based on the fact that they are not practicing as of Thursday afternoon:

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Roethlisberger's high ankle sprain sustained a week ago is no secret, but his status for Monday night remains murky. Roethlisberger is in a walking boot and may not practice at all before Monday's game. If anyone has defied all medical logic when it comes to returning from injury, it's Roethlisberger, but this one could prove to be a huge challenge. Roethlisberger need only look at Sam Bradford's struggles over a month removed from a similar injury. (Bradford now says he feels like he's "going backwards") Bradford had difficulty stepping into his throws and was clearly hampered with his mobility in Monday night's game. If Roethlisberger is similarly limited, is it worth playing him and risking a setback besides? That will be the question the Steelers will be considering as Monday approaches. This could come down to a game-time decision.

Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans: Despite the fact the Texans are referring to Johnson as day-to-day with his latest hamstring injury, all the signals out of Texas suggest he will not return to action this week. Johnson has resumed some running but is not practicing with the team. After he sustained his second hamstring injury of the season (and with the Texans having earned a playoff berth), the team is bound to exercise caution.



[+] EnlargeGiants' Ahmad Bradshaw
Jim O'Connor/US PRESSWIREAhmad Bradshaw is still slowed down a bit but still looks like he will play this weekend.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants: Last week Bradshaw did not practice Wednesday or Thursday but still suited up for Sunday. Of course, fantasy owners weren't expecting him to be benched for the first half of the game for violating team rules, but one has to imagine that won't happen twice in a row. Bradshaw should return to some form of practice Friday and play on Sunday against the Washington Redskins.



Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders: We summed up the latest discourse regarding <a href="http://espn.go.com/fantasy/blog/_/name/bell_stephania/id/7350107/demarco-murray-greg-jennings-likely-done-year-ben-roethlisberger-darren-mcfadden-iffy-return"McFadden's midfoot injury Tuesday and nothing has really changed. He is not practicing and there is no timetable on his return. It's worth noting that Taiwan Jones also remains out with a hamstring injury. The Raiders have to be crossing their fingers on Michael Bush staying healthy.

Jacoby Ford, WR, Oakland Raiders: Like his running back brethren, Ford has not yet returned to practice as he recovers from a foot injury.

James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers: Starks attempted to work out Tuesday but according to the Green Bay Post-Gazette, his ankle did not respond well. Starks did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and is not looking likely to play Sunday. Brandon Saine remains out of practice as well following a concussion sustained in Week 14. Ryan Grant is likely to get the bulk of the work.



Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints: Ingram's turf toe kept him out of last week's game and he did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. At this point, it appears Chris Ivory will make another appearance for the Saints alongside Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles.

Nate Washington, WR, Tennessee Titans: Washington was clearly in pain near the end of Sunday's game but he fought through it to deliver some nice playoff points for fantasy owners. Washington had been dealing with a sprained ankle, which kept him out of practice the entire week. According to the Titans' website, Washington had back spasms to go along with his balky ankle. It shouldn't come as any surprise then that Washington has not yet practiced to allow him some recovery time. Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean reported Washington is expected to return to practice Friday. If Washington does play, it looks as if he might have Matt Hasselbeck to throw him the ball. Hasselbeck, who left last Sunday's game early after feeling a "pop" in his calf, returned to limited practice Thursday and the team is encouraged.

Practicing Thursday:

Here is a list of several key fantasy players who were back in the mix by Thursday.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Peterson
AP Photo/Andy KingAdrian Peterson has missed three games so far with an ankle injury but may finally return in time for the fantasy playoffs.
Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings: Peterson seems to have turned a corner with regards to his ankle health. He has been in practice both Wednesday and Thursday and, according to Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave noted Peterson was cutting better, even answering in the affirmative when asked if he was confident Peterson would play. Last week, Peterson had initiated running but still exhibited a limp and struggled with cutting maneuvers. The Vikings wisely gave him an additional week off (he has now missed three games) and it appears the time has helped. Barring a setback, Peterson looks to be making his return in Week 15.

Michael Vick, QB, and Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: Vick returned to action in Week 14, but his ribs are still sore. Since he is still on the mend, the Eagles did not have him practice Wednesday, but he returned to a full workout Thursday. The good news is the Eagles expect him to start; the not-so-good news is that the Eagles face the New York Jets this weekend. The Jets will have to account for Jeremy Maclin at the receiver position, as he is also expected to play despite not being able to finish last week's game. Maclin, who had missed the previous three games with both a hamstring strain and a shoulder separation, had only one catch in the game and was clearly at less than full strength. Maclin had a limited practice Wednesday followed by a full practice Thursday. As long as there are no setbacks between now and Sunday, Maclin will play. The big question for fantasy owners is whether he can deliver a full 60 minutes or whether the hamstring will act up again.

Kevin Smith, RB, Detroit Lions: Smith made an early exit from the Week 13 game after aggravating his high ankle sprain and was not able to make it back for last Sunday's contest. This week, Smith has taken an encouraging step in returning to practice Thursday, albeit on a limited basis. If all continues well, the Lions plan to have him on Sunday. It will be interesting to see how the workload shapes up since Smith will still not likely be at full health.

Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints: Graham fought through back spasms last Sunday but still managed to be productive. More importantly, Graham returned to full practice Wednesday and has all but assured his fantasy owners that he will be back in Week 15.

See you at the injury chat Friday at 11 a.m. and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 15 in the Saturday morning blog!

Big Ben iffy; Murray, Jennings done

December, 13, 2011
12/13/11
6:18
PM ET


Week 14 wasted no time making its injury impact felt. Both quarterbacks suffered injuries Thursday yet both continued to play. The returns of Ben Roethlisberger and Colt McCoy have been the topic of much discussion in recent days, for different reasons.

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarBen Roethlisberger somehow toughed out a high ankle sprain to beat the Browns last week.
Roethlisberger suffered a high ankle sprain, an injury that typically sidelines players for multiple weeks, yet he managed to return to complete the game once it was determined no fracture was present. The adrenaline might have helped him get through Thursday night, but what about the Pittsburgh Steelers' next contest, a Monday night matchup against the San Francisco 49ers? Given Roethlisberger's history of beating the odds and managing to suit up even in the presence of significant injury, it's impossible to rule him out. Still, it's difficult to imagine him being able to perform effectively, given the nature of what's ailing him. Sam Bradford also suffered a left high ankle sprain, and was sidelined for two games because of his inability to step into throws and move out of the pocket. After Bradford returned, he suffered a setback that again resulted in missed time, and even though he played Monday night, it's clear he is not fully recovered.

Cleveland Browns quarterback McCoy took a shot to the head from Steelers linebacker James Harrison, which left him momentarily flat on his back. Harrison has since been suspended for one game by the NFL, and the circumstances surrounding McCoy's return to the game (he missed just a few plays following the hit) have become the subject of an investigation. The Browns maintain McCoy was evaluated on the sideline before being allowed to return and that his concussion-like symptoms appeared later (McCoy has since been diagnosed with a concussion). Members of both the NFLPA and the NFL are expected to meet with members of the Browns' medical staff this week to clarify exactly what happened following the hit and how decisions about return to play were made. In an email response to The Associated Press, league spokesman Greg Aiello said the purpose of the meeting "is to examine procedures and identify areas for further discussion with other medical experts, Commissioner Goodell and the union."

Perhaps the most notable aspect of this incident so far is that we are seeing the first suspension of a player based on a hit to the head (a punishment directed in part by this particular player's history of similar hits) and an investigation into the circumstances surrounding an in-game medical decision. A couple of years ago, this incident likely would have been just another play in the game. While there still is a long way to go in terms of understanding how to best manage and protect against these injuries, the fact that they are gaining attention and being discussed is, in itself, a sign of progress.

After Thursday night ...

[+] EnlargeDeMarco Murray
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezDeMarco Murray, who became the Cowboys' go-to back in midseason, is now done for the year after fracturing his ankle.
... The injuries continued to mount. Particularly brutal was the injury suffered by Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, whose legs got trapped awkwardly underneath him as he was tackled. The right leg got the worst of it, as Murray suffered a fractured ankle and a high ankle sprain. As reported by ESPN Dallas, Murray will need surgery, confirming the obvious conclusion that his season is over. It's hard not to feel for Murray, who had provided a spark in the running game after Felix Jones was sidelined with his own high ankle sprain in October. Murray tweeted that he'll be back "a better football player," but we will have to wait until 2012 to see proof of that. With Murray out, Jones now resumes the starting role in Dallas. The Cowboys also signed Sammy Morris on Tuesday as insurance.



• The Green Bay Packers also lost one of their key offensive weapons for what it appears will be the remainder of the regular season. Greg Jennings sustained a sprained medial collateral ligament, and his obvious pain had everyone concerned. Following an MRI on Monday, the team projected his absence at two to three weeks (the standard timetable for MCL sprains ranges from two to six weeks), suggesting a mild to moderate sprain. Coach Mike McCarthy seemed to intimate at his news conference Monday that Jennings would not return for the regular season. "I would think it would be safe to say he'd be back for the playoffs," McCarthy said. Meanwhile, running back James Starks missed Week 14 because of his knee and ankle injuries, but he might return this week if he can return to practice. Rookie Brandon Saine saw some playing time in Starks' absence but left the game early with a concussion. Saine will have to receive medical clearance in order to return.



Quick Hits


• The Minnesota Vikings are sounding as if they expect to have Adrian Peterson on the field in Week 15, but we'd like to see him run without a limp before penciling him into the lineup. Peterson made further progress last week, doing some individual drills. Still, Peterson rated himself at only 80 percent, although he was willing to try to "gallop" if necessary. It was a good move to rest him this past week, and that rest might well be what allows him to go in Week 15. Stay tuned.

• The Philadelphia Eagles saw the returns of Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin in Week 14. While Vick managed to get through the entire game (even though he could be seen lying on a treatment table getting worked on at one point while the defense was on the field), Maclin did not fare so well. His hamstring tightened up on him, according to coach Andy Reid, and Riley Cooper took Maclin's place for much of the second half. Until Maclin shows he has recovered enough to get through a full game without incident, it's going to be hard to have confidence.

Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck suffered a calf injury Sunday, and it was not known immediately how severe the injury was. Jake Locker took over for the remainder of the game (with the exception of a single play in the fourth quarter that Hasselbeck handled), and Hasselbeck is now being called day-to-day. Calf strains are typically slow to heal, even when minor, and will limit a quarterback's ability to push off as well as his all-around mobility. It will be no surprise if Locker gets the start this week.

New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham showed some toughness playing through major back spasms Sunday. Fantasy owners knew something wasn't right when Graham left the pregame warmups early and headed into the locker room. He came out to join his team for the game and managed to garner 55 yards. Graham, during an appearance "Rome is Burning" on Tuesday, called the spasms "crippling" but said it would take more than spasms to keep him out of a game. He also noted he had undergone an MRI and everything was "fine." He sure sounds like someone who is planning on being out there again in Week 15.

[+] EnlargeDarren McFadden
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesDarren McFadden has not played since Week 7.
• From last Tuesday: 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 via Twitter that Raiders coach Hue 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.

This Tuesday: Things still don't look good. The poor outlook noted at the start of last week has become grimmer as another week has passed with no obvious signs of progress from McFadden. If anything, there is less clarity about McFadden's injury than ever. On Sunday, CBS analyst Phil Simms commented that McFadden was dealing with a Lisfranc injury. Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times best captures the semantics issue around the term "Lisfranc" and coach Hue Jackson's response as it relates to McFadden in his Monday post on the topic.



In an attempt to interpret the cause of the confusion, it should be noted that the term Lisfranc is an anatomical description of a region of the foot, specifically a complex joint comprising the bones and ligaments that connect the midfoot to the forefoot. An injury in this area could technically be called a midfoot sprain or a Lisfranc injury, and both would be correct. Injuries range from minor ligament tearing involving a single joint to multijoint severe injuries including fracture and dislocation. The latter type require surgery to fix; the former do not.



As Lisfranc injuries have become more common in the NFL and have led to season-ending surgeries for some (Ronnie Brown, Dwight Freeney and most recently Matt Schaub), when the term is used, the implication is that the athlete has suffered the most severe, season-ending variety. That degree of injury does not always result. Since the Raiders insist McFadden does not need surgery, it would appear that his injury is of the less severe type and that, perhaps, is why the term "Lisfranc" was avoided. For any injury to the midfoot, it is important that full healing occur in order to restore normal gait and prevent future problems, which can render the recovery process slow. In McFadden's case, his recovery appears to be taking longer than the Raiders initially projected it would, adding to the frustration of all looking from the outside in. At this point, despite Jackson's statement that he expects McFadden to return, it's hard to imagine a full-strength McFadden resurfacing within the next three weeks.



It's the last week of the NFL regular season and for many fantasy players, this is the grand finale. Week 17 always presents unique challenges as many NFL teams with secure playoff bids opt to rest key players, leaving fantasy owners scrambling to set their final rosters. This year there are some NFL teams whose playoff hopes are still barely alive or who could (or should) be playing for pride, but injuries may still force their starters to rest. And in what could be the worst scenario for fantasy owners, some teams are considering starting their main players to keep them in the rhythm of game preparation and competition, but how much playing time they get is anyone's guess.

[+] EnlargeMichael Vick
Hunter Martin/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty ImagesMichael Vick suffered a thigh contusion early on against the Vikings, and the Eagles' loss Tuesday night does help make the decision to sit him easier.
So what is a fantasy owner to do? For starters, give thanks to those teams who have already announced key players as out. Sources tell the Philadelphia Inquirer the Philadelphia Eagles have, rather unsurprisingly, ruled out quarterback Michael Vick. His thigh contusion had him limping throughout Tuesday night's game and there is no reason to further risk his health. Kevin Kolb is expected to get the start after working with the first team Thursday.

The Florida Times-Union reports Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard has undergone surgery to repair a torn ligament in the middle finger of his right (throwing) hand and faces a two-month recovery. Trent Edwards is poised to start in his absence. ... The Cincinnati Bengals announced via Twitter that wide receiver Chad Ochocinco will not make the trip to Baltimore because of his ankle. And, as a reminder, San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates should not be on anyone's fantasy roster (if you were hoping for a miracle) as the team has placed him on injured reserve. At least savvy fantasy owners can get a jump on picking up unclaimed backups or other more appealing free-agent alternates for these players.



While the Week 17 fates have already been decided for some, there are many others still on the fence. Here's who else you might be concerned about heading into Sunday's games:

Quarterbacks

[+] EnlargeMark Sanchez
Mike DiNovo/US PresswireSaMark Sanchez is likely to start Week 17, but it's very possible he won't finish.
Mark Sanchez, New York Jets: Initially, it sounded as if Sanchez would be out for Week 17, but then coach Rex Ryan seemed to hint at his starting quarterback playing. Now it just sounds like a situation to avoid altogether. Sanchez's shoulder was sore heading into Week 16 and while it does not appear to be impacting him severely, the Jets might be concerned about him suffering a setback, which would be undesirable heading into the playoffs. That said, the New York Post reported Tuesday that Ryan was considering starting Sanchez "because he's hot right now." Ryan added, "We can't afford for him to take a dip. We need him to stay at this level." The Jets are trying to balance protecting Sanchez with keeping him in a rhythm, all of which points to a scenario where Sanchez starts but doesn't finish. The problem is there is no way of telling just how much playing time Sanchez will see. This is a situation for fantasy owners to avoid.

Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks: On Tuesday, we outlined the injury concern for Hasselbeck and the team's plans to proceed as if Charlie Whitehurst will be under center. Hasselbeck clearly wants to play in Sunday night's game, and although he was not able to practice Wednesday or Thursday, he is rehabbing diligently with Sunday's goal in mind. As Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times reports, coach Pete Carroll thinks it's unlikely Hasselbeck will play but acknowledges the door is still open. "I'm totally convinced that he's waging a battle that's against the odds," said Carroll. "He's going to make a miracle comeback if he can." This could come down to a game-time decision.

Jon Kitna, Dallas Cowboys: According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Kitna, who is dealing with a left abdominal oblique injury, says that all movement feels "like you have a knife in your side." As he sat out practice Wednesday, Kitna still held out hope for a Sunday return, but the pain he is experiencing certainly casts doubt on whether he will be able to throw the ball effectively. If Kitna does not play, Stephen McGee will get his first career start.

Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings: Most fantasy owners would not rely on Favre to help them win their championship Sunday even if he does suit up. But they might consider Joe Webb, thus making Favre's injury status relevant. Favre has yet to pass required post-concussion tests, making it unlikely he'll play Sunday. Even beyond passing those tests, Favre would need to return to a graded exercise progression to be sure his symptoms did not recur with physical exertion. The window for Favre to be able to play is closing simply because of the narrow time factor. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that Favre could repeat the tests Thursday or Friday and coach Leslie Frazier has not ruled him out for Sunday's game. Stay tuned, folks. By now everyone should know things can come down to the wire in Minnesota.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills: The Bills quarterback has missed two days of practice because of his knee and it's starting to raise concern about his availability for Sunday. Fitzpatrick has been sore for quite some time but the back-to-back missed practices are more troublesome. Brian Brohm has been practicing with the first team in his absence. Friday should be telling in forecasting who will start for the Bills.

Running Backs

[+] EnlargeMaurice Jones-Drew
Scott A. Miller/US PresswireIt's very possible Maurice Jones-Drew will miss two of the most critical weeks of the fantasy season.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars: Jones-Drew did not play in Week 16 because of persistent swelling in his knee, and it looks as if he may be sidelined again Sunday. Jones-Drew did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. Rashad Jennings would start in his place against the Houston Texans.

Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns: Hillis did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, allowing his sore ribs some rest after taking a shot in the back Sunday. It sounds as if the Browns plan to have Hillis available to play against the Pittsburgh Steelers and their best chance for that is to rest him during the week.



Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders: Listed on the official NFL injury report with a "toe" ailment, McFadden's status for Sunday is unclear. He did not practice Wednesday and the Oakland Tribune listed "ankle" next to his name as the reason. (On Tuesday, we noted there were conflicting reports about the nature of McFadden's injury.) The Tribune notes that McFadden participated in the morning walkthrough Thursday, suggesting he would practice, but his activity level remains to be seen. According to Vittorio Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, coach Tom Cable says McFadden could be a game-time decision.

Knowshon Moreno, Denver Broncos: Moreno managed to see some playing time in Week 16 but left the game early after aggravating his rib injury. Moreno did not practice Wednesday but was expected to practice Thursday in an effort to gear up for Week 17. After Correll Buckhalter's Week 16 effort, however, Sunday could turn into a time-share situation, especially if Moreno is less than 100 percent.

Chris Ivory and Reggie Bush, New Orleans Saints: Ivory has been on the road to recovery from a hamstring injury for the past two weeks but has not been quite ready to play. Week 17 could be different as Ivory returned to full practice Thursday. Bush was listed on this week's injury report with a "chest" injury (SC joint per NFL Network) but practiced fully Thursday and does not appear in danger of missing Sunday's game.

Wide Receivers

Andre Johnson, Houston Texans: Coach Gary Kubiak announced early in the week that Johnson would not practice (he has not) and that Johnson would indicate whether he is able to play (he has not ... yet). Fantasy owners will likely be waiting until the bitter end to find out whether Johnson can indeed play against the Jaguars. As of now, there is no real hint which way the cards will fall, but Johnson is a competitor who will not give up simply because the Texans are out of the playoff race. Expect him to play if he feels he can contribute, but have a backup plan in place.

[+] EnlargeHakeem Nicks
Jim O'Connor/US PresswireHakeem Nicks, who could miss Week 17 with a broken toe, is seventh in scoring among fantasy wide receivers despite missing two games with a leg injury.
Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants: He has a broken toe, putting his Sunday status into question. The Newark Star-Ledger reports Nicks broke the big toe in his left foot in Sunday's game. When asked by reporters Wednesday if Nicks could play this weekend, coach Tom Coughlin's response was blunt and discouraging: "I doubt it." Fantasy owners who have benefited from Nicks' contributions week in and week out should attempt to find a replacement in a hurry.



Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints: In what likely comes as a surprise to many, Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports Colston underwent an arthroscopic surgical procedure on his knee Tuesday, according to coach Sean Payton. Duncan says the Saints are listing Colston as questionable, but fantasy owners should plan on him being absent for Sunday's game, just five days after surgery.



DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles: Jackson did not practice Thursday because of his sore foot and it is looking as if he may not play this weekend. This could be another blow to those who might have been counting on some big points from this big playmaker. While the Eagles have not yet ruled Jackson out, fantasy owners would be wise to plan for a substitution.

Sidney Rice, Minnesota Vikings: It's not a setback with the hip but a concussion he suffered in Tuesday night's game that has Rice on the injury report. He did not practice Thursday and with the short week has less recovery time than normal. Rice has not yet been ruled out for Week 17 but fantasy owners should prepare for that possibility.

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions: Although Johnson has not practiced this week because of a sprained ankle, he is still holding out hope he can play Sunday. Johnson told the Detroit Free Press he is "just taking it day by day," undergoing treatment and trying to ready himself for the game against the Vikings. On Tuesday, we noted that Lions coach Jim Schwartz had said Johnson could miss practice and still play. It would be nice to see Johnson on the field by Friday, however, as reassurance.



Malcom Floyd, San Diego Chargers: It looked to be all but certain that Floyd would miss Week 17 with his still ailing hamstring injury, now his second of the season. But Floyd showed up in practice Wednesday, albeit on a limited basis, enough to suggest he could be available for the Chargers' finale. Wait to see if Floyd can get through an entire week of practice without a setback before getting comfortable with him in your lineup.

Tight Ends

Todd Heap, Baltimore Ravens: He returned to full practice Wednesday and Thursday, just in time to encourage fantasy owners for Week 17. It looks as if Heap is on track to play Sunday barring a setback.

Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots: Hernandez has been a limited participant in practice this week because of a hip injury. After missing Week 16, fantasy owners should be advised that despite returning to practice, Hernandez could still be held out of the game.

Jeremy Shockey, New Orleans Saints: Shockey missed practice Thursday because of a groin injury. Jimmy Graham has clearly developed a rapport with quarterback Drew Brees and may be the better fantasy start, even if Shockey plays.

Have a Happy New Year and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 17 in the Saturday morning blog!



For those still playing for titles in their fantasy football leagues, this is the final countdown, the last hurrah, the one for all the marbles. This is also the only week of the season when all games will be played on Sunday. Of course, that doesn't count Tuesday night's game between the Philadelphia Eagl
es
and the Minnesota Vikings, which really is a remnant of Week 16. It also presumes that no games will be postponed because of weather-related issues. Assuming all games tip off as scheduled, half those contests will be late games, making fantasy roster decisions that much more challenging. Between some teams potentially sitting their stars in advance of the playoffs and others not risking further player injury when there will be no postseason, havoc could be wreaked on many fantasy football lineups.

Although personnel decisions may not be made until late in the week, some injury situations are already on the radar. If one of the players below is on your fantasy team, there is reason to be at least a little concerned. Start plotting your insurance strategy and keep in mind that waivers will be processed one day later than usual because of the Tuesday night game.

[+] EnlargeMike Tolbert
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesMike Tolbert was carried off the field on a stretcher on Sunday, but his injury was not serious.
• The theme for the San Diego Chargers this season has been injuries. Although they did their best to plug the injury holes by rotating personnel, it simply was too much to overcome. Now eliminated from the playoffs and just looking to wrap up the season without further damage, the Chargers likely will be without several of their ailing players. Running back Mike Tolbert suffered a scary hit in Week 16 that left him facedown on the turf for a brief period. Tolbert was taken off on a stretcher but was fortunate to come away with an injury that was less serious than it initially appeared. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Tolbert has a neck sprain and a shoulder bruise and already has been ruled out of the Week 17 game. Ryan Mathews, who picked up the load when Tolbert went down, is expected to get the start.

As far as pass-catchers for the Chargers, tight end Antonio Gates and wide receivers Malcom Floyd and Patrick Crayton are expected to miss Week 17. Gates has been nursing a painful foot, the result of a torn plantar fascia, for weeks and can now truly focus on his recovery. Floyd, who has injured both hamstrings this season, is not likely to be completely healthy by Sunday, and there is no reason to risk a more serious setback. Crayton has been out since Week 11 after wrist surgery. There had been some thought he might return for the final week of the season, but it appears he will remain out. It looks as though Vincent Jackson and Legedu Naanee will be the starting wide receivers with Randy McMichael handling tight end duties.

• The Seattle Seahawks are preparing as though Charlie Whitehurst will start at quarterback. At least that's what head coach Pete Carroll told the team's website. With Matt Hasselbeck potentially sidelined because of a left hip injury, Carroll wants to eliminate any uncertainty. As Carroll pointed out, "We're going with Charlie because we know he's ready to go and he'll be able to have a great week, practice every snap and go full speed and all that."

As far as what's ailing Hasselbeck, it's a bit of a mystery. After Sunday's game Hasselbeck denied that his back was at fault, telling reporters, "It's embarrassing, but it's more my butt." It's worth noting that low-back and hip issues often go hand in hand. Even a history of disc problems in the low back can be associated with subtle hip muscle weakness and pain. There is also the very real possibility of a completely independent injury to the hip itself. Inflammation around the joint can severely affect the function of the muscles that support the hip, making mobility and power difficult to achieve.



According to the Seahawks' website, the onset of injury occurred when Hasselbeck took a helmet hit to his hip in Week 3. He then aggravated the injury in Week 10 when trying to move quickly on a play-action play to his left, and his hip has been somewhat problematic since. Carroll says the issue for his starting quarterback is with certain types of motions. "He's not in a lot of discomfort, but when he has to turn and move and stride and all that kind of stuff, that's where it enters in," Carroll said. Carroll also said that Hasselbeck believes he'll be ready to play Sunday night in what will decide the NFC West. Fantasy owners would be advised to see what progress Hasselbeck is able to make during the week before setting their lineups in stone.

• The Dallas Cowboys saw yet another quarterback leave a game with an injury. The Cowboys lost Tony Romo to a broken collarbone in Week 7, and he was ultimately placed on injured reserve. Jon Kitna, who has been filling in since Romo went down, left the Week 16 game with what appeared at the time to be an injury to his hip. As Calvin Watkins of ESPN Dallas reports, however, the team is calling it a left oblique muscle injury. Kitna pretty well summed up the problem with this type of injury for a thrower, saying, "I can't do any athletic movements and things you got to do at quarterback. Anything that requires any torque." Coach Jason Garrett told reporters the door is still open for Kitna to start if he improves enough through the week. If he is unable to go, Stephen McGee will start.

Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno played in Week 16 despite his sore ribs, but he didn't last, as he left the game early after aggravating the injury. Lindsay Jones of The Denver Post tweeted that coach Eric Studesville said Moreno could have returned to play, but "Buck [Correll Buckhalter] was rolling." It sounds as though the setback was not enough to keep Moreno out of this week's game.

[+] EnlargeDarren McFadden
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesDarren McFadden was limited to just 45 rushing yards against the Colts on Sunday partly because of his injury.
Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden injured himself during the third quarter of the Week 16 game. According to the Contra Costa Times, McFadden said he rolled his ankle, while coach Tom Cable called it a turf toe injury. Given McFadden's history of turf toe, that particular diagnosis might be more concerning. There was no hint in the report at McFadden's status for Week 17 being in jeopardy, but this will be a situation to monitor in practice.



Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson did not play in Week 16 because of the increased pain in his ankle. Coach Gary Kubiak already has indicated that Johnson will let him know if he is able to go this week. According to Nick Scurfield of HoustonTexans.com, Kubiak said Johnson will not practice this week, but if he says he can play this weekend, he will. This situation could be heading toward another game-time decision.

Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson has an ankle issue that was giving him trouble in Week 16, causing him to leave the game in the fourth quarter. However, it's unclear whether it will be enough to keep him out Sunday. Head coach Jim Schwartz told the Detroit News that Johnson could sit out practice this week and play Sunday. If Johnson does play, quarterback Shaun Hill likely will be the one to throw to him, but that has not been confirmed.

• The New York Jets have to decide whether to rest quarterback Mark Sanchez or play him in Week 17. Sanchez and his sore throwing shoulder were the subject of much discussion heading into last week's contest, but he did not appear hindered by the injury at all. The decision may be more about keeping Sanchez in a routine heading into the playoffs as anything else. Stay tuned.

Indianapolis Colts running back Joseph Addai saw a decent amount of work in his first game back in more than two months. More importantly, he emerged apparently no worse for the wear and should appear again in Week 17, although his number of carries may not change drastically.

• As for two running backs who sat out Week 16 -- the Jacksonville Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew and the New Orleans Saints' Chris Ivory -- it is too soon to predict whether either will be available in Week 17. Jones-Drew had swelling in his knee, and Ivory was still working his way back from a hamstring injury. Practice reports this week should yield further clues as Sunday approaches.

We will continue to update these injuries and others as the week progresses. Check back on Thursday and Saturday for the latest injury updates affecting Week 17.



Week 11 kicks off with another Thursday night game, and the effect of injury is obvious in the Miami Dolphins' starting lineup. This past Sunday, the Dolphins lost quarterback Chad Pennington, who started ahead of a benched Chad Henne, in the first offensive series to another season-ending shoulder injury. Henne then stepped into the game only to leave with a knee injury that had him on crutches afterward. While the Dolphins have left the door open for Henne to return, it doesn't appear that will be anytime soon ... and it certainly won't be tonight. Tyler Thigpen will be the starting quarterback as the Dolphins host the Chicago Bears.

Meanwhile, there also is some question as to who will be protecting Thigpen's blind side. Offensive tackle Jake Long injured his shoulder in Week 10, reportedly dislocating it and suffering significant tissue damage, including a torn labrum (the ring of cartilage that adds stability to the shoulder joint), in the process. Not only is this a painful injury, but it means Long's shoulder will be significantly less stable, and that instability will make it difficult to block effectively. An unstable shoulder will feel like it slips out of place, especially when weight is forced through the arm. Long is expected to try wearing a shoulder harness for support, which offers some stability but also, out of necessity, limits motion, making it tough for Long to use his arm as he normally would. He is listed as questionable, so it will come down to game time to see whether Long can function well enough to play.

This week marks the first non-bye week since Week 3, so theoretically there are more players available for last-minute fantasy pickups. Unfortunately, at this point in the season, there also are far more injuries of significance, so the pickings might be a little slimmer.



Here's who you might be concerned about heading toward the Week 11 showdowns:

Austin Collie
Geoff Burke/US PresswireAustin Collie's return to the lineup would help Peyton Manning's numbers.
Joseph Addai, RB; Mike Hart, RB; Austin Collie, WR; Jacob Tamme, TE, Indianapolis Colts: The exciting news here is that Collie is back in the conversation. Regardless of his status for this Sunday, hearing he was back at the Colts' practice facility this week is good news indeed, especially after seeing him unconscious on the field in Week 9, then removed on a spine board and stretcher. At this time last week, Collie already had been ruled out. This week, Collie was able to put in some limited work Wednesday and he issued a statement expressing his thanks for all the well wishes following his injury. Collie, who practiced fully again Thursday, said, "Every day I feel like I am improving. And it was great to get back on the field in some capacity Wednesday." He also thanked the entire medical staff for its efforts. It still is one day at a time for Collie, but it appears possible he could return this Sunday.

Addai was said to be feeling better last week but was not in Wednesday practice. However, he did return to limited practice Thursday. Addai suffered a neck injury several weeks ago, which he described as leaving his arm feeling "dead," suggesting nerve involvement. Nerve tissue generally is slow to heal, as clearly has been the case for Addai. Hart, who injured his ankle in Week 9, has been essentially invisible since then and was still not at practice Wednesday. It appears Donald Brown could be in line for another start at running back this week.

Tamme, who was dealing with a back injury last week and reportedly was in major discomfort after Week 10, was not only a full participant in practice Wednesday, but he was not on the team's injury report. If he holds up well through the remainder of the week, he should be on the field Sunday when the Colts face the New England Patriots.

Reggie Bush, RB; Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans Saints: Bush is expected to return at long last after missing all but the first two games of the season due to a broken fibula (the long skinny bone on the outer aspect of the lower leg). Fractures typically take about six weeks to heal, but regaining football shape, especially for an explosive, directional runner such as Bush, takes much longer, as he and his fantasy owners found out. The bye in Week 10 allowed Bush the extra time to build toward returning to practice in advance of this Sunday's game.



Thomas is not yet practicing with the team. The Saints continue to hold out hope he will recover enough from his ankle injury to contribute late in the season. Along those lines, coach Sean Payton issued the first positive words with regard to Thomas' recovery on Thursday, telling the New Orleans Times-Picayune, "I think we've turned a corner." Although Thomas is not doing team practice, he is working out on the field in pads, meaning he is putting his ankle through some of the necessary paces, just in the absence of traffic where it would be easier to aggravate it. While it doesn't appear that Thomas will bridge the gap to being ready for this week, it's starting to sound like he could be a late-season contributor for the Saints and for needy fantasy owners.



Ryan Mathews, RB; Malcom Floyd, WR; Legedu Naanee, WR; Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers: We start with the good news in San Diego that Floyd's return is imminent. Floyd, who suffered a hamstring injury a few weeks ago, has been back at practice and has been running full speed since last week. Assuming there are no setbacks, Floyd is expected to play Sunday.

And then there is the not so good news. Rookie running back Mathews suffered a setback to his right ankle in Week 10, and it appears he might be forced to take some time off. Not a bad idea, given that Mathews has struggled intermittently since the initial injury to get his ankle back to full strength. Meanwhile, Naanee had not improved enough from his hamstring injury to rejoin his teammates in practice, although he did do some individual drills, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Gates, who recently assessed his chances of playing Monday night at 50-50, did not practice with the team Wednesday, not altogether surprising given his injury, a torn plantar fascia in his right foot. He has made some progress, though, as he has begun light running, a big step considering how much load that places on his injured arch. Gates admits being frustrated by this injury, which has sidelined him for the first time in his professional career, but he might not have much choice other than to wait for more healing.

Matt Schaub
Brett Davis/US PresswireMatt Schaub has three 20-point fantasy games this season but also five games with fewer than 10 points.
Matt Schaub, QB; Andre Johnson, WR; Owen Daniels, TE, Houston Texans: Schaub spent some time in the hospital this week, which undoubtedly caused some alarm among fantasy owners. Not to panic yet; it might not be as dire as you think. Schaub was being treated in the hospital for a "bursa sac issue" in his knee, according to coach Gary Kubiak. An inflamed bursa sac is known as bursitis, but one usually lands in the hospital when there is an infection. The idea is to treat the individual with IV antibiotics in the hope that the infection will resolve and no surgery will be required. (You might recall when Peyton Manning underwent surgery to address a bursa sac infection a couple of years ago.) Presumably Schaub was dealing with an early infection. He now has been discharged from the hospital and participated in light practice Thursday. Depending on how he feels and how well his knee is responding, Schaub is expected to be on the field for the Texans this week.

Johnson is expected to continue his routine of resting his sore ankle early in the week and playing Sunday. Daniels, who sat out last week after aggravating his hamstring injury, did not practice Wednesday.

Brett Favre, QB; Percy Harvin, WR; Sidney Rice, WR, Minnesota Vikings: By now, everyone knows Favre's ailments are too numerous to all be included on the Vikings' weekly injury report. By now, everyone also expects Favre to play, regardless of what's ailing him. After the Week 10 contest, Favre told ESPN's Ed Werder that he had concerns about the health of his right (throwing) shoulder and acknowledged having increased pain that might have affected his performance. Within a couple of days and amid some confusion as to whether this was a serious issue, Favre's own level of concern seemed to subside. After all, his is not a pristine shoulder, despite surgery last year to address a partially torn biceps tendon. It's going to be painful and problematic from time to time. No doubt Favre has recently increased the strain on his shoulder, whether as a function of compensating for the elbow pain he's been experiencing, the limitations in his ankle or both, and the pain is a natural secondary effect. The temporary solution will continue to be limited work early in the week with the goal of playing Sundays.



Harvin continues to play through pain and discomfort, even when his practice reps are limited during the week. Harvin put in limited reps Wednesday and is again expected to play this week.

Sidney Rice
AP Photo/Andy KingSidney Rice has to be activated by next Wednesday or he'll miss the rest of the season.
When Rice did not play this past Sunday after his practice activity during the week suggested he might, questions about whether he would play at all this season began to emerge. Rice addressed those questions Wednesday, saying that the sole issue for him is confidence in his surgical hip. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Rice wrote on his blog that the reason he did not play last Sunday was because he was "feeling significant discomfort Friday and Saturday." Rice also referred to undergoing a "very serious" procedure in August, although no one has specified what exactly Rice had done, making his timeline thus far hard to assess.

This reluctance to return before feeling fully healthy is not surprising and is a common issue for athletes coming off major surgery. It's an interesting quandary for an athlete in Rice's situation, and he already has said he does not want to return in a limited capacity. Rice knows what type of statistics he put up last season. He doesn't want to come back and be a lesser player after surgery or risk reinjury. And there's no denying his future is at stake. If Rice comes back a step slow or a bit hesitant because of lack of confidence in his leg or, worse yet, suffers even a minor setback, he potentially hurts the team now and himself down the road.

Even with those considerations, it's hard to imagine Rice not playing at all unless he truly believes he is not fully healthy. But the deadline for him to be activated in order to be eligible to play this season is next Wednesday. Whether he will meet that target is unclear.

DeAngelo Williams, RB; Jonathan Stewart, RB; Jimmy Clausen QB, Carolina Panthers: The Panthers lost Williams to injured reserve this week because of a foot injury. According to coach John Fox, Williams would have needed another couple of weeks to get healthy and the team needed the roster spot. No doubt, since the Panthers have dealt with a multitude of injuries, especially at the running back and quarterback position.

Stewart, who suffered a concussion in Week 9 that kept him out of the Week 10 lineup, has not practiced this week and is unlikely to play. It appears Mike Goodson will make another start. At the quarterback position, Clausen, starting for the injured Matt Moore, suffered a concussion in Week 10 and has not practiced. In what some considered a bit of a surprise move, Fox indicated that Brian St. Pierre, who has just one week of practice with the Panthers, will be the starter this week as opposed to rookie Tony Pike.



Vince Young, QB; Kerry Collins, QB, Tennessee Titans: Collins suffered a calf strain in Week 10 when he started in place of the less-than-100 percent-healthy Young. Collins is expected to miss several weeks, so the question becomes: Will Young be healthy enough to effectively lead the team this Sunday? Apparently, the answer is yes. Young, who has been trying to get past an ankle injury, was not on Wednesday's injury report, so expect him to be the starter in Week 11.



Tom Brady, QB, Fred Taylor, RB, New England Patriots: Brady had a foot sprain that caused him to miss practice one day last week. You knew it had to be bothering him because Brady rarely sits out. But it sure didn't look like it bothered him Sunday when he was tearing apart the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense. Assume that Brady will be at the helm when his team faces the Indianapolis Colts this week.

As for Taylor, he seems to be making gains in his recovery from toe injuries, as he increased his practice activity last week. Keep an eye on him, as he just might be available to help out in the next couple of weeks.

And elsewhere ...

• The Detroit Lions got wide receiver Calvin Johnson back in practice Thursday after a day of rest. Running back Jahvid Best skipped both Wednesday and Thursday practices, a reminder that his turf toe injuries are not completely behind him. Best likely will continue to play but has not shown his early-season form since the toe problems came about.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has been in practice this week despite cracking a bone in his left (non-throwing) wrist. There seems to be little doubt that he will be running the offense Sunday.

Beanie Wells
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireBeanie Wells has just 34 fantasy points this season.
Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells returned to practice this week. Both Wells and coach Ken Whisenhunt said at the start of the week that they expected him to practice every day and play Sunday. But what can fantasy owners count on? Not much, based on the season so far. It isn't to say that Wells can't be productive; it's just that he hasn't been. His knee has been an issue since Week 1, and the resulting missed practice time has contributed to his limited productivity on game days. And there's no guarantee that the recurring swelling is behind him. Wells says he feels the best he has since surgery, which is great news, but will it last? Even if he's on the field, it's hard to have confidence in what Wells will bring until we actually see him deliver it.

Washington Redskins running back Ryan Torain has not practiced since his hamstring tightened up Monday night, preventing him from taking the field despite being active. It certainly does not look good for Sunday. Clinton Portis continues to be limited in practice with the groin injury. All signs are pointing to another Keiland Williams start.

New York Giants wide receiver Steve Smith suffered a pectoral (chest) strain a week ago and missed this past Sunday's contest as a result. Reports have varied on the amount of time he's expected to miss, but he is not practicing yet and should not be in fantasy lineups this week.

Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy did not practice Wednesday due to a shoulder injury. He was back Thursday, however, a good sign for fantasy owners that he expects to play.



• On the concussion front, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward suffered one in Week 10, as did Kansas City Chiefs tight end Tony Moeaki. Ward was cleared to return to practice and participated fully Wednesday. Barring a setback, he should play this week. Moeaki did not practice Wednesday, and his status remains questionable.

Cleveland Browns coach Eric Mangini said early in the week that he was hopeful receiver Josh Cribbs could play Sunday despite dislocating four toes last week. Apparently Mangini has not had four toes dislocate simultaneously. And then tried to run. Fast. It sounded a bit optimistic at the time, and Cribbs has not been in practice this week. It's not looking great for his return as of now.

See you at Friday's injury chat (3-4 p.m. ET), and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 10 in the Saturday morning blog.

Dolphins QBs among Week 10 injuries

November, 16, 2010
11/16/10
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This seems like as good a time as any to remind everyone that medicine is not black and white. Sometimes, even when a player is improving in his recovery from an injury, there can be last-minute setbacks. Exhibit A: Washington Redskins running back Ryan Torain, who was active (yes, active!) Monday night but did not play due to his hamstring tightening up during warm-ups. It was just late enough to burn every fantasy owner who expected him to play. (Remember, he was listed as questionable, and until a questionable player is actually playing, he remains just that.)



Other times, a player does not return within the projected timetable originally issued by medical personnel. Exhibit B: New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush, initially projected to miss four to six weeks with a broken fibula (and you might recall Bush suggesting early on that he could beat that timeline). Bush, who is expected to return this Sunday, will be nine weeks post-injury if he plays in Week 11. While his fracture has healed, the issue has been his readiness to return to competition given the high physical demands of his position.

How do these things happen? Fantasy owners would prefer absolutes, definitive answers and zero risk. Let's tell the truth. The injured players and their teams would prefer that as well. But medicine is an imprecise science. And as much as it would be nice to provide guarantees and certainties when it comes to healing, that simply is not possible, whether it refers to a professional athlete or a weekend warrior. For one thing, individuals heal at different rates. Beyond that, timetables are estimates based on the average healing time associated with a particular injury. Timetables presume no setbacks and no complications, which, as we all know, are more likely to occur than not. And then there are the vagaries of injury classification. A "partial tear" can be 25 percent, 40 percent or 75 percent tissue damage, or anything else not considered a complete tear. The amount of damage likely will correlate to healing time, albeit in an imprecise way (refer to exhibits A and B above).

And so, as we continue in the gray zone of injuries, here's what we're hearing heading into Week 11 ...

Chad Henne
Jonathan Brownfield/US PresswireChad Henne had a busy week, as he was benched, returned to the Dolphins' lineup, then injured his knee.
• To date, the Miami Dolphins' injury reports have been among the leanest in the league. Not so any longer. The Dolphins lost two quarterbacks within the span of minutes this past Sunday, one of whom is done for the season. Chad Pennington injured his oft-operated-on shoulder and was done in the span of two plays. Chad Henne, who had been benched in favor of Pennington, stepped in only to suffer what appeared to be a serious injury to his left knee. Henne was on crutches after the game but has not been ruled out for any particular period of time. While the Dolphins have not offered details as to the nature of Henne's injury, coach Tony Sparano has left the door open for Henne. Needless to say, it does not appear likely he will be in any shape to play in this Thursday night's game. Expect Tyler Thigpen to get the start.

• The Tennessee Titans also have two banged up quarterbacks. Vince Young did not get the start Sunday, as his left ankle was still causing him some problems. Kerry Collins, who started in place of Young, was forced out early with a calf injury, and it now appears that will keep him out for several weeks. Young was thus forced into the game but was not at his best.



Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford consulted with Dr. James Andrews and will not be having surgery, at least not yet. Stafford will resume the rehab process he initiated after his shoulder separation at the start of the season. There is still a possibility surgery will become an option, but the team will try more conservative treatment first, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen. Undertaking surgery on a throwing athlete's shoulder is not a light consideration. Unless there is a clear-cut need for surgery, rehabilitation is often chosen as a first step. There's really no downside here. Any gains in range of motion and strength that Stafford makes will help him on the other side of surgery, if that becomes the plan. While it's not likely we will see him again this season, the Lions are not moving him to injured reserve, either.

San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews injured his right ankle in Week 2 and, despite his efforts to return, has struggled. After he aggravated the ankle injury in Week 10, there appears to be greater doubt about his availability for Week 11. At this point, it seems he would benefit from additional downtime to really allow his ankle to heal and avoid risking further problems. Mike Tolbert was back at Monday's practice and could be starting in Week 11. On the receiver front, Malcom Floyd returned to practice also and was running well. The Chargers expect to have him this Sunday. Not as encouraging news for Legedu Naanee, who did not practice Monday and remains limited by his hamstring. Tight end Antonio Gates did not practice Monday, either, not unexpected given the seriousness of his injury (torn plantar fascia). While Gates has indicated that he will do all he can to return for the Chargers' big Monday night contest, it bears repeating that this injury was exceptionally painful. Even Gates, who has played through significant pain in the past, told us this was unlike anything he'd ever experienced, to the point where he just couldn't function. It's too soon to count him out, but it's not too soon to seek insurance if he's on your team.

Ryan Torain
Dennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireRyan Torain was on the active roster Monday night, but hamstring injuries kept him from playing.
• Running back Ryan Torain of the Washington Redskins was expected to start Monday but didn't. Tightness in his ailing hamstring during pregame warm-ups kept him off the field Monday night. Clearly the injury is not altogether behind him, and fantasy owners should consider that Keiland Williams might get the next Redskins start. Clinton Portis was never really under serious consideration for Monday night after midweek swelling in his injured groin, and he might not be ready for Week 11, either. He will need to get through a week of practice without setbacks and show he is at full speed before being eligible to return.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck came back from a concussion only to sustain a crack in a bone in his left wrist. The Seahawks have expressed optimism that Hasselbeck will be able to play through the injury to his non-throwing wrist, no doubt with some sort of protective wrap. It appears he will avoid missing more time.

• The Indianapolis Colts continue to deal with multiple injuries, many of which are to fantasy stars. Tight end Jacob Tamme had a back injury in Week 10 that caused him to miss Wednesday's practice. After full late-week practices, he was able to start. Despite a solid performance, Tamme struggled at times and, according to the Indianapolis Star, was having trouble walking after the game. Expect him to be limited in practice this week. Running back Joseph Addai sat out again in Week 10 but reportedly is making improvements. It is too early to know much about the status of Addai or teammate Mike Hart, who also missed Week 10 with an ankle injury.



Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward was determined to have a concussion after Sunday night's game. Ward appears to be doing well and has indicated that he expects to play this week. He still needs to be fully cleared to return, but this is encouraging news.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Jimmy Clausen also suffered a concussion on a hit late in the game. As the week unfolds, we'll find out whether Clausen is able to go Sunday. We also should learn more about the running back situation. Both DeAngelo Williams (foot sprain) and Jonathan Stewart (concussion) were out in Week 10.

New York Jets wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery pulled a groin muscle Sunday yet still made an amazing catch while hobbling on one leg. He limped off the field just afterward and underwent an MRI on Monday, revealing a slight tear. This will be a tough injury to recover from in a week.

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Cribbs dislocated four toes Sunday. How does that happen? There are some thing I just can't answer, but I do know this: It could not have felt good. Amazingly, the Browns do hope he will play in Week 11.

• The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that wide receiver Donald Driver missed Monday practice for personal reasons. Coach Mike McCarthy will update Driver's status Wednesday. Tight end Andrew Quarless, meanwhile, says his shoulder feels better after the bye week. He could return this week if all continues well.

We will continue to update these injuries and others as the week progresses with much more to come Thursday.



There's never a dull moment in the world of football injuries and Week 9 proved to be no exception. Several key players were forced out of games early, including a couple of kickers. Their replacements could not have been more different. Detroit Lions rookie defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh filled in on an extra point attempt for the injured Jason Hanson, while the New England Patriots used wide receiver Wes Welker after Stephen Gostkowski got hurt. Welker fared a little better than Suh, but fortunately, neither will be assigned kicking duties this week.



The Patriots have signed kicker Shayne Graham while Gostkowski recovers from a quadriceps strain. Meanwhile, the Lions signed Dave Rayner to fill in for Hanson, who reportedly has an MCL sprain that could force him out for two to three weeks, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.



Who else are we talking about as we look ahead to Week 10? Keep reading to find out.

Roddy White
AP Photo/David GoldmanRoddy White was held to a season-low four catches and 49 yards last week against the Bucs.
Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons: White injured his right knee in the first quarter of Sunday's game and while it did not appear serious, it gave him enough trouble to limit his productivity. According to ESPN NFC South blogger Pat Yasinskas, White left the game twice but ultimately returned to play in the second half after having the knee taped.

Naturally, the big concern for fantasy owners is whether White will be available in Week 10, given that the Falcons play Thursday night. According to Yasinskas, that question was answered when White said simply, "I'm going to be playing Thursday." Head coach Mike Smith has echoed that sentiment, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Regarding White, Smith said, "[He] will be ready to go." White may not practice much given the short week, but the positive news this early is encouraging.

Austin Collie, WR, Indianapolis Colts: In perhaps the scariest moment of Week 9, Collie lay still on the field for several minutes in the second quarter following a hit across the middle while trying to catch a pass. The medical staff tended to Collie for some time, ultimately placing him on a spine board and stretcher and wheeling him off the field. As is the standard in situations in which there is concern about a potential spine injury, all precautions were taken to ensure Collie's safe transport from the field.

We later learned that Collie was alert and sitting up in the locker room. Good news indeed considering the last sight of him was motionless, other than his eyes blinking, on a stretcher. That said, it is important to remember that Collie still suffered a concussion, the seriousness of which should not be overlooked. There have been some positive signs since Sunday night. As Tom James of the Terre Haute Tribune-Star reports, Collie was able to travel home with the team and was improving on Monday. James says Collie is not expected to play this weekend against Cincinnati. Coach Jim Caldwell perhaps summed it up best saying, "He'll be released to play whenever he is cleared." Collie had just made a return from thumb surgery to repair a torn ligament when he suffered the concussion.

James also notes that there were no Monday updates on running backs Joseph Addai and Mike Hart, both of whom sat out Week 9 nursing injuries. Caldwell indicates that both players remain day-to-day.

Matthew Stafford
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesMatthew Stafford had thrown for a season-high 240 yards against the Jets before leaving with another shoulder injury.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions: Not good. Stafford injured his throwing shoulder again. While the Lions have not confirmed the details regarding the nature of his injury, MLive.com reports that Stafford has suffered a Grade III shoulder separation (he had previously suffered a Grade II separation, causing him to miss five games). While coach Jim Schwartz had said Monday that the team "was not talking surgical options" in regard to Stafford, Stafford himself indicated that he did not expect to play this week in his appearance on Mitch Albom's radio show.

It's a good bet Stafford may consult with Dr. James Andrews (who repaired Sam Bradford's Grade III separated shoulder) regarding this latest injury, as he has consulted with him in the past. Without confirmation as to the specifics of the injury, there can be nothing but speculation as to what sort of time Stafford could miss and what treatment he might undergo.

In the absence of anything definitive, fantasy owners at least know to prepare for an absence of Stafford of unknown duration. Shaun Hill has been recovering from a left forearm fracture and it is not known whether he could be available this week. As of now, Drew Stanton is preparing to be the starter, according to Birkett. The Lions and fantasy owners are no doubt hopeful that Hill will be cleared soon to return to play. Stay tuned for more updates in Detroit.

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers: Stewart was the running back set to carry the load in Week 9 with teammate DeAngelo Williams out for a second straight week with a foot sprain. That was not to be, however, as Stewart made an early exit with a concussion. Although Stewart was able to walk off the field with assistance, he was carted to the locker room. Backup Tyrell Sutton was also forced out of the game with an ankle injury.

There is no way to predict whether Stewart will miss time, but the Panthers are no doubt hoping that Williams' recovery is imminent. Williams, who has not practiced since suffering the injury, indicated early last week that he was targeting a Week 10 return, but we need to see him run before feeling too confident. To compound the injury issues facing the Panthers, quarterback Matt Moore suffered a season-ending torn labrum in his right shoulder and has been placed on injured reserve.

Other injury notes heading into Week 9


San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews has struggled with his return to full health following the right ankle injury he suffered in Week 2. Any progress he had made took a step in the wrong direction Sunday, when Mathews aggravated the ankle. The Chargers are fortunate to have a bye this week, giving Mathews and their many other injured players who missed Week 9 (most notably tight end Antonio Gates and wide receivers Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee) extra recuperative time.



Washington Redskins running back Ryan Torain left his last game with a hamstring strain and it was unclear just how serious the injury was. The good news for Torain fantasy owners is that he was running full speed Monday, according to the Washington Post, an encouraging sign early in the week. The Redskins play Monday night, which is both good news and bad news; the good news is that Torain gets an extra day, the bad news is fantasy owners don't like to have Monday night question marks. His activity the rest of the week should give more clues. And while teammate Clinton Portis is reportedly back in some form of practice, he is still having soreness and may not yet be ready to return to competition.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin managed to deliver quite a performance considering he was limping right up until kickoff. At various points throughout the game, Harvin looked uncomfortable, even limping off the field for a rest at one point, but when it was time to turn it on, he did. Given what he was able to do this week, it would seem that his status for next week should not be of major concern.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck returned to practice Monday after sitting out Sunday's game with a concussion. He will still need to pass all tests to be able to return to play and that may not happen until later in the week. But so far, he's on track.

We will continue to update these injuries and others as the week progresses, with much more to come on Thursday.



As many had predicted, Brett Favre started for the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. He didn't finish, but it wasn't his ankle that took him out of the game. Meanwhile, the Tennessee Titans announced last week that wide receiver Kenny Britt would not miss any more playing time for disciplinary reasons. Unfortunately, he likely will miss significant playing time as a result of injury. And the Indianapolis Colts, well, they still found a way to win despite the overwhelming number of injuries to their skill position players that continued Monday night.

With six teams on bye again Sunday, fantasy owners need to get a jump on their waiver-wire competition. Here are some names to keep an eye on after Week 8.

Kenny Britt
AP Photo/Gregory BullAfter going off for 225 yards and three scores in Week 7, Kenny Britt had no catches in Week 8 before leaving with a hamstring injury.
Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee Titans: Britt did not start the Week 7 contest after his alleged involvement in a bar fight but was electrifying for two-and-a-half quarters nonetheless. Fantasy owners were happy to hear that Britt would not miss any more playing time for disciplinary reasons and looked forward to an even more productive Week 8. But it didn't happen. Britt was forced out of the game in the first quarter by a right hamstring injury that looked to be serious when it happened. Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean reported that Britt was seen "grabbing his hamstring" during practice throughout the week. Perhaps it was a sign of something bigger lurking under the surface, but it was not enough to keep Britt from practicing full speed all week leading up to Sunday's game.

Although Titans coach Jeff Fisher has indicated that Britt is expected to miss some time with the injury, he does anticipate his return. According to The Tennessean, Fisher said, If it was a season-ending injury, I would tell you right now it is season-ending. No, it is not." Fisher went on to say that there would be more information after the Titans' Week 9 bye and that until then, the plan would be to treat Britt's injury "very aggressively."

Fantasy owners know from experience that serious hamstring injuries require time, above all else, to heal and should seek a replacement now.

Zach Miller, TE, Oakland Raiders: Miller has been such a fantasy star at the tight end position that his numbers from Sunday -- or lack thereof -- came as a bit of a shock. Miller was limited last week by a foot injury that obviously compromised him during the game. The day after the game, Miller was seen on crutches, clearly a measure to take pressure off his painful arch.

Vittorio Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that coach Tom Cable expects Miller to play against the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend. So what are fantasy owners to expect? It's hard to imagine that a painful arch will be significantly improved within a week, although the early unloading (not putting weight on the arch in order to alleviate stress on the area) may help. It would not be surprising to see Miller held out of practice early in the week. Late-week practices would go a long way toward inspiring confidence that the pain will not severely restrict Miller again in Week 9. Stay tuned.

Ryan Torain, RB, Washington Redskins: Despite his early success while filling in for the injured Clinton Portis, one of the concerns about Torain has been whether he could stay on the field. Not that his talent was ever in question, just his durability, given his history of serious injury. Fantasy owners can now be legitimately nervous, as Torain was forced to exit Sunday's game early with a left hamstring strain.

According to The Washington Post, Torain felt the hamstring pull on the final running play of the second quarter. After the game when Torain was asked whether the injury was serious, he responded with "hard to say." The Post reported that an MRI revealed no structural damage, and head coach Mike Shanahan is hopeful that Torain will be ready for the team's next game after the bye week. In the event he is not able to go, it likely would be Keiland Williams, who stepped in when Torain went out Sunday, to get the Monday night start.



Portis, who suffered a Grade III groin tear in Week 4, "took a couple plays in practice" Tuesday, according to Rich Campbell of the Fredericksburg (Va.) Free Lance-Star. Although his new activity is encouraging, there is still a lot of work to be done before Portis is ready to return. Increased speed and agility work as well as tolerance of full practice will all have to come before he returns to play. The Post notes that Shanahan does not expect Portis in the lineup the week after the bye, although a definitive timetable has not been laid out.

Other injury notes heading into Week 9:


• In addition to losing Britt in Week 8, the Titans saw quarterback Vince Young leave the field early with an aggravation of his previous ankle injury. The Tennessean reports that Young is likely to rest most of this week while the team is on bye but could return to practice next week. It's much too soon to write Young out of the mix for Week 10, but fantasy owners will want to keep an eye on whether he's back in practice to start the week.



• Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin caught his left foot in the turf and had to be assisted off the field in the first quarter. He ended up returning to the game shortly afterward but was clearly limping in pain following the game. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Harvin said of his ability to last the entire game, "It probably was adrenaline that got me through." Now that the adrenaline has worn off, it will be a matter of seeing just what Harvin can do on that ankle as the week goes on to determine whether he can play.



Favre
Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireEven though Brett Favre did not finish Sunday's game after a chin laceration, it appears he will keep his consecutive-games streak alive this week.
• Favre was able to move well enough to start Sunday but ended up leaving the game after suffering a chin laceration that required eight stitches to close. Initially it looked as though the injury could have been much worse, but there were reportedly no broken bones. As for his ability to go in Week 9, Favre offered this: I'm ready to play next week," Favre said. "Nobody knows my body like me. I think I'll be all right, ready to play next week." He was right last time. Whom Favre will throw to with Randy Moss gone and Harvin ailing might be the bigger question this week.

• The Colts saw yet another running back leave a game due to injury. Mike Hart, who got the start Monday night in place of the injured Joseph Addai, left the game with an ankle injury. Hart was expected to undergo an MRI on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Donald Brown saw his first game action in a month, but his playing time was limited. It will probably come close to game time again before we know who will run the ball for the Colts in Week 9.

Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson showed his toughness Monday night as he continued to play despite aggravating his right ankle late in the game. As we've been saying all along, this ankle injury is a perpetual source of pain for Johnson based on the demands of his position and the physical way he plays the game. In the absence of taking multiple weeks off to let it fully heal -- which Johnson is not going to do -- the ankle has the potential to flare up during a game. As long as he can play and fight through it, he will. So expect Johnson to continue to tough it out unless or until it becomes physically impossible for him to run.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was harassed all day Sunday, and it finally caught up to him. He suffered a concussion in Week 8, but although coach Pete Carroll sounds very optimistic about his return, Hasselbeck will have to meet all postconcussion medical criteria to be cleared to play. It doesn't help matters that tackle Russell Okung suffered another high ankle sprain, this time to his left side. The Seahawks have indicated that this injury appears less serious than the right ankle injury that sidelined Okung earlier in the season, and they hope to have him back in practice this week. We shall see.

• In other Raiders news, Vittorio Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that coach Tom Cable expects wide receiver Louis Murphy to miss another game to continue healing from his chest contusion. Although Murphy told the San Jose Mercury News he felt fine Sunday, he understood why the team held him out of contact. Said Murphy, "... with me coughing up blood and having internal bleeding, they didn't want to take any chances with that." Understood. Meanwhile, quarterback Bruce Gradkowski says his injured throwing shoulder (AC sprain) is now feeling better. Cable has maintained all along that Gradkowski is the starter when healthy.

Donald Driver
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireAfter 133 consecutive games with at least one catch, Donald Driver has now been held without a reception in two straight games.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver aggravated the quadriceps injury that has been nagging him the past few weeks. Driver limped off the field Sunday, and after two consecutive weeks with no receptions, it is no surprise to hear that he will not play in Week 9, according to Bill Michaels of WTMJ radio in Milwaukee.



• The San Francisco 49ers managed to eke out a victory in London but lost tight end Vernon Davis in the process, as he aggravated the ankle injury that had deemed him questionable entering the week. No official word on how serious this setback is, but according to the San Francisco Chronicle, Davis doesn't seem to think it's serious. The team is on bye in Week 9, so he could get some extra rest, but the Chronicle reports Davis plans to "run some routes" this week. Let's see what he actually does first, but the early news sounds encouraging for Davis' availability in Week 10.

Michael Vick is expected to start at quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Vick has returned to practice and, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, said he experienced "no soreness at all" with throwing. That's good news, but it's a far cry from taking contact. Vick's rib cartilage injury has the potential to cause him discomfort at the very least and severe pain at the worst, depending on the amount and type of contact he absorbs in any given game. So although the plan is for Vick to start, fantasy owners should keep insurance handy in the event there is a setback. Meanwhile, teammate DeSean Jackson has returned to limited practice after his concussion. His response to activity will be taken into account daily, and his status could come down to the wire.

New Orleans Saints running back Reggie Bush was not able to return to the amount of activity he predicted last week, placing his status for this week in that much more jeopardy. Bush still has many hurdles to cross before returning to game play. Teammate Pierre Thomas appears to be even further from returning, as he was placed back on crutches last week and is doing no football activity. Thomas' situation appears murkier than it did a few weeks ago. It is worth keeping a close eye on their activity as the week progresses.

We will continue to update these injuries and others as the week progresses with much more to come on Thursday.

This week we've seen several players moved to injured reserve status as a result of lingering symptoms from a significant injury. In Tampa Bay, kick returner Clifton Smith's season ended after two concussions, and in Indianapolis, backup quarterback Jim Sorgi has been shut down as the result of a shoulder injury. Perhaps most notably for fantasy owners, two prominent running backs have had to end their seasons early: Clinton Portis was placed on IR as a result of persistent concussion symptoms, and the Houston Texans' Steve Slaton is finished for the season because of a neck injury that led to numbness in his right hand.

Both running backs consulted with specialists this week to help them make the season-ending decisions. Slaton visited with a spine specialist in Texas, and although coach Gary Kubiak told reporters that no surgery is imminent, the rusher was advised to rest to allow the injury to heal.

It is worth noting that Slaton had been removed as the starter after having trouble holding on to the ball. Perhaps there was more to his ball-control issues than a mental barrier. After all, numbness in any part of the hand would challenge a player's awareness and feel of the ball, something so innate that it would be difficult to compensate for. Numbness also is often accompanied by weakness when a nerve is compromised. Although that's not always the case, it's certainly possible that weakness in some of the small muscles of the hand could have impacted Slaton's ability to grip the ball effectively. Obviously there was concern about the potential seriousness of the condition and the recent downturn in his symptoms. Removing him from contact was the wise thing to do.

Clinton Portis
James Lang/US PresswireCould fantasy owners have seen the last of Clinton Portis?
Portis was experiencing persistent visual disturbances associated with the concussion he sustained in Week 9. He returned to Pittsburgh to consult with concussion experts and told The Washington Post that the lingering visual issues meant he was not cleared for any football activity. Portis is hopeful to return in 2010, assuming he fully recovers, but the somber nature of his injury and the symptoms he is dealing with were clear when he told the Post thoughtfully, "I look back today, I feel like I've had a great career."

Two other players who might be on fantasy rosters have not been placed on season-ending injured reserve, but they won't play in Week 14. Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has been ruled out after aggravating his separated left (nonthrowing) shoulder Sunday. The concern is not necessarily that he couldn't be effective, but rather that continued pile-driving into the turf on that injured shoulder ultimately could prevent it from healing as it should. Daunte Culpepper is preparing for his Sunday start in Stafford's stead.

Another rookie quarterback who will watch from the sideline this weekend is Mark Sanchez, who suffered a sprain of his posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in Week 13 when he took a direct fall on his shin, shearing the lower leg (tibia) backward on his thighbone (femur). Apparently Sanchez's sliding lessons didn't quite pay off, much to the dismay of Jets coach Rex Ryan. The sprain was reported as a minor one, but there is still pain, swelling and instability, which would make movement challenging.

In addition to rehabilitating the right knee, Sanchez will need to wear a brace on it to help provide stability. This will accompany the brace he already wears on his left knee to provide patellar (kneecap) support, something he has worn since suffering a patellar dislocation while at USC. If a player feels slowed by the presence of one brace, two make him feel as if he's standing still. The addition of a brace, although important for protection, certainly won't make the inclination to slide any easier. Sanchez will benefit from some additional time to rest his knee and regain his strength, which he will need to better evade the pass rush, at least if he intends to remain upright.

So who will be on the field for your fantasy playoff matchups heading into Week 14? Here's what we're hearing:

Quarterbacks

Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: Ryan hyperextended his toe in Week 12 and sat out Week 13 as a result. After his consultation with Dr. Robert Anderson resulted in a return to Atlanta for rehabilitation (as in, no surgery was required immediately), it became a question of how quickly he could heal and how soon he could return. Ryan did some private workouts with the Falcons' training staff Wednesday, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the team will evaluate his response to that effort. This likely will be a day-to-day evaluation, and the Falcons won't necessarily tip their hand before late in the week.

Keep in mind that just because Ryan does not need surgery, at least not yet, it does not minimize the nature of the injury. This is Ryan's right big toe, which he uses to plant his right foot, which in turn provides him leverage to throw deep balls. He also must pivot on that toe when rolling right to hand off or move out of the pocket. The toe can be protected to some degree with tape, and he can use an insert in his shoe to control toe motion, but the injury still impacts his ability to use the toe normally. Beyond the concern of managing the toe, the team must be evaluating whether Ryan can move well enough to protect himself from taking hits that could result in a completely different injury. The fact that the Falcons also are dealing with injuries on the offensive line further clouds the picture. Ryan's return will be a balance of pain control and functionality, and it remains to be seen whether that can happen by this weekend.

Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks: Hasselbeck sat out Wednesday's practice because of a sore shoulder, but there is no reason to think he will miss Sunday's game. Expect Hasselbeck to be ready to face the Texans.

Jake Delhomme, Carolina Panthers: Delhomme did not practice Wednesday and is still recovering from a broken finger in his throwing hand. Until he can grip the ball adequately and throw effectively, he will remain on the sideline. Expect Matt Moore to start again this weekend.

Running backs

Michael Turner
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesThere's hope that Michael Turner will return this week, but it might be better for him if he doesn't.
Michael Turner, Falcons: Turner did not practice Wednesday as he continues to nurse an ailing right ankle. Coach Mike Smith told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he was "hopeful" that Turner would be able to practice Thursday. It's hard to imagine Turner will be ready to return in Week 14 given that he suffered a setback less than two weeks ago to an ankle that had not fully healed.

There have been reports that this latest injury is more of a lateral ankle sprain (the most common), while the initial injury was the more serious high-ankle version. Although you could spin it positively that Turner did not specifically suffer another direct injury to the top of the ankle, the negative spin is that a second injury to the outer aspect of the joint renders the ankle less stable overall.

Because Turner is not so much a lateral, shifty runner but rather a strong, bulldozing straight-ahead type, the lateral ankle sprain as a stand-alone injury might not be terribly limiting. The high-ankle sprain, however, is stressed with all motion, especially forward movement. Combine that with the size and power of Turner's lower body and the load that the joint must bear with running and driving him forward, and decreased stability becomes especially problematic. Failure of the joint to heal adequately (as in returning to play too soon) could result in longer-term consequences for Turner's ankle. Given his talent and relative youth (after all, his backup years in San Diego preserved his football age), such an outcome would be a shame. As much as the Falcons and his fantasy owners would like to have him on the field, it would not be surprising if there is a more conservative approach in place now.

Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia Eagles: Westbrook returned to limited practice this week for the first time since suffering his second concussion of the season in Week 10. Westbrook clearly is conflicted about wanting to return to play while anxious about the possible long-term consequences. As Westbrook told reporters, "I don't think I'm scared to play the game of football," but he added that what concerns him are "things that are happening now inside the game of football ... that can really affect my life as far down the road [when I'm] 30, 40, 50 years old." Westbrook is speaking to the questions many players will have as they face recovery from these types of head injuries. This is exactly the reason that returning to play after a head injury is being guarded more stringently around the NFL.

As far as Westbrook's status, it's unlikely he will be active for Week 14, as the team is taking great care to move slowly and gradually with regard to increasing his workload. If all continues well, however, and Westbrook continues to gain confidence about his condition, it does look as if he could make a return this season.

DeAngelo Williams, Panthers: Williams sat out Sunday's game because of an ankle sprain but was back in practice Wednesday. It certainly appears he will be ready to go for Sunday's matchup against the New England Patriots. Teammate Jonathan Stewart took Wednesday off, as has been the running back's pattern. He, too, is expected to play Sunday.

Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams: Jackson did not practice Wednesday, which isn't surprising considering he hasn't practiced at all during the past two weeks. Jackson still has managed to play through a sore back every week, however, despite not being at his best. It sounds as if the team is continuing with the plan of allowing Jackson to rest during the week with the goal of having him available on Sunday. We will update his status Saturday.

Wide receivers

Hines Ward
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesYou know Hines Ward's mind is willing to play, but is his body?
Hines Ward, Pittsburgh Steelers: Ward is under close watch because his game is Thursday night. He suffered a hamstring injury in Week 13, and although the strain has been reported as minor, the short week does not bode well for him playing. Consider the variables involved: A minor muscle strain can turn into a more significant injury if there is further damage to the tissue before it has had a chance to heal; the weather in Cleveland is expected to be frigid (19 degrees, along with a chance for snow and some gusty winds), and that is just not kind to muscles; and, well, the opponent is the Cleveland Browns. Sure, the Steelers have had their share of challenges what with losing repeatedly in the fourth quarter and all, but they should be able to handle this one with or without Ward. As further evidence that the Steelers have made contingency plans, they signed wide receiver Tyler Grisham from the practice squad.

Ward did return to limited practice Wednesday, and the team has officially listed him as questionable. He might be given the opportunity to warm up before the game and test the leg, but given the arguments for resting him this week, it's hard to imagine he'll play. He might be one of the toughest players in the league, but he is dealing with one of the most unpredictable and problematic injuries for anyone who depends on speed. Even if he does manage to suit up, expect it to be for only a limited window.

DeSean Jackson, Eagles: Jackson suffered a concussion in Week 12, and just as he indicated that he expected to sit out in Week 13 (which he did), he is now saying he expects to play Sunday. Jackson did return to practice Wednesday, and presuming no setbacks, he looks on target to return this week.

Be sure to check back on Saturday for post-Friday NFL injury report updates on all your fantasy players heading into the weekend.

See you at the injury chats (Tuesday and Friday 11 a.m.-noon, and Sunday pregame 10-10:30 a.m.). And check out Fantasy Football Now on Sundays at ESPN.com from 11:30 a.m. ET to kickoff for last-minute inactives, rankings and more!

In my Tuesday morning chat, one happy participant eagerly wrote in to tell me he had no injury questions because his team was completely healthy. I felt the need to post his comment during our chat because I could not imagine there was such a fortunate fantasy owner to be found, and judging by the responses to his post, it seemed the guy was utterly and completely alone on an island when it came to his injury fortunes. Actually, make that a tropical fantasy football paradise. I regret to inform you, though, Haden in Memphis, that the injury storms are a-comin' and everyone, even you, is bound to feel the effects at some point.

This week's column then is for all the other fantasy owners out there who, like me, have been challenged by injuries somewhere on their roster(s), those of you wondering about your players' collective health and whether you need to find replacements. As has been the case the past two weeks, there are four teams on bye -- Indianapolis, San Francisco, Miami and Dallas -- so be sure to plan accordingly.

Here are some status updates as we look ahead to Week 6:

Quarterbacks

Eli Manning
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesDon't be alarmed if Eli Manning is limited in practice.
Eli Manning, New York Giants: The treatment Manning received heading into Week 5 paid off, as he was able to quell his plantar fasciitis pain and start for the Giants against the Oakland Raiders. His team helped him out by netting such a large lead over the Raiders that he was able to sit out the entire second half and avoid aggravating his heel. Manning said after the game that he felt good, and he hoped to practice each day this week.

Manning has shown up for practice this week, but the Giants are limiting his reps, no doubt in an effort to keep the symptoms at bay. Plantar fasciitis is not a condition that disappears quickly, and Manning might well continue a routine of limited activity during the week in order to prevent flare-ups and allow him to play Sundays. There will be a lingering concern that the pain could become exacerbated during a game, as it did in Week 4, when Manning suffered an acute setback and was forced to exit early. There is also the possibility that Manning will continue to proceed week to week without a similar episode. In fact, the longer Manning goes without a setback, the more optimistic the outlook is for an uneventful remainder of the season.

Since there are no guarantees when it comes to managing chronic conditions in an in-season athlete, fantasy owners will have to decide on a weekly basis whether the potential reward with Manning is worth some risk.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: Although the Lions have not ventured into any specifics with regard to the injury Stafford suffered in Week 4, it was widely reported that he experienced a patellar subluxation, and a week ago I outlined the nature of such an injury.

Stafford was unable to practice all of last week and, as expected, did not suit up for Sunday's game. On Wednesday, Stafford participated in practice on a limited basis, according to the practice injury report, but there might be some warranted concern as to how his knee responded to even limited work, since Stafford did not practice Thursday. Coach Jim Schwartz has indicated that if Stafford is capable of playing (as in, capable of moving adequately enough to function effectively and avoid a pass rush), he will play. He will not be automatically rested in anticipation of the Week 7 bye. Nonetheless, a downward trend during the week, especially following a significant injury, is not a good sign.

Marc Bulger, St. Louis Rams: Bulger did come off the bench Sunday and showed that his arm is recovering. He reported feeling no ill effects after the game and is back in practice and off the injury report. Bulger intends to start this Sunday when the Rams travel to Jacksonville. His backup, Kyle Boller, is on the injury practice report because of a concussion but did participate on a limited basis in practice Wednesday.

Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks: Hasselbeck had himself quite a day Sunday when he returned to the field with still-healing rib fractures. The good news is that Hasselbeck emerged relatively unscathed and was a full participant in Wednesday's practice. But the biggest health concern in Seattle (which also has the most potential for directly impacting Hasselbeck) is that of the offensive line. Due to a wave of injuries that has decimated the team up front, the Seahawks will be starting their fourth different line of the young season. They're hoping to get a few of their starters back in November following a bye week.

Running backs

Willie Parker, Pittsburgh Steelers: The good news is Parker was back on the practice field this week for the first time since injuring his toe in Week 3. Parker was able to practice fully Wednesday, but the key here will be how his toe responds to the work. Parker indicated to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he is wearing a custom shoe from Nike to accommodate his injured toe. In fact, Parker said that he has a custom pair of shoes so that they match and help him maintain even balance. It is important for an athlete to wear adaptive shoes in practice to adjust to them in advance of a game. The plates in the shoes help restrict motion at the forefoot; unfortunately, it is this very motion (particularly in the area of the painful toe) that allows an athlete to propel himself forward. A stiffer shoe requires that the player adapt to this new feeling as he pushes off. As they say, practice makes perfect. Parker expects to play this weekend, but how the workload will be divided between him and teammate Rashard Mendenhall is not yet clear.

Correll Buckhalter, Denver Broncos: Buckhalter suffered a sprained left ankle in Week 4 and did not play in Week 5. He was back in practice Wednesday for the Broncos, and the Denver Post reports that he took handoffs and caught screen passes in the portion of practice open to the media. However, Knowshon Moreno, who started in place of the injured Buckhalter in Week 4, was taking the first-team reps. The team is not required to file a formal practice injury report on Wednesday since they do not play until Monday night, but it would appear the team is preparing to have both backs available. That said, it is likely that Buckhalter's ankle is still on the mend; remember, he was on crutches just more than a week ago after the injury originally occurred. We will update Buckhalter's status as the week progresses.

Clinton Portis
Larry French/Getty ImagesClinton Portis is being bothered by a calf injury, but he has proven durable in the past.
Clinton Portis, Washington Redskins: Uh oh. Portis is again appearing on the practice injury report because of a calf ailment. Portis was limited Wednesday, and it's unclear whether this is related to his prior calf contusion. Portis hasn't missed a game yet, however, and it seems unlikely that that would happen this week, especially if he's able to participate in practice to some degree.

Mike Bell and Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints: Bell, who has missed two games because of a sprained MCL, was a full participant in practice Wednesday and appears to be on track to play this week. He would be expected to handle short-yardage and goal-line situations, but really there is no way to project exactly how the Saints will divide up the workload.

Or is there? Bell's teammate Pierre Thomas, who was spectacular after Bell went out with his knee injury, has reappeared on the injury report, this time with a hamstring ailment that limited his activity Wednesday. Apparently this is an ongoing injury for Thomas, but we certainly haven't seen any evidence that it has affected his performance thus far.

As usual, we'll wait to see what happens in the latter part of the week to assess just how healthy these players are. This only adds to the torment of fantasy owners who are wondering how the running backs' workload will break down Sunday. Stay tuned.

Wide receivers

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions: The right knee injury that forced Johnson out of the game early in Week 5 was deemed not significant by coach Jim Schwartz. But apparently it's significant enough for Johnson to have missed both Wednesday and Thursday practices. The Lions are unwilling to provide much in the way of specifics, but it's not too difficult to interpret lack of practice activity as a bad sign. Of note, the Detroit Free Press reported that the Lions signed wide receiver John Standeford earlier this week. Standeford was cut right before the start of the season but now has been brought back. You take your cues where you can get them. Fantasy owners should anticipate that Johnson might not be available Sunday.

Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings: Here's a little surprise. Harvin apparently suffered a shoulder injury when he landed on it awkwardly during Sunday's win against the St. Louis Rams. Although no one is saying exactly what that injury is, Harvin did not practice Wednesday, and it is unclear whether his status for this Sunday against the hard-hitting Baltimore Ravens is in doubt. Fantasy owners know the drill. Check back later in the week for more updates.

Jerricho Cotchery, New York Jets: Although Cotchery played Monday night, he was not his usual self. Cotchery, who strained a hamstring in practice last Thursday and did not practice again before Monday, felt better after going through pregame warm-ups. Once in the game, however, his hamstring reportedly began to get less comfortable. Cotchery ended up playing longer than anticipated because fellow wide receiver Brad Smith was forced out because of a foot injury. In fact, Cotchery told Newsday that he thought he "probably" suffered a setback with the hamstring. He did not practice Wednesday, and with a short week between contests, the outlook for Cotchery's availability in Week 6 is not great at this point.

Devin Hester, Chicago Bears: Hester took advantage of Chicago's bye week to get some extra rest and treatment on his neck, and he says he's feeling good. Hester suffered a neck strain, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, although it was initially reported as a shoulder injury. A neck injury can certainly result in shoulder pain, so any confusion would be understandable. The important thing at this point is that Hester does not even appear on the injury practice report this week and should be ready to go when the Bears face Atlanta.

Be sure to check back on Saturday for post-Friday NFL injury report updates on all your fantasy players heading into the weekend.

See you at the injury chats (Tuesday 11:00 a.m.-noon, Friday 11 a.m.-noon and Sunday pregame 10:00-10:30 a.m.). And check out Fantasy Football Now on Sundays at ESPN.com from 11:30 a.m. to kickoff for last-minute inactives, rankings and more!


It's time for fantasy owners to make midweek moves to boost their fantasy rosters. Injury concerns naturally factor into those decisions as we try to gauge who is going to miss time and just how long that absence will be. This week there are four teams on bye: Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers, so be sure to secure your replacements. Here are some status updates as we look ahead to Week 5.

Quarterbacks

Eli Manning, New York Giants: On Tuesday, I detailed plantar fasciitis, the condition afflicting Manning. On Wednesday, Manning sat out practice and coach Tom Coughlin indicated Manning would be considered day-to-day. For his part, Manning appears intent on playing and Coughlin has said that his star quarterback could play even if he's unable to practice during the week. The bottom line at this point is that this is shaping up to be a potential game-time decision, one which will depend on whether Manning can maintain his normal throwing mechanics despite the pain.

Matt Hasselbeck
Steve Dykes/US PresswireMatt Hasselbeck wants to play this week, but will injuries elsewhere hurt his chances to get a start?
Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks: Hasselbeck sat out Weeks 3 and 4 while recovering from a broken rib and was still having pain with deep breathing last week. Coach Jim Mora told reporters his quarterback is "without question doing everything possible to get out on the football field." Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp remarked that Hasselbeck's throwing motion looked fine but that he was not quite in football shape. However, he shared practice time with Seneca Wallace on Wednesday, according to The Seattle Times. Hasselbeck indicated that he wanted to come back, but would go with what was in the best interest of the team. A main concern for the Seahawks will be providing him enough protection up front should he be able to play Sunday. Despite the team's recent struggles, the goal is clearly to avoid any setbacks and to have him available for the long haul. On the other hand, the Seahawks have been plagued with offensive line injuries, which may also factor into the decision as to whether he gets the start in Week 5.

Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles: McNabb will start Sunday. Coach Andy Reid said it himself Wednesday and made it clear that McNabb is resuming control at the helm in Week 5. McNabb is reportedly feeling much better, but knows he is not yet 100 percent recovered. He acknowledged on the Eagles' official Web site that things like laughing and coughing still cause discomfort, but he does not expect to be restricted at all playing football. McNabb will no doubt be wearing some extra protection over his ribs this weekend, but now that he's back in practice, fantasy owners can expect to have him back in their lineups as well.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: Stafford reportedly suffered a patellar subluxation in Week 4 (although the Lions are staying mum on the topic), and on Tuesday I outlined the nature of such an injury. He did not practice Wednesday, which is not especially surprising given the nature of the injury. Although coach Jim Schwartz is not speculating as to whether Stafford is going to be available for Sunday's contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers, if the rookie misses another day, it would be hard to imagine him playing. From the physical perspective, Stafford would need to have enough resolution of pain and swelling to allow his quadriceps muscle to function normally. He needs to be able to play the position without apprehension that his patella (kneecap) will go out on him again, so quadriceps strength plays a large role. Although Stafford could (and most likely will) eventually play with some sort of support around the kneecap, it seems unlikely that he would be turned loose against the Steelers' defense if he is not fully mobile. If Stafford is on your fantasy team, it is probably best to secure another option at this point.

Marc Bulger, St. Louis Rams: Kyle Boller filled in for Bulger last week as Bulger nursed a bruised throwing shoulder. Bulger did perform some throwing in pregame warm-ups, however, and continued with light throwing Monday. On Wednesday, Bulger continued to progress with his throws, but ESPN's NFC West blogger Mike Sando reports that it is almost certain the Rams will hold Bulger out another week. With his shoulder still on the mend, some issues with the offensive line and a tough Minnesota Vikings pass rush, the decision might be to simply allow him another week of healing and avoiding hits.

Running Backs

Felix Jones and Marion Barber, Dallas Cowboys: Barber was a full participant in Wednesday's practice and Felix Jones was absent. While nothing definitive has been said regarding Jones' status, at the time of his injury (PCL sprain), there were rumblings that he would miss a couple of weeks and fantasy owners should plan on his not being available. Meanwhile, Barber, whose quad tightened up in the second half of last week's game, should fare better this week. If he continues to practice fully throughout the week, he can be expected to start Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. By the end of the week, we should have a better idea as to how much work we can expect from Barber in the game.

Willie Parker
Rich Gabrielson/Icon SMIWillie Parker hoped he'd play last week but didn't. Now, he's far less optimistic that he'll play this week.
Willie Parker, Pittsburgh Steelers: Parker sat out Week 4 with a case of turf toe sustained during the Week 3 contest in Cincinnati. Although Parker appeared to be holding out hope during the week that he would play, as the Sunday deadline approached and he was still unable to run, it became apparent that he would need to rest the painful toe. As is often the case with turf toe, this is not a problem with a quick fix. Parker seems to be resigned to that and is not nearly as optimistic heading into Week 5. After not practicing Wednesday, Parker told reporters that although he wants to go out and compete, he is not where he needs to be right now to perform. Given Rashard Mendenhall's solid performance in Week 4 and knowing the Steelers are headed to the turf of Detroit's Ford Field, it is sounding as if Mendenhall will again take the place of Parker in Week 5.

Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia Eagles: Westbrook will join his teammate Donovan McNabb back in the lineup in Week 5. Westbrook missed Week 3 as he recovered from a sprain to the right ankle he had surgically addressed in June. It appeared that Westbrook's intended return would follow the bye week, and so far things are going according to plan. Coach Andy Reid has already indicated on the Eagles' official Web site that he expects to rotate Westbrook with LeSean McCoy. We have been saying for some time now that this was the likely evolution at the running back position so that the Eagles could make use of Westbrook's talents while not overloading his joints. Barring a setback late in the week, Westbrook should at least be in line for a portion of the action Sunday, but how much time he sees is unknown.

Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers: Regular readers won't be surprised to learn that Frank Gore has been ruled out for this Sunday's contest with his ankle injuries, according to Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. Gore was initially projected to miss a few weeks and was not expected to return until after the 49ers' bye week (which is in Week 6) at the earliest.

Correll Buckhalter, Denver Broncos: Buckhalter suffered a sprained left ankle in Week 4 and it looks as if the door has been opened for rookie Knowshon Moreno to get his first career start. Buckhalter missed practice Wednesday and reports suggest that the Broncos may be without his services when they face the New England Patriots in Week 5. Moreno appeared to be progressing toward a starting role for the Broncos as his workload has expanded over the first few weeks of the season. Buckhalter's injury may have just moved the timetable along. Moreno's fantasy owners have to be excited about the prospects here.

Clinton Portis, Washington Redskins: The Washington Times reports that Portis will be ready to face the Panthers in Week 5 despite aggravating an ankle injury. Earlier this year coach Jim Zorn indicated that Portis was dealing with bone spurs in both ankles and had been trying to play through pain. Just last week, Portis remarked how much better his ankles were feeling with his current treatment regimen. Despite that optimism, this situation is likely to be ongoing throughout the season. Nonetheless, Portis was not on Wednesday's injury report, which is a good sign heading into the weekend.

Fred Taylor, New England Patriots: Taylor did not practice Wednesday and was listed on the practice (injury) report as "ankle." Given the Patriots' notorious secrecy when it comes to injuries, there are no indications as to whether this is a serious injury that could result in missed time or whether they are resting Taylor's ankle in advance of this week's contest. Stay tuned for practice reports as the week progresses.

Wide Receivers

Roy E. Williams, Dallas Cowboys: Williams says he expects to play in Week 5 despite injured rib cartilage, according to The Dallas Morning News. That said, Williams did not practice Wednesday. His status could evolve heading up to game time, so stay tuned for updates.

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions: Johnson rested his bruised thigh Wednesday and did not practice. Although the Lions have not indicated whether or not they expect Johnson to be available, his status will remain day to day until proven otherwise.

Wes Welker, New England Patriots: Welker was finally able to get back on the field in Week 4 after being limited with a mysterious knee ailment that had kept him out since Week 2. Welker had a modest fantasy performance Sunday but showed that he was able to run at full speed and make some plays. Welker was held to a limited practice Wednesday, suggesting that the Patriots are still being cautious when it comes to his knee. However, if he continues to practice daily it's likely he will see the field again this week.



Antonio Bryant, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bryant was able to get in the end zone Sunday and appeared to be more Antonio Bryant-like in Week 4. He has been working his way back from post-surgical knee soreness that appeared after his Week 1 debut. Although Bryant was limited in practice Wednesday, this may well be a precautionary measure to ensure his availability for Sunday.

Be sure to check back on Saturday for post-Friday NFL injury report updates on all your fantasy players heading into the weekend.

See you at the injury chats (Tuesday 11:00 a.m.-noon, Friday 11 a.m.-noon and Sunday pregame 10:00-10:30 a.m.). And check out Fantasy Football Now on Sundays at ESPN.com from 11:30 a.m. to kickoff for last-minute inactives, rankings and more!



It's time for fantasy owners to make those midweek trades to boost their fantasy rosters. Injury concerns naturally factor into those decisions, as we try to gauge who is going to miss time and just how long that absence will be. Here are some status updates as we look ahead to Week 4.

Running backs

Felix Jones and Marion Barber, Dallas Cowboys: Jones officially suffered a sprained posterior cruciate ligament and, according to The Dallas Morning News, will sit out this week and might be out until Week 7. The Cowboys have a bye in Week 6, so this timetable would result in Jones' missing two games.



The reality is that it probably is too soon to predict just how much time Jones will miss. PCL sprains are tricky, and although we have not been given an indication as to the severity of the sprain, any PCL injury typically leaves the athlete with some measure of residual instability. In addition to overcoming the initial discomfort and any associated swelling, the athlete then has to develop compensatory strength to counter that instability, which is not as easy as it might sound. There is no doubt that football players are already strong and running backs are exceptionally strong in their legs. It goes beyond pure strength, however, and becomes a timing issue. In other words, the muscles now have to better anticipate sudden stops and starts and directional movements in an effort to minimize shearing at the knee joint. Reggie Bush suffered this injury two years ago, and although he returned to play, he was not able to perform in the same way. After he aggravated the injury, his season ultimately ended early. No two injuries are identical, so there is no guarantee Jones will suffer the same fate, but the fact that Jones has suffered two other major injuries (hamstring, toe) on the same side (left) in the past year is of concern. It is important to recognize that this is a challenging injury and the timetable for Jones might need to be extended.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys' No. 1 back still is working to make his way back into the lineup after suffering a strained quadriceps in Week 2. Barber was held out of Week 3 against his wishes but in favor of his long-term health. The Morning News reports Barber did practice Wednesday and was able to do more than last week, leading coach Wade Phillips to be optimistic about his chances for Sunday. Barber will have to continue to increase his activity in practice throughout the week and show that he does not feel worse the next day in order to play. Team owner Jerry Jones told ESPNDallas.com on Thursday that Barber should play Sunday. Jones acknowledged, however, that how Barber performs in full practice with pads ultimately will be the deciding factor. Given that Barber will be just approaching full speed even if he does play this week, fantasy owners should expect Tashard Choice to continue to play a big role in Sunday's contest.

Willie Parker
Rich Gabrielson/Icon SMIAfter struggling in weeks 1 and 2, Willie Parker looked sharp against the Bengals but suffered a new injury.
Willie Parker, Pittsburgh Steelers: A hamstring strain in the preseason resulted in a slow start for Parker, but when he finally was able to open it up in Week 3, he developed a new ailment, turf toe. Fantasy owners have seen what turf toe can do to even the best running backs (read: LaDainian Tomlinson, 2008). There is quite a degree of variability in terms of severity, however, so is not a given that this will be problematic for Parker all season.

In terms of his status for Week 4, Parker has indicated he believes he will play. Parker did not practice early in the week, which is part of the usual course of treatment for this condition. If Parker is not able to practice by Friday, however, his chances of playing Sunday will be far less certain. Teammate Rashard Mendenhall, who was benched last week by coach Mike Tomlin, is eager to prove himself. He might get plenty of opportunity to do just that. It would not be surprising for the Steelers to shift the workload in his direction, given the issue with Parker's toe. Parker's fantasy owners should make alternate plans.

LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers: Tomlinson missed weeks 2 and 3 because of a sprained ankle. He made it clear he would not return until he could perform at 100 percent, so his full participation in Wednesday's practice could be taken as an encouraging sign. The San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting that Tomlinson says he feels pretty good, adding, "I want to play in this game." After suffering through several injuries in the past two years, even Tomlinson knows his status will depend on how his ankle responds to the increased stress of practice during the week.



If Tomlinson is ready to play, he will. Yes, the Chargers have a bye in Week 5, but that does not mean they will automatically sit him. If Tomlinson can contribute at a high level without significant concern of reinjury, expect him to suit up. There is the possibility, though, that the Chargers will opt to make his status a game-time decision, and with the game coming Sunday night, that is not a great situation for fantasy owners. Friday's injury report should provide a better clue as to which way the team is leaning.

Clinton Portis, Washington Redskins: Despite bone spurs in both ankles that limited his practice last week, Portis did manage to play Sunday but left the game early with a calf injury. All indications are that this latest setback is minor, and although Portis did not practice Wednesday, he reminded The Washington Post that he knows how to play without practicing. Portis also told the Post that although his ankle pain bothered him in the first two weeks of the season, the "new program" he's been on is great, adding, "Right now, my ankles don't have any pain." Good news for Portis owners, as he expects to play this week.

Mike Bell, New Orleans Saints: Bell did not practice Wednesday, and his status for Sunday appears to be in doubt. After all, we saw how challenging it was for Thomas to get back. We also saw how the wait for Thomas paid off. He racked up 126 yards and two scores in his first appearance following a similar injury. If Bell manages to practice late in the week, there might still be a chance for him to play. But if he is limited, the Saints will not take any chances and will allow him to rest for two more weeks (the Saints have a bye in Week 5) before returning to action.

Quarterbacks

Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks: Hasselbeck suffered a broken rib in the Seahawks' Week 2 loss to the San Francisco 49ers and sat out Week 3. Hasselbeck is still having pain when taking a deep breath, meaning he can't run, as in away from the opponent. The Seahawks' Web site reports coach Jim Mora already has indicated he does not expect Hasselbeck to play in Week 4. Even though Mora previously has said Hasselbeck does not need to practice fully in order to play Sunday, he does need to be able to perform some basics to ensure he's not at risk by playing. Once Hasselbeck is able to do some running, it will provide a clue that he could be returning soon.

Wide receivers

Wes Welker, New England Patriots: Welker has sat on the sidelines for the past two weeks with a "knee" ailment (according to the official injury report) that no one is discussing. We know Welker suffered an injury in the preseason but was able to play -- and play well -- in the season opener. Clearly, he suffered a setback, because he has not been able to do much of anything in the past two weeks. Welker did do some limited work Wednesday, but his status for Sunday is iffy at this point. Welker relies on speed, so there is likely some impairment that is affecting his ability to go full out. Fantasy owners might be disappointed that he has not been available, but the good news is that given that he already has suffered a setback, he is not likely to return to action before he can effectively contribute. Stay tuned for practice updates before Sunday.

Individual defensive players

Dwight Freeney, DE, Indianapolis Colts: Freeney suffered a strained quadriceps muscle, and although he's on the other side of the ball, his injury is not unlike the one Cowboys running back Marion Barber is dealing with. Freeney has not ruled himself out for Week 4, although reports suggest he will miss two to three weeks. Like Barber, Freeney needs the strength of his quadriceps not only to be explosive in the rush, but also to dig in and counter the block of an offensive lineman. His optimism is admirable, but fantasy owners should proactively make alternate plans for this week.

Troy Polamalu, S, Pittsburgh Steelers: Polamalu has been sidelined since the season opener with a sprained medial collateral ligament. The Steelers' defense clearly has missed him, as have his fantasy owners. Polamalu took a big step this week by adding running back into his workouts and told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he "felt well" and would like to play this week if he's able. Polamalu still has some significant tests to pass to prove he is ready to go, and it might well be another week, but fantasy owners should be aware that his return does not appear to be far off.

Be sure to check back Saturday for post-Friday NFL injury report updates on all your fantasy players heading into the weekend.

See you on the injury chats (Tuesday and Friday 11 a.m.-noon ET, and Sunday 10-10:30 a.m. ET). And check out "Fantasy Football Now" on Sundays on ESPN.com from 11:30 a.m. ET to kickoff for last-minute inactives, rankings and more!



It's time for fantasy owners to make those midweek moves to boost their fantasy rosters. Injury concerns naturally factor into those decisions as we try to gauge who is going to miss time and just how long that absence will be. Here are some status updates as we look ahead to Week 3.

Quarterbacks

Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles: McNabb has yet to practice since fracturing his rib in Week 1 and it appears that Kevin Kolb may be in line for his second start. Although the Eagles have not ruled McNabb out, it certainly seems as if he could rest this week, especially with a bye coming up next week. It's worth noting that they also have Jeff Garcia available and, as of this week, Michael Vick.

Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks: Hasselbeck suffered a broken rib in the Seahawks' Week 2 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. According to Associated Press reports, the rib Hasselbeck injured is in the upper back area, causing pain in his shoulder. Although the pain can be equally severe no matter which rib is broken, the abdominal muscles attach only to the lower ribs (where McNabb suffered his injury), so it's possible that the injury might not hamper Hasselbeck's throwing ability to the same degree.

Hasselbeck did not practice Wednesday and might not practice all week, but coach Jim Mora told the Tacoma News Tribune that missing practice would not prevent his starter from playing Sunday. "This is a guy who can pick things up without having to do the repetitions on the field," Mora said. However, he was quick to add that "the key thing is what's best for Matt's health and for this football team in terms of long-term success." The Seahawks are preparing Seneca Wallace to start, and fantasy owners should keep that in mind.

Running Backs

Marion Barber
Kim Klement/US PresswireMarion Barber has rushed for 203 yards and two TDs this season, so a cut in playing time would hurt fantasy owners.
Marion Barber, Dallas Cowboys: Barber strained his left quadriceps muscle (large muscle on the front of the thigh) on a long run in Sunday's game. An early report had Barber missing one to two weeks, but the Cowboys have not ruled Barber out for Week 3. In fact, Barber surprised many by participating in practice Wednesday, albeit on a limited basis. He was reportedly catching some passes and jogging lightly. Although this early activity is a very good sign, it is a far cry from what Barber needs to do to perform in a game. Despite the fact that the Cowboys have a Monday night game, giving Barber an additional day of healing time, it is still unlikely that his muscle will have fully recovered by then. The big concern with soft tissue injuries is that overloading still healing tissue will result in more severe injury, and ultimately more missed time. In other words, we will track Barber's progress throughout the week but even if Barber does make an appearance, expect Felix Jones and Tashard Choice to get the bulk of the work.

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings: Uh-oh. The appearance of Peterson on Wednesday's injury report is enough to strike fear in the hearts of fantasy owners who have no doubt been riding his Week 1 and 2 performances to victory. Peterson was limited in practice because of his back (which might just be a result of fatigue from the physical workload he's been carrying), but it is too early to panic. After all, he has missed only two games in two years. This is something to keep an eye on, though, as the week progresses.



LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers: Tomlinson missed Week 2 because of a sprained ankle, which he has suggested is minor. Nonetheless, Tomlinson did not practice Wednesday. He likely will attempt to get back into practice during the latter part of the week to test the ankle. Tomlinson was ruled out early last week, but this week might come down to a game-time decision.

Pierre Thomas and Mike Bell, New Orleans Saints: Not only do they play the same position, they suffer the same injuries. Bell came out of Week 2 with a sprained right MCL, but early indications are that the injury was not serious. It might have been a minor sprain, but it was still enough to keep Bell out of practice Wednesday. Thomas, who suffered a more serious version of the same sprain in the preseason, is on the upswing and the roles of the two running backs may well be reversed this week. Thomas saw some (very limited) game action in Week 2 but, most importantly, emerged no worse for the wear. Thomas was a full participant in Wednesday practice and is expected to increase his workload in Week 3. The timing might be perfect to allow Bell to either sit this week out or at least limit his activity.

Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia Eagles: Westbrook's sprained right ankle (his surgically repaired ankle) kept him out of practice Wednesday. This pattern of resting during the week and playing on Sunday is so familiar to owners that it's almost automatic. While it's too early to say that Westbrook will play for sure, it would not come as a surprise. And while this ankle injury has not been deemed serious, it is probably an indicator of the ongoing challenge Westbrook will face when it comes to maintaining the health of his joints.

Jamal Lewis
Icon SMIEven if Jamal Lewis were healthy, he's not a great option to start as he faces the Ravens.
Jamal Lewis, Cleveland Browns: Lewis missed practice Wednesday because of a hamstring injury, and The Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that Lewis likely will be listed as questionable when Friday's reports come out. It is hard to imagine Lewis not suiting up if at all possible, given that he will be facing the Baltimore Ravens. There is backup available. Rookie James Davis, who sat out Week 2 with a shoulder injury sustained during the season opener, did return to practice Wednesday and is expected to play.

Wide Receivers

Kevin Walter, Houston Texans: Walter missed Week 1 after pregame warm-ups made it clear that he could not go full speed. The following week everyone, including Walter, was upbeat about his chances of playing in Week 2. But after a full practice that Wednesday, Walter's hamstring did not respond well. He was limited in practice the remainder of the week and then could not play Sunday. Unfortunately, this is often how it goes with muscle strains. The athlete's perception as to how the muscle feels is the biggest determinant of how hard to push it in practice and competition. It is often the case that the very work the athlete needs to do to test the muscle can result in a setback, and it appears that was the case with Walter.

So how is this week shaping up? Walter started the week limited in practice and there are no declarations of his availability just yet. Assume that the Texans will have Walter gradually increase his work through the week in the hopes that he can be available Sunday. This might again come down to a game-time decision.

Anquan Boldin, Arizona Cardinals: Boldin has been steadily improving from the hamstring injury that limited him in the preseason and was much more of a factor in the Cardinals' Week 2 contest than in the season opener. The good news is that Boldin was a full participant in practice as of Wednesday, and at least at this stage, it appears the worst is behind him. Meanwhile, teammate Early Doucet, who had been sidelined with a rib injury, was also a full participant in Wednesday's practice and should be available this week. Steve Breaston, who has been recovering from a sprained PCL, was able to contribute in Week 2, so despite not practicing Wednesday, it is expected that he too will be available in Week 3.

Deion Branch, Seattle Seahawks: After missing the first two games this season, Branch, who over the larger part of the past two years has dealt with injuries including an ACL reconstruction, a heel bruise and the hamstring, appears to be in line to make his season debut. Branch was a full participant in Wednesday's practice and coach Jim Mora told the Tacoma News Tribune that he expects Branch to play this week. It's worth keeping an eye on the receiver situation since Branch's teammate T.J. Houshmandzadeh missed Wednesday practice because of a sore back. The back was bothering Houshmandzadeh last week but he did play Sunday.



Be sure to check my Saturday blog for post-Friday NFL injury report updates on all your fantasy players heading into the weekend.

See you at the injury chats (Tuesday, 11:00 a.m.-noon; Friday, 11 a.m.-noon; and Sunday pregame, 10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.). And check out Fantasy Football Now on Sundays at ESPN.com from 11:30 a.m. ET to kickoff for last-minute inactives, rankings and more!



Welcome to the post-Week 2 breakdown. Literally, some more guys are breaking down this week. I think there's a copycat phenomenon happening in the NFL. In the preseason, I thought it was the MCL sprain. Now I think it might be the rib fracture. Forget bruised ribs, these guys are taking it to the extreme with broken bones. When does a fantasy owner need to start worrying about making roster moves? Here's what we have so far ...

Matt Hasselbeck
AP Photo/Ben MargotMatt Hasselbeck suffered a broken rib in very similar fashion as Donovan McNabb.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seattle Seahawks: In a chapter out of the Philadelphia Eagles' playbook, Hasselbeck suffered a fractured rib when a San Francisco 49ers player collided with him as he went down to the ground. Hasselbeck struggled to get off the field and there was concern that he might have suffered additional internal injuries. The good news there is that imaging tests showed no internal damage, but unfortunately they did confirm the presence of a broken rib. For his part, Hasselbeck told the Seattle Times that he has "definitely felt worse." He went on to say that he has woken up on a Monday feeling worse than he did this week, which he finds encouraging. Hasselbeck says he hopes to play, but the fact of the matter is that it really comes down to what happens as the week progresses. While his optimism is encouraging, it would not be surprising to see Seneca Wallace start in his place.

Marion Barber, RB, Dallas Cowboys: His injury was painful to watch. Barber, who had been running beautifully, reached for his left leg as he pulled up and then crumbled to the ground. The fact that he reached for the front of his thigh suggested a quadriceps strain, the question was how severe it was. Barber underwent an MRI on Monday and the Dallas Morning News is reporting that the test confirmed a strain. Although the team has not indicated the severity of the strain, we take our clues where we can get them. A confirmation of tissue damage on MRI suggests a Grade II, or moderate, strain, which represents a wide range of injury. Depending on just how much bleeding there is in the area, the healing time frame can range from two weeks to more than a month. Remember that St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson suffered a quadriceps strain last year and it cost him four games and part of a fifth. Coach Wade Phillips says they will "have to wait and see" whether Barber misses any time and certainly his ability to practice will help determine that. Fantasy owners should plan on seeing more Felix Jones and Tashard Choice this week.

Mike Bell, RB, New Orleans Saints: It may be the running back carousel in New Orleans and not necessarily by design. After stepping up ably for the injured Pierre Thomas in the first two weeks, Bell suffered an injury of his own. He sprained his right knee, his medial collateral ligament (MCL) to be exact, just like Thomas. However, it sounds like Bell's injury may be slightly less serious, as his MRI showed no structural damage, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune (suggesting a Grade I, or minor, sprain). This is still something that could cause Bell to miss time, although perhaps only a week or two, so the healing Thomas could ramp up his workload as a result. The Saints are not yet saying whether Bell will sit this week out, but fantasy owners should prepare for that eventuality.

Other quick hits


• Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb is still feeling pain where he broke his rib, which is no surprise. After all, this is the kind of injury that hurts for weeks. Just imagine how much worse his pain would be if he had played. There is still a question as to whether McNabb will indeed start Sunday. You have to imagine that if there is any doubt as to whether he can be effective, Kevin Kolb will get the start against the Kansas City Chiefs and McNabb will rest until Week 5 (the Eagles have a bye in Week 4). Once again, it all will depend on whether he can practice this week or not.

Brian Westbrook
AP Photo/Matt SlocumNot surprisingly, Brian Westbrook is banged up again, although for now it looks like he'll be able to go on Sunday.
• Sticking with the Eagles and a familiar name when it comes to injury, running back Brian Westbrook suffered a sprained right ankle in Week 2. It is worth noting that this is the ankle he had surgery on during the summer. This should not come as a complete surprise to regular readers here. As I indicated in June, when Westbrook made the decision to undergo surgery, the damage to the joint likely reflected some instability, and that is likely a contributing factor here. While the injury itself has not been deemed serious, it is probably indicative of the challenges Westbrook will continue to face from week to week. Expect a healthy dose of LeSean McCoy in Week 3. Also, wide receiver DeSean Jackson appeared to aggravate the groin injury suffered in Week 1, although it didn't hurt his fantasy stats. Jackson probably will be held to limited practice this week, but it will not become clear whether the groin will threaten his playing status until later in the week.

• The New York Giants added to their injury roster this weekend. Most notably, defensive end Justin Tuck had a hard fall onto his shoulder. Tuck was not only in pain after the injury, he was angry about how it happened. Tuck was visibly tripped by Cowboys left tackle Flozell Adams and referred to the play as "bush league." X-rays taken at the time were negative. However, according to the New York Times, Tuck, who was wearing a sling after the game, was in so much pain that he was having trouble dressing. MRI results have not been released but Tuck says he will play. As a defensive end, he needs to be able to get his arm up high and have enough strength to wrap up an opponent as his shoulder is getting yanked. We will see if he can get to that point in time for this Sunday's contest. Meanwhile, wide receiver Domenik Hixon suffered a knee sprain in that same game, but was seeking to get back into the game, suggesting that it is not terribly serious.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Bryant stayed home this weekend to rest his sore post-surgical knee, skipping the team trip to Buffalo. The Tampa Tribune is reporting that Bryant has a bone bruise, but no timetable has been issued as to when he can return. Much will depend on Bryant's pain, which he currently describes as dull, an improvement over the sharp pain he was experiencing previously. He hopes to play this weekend but is mindful of the big picture, i.e. his availability for the long haul of the season. Fantasy owners should not panic over Bryant's condition at this point as it appears he will be available within the next couple of weeks.

San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore had an awesome week! He also suffered a mild right ankle sprain. X-rays were negative and the San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that Gore is probable for this week's matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.

We will update these injuries and others as the week progresses.

See you at the injury chats (Tuesday 11 a.m.-noon, Friday 11 a.m.-noon and Sunday pre-game 10-10:30 a.m..) and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 2 in the Saturday morning blog!

The Colts conundrum

December, 24, 2008
12/24/08
6:30
PM ET


If you're playing this week, you have two big challenges: You have to decide who might be healthy enough to play in this final week of the NFL regular season, then you have to gauge whether the coach will actually utilize that player enough to warrant a spot on your fantasy roster. This represents perhaps the biggest strategic second-guessing you are faced with all season. Hopefully we can help by giving you a few hints in the injury department.

Joseph Addai, RB; Dominic Rhodes, RB; Marvin Harrison, WR, Colts: Addai has sat out the past two games to rest his sore shoulder. He has benefited from the rest and Tom James of the Terre Haute Star-Tribune reports that coach Tony Dungy says of Addai, "I think he'll be ready this week." The Colts will monitor how he does in practice, but it looks as if Addai will see playing time, but how much? With your fantasy championship at stake, is he worth a start? Probably not. Even if Addai gets on the field to get some reps, it is unlikely that he plays for an extended period of time. Don't get too excited if you think you've got it made with Dominic Rhodes as your handcuff. Rhodes has already been ruled out of this week's game with sore ribs. Dungy has already indicated that the Colts have some younger players they would like to see get some more game experience. For instance, rookie Chad Simpson, who managed to get in the game briefly a couple of weeks ago, may end up with more extended playing time this week. There's a good chance he's still available in your league.

Colts receiver Marvin Harrison has missed some time recently with a hamstring injury. Despite the fact that the strain was in the distal part of the hamstring, nearer the knee, which usually hints at a longer recovery time, Harrison is reportedly feeling much better and could be ready to play this weekend. That being said, with the Colts being cautious, don't expect Harrison to see much playing time, even if he is active.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Jacobs
Nick Laham/Getty ImagesJacobs looked great last Sunday, but the Giants may rest him to make sure he's 100 percent healthy for the playoffs.
Brandon Jacobs, RB; Derrick Ward, RB, Giants: Brandon Jacobs looked good last weekend, and proved that his strength helps him compensate for any residual knee instability. Jacobs was limited in practice Wednesday, however, and it would not be a surprise if he is limited to a very short amount of playing time, if any, this weekend. Ward, who has a sore ankle, has been running very well when called upon, and is not far from reaching 1,000 yards on the season himself. He was a full participant in practice and should play plenty on Sunday.

Marion Barber, RB, Cowboys: If you watched either of the past two Cowboys games, you don't need me to tell you that Barber is still having trouble with his recently dislocated toe. Those problems continue into this week as Barber missed practice Tuesday and was limited on Wednesday. His persistent problems prompted coach Wade Phillips to tell the Dallas Morning News: "Maybe we shouldn't have played him at all. Maybe he would be well by now." Well, maybe. But it's clear that the Cowboys likely won't make the same mistake three times. It looks as if Barber will rest this week and Tashard Choice will once again see the bulk of the work.

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


&#8226 Although the 49ers' practice report was not yet in as of the writing of this column, it is still sounding as if running back Frank Gore will be able to see the field this Sunday. Although he is no lock to play the entire game, it would seem that Gore will be allowed to go as long as the ankle permits. We should have a better idea of what to expect once the week of practice is complete.

&#8226 Expect Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin (sore shoulder) to be back on the field this weekend as Arizona tries to get in sync before the playoffs. Boldin was held out of practice Wednesday but should see some practice time late in the week.

&#8226 In Green Bay, both Donald Driver and Greg Jennings left Monday night's game with injuries. According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Driver sustained a knee contusion (bruise) and Jennings suffered a concussion. Driver was able to return to the game following his injury, always a good sign, but was held out of practice Wednesday. We will check back this weekend but he should be able to go by Sunday. Jennings was limited in practice Wednesday, and the fact that he is back out in practice already is a great sign. He should be able to play Sunday.

&#8226 Both Calvin Johnson (knee bruise) and Kevin Smith (ankle) were in practice on a limited basis Wednesday. Expect both to be available Sunday as the best hopes for a team trying to avoid a winless season.

&#8226 In Philadelphia, Kevin Curtis was kept out of last week's contest with a calf strain. The good news is that Curtis was a full participant in practice Wednesday and it sounds as if the Eagles expect to have him available this weekend, assuming there are no post-practice setbacks. Hank Baskett is still limited by his medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprain and it is too early to predict whether he will be available. Even if he is, you should look elsewhere for another fantasy option. And by now you should know not to worry too much when Brian Westbrook doesn't practice early in the week. Westbrook has overcome knee and ankle injuries early in the year to provide a much-needed spark for the Eagles' offense. That should continue this weekend as the Eagles need a win and will count on his contributions.

&#8226 In Dallas, it's not just the running backs who are hurting. Quarterback Tony Romo missed Wednesday's practice because of illness but is expected to return to practice late in the week and play this weekend. Tight end Jason Witten, who clearly aggravated his ankle injury in the Cowboys' game Saturday, was held out of Wednesday's practice as well. Make no mistake though, Witten will be in the lineup in this all-important game for the Cowboys. Even if his ankle is bothering him, Witten proved in Week 16 that he could still get open and make plays. Fantasy owners can count on him in Week 17 also.

&#8226 Marshawn Lynch was not in practice Wednesday after aggravating his shoulder last weekend. According to the Bills' official Web site, coach Dick Jauron expressed optimism that Lynch would indeed play this weekend, but fantasy owners need to be aware that Fred Jackson may see a larger-than-usual workload.

Guys whom you should NOT expect to see this weekend


Chad Johnson, WR, Bengals: The hamstring strain that kept him out during Week 16 will likely cause him to miss the final game of the season as well.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks: His back has been an issue for him all season long and there is zero reason for him to return this week in a meaningless contest for the Seahawks.

Kellen Winslow, TE, Browns: Winslow is still recovering from a high ankle sprain, and there is clearly no reason for the team to risk putting him back on the field this weekend.

Here's wishing everyone a very happy, restful and peaceful holiday. We'll update the latest player injury status on Saturday and be sure to stop by the injury chat on Sunday at 10 a.m. ET!

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