Stephania Bell: Trent Richardson

Adrian PetersonBrace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY SportsAdrian Peterson could be a risky fantasy start this week.

To worry or not to worry?

Several players have what could be classified as “iffy” status heading toward the weekend. Many fantasy owners share a similarly shaky status with regards to playoff brackets. A win or a loss this week could prove to be the deciding factor in their future fortunes. Every player on the roster needs to pull his weight and if he can’t, then as they say, it’s next man up. In an effort to help fantasy owners evaluate just how concerned they should be about several key players, we discuss whether it’s time to worry about finding a replacement for them.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings (groin): Worry ... a little. After last week’s outing, coach Leslie Frazier indicated Peterson’s groin strain impacted his performance. Even Peterson acknowledged the pain bothered him “a lot.” As of Thursday, Peterson still hadn’t practiced. He insists he will play Sunday and, based on his track record, it’s hard to doubt him. The bigger concern would be that he starts the game but does not finish if the groin proves to be problematic. With the Vikings sitting at 2-8 in the NFC North cellar, it would not make sense to risk further injury to Peterson if he appears to be struggling with the injury.

Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona Cardinals (shoulder): Not to worry. Floyd came out and played last week after spraining the AC joint in his right shoulder and put up 193 yards and a touchdown. Limited practices are not a surprise to protect Floyd’s shoulder between games, but expect to see him on the field Sunday.

Trent Richardson, RB, Indianapolis Colts (calf): Worry. If the limited production wasn’t already a concern, add a late-week calf injury to the mix. Richardson popped up on Thursday’s injury report as limited due to the calf. So far there are no indications that he would sit out Sunday’s game against Arizona. But, if teammate Donald Brown’s increased workload and productivity weren’t enough of a threat to Richardson’s value, the presence of a leg injury certainly doesn’t help.

Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers (knee): Not to worry. Despite leaving Sunday’s game early with a knee injury, Allen has put in full practices on consecutive days this week. Combine that with coach Mike McCoy’s vote of confidence in Allen’s playing status at the start of the week and there seems little doubt we will see him against the Chiefs.

Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins (concussion): Start worrying. Granted, Reed’s team does not play until Monday night so Thursday is the first issued practice report. With the extra day, it’s possible Reed will not make an appearance in practice until Friday. Regardless, he will still need to pass all phases of the post-concussion protocol. The more important element is that in order for Reed to take the field Monday, he will need to remain symptom-free until kickoff. Fantasy owners who choose to wait until Monday night will face some risk, although depending on the level of Reed’s activity between now and then, there should be better clues as to how he is progressing.

Julius Thomas, TE, Denver Broncos (knee): Worry. Thomas may have avoided a major injury last Sunday when he appeared to hyperextend his knee, but it doesn’t mean he’s home free. The aftereffects of that brief exaggeration of his knee’s range of motion could leave Thomas with swelling, soreness and stiffness for days. Thomas did not practice Wednesday, which did not come as a surprise. In his return to practice Thursday, Thomas was limited. If he continues to be limited Friday it will raise questions about his status for Sunday. The Broncos play in a night game against the Patriots, so if Thomas comes in as questionable, fantasy owners would need a Sunday night or Monday night backup plan. (And consider that one of those options, Jordan Reed -- whose team plays Monday night -- could be questionable himself.)


It's the final week of the NFL regular season and, well, if you're still playing fantasy football, it's clearly the final week for that too. Championship games in Week 17 are always tricky since some NFL teams may opt to rest their starters. And even if their starters play, they may get pulled halfway through a game if there is no meaningful result associated with the outcome.

While teams may not reveal their respective strategies when it comes to how much playing time their starters will see, the injury reports may yield some clues as to who might be watching from the sidelines.

Players with the biggest question marks heading into Week 17:

Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots (forearm/hip): We haven't heard from the big tight end in a long time as he's been kept to limited practice and away from the media. However, on Wednesday Gronk spoke to reporters and made it clear that the decision as to his playing status remains a medical one. "When the doctors clear me, when the training staff clears me, when I'm medically ready to play and they let me play, I'm sure that's when I'll be out there," said Gronkowski, according to ESPN Boston. Gronkowski has been practicing for nearly two weeks and this Sunday marks the six-week milestone since he fractured his left forearm. He underwent surgery to implant hardware and stabilize the fracture a day later.

The earliest a player would typically be cleared to play following a fracture is around the four-week mark, with six weeks being more common. Still, there are individual differences in healing and individual circumstances to take into account. It is possible that Gronkowski, who will likely be listed as questionable this week -- just as he has been for the last two weeks -- could be activated Sunday. But for now his status remains uncertain.

[+] EnlargeMatt Forte
Mike DiNovo/US PresswireEven if Forte's ankle is healthy enough for him to suit up on Sunday, how much will he play?
Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears (ankle): Forte's right ankle was again aggravated during a game, forcing him to leave last Sunday's contest. After not practicing Wednesday, Forte returned Thursday to a limited session, lending credence to his expectation that he will play on Sunday. Throughout the season, Forte has been remarkably resilient when it comes to playing through his sprained ankle (he has only missed one game). It appears he will play Sunday, barring a setback, but it is also clear after these multiple setbacks that his ankle is not 100 percent. There is a risk that this week could be a short outing for him.

Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, New York Giants (knee/foot): Bradshaw had his usual off day Wednesday but returned to limited practice Thursday, always a good sign for his weekend playing outlook. After injuring his knee in Week 14 and sitting out the following week, Bradshaw was active in Week 16 but was a limited contributor. Part of that may be a result of how the game unfolded; regardless, Bradshaw still touched the ball more than teammate David Wilson. With another week between him and the injury, Bradshaw should be in better form this week and as of now, his chances of suiting up look good.

Quick Hits


Here's one you don't see every day on the injury report: arrhythmia. That's the descriptor next to Arian Foster's name. Foster left last week's game early with an irregular heartbeat, something he experienced in the past, but received medical clearance to return to work this week and has been a full practice participant. Teammate Owen Daniels was out Thursday with tightness in his hamstring, although coach Gary Kubiak said he expects him to play Sunday.

Last week, we noted that running back Adrian Peterson didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday. Peterson openly acknowledged the rest was geared at getting him ready for Sunday. He has already declared his intention of breaking Eric Dickerson's single-season rushing record, so we already know he plans to be on the field -- a lot.

Titans running back Chris Johnson has not practiced this week after spraining his right ankle on Sunday. However, Johnson said that he will play this weekend, telling the Tennessean that he still wants to "go out there and fight." Fantasy owners would appreciate the effort.

Wide receiver Jordy Nelson has been on the injury report for a few weeks due to an ailing hamstring, but his status seems to have taken a turn for the better. Nelson has been a full participant in practice this week and looks as if he could make a return Sunday. Fellow receiver Randall Cobb was limited last week because of a shoulder injury but played Sunday, only to sustain an ankle injury in the process. Cobb participated in limited practice Wednesday but then did not return to the practice field Thursday. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that this was part of the plan, according to coach Mike McCarthy. Cobb went through light work Wednesday then received treatment on the ankle Thursday and will test the ankle Friday for the medical staff to determine whether he can practice. This is one to keep an eye on as Cobb's status may come down to the weekend. Running back Alex Green has been a full participant throughout the week after missing Week 16 with a concussion. If he is active -- which it appears he will be if there is no setback -- there will be a timeshare situation for the Packers at running back.

Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks continues to be limited by his sore knee. Nicks was off Wednesday then did limited work Thursday; however, coach Tom Coughlin said Nicks did not do "a whole lot," according to the Newark Star-Ledger. Nicks has typically played despite being less than 100 percent healthy, but it sounds as if he might not be a lock to go this week. We should know more after Friday's practice.

[+] EnlargeTrent Richardson
Larry French/Getty ImagesRichardson, who has piled up more than 1,300 all-purpose yards and 12 TDs, is uncertain for Sunday with an injured ankle.
Browns running back Trent Richardson injured his left ankle in Week 16. Fortunately, there was no fracture, but Richardson was placed in a walking boot to start the week. Although the injury does not appear to be as serious as Richardson initially feared, he has not practiced this week and his status is uncertain. Thankfully for fantasy owners, coach Pat Shurmur said he will not wait until game time to reveal Richardson's status, according to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. Given the injuries Richardson has dealt with throughout the season -- and given the Browns' non-postseason status -- it makes little sense to risk him.



Despite the fact Falcons receiver Roddy White has not practiced this week, it's hard to get too worked up about his playing status. After all, the week after the injury when his Sunday availability was most questionable, he played. It hardly seems likely that he would miss a game two weeks later due to the same injury. A more reasonable concern, however, would be White's potential playing time, given the Falcons have secured the top spot in their division. Tough call here for fantasy owners as the team is not likely to give away its plan in advance.

Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant (finger) and running backs DeMarco Murray (foot) and Felix Jones (knee) have been full participants in practice throughout the week. With their game against the Redskins not tipping off until Sunday night, fantasy owners can at least feel confident about the status of these three.

This week, the 49ers will be without receiver Mario Manningham, who suffered a brutal season-ending knee injury in Week 16. But will they also be without tight end Vernon Davis? He sustained a concussion last Sunday and did not practice Wednesday. However, Davis received an encouraging boost Thursday when he received medical clearance to resume non-contact activity and returned to limited on-field work, according to CSNBayArea.com. The final step before Sunday will be receiving clearance for contact. If Davis has no recurrence of symptoms after Friday's efforts, his chances of a Sunday return appear promising.



Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin left Sunday's game with a shoulder injury, but according to the Ravens' official website, the diagnosis was a bruise. Though Boldin has been held to limited practice this week, it appears he will be healthy enough to play come Sunday.

Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis appeared on Thursday's injury report as a non-participant due to illness. There is no indication that this poses a threat to his Sunday status, but it will be worth noting whether he returns to practice on Friday. Meanwhile, teammate Mike Nugent has been sharing kicking responsibilities with Josh Brown while dealing with a calf injury. He returned to full practice Wednesday but did not practice Thursday; as a result, the team's kicker status for Sunday is still up in the air.

After putting in a limited practice on Wednesday, Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart (high ankle sprain) did not practice Thursday. Carolina coach Ron Rivera acknowledged that Stewart suffered a setback with his ankle, according to the Charlotte Observer. It has been a gloomy end to an unspectacular season for Stewart, who looks as if he will miss his fifth game in a row.

Running back Pierre Thomas, who appeared on the Saints injury report last week because of his knee, played Sunday and there was no immediate report of a setback. However, this week Thomas has yet to practice, raising some concern as to whether he'll be in the Sunday lineup. Teammate Chris Ivory, who has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury, returned to full practice Wednesday and repeated the effort Thursday. After Friday, we should have a better idea as to who will be healthy enough to play Sunday.

Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew has not played or even practiced since suffering a high ankle sprain three weeks ago. It seems unlikely his status will change this week; however, as has been the custom so far, the Lions are not ruling him out.

Week 16 did not go well for the Steelers. Not only did their season virtually come to an end, but they also lost tight end Heath Miller to a knee injury. Wide receiver Mike Wallace was also reported to have a hamstring injury following the game, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Wallace continues to be listed on the injury report because of a "hip" ailment and has not practiced this week. His status for Sunday remains iffy at best.

Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was limited Wednesday because of a knee injury (he left practice early, according to the Philadelphia Daily News), then did not practice at all on Thursday. There is no reason to trot him out Sunday if the knee is a significant issue. Regardless, Maclin told the Daily News that he would return to practice Friday. Maclin's fantasy owners will have to take a wait-and-see approach this week.

New York jets tight end Dustin Keller is still not practicing and appears very unlikely to return this weekend. Quarterback Greg McElroy was already on the injury report for an abdominal injury, and had a concussion added next to his name on Thursday. He will not play Sunday; as a result, Mark Sanchez will reclaim the starting role.

Jones-Drew leads post-Week 7 injuries

October, 23, 2012
10/23/12
11:43
AM ET


Week 7 is in the books! Another week, another player out for the season. On Monday night, the Detroit Lions lost wide receiver Nate Burleson to a broken leg. Burleson landed awkwardly, then went to the ground and immediately clutched his right leg. Washington Redskins tight end Fred Davis tore his left Achilles early in Sunday's game, and the team wasted no time reaching out to Chris Cooley to replace him. Cooley was a star tight end for the Redskins not so long ago, before his recent injury issues prompted the team to let him go this summer.



Naturally there are other injury situations worth tracking. Here's who we're keeping an eye on heading into Week 8.

Running Backs

[+] EnlargeMaurice Jones-Drew
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezMaurice Jones-Drew will be out at least for Week 8, and maybe more, with a foot injury.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars (foot): Jones-Drew, the perennial picture of health at a position where players are virtually guaranteed to get injured, finally appeared to succumb to the inevitable. After playing in every game last season, Jones-Drew was forced to leave in Week 7 because of injury and may be out for an extended period. Jones-Drew injured his foot almost immediately in Sunday's game, and although he has not been definitively diagnosed with a Lisfranc injury, coach Mike Mularkey would not rule out the possibility. Jones-Drew was seen on the sideline with crutches for the remainder of the game -- not necessarily unusual immediately following a foot injury. Still, the fact they did not want him putting weight on the foot does suggest a somewhat elevated level of concern.



Jones-Drew already has been ruled out for Sunday's game, and Mularkey noted when he spoke with reporters Monday that he could miss extended time. More information should emerge in the coming days, but fantasy owners should plan on a multiweek absence. Rashad Jennings stepped in to replace Jones-Drew and probably will be one of the most popular guys on the waiver wire this week.

Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns (rib): Richardson entered Sunday's game with a right-side rib cartilage injury. Although he was able to practice on a limited basis during the week, the injury made itself known early on and Richardson was essentially benched for the second half. According to The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, coach Pat Shurmur removed Richardson because he "wasn't quite effective," acknowledging the injury likely played a role. Richardson maintains he does not want to sit out and hopes to play this week. The challenge with damage to the rib cartilage is that the tissue is notoriously slow to heal. Many players who suffer this type of injury are dealing with pain that lingers for weeks, although it gradually subsides with rest. Repeated contact can make it more difficult for the pain to resolve. Typically it comes down to how well a player can function in the presence of pain. Richardson saw that firsthand when he tried to go from limited practice to full speed -- his body was not yet ready to cooperate. We'll see how he responds over the course of the week.

Quarterbacks

Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars (shoulder): Gabbert looked to be in significant pain after hurting his left (non-throwing) shoulder and now we might know why. According to ESPN's Ed Werder, Gabbert reportedly suffered a torn labrum and will get a second opinion Tuesday from Dr. James Andrews. There is no word yet as to whether Gabbert will play Sunday.

And we're keeping an eye on

Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints (ankle): Graham did not play Sunday after sustaining an ankle injury in Week 5. The fact that Graham did make it onto the practice field last week is certainly an encouraging sign, and it sounds as if the Saints are optimistic about his progress. According to Mike Triplett of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, interim coach Joe Vitt said they would test Graham on Wednesday and that right now they "feel good" about him.



[+] EnlargeGreg Jennings
AP Photo/David StlukaGreg Jennings has just 12 fantasy points in standard leagues this year because of his injuries.
Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay Packers (groin): Jennings could return to practice at the end of this week, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. First, he will need to test the groin by running, which is slated for Thursday. If all goes well, he could be allowed to progress his activity in practice. These are the logical next steps in what has been a very steady, graded rehab approach for Jennings since aggravating the groin injury earlier this month. Both Jennings and the Packers have said he will not return until he is fully healthy, and it is in both their interests to ensure that to the degree possible. Ultimately, in-game testing is unique in the type of demands it puts on a player, but it certainly appears that Jennings has been guarded against overdoing it thus far. It's too soon to say whether he would be able to return to play this week but a return to practice would signal he is not far off.

Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington Redskins (foot): Last week, we learned the source of Garcon's pain was a sprained capsule (the thicker tissue that covers a joint). This week, there are reports that the damage is more involved. USA Today Sports reports that Garcon is also dealing with a torn tendon, citing a source briefed on the specifics of the injury. The report suggested that Garcon could be held out through the team's bye (Nov. 11). While the news hints at further damage than initially conveyed, it doesn't change the team's approach, which is to have Garcon let the foot rest. The question becomes how much the extended rest will help the condition. Certainly the pain and inflammation should settle down, but one wonders whether it will return when Garcon resumes running and practice activities. Only time will tell. The bottom line for fantasy owners is that it appears it will be several more weeks before Garcon potentially returns.



DeMarco Murray (foot) and Felix Jones (knee), RBs, Dallas Cowboys: Murray missed Week 7 with a foot injury and Jones got the start in his place. Unfortunately, it didn't take long for Jones to exit the field with an injury of his own. On the second play of the game, he injured his neck, but it was deemed to be mild and he later returned. A knee bruise forced Jones to leave the game a second time, and it's not clear whether that will be something that limits him this week. Meanwhile, ESPNDallas.com reports the Cowboys are hopeful Murray can return this week from his sprained left foot. It seems like a quick recovery for a guy who was on crutches and in a boot just last week, but the real test will be at practice, when Murray tests the foot. No word yet as to when that might happen.

Donald Brown, RB, Indianapolis Colts (knee): Brown underwent arthroscopic surgery two weeks ago, and the return timetable indicated two to three weeks. Philip B. Wilson of the Indianapolis Star reported Monday that Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said Brown is close to returning but may not be quite ready for Week 8. Two weeks sounded a bit quick, given that following surgery, even if relatively minor, a key to a successful return is having regained enough muscular strength to protect the joint. It will be interesting to see how much work Brown gets in practice this week.

Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco 49ers (ribs): Gore suffered bruised ribs in the team's Thursday night game and was held out for the final minutes. Their next game is Oct. 29, a Monday night game, and the extra time between games undoubtedly will help. The question then is will Gore's soreness have decreased enough to allow him to play. So far it sounds positive. According to the Sacramento Bee, Gore put in a full practice Monday and expects he will be ready to play in Week 8.

Vincent Brown WR, San Diego Chargers (ankle): Brown suffered a fracture in the preseason and was placed on the new designation of injured reserve/designated to return. He has been largely invisible to the media during his rehab, but the team has insisted that his recovery is on track. However, Wednesday was the first day Brown was eligible to rejoin the team in practice, and he did not. Given Brown's absence and given coach Norv Turner's comments about Brown going "one step at a time" on the team's official website, the earlier hope that Brown could return by Nov. 1 seems to be fading. "He has not been on the field yet. It will be a while before we give you specific timing on when he'll be able to play," Turner said. It's not clear whether Brown has even tried running yet. As of now, it appears he has a ways to go before there is any talk of game action.



After sustaining big injury losses to their vaunted defense in Week 6, the Ravens' mood was somber. That frown turned upside down when linebacker Terrell Suggs, on the physically unable to perform list to start the season following surgery to repair his right Achilles tendon, rejoined the team for practice this week. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports Suggs expects to play Sunday when the Ravens visit the Texans. The biggest question will be whether a visibly heftier Suggs is in adequate "game" shape to take the field. Most athletes returning from this type of injury say it takes them a full year to regain the speed and explosiveness in their surgically repaired leg. It doesn't mean Suggs can't contribute right away -- even if that comes largely in the form of morale boosting initially -- but it does mean he's unlikely to look like the 2011 defensive player of the year out of the gate.

Here's who else we're keeping an eye on in Week 7.

Quarterbacks

[+] EnlargeMathias Kiwanuka
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireFor a scrambling quarterback such as Aaron Rodgers, a leg injury is all the more concerning to fantasy owners.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (calf): Here's a name no fantasy owner wants to see on the list. A draft-day cornerstone for many teams, Rodgers was limited in practice Wednesday by a sore calf, apparently suffered on a running play in Week 6. The good news is Rodgers turned in a full practice Thursday, and it looks as if he fully plans on playing against the Rams this Sunday.

Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings (knee): Ponder has been working through knee discomfort associated with an inflamed bursa for the past couple of weeks. He continues to practice fully and should play again this Sunday.

Running Backs

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (ankle): Peterson's lack of activity during practice might seem worrisome but it sounds as if he and the team are taking a deliberately cautious approach in light of the next two games coming so close together. Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities reports Peterson plans to play Sunday despite not practicing Wednesday or Thursday. Coach Leslie Frazier echoed that statement, describing the rest as precautionary. Still, according to Pelissero, Peterson indicated his ankle is "hurting consistently," not enough to keep him from playing but perhaps enough to keep him from being as explosive as he'd like. It looks as if Peterson will play, and his best chances of being effective come from resting his ankle in the interim.

Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers (Achilles): Mendenhall has been downplaying his Achilles injury ever since it happened in Week 6's Thursday night game, insisting he was removed largely for precautionary reasons, primarily due to his recent return from ACL reconstructive surgery. Still, with Mendenhall not yet practicing this week, it's enough to make fantasy owners nervous. Isaac Redman also sustained an injury (ankle) in Week 6, and he too has yet to practice. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports the Steelers think Mendenhall is closer to playing than Redman, but it would feel much more plausible if we were to see him get some practice reps. While that could happen Friday, it's also possible the Steelers will opt to give him as much rest as possible in advance of Sunday since that might be the best medicine for a sore Achilles. The Steelers do not play until Sunday night, so unless there is some better evidence of Mendenhall's readiness following Friday practice, fantasy owners will need to have a backup plan.

Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns (chest, rib): Richardson has maintained all along that he will be ready to play this weekend. So far he seems to be making good on that promise, participating in practice, although on a limited basis, both Wednesday and Thursday. Expect him to wear some protective padding, as is often the case following rib injuries, but it appears he will be on the field, barring a setback.

Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) and Andre Brown (concussion), New York Giants: Uh-oh. When we see "foot" next to Bradshaw's name on the injury report, it starts dredging up memories of complications over the past two seasons. According to Kieran Darcy of ESPN New York, Bradshaw, who did not practice Wednesday and did only limited work Thursday, said this is not related to his prior stress fracture issues but that he had his foot stepped on in Week 6. Bradshaw also said he's "ready to go," suggesting his availability for Sunday is not in doubt. Meanwhile, Brown is on the mend from his concussion and practiced fully both days this week.

DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys (foot): Owner Jerry Jones already said Murray will miss this week's game in Carolina due to his foot sprain, although he is not yet listed as "out" on the injury report. The expectation is that Felix Jones will get the start. Until Murray returns to practice, there is little to update.

Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts (knee): Brown is still recovering from knee surgery and is not practicing yet. Vick Ballard is expected to start again.

Ben Tate, Houston Texans (toe): Tate continues to be limited by a sore toe, and his status for Sunday is uncertain.

Wide Receivers

[+] EnlargeNicks
Alan Maglaque/US PresswireHakeem Nicks has been frustrating to own this season, with three missed games and two subpar performances, but his Week 3 totals -- 199 yards and a touchdown -- are a reminder of his game-breaking ability.
Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants (foot/knee): Nicks did something this week he hadn't done in a long time -- he put in back-to-back practices Wednesday and Thursday. Granted, he still is being limited in terms of his reps and he does not appear fully recovered from his ailments but this is a big status change for him. At the very least, it suggests his status will be less questionable heading into this week's contest.

Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins (foot): Garcon has not practiced this week. After hearing last week that the plan was for him to take the time to let the foot heal before returning, it certainly looks as if he will be out again this Sunday.

Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers (groin): Jennings still has not practiced this week. His focus has been on rehab and conditioning work, and last week coach Mike McCarthy said Jennings would not test his groin until late this week. We'll see what happens Friday but it's hard to feature Jennings returning in three days.

Jerome Simpson, Minnesota Vikings (back, foot): After being forced to sit out in Week 6 because of weakness in his leg associated with a back injury, Simpson has made big improvements this week. He was a full participant in practice both Wednesday and Thursday, and while it is too soon to dismiss the injury as being totally behind him, his chances of playing Sunday are looking good.

Tight Ends

Rob Gronkowski (hip) and Aaron Hernandez (ankle), New England Patriots: Gronkowski continues to be limited in practice, which doesn't come as a big surprise. He has been playing through what is being termed a hip injury and has not been quite himself on the playing field. Hernandez seemed to get through his first game outing well and returned to limited practice Wednesday. He did not practice Thursday, however, which could be cause for concern or just some proactive rest on the part of the Patriots. Remember, Hernandez did not practice last Friday in advance of Sunday's game, either. That turned out just fine. Expect Gronkowski and Hernandez to both be active Sunday against the Jets.

Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (ankle): The last time we saw Graham, he was in a walking boot following an ankle injury in Week 5. Then the team had a bye week, and there were no updates to offer clues. It wasn't until Wednesday's practice that the first real evidence of how much the ankle is limiting Graham became apparent ... when he did not participate. On Thursday, Graham did make an appearance, practicing on a limited basis. The Saints sound as if they would like to have him available Sunday, even if he remains limited. "You always want to have your best players so we hope we are going to have him," Saints interim coach Aaron Kromer said, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

The Saints have not offered specifics regarding Graham's ankle sprain (what type of sprain or what degree of severity) but it is worth noting that Graham did return to the Week 5 game after the injury. He appeared to be significantly limited for the remainder of the game but he did finish it out. In reviewing video of the injury, as Graham is tackled by Chargers defensive back Marcus Gilchrist, his foot is rotated outward relative to his lower leg. This is a common mechanism associated with a high ankle sprain but the team has not referred to it as such. While high ankle sprains are often associated with a prolonged recovery, it still comes down to how significant the actual tissue damage is. If there is instability and the injury is a high ankle sprain, caution is warranted so as not to lead to chronic degenerative changes in the joint. If the ankle is stable, the athlete can resume play more quickly. It will be worth monitoring how Graham's ankle responds to the Thursday work and whether he can repeat the effort Friday. If he can, it seems the Saints will lean toward having him available, even if his ankle has not fully recovered.

Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers (shoulder): Finley practiced on a limited basis both Wednesday and Thursday because of the same AC joint issue that bothered him last week. Given that he was active last week after not practicing early on, expect him to play again (and hopefully contribute) this week.

Dustin Keller, New York Jets (hamstring): Keller remains on the injury report this week, turning in limited practice Wednesday but bumping up to a full practice Thursday.

And on a final note ...

Six teams (Atlanta, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Philadelphia, San Diego) are on bye this week, which means a lot of fantasy replacements are in order. These players will not appear on this week's official NFL injury reports.

Another week in the books! There were a slew of injuries on the defensive side of the ball in Week 6, with the highest percentage of big names belonging to one particular organization.

The Ravens lost their inspirational leader and team captain, veteran linebacker Ray Lewis, for the season because of a torn triceps. They also lost star cornerback Lardarius Webb to a torn left ACL. Webb tore his right ACL three years ago but successfully returned the following year and had developed into a premier player at his position. The combined loss of Webb and Lewis is difficult enough, but the Ravens also are dealing with a defensive injury up front. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata suffered a sprained MCL on Sunday, but the good news is the Ravens expect to have him available in Week 7. He might be limited in terms of mobility, but his presence on the field will be key, considering the other absences the team is facing.

[+] EnlargeJahvid Best
AP Photo/Rick OsentoskiJahvid Best (concussion) is still not ready to return, but he hasn't given up on doing so.
The Detroit Lions also received some disappointing, although not altogether surprising, news. Running back Jahvid Best, who one year ago suffered a concussion that has kept him out since, has not been cleared to return to play. Best's condition has been monitored by a team of experts in conjunction with the Lions' medical staff, and after he underwent a recent spate of tests, the group consensus was that Best is not ready to return. A statement from Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said, "After today's consultation with medical experts, including representatives from our medical and training staffs, it has been determined that Jahvid will not be permitted to return to play at this time."

According to the Detroit Free Press, Best will not consider retirement yet and maintains a desire to return. The Lions are continuing to support Best, which was reflected later on in Mayhew's statement: "Jahvid will continue to work with our medical and training staffs with the hope that he ultimately will be cleared to return to the playing field." Given the length of time that has passed, however, since Best's most recent injury and his failure to progress beyond his current level of activity, it would appear his chances of returning to football are slim.

Naturally, there are other injury situations worth tracking. Here's who we're keeping an eye on heading into Week 7:

Quarterbacks

Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals (ribs): According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Kolb will be out this week and beyond because of a significant multiple-rib injury, along with a sprained sternoclavicular joint (the same joint Rams receiver Danny Amendola injured). There's no doubt about how painful this injury is. Just breathing is bound to be uncomfortable, and any additional movement makes matters worse. Fortunately for the Cardinals, John Skelton's (ankle) health was improving anyway. He stepped in Sunday after Kolb's injury and looked, well, as if he'd been absent for five weeks. This week Skelton will have the opportunity to get all the practice reps as the team prepares him for a Week 7 start.

Running backs

DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys (foot): According to ESPN's Ed Werder, an MRI confirmed a left foot sprain for Murray, who was injured in the first half of Sunday's game. Murray is currently in a walking boot and on crutches, but Werder reports the Cowboys are saying he did not suffer a Lisfranc injury and will not need surgery. On Tuesday, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones confirmed Murray will miss the team's Week 7 game, as expected, but noted the team was relieved the injury was not more serious.

The team has not specified where in the foot the sprain is or the severity of the injury, other than saying it appears to be nonoperative; that makes it difficult to project with any accuracy just how compromised Murray is. While the news of no immediate need for a procedure is encouraging, it's worth pointing out that last year around this time, fellow running back Darren McFadden suffered what was thought to be a mild foot sprain and ended up missing the remainder of the season. He initially was expected to miss only a week or two, but he never could get to the point of running well on the foot. That's not to say Murray is destined for the same fate, but the point is, foot injuries can be tricky and unpredictable. This is not the same leg Murray injured last season (he suffered a right ankle fracture and high ankle sprain late in 2011, which required surgery and ended his season prematurely).

For now, the team is calling Murray's status week to week, and fantasy owners should plan on a multiple-week absence. Murray, however, is telling teammates he plans to play in Week 8, according to Werder. Let's see him get back on the practice field first before we count on him returning so quickly.

Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns (rib): Richardson left Sunday's game with what was later determined to be a right-side rib cartilage injury. The running back's status is day to day, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. This is the type of injury that usually comes down to whether pain inhibits functionality or not. Richardson has a few days to rest it and see how it responds. While he seemed to express little doubt he'd be available, the team likely will take the wait-and-see approach. Fantasy owners might want to add Montario Hardesty to their rosters as insurance.

Wide receivers

[+] EnlargeBrandon Lloyd
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesBrandon Lloyd ranks 34th among WRs in fantasy scoring this season.
Brandon Lloyd, New England Patriots (shoulder): The Patriots haven't said anything specific about Lloyd yet. He appeared to injure his left shoulder while making a diving play late in Sunday's game, but he did return to play. As ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss observed upon completion of the game, "[Lloyd] goes for tests afterward and walks out of the stadium stone-faced." This will be something to keep an eye on throughout the week.

Mario Manningham, San Francisco 49ers (shoulder): Manningham was listed as a limited participant for the team's Monday practice -- which is an estimation since it was only a walk-through -- because of a shoulder issue. No details were offered by the team. The 49ers play Thursday night, so everything on the injury report becomes relevant, but there is no hint as of now that Manningham's game status is in jeopardy.

And a few more players we're keeping an eye on:

Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints (ankle): Graham was seen wearing a walking boot after the Week 5 game, then the team headed into a bye. Mike Triplett of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Monday that Saints coach Aaron Kromer would have no player updates until Wednesday practice. It's probably a good idea to secure a backup tight end, just in case.

Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington Redskins (foot): The Washington Times reported Garcon is dealing with a sprained capsule (the tissue that surrounds a joint) under his second toe, which is still painful for him when pushing off or trying to run full speed. After watching Garcon try to push through the pain only to have that pain increase, the team has encouraged him to take some time to let it heal. Just how much time that will be is unclear, but it sounds as if it will be at least a couple of weeks.

Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants (knee/foot): Nicks managed to get through Sunday's game without a setback, although he wasn't quite himself. According to ESPN New York, Nicks says he knows the injury will continue to improve. If there are no immediate setbacks, it looks as if he will be available again this week.
Well, the first game of the 2012 NFL regular season is behind us. Given the altered schedule this week, today we'll look at some key players whose status could be in flux in advance of Sunday's games. There are many more players to discuss, and Saturday will mark the return of the sizable pregame injury blog. Saturday's entry will include injury breakdown by position and official designations on the teams' final injury reports.

In the meantime, here are a few players to keep an eye on:

• Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (knee) has made his readiness and his eagerness to return well-known, and on Thursday, Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave told reporters he has "not too much doubt" that Peterson will play. According to Dan Wiederer of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Vikings will determine Peterson's playing status either Friday night or Saturday morning.

Musgrave also indicated to ESPN 1500 Twin Cities that there are a limited number of plays in mind for Peterson. We have maintained all along that the Vikings would likely ease him back into a regular workload, and it appears they plan to do just that. Peterson could be limited to just a few series.

[+] EnlargeMarshawn Lynch
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PresswireMarshawn Lynch is ranked 12th among RBs for Week 1.
• Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is no lock to play this weekend after being sidelined for the past two weeks because of back spasms. With regard to Lynch's status, Seattle coach Pete Carroll told reporters Thursday he "really won't know until the end of the week unless something changes." This is not Lynch's first episode of back spasms, either. He has dealt with something similar on an occasional basis over the past four years; the challenge is not knowing when a flare-up will occur or how long it will last. The Seahawks are making preparations in the event that Lynch cannot play Sunday against Arizona (translation: Robert Turbin would start), but this may come down to a game-time decision.

• Browns first-round pick Trent Richardson is likely to take the field Sunday, although it's unclear how much playing time he will see. Richardson, recovering from his second knee surgery this year, told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer that "... in my mind, I'm ready. I can't wait to see what the results are going to be on Sunday." The Browns have been cautious with their rookie running back in his return to practice and are likely to limit his touches Sunday as well.

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston was out of practice Wednesday because of a sore foot. He returned to limited practice Thursday and appears to be on track to play Sunday.

• Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart has yet to practice since injuring his ankle during the preseason, but don't write him out of the Week 1 game plan just yet. Earlier this week, coach Ron Rivera said he was "encouraged" by Stewart's progress, and indicated the veteran back would travel with the team to Tampa. It's worth noting that despite dealing with foot and ankle issues in the past, Stewart has played in all 16 games three out of the four seasons he has been in the NFL.

• Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson is still having intermittent soreness in the groin area following offseason surgery. It is not uncommon for athletes to experience this, particularly as they ramp up activity. On several occasions during training camp, the team opted to rest Johnson when the soreness cropped up, and the Bills did so again Wednesday, restricting him to "limited" practice. Johnson recently described himself as "90-something percent" recovered according to the Bills' official website, adding, "I only say 90 because no one is really 100 percent unless you haven't been playing at all, but I'm good." Last year Johnson played -- and was productive -- while injured, so it doesn't appear as of now that this is a big threat to his status.

See you at my injury chat Friday at 11 a.m. ET, and I'll have the latest Week 1 injury updates in my Saturday morning blog.

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