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Broncos, Rams backs banged up

11/5/2008

What is challenging your fantasy team at the critical midseason juncture? Chances are it's either the loss of one (or all) of your starting quarterbacks (pick a team, any team) or perhaps it's the loss of your starting running back and his handcuff, and maybe even his handcuff (see: St. Louis and Denver). Here's how some of the injury news is shaping up in Week 10.

Denver Broncos RBs: There are just too many injured backs to name. On Monday, we discussed Michael Pittman and his aggravated stinger. Pittman had worked his way up to a starting role, but the latest setback has now forced him onto injured reserve. Joining him on IR is Andre Hall, who suffered a left hand injury.

Selvin Young, who began the season as the Broncos' starting tailback, has been dealing with a groin injury since Oct. 5. Young was limited in practice all last week but the team is hopeful that they can ramp up his activity this week.

Rookie Ryan Torain, fresh off elbow surgery, has a great deal of promise, but is still getting his feet wet in the NFL. Nonetheless, if Young remains less than fully healthy, Torain may well start this week's game by default.

Here's the big problem: The Broncos play Thursday night! So it's not as if they have an entire week to sort this situation out. At this point, it appears that Torain will see an increased role, and there is hope that Young may be able to balance him out. Be sure to check inactives before the game, though, as this is a very fluid situation.

St. Louis Rams RBs: Just like in Denver, the string of injuries in St. Louis threatens the entire backfield.

It starts with the front runner, Steven Jackson, who played Sunday but showed he was clearly less than 100 percent healthy. In fact, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jackson took himself out before the first play of the game because he was concerned that he could not make the cutback that the called play required. Coach Jim Haslett, after being put in a position of having to make last-minute adjustments as a result, has made it clear that that will not be the case again this week: Jackson will either practice at least one full day this week or he will sit on the sidelines Sunday. This will be a more firm test of whether Jackson's quadriceps is truly ready to handle the burst and explosiveness necessary for him to play with confidence.

Meanwhile, fellow running back Antonio Pittman (Pittman is not a good surname to have as a running back if you want to avoid the injury list this week) injured his hamstring on his first carry of the game Sunday. He has already been ruled out of this week's contest against the Jets.

And then there's Travis Minor. Minor suffered a concussion last Sunday that forced him out early and he is still recovering. According to the Post-Dispatch, Minor did not pass a neuro-psych test Tuesday (a battery of tests administered post-concussion; the results of those tests are compared to those obtained during the preseason when the athlete is healthy to assess whether the effects of concussion are still present) and he will be re-tested Friday. There is no guarantee that Minor will be ready to go Sunday.

So with all these question marks, who might be lining up at the running back position for the Rams? Well, it could be Kenneth Darby, signed in mid-October after Brian Leonard went on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. Or it could be Samkon Gado! Remember him? The Rams apparently did, signing him this week to the active roster. As the Post-Dispatch notes, Gado is a bright fellow (he was pre-med in college, so he does have a fallback plan if this football thing doesn't work out) and the team expects him to absorb the offensive playbook quickly enough to see action Sunday, if needed. No kidding! He is listed as the team's No. 2 back as of right now, and it will be interesting to see how practice late this week impacts the rotation.

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

In addition to all the running back struggles, the Broncos have been without tight end Tony Scheffler, who had started the season strong but has missed the past three games with a groin injury. Despite the rest, Scheffler is still on the mend. The Rocky Mountain News reports that Scheffler still had not tried sharp cuts as of Tuesday. His availability for the Thursday night game remains a question mark, and may well be a game-time decision.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck likely will not return this week according to The (Tacoma, Wash.) News-Tribune. Nonetheless, it does appear that he is regaining some strength in his leg, a sign that his sciatic nerve is not as compromised. Before Hasselbeck is cleared to return to practice, he has to demonstrate adequate strength in his leg, so this could signal that that day is approaching. Returning to practice is far removed from returning to play, however, so continue to view this as a longer-term situation.

The Pittsburgh Steelers likely will be without the services of tight end Heath Miller when they face the Colts on Sunday. Miller suffered a sprained ankle in Monday's contest. Perhaps the bigger question, however, is whether Ben Roethlisberger will be under center. Coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged that Roethlisberger aggravated his right shoulder injury, but has not revealed the results of his latest MRI scan. (Roethlisberger suffered an acromioclavicular [AC] joint sprain early in the season and has dealt with shoulder pain ever since).

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Tomlin has not decided whether Roethlisberger or Byron Leftwich, who stepped in ably Monday night, will start Sunday. This is not the kind of injury that heals in a week; if it was, Roethlisberger would have been 100 percent after the bye. This is a condition that the team will manage, but the more hits Roethlisberger takes from week to week, the more likely it is the condition gets exacerbated, and the less effective he is likely to become. We should have a better idea by Friday's practice as to how Tomlin is leaning.

Darren McFadden will be day-to-day this week. Two turf toes. That's all you need to know. Expect Justin Fargas to continue to shoulder the majority of the load this week.

As usual, practice throughout the week will give us a better hint as to what the final status of these players will be heading into Week 10. Remember there are bye weeks for Cincinnati, Dallas, Tampa Bay and Washington, so we will not get much information in terms of player injury updates from these teams until next week. See you Friday at the injury chat, and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 10 in the Saturday blog!