Stephania Bell: Ryan Grant

Keep close eye on injured Steelers

October, 6, 2011

The season has ended for two more players: Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne will undergo surgery to repair a separated left (nonthrowing) shoulder suffered in Week 4, and St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola will need surgery to repair a torn left triceps. Amendola has been out since the season opener after dislocating his elbow. As if the injuries alone weren't bad enough, ESPN sports business contributor Andrew Brandt points out that both players were in the final year of their respective contracts. Entering free agency with the uncertainty of coming off season-ending surgeries is less than desirable. At least Henne can point to Matthew Stafford as someone who had a similar surgery on his throwing shoulder, and we all (especially appreciative fantasy owners) know how well his recovery has turned out.

With that we turn to those players who could affect your fantasy roster this week.

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
Mitch Stringer/US PresswireBen Roethlisberger expects to play Sunday, but don't expect him to be terribly mobile.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Roethlisberger was wearing a protective boot at Wednesday's practice and is limiting stress on it early in the week. After he got back to practice Thursday, the expectation is that Roethlisberger will play Sunday. The team already is making preparations for that possibility, not unlike those taken last season to protect his then-ailing right foot. Roethlisberger indicates he will wear a modified shoe, one that is a size larger than normal with a metal reinforcement to limit bending in the injured region of his foot. While the shoe is intended to protect his foot, by design, it also limits mobility in the forefoot. Since it is the left foot that is affected, the one Roethlisberger steps into as he throws (i.e., not his plant foot), the injury is not likely to significantly affect his delivery. Unless pain prevents Roethlisberger from transferring his weight properly and forces him to throw from his back foot, passing should not be a huge issue.

Thursday practice undoubtedly went a long way in proving he could make necessary throws. General mobility, particularly movements such as pivoting to the right, which requires pushing off the left foot, will be more challenging. That said, Roethlisberger repeatedly has demonstrated that he can play through pain and perform effectively even when his mobility is compromised. Of concern has to be the fact that he already has been sacked 14 times this season. Naturally, the more protection Roethlisberger can secure Sunday when the Steelers face the Tennessee Titans, the less the chances of aggravating the injury in-game, so the offensive line is officially on notice.

Arian Foster, Ben Tate and Derrick Ward, RB, Houston Texans: Foster had a strong Week 4, rushing for 155 yards on 30 carries, and, most importantly, he emerged from the game no worse for the wear. Foster's health is critical this week with the team's primary receiver, Andre Johnson, having suffered a significant injury and the team's depth at running back compromised somewhat by injury this week as well. Tate suffered a groin injury in Week 4 and left the game early. While the team says he is making progress, he has not practiced yet this week. Ward has been out since Week 1 because of a high ankle sprain. He received an injection last week, and although he has not yet practiced, he has done some light running and cutting, according to the Houston Chronicle. Ward hopes to return to practice Friday, at which point the Sunday game plan for running backs should start to take shape. The one thing that appears certain is that Foster is expected start and carry a heavy workload against the Oakland Raiders.

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Mendenhall strained his hamstring in Week 4 and was unable to practice Wednesday or Thursday. While Mendenhall still could make an appearance Friday, practice sessions are preparing Isaac Redman to be the starter. Redman showed some nice running ability when he stepped in for Mendenhall in Week 4, perhaps making the decision easier to allow Mendenhall's hamstring adequate recovery time. Fantasy owners in need of a running back for Week 5 should try to snap up Redman if he's still available.

Quick Hits

• Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson will be out for an extended period, as we indicated Tuesday. While the Texans have acknowledged that Johnson underwent some type of procedure on his hamstring, the details have been notably absent. There have been multiple reports of a projected three-week timetable. However, coach Gary Kubiak, speaking to reporters after Wednesday practice, indicated the team would not put a timeline on Johnson's return, saying, "The doctor feels good about it. Andre feels good about it." There you have it. Everyone's feeling good.

Everyone, that is, except fantasy owners wondering what to do with Johnson. The short-term approach is wait and see. Johnson showed remarkable resiliency last season in mostly playing through an ankle injury that likely would have sidelined others longer, and clearly the Texans expect to have him back this season. Although Johnson is likely to miss several weeks, if his hamstring is indeed improving, his activity level should increase within the next week. Only once he starts pushing it will we get a sense of whether things are going according to plan. For now, it seems a little early to jump ship. Meanwhile, Jacoby Jones becomes the Texans' No. 1 wide receiver option.

[+] EnlargeAaron Hernandez
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesAaron Hernandez has missed the past two games with injury but had TDs in his first two games of the season.
New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez might be the most asked about player in my chats, emails and Twitter. I wonder whether he knows just how popular he is. He hasn't appeared in this space since last week because once a player is ruled out of a game, there's nothing to report until he returns to practice ... or goes backward. So today, some good news. Hernandez was not only at practice Thursday, albeit on a limited basis, but it was a full pads workout. That is a pretty strong signal that he is at least testing the knee (and his sprained MCL) with a more rigorous workout to see how it responds. This is at least encouraging for the prospects of having Hernandez available Sunday; it will be even more so if he follows it up with another practice Friday. Caution is warranted, however. It might still be early for return to competition, but if Hernandez holds up well this week, it certainly suggests his return could be near.

New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs did not practice Wednesday or Thursday because of a swollen knee. According to the New York Daily News, Jacobs wanted to return to practice Thursday but was held out an extra day "to be safe." The concern is still only minor, unless Jacobs is "safely" held out again Friday.

Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant returned to full practice this week after receiving medical clearance. Grant missed Week 4 with a bruised kidney but was actually feeling well early in the week. Consider it a week to get fresh legs. Grant should be a full go Sunday night in Atlanta.

Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno is participating fully in practice. After just two carries for 4 yards last week, the hope is he will increase his activity this week. Daily practice with no setbacks could go a long way in making that happen.

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson does not appear on the injury report this week. The groin injury he aggravated earlier this season seems to be doing better. Teammate C.J. Spiller did not practice Wednesday due to a sore knee but was back to full practice Thursday.

San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates is again looking like he'll be out Sunday, as he has not practiced in order to rest his sore foot. Teammate Vincent Jackson has a hamstring strain to accompany the abdominal strain he's been nursing for a few weeks. Jackson is likely to have a week much like last week in which he spends most of it resting. The team hopes he will be able to go Sunday -- and he certainly has delivered despite being at less than full capacity -- but the dual injury combination might affect just how much playing time he'll see.

• And San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore tells reporters his ankle is feeling much better this week than last. It's amazing what a big late-game performance and a 3-1 record can do for one's spirits. So far Gore has been limited in practice, but if he played last week, it's a safe bet he'll be out there again Sunday when the 49ers host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

See you at the injury chat Friday at 11 a.m. ET, and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 5 in the Saturday morning blog.

Good news for Vick, Foster, Colston

September, 29, 2011


Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles: Last week, a concussion put Vick's status in question. This week it's a hand contusion, but Vick isn't leaving much room for doubt about his availability, as he told reporters Wednesday that there's a "100 percent chance" he'll be starting Sunday. Vick put in a full practice Wednesday showing that the swelling in his non-throwing hand is not enough to limit his ability to handle the ball in all situations. After two weeks of early departures due to injury, the only question this week is can Vick last four quarters? Vick took that on as well, saying "they'll have to cart me off the field" for him to exit the game, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Without a doubt he'll be a target, just as he always is. The only way to prove that he can stay on the field will be to actually do it. We'll see what happens come Sunday.

Running Backs

[+] EnlargeArian Foster
AP Photo/Joe HowellArian Foster appears ready to be the Texans' primary running back once again.
Arian Foster, Ben Tate and Derrick Ward, Houston Texans: There has been a bit of a running back carousel in place thus far in Houston, born as much out of necessity, thanks to injuries. That carousel turns again this week as it appears Foster, who rested in Week 3, will not only play but will, in all likelihood, start. Foster actually practiced last week and by his account, could have played. The Texans opted for another week of rest, not wanting to press their luck after Foster had already suffered one setback with his hamstring before the season started, and then tightened up halfway in Week 2. With Ward out since Week 1 with a high ankle sprain, Ben Tate has proven to be an able backup, but a backup he remains. Foster participated fully in Wednesday's practice and afterward, according to the Texans' website, he said of his hamstring, "I have no issues with it anymore." Let's hope not. Of course the only way to know for sure that the issue is behind him is to watch Foster play in multiple games without a setback, something fantasy owners everywhere are eagerly awaiting.

Steven Jackson and Cadillac Williams, St. Louis Rams: Jackson was back in Wednesday practice for the first time since injuring his quadriceps. It was a limited practice but quarterback Sam Bradford seemed pretty excited about it. Bradford told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Anytime he's out here [for] Wednesday practicing, especially the way he looked today -- he looked great, he looked fast, he looked like himself -- that's definitely going to be big for us." So the Rams have some inspiration and fantasy owners have hope that there will be more action for Jackson in Week 4. Although Jackson was active in Week 3, he only had four carries, a plan specifically designed by the coaching staff to get Jackson on the field but control his activity. As for Jackson's backup Williams, he too was limited in practice as he recovers from a hamstring ailment. Williams was on the injury report before last week's game yet still carried the bulk of the running workload, so he should again be available. If all goes according to plan, Williams will actually function as the backup this week.

Wide Receivers

[+] EnlargeMarques Colston
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezMarques Colston could be back in action much sooner than expected.
Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints: Colston has been out since the season opener with a clavicle fracture and underwent surgery to have a small plate implanted. However, his recovery has been swift. The Saints originally projected him to miss four weeks but there were rumblings Wednesday that Colston would actually return to play in Week 4. Not so fast. While Colston did return to practice Wednesday, it was only in a limited capacity. And the report he would play Sunday came from an Associated Press report following a conference call between Saints head coach Sean Payton and the Jacksonville media. The exact words from Payton, according to a transcript released by the Jacksonville Jaguars, were, "Yeah, he was listed as limited, but he's cleared. He'll be up this week." It's not exactly Payton definitively stating Colston takes the field Sunday. According to James Varney of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Payton rarely offers that type of detailed injury information, especially early in the week. But Varney also notes that the words "up this week" typically refer to a player being on the 46-man active roster with the expectation that he will, indeed, play. So what are fantasy owners to make of it? It's probably still too early to say for sure but the signs are encouraging that Colston is close. The main issue is whether the healing in Colston's collarbone is sufficient for there to be low concern about the risk of reinjury should he land hard on that shoulder again. Typically it takes four to six weeks for bone to heal, although evidence of substantial healing can appear sooner, depending on the individual. Fantasy owners would be wise to keep an eye on injury reports through the remainder of the week and see how things are shaping up as Sunday draws closer.

Quick Hits

Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells sat out last week with a hamstring strain and was limited in practice Wednesday. Although Wells seems confident he'll take the field this Sunday, head coach Ken Whisenhunt seems cautious. According to the Cardinals' official website, Whisenhunt expressed the common fear surrounding any hamstring injury. "It's one of those things where you are worried that when he opens it up it may pull and you can feel that little twinge," he said. The Cardinals will see how Wells tolerates the week of practice before making a final decision.

San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore has been a limited participant in the team's practices thus far. It still sounds as though head coach Jim Harbaugh is leaning toward Gore playing Sunday, but how the carries would be divided between him and Kendall Hunter is up in the air.

[+] EnlargeFelix Jones
AP Photo/Tim SharpFelix Jones has battled shoulder issues the past two weeks.
Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones practiced fully just two days after aggravating his shoulder Monday night. He appears to be on track to play this week. Teammate Dez Bryant's status might be of more concern. Bryant played intermittently Monday night after sitting out in Week 2 with a deep thigh bruise. Clearly he has not fully recovered from the injury as he remained limited in practice Wednesday then did not appear at practice Thursday. With Miles Austin expected out again because of his strained hamstring, the Cowboys would like to have Bryant on the field. This could be another gametime decision.

• Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin is recovering from a hamstring strain and sounds as though he expects to play Sunday. He did not practice Wednesday but did return to the field Thursday for some work. The story with hamstrings is familiar: See how the athlete responds as the week progresses. Even then, it may come down to the pregame warmup to determine just how Maclin is faring.

Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Lloyd is no longer on the injury report this week but teammate Knowshon Moreno is. Moreno did practice fully Wednesday, something he has not done since injuring his hamstring, but needs to get through the rest of the week to inspire any confidence. Moreno was active but did not play a single snap last Sunday. It appears teammate Willis McGahee is still expected to garner the bulk of the work, at least until Moreno shows he is healthy enough to challenge him.

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson did not practice Wednesday but is expected to play again in Week 4. After limping out of the Week 2 game, Johnson appeared strong through the entire contest in Week 3. It remains an injury that could flare up but as long as he's performing, Johnson will not be limited.

Antonio Gates
Jody Gomez/US PresswireAntonio Gates has scored just seven fantasy points all season.
San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates looks like he'll miss Sunday's game. On Tuesday we referenced the challenges Gates is facing with his chronic foot pain. At this point Gates appears resigned to missing some time, it's just unclear how much.

• It's looking as though Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant will not receive medical clearance to play after suffering a bruised kidney in Week 3. Grant has not practiced yet this week. James Starks would start in his place.

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Sidney Rice made an impact in Week 3 after sitting out the first two weeks of the season with a torn labrum. He reportedly emerged no worse for the wear and is expected to play on in Week 4.

New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is still recovering from his sprained left MCL. He sat out Week 3 and although he sounded optimistic about potentially returning in Week 4, it's far from a sure thing. Hernandez was not in practice Wednesday or Thursday and until we see him out there in some measure, it's hard to believe he'll be ready Sunday.

See you at the injury chat Friday at 11 a.m. and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 4 in the Saturday morning blog!

Week 3 remained true to form. There was another season-ending injury to a key fantasy player (Kenny Britt), a big blow was dealt to a top-rated quarterback (Michael Vick) and, well, there were plenty of other nicks and bruises.

[+] EnlargeKenny Britt
Jim Brown/US PresswireKenny Britt, in the midst of the best start of his career, will have season-ending surgery to repair a torn ACL and MCL.
The Tennessee Titans lost wide receiver Britt for the rest of the season, not to the ailing hamstring that had bothered him since camp, but to a torn ACL and MCL in his right knee. Britt landed awkwardly on his right leg as he spun away from contact with a defender and his knee buckled. Between Britt's obvious pain and the dreaded cart driving him off the field, it had all the signs of being serious from the outset. Britt will soon undergo season-ending reconstructive surgery.

The Philadelphia Eagles lost Vick for a portion of the game, just as they did in Week 2, but the injury was not as severe as initially reported. Vick's injury was originally reported to be a broken hand, but upon further evaluation Monday, it was determined to be a contusion (a deep bruise). No fracture was present. Coach Andy Reid indicated that a blood vessel in the area of the bone being examined gave the illusion of a fracture on X-rays taken at the stadium, but a more detailed CT scan taken Monday showed no break.

Quick Hits

• Prior to the season, Antonio Gates' foot was raising some red flags. Now there's more reason to be concerned. Gates is dealing with increased pain in the foot and is being forced to evaluate how to proceed moving forward. Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote a detailed piece explaining the options Gates faces -- essentially trying to play through the discomfort on a weekly basis or rest for a few weeks in the hope it helps him get through the latter part of the season -- but also the frustration Gates is experiencing. He is expected to see a specialist Tuesday and we should learn more in the coming days. For fantasy owners, even if Gates opts to try to play, his status may be in doubt from week to week.

Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones aggravated his right shoulder late in Monday night's game, but according to ESPN Dallas, owner Jerry Jones doesn't seem overly concerned about him missing time. The concern with Felix Jones is that every time the shoulder absorbs contact, it has the potential to increase pain as well as prevent the involved tissue from healing.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Maclin
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesJeremy Maclin has gotten off to a decent start, but a hamstring injury makes his status a question mark heading into this week.
• Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin strained a hamstring and, like his quarterback, was forced out of Sunday's game early. Maclin underwent an MRI on Monday after which coach Andy Reid told reporters the injury was not as bad as originally feared. That said, the MRI does not tell the whole picture and it will be far more telling to see how Maclin looks in practice this week. Fantasy owners should have a backup plan, just in case he ends up sitting out against the San Francisco 49ers this week.

• Speaking of the 49ers, running back Frank Gore was on the sidelines for the bulk of the second half in Week 3 with a sprained right ankle. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Gore said his ankle was injured in the second quarter on a tackle by Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga and was noncommittal about his status for Week 4. Coach Jim Harbaugh, who usually says very little when it comes to injuries, did tell the Chronicle that in his mind Gore was "good to go." It sounds like the 49ers are not overly concerned about Gore's availability.

• Across the bay, Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden suffered a groin strain after racking up 171 yards on the ground against the New York Jets. McFadden, currently the league's leading rusher, downplayed the issue after the game, suggesting he will not miss any time with the injury. Head coach Hue Jackson also seemed confident that McFadden would be fine for Week 4, but he's not taking any chances in practice this week. According to the Oakland Tribune, Jackson told reporters, "I'm going to be very cautious with him to make sure he's OK."

• We're hearing a lot about internal organs on the injury report this year. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo suffered a punctured lung last week, and this week Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant suffered a bruised kidney. Painful, yes, but depending on the degree of bruising, it may not be a long-term issue. New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston suffered a similar injury last year in the preseason finale but played in the season opener. The Packers will monitor Grant closely and we should hear more about his status later in the week.

• There is early optimism on a couple of other players, as both Houston Texans running back Arian Foster and Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells are expected to return in Week 4 after both missed Sunday's game due to hamstring strains. As we all know by now, the final verdict will come down to how they are able to get through the practice week.

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

Ryan Grant likely done for season

September, 14, 2010

Welcome to Tuesday following the first week of football. There already were some key injuries heading into Week 1, so you know there are more to add to the list.

The NFL has put a spotlight on concussion management with its new guidelines regarding return to play following these injuries. That spotlight became much brighter after several key players went down with concussion injuries in the first week of the football season. People are paying close attention to how these players are managed post-injury, and it will come as no surprise to see a more conservative approach adopted around the league. For fantasy owners, that means wasting no time in securing a replacement, just in case.

Beyond concussions, there were several other injuries in Week 1 that might warrant realigning your fantasy roster, namely a big one in Green Bay. Here's what we know as the preparations for Week 2 get under way.

Ryan Grant
Howard Smith/US PresswireRyan Grant had not missed a game due to injury in three seasons, and now he'll miss most of this year.
Ryan Grant, RB, Green Bay Packers: The Packers starting running back has not missed a game due to injury in three seasons. Unfortunately, he will not extend that streak to four. Grant is expected to be placed on injured reserve after suffering a severe ankle injury that will require surgery and extended rehab time.

Grant suffered the injury in Week 1 when the outside of his leg got rolled on. His leg was forced inward while the sole of his right foot pointed outward, and he was clearly in pain after the injury. Reports relating to the surgery Grant will undergo hint at the extent of the damage.'s Steve Wyche reports that Grant will have a screw inserted, and ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that Grant will be on crutches for 10 to 12 weeks. The emerging details suggest Grant suffered a Grade III syndesmosis injury, more commonly known as a high ankle sprain. Already more complicated than the common lateral ankle sprain, a Grade III high ankle sprain would represent the most severe form of this injury.

In the case of a Grade III sprain, the ligaments that connect the two leg bones (tibia and fibula) where they form the "roof" of the ankle (hence the term "high" ankle) are torn. The two bones can then spread apart, creating significant instability at the ankle. Surgery is the standard form of treatment in this case, with screws typically inserted to provide stability. The specifics of surgery and subsequent rehab depend on the full extent of damage in the ankle and, in some cases, higher up in the leg. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that Grant has a small fracture higher up in the fibula (the outer of the two lower leg bones), which, while not as serious as the main injury, adds to the damage. The full extent of Grant's injury might not be known until after surgery.

Full healing is necessary to help prevent future complications at the ankle, so it would not be surprising for this to signal the end of Grant's season. That said, players have returned from this type of injury before, so it does not necessarily present a threat to his career.

Brandon Jackson, who replaced Grant in the second quarter of Sunday's game following the injury, is expected to be the starter this week.

Kevin Kolb
Howard Smith/US PresswireIt's hard to trust in Kevin Kolb this week.
Kevin Kolb, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: Kolb suffered a concussion in Sunday's loss to the Green Bay Packers and is not looking as if he'll be available this week. While Kolb's evaluation will occur on an ongoing basis throughout the week, it was clear Monday that he had not improved sufficiently to move forward with preparations for Week 2.

According to Comcast SportsNet, Kolb did not pass the testing administered by team doctors Monday and was sent home from the practice facility afterward. In addition to evaluating player symptoms following a concussion (for the presence of headache, nausea and dizziness, among other things), the medical staff conducts neurocognitive testing, which measures how the brain is processing information. Before a player returns, he must be free of all signs and symptoms of concussion at rest as well as during and after activity. Additionally, his neurocognitive test results must return to baseline (as determined by comparing post-concussion results to baseline testing performed prior to the start of the season). Each player who suffers a concussion also must be cleared to practice and play not only by the team physician but by an independent neurological consultant as per the NFL guidelines revised in January this year.

It's important to keep in mind that while a recovering player is resting his brain from the stresses of physical activity, he also must refrain from mental exertion that could equally tax the healing brain. Consequently, he cannot view film, study playbooks, attend meetings or participate in other forms of game-day preparation. His only task right now is to rest.

At this point, it appears unlikely Kolb will be ready to start in Week 2 (enter Michael Vick), but the situation is fluid. Coach Andy Reid has said Kolb is his unquestioned starter if healthy, so how he progresses daily will determine his status.

Matthew Stafford
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesMatthew Stafford has now suffered shoulder injuries in both of his NFL seasons.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions: After getting both his knee and his nonthrowing shoulder healthy in the offseason, Stafford did not have much time to enjoy the Week 1 experience. Late in the first half, Stafford was forced out of the game following a sack on which his throwing shoulder absorbed the brunt of the contact with the turf. Since this is the primary mechanism by which quarterbacks suffer shoulder injuries (just ask Stafford to tell you how his left shoulder was injured last season), it was no surprise to learn that he indeed sustained a sprain of the acromioclavicular (AC) joint, also known as a separated shoulder. The problem this time is it's his throwing arm. Last season, while the injury was uncomfortable, Stafford could gut it out through the bulk of the season because his throwing arm was unaffected. Not this time.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Stafford could barely lift his arm after the game, one of the hallmark signs of an AC sprain. Stafford was sporting a sling to support the injured joint and will spend the first few days primarily resting the shoulder. Over the next few weeks, the goal will be restoring range of motion and strength followed by a return to a throwing program.

Stafford reportedly has gone to Birmingham, Ala., to get a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews. This comes as no surprise since Stafford underwent a minor knee surgery there in December. The expectation is that he will not require surgery, as this is a Grade II or moderate sprain. Even in the case of a complete or Grade III AC sprain, a surgical solution is not automatic. St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford suffered a Grade III injury to his throwing shoulder last season while at Oklahoma. Originally, he was treated nonoperatively; it was a reinjury to the same shoulder several weeks later that led to him ultimately opting for surgery.

The key for Stafford will be allowing sufficient time for the damaged ligaments to heal. Since there can be quite a bit of variability within the category of Grade II sprains, it's hard to offer a definitive timetable. That said, the Lions probably are looking at a range of anywhere from three to eight weeks for Stafford to not only recover to the point of being able to throw effectively, but to be able to return to absorb contact with minimal fear of reinjury.

Other quick hits:

• St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson had some swelling in his right knee after Sunday's game, which led to an MRI on Monday. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that coach Steve Spagnuolo expects Jackson to be fine, but it's important to keep an eye on what he does in practice this week. It's worth noting that Jackson saw limited action in the preseason, as he was coming off back surgery, so this might be a function of increased work.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Matt Moore suffered a concussion Sunday, as did New York Giants tight end Kevin Boss. Moore reportedly already has improvement, but that doesn't mean the Panthers will take this any less seriously. His status will be day-to-day. In Boss' case, this represents his third reported concussion in three years. Caution is definitely warranted here. It would be surprising to see Boss in the lineup this week.

Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells was out Week 1 as expected with a knee bruise, but coach Ken Whisenhunt has nicely let fantasy owners know that his second-year back is planning to return to practice Wednesday. If Wells tolerates practice well, fantasy owners should also expect him to be back on the field Sunday.

Houston Texans tight end Owen Daniels was in for more plays Sunday than originally projected. That said, he was rarely a target. Sunday was his first game action since undergoing ACL reconstruction, so fantasy owners should expect it to take a few weeks for him to get up to speed.

• In the disheartening news department, Philadelphia Eagles fullback Leonard Weaver suffered one of the more gruesome injuries of the weekend and is done for the year. Weaver's foot remained planted while his knee was visibly hyperextended and rotated. The Eagles have placed him on injured reserve with an ACL tear, but the full extent of the injury might not be appreciated until he undergoes surgery. Meanwhile, New York Jets nose tackle Kris Jenkins tore his left ACL on Monday night, the same ACL he just had reconstructed last year. For both of these players, there has to be some question as to whether they will return to football.

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

See you at the injury chats (Tuesday and Friday from 3 to 4 p.m. ET), and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 2 in the Saturday morning blog.

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

Thanksgiving Day players

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday players

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

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

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

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

Other quick hits:

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Marion Barber to miss Week 14

December, 6, 2008
If you're still in it, you're in it to win it, so you'd better pay close attention to every position in your fantasy lineup this week. Injuries at this time of year can be very tough on fantasy owners, as some NFL teams "rest" their injured players near the end of their regular season, wreaking havoc on your playoffs. Fortunately for fantasy owners, a lot of spots are still up for grabs in the NFL, and home-field advantage is at stake in many cases. So take advantage of the situation and play your best players as you try to get one step closer to fantasy prominence. Several fantasy stars will be game-time decisions this week, so assess carefully and be sure to check those last-minute inactives. To get you started, here's what we know as we head into Week 14.

Joseph Addai, RB and Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Colts: Uh-oh. Two additions to the Friday injury report that fantasy owners do not want to see. Addai was added after being limited in practice because of a "knee," meaning it does not appear that Addai has a specific injury, but rather that his knee was sore and the team took precautions. He is listed as questionable, and a source close to the team indicates that Addai likely will play, but it may come down to a game-time decision. Dominic Rhodes' value may have just gone up.

Likewise, Anthony Gonzalez appeared on the Friday injury report as questionable after not practicing because of a sore shoulder. When an athlete practices Wednesday and Thursday and sits out Friday, it is usually not a good sign, but this late in the season, it can also signal a proactive maneuver by a team to try to ensure a player's availability for the weekend.

In this case, questionable means 50-50 chance to play, so be sure to check game-day inactives (the Colts play at 1 p.m. EST) before you submit your fantasy lineup.

Other noteworthy items

Steven Jackson is looking forward to resuming the role of the feature back in St. Louis. After Jackson emerged none the worse for wear from last week's contest, he and coach Jim Haslett seem to be in agreement that he will see more work this week. Jackson is listed as probable and is expected to start and play a full four quarters this week. Jackson was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday -- not a surprise, as his quadriceps is still healing. But after a full practice Friday, Jackson is prepared to shoulder the load. Good news for fantasy owners, as Jackson faces Arizona and could have a big day.

Ryan Grant, who sat out most of the second half of Sunday's game with a sprained thumb, has been a full participant in practice all week, is listed as probable and is expected to start. In fact, coach Mike McCarthy told the Packers' official Web site that he expects Grant to see his usual workload. One of the tests in practice this week? Ball-security drills, which Grant apparently passed with flying colors. The team will not decide until Sunday whether Grant will wear a protective splint on his thumb, but at this point everyone appears confident that he can handle the responsibility. Should he falter, Brandon Jackson, who stepped in ably in Grant's place Sunday but sustained a bruised quadriceps in the process, is also listed as probable and is expected to be available to serve as needed.

Brian Westbrook is again listed as questionable, but it is widely assumed he will start after his four-touchdown performance on Thanksgiving. Westbrook practiced Wednesday but sat out Thursday and Friday to rest his oft-inflamed knee. Normally I get concerned when a player practices midweek but then decreases his activity late in the week, but this is a practice pattern we have seen before with Westbrook. Coach Andy Reid is careful to limit Westbrook's work on the turf to minimize the stress on his joints right before a game. Keep in mind that Correll Buckhalter, still ailing from an MCL sprain, is listed as doubtful and is not expected to play. The Eagles need Westbrook, and you can expect, barring some unusual pregame setback, that he will be on the field, albeit against a tough Giants defense.

Reggie Bush didn't practice Friday, but don't sound the alarm bells just yet. Bush was given a day of rest, and as a result was added to the injury report Friday. He is listed as probable, and coach Sean Payton has said Bush will play, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. He returned last week after missing more than a month following meniscus surgery, and the time off showed. Bush appeared hesitant and was unable to accomplish much in the rushing department. It is not unusual for players to appear rusty after being out of the game. The speed of the game and the intensity of the contact can't be reproduced exactly during practice. Bush, frustrated by his performance, is eager to prove that he can be a spark for the Saints and hopes to deliver Sunday. Expect Pierre Thomas to see quite a bit of work, though, and temper your expectations for Bush's productivity.

Brandon Jacobs is no longer on the injury report, indicating that he will start this weekend against the Eagles. Teammate Derrick Ward twisted his ankle in practice Thursday, but his absence from the injury report means he is ready to go and will share carries with Jacobs. Ahmad Bradshaw, who sat out last week's contest with a neck injury, was able to practice fully all week and is listed as probable. Bradshaw will be waiting in the wings to spell Jacobs and Ward.

Ben Roethlisberger gave everyone a scare when he tweaked his knee Wednesday on a muddy practice field. The good news is that he was back for full practice Thursday and is listed as probable. Translation: Roethlisberger starts Sunday. Also listed as probable is running back Willie Parker, who has had his share of ups and downs with his knee this season. Lately he is on an "up" swing, and his "probable" designation pretty well assures his start in the lineup. Don't be surprised, though, if the Steelers continue to use Mewelde Moore to offload Parker in the running game.

• Last week we added "oblique strain" to Clinton Portis' list of ailments, a list that already included an earlier hip flexor strain and a grade II MCL sprain in his knee. Portis suited up Sunday but took a forearm to the neck, which resulted in a whiplash-type injury and forced him out for a significant portion of the game. Portis' neck has been stiff all week, according to the Washington Post, and he is listed on the injury report again this week as -- you guessed it -- questionable. Portis did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and did only limited practice on Friday, but he hasn't missed a game yet. The difference this week is the opponent: The Redskins face a tough Baltimore run defense, and Portis is clearly at less than 100 percent. His status will again be a game-time decision, but the Redskins don't play until Sunday night. I suspect Portis will again take the field, but it remains to be seen whether he can last the whole game, given his injuries and the unfavorable matchup.

Selvin Young is listed as probable, but not to worry, Peyton Hillis owners. Young has missed more than a month with a groin injury, and although he has been able to practice all week, he may return Sunday to only a handful of carries. His involvement in the game will not change how the Broncos plan to use Hillis. Hillis is also listed as probable because of a hip ailment, but his appearance on the injury report serves mostly to remind us of the beating he's been taking with all the work he's been getting. Hillis was able to practice fully all week and is not expected to be slowed by the hip or by the return of Young to the backfield.

• Is Matt Hasselbeck in your lineup? Better make a switch, because Hasselbeck is listed as doubtful and is not expected to play. His back is acting up again, and the Seahawks aren't going to risk their quarterback's long-term health at this point. What about the other Matt? Matt Schaub, the Texans' signal-caller, has been out of fantasy lineups while nursing a sprained MCL for several weeks. He is back under center this week after a full week of practice, and although the trip to Green Bay may be the coldest game ever for the Texans, Schaub is ready to run the offense on the tundra.

Out: This is a list of key fantasy players, not including those who have been moved to Injured Reserve status, who are officially listed as additions to the "Out" listing for Week 14.

Marion Barber, RB, Cowboys: The dislocated pinkie toe that Barber injured on Thanksgiving is keeping him out of Sunday's game, which is a bit of a surprise given the Cowboys' optimism about Barber's status until late this week. When Barber injured himself, the team was relieved that he did not sustain a fracture, and the thought was that resting the toe (with a few extra days thrown in, given the 10-day stretch between games) and supporting it would allow him to be ready for this week's all-important matchup against the Steelers. But, as in many facets of life, there are no guarantees.

Barber, who has not been able to practice since sustaining the injury, did not accompany the team on its charter flight to Pittsburgh, according to ESPN's Ed Werder. The fact that Barber was not able to practice by Friday, along with the Cowboys' activation of running back Alonzo Coleman from the practice squad to add some depth at the position, signaled a lack of confidence in Barber's availability heading into the weekend. Remember, the Cowboys lost Felix Jones to a big-toe injury that occurred while he was rehabilitating his injured hamstring, and behind Tashard Choice was, well, no one, which is why Coleman was brought up.

According to Werder, the Cowboys' athletic training and equipment staffs have been trying various modes of support for the toe. The big challenge is to find something that minimizes pain and controls mobility yet allows the athlete's foot to fit in his shoe and does not compromise his gait. They even sought out a modified shoe from Nike (reinforced with a carbon fiber insert) to further control toe mobility. Alas, the team ultimately determined that Barber would be better served by resting this week and not risking any further damage that could extend his absence.

Although you may be disappointed as a fantasy owner, you should take some comfort in knowing that Barber would have been a risky play even if he started, as the toe may not have allowed him to complete the game, or he could have struggled with adapting to new footwear. Hustle and pick up Tashard Choice while you still can.

Kellen Winslow, TE, Browns: The one player Ken Dorsey had a groove with from their University of Miami days won't be in the lineup when Dorsey starts. The question now is whether Winslow will return this season. It's too soon to say for sure, but high ankle sprains are nothing to sneeze at. Winslow is out this week, and maybe longer.

Mark Bradley, WR, Chiefs: Bradley was active last week despite an injured calf but did not have a catch. After another week of his struggling with the injury, the Chiefs decided to keep Bradley out. Could he make an appearance in the next round of your fantasy playoffs? Possibly, so if you're still alive next week, you may want to check his status.

Good luck in Week 14! Be sure to check out our site Sunday for pregame chats and Fantasy Football Now at noon ET.

Things are heating up for most fantasy league playoffs. Every player counts, as each week could be your last if you do not set your lineup wisely. Naturally, injuries play a big role. Just how banged up does a player have to be before he becomes a risk to your fantasy team? There are new faces on the "done for the year" list, and not all of them are there because of injury. At least you know you need to replace these guys. But other players are on the fringe as to whether they will be available for you this weekend.

So what do we know about Week 14? Based on early practice reports, here's what we're hearing on the injury front so far.

Ryan Grant, RB, Packers:
Grant sprained his thumb Sunday and was kept out of the second half of the game. Grant and his coaches were concerned about his ability to protect the football with pain, inflammation and stiffness in the thumb. So will that thumb be ready to guard the ball safely in Week 14?

According to the Packers' official Web site, Grant may need to wear a protective splint on his thumb, and the decision as to whether he'll play may hinge on how well he can handle the ball with extra hand gear. Brandon Jackson played well on Sunday in Grant's absence, and that may make it easier for coach Mike McCarthy to play him this week. McCarthy indicated that he had "no qualms about playing with Brandon in all of the situations." If Jackson is available in your league, you may want to pick him up in the event that Grant can't go.

Matt Schaub
Bruce Kluckhohn/US PresswireMatt Schaub is set to return to his starting role Sunday in Green Bay.
Matt Schaub, QB, Texans:
Although Sage Rosenfels has led the Texans to victory in their past two games, it looks as if Schaub will resume his starting role this weekend, barring any setbacks in practice. Schaub has missed the past four games with a sprained left medial collateral ligament, an injury that early on in his recovery had seemed as if it might sideline him for the remainder of the season. But Schaub is nothing if not determined, and his efforts in rehab and practice have convinced the medical staff and the coaches that he is prepared to return to play.

Schaub was active as the second quarterback for Monday night's game, but Rosenfels played the entire game. According to reports, coach Gary Kubiak said that although everyone felt Schaub could play and play well if needed, they were "very fortunate" that he did not have to play Monday. This allows Schaub another week of practice under his belt before returning to a game situation, and Kubiak added that "the extra rest will help him." Schaub is tough. His perseverance showed just that last season, as he was knocked around and banged up regularly. He likely will wear a protective brace on his knee to help minimize stress on the MCL should he take a hit on the outer part of his leg. His mobility may be hampered a bit, but he is not one to play tentatively. The Texans will play in unfamiliar cold when they travel to Green Bay, but that won't stop Schaub from looking for his favorite receiving target, Andre Johnson. Be sure to check after Friday practice reports, but as of now, it looks as if Schaub will get the nod.

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

&#8226 According to a report on the Cowboys' official Web site, coach Wade Phillips announced during his Wednesday morning radio segment that Marion Barber would play Sunday. All along, it has looked as if Barber would give it a go, even though he dislocated his toe on Thanksgiving. Barber may not practice much and may require some adaptive footwear, but it is looking more and more like the Cowboys expect him in their lineup.

Wes Welker
Stew Milne/US PresswireThis hit from the Steelers' Ryan Clark has placed Wes Welker's status for Week 14 in doubt.
&#8226 Patriots receiver and resident tough guy Wes Welker took a big hit in last week's game from Steelers safety Ryan Clark, which forced him out of the game. From the looks of the hit, it could have been Welker's chest, neck or head (or some combination of the three) that suffered the most. Because the Patriots are the Patriots, no specific information was provided as to a possible injury to Welker, but there are some good early signs. The Boston Globe reports that Welker was present for at least the early portion of practice Wednesday. Stay tuned as the week progresses to see what the Patriots report.

&#8226 Fast Willie Parker looks as if he'll play this weekend, but don't be surprised if a time-share between him and teammate Mewelde Moore continues. Parker's knee has proven to be easily inflamed, and sharing time may be a way of helping off-load some of the strain.

&#8226 Whether Bills quarterback Trent Edwards plays may well come down to a game-time decision Sunday. Edwards injured his groin last week, and it looks to be a fairly significant injury. Coach Dick Jauron told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle that he hoped Edwards would be well enough to return to practice Wednesday. Despite Edwards' declarations that he wants to play, if he is unable to practice much this week, it is likely that J.P. Losman would get the start against the Dolphins.

Players you need to replace

Plaxico Burress, WR, Giants: OK, hopefully you already had an idea this was coming. But now it's official: Burress has been suspended for the remainder of the season, so he will not be available for any of your fantasy playoffs. Look for Domenik Hixon or Amani Toomer.

Derek Anderson, QB, Browns: He probably wasn't on your roster, but if he was, you have a chance to replace him with someone who can help you down the stretch. And I don't mean Ken Dorsey, who becomes the starter in Cleveland. Consider Jeff Garcia, Shaun Hill or Joe Flacco, all still available in a number of leagues.

Deuce McAllister, RB, Saints: The terms of the suspension have been issued, and McAllister, along with five others, has been suspended for four games without pay. Translation: McAllister is not available for your fantasy playoffs. Consider Fred Jackson, who has quietly made some nice contributions in Buffalo, or, dare I say it, Cedric Benson, who faces a decent matchup against a weak Colts run defense this weekend.

Don't forget that the Raiders face the Chargers on Thursday, so get your lineups in early! We'll have the latest injury updates affecting the remaining Week 14 contests and any postmortem on Thursday injuries in the Saturday blog.

All eyes on Marion Barber's status

December, 1, 2008
Marion Barber, RB, Cowboys: It's no secret that Barber is the featured back in the Cowboys' offense. But with Felix Jones out for the remainder of the season because of a big toe injury that required surgery, Barber's early exit on Thanksgiving meant the Cowboys had to shift the load to Tashard Choice.

Tashard Choice
Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesTashard Choice might make for a nice pickup this week.

So will Choice be the team's starter in Week 14? Probably not, but if you have him on your fantasy bench, you just might want to hang on to him for insurance. Early news suggests that Barber could start Sunday even though he dislocated his toe Thursday. There are two silver linings with Barber's injury: There are 10 days between the Cowboys' Week 13 and Week 14 games, and an MRI showed that he did not break a bone in his toe, which often can be a side consequence of a dislocation. The complications of a fracture might have kept Barber off the field. In the absence of a broken bone, there is a good chance that once the pain and inflammation in the area settle, Barber will manage with the toe taped for support. Buddy taping, when the injured toe is taped to the adjacent toe (the fourth toe in Barber's case), is commonly used to help control the motion of the injured part. Barber's footwear also might be adapted to provide some extra reinforcement in the toe area. That would further limit toe motion while also protecting it from impact to some degree. Practice reports should yield better clues as the week unfolds, but at this point, there is reason to feel positive that Barber will play in Week 14.

Kellen Winslow, TE, Browns: Winslow has been a regular on the injury report the past few weeks but has managed to play despite a shoulder sprain. But he added a new injury to this season's list of ailments Sunday when he left the game early in the third quarter after injuring his left ankle.

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Winslow left the stadium after the game in a walking boot and is scheduled for an MRI on Monday. Winslow is known for playing in pain, but whether he is able to play this week might simply come down to how serious the damage is. We will, of course, keep you posted as information becomes available.

Other noteworthy injuries:

&#8226 Packers running back Ryan Grant sat out the second half of Sunday's contest because of a sprained right thumb, according to the Packers' official Web site. Grant said that he could have returned, but pain, swelling and limited motion in his thumb raised concerns about his ability to control the ball, and the decision was made to keep him out. Although Grant says he will be ready to play by Sunday, it is worth noting that Brandon Jackson stepped in for the injured Grant and played well. Thumb injuries are not insignificant, and it might be worth securing Jackson if Grant is on your fantasy team.

Steven Jackson
Jeff Curry/US PresswireSteven Jackson looked good in Sunday's game, and seemed to come out of it unscathed.

&#8226 Rams running back Steven Jackson had a decent outing Sunday and saw his first significant playing time in six weeks. Jackson rushed for 94 yards but essentially was rested in the fourth quarter. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, there is some disagreement between Jackson and coach Jim Haslett as to why Jackson sat out late in the game. Haslett says Jackson was "gassed," but Jackson says he "felt amazing" and was frustrated he couldn't contribute late. Jackson did admit to some tightness and soreness in his quadriceps after the game, but that is to be expected with a still-healing muscle strain. The key will be whether Jackson experiences any setbacks early this week after pushing himself more than he has in a month. If Jackson doesn't regress, expect him to continue to increase his playing time as the Rams finish their season (and you finish your playoffs).

&#8226 Jonathan Stewart, who has been nursing a heel problem for a few weeks, was visibly slowed during a potential scoring run Sunday. But a hamstring cramp was what prevented Stewart from outrunning the Packers' defensive backs and entering the end zone. According to the Gaston Gazette (Gastonia, N.C.), Stewart attributed the hamstring cramp to cold temperatures and lack of warm-up. He called it a "lesson learned." DeAngelo Williams has proven to be a solid feature back for Carolina, though, and it looks as if that could be the scenario going forward.

&#8226 Bills quarterback Trent Edwards was forced out of Sunday's game because of a groin injury. According to news reports, Edwards began feeling pain in the groin at the start of the game, but by halftime it had increased to the degree that he could not continue. J.P. Losman replaced him for the remainder of the game. Edwards could not say whether he would be well enough to play this week but indicated he needs to get himself into the training room to work on getting healthy. That sounds like a reasonable plan. So does securing an alternate quarterback for your fantasy roster this week, just in case.

&#8226 In addition to the injury to Winslow, it appears the Browns suffered another season-ending quarterback injury. Derek Anderson, starting in place of the index-finger-injured Brady Quinn, sustained a knee injury that might force him out for the remainder of the 2008 season. The team is reporting that Anderson sprained his left medial collateral ligament, an injury that usually takes three to four weeks to heal for a quarterback. With only four weeks left in the Browns' season, it is quite possible that Ken Dorsey, who stepped in when Anderson went down Sunday, will become the starter to finish out the year. Dorsey hasn't seen enough playing time to make him a good fantasy option, and it has to knock down the value of Braylon Edwards as well.

Be sure to check back here throughout the week as we update these and other injuries. Oakland will play in San Diego on Thursday, so be sure to set your lineup in advance. Stop by the injury chats (11 a.m. ET Tuesday and Friday) to discuss the status of your injured players. Hope to see you there!

First bye week, first major substitutions for fantasy owners whose top draft picks are resting. And then there are those pesky injuries that complicate matters. This week, the injury picture actually looks much clearer in terms of who will sit and who will start, with a couple of notable exceptions. But even when they start, the big question for fantasy owners is, will those semi-healthy players be productive?

Here's what we know as we head into the Week 4 contests:

Brian Westbrook, RB, Eagles:
The answer to the question, "Will he or won't he suit up Sunday night?" remains the same as it was Wednesday when we last discussed Westbrook's injury status. We don't know. What we do know is that through a complete week, Westbrook has not practiced because of his sore ankle. We also know that the game is Sunday night. And if past performance is an indication of projection, we know that Westbrook is entirely capable of showing up big in a game without practicing at all during the week. He's done it before.

That being said, his latest injury appears to be consistent with a high ankle sprain. Even in the mildest of cases, this is a tough injury to recover from and move effectively as a running back in just one week. Westbrook seems to know his body well and knows when he can and cannot push through something. I believe that when he is a game-time decision, as he will be this week, it truly will be a matter of him warming up pregame to assess how effective he can be before a decision is made. The problem for fantasy owners is the timing of the game. Unless Correll Buckhalter, who will start in Westbrook's place if he cannot go, is on your bench, you may not have the luxury of waiting. At this point, his questionable designation, which literally is intended to translate to an athlete having a 50-50 chance of playing, appears right on point.

Brett Favre, QB, Jets:
Although Favre appeared noticeably hobbled by his ankle early in the week, per ESPN reports he seemed to move better in practice each day. Most importantly, he did, in fact, practice every day, albeit on a limited basis. He is listed as questionable, but there seems to be no danger of his consecutive start streak being broken. Favre has played with injuries far more serious than this. Nonetheless, he is a quarterback who makes plays with his feet. Stiffness and pain in the ankle could hamper his mobility and render him less effective in that area of his game. Expect him to play, but know that he may have to unload the ball more quickly if he can't escape the rush as easily.

Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals:
Palmer was a late addition to the injury reports this week, showing up Friday as limited in practice with soreness in his right (throwing) elbow. Coach Marvin Lewis pointed out that Palmer had been hit "quite a bit" in last week's matchup against the New York Giants, but in reality he has been getting hit quite a bit all season. The evidence? A broken nose in the preseason, a sprained ankle in Week 2, and now an elbow ailment.

But Palmer, according to the Bengals' official Web site, seemed to attribute his elbow issues to overuse. It is worth noting that soreness that typically occurs at the elbow associated with overuse is related to the muscles that control grip. Wide grip, such as is necessary to grip a football, is particularly taxing. If indeed this is an overuse issue, it could potentially hang around for a while, as in weeks. A mild case may not be of much concern, but if it continues to become aggravated as Palmer plays, it could be a bigger concern down the line.

Both Lewis and Palmer have suggested that the rest Friday means he will be ready to go Sunday, despite the questionable tag next to his name. If the elbow is still sore, it could affect his grip on the ball and his ability to throw hard. It will be interesting to see how he fares during the game and how his elbow responds afterward. At the moment, it does not appear that it will limit him terribly this Sunday, but it wouldn't hurt for him to get some better protection. I'm sure he wouldn't disagree.

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers:
Tomlinson's performance Monday night was a welcome sight for Chargers fans and his fantasy owners. Although he is not 100 percent recovered from the injury to his big toe, LT certainly showed familiar sparks, especially when driving straight ahead. Cutting is still somewhat problematic, which is to be expected with this type of injury.

Tomlinson was able to practice more this week, also a good sign that his toe is improving. He is listed as probable and is expected to play. Tomlinson has enjoyed great success against the Raiders in the past and no doubt intends to try to maintain that trend.

Willis McGahee, RB, Ravens:
Finally, McGahee gets into the game to contribute, and we can breathe easier that he is past the recovery mode for his recent knee scope. Except then he gets poked in the eye. In fact, McGahee suffered enough of a cut on his eyelid that it caused a fair amount of swelling around his eye. He was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday because he was literally having difficulty seeing becuase of the swelling. Coach John Harbaugh told the Baltimore Sun that he would play Monday night "as long as he could see." Things seem to be going in the right direction, since McGahee was a full participant in Friday's practice. With a couple more days to further treat the eyelid, McGahee, listed as probable, should be good to go. Keep in mind that the running back committee of McGahee, Le'Ron McClain (also listed as probable on the injury report because of his ankle and back) and Ray Rice will likely be in play.

Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor, RB, Vikings:
Peterson was limited in Week 3 by a hamstring strain sustained in Week 2. The best news coming out of last week's game was that Peterson said his hamstring felt good. Peterson was restricted in practice throughout the week, which makes good sense with a still-recovering muscle strain. Another week removed from injury means another week closer to healing, especially given that there appear to have been no setbacks. Although he is listed as questionable, expect Peterson to play.

Peterson's teammate Taylor has been added to the injury report because of his foot. Although specifics have been hard to come by, Taylor, too, was limited in practice. With his injury being more recent and Peterson on the upswing, expect Taylor, also listed as questionable, to play but Peterson is likely to resume the primary role.

Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings:
Rice sprained his knee (posterior cruciate ligament or PCL) in Week 2 and sat out Week 3 as a result. He remained limited in practice this week and is listed as questionable. Rice hopes to get in the game, but with a PCL injury, he has some instability in the knee. The key for him is whether he has adequate muscular strength to compensate for the stability deficit so that he can run, jump and land effectively enough to play the position and not risk further injury. He is also likely to be a game-time decision but could see some action.

Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders:
McFadden played in Week 3 despite suffering a turf toe injury the week before. He was not at his best, and appeared to have trouble with his footing on the turf. Whether that was attributable to his toe at all is uncertain, but he did wear a stiffer shoe to help support the toe, which does alter the ability to push off.

This week, McFadden was rested on Wednesday, then returned to practice on a limited basis Thursday; he is still not fully healed. But Justin Fargas is out with his still-healing groin injury (look for him to potentially return following the Raiders' Week 5 bye) and McFadden is again expected to start, despite the questionable designation. Michael Bush will no doubt get some work to spell McFadden, and given that he is not at full health, there is risk that McFadden exits early. Nonetheless, he is lined up to get the bulk of the work as of now.

Devin Hester, WR, Bears:
Hester is still experiencing enough pain to significantly restrict his practice activity. Hester, who sat out last week's game with torn cartilage in his ribs, does not appear ready to go just yet. He is listed as questionable for this week's game against the Eagles, but the relevance of his position cannot be underestimated. Yes, he is seeing time at wide receiver. But his most important role is as a kick returner and, as such, he is the target of an entire squad whose sole goal is to hit him and bring him down. He knows he will have to absorb impact and potentially a lot of it. His chances for playing do not appear great at this point, but he will be a game-time decision.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers:
Despite an injured hand at the end of last week's contest and a shoulder sprain the week before that, Roethlisberger has practiced all week and is off the injury report. Ah, the allure of Monday Night Football at home when you're a Steeler.

Braylon Edwards, WR, Browns:
Edwards was limited early in the week in practice with a shoulder injury, but was able to practice fully on Friday and is listed as probable for Sunday. Edwards played last week despite a listing as questionable, so his status has only improved. He did not do much last week, but he did catch the balls thrown his way, which was an improvement over the first two weeks. The Browns are likely to throw more his way this week, so expect his performance to go up again Sunday.

LenDale White, RB, Titans:
White made an early exit from practice Thursday with what the Titans called a shoulder problem, but it did not appear serious at the time. That appeared to be confirmed by the fact that White was a full participant in Friday's practice. He is listed as probable and is expected to play Sunday. White's physical style of running is likely to make him susceptible to bumps and bruises along the way. He showed last year that he could play through some discomfort, so this episode is not of great concern.

Ryan Grant, RB, Packers:
Grant's hamstring has been the source of much concern for Packer fans and Grant's fantasy owners. His condition has steadily improved and this week he is off the injury report. Expect Grant to start Sunday. His hamstring should not hold him back, but the Tampa Bay defense might.

And a couple of IDP updates

Charles Woodson, CB, Packers:
Despite the toe injury, he is performing and will continue to do so. He is listed as probable and is expected to play.

Tommie Harris, DT, Bears:
Ongoing problems with his knee are the challenge for Harris. He is listed as questionable after not practicing at all this week. Very questionable indeed.


This is a list of key fantasy players, not including those who have been moved to injured reserve status, who are officially listed as additions to the "Out" listing for Week 4.

Joey Galloway, WR, Buccaneers: Same story as last week: foot injury and 37 years old now. Bad combination. Galloway did not practice at all this week, so this is looking as if it could last a while.

Roscoe Parrish, WR, Bills: Parrish is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a thumb injury, a la Marques Colston. Better replace him on your roster.

Justin Fargas, RB, Raiders: The groin injury that caused him to miss last week forces him to sit again. Look for him to possibly return in Week 6 after the Raiders' bye week. Meanwhile, McFadden and Bush pick up the load in Oakland.

Jeremy Shockey, TE, Saints: Shockey had surgery this week to repair a sports hernia. Reports of his timetable vary widely, but based on the average recovery time for this procedure, plan on at least a four-week absence.

Jason Taylor, DE, Redskins: Taylor took a blow to the leg and had to undergo a procedure to drain the resulting blood and relieve the pressure on the nerves and blood vessels to his foot. Sounds bad, but the procedure is not complicated. The important thing is getting to it in time. Thankfully, that was the case for Taylor, but it will take him some time to recover. If he's on your IDP list, seek out a replacement.

Willie Parker, RB, Steelers: We have not been given the specifics of the injury that is forcing Parker to the sidelines, but when a coach says a player is "week-to-week" as Mike Tomlin did in his news conference this week, it does not sound good. Best to ensure that you have a 2-4 week replacement.

Be sure to check out our site Sunday for pregame chats and Fantasy Football Now at 12 p.m. ET. Good luck in Week 4!

LT and Peterson to be limited at best

September, 20, 2008
Talk about injury-themed trends. I'm not sure if it's a big-toe-injury trend. (LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates, Darren McFadden and Bernard Berrian are all dealing with these). Or maybe it's the I-drafted-him-as-my-top-running-back-but-he's-hurt trend. (Again LT makes the list, along with Adrian Peterson, Willis McGahee and Laurence Maroney.) Maybe it's the No. 1 and No. 2 guys-may-not-go trend if you own Justin Fargas and McFadden or Maroney and LaMont Jordan (or in the case of Seattle's wide receivers, the Nos. 1-5 and counting ... Can you believe that newly signed Koren Robinson is already on the injury report because of soreness in his knee?). Wherever you want to find a trend this year that links fantasy football and injuries, you can create one.

LaDainain Tomlinson, RB, San Diego Chargers: Tomlinson remains a game-time decision. The question appears to be not so much whether he will, in fact, play but rather how much he will be able to contribute. Once again this week, Tomlinson did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and then returned on a limited basis Friday. He does get the extra day of rest with the game on Monday night, but even then he will not be 100 percent.

This is one of the toughest calls of the week for fantasy owners who watched LT get tended to on the sidelines during the second half after contributing very little in the first half. He has a very positive attitude and clearly wants to be out on the field as much as he can, but it takes more than an upbeat tone to heal an injured big toe. He will likely play, but not at full strength, and the degree to which he is utilized will ultimately come down to how he feels as the game progresses.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings: This is the second-toughest call of the week for fantasy owners. Peterson is listed as questionable and will be a game-time decision. Working in the favor of fantasy owners is the fact that AP plays at 1 p.m. Heading into Sunday, Peterson's odds don't look so good. Peterson practiced on a limited basis Wednesday but then did not practice Thursday. He did some limited work Friday, but according to ESPN's John Clayton, was not able to do much and spent most of his time in the training room.

Peterson has an ailing hamstring, never good for running backs because they depend on their hamstrings not only for speed and explosiveness but for strength when trying to power through a line of would-be tacklers. Peterson's description of tightness and soreness that he has experienced throughout the week raises enough concern to consider resting him this weekend. The team will determine his status based upon how the leg feels during warm-ups, but bear in mind that he will not be at full tilt, even if he does start. Chester Taylor is likely to see some increased carries as a result.

Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders: Run DMC, as he is called, is listed as probable and is expected to get the start with an ailing Fargas (doubtful with a groin injury that could sideline him for a few weeks) not likely to play. McFadden played well in Week 2 after Fargas' departure, but injured his big toe, the NFL ailment du jour, late in the game.

He sat out practice Wednesday, trading in his cleats for a walking boot to minimize motion at the great toe. McFadden returned to practice Thursday and, according to Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee, was able to take about 70 percent of his normal reps. McFadden complained of feeling flat-footed when he was outfitted with a steel plate to reinforce the cleat. The plate helps decrease stress on the big toe by limiting the flexibility of the shoe, but by doing that very thing, does not allow the runner to push off normally, hence the flat-footed feeling. McFadden also indicated the toe was sore, but seemed to adapt as practice went on. On the encouraging side, he was a full participant in Friday's practice, and that, along with his probable status, makes him a likely start. A word of caution to fantasy owners: He will not be at 100 percent strength or speed, and may yield some opportunities to Michael Bush, especially as the game progresses if the soreness in the toe becomes limiting.

Devin Hester, WR, Chicago Bears: No matter what you want to call Hester's injury -- torn cartilage, bruised ribs -- the bottom line is that it is a painful one that has kept him out of practice all week and will no doubt limit him greatly if he does play Sunday. In fact, I will be surprised if he is active given how uncomfortable and limited he has been thus far.

Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune reported that Hester originally described his injury as torn cartilage, only to later refer to it as "bruised ribs." Originally Hester injured himself Sunday when maneuvering to get out of bounds. The injury was not a result of contact, but apparently the result of Hester trying to extend his body to avoid contact. McClure also reported that Hester heard a "pop," which is typical when the cartilage separates from the bone. In addition to cartilage, there are numerous small muscles that attach between, over and across the ribs that contribute to rib and trunk motion, all of which can bleed in the event of an injury, adding to pain and swelling in the area. Hester's difficulty breathing for the first few days post-injury is very typical of any rib problem, because anything that causes movement, including breathing, stresses the injured area while it is trying to heal. Fast running, something Hester is noted for, means harder breathing, which translates to increased pain. Reaching, twisting, and, oh yes, taking hits from large humans running at full speed in your direction, can all compound the problem. Another week of rest can go a long way toward full recuperation. Hester may very well be watching from the sidelines this week.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: An AC sprain, a separated shoulder and a sore shoulder all mean the same thing when it comes to Roethlisberger: no big deal. He showed that he could play through the pain in Week 2. As long as he spends more time upright than landing on that shoulder, Roethlisberger, currently listed as probable, should start and perform without much problem.

Dallas Clark, TE, Indianapolis Colts: What a difference a week makes. Clark, who sat out last week with a sprained knee, returned to full practice this week and was not even on Friday's injury report. He is expected to start and contribute this week. Complementing the offense will be the addition of Jeff Saturday, who returns several weeks early from an MCL sprain. Saturday has had more than a week of solid practice and is looking forward to his return. Guess what, Jeff? So is Peyton Manning.

Ryan Grant, RB, Green Bay Packers: This is why teams worry about hamstring injuries: they linger. Grant has been well managed by the Packers and has been able to play, but his limited performance this past week reflects the challenges presented by trying to push through these injuries. Grant, listed as probable, is expected to play again this week, and he was able to fully practice Friday despite being limited earlier in the week. But he's not yet 100 percent, so be guardedly optimistic.

Reggie Brown, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: Brown has been upgraded to probable this week and is likely to see his first action of the season. He may not start and may be used only in specific situations, according to Clayton. Might be best to watch him from a distance to see how he performs his first week back.

Justin Gage, WR, Tennessee Titans: It's not looking so good for Gage. He suffered a groin injury Sunday and was not really able to practice all week. Friday he performed only straight-line running, and with the groin or adductor muscles being so critical for directional changes, this suggests that he is still hurting. He is listed as questionable and will be a game-time decision, but don't be surprised if Gage sits this one out.

Laurence Maroney, RB, New England Patriots: Do you really think we have been given any hint as to what the problem is with Maroney's shoulder? Of course not, as per the Patriots' standard veil of secrecy. But we do know that he did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, although he was able to do some limited work Friday. With teammate Jordan listed as doubtful with a foot injury and Maroney's status questionable, expect Sammy Morris to see some more work, as might Kevin Faulk. Of note, tight end Benjamin Watson may also see his first action of the year Sunday.

Braylon Edwards, WR, Cleveland Browns: This sort of snuck up on us. Edwards was limited all week in practice with a shoulder injury and is listed as questionable for Sunday. Clayton says there is a good chance he will still play, but it's unclear how much Edwards will look like himself this week. Teammate Jamal Lewis was limited all week with an ankle injury also, but his probable status is far more encouraging.

And a couple of IDP tidbits ...

Charles Woodson, CB, Green Bay Packers: The toe that was bothering him last week appears to be improving. He is listed as probable and is expected to play.

Antonio Cromartie, CB, San Diego Chargers: The hip is better and so is his attitude. There will be less pain and hopefully fewer penalties.

Out: This is a list of key fantasy players, not including those who have been moved to Injured Reserve status, who are officially listed as "out" for Week 2.

Bob Sanders, CB, Indianapolis Colts: The punishment he inflicts on others makes itself felt on his body. Sanders has a high ankle sprain that will keep him out for four to six weeks and he may take advantage of the time to get his knee scoped as well. Bummer.

Joey Galloway, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A foot injury. He's 37 this year. Bad combination.

Be sure to check out our site Sunday for pregame chats and "Fantasy Football Now" at noon ET. Good luck in Week 3!

Separating Injuries

September, 17, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roethlisberger should play

September, 13, 2008
Here's a fun fact: The Miami Dolphins have a clean injury report. That's right. Nobody, no one, not a single player is on their injury report this week. I'm not sure I've ever seen this before, but how happy must a team be when they can submit their injury report to the league office Friday afternoon and it's a blank sheet? Is there anyone out there in fantasy league-land who has every player on their roster healthy? I didn't think so. That's why we bring you the injury updates heading into Week 2. Set your injury-adjusted lineups and hope for a healthy week.

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
George Gojkovich/Getty ImagesRoethlisberger should be out on the field leading the Steelers, but if a blowout occurs, he could get pulled.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: Although he didn't practice Wednesday due to the sore throwing shoulder, he did some work Thursday and managed a full practice Friday. Roethlisberger is listed as probable, meaning he is expected to play, but if the shoulder starts to give him trouble as the game goes on, or if he shows signs of fatigue in the arm, expect his playing time to be limited. Roethlisberger has a history of playing through various ailments, and this should be no different, but the team will make every effort to preserve him for the long haul.

Marion Barber, RB, Dallas Cowboys: Barber was already looking like someone who expected to play Monday night despite a rib injury in that he fully practiced Wednesday and Thursday. Friday did nothing to dispel that as he practiced fully yet again. He is officially listed as probable, and with the extra day of rest, it appears he will see a regular workload. Perhaps even more significant is the idea that he has been doing so well already, he may not need to wear the protective gear that could make ballhandling a little more challenging. For someone who relies on speed and ball control, carrying no extra weight and minimizing interference is a bonus. Barber looks to be in good shape for Monday night.

LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, and Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers: Who knew that big-toe problems could be contagious? The Chargers have another star plagued by a big-toe injury, as Tomlinson jammed it in last week's contest. The good news is that X-rays were negative, but the toe was painful enough that Tomlinson did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. Tomlinson was able to practice fully Friday, but he is only listed as questionable on the Chargers' injury report. According to ESPN reports, Tomlinson believes that based on what he was able to do in Friday's practice and how he felt afterward that he is closer to probable to play Sunday.

The role of the big toe in every aspect of running, pivoting, cutting and jumping cannot be overemphasized, as it has to bear the weight of the entire body with any pushing off. If the ligaments around the toe are injured, repeated stress not only causes pain but can make it difficult to heal. It appears that Tomlinson will play Sunday, but if the toe becomes a limiting factor, he may see decreased time on the field.

Meanwhile, teammate Antonio Gates put up a decent performance in Week 1 in his first outing since undergoing surgery on his big toe. He appeared to suffer no major setbacks, although he did come out of Week 1 with a sore hip to add to the toe discomfort, and as a result was limited in practice early in the week. Gates, however, was a full go in practice Friday and is listed as probable, which bodes well for his Sunday status. He acknowledges that his toe is not 100 percent, but told the San Diego Union-Tribune earlier in the week that the more he does, the better it becomes. Clearly his confidence in the foot is coming back.

Dallas Clark, TE, Indianapolis Colts: Clark is listed as questionable and, although he was able to do some practice activity Friday, is far from certain to be on the field Sunday. Clark injured his knee last Sunday, and despite the negative MRI had enough discomfort to keep him from doing anything in practice until Friday. It does not sound like we should expect much, if anything, from him this week.

There is good news elsewhere on the Colts' offensive front, however. Center Jeff Saturday, who just a couple of weeks ago was considering surgery on his torn medial collateral ligament (MCL), chose to undergo conservative treatment and is well ahead of schedule. Saturday was able to participate fully in practice all week and has a shot to play this weekend. Even if he doesn't take the field this week, the progress he is making has to make the Colts, and Peyton Manning in particular, very happy. If not this week, expect to see Saturday back next week in tandem with his quarterback.

[+] EnlargeRyan Grant
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireGrant is clearly not 100 percent, but he'll make a go of it this weekend.
Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson, RB, Green Bay Packers: Grant had a nice first week, even while operating at less than top speed. But Grant was reportedly very sore at halftime of Monday night's contest, a sign that the hamstring was clearly not fully healed. The Packers have helped Grant manage this injury well, as they are no doubt acutely aware of the risk of this turning into a season-long problem. Consequently Grant was kept to limited practice reps early in the week to allow his leg some more rest.

Grant did practice fully Friday and expects to play, but he is listed as questionable, and the Packers will want to see how he feels Saturday morning before they make a final decision on his status. Coach Mike McCarthy told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: "He looked good. Really the question for Ryan will be tomorrow, same thing we went through last week. How does the hamstring feel in the morning? They worked it. They pushed him as far as he probably could go today, and we'll see how he is tomorrow." If Grant feels good Saturday, his chances of playing go way up.

Teammate Brandon Jackson is listed as probable and is expected to play after suffering a concussion Monday night that kept him out of practice Wednesday and limited Thursday. In fact, Jackson will likely be used more to balance Grant's playing time, given that Grant is still not 100 percent.

Reggie Brown, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: Brown did not play last week after aggravating his injured hamstring mid-week. This week did not exactly provide encouragement that he is ready to return. Brown is listed as questionable, but did not practice Wednesday and practiced only on a limited basis Thursday and Friday. Brown told the Philadelphia Daily News that he was "very limited" after Thursday's practice. I trust the words of the athlete, and this does not sound like he is confident in his recovery just yet. Of course there is the extra day, given that the Eagles play Monday night, but Brown will likely be a game-time decision, something fantasy owners should shy away from. Besides, given the fact that Brown spent most of the preseason and the first week of the season injured (first the Achilles', now the hamstring), it would be worth watching his first-game performance to see how he fares before expecting big things.

Willis McGahee, RB, Baltimore Ravens: McGahee was active last week, but you wouldn't know it. He spent the entire game on the sidelines, pacing a bit, hoping to get into the game. But the Ravens' coaching staff decided it would be best to wait. McGahee is now listed as probable in Week 2 and is expected to take the field Monday night (the game was moved to Monday because of Hurricane Ike in Texas).

As far as how the knee feels, the Ravens' official Web site quoted McGahee as saying "It gets better every day, so I can't complain." In addition to having the extra week to rest his knee, McGahee had additional time to work with a new offensive system and get into game shape. Expect McGahee to see action Monday, although he may not appear as the "feature" back. The Baltimore Sun reports that a full workload may not be in the game plan for McGahee, as he will likely split carries with Ray Rice and Le'Ron McClain. McGahee will need to prove his commitment to working hard as a team player, while demonstrating that he can physically handle the workload before he is allowed to assume a major role. Fantasy owners should keep that in mind.

And a couple of IDP tidbits ...

OK, Carly. This section is introduced this week per your request.

Derrick Brooks, LB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Brooks is still dealing with a lingering hamstring injury. He has not been able to practice all week and is listed as questionable. Unfortunately, his 193-consecutive-game streak is at risk of being broken this week, but ultimately the team needs to make the best decision for his long-term health. Expect Brooks to be a game-time decision.

Albert Haynesworth, DT, Tennessee Titans: Haynesworth suffered a concussion during last week's contest, and as a result was held out of practice all week. Haynesworth says he expects to play, but the team will not likely make a final decision until Sunday morning before the game. He is officially listed as questionable. Concussions are not something teams take lightly, and Haynesworth will have a series of tests he will need to pass before he is cleared to play.

Antonio Cromartie, CB, San Diego Chargers: Cromartie has a sore hip that kept him out of practice Wednesday and Thursday. He was able to practice on a limited basis Friday and is listed as questionable, so he has a chance of being on the field. He is also likely to be a game-time decision. The Chargers have to hope they will have him available to match up against Denver's double threats, Brandon Marshall (returning this week after a suspension) and impressive rookie Eddie Royal.

Out: This is a list of key fantasy players, not including those who have been moved to injured-reserve status, who are officially listed as "Out" for Week 2.

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Aaron Stecker, RB, New Orleans Saints: You knew Colston was out with a surgically repaired thumb. Stecker now joins him with a hamstring injury. Reggie Bush looked good last week, and Pierre Thomas showed he was a factor. Expect Deuce McAllister to get back into the game this week as well, although how much he will be utilized remains a question.

Drew Bennett, WR, St. Louis Rams: He has a foot fracture. He will appear in this section for at least a month.

Brodie Croyle, QB, Kansas City Chiefs: Croyle has a separated shoulder and will likely miss two weeks, minimum.

Bobby Engram, WR and Maurice Morris, RB, Seattle Seahawks: Seattle's poor offense and their string of bad luck continue. Expect these two to be here for a few more weeks.

Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans: The knee, the hamstring, and everything else. His timetable is very hard to predict right now.

Kevin Curtis, WR, Philadelphia Eagles: Still recovering from sports-hernia surgery but coming along nicely. The Eagles hope to have him back in the first half of October.

Be sure to check out our site Sunday for pregame chats and Fantasy Football Now at 12 p.m. EST. Good luck in Week 2!

With the exception of the Thursday night opening game between the Giants and the Redskins, no team has played a regular-season down yet. One look at the injury report would have you thinking otherwise, though, as it already appears to be in midseason form. What is a fantasy owner to do?

Injuries always play a major part in fantasy football. They can take a team that looked like a winner on draft day and turn it into a cellar dweller. But smart management of injured players can be the difference in taking a team to the league championship. To that end, I will be talking NFL injuries every week right here at ESPN Fantasy. Saturday's report will provide the latest updates on key players whose status might be in jeopardy for that week's game, Monday's report will have quick updates on the injuries sustained during the previous day's games and Wednesday's file will have more detailed injury information to help you make those valuable waiver-wire pickups.

The players in the Saturday blogs will be listed with the official NFL injury report status -- Probable (P), Questionable (Q) or Doubtful (D) -- next to their names.

Antonio Gates
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesAntonio Gates should play, but he'll likely be limited by a toe injury.
Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers (P): It appears Gates will indeed take the field Sunday when the Chargers face the Panthers. How much time he will see and how effective he can be are the big unknowns. Despite full participation in practice this week, Gates himself referred to his surgically repaired toe as "tricky," according to The San Diego Union-Tribune, and essentially said it will be a matter of seeing what the toe allows him to do Sunday.

Gates has been recovering from offseason toe surgery to repair a torn plantar plate (fibrous tissue underneath the ball of the foot) after dislocating his toe in a wild-card playoff game in January. He gamely toughed it out and played in the Chargers' subsequent playoff games, but the toe clearly was a problem. It's just a toe, right? Well, imagine how challenging it was for Gates to push off, pivot and jump. When healthy, the big toe has significant mobility to allow the foot to move up and forward when running and jumping. This movement stresses the soft tissue (ligaments in particular) that protects the joint at the ball of the foot.

Regaining that mobility and a tolerance for pushing his full body weight off such a small surface area have been the main challenges for Gates after this surgery. It is a long, slow recovery, and Gates' frustration with the up-and-down nature of how he feels has been apparent at times. The key for Gates to have a full recovery is not to overdo it too soon and to rest the toe when necessary. Consequently, his appearance on the field Sunday might be restricted to protect him for the long haul.

Willis McGahee, RB, Ravens (P): McGahee is expected to play Sunday when the Ravens host the Bengals, but fantasy owners beware: He might not start. ESPN's John Clayton is reporting that the decision on whether to start McGahee will be made at game time and might depend on how McGahee is feeling that morning.

McGahee underwent an arthroscopic procedure in August on his left knee, the same knee in which he tore three of the four primary stabilizing ligaments (ACL, MCL, PCL) in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. It is not uncommon to have a subsequent procedure on a previously reconstructed knee, and the scope itself is not a major injury concern. But amidst reports that McGahee did not show up to camp in the best physical condition and the challenges of learning a new Cam Cameron offense with only limited reps in practice, it is not surprising that McGahee's overall readiness is in question. Rookie Ray Rice has looked strong in camp, and the Ravens will not hesitate to use him. From an injury perspective, McGahee does not present a long-term concern, but his productivity this week might suffer a bit as a result of the combination of the above factors.

Jamal Lewis
Diamond Images/Getty ImagesThe dreaded hamstring injury has hit Jamal Lewis this season.
Jamal Lewis, RB, Browns (Q): Lewis has been hampered by a hamstring strain suffered just two and a half weeks ago, hence the "questionable" designation, but Clayton says Lewis expects to play. Watch for updates just before game time, as his status might also depend on how he feels warming up.

Lewis sat out practice for a week following the injury. He returned in the middle of this week but only on a limited basis. The worry with muscle strains, hamstrings in particular, is always the same: If the athlete comes back too soon, the injury can worsen and end up more debilitating than it otherwise would have been. There always is a delicate balance between getting back to full speed in a game and protecting the area long enough to prevent reinjury. Unfortunately, there is no magic way to ensure the injury is fully healed before a player returns, and much of the decision is based on how the athlete feels. If Lewis is able to perform Sunday without incident, he might be out of the woods. It would not be a surprise, however, if his power, and perhaps his playing time, were limited this time out.

Ryan Grant, RB, Packers (P): Speaking of hamstring injuries, Grant has been sidelined with one for the majority of the preseason. The Packers have indicated they expect him to play and believe he can carry a full load if necessary.

The concern for Grant's injury is similar to the concern for Lewis'. Grant's problematic hamstring lingered throughout camp, limiting him to just one preseason snap. He was able to fully practice Thursday, which is a good sign, but he did not practice Friday, a decision the Packers are calling precautionary. With a less-than-healthy offensive line in Green Bay and a strong Minnesota run defense, Grant might have a tough time getting going Monday night.

Reggie Brown
Drew Hallowell /Getty ImagesEven when he gets healthy, we're concerned Reggie Brown might not be able to stay healthy.
Reggie Brown, WR, Eagles (D): The "doubtful" tag says it all. Brown is not expected to play in the Eagles' season opener as a result of, you guessed it, a problematic hamstring. Brown missed most of training camp and the preseason between this hamstring injury and a prior Achilles tendon strain. Is there a reason to be concerned about his overall durability? Perhaps. When an athlete suffers a series of soft tissue injuries, it raises the specter of potential physical endurance issues. The Eagles already are without the services of wide receiver Kevin Curtis, who underwent sports hernia surgery and likely won't return before October. Now Brown is out, at least for this week. Expect rookie DeSean Jackson to see more action than initially planned, but he will get help from Philly's many other receiving threats, including a now-healthy L.J. Smith.

Joey Galloway, WR, Buccaneers (Q): He had offseason shoulder surgery, but his shoulder is fine. It's the groin injury Galloway suffered prior to camp that limited him throughout the preseason. Although his status is questionable, he is expected to play, according to Clayton. All signs on the Bucs' Web Site point to him playing, and Galloway himself has indicated he will be ready to go. Yes, he was limited in practice all week, but he is turning 37 in November, and the way to protect a "maturing" receiver is to limit his reps. Galloway might get nicked up intermittently, but he is a tough athlete who has shown the willingness to play through injuries. Plus, he has a stellar history against the Saints. Barring a surprise pregame setback, expect Galloway to be on the field and productive Sunday.

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D.J. Hackett, WR, Panthers (P): A high-ankle sprain kept him off the field for 10 games last in 2007 while he was with the Seahawks, and a toe injury kept him out of practice most of the preseason with his new team. Consequently, Hackett might be under the proverbial fantasy radar. But he has been practicing fully since midweek, and his toe appears to be much improved. With Steve Smith out due to suspension, Hackett is expected to line up opposite Muhsin Muhammad as a starting receiver for the Panthers on Sunday. Yes, they are playing the Chargers, but Hackett is a playmaker, and quarterback Jake Delhomme, returning nicely from Tommy John surgery, might be looking for that deep threat to surprise the Chargers. Hackett is no doubt eager to overcome the reputation of being injury prone, which developed over his four years with the Seahawks. This will be his first chance to showcase his talent in Carolina, and I expect him to make the most of it.

Editor's note: The text below was added Saturday evening.

Benjamin Watson, TE, Patriots (D): Watson's designation of doubtful is probably the most meaningful information we will get from the notoriously secretive Patriots. They are required to list the affected body part on the NFL injury report, so we know it is Watson's knee that is ailing him, but we don't know much else. Expect him to sit and David Thomas to start in his place.

Watson is a talented tight end, but injuries have forced him to miss games in the past. Last year he was troubled by an ankle problem and played only 12 games. Watson underwent ankle surgery in March and indicated that it felt good during training camp, and now this. He is productive when he plays, but fantasy owners will have to put up with intermittent missed time and limited information about his status.


Javon Walker, WR, Raiders (Q): Despite the "questionable" designation, it appears Walker will play Monday night for his new team. Walker, who strained his left hamstring Monday and was limited in practice early in the week, was able to go full speed Saturday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Per the Chronicle, coach Lane Kiffin called Walker's practice performance "impressive."

Walker has had his share of challenges in the past year. He had knee surgery last October on his previously repaired right knee and was never quite able to get it going in 2007. Then, in June, Walker was assaulted in Las Vegas and suffered a concussion and facial injuries. His recent health history made him a big question mark coming into the season, and the recent hamstring strain didn't help. From the sounds of it, though, Walker has impressed his new coach recently, and barring any last-minute setbacks Monday, Walker will start against his former team. This is his chance to show that he is past the injuries, and he has the talent to warrant being a regular starter for the Raiders.



This is a list of key fantasy players, not including those who have been moved to the Injured Reserve list, who are officially listed as "Out" for Week 1.

Jerry Porter, WR, Jaguars: Porter is still recovering from surgery in July to repair a torn hamstring tendon. The good news is that he was a full participant in practice for the early part of this week. But as the Florida Times-Union reports, coach Jack Del Rio would like Porter to get two weeks of practice under his belt prior to game action. That said, no definitive timetable has been set for his return. We will definitely keep an eye on his practice activity next week.

Deion Branch, WR, Seahawks: Branch tore his ACL at the very end of the 2007 season -- he had the surgery in late January -- placing his timetable to return a little past this point in the season. The Seattle Times reports that he is still not participating in 11-on-11 drills in practice. Given his limited practice status, it would be surprising for him to face contact anytime soon. We will update his status when it looks like he is nearing a return.

Bobby Engram, WR, Seahawks: Engram fractured a bone in his shoulder in the preseason, opening the door for Nate Burleson to be a scoring machine. Engram is hopeful to return in late September or early October, depending on how he heals. Stay tuned.

Kevin Curtis, WR, Eagles: Curtis had surgery August 21 to repair a sports hernia, which normally requires at least six to eight weeks to return to form. is reporting that Eagles general manager Tom Heckert says Curtis feels "great" and is "ahead of schedule," already doing some light running. While that is encouraging news, Curtis still has a ways to go to be in game shape. Do not count on Curtis before October, but we will be monitoring his progress.

Ryan Torain, RB, Broncos: If you haven't heard of him and he's still available in your league, make a note to yourself now to get him later when no one is looking. Coach Mike Shanahan sang his praises in Broncos camp, and he looked to be challenging Selvin Young and Andre Hall on the Broncos' depth chart. Unfortunately, Torain suffered a dislocated elbow and some ligament damage in August, and the injury required surgery that will cause him to be sidelined for approximately three months. But keep an eye on his status; he could sneak his way into the lineup when he returns.

Be sure to check our site Sunday morning for all kinds of pre-game information. I will be chatting from 10-11 am ET, and our fantasy experts will continue to chat with you up until kickoff. We also will post the inactives -- and injured players who are active, for that matter -- as they are reported. For the latest lineup advice, be sure to come to Sunday from noon-1 pm ET and tune in to Fantasy Football Now. We will discuss the latest player rankings, the weather, injury updates and answer your questions live up until kickoff. Good luck in Week 1 and may your roster stay healthy!

All is not well in Kansas City

November, 21, 2007

Things are really starting to shake up. Real football now takes place on Thursdays, in addition to Sundays and Mondays. Fantasy football playoff qualifiers are being determined and every week means potential elimination for some unlucky owners. In other news, the sun continues to rise and set every day and the Patriots are still winning.

With regards to the injuries, here's what we know so far heading into Week 12.

Due to the upcoming Thanksgiving Day games, the layout is a bit different this week. Key players involved in Thursday's games are listed first, followed by the Sunday/Monday crowd.

Thanksgiving Day

Green Bay at Detroit

Ryan Grant, RB, Packers Grant reportedly has a mild ankle sprain (likely Grade I, which means minimal structural damage). He is being held out of practice early in the week to rest the ankle with the expectation that he will play this Thursday.

Kevin Jones, RB, Lions: Jones is dealing with some soreness in his surgically repaired foot, and the thought was that he would be limited somewhat in his activity Sunday, in anticipation of a short week. According to coach Rod Marinelli, Jones emerged from Sunday's game "fine" and is expected to play Thursday.

Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions: Johnson will also play, although the Lions acknowledge that his action has been somewhat limited due to his still ailing back. Marinelli told The Detroit News that Johnson's back is one factor in determining how much he is utilized but indicated that the Lions' offensive schemes, which sometimes call for Johnson to play a decoy role, are another. If Johnson were 100 percent, he would be more involved, according to quarterback Jon Kitna. Johnson made a nice leaping catch in the end zone Sunday, and I was watching in particular to see how he looked getting up after landing on his back. He stood up without hesitation, which was a good sign. At times he appears a bit less acrobatic in some of his catches, still lifting his sizeable 6-foot-5 frame over defenders, but perhaps without quite the same separation we saw early in the season, suggesting that his power is a bit limited because of the lingering soreness and stiffness. As time goes on, those things will continue to improve, barring any setback, and Johnson will likely find himself becoming a more frequent target.

New York (Jets) at Dallas:

Laveranues Coles, WR, Jets: The Newark Star-Ledger reports that the Jets' star receiver sustained a high left ankle sprain Sunday and is unlikely to play on Thanksgiving Day. The Star-Ledger cites an unnamed source who spoke with Coles after the game. The Jets are not very revealing when it comes to injuries so we may not get confirmation from the team that it is, in fact, a high ankle sprain. Assuming that is the case, however, we know that these tend to be a bit slower to resolve than a typical lateral ankle sprain. One thing to point out is that Coles did attempt to return to the game last week after the initial injury, meaning it did not appear severe when tested on the sideline, which should translate to a quicker return time. Coles is tough; he missed his first start in more than three years just three weeks ago when he was sidelined with a concussion. If the injury is mild, he could return in Week 13, but until the Jets initiate Week 13 practice, we probably won't hear anything more. He is a good candidate to keep on your fantasy roster because he very well could return within another week or two.

Patrick Crayton, Cowboys: Crayton sprained his ankle during the first quarter of Sunday's game, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Crayton managed to finish the game, indicating that the injury could not have been too severe. It was bad enough to keep Crayton out of practice Tuesday and to cause Wade Phillips to say that Crayton might miss Thursday's game. He is expected to be a game-time decision so be sure to check the inactives Thursday.

Colts at Falcons

Marvin Harrison, WR, Colts: His still-inflamed knee is expected to cause him to miss the Thanksgiving Day game, and he won't have Aaron Moorehead to back him up. Moorehead was placed on injured reserve by the Colts after experiencing a flare-up of a chronic back problem last week. According to coach Tony Dungy, Anthony Gonzalez, who has been out with a hand injury, will likely be back in the lineup. Harrison is being projected to perhaps return in Week 13, but whenever the timing is dependent on the resolution of swelling, especially swelling that has been lingering for nearly six weeks, understand that the reliability of the projection is questionable.

Byron Leftwich, QB, Falcons: Leftwich returned to play Sunday after being out following ankle surgery. His ankle seemed solid yet his performance was anything but, and Joey Harrington replaced him in the third quarter. Apparently, Leftwich also suffered a tailbone injury during the game and has not been able to practice. Harrington will get the start over Leftwich on Thanksgiving Day.


Running Backs

Larry Johnson, Chiefs: reports that Johnson traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina to meet with Dr. Robert Anderson, the same physician who performed Kevin Jones' surgery, for an evaluation of his foot. The report states that Johnson has a Lisfranc injury and that the main question was whether Johnson would require surgery to repair the condition. The Chiefs have not issued any formal statement as to the exact nature of Johnson's condition, other than that he is dealing with a midfoot sprain. Last Thursday, the Kansas City Star reported that Johnson said he expected to return this season. Johnson described all of the rehabilitation he has been doing, and without disclosing any specifics about the injury itself, remarked that the swelling had been severe initially but pointed out that he was now walking without a boot. On Monday the Kansas City Star quoted Chiefs president Carl Peterson as saying "If a patient doesn't want medical information out there, then (the doctor) is obligated, as we are, under the rules of HIPAA, of not going into detail." This statement clearly suggests that it is Johnson himself who is requesting that the organization keep the details surrounding his injury confidential, as he has the right to do. Peterson went on to say that the Chiefs would only report what was required by the NFL and that they would continue to evaluate Johnson on a week-to-week basis.

So what are the takeaways from this?

  1. We don't really know the severity of the injury. There has been speculation that Johnson has a fracture in his foot. That has neither been confirmed nor denied publicly by Johnson or the Chiefs. There are a few clues, however, as to how bad this midfoot injury might be. If it were definitely season-ending, the Chiefs would likely have acted by now to move Johnson to injured reserve, so as to open up another spot on the active roster. The Chiefs indicate that Johnson will be evaluated week-to-week, meaning they anticipate progress from week-to-week. Johnson has been seen walking about in a sock, out of the ankle boot, within two weeks of the injury. More severe injuries require a longer period of immobilization (4-6 weeks minimum), with the most severe cases resulting in surgery fairly soon after injury.

  2. Lisfranc injuries are not all created equal. There is a Lisfranc joint complex in the midsection of the foot (the name actually refers to the region of the foot as well as any injury associated with that region). Injuries to this area can be very serious (fracture/dislocation), especially if not properly diagnosed and managed early on, which is why teams become very nervous when they hear this name associated with an injury to one of their athletes. That being said, the injury can be less severe (sprain), requiring less immobilization time and no surgical intervention, which appears to be the case with Johnson. The injuries to the Lions' Kevin Jones, and most recently to the Colts' Dwight Freeney, are of the serious variety, requiring major surgery followed by lengthy rehab. (In Friday's blog we will examine the serious Lisfranc injury in more detail, specifically related to Dwight Freeney and Kevin Jones.)

  3. Keeping Johnson on your fantasy roster is a gamble. You now know why we do not know the specifics related to his time frame at this point. Assuming that the injury is, at best, only a sprain, with no fracture present, it would still likely be two-to-three weeks before Johnson could return, not likely in time to help out your fantasy team much. If you have already made the playoffs and can afford to keep him as an extra on your roster in the event that he returns, then do so. But if you need running-back help in the next few weeks, you should seek that help elsewhere.

Priest Holmes, Chiefs: Keeping it right here in the Chiefs' family, Holmes, who had stepped up his role in Johnson's absence, was shaken up during the second half of Sunday's game. There have since been reports that Holmes re-injured his neck, which coach Herm Edwards confirmed to ESPN's John Clayton, although he gave no detail as to the severity of the injury. Holmes reportedly has been visiting with medical specialists and conferring with family members and is scheduled for a Wednesday press conference. There has been speculation that he will announce his retirement, but the Chiefs have not confirmed that. Holmes originally suffered a concussion and a bruised spinal cord back in October, 2005. There was doubt at that time that Holmes would ever play football again, but after rehabbing extensively and working his way back towards football shape, Holmes made a comeback, albeit a brief one, in October of this year. While his efforts were admirable in terms of both his physical conditioning and mental resolve, there was always some concern about the potential consequences of another head or neck injury. It looks as if we may be seeing the end of a fabulous career. With teammate Larry Johnson out indefinitely, it looks as if rookie Kolby Smith may be forced into starting duties.

Ahman Green, Texans: Green continues to struggle with ongoing inflammation in his knee and there is no timetable for his return. Despite the efforts of coach Gary Kubiak to limit Green's practice during the week in order to save him for the weekend, Green's knee has prevented him from taking the field for the last few weeks. As ESPN's John Clayton reported, the Texans at this point are considering shutting Green down for the remainder of the season. If he is on your fantasy team, you should be searching for a replacement.

Selvin Young, Broncos: Young left Monday night's game with a "knee issue" according to the Denver Post. He did manage to return briefly, however, and the team says he is "fine." Practice reports this week will tell us if that really is the case.

Adrian Peterson, Vikings: According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Peterson (torn LCL) continues with his rehab progress, running on an underwater treadmill for the first time this week, which allows him to condition his cardiovascular system and get his running form back while minimizing joint, and therefore ligament, stresses. Coach Brad Childress has indicated that he does not expect Peterson to return to play this week (which would mark only two weeks since the injury) and the Vikings continue to approach this as a day-to-day situation. Childress did add that Peterson would wear a brace when he returns. Knee braces, although by no means a guarantee against further injury, are more effective at providing medial/lateral stability (more reinforcement for the medial collateral (MCL) and lateral collateral (LCL) ligaments) than rotational stability (ACL). It still remains to be seen what Peterson's true timetable is because he has yet to run on land, which will begin with straight in-line running. He then will have to progress through various drills and ultimately will need to demonstrate control in directional running and cutting (typically late in the progression), not to mention make it through complete practices, before he sees the field. Do not count on his return for another two-to-three weeks, and bear in mind that this is a sliding time scale depending on Peterson's response to each level of activity.

Brandon Jacobs, Giants: We're still not hearing much about the extent of Jacobs' hamstring injury. Jacobs said initially that he did not think it was serious, yet he hopped off the field grabbing his leg. That looked like more than a minor tweak. The New York Post states that coach Tom Coughlin, when asked how Jacobs was doing after undergoing some tests, merely stated "He's sore." If you look at the effect hamstring injuries have had on key fantasy players already this season (Rudi Johnson, Todd Heap), you know to hope for the best but expect the worst. Despite his protestations regarding the seriousness of the injury, expect Jacobs to be out of your lineup for two-to-four weeks, meaning, you may not have him back this fantasy season. Derrick Ward may be moved to action, but keep in mind that he has been out with ankle and groin injuries for several weeks and would be a risky fantasy start. Reuben Droughns and Ahmad Bradshaw are the next two Giants on the running-back depth chart, though the team signed veteran Patrick Pass this week.


Vince Young, Titans: Young suffered a quad contusion (bruise) on Monday night, on the same quad that he strained earlier in the season. In the Tennessean, coach Jeff Fisher said he expects Young to play this Sunday, even if he does not practice the entire week. When Young strained the muscle, he actually tore muscle fibers which had to repair themselves in order for the injury to heal. A contusion is a deep bruise to the muscle, and the main goal in the next few days is for the bruising and local swelling to dissipate, at which point the muscle function should vastly improve. Consequently this injury should not take as long to resolve.

Alex D. Smith, 49ers: Smith will not be returning any time soon. ESPN's Len Pasquarelli reports that Smith visited Dr. James Andrews for a consultation and was told that the shoulder may be in worse shape than at the time of the initial injury. Smith will continue with his rehab efforts (keep in mind that his forearm continues to be a problem as well) for two weeks and will then be re-evaluated. It sounds as if he is ultimately headed for surgery; the question is whether it will be during the season or afterward. To compound Smith's physical problems, he and coach Mike Nolan have exchanged some very public barbs recently, perhaps underlining the general frustration present in San Francisco. There is not a lot to suggest that Smith will be rushing back any time soon, if at all, this season.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Santonio Holmes, Steelers: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says it's a mild high ankle sprain that is affecting Holmes, and he is already listed as doubtful for next Monday night's game against the Dolphins. Even if the sprain is minor, the location (high) makes it a more serious injury. Expect him to miss two-to-four weeks, give or take.

Javon Walker, Broncos: Walker is optimistic, according to the Rocky Mountain News, that he will resume full practice this week and be ready to start Sunday at Chicago. Walker is recovering from an arthroscopic knee surgery on his previously ACL-reconstructed knee and has been progressing nicely. Prior to the surgery, Walker had been dealing with persistent swelling on the back side of his knee. Walker now says that it was a "cyst" in his knee that was causing the problem. Walker is most likely referring to what is called a Baker's cyst, which is a pouch of synovial fluid (the fluid found normally within the knee joint) that collects and forms a cyst-like structure as an extension of the joint capsule, typically on the back side of the knee. The cyst generally forms in response to some irritation within the knee joint itself. Remove the source of the irritation, which ranges from torn meniscus to cartilage flaps or fraying, and the cyst then typically resolves. If that is indeed the scenario, then Walker should be in much better shape for having had the procedure, and should return strong and without fear of further injury.

Don't see your player here? Be sure to check back after Friday practice reports when we check further Week 12 updates. We will also quickly touch on any Thursday game injuries at that time.