Stephania Bell: Percy Harvin

Video: Percy Harvin's fantasy impact

November, 19, 2013
11/19/13
1:48
PM ET
Stephania Bell joins Eric Karabell to discuss Percy Harvin's return and expectations for the rest of the season.

Video: Percy Harvin's fantasy value

October, 15, 2013
10/15/13
3:28
PM ET
Stephania Bell joins Eric Karabell to discuss when Percy Harvin will return this season and what his fantasy value is.
Percy Harvin is scheduled to undergo surgery on his ailing hip Thursday with Dr. Bryan Kelly of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. Kelly has extensive experience operating on the hips of elite athletes across multiple sports, including Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas and Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora.

The biggest concern for fans and fantasy owners alike is whether Harvin will play this season and at what point he might return. Based on the available information, it appears Harvin has a chance to come back near the end of the regular season, with the earliest return date hovering around the 16-week post-surgery mark. Nov. 21, which happens to be the day Week 12 gets under way, is 16 weeks from this Thursday, the planned surgery date. Interestingly, Seattle has a bye that week, meaning it's likely that the soonest Harvin would be able to play is the following Monday, Dec. 2, when the Seahawks host the Saints.

Naturally, that date is fluid, depending on what specifically is addressed during the operation, how smoothly the recovery process goes and how quickly Harvin can get into football shape following surgery.

[+]Enlarge
Percy Harvin
AP Photo/Ted S. WarrenPercy Harvin also missed the final seven games of the 2012 season.


So why do surgery now? It's a fair question, given that there were early suggestions that Harvin could try to play through the injury. While it might be admirable for him to attempt to play in the presence of a known injury, it might not be in his or the Seahawks' best interest. For starters, it's possible that he could sustain additional damage, and if the cartilage surface is involved, it could have long-term implications for joint health (think: arthritis). Perhaps more worrisome is the potential for increasing stress across other joints, such as the knee or in the spine. There is even some evidence to suggest an increase in ACL injuries when limitations in the hip are present.

If an athlete is compromised at the hip, he can develop compensations elsewhere to help protect the hip, which can lead to other injuries. Then there's the bottom line of performance. If Harvin experiences pain in his hip or has motion restrictions, it can result in the shutdown of some muscle function around the hip, which will ultimately decrease his power to drive when running and his agility.

In the end, while surgery now takes Harvin out of the Seahawks' equation for a few months, it may pay off later in terms of his overall health.

No specifics have been released as to the surgical plan for Harvin, but based on earlier reports that a labral tear was suspected, the expectation is that the labrum will be either repaired or resected (removal of the damage) via an arthroscopic procedure. Additionally, some resurfacing of the bone will likely be required. The labrum is a ring of fibrocartilage, which adds depth and stability to the hip joint. When the labrum is torn, the athlete typically experiences limited motion along with pain, usually in the front of the hip or groin area. Labral tears are often associated with a condition known as FAI (femoral acetabular impingement). Essentially, FAI exists when the head (ball-shaped portion) of the femur or thighbone and the acetabulum (bone that forms the hip "socket" for the femoral head) repeatedly come into abnormal contact in certain hip positions as a result of the athlete's particular anatomy, combined with the demands of his sport. That repeated contact, or impingement ("pinching") can contribute to labral tearing, as well as other degenerative changes of the joint.

During surgery, along with addressing the labrum, any necessary bone work to correct the impingement can be performed. The more extensive the work required during surgery, the longer the potential recovery. Sometimes the full extent of the injury cannot be fully appreciated until surgery, making it hard to accurately project a timetable in advance. The joint then needs to be protected in the early phases following surgery so the athlete is on crutches, limited in weight-bearing through the hip. Regaining range of motion and light strengthening are the initial focus, with a gradual return to weight-bearing exercises as healing permits. Cardiovascular training and progressive strengthening increase until the athlete moves to sport-specific drills and, ultimately, returns to action.

The sport an athlete plays and the specific positional demands within the sport can influence the amount of time to recover. For instance, hockey players glide on ice, allowing them to return faster than runners who pound into the ground. But a football player whose job involves primarily running might not take as long to return as a lineman whose stance position and repeated explosion out of that position markedly increase stress across the hip joint. In other words, it's a sliding scale, which is why the timeframe typically issued for a labral repair with concurrent resurfacing is 4-6 months.

Harvin's light frame and positional demands allow him to potentially return in the four-month window, presuming no surprises in surgery and a smooth recovery. Even if he does return then, it's possible he will be limited in playing time early on, with a gradual increase in snaps as he tolerates the work.

For Seahawks fans, if the team is able to perform well enough to go deep into the playoffs, Harvin could potentially contribute when they need him most. For fantasy owners, this is not the year to count on him. But don't count him out in 2014.



Many a fantasy owner still playing for a title was dealt a big blow Wednesday afternoon when Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin was placed on injured reserve. The IR designation began to look like a real possibility after Harvin attempted one practice last week, struggled to run and was not seen again on the practice field the rest of the week. It was also recently revealed that he had sustained a more significant tear, not particularly surprising given Harvin's struggles to recover and his own description that he had sprained his ankle in three places.

Still, the recent description of the severity of his injury suggested he might not be able to return to form. As it turns out, Harvin wasn't able to return at all, but the assumption is that the IR decision was made with the interest of his long-term health in mind. Not only might Harvin have struggled to perform at anything close to the level he displayed early in the season, but he also may have risked compromising his ability to return to that level in the future.

[+] EnlargeTitus Young
Tim Fuller/US PresswireTitus Young, hampered by a knee injury and behavior problems, is done for the season.
Other players moved to IR this week included Detroit Lions wide receiver Titus Young and Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jake Long. Young was dealing with a knee injury for much of the season and was a frequent member of the Lions' injury report. His inability to consistently participate in practice was hinted at as a reason for his failure to perform to the level of expectation on game day. Recently, however, it became apparent that Young's behavior was at issue as well and the team suspended him in Week 12, sending him away from the facility for several days. He returned for some practice in Week 13 but remained off the playing field on Sunday.

This week, the decision was made to move him to IR, leading some to wonder what the primary reason was for the early termination of his season. According to the Detroit Free Press, the Lions placed Young on IR with a knee injury. However, when coach Jim Schwartz was asked whether the injury would require surgery, his response was telling: "Yeah, most likely," Schwartz said. "Yes, unless he doesn't show up for it." OK then. Until next year, perhaps.

As for Long, there is no doubt about what sent him to IR -- he tore his triceps and the recovery timetable exceeds the time remaining in the Dolphins' season. Long has dealt with significant injuries, including a torn biceps which ended his season late last year.

Already ruled out for Week 14


Running back Donald Brown of the Indianapolis Colts injured his ankle last Sunday and will not play this week. Vick Ballard will be the starter, which, given his use in recent weeks, should not come as a surprise. At least the Colts have done everyone a favor and given us this news well in advance of Sunday's game.

Quick Hits


Eagles running back LeSean McCoy remains out of practice as he recovers from a concussion. Don't expect to see him this weekend. However, do expect another hefty dose of Bryce Brown. Nick Foles is the Eagles' starting quarterback for the remainder of the season; Michael Vick has not yet returned to practice, but if and when he does, it will be in a backup role.

Concussions are also an issue for Jaguars running back Rashad Jennings and wide receiver Cecil Shorts. Both were injured in Week 13 and neither has returned to practice. It is not looking as if either will be available on Sunday.

[+] EnlargeJohnson
Brett Davis/US PresswireDespite his hamstring injury, Stevie Johnson should be ready to play for the Bills on Sunday.
Bills receiver Stevie Johnson strained his hamstring last Sunday, but the Bills did not seem concerned about his playing status for Week 14. After taking Wednesday off, Johnson returned to limited practice Thursday and unless things change, should be on course for Sunday. It's worth remembering that Johnson played through a groin injury last season which ultimately required surgery. This is not to say the hamstring issue is serious but rather that Johnson has shown he will play at less than full capacity.

Earlier this week, Packers coach Mike McCarthy hinted at a very low likelihood of seeing receiver Jordy Nelson in Week 14. Nelson aggravated his hamstring injury prior to last Sunday's game then was forced to exit early. He has not practiced this week and it's looking as if he will sit this game out. His teammate Greg Jennings said he felt "great" coming out of his return to action following abdominal surgery -- which makes sense, since Jennings is no longer mentioned on the injury report.

Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw continues to operate on a modified practice schedule, as in no practice at all this week. His workload picked up last week with the absence of Andre Brown (now on IR with a broken fibula), but Bradshaw seemed to respond just fine. He is expected to play Sunday in a similar capacity. His teammate, receiver Hakeem Nicks, has been far less consistent this season. Swelling in his knee due to an injury sustained in Week 2 compounded his recovery from foot surgery. In Week 12, the ailments appeared to be in the rearview mirror but Monday's game proved that was not the case. This week, Nicks practiced Wednesday (and wasn't even listed on the injury report) but developed swelling in his knee again and was forced to sit out Thursday practice, limited to riding a stationary bike on the sideline. It's hard to have confidence in Nicks this week, particularly for those fantasy owners competing in playoffs. Meanwhile, fellow Giants receiver Domenik Hixon has been practicing in full after missing last week with an ankle injury. He should be available for this week's matchup against the Saints.

Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola was out of Sunday's game with an injured heel. He has spent the majority of the last two weeks in a walking boot. On Wednesday, Amendola did individual work on the side and was a limited participant Thursday, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. This is an encouraging development but it's hardly reassuring heading into a fantasy playoff weekend. It's worth seeing what his activity is like on Friday. Meanwhile, teammate Steven Jackson has been playing through a foot ailment and will continue to do so. Jackson was back in full practice Thursday after taking Wednesday off.

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Brandon LaFell suffered a turf toe injury and chipped a bone in the process, according to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. (This has the sounds of an avulsion injury, where a ligament injury pulls a small bone fragment with it.) The bottom line is that LaFell remains in a boot and not practicing, so he will not play this weekend. Teammate Jonathan Stewart (ankle) is not practicing and is not expected to play this weekend.

Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham has been hot in the red zone lately, scoring touchdowns in three of Cincinnati's last four games. However, there may be no scoring of any kind for him this week if he can't take the field. He was a limited participant in practice Wednesday due to a hamstring injury, but it was his complete absence from practice Thursday that should have fantasy owners concerned. Late-week downgrades are never a good thing, and when the injury involves a hamstring, they are more worrisome. There is still a chance that Gresham recovers, but fantasy owners should be making alternate plans.

Jets tight end Dustin Keller does not look as if he'll make it back this Sunday after injuring his ankle in Week 13. He has not been ruled out for the game but he has not practiced yet this week. It's been a tough year health-wise for Keller, who missed four games early in the season due to a hamstring injury.

Patriots' tight end Aaron Hernandez continues to be held to limited practice but certainly was not held to limited playing time last Sunday when he was on the field for every offensive play. Expect him to be ready to go on Monday night. Teammate Rob Gronkowski is still on the mend from his broken forearm and is likely to sit out another week. No, the Patriots have given an update regarding the healing progression of the bone (but who expected that to happen?). When Gronk appears in practice, it will be the sign he is nearing a return. Until then, it is silence as usual.

And on a final note


Steelers coach Mike Tomlin announced Thursday that Ben Roethlisberger will resume his starting role as quarterback for the Steelers. While the unusual nature of his shoulder injury led to some speculation that he might be done for the season, the facts of his case combined with his history of quick healing and pain tolerance suggested he would be able to return.

It is still a credit to Roethlisberger that he is in a position to return just four weeks after getting injured. He has demonstrated that he can make the necessary throws to perform effectively, but how he responds to absorbing contact is unknown. He is expected to wear some padding for protection, but the sternoclavicular joint and the first rib are impossible to completely stabilize. His best bet is to ensure he unloads the ball quickly enough to avoid taking sacks that drive his shoulder into the ground (which is how he was hurt in the first place).



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



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

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

Running Backs

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

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



Wide Receivers

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

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

Quick Hits


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



This is an unusual week with three games taking place on Thursday because of Thanksgiving. Six teams are dealing with the challenge of recovery in a four-day window as we move into Week 12.



Houston Texans at Detroit Lions

Out

Titus Young, WR, Detroit Lions (not injury related, knee): Young was sent home from the Lions' facility at the start of the week by coach Jim Schwartz for "repeated selfish behavior," according to the Detroit Free Press. He has been on the injury report because of his knee for several weeks now but that seems to have improved. Now he needs to work on his attitude.

Other injuries

Ben Tate, RB, Houston Texans (hamstring): Tate has missed several games because of injuries to his toe and his hamstring. In late October coach Gary Kubiak indicated it would be a while before Tate would be ready to return to game action. Three weeks later and he has yet to return. Initially, Kubiak said Tate had "a good chance" for that return to happen Thursday, but after not participating Tuesday, his status remains unclear. The Texans' official website indicates he will be a game-time decision, but given he's been out for nearly a month, it's hard to count on Tate even if he does go.

Owen Daniels, TE, Houston Texans (back): Daniels was active last Sunday even though his back was not 100 percent recovered. The hope is that a light practice week helps move him along further. Daniels is expected to play again Thursday.

Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions (knee/thumb): Johnson has been on a limited practice regimen for weeks, and the pattern continues. His productivity has increased over the past couple of weeks as well with Johnson seeing the end zone in each of the past two games. Fantasy owners hope that pattern continues.

Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys

Out

Brandon Meriweather, S, Washington Redskins (knee): It's a very tough break for Meriweather, who in his first game of the season (he had missed time because of problems with his left knee) tore his right ACL. He has been placed on injured reserve.

Other injuries

Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington Redskins (foot): Garcon returned to action last week and was able to emerge from that game no worse for the wear. His contribution from a fantasy perspective was invisible, but head coach Mike Shanahan insists Garcon's presence on the field represents a big-play threat. Right now, that threat may be limited as Garcon tries to play through an injury that is not truly healed. The combination of extended rest, treatment and a shoe insert to support his damaged toe did allow him to get through his first game in weeks without incident. Shanahan notes that the turf in Cowboys Stadium may present an additional challenge for Garcon's sensitive foot, however, making his status questionable for Thursday. He is expected to test his toe pregame before a final decision is made.

DeMarco Murray (foot) and Felix Jones (knee), RB, Dallas Cowboys: Murray is still limited to working on the side and has not resumed practicing with the team. Last week we said a return Thursday would be unlikely and that remains the case. The week to watch will be Week 13 as Murray will have had an additional 10 days to increase his workload. Meanwhile, Jones was out of practice Tuesday after injuring his knee last Sunday. This is not the same knee that has been bothering him for weeks. As coach Jason Garrett told the Dallas Morning News, "He was dealing with a knee going into last week and hurt his other knee in the ballgame." The Cowboys are taking it day by day -- as if there is any other choice -- and will have to wait to see if Jones will be well enough to take the field Thursday. Otherwise, Lance Dunbar could be in line to start for the Cowboys on Thanksgiving.

Kevin Ogletree, WR, Dallas Cowboys (concussion): Ogletree suffered a concussion in Week 11 and has not practiced so far this week. His status for Thursday appears to be in doubt.

New England Patriots at New York Jets

[+] EnlargeRob Gronkowski
AP/Michael DwyerPatriots tight end Rob Gronkowski won't be doing any spiking for a while.
Rob Gronkowski (forearm/hip) and Aaron Hernandez (ankle), TE, New England Patriots: Gronkowski is not listed yet as "out," but after undergoing surgery Monday to repair a fractured left forearm, it is safe to say we won't be seeing him. The team has not confirmed which bone was broken (there are two in the forearm, the radius and the ulna, and either one or both can be fractured, depending on the mechanism), although the ulna -- which runs from the elbow towards the fifth (pinkie) finger -- is most vulnerable and most commonly broken on blocking plays in football. Assuming the fracture was not comminuted (multiple pieces) and did not involve the joint but was limited to the shaft of the bone itself, repair is fairly straightforward. Surgical stabilization with a plate is typically done to help facilitate the healing process and then the bone does the rest. It bears repeating that bone tends to heal well in an otherwise healthy individual and the timetable is generally consistent (approximately six weeks). Clearance for contact requires evidence of callus formation on imaging (a sign the bone is repairing itself, which is usually evident around four weeks, give or take) and players can return with a protective shell around the forearm as long as it is wrapped and padded. Gronkowski will be able to maintain his aerobic conditioning and, if the wrist is not involved, he can begin to work with the wrist and hand shortly. Contact is the last element permitted and it all depends on the healing status of the bone. If all goes well (and if Gronkowski's injury is of the least complicated variety as described above), a return within four weeks is not out of the question. Additional time could be required depending on the healing process.

Meanwhile, Hernandez appears on track to return Thursday after continuing his limited participation in practice. Hernandez has not taken the field since the last time the Patriots faced the Jets in Week 7, and with Gronkowski sidelined, his return will be welcomed. As to how much the team looks to him in his first game back since exiting for the second time because of his ankle, it remains to be seen.

Wes Welker (ankle) and Brandon Lloyd (knee), WR, New England Patriots: Both receivers are expected to play Thursday just as they did Sunday despite their presence on the injury report. Their limitation in practice early this week is to be expected given the short turnaround between games.

Jeremy Kerley, WR, New York Jets (hamstring/heel): Kerley was on the injury report last week with these ailments and despite his very questionable status, he was active. His productivity was limited and his practice so far this week has been limited as well. According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Kerley has soreness as a result of his game play Sunday and he will be a game-time decision for Thursday night.

Beyond Thursday

Concussions

This is also a week where a large number of players are on the injury report because of concussions. As is the case with all concussions, there is no ability to predict the exact timetable for recovery. Even players who make progress during the week may not meet all the necessary criteria to be cleared to play in a game. Just ask San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who suffered a concussion in Week 10, returned to limited practice during the week but was not cleared to play for a Monday night game. Two other starting quarterbacks, Jay Cutler and Michael Vick, also were sidelined this past week because of concussion. Not one is a lock to play in Week 12; the teams maintain, properly, that their status is day-to-day. In addition to the quarterbacks, several other key fantasy players have recently suffered concussions. Their status is also in question for Week 12. While it is not possible to guarantee when any of the concussed players will return, they are listed below as a means of reminding fantasy owners who they need to keep an eye on as game day approaches.

[+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
AP Photo/Brian GarfinkelThis is definitely not what LeSean McCoy owners or Eagles fans wanted to see.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: McCoy suffered a concussion late in Sunday's game. While the Eagles' Monday night appearance will grant him an extra day to recover, he still must complete all of the necessary requirements before he can return to game play. Fantasy owners may want to secure Bryce Brown.



Donnie Avery, WR, Indianapolis Colts: Avery was among those suffering concussion injuries Sunday. He'll be one more to monitor throughout the week.

Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills: Jackson is reportedly feeling better this week and so far is on track to return to play. Coach Chan Gailey told the Bills' official website that Jackson was going through the final phases of the concussion protocol. He practiced Wednesday and is cleared to play Sunday. After C.J. Spiller's impressive performance last Thursday night while Jackson was out with the injury, it's not clear how the load would be divided this week.



Isaac Redman, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers' running back corps cannot seem to get through a week without being dealt an injury blow. This week it was Redman who was the victim, suffering a concussion against the Ravens. According to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, coach Mike Tomlin is optimistic about Redman's chances for this week. We will see.

Dennis Pitta, TE, Baltimore Ravens: Pitta suffered a concussion early in Sunday's game against the Steelers but on an encouraging note, his symptoms reportedly subsided quickly. Count him among the many who will be going through a battery of tests this week.



More injuries to watch

Running Backs:

Darren Sproles, New Orleans Saints (hand): Sproles didn't play last week but he was very close. Close enough in fact, to have traveled with the team to Oakland and been a game-time decision. The Saints held him out because of persistent swelling in his left hand on which he had surgery three weeks earlier to repair a fracture. He did practice fully leading up to the game and assuming he does so again this week and that the swelling is down, you have to like his chances of participating Sunday.

Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos (knee): McGahee knows a thing or two about knee injuries, but his instincts were a little off last weekend. McGahee thought the injury he suffered in Sunday's game wasn't serious but as it turns out, it was serious enough to end his regular season. McGahee suffered a torn MCL and a compression fracture in his right knee, according to the Denver Post. He is non-weightbearing on crutches and will have to patiently wait for his body to heal. The Broncos placed on injured reserve/designated to return, meaning he would be able for the postseason.



Wide Receivers:

[+] EnlargeJulio Jones
Josh D. Weiss/US PresswireJulio Jones was already a game-time decision heading into last week, and could be even more of a question mark this week.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons (ankle): Jones lobbied to play Sunday despite not being able to practice all week with his injured ankle. He managed three receptions before aggravating the ankle and exiting early. The question is just how much of a setback Jones suffered and will he be able to overcome it to play again this Sunday? Until the Falcons issue practice reports this week, there won't be any indication as to how much activity he can do, but there might be more resistance to playing Jones this week if he cannot participate.



Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs (neck): Bowe injured his neck in Sunday's game and his status for this week is uncertain. Coach Romeo Crennel would not rule him out just yet according to the Kansas City Star, but he also offered no details on the injury or any assurances Bowe would play. As of now that gives fantasy owners very little to go on other than making sure to have a plug-in for Bowe this week.

Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears (knee): After missing more than a month with a fractured bone in his right hand, Jeffrey returned to action this week only to injure his knee. He is scheduled to undergo arthroscopic surgery Wednesday and Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times reports he is projected to miss anywhere from two to four weeks. Players often have to combat the return of swelling as they are reintroduced to football activity following even a minor scope (see: Donald Brown) so consider four weeks a more realistic timeframe.

Quick Hits


Minnesota Vikings receiver Percy Harvin had the bye week to rest his sprained ankle after sitting out Week 10 but is still dealing with soreness. Only two weeks removed from a sprain that Harvin described as being "in three places," residual soreness is not unusual. According to 1500ESPN.com, coach Leslie Frazier said the swelling is mostly resolved and he hopes to get Harvin back in practice Wednesday. Harvin's activity level by the end of the week will go a long way in determining the confidence level for him to not only play but stay in the game this Sunday against the Bears. There's no doubting Harvin's toughness (he has played through ankle injuries and performed well in the past) but it's a matter of functionality (can he run, stop sharply, cut, pivot) and risk of re-injury. After all, Falcons receiver Julio Jones was convincing enough to get in the game last week despite his ankle injury but was forced out early after aggravating it while playing.
Addendum: Harvin was not able to practice Wednesday generating a little more cause for concern related to his status for Sunday.

New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw was a participant in practice Monday. There was no extensive explanation of Bradshaw's test results performed during the bye week after his neck was a problem for him again in Week 10 (Bradshaw experienced neck-related symptoms in Week 2 and was later diagnosed with a bulging disc in his neck). According to Jenny Vrentas of the Newark Star-Ledger, he confirmed that he had repeat X-rays of his neck that came back "clean." It's not necessarily surprising that X-rays would be unremarkable; there is likely more to his clinical scenario than is being shared. In any case, his presence in practice has to be taken as an encouraging sign because he was obviously cleared to be there. Don't be surprised if Bradshaw is granted some of his usual down time during the week but as of yet, there is nothing to suggest he is in danger of sitting in Week 12.

[+] EnlargeBeanie Wells
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesBeanie Wells is taking advantage of the new rule that allows certain players to return after being placed on injured reserve.
Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells will be activated this week, according to the team's official website. Wells was placed on the injured reserve/designated for return list when he suffered a turf toe injury earlier this year. Wells is expected to play Sunday when the Cardinals host the St. Louis Rams. As noted last week, Wells has been practicing with the team and is eager to return to play. The Cardinals have to be hoping he can proceed without issue through the remainder of the season. While his toe may not be perfect, his legs should be fresh given that he has not seen game action (and therefore contact) since Week 3.

• Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger (sternoclavicular joint/first rib) and Byron Leftwich (multiple rib fractures) are incapacitated this week. Roethlisberger was injured a week ago Monday and while his injury was serious (and undoubtedly excruciatingly painful), it was not necessarily a season-ender. In fact, if his healing progresses well, it's conceivable that Roethlisberger could rejoin the team in December. Leftwich, filling in for Roethlisberger in Week 11, sustained multiple broken ribs and will not be under center this Sunday. The starting quarterback for the Steelers in Week 12 will be Charlie Batch.

• Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola left Sunday's game briefly after appearing to injure his foot. He did return to finish the game but was reportedly seen limping afterward. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, coach Jeff Fisher expressed some concern about Amendola, given his soreness in what is being called a foot/heel injury. His practice status will be something to monitor throughout the week. Amendola has proven to be so talented when on the field but the injuries seem to keep piling up.

• Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is making progress from the high ankle sprain he suffered in Week 9. He has not yet been ruled out for Sunday's game and it remains to be seen whether he can ramp up to full practice this week. A big test will be whether Brown can pivot and break to the inside, a movement that stresses the injured region of the ankle. With Jerricho Cotchery out with rib fractures, the Steelers have signed receiver Plaxico Burress. This team started the season off with a running back carousel as a result of injuries; it now seems like the quarterbacks and receivers are following suit.

Oakland Raiders running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson were both absent in Week 11 because of their respective high ankle sprains. Goodson has not done much outside of his regular rehab work. McFadden did test the ankle running last week so it will be interesting to see if he can increase his activity level and return to practice. Even if McFadden isn't quite ready to return Sunday against the Bengals it sounds as if he may not be too far off.

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew suggested he was a couple of weeks from returning last week. In other words don't expect him this Sunday, something coach Mike Mularkey echoed on the Jaguars' official website.



Week 9 is in the books! This feels like that time of year when the grueling toll of the season begins to make itself widely felt. A number of players left last week's games with new injuries, aggravations of prior injuries or some variation of a new injury superimposed on a not fully recovered injury. While a couple of those with new ailments look as if they might not miss any time (Kansas City Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles and Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo), others seem likely to miss a week if not more (Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown, Minnesota Vikings WR Percy Harvin, and Oakland Raiders RBs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson).



In the meantime, many of the key running backs who have suffered foot injuries in recent weeks (DeMarco Murray Maurice Jones-Drew, Cedric Benson) continue their rehabilitation efforts but with no specific return date on the horizon. None of these backs is expected for this week (Benson and Jones-Drew are definitely out, and ESPN's Ed Werder reported Tuesday that the Dallas Cowboys do not expect to have Murray this Sunday).

There are still plenty of folks we're keeping an eye on as we head into Week 10.

[+] EnlargeMcFadden
Cary Edmondson/US PresswireOnce again, Darren McFadden has gone down with an injury that could keep him out multiple weeks.
Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson, RBs, Oakland Raiders (high ankle sprains): Both running backs left Sunday's game with similar injuries. McFadden was tackled during a run. On video, he appeared to rotate his foot outward relative to his lower leg, the hallmark mechanism for a high ankle sprain. Although there has been no word as to the severity of the injury, it may be to his benefit that his foot was not squarely planted in the ground when it happened. Still, with the known history of lower-extremity injuries McFadden has dealt with in his career, any additional incident raises concern. His teammate Goodson was also forced out of the game with a similar injury in the third quarter. (Goodson had been dealing with a turf toe injury throughout the week heading into Sunday's game.)

As of now, it would appear that Marcel Reece and Taiwan Jones will be responsible for the workload in the near future, but how much time McFadden and Goodson could miss -- if any -- is anyone's guess. The severity of their injuries will be as important as the injuries' location to determine how long they'll be out. As of yet, the Raiders have not revealed anything. Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times reports that McFadden has not yet been ruled out for Week 10. Of course, many a fantasy owner remembers when he was not ruled out in advance of multiple games last season, and thus might be suspicious. At this point, there's not enough information to suggest this injury is on the same order of severity as last year's, but it would make sense to plan on a backup nevertheless.



Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings (ankle): Harvin went into Week 9 with hamstring concerns -- and he appeared to be laboring during the game -- but he exited with a new, more significant injury. Harvin sprained his left ankle "in three different places," according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and is experiencing swelling and pain. Harvin was on crutches Monday to protect him from bearing weight on the injured limb, and while he wouldn't declare himself out for this week's game, he admitted his chances of playing are slim. The report that he sprained the ankle in three different places suggests that he has multiple injured ligaments, which explains the substantial pain and swelling, but also hints at greater instability. No specific grading of the injury was offered, but Harvin's appearance and description indicate this is more than a mild injury. Even though the MRI showed no fracture, the extent of soft tissue damage and associated instability can still project a multiweek absence. The Vikings do have a bye upcoming in Week 11 and it would be a big surprise if Harvin plays beforehand.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs (neck): Charles was forced out of last Thursday night's game with what the Chiefs called a neck injury. Charles did tell the Kansas City Star he was tested for a possible concussion, so it will be worth monitoring how he responds to practice during the week. The Chiefs don't play until Monday night, which is good in that it gives Charles the benefit of an extra day, but it also means no official injury report is due from the team until Thursday. As of now, it does look favorable for Charles to suit up in Week 10.

Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys (back): Romo injured his back late in the Sunday night game and there were multiple reports of him walking "gingerly" afterward. On Monday, head coach Jason Garrett told reporters Romo was feeling much better. On Tuesday, ESPN's Ed Werder reported the Cowboys expect Romo to play in Week 10.

Donald Brown, RB, Indianapolis Colts (knee): Brown was downgraded Saturday after experiencing swelling in his surgically repaired knee. He recovered to the point of being activated for Sunday's game, but the pain and swelling recurred, forcing Brown to the sideline early. With only four days until the Colts' next game, it would not be a surprise if he is out. There is also a chance he could rest for four days and still be active (though he did not practice Tuesday, also considered the "big" practice day for Thursday night games), but the bulk of the workload would still likely shift to Vick Ballard.

Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (ankle): Brown was the first to say he had suffered a high ankle sprain, and his assessment was later confirmed by coach Mike Tomlin, who called it "mild." Nonetheless, Brown is doubtful for Monday night's game against the Chiefs and was kind enough to share that tidbit early (Tomlin also said running back Jonathan Dwyer should return Monday) so that fantasy owners could make the proper adjustments. Well, perhaps that wasn't his reasoning, but it's still nice to get an early jump on fill-ins. In Pittsburgh, they know all about filling in at the running back position and now will get a taste of it at wide receiver. More Emmanuel Sanders, perhaps. As for how long the Steelers will be without Brown, that is not yet clear, but given that even Brown initially thought he might be able to play this week, it sounds like they anticipate a short absence.

Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers (hamstring/ankle): Nelson missed Week 8 because of a hamstring strain but was deemed healthy enough to go in Week 9 after testing the leg in a Friday workout. He never had a chance to make an impact as he went down with an ankle injury in the first quarter of Sunday's game while trying to make a catch. The Packers fortunately have a bye this week and coach Mike McCarthy sounds confident Nelson will be ready by Week 11.

[+] EnlargeJohnson
Brett Davis/US PresswireA thigh injury slowed down Steve Johnson in an already tough matchup against the Texans.
Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills (thigh): Johnson suffered a bruised thigh early in Sunday's game and tried to play through it but struggled. For those who might wonder why something as seemingly benign as a bruise should limit a high-level athlete, it's important to remember that a bruise involves bleeding. If there is bleeding into a contained area of soft tissue, like the thigh, it makes the tissue very tight and the athlete is unable to fully extend (lengthen) the involved muscle or fully contract it. And it hurts. The result is a shorter stride length, sometimes an apparent dragging of the leg, a loss of burst and power, and early fatigue. Johnson essentially said as much after the game, telling the Bills' official website, "I couldn't run down the passes or elevate when I needed to. It just wasn't working so I had to come out." The good news is that this should respond well to treatment and hopefully resolve quickly. Bills head coach Chan Gailey said he expects to have Johnson on the field in Week 10, even if he is not able to practice early in the week.

Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions (knee): Johnson played despite not practicing all week with a sore knee and racked up his third-highest yardage total of the season. Given the team's success at managing his knee during the week and still garnering a favorable Sunday outcome, expect the pattern to continue. There has been no word as to what's ailing him but Johnson confirmed that it's likely to bother him throughout the season, telling MLive.com, "It's something that I expect to linger."



Danny Amendola, WR, St. Louis Rams (shoulder): Amendola teased fantasy owners when he traveled to London with the team two weeks ago and was seen catching some balls in practice. Only three weeks removed from his sternoclavicular joint injury, however, he seemed an extremely long shot to play. Now his chances are looking up. With another two weeks under his belt, Amendola is confident he will be on the field to face the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.



During last week's practice, Amendola told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch his range of motion and strength were back to normal. The other aspect that is harder to measure is the healing of the tissue around the joint itself. The hope is that it will be strong enough to withstand another hard fall on the shoulder or direct contact from a hard hit without displacing again. Sitting at the junction of the collarbone (clavicle) and the sternum (chest), it's not an area that lends itself to effective bracing or taping. While there are ways to offer some additional protection, the goal is to have it be healed to the point where the risk is low to negligible. Unfortunately, there is only so much that visual and manual testing can do and at some point the athlete has to test it by playing in a game. It looks as if that test could come this weekend and, if Amendola is able to pass it, things should be looking up for him for the remainder of the season.

Aaron Hernandez, TE, New England Patriots (ankle): Hernandez, who did not travel with the team to London, is coming off of two weeks' rest after the bye. On Tuesday he was absent from practice, as he was attending the birth of his child, but there should be updates later in the week.



Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel has already been ruled out of Sunday's game because of a concussion. Brady Quinn will get the start against the Buccaneers.

Green Bay Packers running back Cedric Benson was placed on IR (designated for return) with a Lisfranc injury. It's a shame for Benson, whose opportunity arose when James Starks would not be able to start the season on time because of turf toe. Benson, who had been devastated when he found himself without a team as late as August, seemed to be making the most of his chance with the Packers, providing them with a viable option on the ground. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, injury cut his season short.



So does Starks attain the role originally believed to be his? Not necessarily. Starks is just getting back into the running back mix over the past two weeks and has not seen any game action. This week, the start will go to Alex Green. Whether he stays the starter will depend on how he and the other backs perform. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, coach Mike McCarthy said the first carry will go to Green, noting he is ahead of Starks at this moment. "But we have three halfbacks, and we'll utilize all three of them," he said. The ever-unpopular running back by committee will be in play in Green Bay, at least for this week.

Here's who else we're keeping an eye on in Week 6:

Quarterbacks

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Toni L. Sandys/The Washington PostThere are plenty of questions to be asked before there's a definitive answer on Robert Griffin III's status for Sunday.
Robert Griffin, Washington Redskins (head): Griffin wins the "most discussed injury of the week" prize, as everyone has an opinion as to whether he could or should play Sunday. The only people who matter when it comes to making the actual decision have not yet weighed in, however, as Griffin has to progress through the remainder of the week first. He was cleared to return to light practice, which he did Wednesday and Thursday. For his part, Griffin has said he feels fine with no recurrence of symptoms.



The bottom line is if Griffin has passed all his tests, including physical measures and neurocognitive testing results, there is no arbitrary amount of time to sit him in the hopes of preventing another injury. The most critical element of ensuring safe return to play -- as far as what is currently understood about these injuries -- is establishing complete resolution of all subjective (what the athlete complains of, which requires the athlete to be honest and forthcoming) and objective (things that can be observed or measured) findings at our disposal.

There is still much to learn when it comes to concussions, but as of now, the best approach is an individual one. There is no perfect grading system, no proven recovery timetable. Some athletes will recover from an injury within days; others will take months or longer. The severity of the injury is measured in hindsight, in the time it takes to recover, not in the moments after the injury occurs -- hence one of several reasons "mild" should be eliminated when describing a concussion immediately after it happens. One thing we have learned is if an athlete returns to action before full recovery and sustains a second injury, the consequences are potentially far greater in terms of symptoms and total recovery time. As this long-term risk is better understood, everyone becomes more responsible in managing these injuries.

The cautious approach is certainly warranted, but an arbitrary one is not.

Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings (knee): Ponder is dealing with inflammation in the bursa sac in his knee, according to ESPN 1500 Twin Cities. Although it is undoubtedly causing him some discomfort, he maintains it is not limiting his play. Ponder has practiced fully this week, nothing suggests he is in any danger of missing time.

Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers (finger): Smith has been practicing fully, making it seem as if the finger is of little concern. There appears to be little doubt he is planning on playing against the New York Giants. The question is whether the finger will be a factor in his performance.

Running Backs

[+] EnlargeAdrian Peterson
Brian Spurlock/US PresswireAdrian Peterson had stayed healthy since returning from a torn ACL but now has to deal with an ankle injury.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (ankle): We don't want to see Peterson listed here, not after everything he has done to get off the injury report, but we already knew he suffered a mild ankle sprain in Week 5. He (wisely) did not practice Wednesday but was out there on a limited basis Thursday.



LaRod Stephens-Howling (hip) and William Powell (head), Arizona Cardinals: With Beanie Wells on IR (designated for return) with a turf toe injury and Ryan Williams done for the season following shoulder surgery, Stephens-Howling and Powell are next in line for duty. Stephens-Howling has been dealing with a strained hip flexor for the past few weeks, and Powell suffered a concussion. Stephens-Howling was limited in practice Wednesday but was upgraded to full participation Thursday. Powell was a full participant both days. It's not definitive how this partnership will shake out in Arizona and may be in part a function of their collective health.

Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts (knee): Despite not yet being listed as out this week, Brown should not be expected to play considering he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday. According to the Indianapolis Star, Brown injured his knee during last week's contest against the Packers. Interim coach Bruce Arians said the team expects him to miss two to three weeks, but it can take a bit longer to return following even a minor scope. The key immediately after surgery is to eliminate any swelling and regain muscular strength as quickly as possible. Returning too soon can put the knee at risk for further injury, particularly if muscular balance has not been adequately restored first. In the meantime, the Colts have indicated that Vick Ballard is expected to start in place of Brown.

Ben Tate, Houston Texans (toe): Tate's sprained toe still has him in limited practice mode. As of now, his status for Sunday is very questionable.

Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins (concussion): This is the second time he is listed on the injury report with a concussion. Thomas has not practiced and is not expected to play. Although Reggie Bush appeared on the report Thursday, there is no apparent threat to his Sunday status.

Andre Brown, New York Giants, (concussion): He hasn't practiced this week, and it doesn't appear he'll be ready to play Sunday.

Peyton Hillis (ankle) and Shaun Draughn (ankle), Kansas City Chiefs: Stop me if you've heard this before. Hillis is not practicing this week because of his sprained ankle and should not be counted on for Sunday. The addition here is Draughn. The good news is that Draughn was listed as a limited participant Wednesday and Thursday, and he appears to be healthy enough to go this week. The better news is that Jamaal Charles is nowhere near the injury report.

Wide Receivers

[+] EnlargeHakeem Nicks
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesHakeem Nicks has not played since Week 2, but he may return this week.
Hakeem Nicks (foot, knee) and Ramses Barden (concussion), New York Giants: Nicks didn't practice Wednesday but did some light work Thursday. This is the most we've seen of him in the past two weeks, so it's an encouraging sign. ESPN New York reports that after Thursday's outing Nicks said, "The defining moment will be tomorrow when I do a little bit more than individual [work] and see if I'm able to compete." Meanwhile, Barden put in full practices Wednesday and Thursday and looks to be ready to go in Week 6.

A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals (knee): Although Green was limited Wednesday, his bump up to full practice Thursday suggests he is on track to play Sunday.

Percy Harvin (hamstring) and Jerome Simpson (back, foot), Minnesota Vikings: Uh-oh. Harvin was a Thursday addition to the practice report with a hamstring ailment. While there is no reason to panic yet, this certainly warrants close attention Friday.

As for Simpson, he experienced weakness and numbness in his leg before Sunday's game and, although he was cleared to play, could not perform effectively. The culprit? His lower back, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, although no specifics have been offered as to what structures are involved. While the team has maintained optimism, this is not typically the type of thing that resolves quickly. Simpson did not practice Wednesday but was able to do some light work Thursday. He has a ways to go before being game ready, which coach Leslie Frazier acknowledged Thursday. According to ESPN 1500 Twin Cities, Frazier said Simpson is still experiencing weakness. Even if Simpson is able to practice Friday, a decision on his status may not come before Sunday.

Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers (groin): Jennings is still not fully recovered from the groin injury, and he has made it clear he is not returning until he feels 100 percent. He has not practiced this week, and while he may attempt to do so Friday, there is little indication he is ready for game action. The Packers don't play until Sunday night, so this is a situation to avoid.

Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys (hamstring): After the bye week, I would hope Austin's hamstring is in better shape. Despite being listed on the injury report, Austin participated in full practice Wednesday and Thursday. There is little doubt he will play.

Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos, (hip): Thomas was limited Thursday because of a hip issue sustained during last week's game, according to The Denver Post. The ailment does not sound serious, and with the Broncos not playing until Monday night, this may have been a means of getting Thomas some additional rest.

Titus Young, Detroit Lions (knee): According to the Detroit Free Press, coach Jim Schwartz said the knee soreness that has been bothering Young for several weeks is affecting his ability to produce on the field, not just physically in the moment but in the form of lack of practice reps. Young did not practice Wednesday, which raises an eyebrow because the Lions are coming off a bye week. He did return to limited practice Thursday, and the expectation is he will continue to play through the injury. Just how much he can deliver in the aerial offense remains to be seen. The hope seems to be that he will grow into the role as his knee improves. That all sounds reasonable as long as there are no setbacks, but Young is clearly not out of the woods.

Stephen Hill (hamstring) and Jeremy Kerley (illness, finger), New York Jets: Hill was unable to play last week because of the hamstring injury, but things seem to be looking up. He turned in limited practice Wednesday and Thursday. Even coach Rex Ryan said he expects Hill to play this week. Let's see him get through a Friday workout first. Meanwhile, Kerley was limited Wednesday but returned to full practice Thursday. It appears he will be available Sunday.

Julian Edelman, New England Patriots (hand): Edelman returned to limited practice for the first time Thursday. Wait to see what he does Friday.

Tight Ends

[+] EnlargeAaron Hernandez
Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireAaron Hernandez hasn't played since suffering an ankle injury in Week 2.
Rob Gronkowski (hip) and Aaron Hernandez (ankle), New England Patriots: Both tight ends are again listed as limited participants on the injury report without much other information being offered. Gronkowski's ability to play each week suggests he will continue to do so again. Hernandez may still be on the early side of recovery. Since the Patriots travel to Seattle, perhaps a decision will become apparent early based on who makes the trip.

Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers (shoulder): He hasn't practiced yet and won't until at least Friday, said coach Mike McCarthy.

Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions (knee): Pettigrew was listed as a limited participant Wednesday and Thursday, but according to The Detroit News, he was just getting some extra rest. It will be nice to see him go through a regular workout Friday, but there does not appear to be any serious injury.

Dustin Keller, New York Jets (hamstring): Keller's hamstring has been very problematic. He has not played since sustaining the injury in the first game of the season and has already endured one setback. After not practicing last week, Keller was able to function as a limited participant Wednesday and Thursday, so there is some progress. The last time Ryan said he expected Keller to play, he aggravated the hamstring in practice. If that doesn't happen again, Keller could see his first game action in more than a month.

On a final note, don't forget to adjust lineups for teams on a bye this week -- Chicago, New Orleans, Carolina and Jacksonville. They will not appear on the NFL official injury reports.



As the injury world turns: In today's episode, a running back (Peyton Hillis) who showed promise early in the week for playing in Week 8 has a more discouraging outlook Thursday, a receiver (Andre Johnson) who in two days went from "definitely a possibility" to play Sunday to a maybe then back to a definite possibility, and a running back (Beanie Wells) who declared himself fully healthy just two weeks ago is not practicing at all now. These stories and more as the injury world turns.

Quarterbacks

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: Stafford (ankle) did light stretching and exercise Wednesday in what constituted a limited practice effort. On Thursday, he took it up a notch by working with the first-team offense. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reported via Twitter that coach Jim Schwartz acknowledged that Stafford had increased his activity. "He is improved today over yesterday, and I think that he's on a pretty good track right now," Schwartz said. Signs are certainly pointing in the direction that Stafford could play Sunday.

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams: Last week, we outlined the concern for Bradford's mobility to protect himself as a factor in whether he could play. That concern remains as Bradford, who was still in a walking boot early this week, has yet to practice. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the Rams are not even certain that Bradford will try to test the injured leg in practice. The left high-ankle sprain he suffered in Week 6 is looking likelier to cause Bradford to miss another game.

[+] EnlargePeyton Hillis
Kyle Terada/US PresswireIt seems pretty tough to trust Peyton Hillis on your fantasy team this week.

Running Backs

Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns: Hillis returned to a limited practice Wednesday because of his injured left hamstring. Browns head coach Pat Shurmur gave a vote of confidence, saying Hillis would return as the feature back when ready (and sounded hopeful for Sunday). As is often the case when a player is recovering from injury, the day after can be very telling in terms of how far along the healing truly is. Lingering soreness suggests the muscle may have been overworked, and in the interest of avoiding a more serious setback, the response to that soreness is typically rest. Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported via Twitter on Thursday that Hillis would not practice Thursday because of soreness in the hamstring after Wednesday's workout. Even if Hillis returns to limited work Friday, his status for Sunday is iffy at best because the team will want to see how he responds the following day. And if Hillis is deemed ready to play, the leg will undergo a more strenuous test during the game. Any sign of strain would temper his workload, and given this latest development, the Browns might proactively alter his workload, should he play. It's a very cloudy picture right now for fantasy owners. The best bet is to have insurance for Hillis, which may come in handy, even if he suits up.

Wide Receivers

Andre Johnson, Houston Texans: Johnson returned to limited practice Wednesday, an expected step in his recovery from a procedure on his torn hamstring tendon and an encouraging sign he would return in Week 8. Coach Gary Kubiak seemed pleased with what he saw from Johnson, telling the Houston Chronicle, "He looked good running to me." Then there was Johnson's take. Johnson told the Chronicle he still feels "tugging and stuff" on his leg when he runs. Johnson added that if he feels Sunday the way he did Wednesday, he probably won't play. Kubiak supported that notion,.understanding that ultimately how Johnson feels will drive the decision as to his status.

The Texans already have experience with one of their star players, running back Arian Foster, suffering a setback with a hamstring injury this season and they don't want to see it happen again. The worry in Johnson's case is not so much with the precise location of the procedure (near the tendon attachment at the knee) but in the muscle itself, which could suffer injury if he has not returned it to full strength before resuming play. As Kubiak pointed out, it's a long season and "we need to make sure we do the right thing here." On Thursday, the Texans showed renewed optimism, however, after Johnson was again able to practice. According to the Houston Texans' Twitter page, Kubiak said of Johnson, "He was better today. He told us that he felt better ... He had his normal day of practice ... We took another step forward." So fantasy owners, it appears Johnson will be a game-time decision Sunday. The progress is encouraging, but Johnson could sit one more week if he has any doubts.

Quick Hits

[+] EnlargeJahvid Best
AP Photo/Rick OsentoskiJahvid Best does have a history of concussions in his playing career going back to college.
• Lions running back Jahvid Best is still not practicing after the concussion he sustained in Week 6. The Detroit Free Press cites a source close to Best as saying he is not expected to play in Week 8. The Lions have a bye in Week 9, so it's possible that Best has two more weeks away from football.

San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates had a normal practice Wednesday, the first time he has done so since the week following the season opener. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson (hamstring) was also a participant Wednesday, as was running back Ryan Mathews. Running back Mike Tolbert rested his sore hamstring Wednesday, and Malcom Floyd sat out because of his hip. The Chargers have a Monday night game this week, so there will be no official report until after Thursday's practice.

Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells did not practice Wednesday, not a huge surprise considering he's dealing with significant swelling in his knee. Despite Wells' routine projections of optimism that he will play (and think of how many times he hasn't), the bottom line is that an athlete can't run (which presumably is what running backs are charged with doing) when there is swelling present. Beyond the direct impact to the joint, swelling in the area will inhibit muscle performance, making a player even more susceptible to injury. At this point, there is little reason to expect Wells to dress for Sunday.

• The Minnesota Vikings need Adrian Peterson. The fantasy world needs Adrian Peterson. Everyone can now breathe a little easier because Peterson returned to practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday. Peterson limped off the field late in Sunday's game after suffering what appeared to be an ankle injury. He downplayed the injury after the game, and the day of rest could only help. It looks as if he'll be available as usual Sunday. Teammate Percy Harvin also returned to practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday to rest his sore ribs, an injury he aggravated last week despite wearing protective gear. That serves as a reminder of how hard it is to minimize the pain of a rib injury, and Harvin's recent struggles underscore the point. Even an active Harvin has to be considered questionable to produce.

[+] EnlargeMark Ingram
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireIf Mark Ingram does sit out this week with a heel injury, the Saints are still more than covered at running back.
New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram has not practiced this week after suffering a bruised heel Sunday. Bruising on the bottom of the heel seems like an obvious limitation to running, and heel bruises can be slow to wane. The New Orleans Times-Picayune hints at Ingram's missing Week 8, although the Saints have yet to rule him out. The Saints did activate Chris Ivory from the physically unable to perform list, giving themselves another option in the event of Ingram's absence. With Ivory just returning to football, it's expected the Saints will ease him back into game situations, meaning Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles would handle the bulk of the workload Sunday.

• The New York Giants hope to have running back Brandon Jacobs back in the lineup Sunday. Jacobs missed two games with an MCL sprain, and persistent knee swelling has kept him off the practice field. He put in some work Monday and official limited practices Wednesday and Thursday. Barring a sudden recurrence of swelling, expect Jacobs to play Sunday.

• When Indianapolis Colts running back Joseph Addai exited Sunday night's game early with a hamstring injury, it was reasonable to believe he had aggravated the injury that caused him to miss the previous week. Not so, says coach Jim Caldwell. According to the Indianapolis Star, Caldwell says this is not the same injury that caused Addai to be questionable heading into Sunday night's game, but the new injury may leave him with the same designation for this week. Addai did not practice Wednesday, and Caldwell says he is awaiting word from the medical staff as to whether Addai will be able to return. Still seems to be a risky fantasy situation.



See you at the injury chat Friday at 11 a.m., and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 8 in the Saturday morning blog.

The injury aftermath from Week 7

October, 25, 2011
10/25/11
5:34
PM ET


Anyone who plays fantasy football knows the trauma inflicted across rosters in the mess that was Week 7. There are, oh, a gazillion injury situations in play, so without further ado:

[+] EnlargeTim Hightower
James Lang/US PresswireTim Hightower had seemingly retaken the Redskins' top running back slot last Sunday before suffering his season-ending knee injury.
Two more fantasy running backs were lost for the season Sunday. Washington Redskins running back Tim Hightower was just getting past his shoulder injury, but it was his leg that failed him this time. Hightower suffered a torn ACL in a classic non-contact, deceleration manner, so we won't see him until next season.



It's hard to know whether we'll see Earnest Graham again after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' veteran back, filling in for the injured LeGarrette Blount, suffered a torn Achilles tendon. With surgery and a lengthy recovery ahead of him, Graham may be challenged to return. In the meantime the Bucs, who have said nothing about Blount's specific injury or his progress (other than terming it a sprained knee), may be turning to some outside help to shore up their backfield. However, the Bucs do have a bye this week, but it is too soon to know whether Blount, who has yet to practice, will be ready by Week 9.

Tight end Chris Cooley never really got it going this season as a result of his ongoing knee ailment. He then fractured his index finger, requiring surgery and a lengthy recovery. He will now have plenty of time to recover from both as the Redskins have placed him on injured reserve. Fred Davis has proven to be quite capable in his place so far this year.

Quick Hits


They're all going to be quick hits this week gang given the number of injury items. As details emerge throughout the week, we will expound on them.

[+] EnlargeMatthew Stafford
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesOnce again, Matthew Stafford is dealing with an injury.
• For all those who took the under at Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford staying healthy through the first half of the season (officially through this Sunday; the Lions then have a bye in Week 9), don't rush to cash in just yet. Although Stafford was seen limping off the field late in Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons game after a defender fell on his right ankle, head coach Jim Schwartz is simply calling him "day-to-day," leaving open the possibility he is available this week. Schwartz did not go into details regarding the results of Stafford's imaging tests. My interpretation: nothing catastrophic, but some variant of a soft tissue injury. The key, as always, will be whether he can effectively plant and throw and move to protect himself.



• There were a pair of hand injuries suffered Sunday that require surgery. Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss underwent surgery Monday to insert pins in his broken left hand. He is projected to miss five to seven weeks. That timetable could be updated in about a month as the bone healing is evaluated. Denver Broncos running back Willis McGahee fractured his fourth metacarpal (the long bone in the hand that runs from the base of the fourth finger to the wrist) and is scheduled for surgery to repair it on Tuesday. While McGahee acknowledged he would miss Week 8, he expressed confidence he could return by Week 9. That sounds optimistic. Consider Redskins running back Ryan Torain, who underwent surgery for his metacarpal fracture in August but took three and a half weeks to return to practice, and four weeks before he played in a game. While all injuries are unique, it would not be surprising if McGahee's absence extends beyond the two weeks he projects. Even when he returns, he may require protective wear on the hand. OK, Knowshon Moreno, it's time to step up.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings also suffered a hand injury Sunday, but the results were not so dire. Jennings suffered a bruised right hand, one that caused him to temporarily experience numbness, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. He had enough function in the hand to return to the game and later X-rays revealed no fracture. The Packers have a bye in Week 8, and it sounds like they expect Jennings for their Week 9 matchup with the San Diego Chargers.

Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden had only two carries Sunday before exiting with what coach Hue Jackson told reporters Monday is a midfoot sprain. McFadden was on crutches Monday to offload the foot, but the team seems to not be overly concerned. They have the luxury of a bye week to allow McFadden to rest the foot and plan to re-evaluate him Monday. The midfoot is key for transferring load from the back of the foot to the front during weightbearing and any injury there makes it difficult to walk, much less run, normally. A minor sprain can respond well to unloading (this is where the crutches come into play) along with therapeutic modalities to help ease any pain and inflammation. Keep in mind that McFadden did return to the sidelines, but given his history of toe and ankle injuries, the Raiders were more conservative in guarding him against further injury. Wise move. Hopefully he is able to return in Week 9.

[+] EnlargeBeanie Wells
AP Photo/Paul ConnorsBeanie Wells rushed for 42 yards before leaving with another injury.
Arizona Cardinals oft-injured running back Beanie Wells suffered a knee injury in Sunday's game that has left him with significant swelling but no particular diagnosis, at least not one the team is revealing. According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, Wells denied a bone bruise and head coach Ken Whisenhunt did not elaborate on the nature of the injury, only saying there was no major structural damage. There are plenty of means by which a joint can become irritated and the response to that irritation is swelling. This is the same knee Wells had surgery on last year for a torn meniscus. The bottom line is that there is no plan for surgery (since there is no "structure" to address) at this time but there is also no running on a swollen knee. The goal is to address the swelling first, then try to bring the athlete back toward full activity and hope the swelling does not return. How long will it take? No one knows for sure. So stay tuned and keep an eye on when Wells is able to return to practice. Start by preparing for a backup in Week 8.

• New Orleans had all their running backs healthy when they came into Week 7 (not counting Chris Ivory, on the Physically Unable to Perform list since the start of the season). But Mark Ingram left Sunday's game with a limp, suffering what the team has called a bruised heel. No further word from the Saints on what they expect, and there is no indication as to whether the bruise is on the back of his heel, near the Achilles attachment, or on the undersurface of the heel, making it hard to prognosticate. If Ingram is limited, Pierre Thomas could be setting up for a nice matchup against the St. Louis Rams. Meanwhile, Ivory could be nearing a return to practice but that has not yet been made official.

• Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had a nasty looking ankle roll in Sunday's game. The awkward spill appeared to stress both his ankle and his knee, but after exiting for a brief period, Ryan was able to return and finish out the game. Ryan is no doubt pleased to have a bye week to allow the soreness to subside but is expected to start in Week 9. Teammate Julio Jones has missed two games with a strained hamstring, but if all goes well he could be back in Week 9.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin has been battling sore ribs since the preseason. Again he had issues with the ribs, which forced him to exit the game in the third quarter. Harvin is going to be further evaluated, but consider the Vikings had already agreed to scale back his playing time when his condition worsened. It's entirely possible he misses some time.

• Even the durable Hines Ward of the Pittsburgh Steelers is on the injury report this week after sustaining an ankle sprain Sunday. Ward often gets a day off from practice during the week (veteran, history of knee issues in the past) so it may be difficult to get a feel for his playing status until Friday.



• The San Diego running backs have to be thankful for one extra day before returning to competition. Ryan Mathews injured his thumb during the game against the New York Jets but was able to return to play. Mike Tolbert was seen grabbing his hamstring late in the game and was indeed listed on the postgame injury report, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, but neither player's injuries seemed to be a major cause for concern.

Raise your hand if you were one of the fantasy owners whose Sunday was ruined when Marshawn Lynch, declared active, was suddenly not playing because of back spasms that flared up during his pregame warmup. To make matters worse, it appears Lynch has been dealing with the issue for a while. According to the Seattle Seahawks' official website, coach Pete Carroll said Lynch's back is "not a new issue" but has been managed effectively to this point. As for Lynch's status this week Carroll said, "We'll have to be careful with him through the week and make sure that we do the right things. He is determined to play for sure in his mind, but we're really not going to know until we get to the end of the week." Or maybe not until Sunday after your rosters lock. Have a backup at the ready so you can pull the trigger if there's any shadow of a doubt heading into gametime.



And then there were a number of players who never took the field in Week 7 but whose status is of interest for Week 8:

[+] EnlargeSam Bradford
Ray Carlin/Icon SMISam Bradford sat out Sunday's game against the Cowboys and may be back on the bench this week.
• St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is still in a walking boot and is no lock to play in Week 8. The team plans to reassess his status Wednesday.

Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis was not able to play Sunday because of his strained hamstring, but he did get some running in Monday, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. There have been enough hamstring injuries around the league that everyone should know this is only one of many steps before returning to play. If Hillis is able to get back to full practice this week, then he should play Sunday.

• The Houston Texans could have wide receiver Andre Johnson back in the lineup Sunday if all goes well. Coach Gary Kubiak added clarity to the situation calling the return of Johnson "definitely a possibility" when speaking to reporters Monday. Johnson, who underwent a procedure on his torn hamstring tendon in early October, has been running but has not yet returned to practice. If he is able to do so early this week, it would bode well for his chances.

• The San Francisco 49ers could have wide receiver Braylon Edwards in the mix this Sunday. Edwards has been out recovering from meniscus surgery on his right knee. Head coach Jim Harbaugh said he expected Edwards to return to practice Tuesday.



• The New York Giants could get running back Brandon Jacobs alongside Ahmad Bradshaw this week. Jacobs, sporting a brace for protection, was able to practice Monday, indicating the swelling in his knee had subsided to the point he could participate. Now the challenge will be to see if the swelling remains down before he can be cleared to play.

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

Good news for Cassel, bad for Rodgers

December, 16, 2010
12/16/10
1:45
PM ET


This week's Thursday night matchup has the San Diego Chargers hosting the San Francisco 49ers.

[+] EnlargeAntonio Gates
AP Photo/Denis PoroyIt appears unlikely we'll see Antonio Gates suit up for the Thursday night game.
The Chargers continue to rotate their injured players to set a game roster. It appears both running backs (Mike Tolbert and Ryan Mathews) are finally healthy, but the status of their wide receivers is still in question. Malcom Floyd is listed as questionable heading into the game, although it sounds as if he could be available. Floyd did not practice Wednesday after a limited workout Tuesday, but Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune suggests that this may be due, in part, to the Chargers' short week. Nonetheless, it suggests that Floyd is not completely past the hamstring injury, and with that in mind it is hard to know what to expect from him as far as productivity, even if he plays.

Vincent Jackson, who injured his calf in his 2010 debut, is now off the injury report and is clearly expected to start. Legedu Naanee, who dealt with setbacks of his own the past two weeks following a hamstring injury, is probable after full practice Tuesday and Wednesday. The most notable fantasy star of the group, tight end Antonio Gates, is not expected to play this week. The team lists him as doubtful and he has not been able to practice because of pain in his foot. Keep in mind, if Gates rests this week, by the time of the Chargers' Week 16 contest he will have been out close to three weeks. The reprieve might be able to help him return and contribute at that point. But expect Randy McMichael to start at tight end for the Chargers this week.

For the visiting 49ers, there are not many question marks from a fantasy perspective. Running back Brian Westbrook is listed as probable for non-injury-related reasons and is fully expected to play. On the defensive side of the ball, linebackers Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes have been practicing with casts on their right hands this week. Although both are listed as questionable, they are expected to play.

Here's who else you might be concerned about heading into Week 15:

[+] EnlargeMatt Cassel
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireMatt Cassel could be ready to play, just over one week since undergoing an appendectomy.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel returned to practice Wednesday on a limited basis. While no one is committing to Cassel being the starter Sunday, the fact he's back on the practice field has to at least be considered encouraging. This no doubt will be a situation in which he is progressed daily, as able. If all goes well, there is a good chance he could return to face the St. Louis Rams.

Green Bay Packers signal-caller Aaron Rodgers is looking less likely to play Sunday against the New England Patriots. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports Rodgers has not even been allowed to return to the Packers' practice facility. Clearly, the medical staff wants his brain to rest, meaning no film study, no game plan preparation and no activity whatsoever that could interfere with healing. In the absence of any preparation, coupled with the likelihood that Rodgers will miss the entire week of practice (coach Mike McCarthy said Rodgers will not practice Wednesday or Thursday and his chances of working Friday are "slim to none"), it is hard to imagine he will be ready to absorb all of the mental and physical load required to start Sunday's game. Fantasy owners should prepare to start another quarterback this week.

• Fantasy owners should know at this point that they cannot count on Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre to play. While his status remains up in the air, there are so many question marks heading into Monday night -- including whether the game will indeed be played outdoors at the University of Minnesota's stadium -- that's it's best to avoid the situation. Tarvaris Jackson has a turf toe injury and has now been placed on injured reserve, making Joe Webb the likely starter, although he has a hamstring issue of his own. The Vikings signed Patrick Ramsey as insurance. Stand clear of these quarterbacks.

• As far as the other Vikings with injury concerns, running back Adrian Peterson, who did not help his fantasy owners last week, is dealing with a knee contusion that is not expected to limit him this week. Maybe if you're still in the playoffs, he can help make it up to you Monday night. Wide receiver Percy Harvin has missed the past two games because of migraines, but coach Leslie Frazier says he expects Harvin to return to practice this week. With the Vikings not playing until Monday night, there will be no official practice report until Thursday night, but at least early signs are positive for these two.

• The Cleveland Browns are making Colt McCoy the starting quarterback for the remainder of the season. It sounds as if the ankle issue is far enough behind him to no longer be a concern to the team.

Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton was held to limited practice Wednesday because of "soreness" in his throwing arm and his ribs. The Denver Post reports coach Eric Studesville referred to Orton's condition as "bumps and bruises" and does not seem overly concerned about his quarterback's availability this weekend. Teammate Brandon Lloyd showed up on Wednesday's injury report as a non-participant in practice because of his calf. Whether this was some helpful midweek rest or an injury to be concerned about should become apparent as the week progresses.

[+] EnlargeMike Williams
Kelvin Kuo/US PresswireMike Williams had two straight 100-yard games in Weeks 10 and 11 before dealing with his injuries.
• The Seattle Seahawks seem to be getting some good news on the wide receiver front. Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu returned to full practice Wednesday. Williams has been struggling with foot and ankle injuries and was not able to play in Week 14. Full practice early in the week is a strong indicator of his availability, barring a setback. Obomanu, who also missed Week 14 with a laceration on his right hand that interfered with his catching ability, has returned to practice, but the Seattle Times reports that he is still adjusting to playing with something on his hands. Says Obomanu: "I personally like no tape on my fingers, no tape on my wrists or anything, but I'm going to have to do a lot of tape, experiment devices and things to make sure; I have to protect my hand No. 1, but still give me comfort to be able to catch the ball, too." The good news is he's working on getting comfortable early in the week, meaning he too should be available Sunday.

• The New York Giants' wide receiver news was not so positive to start the week. Steve Smith, who returned in Week 14 from a pectoral strain, left the game after one catch when he injured his knee. The Giants released a statement Wednesday indicating that Smith suffered articular cartilage damage and would be placed on season-ending injured reserve. His teammate, Hakeem Nicks, fared much better in his return from injury, catching seven passes for 96 yards, and emerged no worse for the wear, not even appearing on Wednesday's injury report. He will likely be Eli Manning's big target with Smith out and Mario Manningham questionable this week. Manningham left Monday's game early with what was called a hip flexor strain and did not practice Wednesday. We will see what Manningham is able to do later in the week, but he tells ESPN New York that he plans to play in the team's big matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles.



• Some fantasy owners may have been concerned seeing Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw with his wrist and forearm on ice Monday night. Bradshaw is not on the team's injury report this week, consistent with his assurances that the wrist is "fine."



• Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver and premature touchdown celebrator DeSean Jackson did not practice Wednesday because of a sprained foot. The team is calling him day-to-day according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, but it's hard to imagine him sitting this big game out. Stay tuned.

• The Baltimore Ravens won their Monday night game without the services of tight end Todd Heap, who was sidelined with a hamstring injury. Heap was listed as a non-participant Wednesday, although the team only held a walkthrough. Fantasy owners should prepare for the eventuality that Heap may not be available again this week, but his practice status going forward should give better clues.

[+] EnlargePierre Thomas
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesPierre Thomas had 68 total yards against the Rams in his first game since Week 3 and appears to be on pace for more touchdes.
• Here's something we haven't seen in a long time: Running back Pierre Thomas is not even listed on the New Orleans Saints' injury report. That's good news for Thomas, who saw his first game action in over two months on Sunday. Teammate Chris Ivory left last week's game early with a hamstring injury, which perhaps accounted for Thomas getting a few extra touches in his first game back. Ivory was listed as limited Wednesday, and his status near the end of the week likely will influence what we expect from Thomas on Sunday.



Oakland Raiders tight end Zach Miller is back in full practice and his performance last Sunday was the best fantasy owners have seen in a while. If Miller can continue to practice daily without a setback, he might be worth a consideration for your fantasy team, with a matchup against the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

Dallas Cowboys running back Marion Barber returned to limited practice Wednesday. Barber has been out since injuring his calf in the Thanksgiving Day game. As the San Antonio Express News reports, however, this may only add to the rotation at running back for the Cowboys. While Barber is far from a lock to play Sunday, when he does return he potentially adversely affects the fantasy running back scenario. Owners of Tashard Choice will want to keep an eye on Barber's status throughout the week. Meanwhile, ESPN Dallas reports wide receiver Roy E. Williams suffered a groin injury in Wednesday's practice. No word as to the seriousness of Williams' ailment, but it will be worth watching what he is able to do the remainder of the week.

• The Indianapolis Colts continue to watch players on the injury carousel. Running back Joseph Addai looks to be status quo with limited practice Wednesday. Wide receiver Austin Collie was a full participant Wednesday, though, and if he maintains that throughout the week it could signal his return Sunday. The big question then will be how Peyton Manning divides up the passes. After Pierre Garcon's big fantasy performance last Thursday, it's a little harder to anticipate who will be the lead scorer. Tight end Jacob Tamme remains on the injury report but was a full participant in practice. Expect him to play again this week.

See you at the injury chat on Friday at 3 p.m., and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 15 in the Saturday morning blog!



If you survived the first round of fantasy playoffs, it probably was due to help from where you least expected it. It certainly wasn't thanks to Aaron Rodgers or Adrian Peterson. It wasn't thanks to either Mike Williams or Antonio Gates. They all may have helped you get to the playoffs but they weren't able to deliver for you in Week 14. No, your help may have come from the unexpected return of the 2009 version of Pierre Garcon; the big-time contribution of Deion Branch in weather no one is supposed to score in; or even the ridiculous point total of kicker Jay Feely, who outscored most skill-position players and got a game ball, to boot.

It all serves to remind us that despite our best efforts to strategize and maneuver our rosters, there are some things we just cannot foresee. Still, we can at least consider the injury woes facing our rosters and with that in mind, we look ahead to Week 15.

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesAaron Rodgers' second concussion could keep him out of this week's game. Many fantasy owners probably lost key games last week when he was hurt.
• A big part of the reason Aaron Rodgers could not deliver fantasy points for your team is that he was knocked out of Sunday's game with a concussion. As has become the standard, Rodgers will go through the battery of post-concussion tests and clearances before he is eligible to return to play. This is Rodgers' second concussion this season. His first, in Week 5, did not cause him to miss any playing time. While coach Mike McCarthy told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "We're not going to take any chances [with Rodgers]," we have to presume the standards to return to play are the same as they have been throughout the year. Bottom line: How Rodgers feels and progresses through his tests this week will determine his playing status for Sunday. Fantasy owners should have insurance in the event that Rodgers cannot go.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel did not make the trip to San Diego this week after undergoing an appendectomy Wednesday. However, Cassel tells the Kansas City Star he is preparing to play this week. Said Cassel, "I'll do what I normally do. It will be a normal week of preparation." At least mentally. We won't get an idea of Cassel's physical readiness until the Chiefs resume practice later in the week, but the notion of a return Sunday is certainly within reason. He will be evaluated medically on a daily basis and progress accordingly.

• The Minnesota Vikings did not have Percy Harvin available for Week 14 after migraines kept him out of practice all week. The Vikings hope to have Harvin back in practice this week, which would increase the likelihood of his availability for the Monday night game against the Chicago Bears. Head coach Leslie Frazier told ESPN 1500 that the team expects Harvin back Thursday when practice resumes, "barring any unforeseen situation." Maybe by then we'll also know where that game will be played. Running back Adrian Peterson bumped knees with quarterback Tarvaris Jackson in the first quarter and exited Monday's game briefly but returned shortly afterward. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, he wasn't productive. We'll see if that changes against the Bears.

• As for Harvin's teammate Brett Favre, we knew his consecutive start streak would come to an end sooner or later and alas, Monday night, it was put to rest. He suffered a sprained sternoclavicular joint in Week 13 and even with a one day reprieve granted by Mother Nature in the form of a Minnesota blizzard, it wasn't enough to postpone the inevitable. But the SC sprain wasn't to blame in its entirety. It turns out that Favre suffered a pinched nerve in his neck during the game where the Vikings faced the Washington Redskins a week earlier and had been experiencing some tingling in his hand ever since. The hit that injured his SC joint in Week 13 also aggravated the tingling in his arm and hand, which ultimately may have been more responsible for Favre's inability to suit up than the pain at the front of his chest. As Favre told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "It's not so much the pain. There is a little pain, but that's subsided some. It's the tingling. I think it would be foolish to even consider playing if you don't have total feeling in five fingers." Favre said he was scheduled to undergo further tests Tuesday after which everyone should have a better idea of what his status will be going forward.

New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas returned to action for the first time in more than two months. Thomas caught a few passes and ran the ball 12 times, partly due the early departure of Chris Ivory with a right hamstring injury. There is no word of yet on the seriousness of Ivory's injury, but if he is sidelined, Thomas' value goes up.



[+] EnlargeSteve Smith
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioThe Giants' Steve Smith, already dealing with a pectoral injury, hurt his hamstring Monday and was limited to just one catch for 12 yards.
• The New York Giants saw the return of two injured wide receivers in Week 14. Both Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith were back in the mix, but unfortunately Smith was forced out of the game with a different injury. Smith, who was playing with a shoulder harness to protect his still-healing pectoral muscle, suffered a hamstring injury in the third quarter. Nicks, coming back from a surgical procedure on his lower leg, looked strong, as expected, which should give fantasy owners confidence going forward. Wide receiver Mario Manningham entered the game healthy but left in the second quarter with what was termed a hip flexor injury. Later in the week we should get better clues about the status of the Giants' receivers.

• The Seattle Seahawks were without receivers Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu this week. Williams was nursing a foot and ankle injury on the same leg and Obomanu had a deep laceration on his right hand that made it impossible for him to catch the ball. Coach Pete Carroll sounded quite confident Monday when he said he expects both receivers to be in practice Wednesday. According to the Daily Herald in Everett, Wash., Carroll said, "Both those guys will practice this week, yeah," adding that he expects both to be available for Sunday's home game against the Atlanta Falcons. We'll see if that holds true. The Seahawks have had a tough road with their wide receiver health, also losing Deon Butler on Sunday to a broken leg that required surgery to implant a rod for stabilization.



San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates surprised many by not being able to play in Week 14 after gutting out the two previous weeks. His absence was a reflection of just how much pain he is still having, especially considering that earlier in the week Gates had announced he would play. On Sunday, Gates sounded uncertain about the rest of his season, but Monday he reiterated his commitment to trying to get back out to contribute, telling the San Diego Union-Tribune, "I do everything I can every day to get healthy." Getting healthy -- or at least healthier -- may mean sitting out Thursday's game against the San Francisco 49ers. If Gates rests until Week 16, he will have essentially given his foot a three-week hiatus, which could prove beneficial for pain relief. Fantasy owners should prepare for an alternate this week; at best, Gates' status will likely be a game-time decision.

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Lee Evans injured his ankle in Sunday's contest and looks as if he could be done for the year. According to the team's official website, head coach Chan Gailey said of Evans, "I know it's going to be two [games], and it might even be a struggle for him to get back for the last one." Not exactly encouraging.

• Both Indianapolis Colts running back Joseph Addai and wide receiver Austin Collie were present at the team's light workout Monday. Both have been practicing on a limited basis for the past two weeks, however, and still have not been cleared to return to play, so fantasy owners should not be overly excited by this news.

We will continue to update these injuries and others as the week progresses. Check back for the latest injury updates affecting Week 15 on Thursday and Saturday!

Matt Cassel undergoes appendectomy

December, 9, 2010
12/09/10
5:16
PM ET


This week's Thursday night matchup has the Tennessee Titans hosting the Indianapolis Colts.

For the Titans, wide receiver Kenny Britt is off the injury report and is expected to see his first game action since tearing his hamstring six weeks ago. While his recent practice activity and this "noninjury" status are good news, he is still not out of the woods. Hamstring strains, as we've seen many times this season, are very susceptible to aggravation. For that reason, especially given the severity of Britt's injury, it would not be surprising for Britt to see a light workload in his first game back. Fantasy owners who have better options may want to hold him for this week, but if he comes through unscathed, he could be very valuable the rest of the way.

For the Colts, the injury list remains as lengthy as ever. Already ruled out are Austin Collie, Joseph Addai and Mike Hart. None of those three being out is particularly surprising, but it does make those with a questionable status more critical. Donald Brown was on the injury report because of his ankle, but the injury appears to be minor. He practiced fully Tuesday and Wednesday and is expected to start. Tight end Jacob Tamme is listed as questionable with a knee ailment (note that early in the week it was called a hamstring). Tamme returned to limited practice Wednesday after sitting out early in the week. My sources seem to think he will play and that he may have been given additional rest because of the short week. Nonetheless, be sure to check game-time inactive reports. Wide receiver Reggie Wayne, also listed as questionable, practiced fully Tuesday and Wednesday and is expected to play, as he always does.



Here's who else you might be concerned about heading toward the Week 14 playoff rounds:

Quarterbacks

[+] EnlargeMatt Cassel
Tim Umphrey/Getty ImagesIt's very possible Matt Cassel could play just days after an appendectomy, but it would be very risky for fantasy owners.
Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs: Cassel might be the most discussed injury concern in the past 24 hours as it was discovered that Cassel underwent a laparoscopic appendectomy on Wednesday morning. Essentially, he had his appendix removed using a more modern, less invasive approach that includes a scope or camera, as opposed to the old-fashioned "open" procedure which is a bigger cut and longer recovery.

The big question for fantasy owners, since the Chiefs have indicated Cassel's status is questionable and that there is really a 50 percent chance he plays, is will he indeed suit up against division rival the San Diego Chargers?

The answer: Maybe, but fantasy owners need to have insurance and probably should look elsewhere for a playoff-round quarterback.

To better outline the variables involved in determining whether Cassel could play this weekend, I spoke with Dr. Efren Rosas, Chief of Surgery at Kaiser Permanente in San Jose, Calif. Rosas has performed thousands of laparoscopic procedures and is an advocate of the less invasive approach, in part, because of the more rapid recovery for the patient. He was quick to say that not all laparoscopic procedures are identical, nor are all presentations of appendicitis, and several factors could influence whether Cassel could be available Sunday. It should be noted that Rosas has no specific knowledge regarding Cassel's care.

First comes the question of whether Cassel had a three-incision or single-incision surgery (in other words, how many surgical cuts are there on the abdomen). Three incisions are more standard, although one incision is gaining popularity in some places (such as Los Angeles), because there is only one surgical scar. With three cuts, each incision can be smaller, whereas with one cut, all of the surgical instruments have to pass through the same entry so the cut is larger. Following surgery, smaller incisions (typically one-quarter to one-half inch in size) mean less likelihood of developing a hernia (where abdominal contents push outward -- not pretty). That translates to less activity restriction after surgery with three incisions versus one.



Rosas, who treats patients of all ages, including competitive athletes, said, "I release all my patients, no matter what type of job or sport they have, to return at two weeks and if they're doing really well, they're clear within one." When asked if four days would be possible for an NFL quarterback, Rosas said that while it may not be likely, "If he's not too sore and can function effectively, I wouldn't completely rule it out." Rosas pointed out that from a medical standpoint, the tissue should heal within a few days, and that the biggest limitation, presuming no setbacks (such as infection) along the way, would be pain from where the surgical cuts were made. That pain may be amplified by the fact that a throwing athlete uses his oblique abdominal muscles, especially for distance and velocity, meaning long downfield throws might be tougher to make.

Another variable would be the condition of the appendix at the time of surgery. A severely inflamed or ruptured appendix would result in significant abdominal inflammation, complicating the recovery. A minor case of appendicitis in a healthy younger male may mean less inflammation in the surrounding tissue and quicker healing time. Only the surgeon who was involved in Cassel's case has an appreciation for all of the factors in play and ultimately will make the decision as to Cassel's status when appropriate.

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger underwent a laparoscopic appendectomy in 2006 and did not play in the first game of the season, a Thursday night game just days after surgery. Roethlisberger did start 10 days later in Week 2. It is worth noting, however, that Roethlisberger also was coming off a summer filled with injuries, having suffered facial fractures, a jaw fracture and a concussion in a motorcycle accident about three months earlier.



It would not be surprising if Cassel were to travel to San Diego with the team and ultimately be held back from starting. And although it appears unlikely, it's not completely inconceivable that he could play. Nonetheless, this is a fantasy situation to avoid for many reasons. This is a late game, so Cassel would likely be listed as questionable at best and even if he starts, may prove not quite up to finishing. It's best to wait a week and see how he's faring. The Chiefs may ultimately opt to do the same.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers: Roethlisberger has a recently surgically repaired nose to go with his ailing right foot this week. Actually, the rest for his nose may have given his foot a little extra time off. Roethlisberger has been fitted with a protective shield that he will wear Sunday. Most importantly, there has been really no doubt about the fact he is expected to play.



Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings: As of this writing, Favre has not yet tested his throwing. Thursday was to be the test date. Favre rested the arm early in the week to allow his sprained sternoclavicular (SC) joint some healing time. Tick tock ...

Running Backs

Ryan Torain, Washington Redskins: Torain was listed as a limited participant in Wednesday's practice although, according to The Washington Post, coach Mike Shanahan indicated that Torain did full work. Torain told the Post that he "feels great" and is eager to get back into the lineup. It looks as though he is on pace to rejoin his team on the field this week. Torain has essentially been out since Halloween after injuring his hamstring that day. He tried to return a couple of weeks later but aggravated the injury in warm-ups. Naturally, there will be some concern as to how Torain's hamstring will fare in his first game in over a month, and more concern over how the workload will be divided. Torain is likely to resume a lead role, but whether fantasy owners can count on that in his first outing is questionable.



Wide Receivers

[+] EnlargeHakeem Nicks
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesHakeem Nicks has missed the past two games with a leg injury, so if he returned this week, it would be a week ahead of schedule.
Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith, New York Giants: This tandem affects many fantasy rosters and everyone is eager to see what its status is for this week. Nicks was able to do about 60 percent of team drills Wednesday, according to Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News. Nicks seemed confident that he would be playing; the medical staff gave him the official clearance Thursday, according to Mike Garafolo of the Newark Star-Ledger. Nicks practiced on a limited basis again Thursday, and if Friday goes well, looks as if he'll play. Teammate Smith has been practicing on a limited basis as well but also appears as if he'll return to game action this week. Smith has been nursing a partially torn pectoral muscle.

Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee, San Diego Chargers: The Chargers face a critical game without some critical personnel. Then again, that won't be a new scenario for them as they've played musical chairs at the wide receiver position all season. Jackson is still recovering from his calf strain and while it still seems likely that he will not play this weekend, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported Jackson did practice on Thursday. Naanee, who had come back from a hamstring strain two weeks ago but suffered a setback, is unlikely to play. That leaves Floyd, who so far is doing well. Or at least well enough to not be on the injury radar right now. It appears that Floyd will play this week and likely have more opportunities.

Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu, Seattle Seahawks: Williams has an ankle sprain superimposed on his foot injury and it's not looking good for him as of now. Although the Tacoma News-Tribune reports Williams is out of his walking boot, he has not practiced and likely won't all week. While the Seahawks hold out some hope that Williams could feel well enough to play Sunday, even they don't sound overwhelmingly convinced. Obomanu suffered a deep laceration on his right hand that could make it difficult to catch balls. As a receiver, that does comprise a significant portion of the job description, meaning this injury may prevent him from being able to play. Obomanu will also have until Sunday to see how his hand is healing, but they could both be late-afternoon game-time decisions.



Tight Ends

Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers: Gates' condition hasn't changed much, but his status midweek has. Gates told the San Diego Union-Tribune "Antonio Gates will play," acknowledging the third-person reference. Maybe it's easier to deal with the pain by taking oneself out of one's body. He admits the pain is still excruciating but knows this is a must-win situation. Barring some unforeseen dramatic setback, Gates will gut it out again.

Todd Heap, Baltimore Ravens: Heap's own words belied his concern about his injured hamstring. Heap told the Baltimore Sun that he has rushed back in the past from a hamstring injury, "and that pretty much cost me the rest of the season." The Ravens play on Monday night and Heap has not practiced this week, both of which signal to fantasy owners that they should seek a replacement.

Other


• Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin did not practice Wednesday or Thursday as he continues to battle his latest migraine episode. Fantasy owners need to at least start being a bit concerned, as Harvin sat out Week 13 and has not returned to practice.



• Vikings running backs Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart were limited early in the week but, at this point, seem in no danger of sitting out. Proactive rest seems to be the rationale here.

• In addition to their wide receiver concerns, the New York Giants saw running back Ahmad Bradshaw on the injury report this week because of his wrist. Bradshaw did not practice Wednesday but returned to full practice Thursday and is expected to play Sunday.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Marshall
Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty ImagesBrandon Marshall has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury and he's scored just one touchdown all season.
Miami Dolphins wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Brian Hartline are both on the injury report this week. Marshall has resumed limited practice after sitting out another game in Week 13 and appears on track to play this Sunday. Hartline had surgery on his finger and was not in practice Wednesday. There has been some concern as to whether he would return at all this season. The Dolphins have not formally ruled him out but it appears he will miss Week 14, maybe longer. This might mean a lot of Davone Bess.

New Orleans Saints running back Pierre Thomas continues to practice fully this week and is expected to return to the playing field Sunday. Chris Ivory is probably in no danger of losing significant touches, but Thomas owners who have patiently held on to him may want to keep an eye on how he performs. He could have value in the home stretch.

Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best (toes), and wide receivers Calvin Johnson (groin) and Nate Burleson (hamstring) all appear on the injury report this week but all are expected to play Sunday.

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker returned to limited practice Wednesday after missing Week 13 with his high ankle sprain. This is somewhat encouraging, but given that Sims-Walker reported his injury as a high ankle sprain, we need to see him successfully complete the week before getting too excited.



• The Tampa Bay Buccaneers version of Mike Williams is nursing a sore knee which could present a problem for Sunday. According to the St. Petersburg Times, coach Raheem Morris says Williams has been working through this "for a couple of weeks." The Buccaneers are hopeful that some rest during the week will allow him to play Sunday but he could be a game-time call.

Oakland Raiders tight end Zach Miller continues to be limited by his foot, which seriously impacted his pass-catching productivity. It's hard to hope for much based on the past few weeks and fantasy owners should be securing another option at least for early playoff rounds. The bad news for tight ends moves over to the Pittsburgh Steelers, where Heath Miller was on the receiving end of a scary hit last Sunday night that left him with a concussion. Miller did not practice Wednesday and is not expected to play this week. Fortunately in Atlanta, Tony Gonzalez's sprained ankle does not appear to be affecting his chances of playing Sunday. He told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he would be fine, adding, "Especially at my age, I have to enjoy this." Gonzalez sees the playoffs coming and he's not going to miss out.



See you at Friday's injury chat (3-4:00 p.m.) and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 14 in the Saturday morning blog!



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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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

And elsewhere ...

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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



Not getting enough football? Of course you aren't! To help remedy that situation, you get another night of NFL competition starting ... now. Tonight marks this season's first night of Thursday night football, as the Baltimore Ravens face the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.



Naturally, there is a fantasy football injury concern heading into the game. Falcons wide receiver Roddy White is listed as questionable coming off a knee bruise from Sunday's contest. It's worth noting that White ultimately finished the game Sunday, and his status for Thursday night never really appeared to be in doubt, even as he was held out of practice early in the week. White returned to a light limited practice Wednesday, and all indications are that he will play against the Ravens. Whether the knee will affect his performance at all is hard to gauge, given that he has not truly tested it since Sunday. Still, there's not enough evidence to suggest White will be significantly impaired unless he suffers an in-game setback. It's pretty hard to bench Matt Ryan's top target on the basis of a what-if scenario. Fantasy owners should check pregame inactives, but it would be very surprising if White did not take the field.



In the rest of the NFL world, four teams are enjoying a respite from competition in Week 10. The San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints, Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers get a week off during this final bye week of the NFL season.

With so many teams dealing with multiple player injuries, it made sense to lump the biggest collections of injuries together as team units in this blog entry. With that said, here's who else we're talking about in the world of injuries heading into Week 10:

Andre Johnson
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesAt this point, it shouldn't surprise anyone that Andre Johnson misses a midweek practice to nurse his ankle.
Houston Texans (Andre Johnson, WR; Owen Daniels, TE; Matt Schaub, QB): Neither Johnson nor Daniels practiced with the team Wednesday or Thursday. Nick Scurfield of HoustonTexans.com reported that Johnson underwent another MRI on Monday as a follow-up measure for his right ankle. Johnson's high ankle sprain has continued to nag at him intermittently, and his explanation for that was perfectly reasonable. "I still have a little swelling in my joint, so that's what's causing the little pain I have at times," Johnson said. "The biggest thing now is just trying to just get that swelling out of there." This explains why the team is limiting his activity during the week. Less running and less pounding means a better chance of getting the swelling down. Less swelling translates to better joint mobility and less pain. Johnson said his ankle was "feeling pretty good" Wednesday. This cycle is likely to continue throughout the remainder of the season.

Although Johnson's nonpractice routine to protect his ankle is somewhat expected by now, Daniels has yet to get past a recent aggravation of a hamstring injury. Head coach Gary Kubiak says that Daniels is improving but will be a game-time decision, according to the Texans' official Twitter page. Daniels has had only one solid performance this season.

Schaub was limited Wednesday because of a rib injury but will play Sunday when the Texans take on the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Minnesota Vikings (Brett Favre, QB; Percy Harvin, WR; Sidney Rice, WR): Favre did not practice Wednesday, and in what has become an ever-changing injury report for him, the notes following his name Wednesday said, "ankle, foot, calf." For those keeping score at home, "chin," which appeared last week after Favre's laceration requiring stitches in the Week 8 game, and "elbow," which made the list weeks ago, are now both absent. Which led me to wonder: What are the most body parts to appear for a player on a single injury report? Will Favre hold that record along with the consecutive-starts streak? But I digress ...

Favre was back in practice Thursday, and we all know he will start this week. Harvin might be a different story. Harvin, who limped into Week 9 with a left ankle sprain, has not practiced Wednesday or Thursday because of a migraine flare. He has developed a pattern where he typically shows up and plays well on Sunday even if he is unable to do much during the week. Although migraines are clearly far less predictable than a typical musculoskeletal injury, one has to believe that if he is functional Sunday, he will play. Still, fantasy owners should prepare for another possible game-time decision.

And everyone is wondering when we will see the return of Rice, who is back doing some work with the team following August hip surgery. Coach Brad Childress has not yet committed to a return date, stressing that he wants to be sure that Rice can handle the rigors of competition, both in terms of endurance and being able to absorb physical contact, before he participates in games. Rice has not yet been moved to the active roster, which has to happen for him to play. Although that is a possibility for Week 10, there has not been any definitive indication that it will take place. Even if it does, Childress already has indicated that Rice is likely to return to limited action initially.

Indianapolis Colts (Joseph Addai, RB; Mike Hart, RB; Jacob Tamme, TE; Austin Collie, WR): Addai is still not practicing with the team and is not expected to play in Week 10. Hart has shown no signs of returning yet, either. Expect Donald Brown to get the start at running back again for the Colts this week.

And what's this we're hearing about Tamme? The Colts already lost their starting tight end, Dallas Clark, for the season to a wrist injury. Tamme, who has been outstanding filling in, was not in practice Wednesday because of a back injury. Even more ominous was coach Jim Caldwell's acknowledgment of a "level of concern" about Tamme's status, as reported by Phillip Wilson of The Indianapolis Star. It appears that fantasy owners can breathe a little easier, as Tamme was back in practice Thursday. Friday will be telling to see whether Tamme can go on two consecutive days. Fantasy owners need to keep an eye on this one.



Collie already has been ruled out as he recovers from a concussion.

New England Patriots (Tom Brady, QB; Fred Taylor, RB): Could the face of the Patriots franchise be sidelined this week with an injury (and not the one to his throwing shoulder that appears on practice reports week in and week out)? No is the simple answer. Brady missed Wednesday's practice, an occurrence that raised eyebrows frankly because it is such a rare event. He is reportedly dealing with a foot sprain, but he was back in practice Thursday and by all accounts will be under center Sunday night.



Meanwhile, welcome back to practice (albeit limited), Fred Taylor! He has been hampered by toe injuries, but the Patriots had to believe he could contribute eventually, as they kept him on the active roster. Maybe that time is nearing. This will no doubt progress slowly and depend on how Taylor responds to any increased activity. But it's something fantasy players in very deep leagues should at least monitor.

And elsewhere ...

Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young did not practice Wednesday because of his ankle, a bit of a concern coming out of a bye week. He returned to limited practice Thursday and is expected to play this weekend. Nonetheless, if Young's mobility is at issue, it certainly impacts his style of play.



Carson Palmer
Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesCarson Palmer got an extra day to rest his shoulder, and it looks as though he'll be fine for Sunday's game.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer has not practiced this week because of soreness in his throwing shoulder. However, Palmer said he plans to return to throwing Friday and, more importantly, plans to play Sunday. According to the Bengals' official website, Palmer says he's "not worried at all," indicating that the short week warranted an extra day of rest. Meanwhile, teammate Chad Ochocinco was back in Thursday's practice after sitting out Wednesday to rest his ankle. He got his leg rolled Monday night and looked uncomfortable afterward, but apparently the injury was not serious. His relative lack of targets may be the more serious issue both for him and his fantasy owners.

• The Detroit Lions expect to have Shaun Hill at quarterback this week as long as there are no setbacks. Hill is recovering from a fracture in his nonthrowing forearm, and the main concern will be protecting that forearm from reinjury. Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith had a custom-designed shell created to protect his forearm; perhaps Hill will wear something similar. In the meantime, there is no official word as to the long-term plan for Matthew Stafford. But clearly no one expects him back any time soon. Running back Jahvid Best continues to be listed on the injury report because of his toe but is expected to play.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has been back in practice this week after sitting Week 9 out with a concussion. ESPN's NFC West blogger Mike Sando reports that Hasselbeck is expected to play against the Arizona Cardinals this week. As is the case following all concussions, there must be no recurrence of symptoms between now and Sunday, but given Hasselbeck's strong early week, fantasy owners can feel positive.

• As for the Carolina Panthers, Darin Gantt of the Rock Hill Herald reported Wednesday that Mike Goodson will start at running back this week. So much for DeAngelo Williams aiming for a Week 10 return. He has not yet returned to practice, and neither has teammate Jonathan Stewart, who suffered a concussion in Week 9. It's worth noting that offensive tackle Jeff Otah, who had not played this season following August knee surgery (his absence is certainly believed to be a contributing factor to the struggles of Carolina's running game) has now been placed on injured reserve. Translation: No help on that front anytime soon. Quarterback Matt Moore joins Otah on the injured reserve list, and Jimmy Clausen will start in his place for the Panthers.



• Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells was held out of practice Wednesday and Thursday, again because of swelling in his surgically repaired knee, according to Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic. According to Somers, Wells will try to practice Friday. Not exactly a resounding vote of confidence. Wells has been a question mark most weeks and has been limited even when he has played, primarily because of issues with his knee. It's not looking much more promising for him in Week 10.

New York Giants wide receiver Steve Smith suffered a pectoral (chest) strain in practice Thursday and, according to the New York Daily News, could miss this week's game. Apparently Smith was injured when extending his arm to reach for a ball and was not able to complete practice as a result.

San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis is back in practice this week following the bye. Davis was forced to leave the game early in Week 8 after aggravating an ankle injury, but it doesn't appear to be an issue at the moment.

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

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