Stephania Bell: Michael Turner

This week's fantasy hand-wringing game-time decision on Thursday night involves Eagles' running back LeSean McCoy. McCoy is listed as questionable because of a sprained toe. [Editor's Note: McCoy is active for Thursday's game.] A few positive signs for McCoy: He finished the game in Week 12. He practiced daily this week. Granted, it was on a limited basis but he was out there on back-to-back days, and most importantly on Tuesday, which is considered the primary prep day for Thursday night games. Both McCoy and head coach Andy Reid expressed optimism early in the week about McCoy's availability. One of the benefits of a player testing the toe in practice is that the medical staff also gets a chance to evaluate how the athlete's toe is responding to any supportive taping or shoe inserts, and adjustments can be made. The plan is for McCoy to test the toe in pregame warmups but the expectation is largely that he will play, barring a surprise. The unpredictable element then becomes whether the toe will limit him, particularly as the game progresses. McCoy has performed well in the presence of other ailments in the past and if he is deemed well enough to start, then the team is expecting a similar result.

The Eagles have already announced they will be without quarterback Michael Vick (ribs) and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (shoulder, hamstring). Vince Young and Riley Cooper start in their respective places. The Seahawks will be without wide receiver Sidney Rice, who has been placed on injured reserve after suffering another concussion, his second this season.

Quick Hits

Not Practicing Thursday: Here is a list of players whose status is in serious question based on the fact that they are not practicing as of Thursday afternoon.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings: Peterson missed Week 12 because of a high left ankle sprain and has not yet practiced this week. Nonetheless, he claims he is progressing and hopes to test his ankle more Friday in the hopes he can play Sunday. According to the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, Peterson did some jogging Wednesday and said, "I can sit here and say I am improving ... I'm getting more movement." Peterson says it may come down to a game-time decision but thinks he'll have a better idea after Friday as to what he can realistically expect. The question for the Vikings then becomes whether it's worth having Peterson attempt to play if he is less than fully healthy, despite his determination. Don't be surprised if there is another week of rest before he returns.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants: Bradshaw has not returned to practice as he continues to recover from a stress fracture in his foot. Despite his declarations that he would play even if he did not practice, coach Tom Coughlin seems to be of another mindset. Mike Garafolo of the Newark Star-Ledger reported via Twitter that Coughlin says Bradshaw must return to practice first. Part of that may be to prove that he can indeed run on the foot without a setback before testing it in a game situation. So far Bradshaw has not resumed running, so the likelihood of an appearance this Sunday appears to be fading. Week 14 is looking like the soonest option.

Mario Manningham, WR, New York Giants: Recurrent knee swelling kept Manningham out of Monday night's game and he has not practiced since. More discouraging were his comments Thursday, when he hinted at the situation possibly being season-ending, according to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. Chronic swelling is reflective of irritation within the joint which can range from tiny floating bits of cartilage or "debris" to minor tears or fraying of a meniscus. While rest, compression and cold therapy can reduce swelling temporarily, if the source persists, the swelling (and associated pain and limitation) will recur. The decision often comes down to whether the condition can be managed effectively or whether surgery is required. Right now his status for this week appears in doubt.

Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders: Despite a McFadden sighting in Oakland, he does not look as if he will be ready for Sunday. McFadden has been out of his boot and walking around but he is not yet working with the team. We heard over a week ago from coach Hue Jackson that the Raiders would not return him before he was 100 percent healthy (the luxury of having Michael Bush on your roster) and they clearly are not rushing McFadden back. While frustrating for fantasy owners now, this will be of benefit to McFadden's foot and ankle health in the longer term. Week 14 could be a possibility, but even then, expect McFadden to be eased back into play.

Jacoby Ford, WR, Oakland Raiders: Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times reported earlier this week that Ford hoped to be back in practice Thursday but was not optimistic about his chances for playing in Week 13. He must be even less so now since he was not practicing Thursday after all. Ford continues to recover from a foot injury and will likely be sidelined Sunday.

Miles Austin, WR, Dallas Cowboys: Earlier this week, Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones expressed optimism that Austin would play Sunday. By Thursday he had changed his tune. According to Calvin Watkins of ESPN Dallas, Jones said Thursday he does not expect Austin to play Sunday against the Cardinals. Like the Raiders having the luxury of Bush filling in for an injured McFadden, the Cowboys have enjoyed the surprise performance of Laurent Robinson. With Austin on his second hamstring injury of the season, there is no desire to press him into action only to lose him for good at the most important time of the year. Austin has not practiced and now probably won't until next week. More Robinson this Sunday.

Julio Jones, WR and Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons: Jones played in Week 12, coming off his second hamstring injury of the season, but was limited in that effort and had no catches. The team is giving him some rest again this week but the hope remains that he can be available Sunday. More surprising was the appearance of Turner on the injury report Wednesday because of a groin issue. Turner's absence again Thursday is causing a bit more concern, especially considering he underwent groin surgery in the offseason. There has been no word as to the severity of this incident or whether it is precisely the same area that is injured, but for a running back known for his power, any groin ailment can be problematic. Friday's practice status should be telling for both of these players.

Practicing Thursday: Here is a list of some key fantasy players who were back in the mix Thursday.

Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions: Stafford was participating last week too, but this week he is throwing without gloves or a protective splint on his index finger. According to the Detroit Free Press, Stafford believes his finger is improving, although he doesn't blame his recent struggles on the finger alone. Still, the closer to normal the throwing conditions for a quarterback, the more he is likely to succeed. Fantasy owners are hopeful.

Kevin Smith, RB, Detroit Lions: After spraining his ankle on Thanksgiving and not practicing Wednesday, there was concern about whether Smith could return in Week 13. Thursday, however, was another story as Smith returned to the practice field. According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Smith appeared to be cutting well doing cone drills and was working first in the running back rotation. While he may not be at full strength, if Smith does not have a setback following Thursday's workout he could be in line to start again Sunday.

See you in the injury chat, Friday at 11 a.m., and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 13 in the Saturday morning blog!

There are so many injuries cropping up this week that we won't waste any time. Let's jump right into the discussion.

Running Backs

Ryan Mathews
AP Photo/ Bill NicholsRyan Mathews was limited to five carries for 26 yards and two catches for 29 yards in Sunday's win over the Jaguars.
Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers: Hmmm. All indications were that Mathews' ankle sprain was minor -- and it may still be -- but now Mathews is reporting that his injury is a high ankle sprain, according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Even in the case of a lesser-degree sprain, a high ankle injury can be more challenging, especially for a running back. The fact that Mathews sat out practice Wednesday is also somewhat of a concern.

That said, it's possible that with rest early in the week, Mathews could be active, but the question will be how effectively he can perform. In fact, if he is active, it would not be surprising if it was in a planned backup role. After all, why risk the chance of turning a mild high ankle sprain into one that's more severe?

Fantasy owners should consider that Mike Tolbert, who clearly demonstrated his value last Sunday when he had to step in, would see the bulk of the workload Sunday if Mathews is limited.

Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals: Wells is perhaps the most discussed fantasy player when it comes to injury as his status has been unclear heading into each of the past two Sundays. And it may remain that way this week.

Wells, who has missed time with a bruised knee, has been battling swelling when he tries to increase activity, a sign that the knee joint remains irritated. The key to his return will be his ability to practice at an increased intensity on consecutive days. Coach Ken Whisenhunt has been clear all along that he does not want to risk Wells' health late in the season by rushing him back before his knee is ready. While Wells' fantasy owners may be frustrated, imagine how much more frustrating it would be if he were to be active on game day, only to have to exit in the first quarter because of the knee.

The encouraging news out of Arizona this week was the report from Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic that Wells increased his activity in practice Wednesday. That's Part 1. Part 2 will be Wells' successful return to practice through the remainder of the week. If signs are positive, he faces a nice matchup against the Oakland Raiders on his home surface (grass). Nonetheless, fantasy owners should remain prepared to replace Wells in the event that he doesn't play or is projected to return on a limited basis.

Joseph Addai, Indianapolis Colts: It didn't take long for the oft-nicked Addai to appear on the Colts' injury report. He is listed as having a knee injury although the team, as is its custom, has provided no details.

At this moment there does not appear to be great cause for concern for the following reasons: Addai had a big game Sunday and may be benefiting from some proactive rest and the Colts are known for their lengthy injury reports, where many players listed early in the week end up playing on Sunday.

Jerome Harrison, Cleveland Browns: Harrison did not practice either Wednesday or Thursday and much like his teammate Jake Delhomme, Harrison appears headed for inactive duty on Sunday. Harrison is reportedly dealing with a thigh injury and he would also be dealing with the Baltimore Ravens' defense if he were to play. There is still the chance that Harrison returns to practice Friday, but between the injury and the matchup, there's not a lot of encouraging news here.

Wide Receivers

Andre Johnson, Houston Texans: After spraining his ankle Sunday, Johnson was held out of Wednesday practice, but fantasy owners should not be alarmed. As we pointed out Tuesday, Johnson did return to the game following his injury.

According to the Texans' official website, Johnson says the ankle is feeling better daily and he expects to play Sunday, barring a setback. I believe him.

Steve Breaston, Arizona Cardinals: Breaston appeared on the injury report as a limited participant Wednesday because of his knee. He had a limited impact in last Sunday's game, perhaps as a result of this. According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, Breaston is expected to practice Thursday, suggesting that he will be available this week.

The better news here is that Larry Fitzgerald does not appear on this week's injury report, suggesting that his knee (MCL sprain) continues to improve.

Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, Cincinnati Bengals: Despite tweeting that he had a "cracked rib," Ochocinco was a full participant in Wednesday practice and is not listed on the team's injury report. Apparently the rib issue is not serious enough to cause concern.

His teammate Owens did appear on the injury report as limited, however, because of his back. According to The Associated Press, Owens expects to play this Sunday when the Bengals face the Carolina Panthers.

Fantasy owners should expect the Batman and Robin tandem to show up on Sunday.


Jake Delhomme, Cleveland Browns: Delhomme's ankle injury took on a more grim outlook this week when it was reported that he actually suffered a right high ankle sprain in Week 1. Add to that the fact that Delhomme has not yet practiced, and it is looking more likely that he will be sitting out Week 3. While Delhomme as quarterback will not place the same demands on the ankle as a running back, meaning he could likely return to play more quickly, he still needs to be strong enough to push off his back leg, mobile enough to move around the pocket and pivot on the foot, and to be at a relatively low risk of reinjury.

As ESPN AFC North blogger James Walker points out, it is rare for a quarterback to miss the majority of practice and play Sunday. Seneca Wallace, who started in place of Delhomme last week, is expected to be the starter again in Week 3 after taking all practice reps with the first team.

Until Delhomme shows that his ankle is functional, fantasy owners should expect him to be sidelined.

Dennis Dixon, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers apparently are giving everyone a turn at quarterback. This week it will be Charlie Batch who gets the nod since Dixon is recovering from knee surgery.

Dixon, who started last week's contest, tore the lateral meniscus in his left knee (the same knee in which he tore his ACL during his final year at Oregon) and underwent surgery Wednesday. Varying timetables have been issued, but most recently ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that his absence is expected to be on the order of six weeks. By that time, Ben Roethlisberger will be back in the mix and Byron Leftwich, out since the preseason because of a sprained MCL, should also be available. And then there's Batch.

Fantasy owners who picked up Dixon as a fill-in could better use that spot on someone else. As far as the Steelers' situation at quarterback, it is likely to remain fluid through Week 4, at least.

Quick Hits

Michael Turner
Jason Bridge/US PresswireIs Michael Turner going to tease fantasy owners again with his injury status?
Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner was a limited participant in practice Wednesday because of the groin injury, but returned to full practice on Thursday. Despite the lack of concern in Atlanta around Turner's health, some may recall last season, when positive reports would only lead to disappointment on Sunday. At that time Turner was trying to return from a high ankle sprain which was more serious than initially projected. Turner's groin strain is reported to be mild and his return to practice is encouraging, but fantasy owners will want to see proof that he is truly 100 percent healthy before they can breathe easy.

• A lot of folks are asking whether Maurice Jones-Drew's knee has something to do with his apparent struggles on the field in Week 2. Interestingly Jones-Drew appears on this week's injury report because of an ankle, not the knee. He was limited in practice Wednesday, but there's certainly no hint that he won't be available Sunday. Are these small nicks taking a toll? Unfortunately, only time will tell but it's impossible not to put this guy in your lineup if he's on the field. For now, there is no evidence for a serious injury, but naturally, we'll be watching.

St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson was limited in Wednesday practice because of his knee, but that might well be proactive planning. Jackson ran well last Sunday after rest early in the week, so the expectation is that he will do so again.

Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis appears on the injury report again this week because of his wrist. Portis played last Sunday after being listed as questionable (although he practiced fully all week) and should do the same again.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin sat out Wednesday practice, but not because of the hip ailment that hampered him during Sunday's game. This time it's the migraine issue again. After a rough bout with migraines during the preseason, Harvin had expressed optimism that the issue would be behind him once he was diagnosed with (and being treated for) sleep apnea. While the sleep apnea may well be a major contributing factor, it was unlikely that the migraines could be eliminated, as Harvin is finding out. He did return to practice Thursday, according to 1500 ESPN's Tom Pelissero. It will be interesting to see what happens Friday since Harvin was downgraded late in the week last week after early practice. There is no question the Vikings want Harvin in their lineup; the question for fantasy owners will be what they can expect if he's there. Check back Saturday.

• The Baltimore Ravens had a trio of fantasy players on the early injury report. Wide receiver Derrick Mason did not practice because of his knee. No word yet of anything serious, but we'll keep an eye on what he does as the week progresses. Meanwhile tight end Todd Heap, who played last week despite a strained shoulder, was a full participant in practice, as was running back Ray Rice. Rice told the Baltimore Sun that the ankle he tweaked last Sunday felt "great" and that he expects to play Sunday.

• Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith showed up as a limited participant Wednesday and Thursday because of a thigh injury (note that it's not the wrist that was bothering him after the game). The Panthers may be controlling his activity so that he can run full speed Sunday, but there has to be some concern about how he will blend with new starting quarterback Jimmy Clausen.

Jason Witten
AP Photo/Sharon EllmanJason Witten tried to argue his way back into Sunday's loss to the Bears despite suffering a concussion earlier in the game.
Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten had improved enough from a concussion to participate on a limited basis in Wednesday practice. Assuming he doesn't have any post-workout symptoms, Witten is looking like a guy who will suit up on Sunday. Teammate wide receiver Dez Bryant also was limited Wednesday because of a rib injury. While the fact that he practiced at all suggests that this is not serious, the frequency with which Bryant appears with an injury could be. He remains a risky player who has yet to prove his fantasy reward.

• Well, the good news for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb is that he's getting healthier. As of Wednesday, he was a full participant in practice. The bad news is it doesn't matter as far as fantasy owners are concerned. Coach Andy Reid stated earlier this week that Michael Vick will be the starting quarterback and it appears it will remain that way until, well, we'll see.

See you at the injury chats (Tuesday and Friday 3-4 p.m.) and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 3 in the Saturday morning blog!

Reggie Bush out at least six weeks

September, 21, 2010

Kyle Terada/US PresswireReggie Bush was able to make it to the sideline Monday but had to be carted to the locker room.
Welcome to the Tuesday following the second week of football. I am still recovering from the thriller I witnessed at Candlestick Park between the New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night. Although the game itself offered up plenty of discussion topics, the big injury news of the night was to running back Reggie Bush. When Bush tried to get up on his own -- and failed -- after getting hit hard in the fourth quarter, it immediately appeared serious. When Bush was helped from the field by two members of the Saints' medical staff and appeared unwilling or unable to put weight on his right leg, it confirmed the likelihood of a more significant injury.

ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that Bush suffered a fractured fibula and is expected to miss four to six weeks. The fibula is the long skinny bone on the outer part of the lower leg. The lower end of the bone makes up the outer portion of the ankle joint, which is why the ankle is generally immobilized for a period of time especially if the break is in the lower portion, as reports suggest. Bone heals well and has a fairly predictable timetable of four to six weeks.

The bigger issue for a running back with this injury is the immobilization of the ankle for a period of time. The joint has to be protected to allow the bony ends to heal; however, during that period of time, the ankle loses range of motion and can become quite stiff. Regaining that range of motion and strength about the ankle, particularly in the way that a player of Bush's slashing and cutting style demands, is especially challenging. Fantasy owners should prepare for an absence of at least six weeks. (For more on what to do with Bush on your roster, check out Eric Karabell's blog.)

As for Sunday's action, how many of you actually had Atlanta Falcons running back Jason Snelling in your fantasy lineup in anticipation of injuries to both Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood? I thought so. And while he was on your bench (or on the free-agent market if you, like me, released him earlier in the week to make room for some other guys who might actually, ahem, see playing time), all he did was score three touchdowns and rack up 186 yards. Turner's groin injury is reportedly mild, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that he could have returned to the game. Indications thus far are that Turner will play Sunday. Nonetheless, I suspect all Turner owners are scouring the waiver wire for Snelling at this moment. At least they should be.

And then there's Detroit Lions rookie running back Jahvid Best. In his best imitation of Houston Texans newly minted star running back Arian Foster, Best had 78 yards rushing, 154 yards receiving and three touchdowns for some insane fantasy points. He had been on the injury report all week with a toe ailment (although if you happened to catch my Saturday pregame blog entry, I noted that he put in full practice all week and suggested the toe injury was not serious) but came through in amazing fashion.

Which got me to thinking, I wonder how some of the guys we were watching most closely in advance of this week's games performed. In some instances, Sunday's performances can actually provide insight into how fantasy owners might view some of their injury question marks early in the week, before the first official NFL injury reports are even posted.

Here are a few of my observations:

AP Photo/Michael ConroyDespite being a game-time decision heading into Week 2, Hakeem Nicks played and actually caught a TD pass in the loss to the Colts.
New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks entered Sunday night's game as questionable after an ankle injury in Week 1. Hicks was well enough to start Sunday, and although he did not have a performance to match Week 1 (it's pretty hard to repeat three touchdowns), he managed to play the entire contest, even netting 38 yards and a score for fantasy owners, despite the actual game being out of reach. For his part, Nicks told the Newark Star-Ledger that he did not emerge any worse for the wear. He says he'll practice all week and expects to play.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin raised red flags last week when he went from limited practice Wednesday to no practice Thursday because of a hip injury. Harvin's Friday return and his insistence that he would play, along with the Vikings' nonsecretive plan to incorporate him more into the offense, made him a reasonable starting option Sunday once we learned he was active. Or so it seemed. Harvin was not on the field for the entire game -- only 11 plays in the second half -- as the hip became more problematic. In fact the hip was enough of a factor to send Harvin for an MRI on Monday. ESPN 1500 Twin Cities is reporting that the MRI showed a hip strain, alleviating concerns of any major structural damage. However, as was evident this past weekend, hip problems, even minor ones, are nothing to sneeze at. There are numerous muscles that act in concert to control the hip, and that coordination is necessary for the explosiveness and power of a player like Harvin. Until he shows he can be a full participant in practice, fantasy owners should be a little concerned.

• Savvy fantasy owners sat both Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells and Oakland Raiders running back Michael Bush this past week. Wells had a 1 p.m. start, so his status was known well in advance of kickoff. Bush played in a late game, but the signs were there (decreased practice late in the week, his omission from contact drills) that he would sit Sunday. There are no guarantees that Wells will play this week, either, so fantasy owners need to maintain another option on their rosters. Meanwhile, it sounds as if Bush could see his first game action Sunday. The picture will become clearer as the week progresses.

And the injury list grows ...

Jerious Norwood, RB, Atlanta Falcons: The reason Snelling's value skyrocketed this past week was that in addition to losing Turner during Sunday's game, the Falcons also lost Jerious Norwood to a knee injury. Norwood was still on crutches Monday, and from the sound of things, this appears to be a more serious injury. Numerous reports said that Norwood tore his ACL and would be out for the season.

Ryan Matthews
Christopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireRyan Mathews may have returned to Sunday's game against the Jaguars, but the Chargers had a big lead early.
Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers: It appears that Mathews' fantasy owners can breathe a sigh of relief. The San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting that Mathews' sprained ankle was sore after Sunday's game, but he is expected to play this week. Mathews was replaced by Mike Tolbert on Sunday, and his performance probably awakened some to his value. Even with Mathews healthy, expect Tolbert to see some action going forward.

Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans: Johnson sprained his right ankle Sunday and exited the game for a bit in the second half before returning and making a spectacular catch in the fourth quarter for a touchdown. It's always a good sign when a player is able to return after injury, and an MRI taken Monday showed no significant damage. Texans coach Gary Kubiak called Johnson's injury a mild ankle sprain and said he will be "day-to-day as we head into the weekend." It appears that fantasy owners will have him available this weekend, barring a setback.

Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys: Witten suffered a concussion after a hard hit Sunday and, to the credit of the Cowboys' medical staff, was not permitted to return to the game despite his vehement pleas to do so. This is going to be the pattern we'll see with concussion injuries, as teams will err on the side of caution. It's also important to note that because none of us is there on the sideline, we cannot possibly know what the medical staff saw in its assessment that led to the decision. In other words, we can assume the trainers were making a sound decision based on their medical assessment at the time, nothing more, nothing less.

Witten reported no headaches or other concussion-related symptoms on Monday. According to the Dallas Morning News, head coach Wade Phillips expects Witten to be cleared to practice and return to play this week. It's important to keep in mind that Witten will need to continue to remain symptom-free after he returns to practice, but so far these are encouraging signs for his return.

Other quick hits:

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Dennis Dixon is scheduled to undergo lateral meniscus surgery Wednesday and is sidelined indefinitely. The speed of his return will have much to do with what exactly happens during surgery. Meniscus repairs of this type can be season-ending. If it is a more simple procedure, where a flap of torn meniscus is removed, it's conceivable that he could return within approximately four weeks. Of course, by that point, Ben Roethlisberger will have returned. Although Charlie Batch is currently the only fully healthy option, Byron Leftwich has been making progress from his MCL sprain. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Leftwich and Batch will compete for the starting job during practice this week.

• Detroit Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson suffered a high ankle sprain and is expected to miss two to three weeks. This seems like a low-end projection, so fantasy owners might want to seek another option.

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez is expected to miss more than a month with a high ankle sprain. Another sad start to a football season for him. Another reason for fantasy owners who had him stashed away to drop him.

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

See you at the injury chats (Tuesday and Friday 3-4 p.m.), and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 3 in the Thursday and Saturday blogs!

My oh my, what a week of football! There were some crazy performances this holiday week. Unfortunately many of the players who had them may not have been in your active lineup ... or perhaps were not even on your fantasy roster. Devin Aromashodu? An injury to Chicago Bears receiver Johnny Knox opened the door to his star performance on Monday night. Greg Olsen? He hadn't scored more than one fantasy point in the last three weeks but delivered 10 -- most likely to your bench -- on Monday night. And what about Steven Jackson, who may have been in your Sunday lineup after he promised to "gut it out" the remainder of the season, but ended up inactive? (In defense of Jackson, his symptoms took a late turn for the worse, always a justifiable reason for a player's status to change, although that still may not appease fantasy owners.)

On the flip side, Jonathan Stewart had a phenomenal day and the Carolina Panthers tipped us off early that he likely would have the bigger role, even if DeAngelo Williams played (which he didn't). If you've been relying on Cadillac Williams as a flex play, he put up a healthy double-digit day while shouldering the load in the presence of an ailing Derrick Ward. And Tom Brady owners knew to start him Sunday even though he's been listed on the injury report with multiple ailments for several weeks. He delivered several touchdown passes to recently beleaguered teammate Randy Moss while delivering plenty of fantasy points to faithful owners.

If you're still alive after all the fantasy drama and are aiming for victory in Week 17, then you need to know who will be on the field for you come Sunday. While we can't anticipate all the various coaching strategies surrounding the do-you-or-don't-you rest the starters question, we can certainly pay attention to who's on the injury watch in this final week of the regular NFL season. Here's what we're looking at so far ...

Pierre Thomas
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireWith the Saints having clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC, it's possible that Pierre Thomas won't play in Week 17.
Pierre Thomas, RB, New Orleans Saints: Thomas left Sunday's game before halftime with bruised ribs and was unable to return. Fortunately, X-rays proved to be negative for a fracture, but Thomas is no doubt experiencing lingering soreness and difficulty moving. The New Orleans Times-Picayune suggests that Thomas likely will be limited in practice this week and questionable heading into Sunday's game. Knowing a running back faces certain contact on the field, it would not be at all surprising if Thomas is on the sideline in Week 17. Fantasy owners might want to check out Lynell Hamilton if in need of an emergency running back.

DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers: Williams sat out Week 16 because of a left ankle sprain, and Jonathan Stewart did his usual job of stepping it up in his absence. The question becomes whether Williams will be available in Week 17. According to the Charlotte Observer, coach John Fox has said "he has reason to believe there's a chance" that Williams plays Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. Fox tends to hold the door open for Williams until late in the week to give him an opportunity to get healthy. It remains to be seen just how much Williams will be able to do on that ankle, but if he has not returned to practice by Thursday, it would put his status further in doubt. Stewart should be expected to get his usual Wednesday off but then increase his work. Fantasy owners should keep an eye on Panthers practice reports late in the week to see how things are shaping up.

Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams: Jackson was a surprise inactive in Week 16 but we later found out there was good reason for him to rest. Jackson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he began experiencing some new symptoms, including pain radiating down his leg, along with difficulty loosening up his back before the game. Jackson confirmed the widely reported herniated disk injury and added that he hopes to play in Week 17. Pain radiating into the leg signifies that there is nerve involvement to accompany the disk injury, a more serious situation than pain localized to the back area. The hope is that the leg pain will resolve through the week and that Jackson will be able to return, but as fantasy owners saw last week, that could come down to game time. Expect Jackson to try to play, but have an alternate plan handy.

Julius Jones, RB, Seattle Seahawks: Jones aggravated a rib injury and sustained an ankle injury in Sunday's game, according to The Seattle Times, making it seem all the more likely that Justin Forsett will indeed see the majority of the work in Week 17. Jones and Forsett were just about even in Week 16 in terms of touches, but Forsett managed slightly more productivity with those carries. Forsett may well be trying to impress with 2010 in mind, which could be a nice bonus for fantasy owners.

Other quick hits:

Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams left in the third quarter of Sunday's contest with a right shoulder injury. There have been no specifics as to the nature of the injury but Williams told reporters after the game that he would be "fine." Keep an eye on his practice activity this week.

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward aggravated his hamstring injury late in the game. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, coach Mike Tomlin summed up Ward's condition by saying "He's just beat up." Hard to argue with that. Whether Ward will be able to return for Sunday's game is not yet known.

Indianapolis Colts receiver Pierre Garcon has been ruled out for Week 17. It's not necessarily a surprise, but it's nice of the Colts to provide fantasy owners with some official advance notice.

Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner has the potential to return to practice Wednesday, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Fantasy owners should not be lured into thinking that he will be a good fantasy option this week, even if he manages to suit up for Sunday.

See you at the final Sunday pregame chat (10:00-10:30 a.m.) and check for the latest injury updates affecting Week 17 in the Saturday morning blog!

Westbrook cleared to play

December, 24, 2009

As the holidays are upon us, a number of players are going on holiday for the remainder of the season. In what could be termed the most anticlimactic fantasy news ever, several players were moved to injured reserve status within the past 24 hours.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme was not going to recover enough from his broken finger to be able to return this season. That means Matt Moore is the Panthers' signal-caller for the rest of the season.

In Indianapolis, wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez was moved to IR after suffering yet another setback with his injured knee. Gonzalez, a relatively high fantasy draft pick this year, was originally injured in Week 1 when he suffered a PCL sprain. Gonzalez ultimately required follow-up surgery but finally appeared to be making some progress. Despite some improvement, Gonzalez was not going to be able to progress enough to make it back onto the playing field. Hope for Gonzalez to come back strong next year.

In Buffalo, quarterback Trent Edwards was placed on IR after suffering a high ankle sprain. Ryan Fitzpatrick also suffered an ankle injury in Week 16 but is still on the active roster, at least for now.

The Cleveland Browns put Brady Quinn on IR as a result of his injured foot. Only two years in the league and both seasons have ended early due to injury. Not encouraging.

Over in Detroit it was the balky knee of quarterback Matthew Stafford, along with an ailing left shoulder, that forced him onto IR. Stafford suffered a patellar subluxation early in the season and came back briefly, but later suffered a left AC separation. Stafford is expected to undergo minor knee surgery Tuesday (to be performed by the one and only Dr. James Andrews) and is expected to be ready for the start of the season. In his stead Drew Stanton will get his first NFL start when he takes the field for the Lions this Sunday.

For those of you who have survived to play in your fantasy championship round, it's worth noting that none of these moves had any effect on you whatsoever. So who are the guys with injuries that actually could affect you this holiday weekend? Let's get to the big names ...


Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: Ryan made his return to the playing field in Week 15 after missing time with a turf toe injury. Ryan emerged from Sunday's contest sore and was not a participant in Wednesday's practice. He did return to practice on a limited basis Thursday so you have to imagine he will play Sunday despite the discomfort, barring some sort of setback.

Running Backs

Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia Eagles: The most important news for Westbrook is that he is healthy enough to be medically cleared to play. And he is expected to take the field Sunday against the Denver Broncos, but he should not be on your fantasy roster. The Eagles have already indicated that they will use him on a limited basis, no doubt working him gradually back into game shape. If Westbrook does well he might see increased action in Week 17, so if your playoffs extend another week, you may as well hold on to him in the hope that he can help then.

Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons: Turner has been dealing with an injured right ankle for more than a month now and his setback last week should be a warning to fantasy owners. Turner did not practice Wednesday and his Sunday status remains a mystery. That said, his history would suggest that if he does play, it represents a big fantasy risk.

DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers: Williams suffered an ankle injury in Week 15 that forced him out of the game early. Bummer for Williams owners but Jonathan Stewart owners were certainly celebrating. So who will be getting the majority of the carries this week? It's too soon to tell. Neither player practiced Wednesday, but that is par for the course for Stewart and has been the norm for Williams when banged up. Williams did also sit out Thursday practice so the wind may be blowing in Stewart's direction. But we've also seen the Panthers hold one of their backs out all week in the hope that he can play Sunday. This may come down to a game-time decision. Stay tuned.

Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams: It's no secret that Jackson is playing through pain. He has a herniated disk in his back which is keeping him out of practice but not keeping him from being on the field Sunday. Last week he added flu-like symptoms to the mix but still managed to perform. While he's been kept out of the end zone lately, he does have a good matchup against Arizona. Jackson has said he plans to "gut it out" for the remainder of the season and we should believe him.

Reggie Bush, New Orleans Saints: Bush suffered what he called a minor hamstring strain in Week 15 and was held to a limited practice Wednesday. This does not seem to be something that will keep him out of Sunday's game (an important game in the Saints' quest for home-field advantage) but check back Saturday for an update.

Julius Jones, Seattle Seahawks: Jones suffered a rib injury in Week 15 and did not practice Wednesday. This is setting up to be a bigger week for Justin Forsett in terms of workload.

Wide Receivers

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals: Fitzgerald played Sunday less than a week after suffering a bone bruise and a mild knee sprain. While Fitzgerald may not be 100 percent healthy, Fitzgerald at 75 percent is better than just about anyone in the rest of the field. He was limited in practice Wednesday but that should not worry fantasy owners. Expect him to be on the field to face the St. Louis Rams Sunday.

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions: Johnson still did not look like himself in Week 15 but he had several factors working against him. His knee had kept him out of most of last week's practice, his primary quarterback was out and Arizona was looking to avenge a poor performance earlier in the week. This may be a better week for Johnson. He was back in full practice Wednesday and he knows who will be throwing the ball to him early in the week (Drew Stanton). Fantasy owners need to be alert to any potential setbacks between now and game time, but right now Johnson looks like a decent play.

Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings: Harvin sat out Week 14 and then was limited in Week 15 after a severe bout of migraine headaches. This week there is more optimism in Minnesota as Harvin did not appear on the injury report Wednesday. While the migraines will be an ongoing condition that Harvin and his medical team will need to manage, at least the early signs this week are encouraging. Keep in mind, however, that migraines can occur at any time, without warning. Since the Vikings play Monday night, Harvin owners should play it safe and explore their fantasy alternatives in the event that things change at the last minute.

Braylon Edwards, New York Jets: Edwards did not practice Wednesday and is listed on the injury practice report with a knee injury. He is expected to practice Thursday and will likely play this weekend.

Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis Colts: Garcon bruised his hand in Week 15 and left the game early, much to the dismay of many fantasy owners. Garcon did not practice Wednesday but it's hard to read too much into that. The Colts are very protective of their starters and will not risk further injury by having them practice. Coach Jim Caldwell has already hinted that healthy starters will play, but how much they will play is unknown. It's worth keeping an eye on whether Garcon returns to practice before the week is out.

Hines Ward, Pittsburgh Steelers: Ward apparently suffered a "minor" setback to his hamstring strain, but it was enough to keep him out of practice Wednesday. Based on the fact that Ward suited up just four days after he originally injured his hamstring, it would be hard to imagine him on the bench. Expect him to play but he might be a little less mobile, which could translate to more blocking, less receiving.

Devin Hester, Chicago Bears: Hester has missed the past two games because of a calf strain but was able to get back into limited practice Wednesday. This was the first time Hester had practiced in more than two weeks so this has to be a good sign for the Bears. We'll see what Hester does as the week goes on, but by Saturday we should have a better idea of whether he'll be available for Monday night.

Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles: Maclin sat out Week 15 after partially tearing the plantar fascia in his foot. He was back in full practice Wednesday, however, suggesting that he will be available this week. Fantasy owners will want to check back Saturday to see how Maclin fared throughout the week, but so far, things are looking good.

Have a very, merry Christmas and happy holiday weekend everyone!!
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 a.m., Friday 11 a.m., and Sunday pregame 10-10:30 a.m.). And check out Fantasy Football Now on Sundays at from 11:30 a.m. EST to kickoff for last-minute inactives, rankings and more!

How many of you started Jerome Harrison in Week 15? Come on now, tell the truth. I'll bet a whole lot more folks started Calvin Johnson, Pierre Garcon, Michael Turner or even newcomer Arian Foster, based on good, logical reasoning about past performance and future expectations. Sadly, Johnson and company combined for a whopping total of three points. That's right: an average of less than one point per player.

All four had injuries that affected their performance. Johnson has a balky knee; Garcon left his game early with a bruised hand; Turner reinjured his ailing ankle on his first carry; and Foster, well, he suffered from that virus circulating among Houston running backs known as fumble-itis. Meanwhile, Harrison -- all by his lonesome -- scored more than 15 times the number of points that group put together. I guess you could say Harrison is at least healthy.

If your fantasy playoff battle took place against a Harrison owner (who didn't happen to have him on the bench), then you are no doubt suffering from post-playoff depression. Fortunately, it's curable, but it tends to last about eight months, which is when the next fantasy football season begins. As for those of you who were able to make it into the next round of playoffs, you are left wondering who Week 16's Jerome Harrison will be. I can't tell you that, but I can tell you whom we're looking at in the world of injuries this holiday week ...

Michael Turner
Dale Zanine/US PresswireMichael Turner's ankle has derailed many a fantasy team during the playoffs.
Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons: Turner has been pressing to get back on the field since injuring his right ankle, not once, not twice, but three times. Turner exited the game after just one carry Sunday after a hit to that ankle, and his status for Week 16 is again in question. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, coach Mike Smith reiterates that Turner will not automatically be shut down. Said Smith: "[Turner] is a quick healer. ... We're hoping he'll respond and come back." There are certainly reasons to be concerned about repetitive injury to a joint as it is trying to heal, particularly when it comes to long-term health. In fantasy, if you've already been burned here, you know to stay away. Let Turner prove he can get through a full game while you get your fantasy points elsewhere.

Reggie Bush, RB, New Orleans Saints: Bush sustained a hamstring injury in the Saints' first loss of the season, but from the sound of things, this is a minor incident. Bush said he felt it grab right away, but he also characterized the injury as "very minor." In fact, despite a fairly significant injury history, Bush says he has never pulled a hamstring before, something that works in his favor toward progressing quickly. Fantasy owners can also feel good about coach Sean Payton's philosophy when it comes to resting players from the stretch run: He isn't planning on it. Payton told reporters Monday that the team is focused on each game, "right now," which means everyone needs to participate. Watch Bush in practice this week, but expect him to be available Sunday.

DeAngelo Williams, RB, Carolina Panthers: Williams suffered a left ankle sprain in the first quarter of Sunday's game but there has been little word out of Carolina as to the severity of the injury. Williams sat out Week 13 because of an ankle injury but returned in Week 14 and rushed for more than 80 yards. Williams practiced this past week without incident and seemed to be in good shape heading into the game against Minnesota. The Panthers have been able to lean on Jonathan Stewart when Williams has been hobbled. They may have to do so again if Williams struggles with the ankle this week.

Other quick hits:

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford may not return in Week 16. His left shoulder AC separation is still causing him some discomfort, and it sounds as if the Lions will not return him to the field until he has healed sufficiently. Coach Jim Schwartz told reporters Monday that Stafford's shoulder was "definitely still a concern." The question, then, is who will replace him. Schwartz has not decided whether it will be Daunte Culpepper or Drew Stanton.

• Staying in Detroit, wide receiver Calvin Johnson is clearly less effective when Matthew Stafford is not throwing to him and when his knees are giving him trouble. That combination was in effect Sunday, when Johnson failed to be a big fantasy factor. He is not likely to be 100 percent healthy this week, and we don't yet know who will be throwing to him. This will be a situation to watch.

Philadelphia Eagles running back Brian Westbrook may be active in Week 16, but fantasy owners should not get too excited. Coach Andy Reid has indicated that Westbrook will have "limited reps," according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. This makes perfect sense, as he will need to ease back into game shape. If Westbrook does make an appearance, he likely won't have fantasy value in Week 16, but he might be worth grabbing for a possible Week 17 play.

Nate Burleson
Kirby Lee/US PresswireNate Burleson missed Week 15 with an ankle injury, and given the Seahawks' other woes, he might miss the rest of the season with not much time left.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Nate Burleson is already doubtful for Week 16, according to coach Jim Mora. Burleson sat out Week 15 with a high ankle sprain, and there was concern from the outset that he could be forced out for the rest of the season. While that has not happened yet, it certainly does not sound as though fantasy owners want to count on him for their playoffs. Best to look elsewhere.
Meanwhile, teammate Julius Jones suffered a rib injury Sunday (again), which could mean more carries for Justin Forsett in Week 16.

New York Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks strained a hamstring in Monday night's contest but was quick to downplay the injury. According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Nicks said the hamstring had been tight for two weeks, adding that this strain was nowhere near as serious as the injury he suffered during training camp. Nicks did not return after the injury Monday night, but the Giants were already dominating the game. Expect Nicks to be available in Week 16, barring a setback.

Indianapolis Colts receiver Pierre Garcon killed many a fantasy playoff dream when he left Thursday night's game early with a bruised hand. Although the injury did not appear serious, Garcon did not return for precautionary reasons, according to the Indianapolis Star. Coach Jim Caldwell hinted when he spoke to reporters Monday that starters might see limited playing time in Week 16, so fantasy owners will need to think twice about using Garcon this week.

• The Buffalo Bills lost not one but two quarterbacks this week to ankle injuries. Trent Edwards has been placed on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain. Ryan Fitzpatrick is also expected out this week as a result of his right ankle injury. Fantasy owners should not put their hopes in the hands of Brian Brohm, who is expected to get the start in Week 16.

Oakland Raiders tight end Zach Miller missed Week 15 following his second concussion of the season. Miller hopes to play in Week 16.

See you at the injury chats (Tuesday 11 a.m.-noon and Sunday pregame 10-10:30 a.m. this week), and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 16 in the Saturday morning blog.

The Cincinnati Bengals practiced with heavy hearts today after learning of the death of teammate Chris Henry, who had been placed on injured reserve in November after suffering a left forearm fracture. Our thoughts are with Henry's family and the Bengals at this difficult time.

As challenging as it can be to forge ahead through difficult circumstances such as this, it is what humans do. The Bengals will do just that when they take the field Sunday. In terms of game preparation, the Bengals are otherwise fortunate in that they do not have an extensive injury report, and their key players are healthy. Some other teams around the league are dealing with lengthy injury reports, however, and face the potential absence of several key players as they approach the playoffs.

So who will be on the field for your fantasy playoff roster heading into Week 15? Here's what we're hearing so far this week ...


Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: Ryan suffered a turf-toe injury in Week 12 that has sidelined him the past two weeks. Ryan did not practice Wednesday, which was not a surprise. But his return to practice Thursday was a surprise. Although the extent of his practice work is unclear, the fact that Ryan was present at least raises the possibility that he'll play Sunday. Stay tuned.

Vince Young, Tennessee Titans: I outlined Young's latest injury setback Tuesday. By Wednesday, Young was strongly suggesting to reporters that he would be back on the field with the team in Week 15, telling the Nashville Tennessean that his hamstring was feeling "way better," and adding, "I definitely want to play. I am taking it easy just to be on the safe side." Taking it easy refers to the fact that Young didn't practice Wednesday. Since rest is the best medicine for hamstring injuries, this is not a big surprise. Expect Young to try to increase his activity late in the week in preparation for this week's game. He likely won't be 100 percent healthy, meaning his ability to make big plays on the run could be affected, but it sounds as if the Titans expect him to perform.

Tom Brady
Elsa/Getty Images Tom Brady is battling three injuries, but they shouldn't keep him from playing this week.
Tom Brady, New England Patriots: Brady caught our attention last week when he missed practice for the first time all season. Brady was (and still is) nursing three injuries: He has ongoing issues with his throwing shoulder (which was aggravated in the preseason); he recently injured the ring finger on his throwing hand (which, though noticeably bruised, did not appear to affect his accuracy in Week 14); and, most significantly perhaps, he suffered a rib injury, which might be affecting his performance to some degree.

Rib injuries for quarterbacks are not easy to play through. Just ask Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb or Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, both of whom have missed time this year because of broken ribs. The location of the rib injury, though, might have much to do with why Brady is able to persevere. A lower left-sided rib injury such as the one McNabb suffered is particularly problematic for a thrower because of the attachment there of the large abdominal oblique muscles. Contraction of those muscles, which are responsible for trunk rotation, can pull at the injured rib, aggravating it with each effort. Although all rib injuries are painful, a same-sided rib injury for Brady (on the right side for a right-handed thrower) could allow him to function a bit better.

Of course, this takes nothing away from his toughness. Brady's successful rehabilitation and return from a challenging knee injury has already proved his mettle. For the record, let's be clear that his knee is not one of his injury concerns at this point. He has already demonstrated that the knee issue is well behind him. In fact, Brady's leg strength is one of the variables likely helping him endure his current upper-body injuries. Brady will continue to play with these injuries and, after resting Wednesday, was back in practice Thursday to prepare for Week 15. Fantasy owners should expect Brady on the field Sunday to face the Bills.

Mark Sanchez, New York Jets: Sanchez missed Week 14 after suffering a posterior cruciate ligament injury the week before. Sanchez returned to limited practice on Wednesday, and he worked with the first team on Thursday, according to the Newark Star-Ledger. Although Sanchez has not officially been named the Week 15 starter, all signs are currently pointing in that direction. Coach Rex Ryan said that Sanchez "looked good" and "moved well" and that the team will see how his knee responds to the workout. The Jets likely will announce their starter decision Friday. It is worth noting that Sanchez likely will have braces on both knees, which could slow him a bit. But as long as he can escape defenders, it looks as if he will play.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: Stafford is not expected to play in Week 15 as he continues to nurse a separated left (non-throwing) shoulder. Coach Jim Schwartz indicated that Stafford is "still a ways away," according to the Detroit News. Although Stafford says surgery is not currently an option, it normally takes several weeks before scar tissue can settle in and provide stability to the AC joint after this type of injury. Given that Stafford has already had one setback, it sounds as if the Lions are being more cautious now. And why not? Stafford is a long-term player for a franchise that is not headed into the postseason this year. Expect Daunte Culpepper to start again. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson's value might take a hit here, not only because of the switch at quarterback but also because Johnson is again facing injury issues of his own.

Running backs

Michael Turner, Falcons: Turner did not practice Wednesday, which seems to be par for the course of late. Turner's right ankle has kept him out of action since Week 12, when he suffered a setback, although he has not been fantasy productive since Week 10. In the past week, Turner has maintained that he has been making progress, and to that end, he did return to practice Thursday. Although it's unknown at this time just how much Turner actually participated, this is clearly a good sign in terms of his recovery. Fantasy owners should not get too excited just yet; there is still no definitive indication that Turner will be ready to play in Week 15. Naturally, what Turner does in practice toward the end of the week will dictate our level of confidence in him if he does return.

Brian Westbrook, Eagles: The good news is that Westbrook has been able to progress his activity as he recovers from his second concussion, including returning to practice with the scout team last week. The not-so-good news is that Westbrook still has not met the targets that would allow him to receive medical clearance to return to play. Coach Andy Reid told the Philadelphia Daily News that Westbrook is, "better, but not all the way completely cleared. We're still doing [testing] as his exercise increases. They'll keep testing him until they're comfortable with where he's at." Reid reminded everyone that despite eagerness on the part of Westbrook and the team to have him back, the Eagles will continue to do what's in the best interest of the athlete, which is as it should be. It sounds as if Westbrook will not be available in Week 15.

Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers: After Stewart suffered an injury to his toe in Week 14, his routine nonparticipation in Wednesday practice raised a bit more concern. That concern was alleviated, though, with the news that Stewart was a full participant in Thursday's practice. It will be important to see how Stewart responds to Thursday's activity before determining his Sunday availability, but the situation is looking good so far.

Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams: Jackson has been pressing through a back injury for the past few weeks, and it has now been revealed to be a herniated disk, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The diagnosis does not change anything, though; much of what determines whether Jackson can play is simply how his back feels.

In the case of a herniated disk, as long as the symptoms remain localized to Jackson's low back, there is not necessarily a huge level of concern. Many people are quite functional despite the presence of disk problems, although when the disk is inflamed, the pain itself can be debilitating. The concern grows, however, if the disk is causing associated neurological problems, such as numbness or weakness in the leg. This was the case last season for the aforementioned Matt Hasselbeck, who was having weakness in his leg as the result of a herniated disk in his back. Hasselbeck's season came to an early end, but he recovered nicely in the offseason and, after undergoing a rigorous rehabilitation and conditioning program, has been able to return strong this year.

This week likely will be a repeat of the past few weeks, with Jackson's availability to be determined at game time.

Wide receivers

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals: Fitzgerald's owners can breathe a bit easier now that tests have revealed that Fitzgerald did not suffer a season-threatening injury Monday night. He did sustain a bone bruise, though, along with a mildly sprained medial collateral ligament. Bone bruises, which often occur in conjunction with major ligament injuries, can be painful, and Fitzgerald clearly is experiencing some discomfort. Nonetheless, he was back in practice Wednesday on a limited basis, and the Cardinals were sure to keep him from overdoing it. As coach Ken Whisenhunt told the Arizona Republic, "We're going to be as conservative as we can early in the week with hopes that he will be able to do more on Friday and obviously play on Sunday." For his part, Fitzgerald insists he will play Sunday, but the Cardinals will monitor his progress throughout the week before making their final decision.

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions: Johnson didn't practice Thursday, causing the red flags surrounding his knee injury to reappear. Although there have not been many details provided, there must be some concern about Johnson's Sunday availability, given this midweek downgrade. Fantasy owners should have a backup plan in place.

Percy Harvin
Tom Dahlin/Getty ImagesPercy Harvin has been evaluated closely this week.
Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings are understandably getting a bit nervous about the status of their star rookie receiver, who missed Week 14 because of ongoing issues with migraine headaches. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that Harvin is continuing to be medically evaluated related to the migraines to ensure that the headaches do not represent another more serious underlying issue. As the Star-Tribune outlines, one of the concerns is that although Harvin has been dealing with headaches since childhood, the frequency of their occurrence seems to be increasing. Although migraines are often unpredictable in nature, many patients learn to identify (and therefore avoid, to the extent possible) the triggers that can set them off. When the triggers are hard to identify, the problem becomes even more challenging. The hope is that the expert consultation will help here.

Although Harvin participated in elements of Wednesday's walkthrough, he became ill and did not take part in practice. Any plan for his return to physical activity is unclear, and this appears to be a day-to-day issue. Harvin's fantasy owners should make alternate plans for this weekend because his status appears to be in jeopardy.

Hines Ward, Pittsburgh Steelers: Ward is still recovering from a hamstring strain and did not take part in team practice Wednesday. Ward usually has Wednesdays off anyway, so this is not a major development. Ward played last Thursday despite clearly not being able to run at full speed. Nonetheless, Ward told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review he is "getting better every day," and the team expects him back on the field Sunday. He might not be completely recovered, but he should look better than he did last week.

Jeremy Maclin, Eagles: Just as DeSean Jackson was returning to the field for the Eagles after an injury, Maclin exited the field with an injury of his own. Actually, Maclin suffered a setback of a left foot injury he was already nursing when he partially tore the plantar fascia.

Originally coach Andy Reid suggested that Maclin would miss one or two weeks, but on Wednesday, Reid refrained from ruling Maclin out for this week's contest against the San Francisco 49ers. The Philly News reports that Maclin, despite missing practice Wednesday, was not seen in his protective boot in the locker room. Although that's an encouraging sign, it's a far cry from running, planting and pivoting. It's hard to envision Maclin's suiting up this week. Teammate Kevin Curtis might well be back on the field to add depth to the receiver corps; a return from Curtis would mark his first appearance since Week 2. Curtis has been on the mend from knee surgery, and although he has been practicing on a limited basis, he likely isn't ready to take on a full load. Thus, Maclin and Curtis should not be in fantasy lineups in Week 15.

Mike Sims-Walker, Jacksonville Jaguars: Sims-Walker is listed as probable and is expected to play Thursday night against the Colts, but don't expect him to be at full health just yet. Remember, Sims-Walker was downgraded midway through last week because of a left calf injury that eventually kept him out of Thursday and Friday practice. Despite being listed as doubtful, he managed to persuade the team in pregame warm-ups that he was capable of playing, but he did not post great numbers. Sims-Walker has been playing despite a knee ailment that was then complicated by the calf strain and has not been especially productive of late. Although the news that Sims-Walker is expected to play this week is encouraging, it would not be surprising if he is not yet 100 percent. Fantasy owners should temper expectations as a result.

Tight ends

Brent Celek, Eagles: Despite a drop here and there in the past two weeks because of an ongoing thumb injury, Celek has consistently put up fantasy points each week. But now Celek is also dealing with a back issue that kept him out of Wednesday practice. Apparently, the back began bothering him before Sunday. According to the Philly News, coach Andy Reid said, "They worked on him and were able to get him ready for the game." True, Celek was ready, and again he put points on the board, but he was seen walking gingerly after the game and is still dealing with stiffness. Nonetheless, Reid says that Celek "should be ready to go this weekend," so barring a downturn, fantasy owners can plan on his availability.

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

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


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 from 11:30 a.m. ET to kickoff for last-minute inactives, rankings and more!

Ward not looking good for Thursday

December, 8, 2009

It's playoff time! At least that's the case in the fantasy football world in which we live. It's do or die every week, so every lineup spot is ultracritical. Injuries become even trickier to navigate now as some teams (read: Indianapolis Colts) are not shy about resting some of their nicked-up stars. Worse yet for your fantasy prospects, sometimes teams rest their stars just so they don't get added to the injury report.

What is a fantasy owner to do? Well, it's important to start with the actual injuries that might affect your players in Week 14. With that in mind, here's what we're following as we head into the playoffs this weekend...

Hines Ward, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: Ward has a hamstring strain that is looking more and more as if it will keep him from playing Thursday night. Ward certainly has proved that he will play through pain, but he can't play if he can't run. Although the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has reported Ward's strain as mild, the short week allows for only four days of healing time, not typically enough to recover from even a minor strain. As coach Mike Tomlin told the Tribune-Review, those conditions are "not favorable" for Ward. It sounds as if the Steelers are planning for rookie Mike Wallace to start opposite Santonio Holmes if Ward cannot go.

Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons: Turner sat out Week 13, as many expected he would. He is nursing a recently aggravated right high-ankle sprain and, after he skipped practice all of last week, no one really expected him in the lineup this past Sunday. But what about in Week 14? On Monday, Turner offered this insightful comment to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "I'm better." Fantasy owners have two questions: Will Turner play? And, perhaps more importantly, will Turner be effective if he does go? Right now, Turner's status is very murky. Although coach Mike Smith hasn't ruled him out, Turner has done very little to provide any evidence that he will be ready to go. Let's face it, Turner's ankle is unlikely to be fully healed by Sunday. The issue will be whether he can do enough in practice to make a convincing case for putting him back out on the field (and putting him in your fantasy lineups) Sunday. By the time Friday rolls around, we should have more clues.

DeSean Jackson, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: Jackson was also an absentee player in Week 13 as he recovered from a concussion suffered the previous week. Jackson does not want fans and fantasy owners to be in suspense, though. He announced on ESPN 950 on Monday that he plans to play Sunday against the New York Giants. That's great. The only catch is that he can't actually clear himself to play. That would be the job of the medical staff with whom Jackson is scheduled to meet Tuesday. If the medical folks clear him to return to practice, he will practice again Wednesday. If he can practice successfully without a return of symptoms, he will be closer to playing this weekend. The Philadelphia Inquirer also reported that coach Andy Reid says he expects DeSean back this week "unless there is a setback here." It does look encouraging so far, but if the past few weeks have taught us anything, it's that recovery from head injuries -- perhaps more than any other -- is truly day-to-day.

Matt Schaub, QB, Houston Texans: Schaub certainly demonstrated his willingness to play through pain when he came back into the game Sunday after injuring his shoulder in the first quarter. Reports indicate that Schaub dislocated his left (non-throwing) shoulder, but according to the Texans' official Web site, coach Gary Kubiak said the medical staff was able to "get it back in and he wanted to come back out and play."

Bear in mind that this is the same shoulder Schaub injured (dislocated) in the 2007 season. Not only did that injury force an early end to his season but he subsequently underwent surgery to repair damaged tissue in the area. A second injury of this nature is of more concern with respect to long-term stability, but it might not present any greater risk in terms of his return. It's also possible that Schaub actually suffered only a partial dislocation, which would make it more likely that he could successfully return. To that end, Kubiak has already said that Schaub has a "good chance" of playing this Sunday, but naturally this week's practice will shed more light on his status.

Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets: Sanchez is doing his best to recover from his recent PCL sprain of his right knee. Although the rookie has yet to return to practice, coach Rex Ryan remains optimistic that Sanchez could still play Sunday. Naturally, he would wear a brace, which would mean Sanchez would have a brace on each knee; he has been wearing a supportive brace on his left knee since suffering a patellar (kneecap) dislocation in college. Braces have never been known for speeding a player up or enhancing his mobility, but it could mean the difference in allowing Sanchez to suit up for Sunday's contest. If he couldn't slide before, he most certainly will be challenged in that department now. The Jets will have to decide whether a limping Sanchez is better than a healthy Kellen Clemens. Fantasy owners should simply make alternate plans.

Other quick hits

&#8226 Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner was active Sunday night after a week of uncertainty based on lingering effects of a concussion. Warner certainly didn't look compromised as he and his team dismantled the mighty Minnesota Vikings one play at a time. Although his head was fine, Warner did emerge from the game with a sore right hip. According to the Cardinals' official Web site, the team is calling it a hip pointer and reports that Warner was much improved already by Monday. It is also worth noting that this is not the hip Warner had surgery on in the offseason. With an extra day for recovery this week (the Cardinals face the 49ers on Monday night), the team sounds optimistic that Warner will be ready to go.

&#8226 Eagles running back Brian Westbrook continues to progress from his second concussion. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Westbrook could return to team practice Wednesday if he continues to feel well. Coach Reid told the Inquirer that the team has increased Westbrook's workouts and he has not experienced further headaches. Westbrook will still require medical clearance to return to play even if he does well in practice. It seems unlikely that he would make his return in Week 14.

&#8226 According to the Houston Chronicle, Texans running back Steve Slaton is expected to meet with spine surgeon Dr. Drew Dossett on Tuesday regarding his current neck condition. Slaton has been experiencing numbness in his right thumb and did not play in Week 13. Although a visit to a surgeon by no means indicates that surgery is imminent, it does underline the seriousness of Slaton's condition. Fantasy owners should not be counting on his return in Week 14.

&#8226 Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford suffered a setback to his previously injured left shoulder when he was driven into the turf Sunday. Stafford originally separated his left (non-throwing) shoulder two weeks ago. Coach Jim Schwartz is not sharing his thoughts as to who is likely to start for the Lions this week, but did indicate that the determining factor will be whether Stafford can be effective despite the injury. It would not be surprising if Stafford were rested this week.

&#8226 Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis met with concussion specialists in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, and the team has since decided to place him on injured reserve, ending his season.

See you at the injury chats (Tuesday 11 a.m.-noon, Friday 11 a.m.-noon and Sunday pregame 10-10:30 a.m.), and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 14 in the Saturday morning blog!

Last week we had the pleasure of three games on Thanksgiving, so having only one Thursday game in Week 13 feels like a bit of withdrawal. The upside? A few more days for some ailing players to get themselves a little healthier.

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning played last Thursday and we later discovered that he is dealing with yet another issue in his right foot, a stress reaction in one of his midfoot bones to be exact. Since the best treatment is indeed rest, 10 days off could be viewed only as a good thing. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw got a few extra days to rest his newly sprained left ankle, not to mention the fracture in his right foot, which at least gives him a better shot of playing this Sunday. Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was visibly uncomfortable while trying to play through his separated (nonthrowing) shoulder last Thursday, so some additional downtime benefited him. It also helped his primary target, wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who told The Detroit News that it was "big for me just being able to get home and get my feet up," allowing his sore knee to rest. Over in Dallas, quarterback Tony Romo had a few more days to quiet his sore back and tight end Jason Witten's foot was given some additional recovery time as well.

So how concerned should fantasy owners be about the health of their roster heading into Week 13? Here's what we know so far ...


Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: On Tuesday, I outlined the information we have so far on the status of Ryan's big toe injury. The fact that he did not have surgery and is receiving treatment suggests that the team is hopeful that he could return. The Falcons indicate that they will provide a status update next week. In the meantime, Ryan is definitely out for Week 13, so adjust your roster accordingly.

Kurt Warner
G. Newman Lowrance/Getty ImagesKurt Warner could be playing it really safe again with his most recent head injury.
Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals: Warner was inactive Sunday after lingering visual disturbances caused him enough uneasiness to report the symptoms and elect not to play. First, Warner should be applauded for making a difficult but correct decision. The more players are forthcoming about these types of symptoms following head injury, the more acceptance there will eventually be about respecting the significance of these injuries and the potential consequences of returning too soon.

Warner also paid a visit to an ophthalmologist, a physician who specializes in eye care, for further evaluation. According to the Cardinals' official Web site, everything was "fine" with Warner's eyes. He reported feeling better and returned to practice but split first-team reps with teammate Matt Leinart. Consider Warner's status day-to-day and recognize that the decision to play might be a game-time one, and with the game not being played until Sunday night, it'll be tough to use him in your lineup.

Eli Manning, New York Giants: On Tuesday I outlined the new challenge for Manning and his injured right foot. As expected, Manning continues to be a full participant in practice and is preparing to face the Dallas Cowboys Sunday.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers: Roethlisberger is expected to be under center for the Steelers this week when they face the Oakland Raiders. He returned to a full practice Wednesday and unless he experiences a setback, such as another bout of exercise-induced headache, he will be the starter.

Jake Delhomme, Carolina Panthers: In what seemed a foregone conclusion at the start of the week, ESPN reports that Matt Moore is expected to start for the Panthers on Sunday in place of Delhomme. Delhomme suffered a broken finger on his throwing hand in last week's contest, which made the decision to replace him easier for coach John Fox. The Rock Hill Herald reports that Delhomme was on the sidelines at practice with his index and middle fingers taped together, a common form of splinting to immobilize the injured finger. It suggests that the break is small and nondisplaced, and that surgery was not required. Nonetheless, the bone has to heal and then he will need to regain adequate range of motion and strength in the finger to throw the ball effectively. Since effectively throwing the ball was a bit challenging for Delhomme before the break, it's not clear just how long this will sideline him.

Running Backs:

Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia Eagles: Westbrook has already been ruled out for Week 13. He continues to be evaluated following his second concussion of the season and to that end, traveled to Pittsburgh this week to visit again with experts in the field. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, coach Andy Reid said that the specialists in Pittsburgh would like to "check him again in a week or two." Reid also said that Westbrook experienced "a slight headache" after a workout last Friday. It sounds as if he will not return before Week 15, and in the meantime, his response to exercise will continue to be monitored closely. LeSean McCoy will continue to be the primary back for the time being.

Clinton Portis, Washington Redskins: Portis has already been ruled out for Week 13 and is scheduled to return to Pittsburgh next Monday for follow-up evaluation related to the concussion he suffered in Week 9.

Portis appeared on John Thompson's radio show on ESPN 980 in Washington, D.C., and provided some insightful commentary as to how he's evaluating his post-concussion situation. Portis said, "I would love to be on the field trying to get out there and finish out the season. At the same time, I have to do what's safe and what's best. If I'm cleared and can get back out there for the last few games, I'm definitely going to try and get back out there. If I can't, I'll go into the offseason healthy and starting off fresh next year." It's refreshing to hear players candidly discuss their consideration of the big picture when it comes to such injuries.

It's worth remembering that Portis struggled with other injuries earlier in the season, specifically bone spurs in both ankles and a strained calf muscle. The rest he has had so far has no doubt allowed his muscles and joints some measure of recovery, but if his season was to end early, his almost-30-year-old body would not likely complain. While it is too soon to say whether Portis will or won't return this season, fantasy owners should prepare for the possibility that he may not. With Ladell Betts on injured reserve, Rock Cartwright continues to get the start in Washington.

Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons: Turner did not practice Wednesday or Thursday as he continues to rehabilitate his injured right ankle, which suffered a setback in Week 12. While the Falcons have not yet ruled him out, it seems as if the prudent choice would be to rest him in Week 13. He may be a game-time decision again this week, but unless we see more from him in practice by the end of the week, fantasy owners should be very wary. Meanwhile, Jerious Norwood is off the injury report this week.

Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott, Cincinnati Bengals: Just a reminder, folks. Coach Marvin Lewis has already announced that Benson, who missed the past two games with a hip injury, will start in Week 13. Based on Lewis' comments heading into Week 12, fantasy owners should feel confident about Benson's health. Scott, who suffered a turf toe injury Sunday and has not practiced, appears unlikely to play. That would make Benson the primary back to face the Detroit Lions with Larry Johnson as the likely No. 2.

Julius Jones
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireJulius Jones may regain his starting job, even though Justin Forsett has played well in his absence.
Julius Jones, Seattle Seahawks: Jones returned to full practice Wednesday, making it appear more likely that he will be able to play this weekend. Jones suffered a bruised lung and rib in Week 10 and sat out the past two games due to lingering chest pain. Coach Jim Mora has maintained that Jones remains the starter when healthy but has also acknowledged the excellent performance of Justin Forsett in Jones' absence. Jones is not yet a sure thing by any means. He will need to show no ill effects through a week of practice and will have to convince the Seahawks that he not only has sufficient cardiovascular endurance to play in a game, but also that he can withstand contact. We should have a better clue by Saturday.

Ahmad Bradshaw and Danny Ware, New York Giants: Ware is already ruled out for Week 13 following a concussion sustained in last week's game. Ware was providing some backup for Brandon Jacobs as Bradshaw sat out with a sprained left ankle (to go with his fractured right foot). Although Bradshaw did not practice Wednesday, he did do some running on Thursday. Apparently, it was enough to at least provide some encouragement that Bradshaw could be available Sunday, according to The Star-Ledger. Bradshaw has proved that he can play through discomfort as he has been functioning much of the season with a chronic right ankle injury and a fractured fifth metatarsal (forefoot bone) on his right foot. Having a still-healing sprain on his other ankle may make it tougher however for him to be effective, especially since his style of running involves sharp cuts and directional movements. It seems likely that Jacobs would handle the majority of the work with a sprinkling of Bradshaw if he can go.

Reggie Bush, New Orleans Saints: Bush did not play Monday night, his second straight missed game with an ailing knee. He did tell The Times-Picayune on Wednesday that he thought he could have played but that it was a decision made between the medical staff and the coaches. According to Bush, their feeling was "let's rest him for one more game and allow him to be 100 percent for next week." So will he be 100 percent in Week 13? That remains to be seen, but the extended rest certainly bodes well for his availability. Bush was listed as a limited participant in a projected Wednesday injury report, so we will need to see what he actually does in the latter part of the week.

Wide Receivers

DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles: Jackson suffered a concussion in Week 12 and has indicated that he thinks it unlikely that he will be able to play this Sunday. According to ESPN's Sal Paolantonio, Jackson simply said, "I don't think I can go. I blacked out." Regardless of whether there was a loss of consciousness or not, Jackson's symptoms and performance on neurological tests will dictate whether playing this week is even an option. Trust Jackson's intuition and expect Jeremy Maclin to see some extra targets.

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, 11:00 a.m.-noon, and Sunday pregame 10:00-10:30 a.m.). And check out Fantasy Football Now on Sundays at from 11:30 a.m. ET to kickoff for last-minute inactives, rankings and more!

The fact that the games were spread out across several days last week did nothing to minimize the injury toll across the league. For fantasy owners it might have spread the pain of losing multiple players on your team across more days, but does that really make anyone feel better? Isn't it more torturous to see your team slowly decimated than to take it all in one fell swoop? Trust me, I feel your pain. I lost five players this week and am still reeling from the blows.

But go on we must. For those of us who need to make multiple roster moves this week as a result of injuries, we take a look at what we know so far heading into Week 13.

Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons: Ryan is out for Week 13, and maybe longer, as a result of a turf toe injury he sustained Sunday. Ryan hyperextended his right big toe, a common mechanism for this type of injury, and was clearly in immediate pain. Ryan was examined on the sideline and had the toe taped, but after testing it with some side throwing it became apparent that he could not return to play.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Ryan traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina to be evaluated by Dr. Robert Anderson, the foot and ankle specialist who recently performed surgery on Miami Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown. The obvious good news is that Ryan did not stick around in Charlotte for surgery and is back in Atlanta where coach Mike Smith told the Journal-Constitution that "during the week [Ryan] is going to work with our medical staff diligently to get back as quick as he can." Turf toe injuries, which are essentially sprains of the ligaments that join the big toe to the ball of the foot, vary greatly in terms of severity and recovery time depending on the extent of tissue damage. The encouraging sign here is that the Falcons are talking as if they expect Ryan to return. Ryan also benefits from the fact that he is a quarterback and not a running back or wide receiver whose position demands would place greater stress on the toe. Nonetheless, he needs to be able to set his back foot and push off with the toe and he also needs to be mobile enough to move out of the pocket.

Fantasy owners should expect that this will likely sideline Ryan for a couple of weeks, but we will keep you posted on updates as they emerge.

Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons: While Matt Ryan suffered a new injury, Turner aggravated an already ailing ankle. It came as somewhat of a surprise that Turner was active Sunday as he was still recovering from a high ankle sprain. Turner, who was injured in Week 10, sat out Week 11 and had been limited in practice leading up to Week 12. Although Turner had clearly made progress with his ankle, he entered the game in all likelihood at less than 100 percent. After a messy pileup in the third quarter, Turner limped off the field and his status for this week remains uncertain.

Cedric Benson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals: Two weeks ago, Benson insisted that if he didn't play in Week 11 because of his strained hip muscle, he would certainly be ready to go by Week 12. Even coach Marvin Lewis said after Friday practice that he had no doubt that Benson was healthy enough to play. That didn't keep the Bengals from sidelining Benson however. In what appears to have been a precautionary move, Benson was not active for Week 12 but Lewis has already indicated that Benson will be the starter in Week 13. After all, Bernard Scott injured himself (turf toe) while filling in for Benson. Who knows? Maybe Lewis was on to something in the air for Week 12. At least he's been kind enough to inform fantasy owners early in the week that Benson can be inserted into lineups with confidence.

Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants: Manning says that his plantar fasciitis symptoms are a thing of the past. While this may be the case, we learned this week that Manning's foot injury has taken a different turn. Manning is now dealing with a stress reaction in his midfoot which may have resulted from compensations related to the plantar fasciitis. A stress reaction is an indicator that the bone is under stress as a result of overloading. The damage can be microscopic at first but if the loading persists and the bone does not have the opportunity to heal itself, a stress fracture can develop.

At this point, Manning is receiving treatment for his foot which primarily involves resting it as much as possible when not specifically practicing or playing. Manning tells the Newark Star-Ledger that his biggest challenge is not discomfort in the foot itself, but dealing with the additional scheduling of regular treatment. Said Manning, "I'm a guy that doesn't like to be in the training room and I try to avoid it as much as possible. I only go in there when I truly need it."

There is certainly a good possibility that Manning will continue to function just fine as far as his foot goes for the remainder of the season. He says that he does not have pain in the foot nor does he believe that he limps and he certainly does not attribute any of his poor play to the foot. It's hard to imagine that the condition does not impact him to some degree; even subtle changes in how he puts pressure through that back foot likely already contributed to this secondary injury. Nonetheless, as long as it does not appear to be a major factor and his symptoms remain under control, it seems that Manning will be able to continue to play.

DeSean Jackson, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: Another game for the Eagles, another concussion. Jackson left Sunday's contest early as a result of the injury and you can be sure that he will be carefully evaluated on a daily basis. Jackson will not be treated any differently as a result of the concussion concerns surrounding his teammate Brian Westbrook; each concussion is treated on its own merit with each individual player. He will be subject to the same criteria for return to play: Jackson will need to be symptom-free at rest, symptom-free following activity and his neurocognitive tests will need to return to baseline. For fantasy owners, the takeaway message is that this remains a day-to-day assessment. Plan early in case you need to replace him in your lineup.

Julius Jones, RB, Seattle Seahawks: Jones did not play in Week 12 due to lingering pain following a lung injury. According to the Seattle Times, coach Jim Mora remains hopeful that Jones will be available this week, but he had more definitive criteria that Jones would need to meet in order to be the Sunday starter. "If he's fully healthy," Mora said, "and he's had a full week of practice and everybody feels comfortable that he can bear the brunt of the workload that he would need to handle to be effective then he would start." Mora added that Justin Forsett's performance had earned him the right to continue to carry the ball, meaning that even if Jones were to return, Forsett would still see some action. Fantasy owners just love hearing about timeshares. Considering Jones still had pain to the touch last week, it would not be surprising if he were to sit out again in Week 13. Stay tuned.

Other quick hits

Ben Roethlisberger did not play and it was the right decision. He experienced a delayed recurrence of headache symptoms and the team, in consultation with their expert neurologist, decided Roethlisberger should sit. So far, all indications are that Roethlisberger will start in Week 13. Coach Mike Tomlin told reporters that Roethlisberger had not experienced any headaches since Friday, but naturally it will be important for those symptoms to remain absent when practice resumes this week.

Arizona Cardinals' quarterback Kurt Warner was also inactive on Sunday following a head injury the prior week. Warner was having continued visual disturbances, not an uncommon concussion symptom, but is visiting with an ophthalmologist to completely check out his eyes. To be continued.

Continuing on the concussion theme, Philadelphia Eagles' running back Brian Westbrook is being re-evaluated this week in Pittsburgh. His status going forward remains uncertain while he is in this recovery phase.

New York Jets' quarterback Mark Sanchez aggravated his knee in Sunday's game but it wasn't enough to sideline him. Sanchez originally hurt his left knee in college when he suffered a patellar dislocation (kneecap slips out of place) and wears a protective brace as a result. His knee appeared to twist awkwardly Sunday however and Sanchez went to the ground holding his knee. While the Jets have not offered any specifics as to the nature of the injury, it does not appear that it will keep him from starting when the Jets play Thursday night. It may however hinder his mobility and make him a step slower. Fantasy risk.

Reggie Bush did not play Monday night despite some early optimism that he would be available. We will keep tabs on his activity this week when the Saints resume practice.

Washington Redskins' running back Clinton Portis is ruled out again in Week 13. His teammate tight end Chris Cooley has been placed on injured reserve as a result of his ankle injury.

Jake Delhomme has a broken finger and is unlikely to play in Week 13 according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Enter Matt Moore.

The injury blog returns this Thursday and we will have some better clues about player status as everyone returns to practice. Be sure to check back Saturday as well for all the latest injury news heading into the Sunday games.

Happy Thanksgiving week, fantasy football owners! What could be better? In addition to the usual Sunday merriment, we get to have a Thursday full of food, family and ... football! There are three games to be played Thursday, and naturally there are injury concerns clouding the picture. Whom can you trust and whom should you avoid in Week 12? Here's what we know so far ...

Thanksgiving Day players

Calvin Johnson
Andrew Weber/US PresswireA short week before Thursday's game won't help Calvin Johnson's chances of playing on Thanksgiving.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions: Johnson missed a couple games earlier this season because of a non-specific knee injury. Last week, he was on the injury report with a hand injury. The knee issue seemed to be mostly behind him, and the hand appeared to be a nonfactor heading into Week 11. But Johnson sustained some bumps and bruises in the game against the Cleveland Browns, especially in the final moments, and was subsequently held out of Tuesday practice because of problems with the knee and hand. The Lions have a short week, so resting him does not come as much of a surprise, but given that Wednesday is expected to be a light practice day, Johnson will not test himself much before the Thanksgiving Day game. Expect a game-time decision for Johnson on Thursday.

Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions: After a valiant touchdown pass in the final seconds to lead his team to victory, his painful left arm hanging at his side, Stafford may be forced to sit this one out. Stafford suffered a separated left shoulder (sprained acromioclavicular joint, where the clavicle [collarbone] meets the acromion [tip of the shoulder blade]) and is experiencing significant soreness. While he is fortunate that the injury was to his non-throwing arm (an injury to his throwing arm could have threatened the remainder of his season), the pain will need to subside to a degree before Stafford can safely resume his position. In the presence of a separated shoulder, any jarring (running) or direct contact (landing on the turf again) will exacerbate the condition. If the sprain is anything less than a complete ligament tear, trauma this soon after the injury could worsen the injury. While the Lions have not officially ruled Stafford out, fantasy owners should expect that Daunte Culpepper will be the starting quarterback against the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving.

Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants: Good news for Jacobs, not so good news for Bradshaw. Jacobs took a hit in the third quarter of Sunday's game just above the knee and remained out the rest of the game. He told reporters that he probably could have returned, but that the medical staff was being cautious. It's worth noting that he did not appear on the team's Monday "projected" injury report. Bradshaw did appear on the Monday report, though, as "Did Not Participate in Practice" -- meaning if the Giants actually had practiced, they expected him to sit out. Anyone who has been paying attention to Bradshaw for the past couple of months knows that this has been standard procedure to protect his injured right foot from overuse during the week. But wait! Bradshaw has a new ankle injury, this time on his left side, according to the New York Daily News. In fact, the Daily News reports that he is now wearing a protective boot on that ankle, suggesting it is indeed more serious than a minor sprain. Bradshaw is not practicing Tuesday, and his status for Thursday appears very questionable, especially given that his right foot was already compromised by a fracture.

Ryan Grant, RB, Green Bay Packers: Grant was listed as a limited participant in the Monday projected practice reports with a neck injury. The Green Bay Press-Gazette reports that Grant suffered a stinger, but that the Packers did not seem to think it serious. Grant is expected to play Thursday.

Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys: It appears that Romo will be fine to play Thursday after being listed as a limited participant in the Monday projected practice reports. Romo took a knee in the back in Sunday's game, but coach Wade Phillips indicated that his starting quarterback was already feeling much better by Monday. He is expected to play Thanksgiving Day.

Kyle Orton, QB, Denver Broncos: Well, the Chris Simms era didn't last too long. Orton, who did not start Sunday's game because of a sprained left ankle, came in to replace the struggling Simms in the second quarter and managed to tough it out for the remainder of the game. He managed to move around decently despite the occasional limp and has already indicated that he is ready to play Thursday.

Sunday players

Bob Donnan/US PresswireMichael Turner is expected to miss at least one more week with his high ankle sprain.
Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons: Turner is doing his best not to reveal too much about his Week 12 status to the opposition, but the uncertainty he expresses about his own timetable is revealing enough. Turner, who missed Week 11 with a high right ankle sprain, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday, "I'm just taking it easy right now and hoping for the best." He added, "Some guys take six weeks to bounce back, but I don't think I'll take that long. I'm just trying to get back to my normal self again." His comments are accurate in that high ankle sprains can derail players for multiple weeks, but everyone heals at different rates; depending on the degree of injury, a return could come sooner. That said, we would need to see Turner doing at least some running and side drills to think there is hope of a return in the near future, something that has yet to occur. Keep a close eye on Turner's activity, but it appears that Jason Snelling will get his second consecutive start.

Cedric Benson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals: Last week, Benson insisted that if he didn't play in Week 11 because of his strained hip muscle, he would certainly be ready to go by Week 12. That may not be entirely true. While Benson's injury never appeared terribly serious, having him available in the final weeks of the season and into the playoffs is quite serious for the Bengals. They will certainly not rush him back onto the field if there is any evidence of lingering effects, which, even if minor, could turn into something major if aggravated. In other words, the Bengals are facing the Cleveland Browns and may opt to continue with rookie Bernard Scott for another week. The completion of Friday's practice should yield more clues.

Julius Jones, RB, Seattle Seahawks: The good news for Jones is that he is expected to rejoin the team for limited practice this week. The bad news for fantasy owners is wondering whether it will be Jones or Justin Forsett on the field Sunday. According to The Seattle Times, Jones is expected to return to the starting lineup when the team faces the St. Louis Rams this weekend. It's a little early to be confident that that will actually happen. It will be telling to see how Jones responds to activity, particularly whether he has any difficulty or discomfort with breathing. Once again, clues are likely to emerge later in the practice week.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Roethlisberger left Sunday's game in overtime after suffering a blow to the head and was reported to be experiencing concussion-like symptoms. On Tuesday, coach Mike Tomlin indicated that Roethlisberger was feeling good and's James Walker reports that Big Ben is expected to make his Sunday start against the Baltimore Ravens. Walker quoted Tomlin as saying about Roethlisberger, "The battery of tests that he took showed that he showed no symptoms. So we will continue to monitor his condition and where he is on a day-to-day basis and let that guide our decision-making. But as I sit here today, he is symptom-free and feeling fine." Barring any recurrence of symptoms as Roethlisberger returns to practice, it looks optimistic for a Week 12 return.

Other quick hits:

Kurt Warner
Rob Grabowski/US PresswireKurt Warner is a major question mark after missing the second half of Sunday's win following a head injury.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner also left Sunday's game early following a blow to the head. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt was encouraged by how Warner felt on the flight home, but according to the Cardinals' official Web site, Warner indicated that he still did not feel 100 percent. As with all concussions, this will continue to be evaluated on a daily basis. Fantasy owners, stay tuned.

St. Louis Rams quarterback Marc Bulger suffered a tibial plateau fracture (fracture along the top of the tibia or shinbone) in addition to a groin/hamstring strain and a possible concussion. Needless to say, Bulger is in a world of hurt. The fracture is estimated to keep him out anywhere from three to six weeks, but it is worth noting that he can't bear weight on it initially to allow it to heal, then Bulger has to work his way back to game shape. With only six weeks left in the season, it might not be a surprise to see Bulger go the way of injured reserve.

Speaking of injured reserve, that's where Washington Redskins running back Ladell Betts finds himself after suffering an ACL and MCL injury. Betts had done a nice job filling in for Clinton Portis, who is still sidelined with concussion-related symptoms. Rock Cartwright will be the starting running back for the time being as Portis has already been ruled out for Week 12.

There will be no injury blog Thursday due to the Thanksgiving holiday, but check back Saturday and I will have all the latest injury news heading into the Sunday games.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

It's Week 11, and we have another Thursday night matchup on our hands.

This week's showdown between the Carolina Panthers and the Miami Dolphins will be without one marquee fantasy player who unfortunately has been lost for the season because of injury. Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown injured his foot in Week 10, and there were hints that it was serious (on crutches, non-weight-bearing) from the start.

On Wednesday, the Dolphins announced that Brown had suffered his second season-ending injury in just three years. (He suffered a torn ACL in 2007 but returned in 2008 to play in all 16 games.) The Miami Herald is reporting that Brown suffered a Lisfranc injury and that he has traveled to North Carolina to be evaluated by a renowned foot and ankle specialist, Dr. Robert Anderson. Depending on the outcome of that visit, Brown may be facing surgery.

In any event, he is facing a lengthy rehabilitation process but has a chance to be ready for the start of the 2010 season. Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney suffered a Lisfranc injury in Week 10 of the 2007 NFL season. Freeney underwent surgery and was able to return for the start of the 2008 season, ultimately playing in all sixteen games that year. While there is high variability with the nature and degree of these injuries, not to mention plenty of individual hurdles to cross during rehabilitation, there are reasons to be optimistic that Brown will be on the field for the Dolphins when the 2010 season kicks off.

On the Panthers' side of the ball, Jonathan Stewart did not practice Tuesday to rest his Achilles, as has been customary for him this season. Stewart was back in practice Wednesday and, although listed as questionable (also customary), is expected to play. Teammate DeAngelo Williams also missed practice this week but on Wednesday. Williams was listed as questionable heading into Week 10 and it was of particular concern last week that, after returning to limited practice Thursday, he was then unable to practice Friday.

While Stewart had the better fantasy day Sunday with two touchdowns, Williams actually saw more touches, suggesting that his knee was not a big issue. It's not a surprise that the Panthers chose to rest him after his questionable status in Week 10 followed by a short week. Barring a pregame setback, expect both Williams and Stewart to be active in Thursday night's game.

So who else should we be concerned about health-wise heading into Week 11? Here's what we know so far:


Kyle Orton, Denver Broncos: Orton suffered a left ankle sprain and did not practice Wednesday but remains optimistic that he will be able to play. Orton told reporters that this injury is totally different from the sprain he suffered last year. For one thing, it's on the opposite leg. Orton acknowledged that he struggled when he returned after sitting out just one game with a high right ankle sprain last season and said, "Last year was so tough because it was pushing off and that was my back leg, so that was tough."

This injury has not been reported as a high ankle sprain, and it will be interesting to see, if he plays, just how much it will affect his performance. His mobility is likely to be limited, and it could be uncomfortable for him to step firmly onto his front leg to deliver a deep ball. At least Chris Simms has been getting some increased work with the first team this week. Orton's availability may come down to a game-time decision.

Running backs

Brian Westbrook
Donald Miralle/Getty ImagesA second concussion in three weeks means you won't be seeing Brian Westbrook on the field in the near future.
Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia Eagles: Westbrook has already been ruled out for Week 11 after suffering a second concussion in three weeks.

There is some encouraging news for Westbrook, though, following his visit to Pittsburgh for a consultation. Westbrook underwent an evaluation with several specialists at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) including Dr. Joseph Maroon, UPMC neurosurgeon and team neurosurgeon for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Dr. Michael Collins, UPMC neuropsychologist. Both have extensive experience with concussions and are often sought out as experts in the area. They are largely responsible for the development of the IMPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) tool, which is used in the NFL and in many colleges and high schools.

The Eagles received an encouraging report after Westbrook's visit and published a statement from the evaluating doctors on their official Web site. Maroon and Collins stated: "We are very encouraged by Brian's progress, we believe that he has an excellent prognosis and we expect a full recovery. We developed a comprehensive physical rehab plan for Brian, and we will repeat the detailed testing in the next two to three weeks.

Dr. Mark Lovell, the director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, added, "We commend the Eagles athletic training and medical staff for their diligent and conservative care in this particular case as well as their historical excellence in managing these types of injuries."

Obviously the fact that Westbrook suffered two concussions in such close proximity adds an extra level of concern, and there is no doubt that the organization will err on the side of caution, as they have already demonstrated. It is important to point out, as the Pittsburgh experts did, that the Eagles' medical staff took all the appropriate measures to ensure that Westbrook had fully recovered from his prior concussion before returning to the field. In fact, after it appeared that Westbrook would return in Week 9, he was ultimately held out after his headache symptoms recurred the day before the game. There is a very real concern about the potential long-term effects of multiple concussions, and medical knowledge is still evolving in this area.

Clinton Portis, Washington Redskins: Speaking of taking concussions seriously, Portis appears to be doing just that. He is officially out for Week 11, and Ladell Betts is again expected to start in his place. After sitting out Week 10, coach Jim Zorn told the Washington Post that early in the week, Portis was still experiencing "blurriness" with quick head movements. Portis will not return any sooner than his symptoms permit. As is always the case with concussions, there is no predictive timetable in place here.

Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons: The only definitive comment the Falcons will make with regard to Turner is that there is no timetable for his return, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Certainly it does not appear that he will be in uniform Sunday when the Falcons travel to New York. Turner has a high ankle sprain, and the consequences of returning too soon are far greater than the reward of having Turner in the lineup at less than full speed. Expectations are that Jason Snelling will start. There was a Jerious Norwood sighting in Thursday's practice, but after he missed the past four games with a hip flexor strain, it would be hard to anticipate his being back to game speed, even if he is active Sunday.

Cedric Benson, Cincinnati Bengals: On Tuesday I outlined the details of Benson's hip injury, which, although reportedly not serious, might result in his absence in Week 11. Benson has not practiced this week, which makes it more likely that Bernard Scott could get the start. The Bengals maintain that this could come down to a game-time decision, so we may not know for sure until Sunday.

Reggie Bush, New Orleans Saints: Bush has not practiced this week as a result of swelling in his knee, which he aggravated during Sunday's game. No strong hints yet that he will miss Sunday's game, but it is a situation worth monitoring.

Wide receivers

Brandon Marshall, Denver Broncos: Marshall was absent from Wednesday's practice with a neck injury. In Week 10, his back kept him out of practice early but not out of competition Sunday. Assume that this is a similar situation and that Marshall will play this week.

Antonio Bryant, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bryant's knee has improved again and he resumed full practice Thursday. Bryant has missed the past two weeks because of recurrent swelling and discomfort in his surgical knee. According to the St. Petersburg Times, coach Raheem Morris says Bryant may be a game-time decision. It will be important to see how his knee responds to its first full practice in several weeks. If he should be able to practice fully Friday, that would be an encouraging sign.

Lance Moore, New Orleans Saints: Moore is still not practicing because of a left ankle sprain, and there are no obvious clues as to when he'll return. Plan accordingly.

Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis Colts:
Garcon did not practice Wednesday because of an ankle injury but did take the field Thursday and remains hopeful that he will be active Sunday. Meanwhile, teammate Anthony Gonzalez is still recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery and is not expected even to return to practice for a couple of weeks.

Be sure to check back 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 a.m. to 12 p.m, Friday 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Sunday pregame (10 to 10:30 a.m.). And check out "Fantasy Football Now" on Sundays at and ESPN2 from 11:30 a.m. ET to kickoff for last-minute inactives, rankings and more.

The joy of having only two teams on bye this past week quickly faded when more players on the field translated to more players ultimately getting carted off the field. The New York Giants and the Houston Texans have to be thankful that they did not add to their injury reports as they watched the games from home. Concussions continue to take a toll on fantasy stars, as do ankle and foot injuries. Sprinkled in the mix are rib injuries, muscle strains and knee sprains. In what constituted perhaps my busiest week yet this fantasy football season, many a fantasy must-start quickly became a fantasy must-replace.

What happened to your key players this week and will they recover in time to perform this week? We take a look at what we know so far as we move toward Week 11.

Brian Westbrook, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: Westbrook suffered his second concussion in three weeks and his football future is uncertain. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, coach Andy Reid said that Westbrook was "foggy" when he came off the field Sunday after running into San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle. Reid has already indicated that Westbrook will not play Sunday night but the question as to when -- or if -- Westbrook plays again this season remains unanswered.

Bob Donnan/US PresswireMichael Turner had run for 111 yards on Sunday before injuring his ankle.
Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons: Turner suffered a right high ankle sprain Sunday and was seen wearing a walking boot after the game. While the team has not provided any official information as to Turner's status for this week, high ankle sprains typically require weeks, not days, for healing before an athlete can return to play. The challenges are perhaps greatest at the running back position, given all the stress placed on the ankle. Returning too soon can jeopardize the long-term health of an athlete.

The Falcons are hopeful that Jerious Norwood, who has missed the past four games with a hip flexor strain, can return in Week 11. Norwood began running last week, but has yet to return to practice. Jason Snelling stepped in when Turner was forced out, but he too was just coming back from injury (hamstring strain) and may not have quite worked up to full speed. Fantasy owners should anticipate the absence of Turner for at least this week and perhaps longer. Practice updates should provide clues as to whether Norwood or Snelling would be more likely to step up in his place.

Ronnie Brown, RB, Miami Dolphins: Ronnie "Wildcat" Brown was yet another running back forced out of Sunday's game because of a right ankle injury. At least that's how it appeared at the time. More recent news suggests that Brown's foot is the focal point of the injury concern, and the Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that the injury may be more serious than initially thought. Brown is still on crutches, not putting weight on his foot, also hinting at a potentially serious injury. He has already been ruled out for Thursday night's game, with Ricky Williams starting in Brown's place, and that may extend beyond Week 11. Lex Hilliard is expected to serve as Williams' backup.

Cedric Benson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals: In Benson's case, it wasn't an ankle that knocked him out of Sunday's game; it was his hip, as the team indicated that their star running back left the game with a hip flexor strain. The Cincinnati Enquirer, however, reports that the injury is officially being called a hip abductor strain. The Bengals' official Web site also references an injury to the abductor muscle. Both the flexor and the abductor are muscles that support the hip; both, when injured, can affect a player's explosiveness and mobility. The hip flexor, which as the name implies, flexes the hip and helps drive the leg when running. It is a very deep muscle (so deep in fact that it anchors to the front of the lower vertebrae in the spine) and can be slow to recover (see Jerious Norwood above who has missed four games thus far with the injury). The abductor muscle abducts the hip, or moves the hip laterally. Its more important function, though, may be as a stabilizer of the hip and pelvis, helping with balance and stability during all movement. Weakness of the abductor can result in a noticeable limp as the pelvis loses stability.

Frank Victores/US PresswireCedric Benson sat out the second half of the Steelers game with a hip injury, but if he plays Sunday, he'll have a nice matchup against the Raiders.
All muscle strains are measured by degree, and in Benson's case the indications from the team (and Benson himself) are that the injury, whichever muscle or muscles are involved, is not serious. In fact, it sounds as if this hip issue is truly an exacerbation of a pre-existing condition, one that has limited Benson in practice as recently as two weeks ago. While coach Marvin Lewis emphasized that the injury did not appear serious, he also indicated that the team would hold him out of Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders if necessary, according to the Bengals' official Web site. Said Lewis, "He really doesn't feel much worse for the wear. He has an opportunity this week. We'll be real cautious with him as we approach the game. If he's not healthy, he would not go. We'll see how he is as he goes through the week. Hopefully, he can make a comeback on this."

Nonetheless, Benson is very likely to be limited in practice this week, and as the Enquirer points out, he could be a game-time decision for the Bengals. That's always a fantasy favorite. It is also worth noting that Tuesday's signing of former Kansas City Chiefs star Larry Johnson is not expected to impact the running back depth chart, at least not yet.

Julius Jones, RB, Seattle Seahawks: Jones left the Seahawks' Sunday contest in the first quarter with what was called a chest injury initially. While Justin Forsett ran up a storm in his absence, Jones ended up in an Arizona hospital overnight with what the team is officially calling a bruised lung. Coach Jim Mora told reporters that Jones also was dealing with, "potentially, possibly a cracked rib." Mora added that it was "unlikely that [Jones] would be cleared to play on Sunday."

We've already seen an NFL player with a bruised lung this season. Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson suffered his lung injury in Week 7 but was able to play the following week. Not all internal organ injuries are created equal, however. The concern of a bony injury nearby could complicate the picture for Jones and lead to extended rest. This will be a wait-and-see situation, but Jones' fantasy owners should not wait to pick up an alternate back for Week 11.

Kyle Orton, QB, Denver Broncos: Despite Orton's early exit from Sunday's game with a left ankle injury, coach Josh McDaniels remains vague yet upbeat about the possibility that Orton returns for Week 11. While not revealing anything with regard to the specifics of Orton's injury, McDaniels told The Denver Post, "He's definitely not out for the game. We're certainly hopeful we can get him ready to go." Orton's status early in the week is clearly questionable, and much will depend on what he is able to do in practice by the end of the week. The team will be looking at his mobility and whether he can step up as he plants the leg to make longer throws. In case you were flashing back to last year, it was Orton's right ankle that was injured. Although he missed only one game then, he was clearly uncomfortable and far less mobile in his first couple of games post-injury. This very well could come down to game time.

Other quick hits:

Clinton Portis
Jeff Fishbein/Icon SMIDon't be surprised to see Clinton Portis miss another game to recover from his concussion.
Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis sat out Week 10 due to lingering concussion symptoms. He may well be out another week. Although the team has not issued a formal status update, coach Jim Zorn told The Washington Post that Portis was still experiencing "blurriness" early in the week with quick head movements. Ladell Betts, who did not show any signs of being limited by a foot sprain Sunday, would get another start.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings has accumulated an assortment of nicks this season. His latest injury is being called a knee contusion (deep bruise), and he is likely to miss some practice time this week. There appears to be no serious threat to his availability for Week 11.

Indianapolis Colts running back Joseph Addai hurt a finger in the first quarter of Sunday's game, but was able to return in the third quarter, although he had two fingers taped together. His status is not likely to be updated until later in the week, as is typical for the Colts. Chad Simpson left the game temporarily with a head injury but was able to return. Donald Brown, who missed the past two games with a shoulder injury, came out of Sunday's game for a while with a sore back. The Colts already have perhaps the lengthiest injury list in the league. They have to hope that all of these situations are minor, which, at this point, seems to be the case.

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith suffered bruised ribs after taking a hit in the back when he made his second end zone grab Sunday. While it is still early in the week, there is no hint from the team yet that his Week 11 status is in jeopardy.

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu injured his left knee Sunday, the same knee in which he suffered a sprained MCL earlier this season. He did not re-injure the MCL, though. Coach Mike Tomlin told reporters Tuesday that Polamalu suffered a PCL sprain and that he would be evaluated throughout the week to determine his status for Sunday.

More to come in Thursday's blog.

See you at the injury chats (Tuesday and Friday 11:00 a.m.-noon, and Sunday pregame 10-10:30 a.m.), and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 11 in the Saturday morning blog!

Separating Injuries

September, 17, 2008

Ahhhhhhh, the semantics of medicine. Sometimes just the slightest difference in terminology represents two entirely different medical conditions and can spark all sorts of intrigue when it comes to player injury reports. For instance, a shoulder can separate or dislocate, and those injuries are not interchangeable. They are injuries to different joints. A separation refers to an injury at the acromioclavicular (AC) joint (where the point of the shoulder, the acromion, meets the collarbone, or clavicle). A dislocation refers to an episode in which the humerus (arm bone) becomes displaced from the glenoid (the hollow spot on the shoulder blade where the humerus normally sits), meaning the injury happens at the glenohumeral joint. Both joints are in the shoulder region, so it is easy to see where the confusion lies. Nonetheless, if accuracy counts, the terms should be properly applied. To make matters worse, the humerus can slip partially off the glenoid without completely dislocating, which is termed a subluxation. This is the injury Chad Johnson recently suffered. A subluxation can result in tissue trauma (Johnson has a torn labrum) and pain, but an athlete often can return to play relatively quickly. A true dislocation, especially a first time incident, usually is more painful and often requires a longer recovery.

But wait, it gets even more complicated. In the case of an injury to the AC joint, when is it a shoulder separation versus a sprain? A sprain refers to any injury to a ligament. The AC joint is bound together by various ligaments. Damage, even if minor, to any of those ligaments therefore is a sprain, just as damage to any ankle, knee or elbow ligament is a sprain.

Any injury to the AC joint also can be called a separation. However, there are varying degrees of ligament injury in any joint, and in the case of the AC joint, there can be as many as six. Usually, the term separation comes into play when the ligaments are damaged enough that the clavicle and the acromion move apart, hence the term "separate." The most minor of shoulder separations, or AC sprains, is an injury an athlete can play through, although it is painful. Just ask Ben Roethlisberger, who proved that Sunday night. The more significant separations can require surgery. Just ask Alex Smith.

At the end of the day, terminology can be used to either downplay or dramatize the seriousness of an athlete's injury. It's just one more reason injury reports have to be examined in the context of how the athlete is able to perform in practice and on the field. And with that, we take a look at what we know headed into Week 3.

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesRoethlisberger played in a lot of pain, but he did play in Week 2.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Well, the introduction here was written just for Roethlisberger. All week leading up to Sunday's contest, Roethlisberger's injury had been described by the team as a "sore shoulder." I have no doubt his shoulder was sore. He did not practice Wednesday and did just a little work Thursday but was able to fully practice Friday and was predicted to play, despite the soreness, Sunday. That is exactly what we saw. Whether his injury was called a sore shoulder, an AC sprain or a mild separation, the results were the same. We knew he would be uncomfortable (and it was apparent every time he hit the ground), but based on past performance, we expected him to fight through it. And he did. In the end, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports coach Mike Tomlin told reporters this week that Roethlisberger has "an AC sprain," adding, "It's a sore shoulder." That should clear it up.

Expect more of the same for Roethlisberger this week. Limitations in practice, game Sunday. And as Tomlin told the Post-Gazette, "Thankfully with Ben, he's a pretty quick study and a sharp guy. ... It doesn't take him a great number of reps to be ready to play." Fantasy owners should feel fairly confident heading into Sunday's contest.

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, San Diego Chargers: Tomlinson continues to feel confident that his toe is improving and he will see more action this week, according to reports in The San Diego Union-Tribune. He will benefit from an extra day of rest since the team plays Monday night, hosting the Jets. Tomlinson says he will get extra treatment, which, along with the extra rest, will allow him to "have some more carries and do pretty much what I have always been able to do."

Cautious optimism is advised for fantasy owners, but patience, too. Tomlinson has been so outstanding in the past that when he starts off this limited, there is a sense of panic. There is reason to be concerned about the status of his toe, but it might well be that another week of rest and treatment will allow him to move forward enough to be productive. Secure a backup just in case, but plan on Tomlinson starting for you this week.

Devin Hester, WR/Return Specialist, Chicago Bears: Hester's exact rib condition remains a mystery, as no information has been released by the team following Hester's MRI. His status for Sunday against Tampa Bay is uncertain, but there are some details around the injury that are slowly emerging.

Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune reports Hester's MRI was delayed due to bleeding in the injured area. Any inflammation or bleeding has the potential to cloud the picture, so waiting makes sense. It also suggests the injury is to soft tissue, such as muscle, which has a good blood supply and consequently bleeds when injured. Furthermore, McClure adds that the injury was apparently non-contact related, that in fact, Hester "took a hard, extended step to avoid contact [with Carolina Panthers linebacker Dan Connor], then grabbed his left side." This also suggests the injury is likely muscular in nature. It is hard to fracture a rib in the absence of hard contact.

The fact that Hester was so uncomfortable he had to be carted from the field suggested the injury was more serious. Any injury to the rib cage or abdominal wall is notoriously uncomfortable for an athlete. Forget stretching for a catch, twisting or even leaping; it hurts just to breathe. And those are all non-contact events. Imagine how much the pain is magnified when a player absorbs a hit.

Keep an eye on Hester's practice activity, but he might very well be limited all week. Even if he is cleared to play, he might require some additional protection and likely will not be at 100 percent. Stay tuned, as more information should emerge throughout the week.

[+] EnlargeJason Witten
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThe wonder that is meds and adrenaline helped Witten Monday night, but this week is a little less clear.
Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys: Here we go again. Separated? Sprained? Reports of both have emerged with regard to the injury Witten suffered in the first half of Monday night's game against Philadelphia. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports Witten suffered a separated shoulder when he landed shoulder first on turf during his first catch. He then ran into the locker room, received a pain-killing injection and returned to produce some fine catches that help set the Cowboys up for a score. Coach Wade Phillips referred to Witten's injury as a shoulder sprain Tuesday. As we pointed out above, both can be correct.

As The Dallas Morning News points out, perhaps even more impressive than Witten's return to the field to catch the ball was his persistent blocking effort, despite the painful shoulder. However, keep in mind that Witten had a healthy dose of adrenaline and pain medicine to allow him to persevere Monday night. He no doubt will be more aware of his shoulder over the next few days, and the team likely will protect him in practice. The Cowboys have indicated Witten will play against the Packers this week. Given that he was able to return to the game in which he was injured, this seems very reasonable. Barring a setback, Witten should continue to be a productive fantasy tight end.

Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders: McFadden was such a presence Sunday that his slightly early exit due to a toe problem might have gone unnoticed. But we already have seen how much toe problems can limit a running back, so worry is not unwarranted.

The San Francisco Chronicle referred to McFadden's injury as a case of turf toe, and the Sacramento Bee is reporting McFadden might be held out of practice Wednesday as a result. Although any case of turf toe is something to watch, there is no reason to panic yet. With Justin Fargas expected out with a groin injury (no MRI results yet), McFadden will carry a bigger load, and the team likely would opt to rest him midweek if there was any reason for concern. Nonetheless, Michael Bush might get into the mix, definitely more so if McFadden has to be limited. Fantasy owners might want to go and get him.

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Ryan Grant, RB, Green Bay Packers: Grant's recovering hamstring is not a surprise, but it does have fantasy owners wondering what to expect from week to week. Coach Mike McCarthy's comments have not exactly inspired confidence that Grant is fully ready to perform just yet. He attributed Grant's limitations Sunday to a lack of looks in practice as opposed to discomfort in the hamstring itself at game time, but they certainly are tied. If the hamstring is still bothersome, Grant cannot practice at full speed. Given that, McCarthy suggested the team would set a practice plan for this week based on feedback from the medical staff, adding, "If we need to sit him down, we'll sit him down." Watch for Friday updates, but Grant still could be a bit removed from performing at full strength.

Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons: Turner raised some eyebrows with news of a right ankle injury, but according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Turner indicates it's not serious. "Just a little sore. Nothing major." Garden-variety ankle sprains are not uncommon and, if mild, do not present a big threat to running backs. It will be worth watching how much action Turner sees in practice this week to see whether he is limited, but all indications are that the team expects him on the field Sunday.

Joey Galloway, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It was so exciting to know Galloway was active for Week 1 following a long summer with a groin injury. Unfortunately, he is back on the injury report, this time with a foot problem, and his status for Sunday is far less clear. Galloway left Sunday's game in the fourth quarter, and according to the St. Petersburg Times, the team is referring to his injury as a foot sprain. Galloway was on crutches Monday, and coach Jon Gruden's quote said it all: "At this point, there is some concern."

Galloway is expected to be evaluated further this week, but fantasy owners should be planning on a replacement at this point. Foot injuries, even mild ones, tend to be a bit slower to heal. For a position that requires jumping and landing, which translates to increased stress across the arches of the foot, it is hard to perform at full tilt in the event of such an injury. Stay tuned.

Go hit the waiver wires if your team needs some injury support. If you check out our fantasy pages, you'll find our experts' player rankings and all sorts of good tips on solid acquisitions flying under the radar. I'll see you Friday at chat time (11 a.m. ET), and I'll update the blog after the practice week and injury reports (Saturday morning). Thanks for reading!