Stephania Bell: Vincent Jackson

Andre JohnsonDonald Miralle/Getty ImagesHouston has a great pair of wideouts, as long as Andre Johnson (No. 80) can stay on the field.
Here's a look at some key injuries in the fantasy football world that we'll be following ahead of Week 4 of the NFL season.

C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo Bills (quad): Originally, Spiller's injury was reported as a "knee" issue, but Bills coach Doug Marrone told reporters on Monday that Spiller was dealing with a "quad" injury. Marrone also said of Spiller, "I believe he'll be fine." For his part, Spiller told reporters he wasn't exactly sure how the injury happened, but he knew there was a problem when he was limping. He wanted to try to return in the second half but said he "couldn't get power, explosiveness" off that leg. As he acknowledged, he did not want to put the team in jeopardy if he couldn't perform, and he also needed to protect himself, hence the decision to remain out for the rest of the game. Spiller says he is taking it day by day, and hopes to return Sunday. However, the first true test will come in practice this week.

Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans, (shin): After suffering a concussion in Week 2, Johnson progressed well enough through the week to play in Week 3. Unfortunately, he didn't last the entire game for the second week in a row after suffering a shin bruise in the second quarter. Initial X-rays taken at halftime were negative, and Johnson attempted a return in the second half. His inability to run normally was the deciding factor in his removal for the remainder of the contest. As ESPN.com's Tania Ganguli reported, the coaches spotted it right away, but even Johnson was forced to acknowledge he was not himself.

"I know when I went out there I couldn't play the way I am capable of playing," Johnson said, adding, "You see the film -- I'm limping around out there trying to play."

It's not surprising that Johnson's running was impaired. Any bruising or swelling in the leg area will inhibit the muscles that control the foot and ankle. On Monday, coach Gary Kubiak labeled Johnson as day-to-day, and the Texans are again hopeful that he will progress well through the week and be ready for Sunday.

Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (ribs): Jackson could be seen on the sideline during the third quarter of Sunday's game sitting on the bench with his jersey elevated, a member of the medical staff gently poking and prodding the rib cage and abdominal area. That was our first clue that Jackson was likely dealing with a rib injury, something that was confirmed on Monday. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, a league source indicates the injury is not serious, but Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano said Monday he is unsure of Jackson's availability for Week 4. In the absence of a major injury, this will likely come down to how well Jackson will be able to function in the presence of pain, especially reaching and twisting. Even breathing hard can be painful with a rib injury, potentially making even straight-line running difficult. Expect Jackson to get rest early in the week, with a decision potentially being postponed until closer to game day.

Miles Austin, WR, Dallas Cowboys (hamstring): Austin has now hit the trifecta. This latest episode marks three consecutive seasons of dealing with some form of an injury to his hamstring, although this incident is not believed to be serious. It really is unfortunate, since both Austin and the Cowboys have tried various methods of training and practice regimens to help prevent this type of thing from happening. The fact it has happened anyway reminds us how difficult it is to completely prevent these injuries, especially in an individual who seems to be prone to them.

As far as this particular setback, Austin strained his left hamstring in the third quarter of Sunday's game, but as ESPN.com's Todd Archer reported, the Cowboys do not believe this injury is serious. Head coach Jason Garrett offered this assessment: "We don't think it's a severe hamstring injury, but we'll take his injury day to day and see how he progresses as the week goes on." Whether he returns this week or not, the confidence level in Austin's ability to avoid an exacerbation of a hamstring problem is perhaps at an all-time low.

Terrelle Pryor, QB, Oakland Raiders (concussion): Pryor suffered a concussion late in Monday night's game. As is the case with all players, Pryor will need to progress through a structured protocol before he can be eligible to return. It is worth considering that he has one fewer day to do so, given that his injury occurred on a Monday night. Fantasy owners should consider the possibility that he may be sidelined.

Late Week 16 injury updates

December, 23, 2011
12/23/11
8:24
PM ET


With the majority of NFL matchups taking place on Saturday, there is one fewer day for teams, coaches and, most importantly, fantasy owners to prepare! Never fear, championship contenders. We won't let something as small as a schedule change get in the way of bringing you all the latest information. With the NFL injury reports hot off the presses, here are the players whose status may have you concerned heading into this week's games.

Good luck in Week 16, everyone! May your players stay healthy and win for you.

Quarterbacks

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
Frank Victores/US PresswireBen Roethlisberger likely will play against the Rams only in case of an emergency.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers, ankle (Q): The Steelers have been preparing Charlie Batch all week to face the St. Louis Rams, with Roethlisberger active only in an emergency scenario. This is not a huge surprise, as Roethlisberger is coming off a short week following the Monday night game in which he was clearly limited. With the playoffs forthcoming, the extended rest can only help. It's too soon to say whether the Steelers plan to have him active or not in the final week of the regular season.

Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles, ribs, (P): Vick will probably be on this list through the end of the regular season as his rib injury continues to heal. There's no question, however, that Vick will be the quarterback for the Eagles against the Dallas Cowboys.

Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, right shoulder, (P): Freeman is now at the point where he can play despite the shoulder soreness. He practiced fully this week and will start against the Carolina Panthers.

Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals, head, (Q): Kolb suffered a concussion in Week 14 and has still only returned to limited practice. It's expected that John Skelton will start again.

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams, ankle, (D): Bradford has been struggling with his ankle, saying it feels as if it's "going backwards." Not good. Neither is a doubtful tag. With backup A.J. Feeley already ruled out, it appears recently signed Kellen Clemens will get the start.

Running Backs

Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans, ankle, (Q): Johnson sprained his ankle Sunday and has been gradually increasing his activity throughout the week in an effort to return. While Johnson escaped major structural injury, the ankle has still been sore and could affect his overall performance, particularly with lateral movement and cutting. Johnson returned to limited practice Thursday and Friday and is expected to play, but likely will not be at top form.



Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants, foot, (P): Bradshaw is following the same pattern of limited work during the week and playing on Sunday. Expect him to play again this week.

[+] EnlargeFelix Jones
Douglas Jones/US PresswireThe oft-injured Felix Jones is once again a question mark for fantasy owners.
Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys, hamstring, (Q): Jones hasn't done much ... and that's the worry. Although he has been doing some running on the side, he has not fully tested the hamstring. While the Cowboys hold out hope he'll be available, it's Sammy Morris who has taken all the first-team reps in practice. As another signal the Cowboys want insurance, they promoted running back Chauncey Washington from the practice squad, according to ESPNDallas.com. To complicate matters, this is a late game and the decision will not likely be announced until inactives are due. Even if Jones plays, there has to be some concern about what exactly one can expect in live game conditions.

Michael Bush, Oakland Raiders, shoulder, (Q): Bush has been on the injury report but it seems only logical he would be. After all, there are many other Raiders there to keep him company but, most importantly, he has been the workhorse of the backfield, enduring a physical toll. After he has been limited in practice each day, the questionable tag does raise some eyebrows. The signals out of Oakland all week have been that the Raiders expect to have Bush play, but it will be important to check pregame inactives.

Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos, hamstring, (P): McGahee has been bothered intermittently by the hamstring since hyperextending his knee but the probable tag tells us the Broncos plan to have him on the field. McGahee practiced in full every day, which should also help put fantasy owners' collective minds at ease.



Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions, ankle, (P): Smith's status is an upgrade over last week, indicating the team is feeling far more confident about his ankle. Smith's activity this week was a positive sign, as he was able to practice in full each day. While there's no way to be certain he can get through the game unscathed, this is certainly a better situation than last week.

Roy Helu, Washington Redskins, toe/knee, (Q): Helu downplayed his injuries, but according to The Washington Post, he felt much better after practice Thursday than he did earlier in the week. Despite the questionable tag, it appears Helu will play.



Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars, ankle, (P): His ankle got tangled up during the Week 15 game, but Jones-Drew, one of the most durable and productive running backs this season, was never really in danger of missing the game. He was given fewer reps in practice but participated on a limited basis every day. Jones-Drew is expected to start against Tennessee.

Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals, knee, (Q): After he was listed as probable the past couple of weeks, it's a little concerning that Wells has been downgraded this week to questionable. He did practice daily, but on a limited basis; however, that has been the pattern for some time as the team has been attempting to manage his knee condition. The Arizona Republic reports that Wells is expected to play Saturday, despite the questionable tag.



James Starks, knee/ankle and Brandon Saine, concussion, Green Bay Packers, (P): Starks sat out last week's game to give his ankle some additional rest. It only made sense after Starks struggled for several weeks in a row. This week has gone much better for Starks, who was able to participate fully in practice each day. Saine missed Week 15 with a concussion but returned to limited practice Wednesday, then full practice Thursday and Friday. Both backs are expected to be available along with Ryan Grant. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, there is likely to be a shared workload in place.

Shonn Greene, New York Jets, rib/shoulder, (P): Greene has been on the injury report for a few weeks now and his latest injury (torn tendon in finger) isn't even listed. The probable tag indicates the Jets expect him to play.

Marion Barber, Chicago Bears, calf, (D): Barber is listed as doubtful, meaning there is little doubt that Kahlil Bell will be carrying the load for the Bears on Saturday.

Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints, toe, no designation yet: Ingram is still not practicing, and with the game on Monday night, fantasy owners should avoid him in their lineups.

Wide Receivers

[+] EnlargeA.J. Green
Scott Rovak/US PresswireAfter missing part of last week's game with an injury, A.J. Green appears poised to carry a full load this week.
A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals, shoulder, (P): Knowing that Green comes into this game fresh off a Grade 3 shoulder separation, the probable tag is very encouraging. Green has maintained all along that he would be able to play this weekend, and now it appears all but certain that he will. He was catching passes as early as Tuesday, practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday, and returned to a full practice Friday. If Green lands hard on the recently injured shoulder, it certainly won't feel terrific and he may be challenged to reach directly overhead, but he managed to finish the game last week after suffering the injury. It's hard to imagine it being much worse Saturday.

Steve Johnson, Buffalo Bills, groin, (P): Last Sunday Johnson appeared to aggravate the groin injury that has plagued him throughout the season and was removed from the game as a result. Johnson said he could have re-entered the game and expressed little doubt that he would be back in Week 16. He practiced on a limited basis daily and appears on track to play as usual. It's worth noting that Johnson has performed well this season despite the presence of injury.



Laurent Robinson, Dallas Cowboys, shoulder (Q): Robinson was listed this way last week but we all know he played. Expect him to do the same again after practicing daily.

Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles, hamstring/shoulder (P): Maclin looked better last week than he did the week before and the probable tag tells us the Eagles are confident he'll be out there again. Maclin practiced fully each day and looks to be overcoming the injury.

Mario Manningham, New York Giants, knee, (D): Manningham has managed to play through his knee issue for the last two weeks but it appears he will miss this one. Swelling in the knee has returned, and he did not practice at all this week. Fantasy owners should make other plans.

Nate Washington, Tennessee Titans, ankle, (P): Washington has already shown he can play through the ankle injury, even coming in at far more questionable status. After practicing in full daily, Washington appears good to go against Jacksonville.

Brandon Marshall, Miami Dolphins, knee, (P): Marshall apparently had been dealing with some knee soreness but nothing so serious that he might have to miss this matchup against the New England Patriots. Marshall didn't practice Wednesday but returned to light work Thursday and full practice Friday. Expect him to play.

[+] EnlargeChargers' Vincent Jackson
Kirby Lee/US PRESSWIREA groin injury may keep out Vincent Jackson at the worst time for fantasy owners.
Vincent Jackson, San Diego Chargers, groin, (Q): Jackson did not practice at all this week because of the groin issue, making his Saturday status far less certain. Jackson has played through injuries before, but this time may be different. It seemed like a foregone conclusion earlier in the week that Jackson would go, but Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Jackson's groin has not responded as hoped to treatment during the week. Late game alert.

Wes Welker, knee and Deion Branch, groin, New England Patriots, (Q): Once again the Patriots have roughly half their roster at questionable after limited practice all week. Welker has been at this status for several weeks and has played without incident. Branch, however, missed last week and there is legitimate question as to whether he is ready to return. Branch says he's improving, but the team will make the final decision, just before game time.

Santonio Holmes, New York Jets, hip, (P): Holmes was an addition to the Thursday injury report after being limited in practice, but coach Rex Ryan said the Jets expected him to be ready by Saturday. The probable tag supports that, and fantasy owners can put him in their lineups.

Denarius Moore, Oakland Raiders, foot, (P): Moore was able to make it back last week but didn't do too much. Another week of practice (full practices daily) should have him on track for more action.

OUT


This space is intended for a list of key fantasy players, not including those who have been moved to injured reserve status, who are officially listed as "out" for the upcoming game.

Anquan Boldin, WR, Baltimore Ravens, knee: Boldin underwent knee surgery this week and will miss the remainder of the regular season.

Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay Packers, knee: Jennings suffered a sprained MCL in Week 14 and is likely out for the remainder of the regular season.

[+] EnlargeJake Ballard
Jim Rogash/Getty ImagesJake Ballard won't be able to take advantage of a Jets defense that struggled to stop fellow tight end Brent Celek last week.
Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears, knee: Forte suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain, and the Bears still hope he will be able to return before the regular season is complete, but it is far from certain.

Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears, thumb: The Bears' starting quarterback remains out alongside their starting running back. Cutler is recovering from surgery to repair his broken right thumb.

Darren McFadden, RB, Oakland Raiders, foot: McFadden is still removed from practice but the team still holds out hope he can return at some point. It won't be this week.

Jacoby Ford, WR, Oakland Raiders, foot: Ford has still not been able to practice this week as he recovers from a foot injury.

Jake Ballard, TE, New York Giants, knee: Ballard injured his PCL and, as expected, will miss this week.

Anthony Fasano, TE, Miami Dolphins, head: Fasano was diagnosed with a concussion Thursday, at which point it appeared obvious he would sit out this week. The team made it official Friday.

Be sure to check out Fantasy Football Now on Saturday this week, on ESPN2 at 11:30 a.m. ET and Fantasy Surround on ESPN.com starting at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday for last-minute inactives, rankings, injury impact and more!



Let the games begin! There are no bye teams this week, so there will be a full complement of games. The only fantasy roster substitutions will be because of injury, of which there are plenty, unfortunately. Tonight also marks the first of the Thursday night games, which will run through all but the final week of the regular season. The Oakland Raiders face the San Diego Chargers in a division matchup with plenty of key fantasy players in the mix. Be sure to set those lineups early!

The Raiders will be without running back Darren McFadden, who has yet to resume running since suffering a midfoot sprain in Week 7. According to the Vittorio Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, the Raiders will leave him behind on this trip in the hopes of having him in Week 11 against the Minnesota Vikings. McFadden is still in a walking boot, so he is not close to returning. In the meantime, Michael Bush starts in his place.



Kicker Sebastian Janikowski returned in Week 9 after missing a game with a hamstring injury and kicked a 48-yard field goal. Although there was no word on his status immediately after that game, Janikowski did not practice at all this week. He is listed as questionable, but given that he is the only kicker on the roster headed into Thursday night's game, the plan is clearly for him to play. Still, as if there isn't enough evidence by now, the hamstring is unpredictable. The Raiders have to hope that Janikowski will not suffer any in-game setbacks.

[+] EnlargeMalcom Floyd
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireIt's probably safest for fantasy owners to sit Malcom Floyd for the Thursday night game.
The Chargers are expected to be without wide receiver Malcom Floyd, who apparently aggravated a hip injury in the Week 8 Monday night game. Floyd sat out the Week 9 game just four days ago, has not practiced at all this week and is listed as doubtful. He has a chance to be available (he played once this year already after being listed as doubtful), but clearly he would not be expected to contribute much.



On a positive note, the Chargers will be getting running back Ryan Mathews back after he missed Sunday's game with a groin injury. Mathews, currently listed as probable, was able to return to full practice Tuesday, the heaviest workday for teams playing Thursday.



Wide receiver Vincent Jackson has been contending with a hamstring injury for a number of weeks but has managed to play despite not being at full health. However, on Sunday, Jackson turned in one of his strongest performances of the season and seemed to emerge no worse for the wear. He is expected to play after practicing in full all week and is no longer listed on the injury report.



Meanwhile, tight end Antonio Gates has an all too familiar plantar fascia problem that has plagued him since last season. Recently, however, Gates has been able to play and practice on a fairly consistent basis, albeit in a controlled manner. It appears Gates will play in Thursday night's game, his fourth straight game after missing three weeks earlier in the season.

Quick Hits


• It's admittedly fatiguing reporting repeatedly on the status of Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson, because it seems the story is unchanged. Johnson continues to do some work on his own, primarily running and individual workouts with the rehab staff, but so far, persistent soreness has prevented him from taking that next step and returning to the lineup. Johnson has not practiced, but on Thursday, coach Gary Kubiak said Johnson is "doing extremely well," according to Nick Scurfield of HoustonTexans.com. He suggests if Johnson is able to practice Friday, he could be a game-time decision. It's worth noting that this has also been the case in previous weeks, but he hasn't played.

The Texans have maintained they would not automatically rest Johnson through the bye in Week 11, but the timing is hard to ignore. It has been clear since the date of the procedure that the goal of surgery was to have Johnson avoid dealing with a nagging, chronic injury. It makes sense, then, that he would not return prematurely following the procedure and risk a setback that would yield the same result. While Johnson has looked good running, he has not yet felt like himself. Until he does, he will not return, and again this week, the decision likely will be in Johnson's hands.



New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram returned to limited practice Wednesday, his first since suffering a heel bruise in Week 7. Ingram followed up Wednesday's effort with a Thursday practice, a good sign that he is healing, but perhaps not enough to convince us that he's ready for games. It remains to be seen what he does on Friday but at this point, Ingram's status still appears questionable. Teammate Lance Moore was not in practice Thursday because of a tight hamstring, so keep an eye on what he is able to do Friday.

[+] EnlargeHakeem Nicks
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesHakeem Nicks hopes to get back on the field after missing last week's Patriots game.
• The New York Giants have two big question marks heading into this weekend's big contest against the San Francisco 49ers. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks sat out Week 9 with a hamstring injury but is making progress daily. Nicks ran on the side Wednesday, then followed that up with individual drills Thursday. According to the Newark Star-Ledger, if he continues to feel no aftereffects from these consecutive workouts, he could return to practice Friday and hopefully play Sunday. We know better now that with regard to hamstring injuries, it is too soon to lock Nicks into your lineup, but he is at least headed in the right direction.

Running back Ahmad Bradshaw has a known stress fracture in his foot and has not practiced this week. The criterion for his return revolves around when he can resume running without pain. Until we see him doing just that, it is hard to see him taking to the field.



• The 49ers have an injury concern impacting one of their own key players. Running back Frank Gore sustained an ankle injury in Week 9 and has been limited in practice this week. Gore finished Sunday's game and is expected to suit up again. But Gore was seen favoring his ankle in practice, according to CSN Bay Area, and if it is still bothering him Sunday, Kendall Hunter might see some additional work.

Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones did some increased work Monday to test his recovering left ankle. Jones has not practiced since. His return to rehab instead of the practice field suggests he will sit out his fourth consecutive game.

• Just as receiver Plaxico Burress seems to be getting in a rhythm with his quarterback, his back starts to act up. Last week, Burress entered the game questionable because of back spasms but managed to endure. This week, Burress has not practiced because of his back, but at his age and coming off extended time away from football, he may be awarded a little more recovery time. Stay tuned to see whether he returns to Friday practice.

See you at the injury chat Friday at 11 a.m. and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 10 in the Saturday morning blog!

It turns out Thursday was a good reminder day.

We were reminded that no two injuries, even with the same classification, are identical. Witness the "hamstring strain." So far we have seen a range of missed games for players who have suffered this injury, from zero games missed (Mike Wallace, WR, Steelers) to two games missed (Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans, albeit nonconsecutive) to four games missed and counting (Andre Johnson, WR, Texans), with a surgery involved.

The point is, while an injury might be labeled the same way, technically, on numerous team injury reports, the severity, treatment, recovery time and any number of other factors can be quite different. Perhaps most importantly, the rate at which an individual heals cannot be quantified or predicted with any degree of certainty for any particular injury. There are time ranges for certain types of tissue repair (up to six weeks typically for bone healing, for instance), and therefore there are projection estimates. But there also are variations in treatment. Sometimes there is debate -- yes, debate! -- about whether a particular condition is better managed aggressively with surgery, conservatively with rehabilitation or the hybrid, an initial conservative approach followed by offseason surgery.

On Thursday, Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw and his injured foot reminded us there are many variables that factor into how an injury affects an athlete. Those variables can render the outlook either bleak (Bradshaw out indefinitely because of a cracked bone in his foot, as reported by the Newark Star-Ledger) or promising (Bradshaw's injury is not serious and he should play Sunday, per ESPN's Adam Schefter), depending on how the information is packaged. Typically, much to the dismay of those seeking instant definitive responses on Twitter, it's impossible to determine simply from one strand of information, even if it involves a specific diagnosis, what the expectation for missed time will be.

[+] EnlargeAhmad Bradshaw
Chris Faytok/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireIt's still too early to tell what Ahmad Bradshaw's status is for Week 9.
Technically, both statements regarding Bradshaw could be true. Bradshaw could have a cracked bone, and the injury still could be considered not serious, as in not season- or career-threatening. Bradshaw still could be out indefinitely ... which ultimately could turn out to be three days or three weeks (or more). According to ESPN New York, even Giants coach Tom Coughlin seemed in the dark about the course Bradshaw's care will take and whether surgery will be an option. "I'm not going to speculate on what the doctors are going to decide or say. I don't know," the coach said. For now, the biggest hint Coughlin gave us was that the guys who are practicing will play, and Bradshaw has not yet practiced this week.

Athletes have physically performed with foot fractures in the past. Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones ran at the 2011 NFL combine with a fracture in his fifth metatarsal (incidentally, the same bone Bradshaw had surgically repaired and that appears to be the source of his current discomfort) and went on to have surgery later. Some might recall Jones ran rather well despite the broken bone. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger played last season with what was originally called a sprained foot. The injury was actually a small fracture (also on the fifth metatarsal), and later his injury was described as a broken foot. As in Bradshaw's case, the injury was related to a prior incident. While the word "fracture" sounded ominous and the injury was undoubtedly painful, he never missed time.

The ultimate message is this: No matter what information we might have about an injury, the human body does not subscribe to fantasy football deadlines. And so we continue to suffer as we move closer to Sunday ...

Quick Hits


• It might be another week of waiting for Andre Johnson. This would be his fifth missed game, but he is just one month removed from the surgical procedure to address his torn hamstring. The hope was that he could return in three to four weeks, so it's not as if Johnson is way past the projected timeline, but as Johnson has noted, doctors told him it could take up to six weeks to fully recover (and here you can refer back to the above note on how individuals heal at different rates).

The primary issue is how Johnson feels. Reports suggest he has looked good running when participating in practice, but Johnson still has an awareness of the injured part. The team, wisely, does not want him on the playing field until he is symptom-free. It would be a far worse scenario for him to return only to suffer another injury that could cost him additional time. While his absence is frustrating to fantasy owners -- and no doubt to the Texans and Johnson himself -- imagine how frustrating an early departure to further injury would be. It's worth the wait ... and it looks as if we'll be waiting beyond Week 9. The Texans continue to maintain Johnson is being evaluated on a daily basis and will not "automatically" sit out through their Week 11 bye.

Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden was observed leaving the practice facility on crutches and in a walking boot Wednesday evening. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Raiders coach Hue Jackson indicated the team would consider holding a guy who was "close" to being ready out of Sunday's game, given the Raiders will play again four days later. The Raiders face the San Diego Chargers next Thursday in the first of a series of Thursday night games. Since McFadden is still protecting the foot from bearing weight, he's not in line to run up and down the field by this weekend. His presence in Week 10 isn't looking automatic at this point, either, but there's still time for him to progress.

• Chargers tight end Antonio Gates had a normal practice Wednesday, and that makes it two weeks in a row. It's perhaps more impressive this week since the Chargers played Monday night. Also practicing for the Chargers on Wednesday was running back Mike Tolbert, who was held out Monday because of a strained hamstring. It's a good thing he's looking healthy, because teammate Ryan Mathews has not practiced since injuring his groin Monday night, and it's looking as if he will miss Week 9. Emerging running back Curtis Brinkley suffered a concussion Monday night, and he does not look as if he'll be available, either. Receiver Vincent Jackson did not practice Wednesday, but so far this season, he has missed more midweek practices than he has made. At least it seems that way. Still, he returned to practice Thursday and has played each week, so it's tough to imagine him missing this one. Malcom Floyd didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday, either, but after racking up 100 receiving yards Monday night after coming off a hip injury, you could say he earned some rest. If Floyd doesn't return Friday, it's time to start getting nervous.

[+] EnlargePeyton Hillis
Kyle Terada/US PresswireGood news: Peyton Hillis was back at practice Thursday.
&#8226 Alert, alert: good fantasy news! There's so much gloom among fantasy owners contending with injured players, it's nice to be able to insert something positive in this blog once in a while. Just when Peyton Hillis owners were resigning themselves to another week without him, his status took a turn for the better Thursday. Hillis returned to practice Thursday, and according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer (via Twitter), he was in full pads, participated in team drills and looked good. Cabot also quoted Hillis as saying if today were Sunday, he'd play. While this all is very encouraging, we flash back to last week, when Hillis practiced and then was increasingly sore the next day, after which he did not return ... until today. If Hillis can put in back-to-back practices, then fantasy owners and Browns fans can start getting excited.

&#8226 According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, Cardinals running back Beanie Wells has said he expects his knee to be an issue all season. On Sunday, just one week from suffering what the team thought could be a season-ending injury, Wells ran as if nothing was wrong. Yet this week he reminds us it could be a problem all year, and he remained limited in practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday. This appears as if it will be the weekly scenario going forward when it comes to practice. The question is, will Wells' weekly productivity be that consistent?

&#8226 New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram has not practiced at all this week, and the bruised heel that caused him to miss last week's game is likely to keep him out again.

&#8226 Broncos running back Willis McGahee just might be true to his word. McGahee indicated he expected to play in Week 9 after fracturing the fourth metacarpal in his right hand in Week 7. He had a plate and screws put in to stabilize the fracture, but he has been back on the field, practicing with his hand wrapped. The primary issue is gripping the ball. Given the wide grip required to carry a football, it's easier on the recently repaired bone than if, for example, McGahee needed to close his hand around a baseball, which requires more motion in the hand. That's not to say it will be comfortable, but pain is something McGahee can potentially overcome. If the medical staff is confident the hand can be adequately protected and McGahee can carry/protect/block to the satisfaction of his coaches, he has a decent chance of being in the lineup Sunday.

&#8226 The aforementioned Julio Jones is set to return from his hamstring injury this week. Jones missed two games, then entered a well-timed bye week. He has been practicing all week and is expected to play Sunday.

&#8226 As if the Bradshaw situation weren't enough, the Giants could be without starting wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who strained his hamstring Sunday. Nicks has not yet practiced, but he also has a history of going right up to game day before a decision on his status is made. The Giants did not appear overly concerned about the severity of the injury, but they certainly don't want it to take a turn for the worse. Expect this to possibly come down to pregame warm-ups.

&#8226 Cincinnati Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham hasn't practiced this week after sitting out Week 8. Gresham felt his hamstring tighten up in pregame warm-ups, and the decision was made to hold him out. Apparently it's more than just a pregame issue; things aren't looking good for Gresham's chance of suiting up in Week 9.

&#8226 And finally, expect Cowboys running back Felix Jones to miss this week's game. It would have been early to expect him to return from the high ankle sprain he suffered in Week 6, and he hasn't practiced at all this week. More DeMarco Murray!

See you at my injury chat Friday at 11 a.m. ET, and I'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 9 in my Saturday morning blog.


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

Quarterbacks

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

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

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

Running Backs

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

Wide Receivers

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

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

Quick Hits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



Never a dull moment in the world of injuries. Whose health could impact your fantasy roster this week?

Quarterbacks

[+] EnlargeSam Bradford
Jeff Curry/Getty ImagesSam Bradford may not be able to take advantage of newly acquired wideout Brandon Lloyd this week.
Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams: Coach Steve Spagnuolo told reporters Bradford suffered a high ankle sprain Sunday, and Bradford has been wearing a protective boot on that left leg since. Wednesday, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that Bradford will not test his ankle until Friday. According to ESPN.com, Bradford is expected to start Sunday, despite the injury, "because although mobility would be compromised, the plant leg is not affected." While it's true that the injured ankle is on Bradford's front leg, as he noted, "Obviously, I have to be able to drop back. I have to be able to have some mobility where I'm not just standing back there." Mobility is important for Bradford to function effectively and protect himself. Quarterbacks are more at risk in the pocket, and if Bradford were to get tackled with his left foot planted, it could easily aggravate the injury, turning what appears to be a mild high ankle sprain into something more serious. No doubt all these factors will be taken into consideration when the team evaluates what Bradford can do Friday and before a final determination about his status for Sunday is made. Don't consider him a lock just yet.

Running Backs

Peyton Hillis, Cleveland Browns: Hillis was still not practicing Wednesday because of his injured left hamstring. Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported via Twitter that Hillis would do pool running Thursday (this allows him to practice running gait in water resistance with less impact) and noted the Browns are calling him day-to-day. It will be interesting to see if Hillis can practice at all Friday, which would certainly hint more at his availability Sunday. At the very least, it's reasonable to expect Hillis will not be at full strength by the time the weekend rolls around, suggesting that even if he is active, he's likely to share the workload with Montario Hardesty.

Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions: The Lions haven't said much about Best's condition since he suffered a concussion last Sunday, but their roster moves may be saying a little more. ESPN.com reported James Davis was signed to the practice squad, while Keiland Williams and Maurice Morris split reps in practice. The Lions had acquired Ronnie Brown from the Eagles for Jerome Harrison, but that trade was voided Wednesday after Harrison failed his physical (ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Harrison has a brain tumor). The Lions have been challenged by injury at the running back position since rookie Mikel Leshoure went down in the preseason with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Best has now suffered his third concussion in two years; the first caused him to miss the last four games of his final season at Cal and the second occurred during this preseason. There is much that remains unknown when it comes to concussions, but it is no secret that returning to play before the brain has completely recovered places the athlete at greater risk for subsequent and potentially more severe injury. While there's no way of knowing when Best will return, it appears highly unlikely he will be on the field in Week 7.



Wide Receivers

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons: Jones was not in practice Wednesday, but according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, coach Mike Smith has not yet ruled him out for Sunday. Smith acknowledged that Jones would likely try to push himself to return but will leave the decision-making to the medical staff. The Falcons do have a bye in Week 8, and while that alone would not drive the decision to sit Jones, it certainly could help sway in the direction of rest if there is any question as to his health. There should be clearer indications by Friday as to whether Jones will indeed miss another week.

Tight Ends

[+] EnlargeAntonio Gates
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesAntonio Gates hasn't had a catch since Week 1 against the Vikings.
Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers: For a couple of weeks, we have heard rumblings that Gates was targeting a Week 7 return, and the signs are still pointing in that direction. Gates practiced Monday and participated in an official limited workout Wednesday. The hope is that he will continue to increase his activity and be available Sunday. Gates has stayed away from guaranteeing that he'll play Sunday, understanding first-hand that his condition has the ability to flare up at any time. Even if he does return, there is no way of knowing how he will respond to his first game action in more than a month. Gates has expressed hope that once he returns he could stay "active," but he has also learned from experience that this will be an ongoing management issue. For fantasy owners, it appears Gates will be in line to suit up Sunday, but you will want to check Sunday morning to be sure.

More news:


• The bye week looks to have helped a lot of other Chargers dealing with injuries. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who had a hamstring injury heading into Week 5, did not return to practice Wednesday but is expected to return Thursday and play Sunday. Jackson has been playing through abdominal and hamstring injuries and has been largely productive. The hope is there will be no setbacks and Jackson's health will continue to improve. On the running back front, Mike Tolbert and Ryan Mathews were back in practice Wednesday. Tolbert (concussion) and Mathews (calf) are expected to play Sunday.

LeGarrette Blount may have traveled across the pond to London with his Tampa Bay Buccaneers teammates, but he is not practicing with them. The Bucs still have not said much about Blount and his injured knee (reported to be an MCL sprain) but his action, or lack thereof, says plenty about his not being ready to return. Indications are that Earnest Graham will again start in Blount's place.



Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson is making progress with his activity but is not yet back in practice. The Houston Chronicle reports coach Gary Kubiak has not ruled Johnson out for Sunday's game but he acknowledges Johnson still has a ways to go to return to action. According to Kubiak, Johnson is "right on schedule," running routes and catching some passes. Earlier in the week, Johnson noted there was still some weakness in the leg, which is perfectly reasonable, considering it has been exactly two weeks since his surgical procedure to address the torn hamstring tendon. Johnson's comment that he had been told at the time of the procedure it could take "six weeks at most" to recover set off alarm bells, but it's important to look at Johnson's entire statement. He also noted that he felt like he would be ready sooner and that he was making progress. The key for Johnson, beyond the immediate healing of the area following surgery, is returning to normal strength so as not to risk a subsequent injury in another part of the hamstring. Based on his current activity, it's looking like a Week 8 return is possible, which would be consistent with early projections following his procedure.

[+] EnlargeAndre Johnson
Brett Davis/US PresswireAndre Johnson is making progress from his hamstring injury but it's tough to rely on him in your lineup this week.
• Johnson's teammate, quarterback Matt Schaub, is a bit beat up but is still expected to play. Schaub has a sore chest, hip and knee and has been held to limited practice to allow his body some recovery. He is still expected to start this week at Tennessee but will need to try to avoid incurring additional physical abuse.

Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Mike Wallace is another star receiver dealing with a strained hamstring. Wallace's injury was referred to as minor from the start, but his absence from Wednesday's practice had many wondering whether he could make it back for Sunday. There seems to be little concern that Wallace will be able to play, but fantasy owners should keep an eye on his practice participation over the next two days.

Miami Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas seemed to emerge just fine from Monday night's game. Wednesday, Thomas was kept to a limited practice, understandable given the recent injury and the late game. Thomas told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that he thinks he could handle a bigger workload, and he may have to. Teammate Reggie Bush did not practice Wednesday, not because of the neck injury that caused him to exit the Monday night game early but because of a groin injury suffered in Week 2, according to the Palm Beach Post. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall also sat out Wednesday practice with a sore quad. Bush and Marshall practiced Thursday, however, so another effort on Friday should secure their status for Sunday.

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen did not practice Wednesday because of a turf toe ailment, although by all accounts it looks to be a mild case. Coach Ron Rivera told the Gaston Gazette the team wanted to let it "calm down a little bit" but that he expected Olsen to return Thursday. If Olsen practices without issue the next two days, it should not affect him Sunday.

Indianapolis Colts running back Joseph Addai strained his right hamstring in Week 5 and has not yet returned to practice. Addai is not expected to play Sunday night against the New Orleans Saints.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson has been doing perhaps better than expected since suffering a pectoral strain in Week 5, but that doesn't mean he'll be under center on Sunday. Charlie Whitehurst has been taking the first team reps thus far, and coach Pete Carroll told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the team was preparing for Whitehurst to start. Jackson's activity does indicate, however, that his return may not be far off.

See you at the injury chat Friday at 11 a.m., and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 7 in the Saturday morning blog!



Fantasy rosters are already challenged with bye week rotations and mounting injuries around the league. That didn't stop the injury toll from rising in Week 6, with some players sustaining their second major injuries of the season, and we're only one-third of the way through.



[+] EnlargeJason Campbell
AP Photo/Ben MargotJason Campbell was hoping to return in six weeks from his broken collarbone, but the trade for Carson Palmer probably seals his fate for this year.
The biggest news is the fractured collarbone suffered by Oakland Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell. While Campbell's injury is significant, perhaps more so is the deal to acquire Carson Palmer from the Cincinnati Bengals. Campbell underwent surgery Monday to repair the fracture and was hoping for a possible return in six weeks. Such a timeline would presume full healing and a full return to normal throwing, a lofty ambition and certainly far from guaranteed. By acquiring Palmer, it appears the Raiders are indeed moving forward with the goal of "trying to win now." At least that was coach Hue Jackson's response to the question of whether Campbell would be placed on injured reserve, according to Vittorio Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle. If Palmer helps the Raiders continue to move forward without missing a beat, Campbell will have all the time he needs to recover.

Week 6 also marked a first with two coaches suffering major injuries during a game (there's a reason players recovering from injury are not immediately cleared to be on the sidelines). New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton was in the path of his own tight end, Jimmy Graham, as Graham was being tackled, and Payton took a shot to his left knee. The injury, a tibial plateau fracture with concurrent soft tissue damage, required surgery, and Payton will be non-weight-bearing for nearly two months. He'll be undergoing his own lengthy rehab well beyond the regular season. Across the field during the same game in which Payton was injured, Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistant coach Jimmy Lake ruptured his patellar tendon while jumping up to celebrate an interception made by one of his defensive backs. Not a quick rehab on that front, either. Neither will be on the sidelines in the immediate future.

Quick Hits

[+] EnlargeJones
Elsa/Getty ImagesFelix Jones, already dealing with a shoulder injury, sprained his ankle against the Patriots on Sunday.
• The Dallas Cowboys finally had all their top offensive playmakers on the field for the first time since Week 1, but it lasted less than half a game. Running back Felix Jones, who was already nursing a sore shoulder after dislocating it in Week 2, suffered a left high ankle sprain and is expected to be sidelined for several weeks. The Dallas Morning News cites a source as saying Jones is expected to miss between two to four weeks. The reality with high ankle sprains is that the timetable is highly variable, depending in part upon the degree of the injury as well as the demands of the position.



The most serious high ankle sprains with complete ligament tears typically require surgery and are season-ending. The most mild, with no significant ligament damage and no measure of instability, can resolve within a couple of weeks. A key issue is whether there is enough ligamentous injury to cause a widening of the space between the two lower leg bones where they form the roof of the ankle joint. Gapping in that region can lead to chronic instability and arthritic changes. In essence, the area has to be allowed proper healing to allow for normal function of the ankle joint and to prevent long-term issues. The primary stress to that area is full weight bearing (every time the athlete takes a step). Cutting toward the inside can add further strain, but the biggest risk of aggravation comes from another player landing on the foot while the athlete is trying to rotate toward the inside (which is how Jones was injured in the first place). Running backs who have tried to return too quickly have struggled and often suffer setbacks (see the Atlanta Falcons' Michael Turner in 2009). It is impossible to state with certainty how long Jones will be sidelined, but fantasy owners should be prepared for a window that extends into November.

St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford also is nursing an injured ankle. Coach Steve Spagnuolo referred to Bradford's injury as a high ankle sprain when speaking to reporters Monday. Bradford is in a walking boot, and his status is in question for Week 7. While he does not have the same mobility demands as a Felix Jones, he still needs to step into his throws to be effective. Spagnuolo perhaps best summed up how the injury could affect Bradford: "In my experience with the high ankle sprains, you just never know how long they're going to take. Fortunately, it's not the plant foot, so that helps a little bit. But my limited knowledge about throwing the football quarterback-wise is, it is from the bottom up. So you still need your legs and ankles to throw the ball effectively." Truth. The quarterback also needs them to protect himself from sustaining further injury. Don't be surprised if Bradford is out.



[+] EnlargePeyton Hillis
Kyle Terada/US PresswireIs Peyton Hillis the latest player to suffer the Madden Curse?
Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis is the latest fantasy starter to suffer a hamstring injury. Or so it seems. According to the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Hillis exited early Sunday after he strained his hamstring by overextending his leg on the Browns' second drive of the game. Hillis ultimately came out in the second quarter and remained out for much of the game (no injury announcement was made by the team until the third quarter, adding to the confusion about his absence), yet tried to return in the fourth quarter to try to help his struggling team. A bit puzzling to be sure, but according to Hillis, he felt like he had to do something. He quickly realized he couldn't play. Hillis told the Plain-Dealer, "Yeah, it probably wasn't the smartest thing to do," hoping he had not made the injury worse. So far there is no indication as to what the Browns expect from Hillis this Sunday, but the good news is that the injury is not severe enough for the team to rule him out at this stage. We'll see whether he can get any practice time in this week, but fantasy owners should prepare for his potential absence.

Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best suffered his second concussion of the year Sunday (his first came during the preseason). Coach Jim Schwartz said Best's symptoms did not appear until after the game, not an entirely unusual occurrence. While the Lions have not ruled out Best for Week 7, he will have to go through the same routine (resolution of symptoms, return to baseline of neurocognitive testing, return to exercise without a return of symptoms, clearance by an independent neurological consultant to return to play) before he can take the field. We could see more of Maurice Morris or potentially Ronnie Brown, whom the Lions acquired Tuesday for Jerome Harrison.

• The San Diego Chargers had Mike Tolbert (concussion), Ryan Mathews (calf) and Antonio Gates (foot) back in practice Monday, but no one is declaring game status just yet. Vincent Jackson was not in practice early in the week but hopes to return by Wednesday, according to Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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

Keep close eye on injured Steelers

October, 6, 2011
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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.



Week 4 continued to provide thrills, drama and, naturally, injuries. Where, oh where, to begin?

[+] EnlargeAndre Johnson
Brett Davis/US PresswireAndre Johnson is likely out this week, and probably for a few more games.
How about starting with one of the few wide receivers who rated a first-round draft pick in most fantasy leagues? Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson was running Sunday, and then all of a sudden, he wasn't. He went from vertical to face-down in a split-second, untouched.



While many thought he had suffered a knee ligament injury, in actuality, it didn't really have the look of a Wes Welker-like ACL/MCL injury, in which the athlete plants and changes direction, and the knee wobbles and fails. This had the look of failure, as in the sudden failure of a major muscle/tendon unit that just stops a runner midstride. The Texans are reporting that Johnson suffered a hamstring strain and that he is seeking additional opinions. Nothing more specific has been offered up yet.

Johnson could be seen grabbing the lower part of his hamstring, just above the knee, at the time of his injury, which would suggest that the injury was near the tendinous attachment. Those injuries are often slow to heal because of poorer blood supply to the tendon. As of now, it certainly appears the team will be without Johnson for an extended time; fantasy owners should plan on a replacement (although you can't really "replace" Johnson) who can fill in for multiple weeks.

And now on to the rest of the injury happenings in Week 4.

• The Pittsburgh Steelers will have an expanded injury report this week. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger continues to take a lot of hits and this week it took a toll. Roethlisberger suffered a sprained left foot (Monday tests revealed no fracture). Although it will undoubtedly limit his mobility, he is expected to play Sunday, according to head coach Mike Tomlin. ... Running back Rashard Mendenhall's status is up in the air after he strained a hamstring in Sunday's game. ESPN's Bob Holtzman reports Mendenhall is not likely to do much in practice this week, meaning this could translate to a gametime decision. Isaac Redman is looking like a guy who should be picked up. ... The Steelers also lost linebacker James Harrison for an extended period with a facial fracture. He is expected to undergo surgery this week.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne left the Week 4 contest early with an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder. Henne downplayed the injury initially and despite sporting a sling after the game, he said that he expected to play through it. According to Jeff Darlington of NFL.com, the Dolphins are concerned about a separated shoulder, which could threaten Henne's season. Darlington adds that the team is seeking a second opinion, but if Henne were to be done, this could be the beginning of the Matt Moore era.



[+] EnlargeJackson
AP Photo/Gregory BullVincent Jackson scored a TD last week but then was sidelined again in the second with a leg injury.
San Diego Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson was able to play through an abdominal strain and deliver some of the best visual highlights of the week with his acrobatic catches. It certainly looked as if it wasn't holding him back. But then Jackson exited the game in the second quarter, raising the suspicion he had indeed aggravated the injury. Jackson returned in the second half but on a very limited basis. Later the San Diego Union-Tribune reported the Chargers indicated Jackson had suffered a "leg strain" as the result of compensating for the abdominal issue. Vague and somewhat bizarre. It's not clear what exactly is going on with Jackson just yet, but it does appear the Chargers plan to follow the same plan for him -- very little practice with the hopes of suiting up Sunday -- heading into Week 5.

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Mike Williams suffered a concussion in Week 4 and, as is the case with all NFL players, will have to pass a battery of tests and receive medical clearance before he can return.

New England Patriots running back Danny Woodhead left the game early with a left ankle injury, although there's no indication yet as to whether he'll miss any playing time.

Washington Redskins running back Tim Hightower played second fiddle to Ryan Torain this week, and after the game, head coach Mike Shanahan hinted at a shoulder injury for Hightower, according to the Washington Post. Hmmm. It's hard to know what to expect from the running back committee in Washington, but naturally we will be looking to see who ends up on the injury reports.

Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden continues to impress. Teammate Michael Bush, talented in his own right but often injured, suffered an ankle injury late in Sunday's game. His status for this week is uncertain.

• Best wishes to Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman Eric Foster, who dislocated his right ankle Monday night. Anyone who saw the injury won't soon forget it. He has already undergone surgery and will remain in the hospital for several days before beginning his lengthy rehab process.

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

Good news for Cassel, bad for Rodgers

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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

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

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



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

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

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

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

Matt Cassel undergoes appendectomy

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


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

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

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



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

Quarterbacks

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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

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



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

Running Backs

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



Wide Receivers

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

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

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



Tight Ends

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

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

Other


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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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



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

p>This just in. The New England Patriots are a pretty good team. Just as important for fantasy owners, their key skill position players are pretty healthy too. Enough said. The New York Jets' skill position players are actually fairly healthy. Let's hope that their performance Monday night -- or lack thereof -- didn't cost you a playoff spot.

As we approach fantasy playoff time, every player on your fantasy roster matters. It's not just a question of who's active or not, it's whether that active player can be productive, especially if he's coming off an injury or trying to play through one.



With that in mind, here's who fantasy owners might be concerned about heading into Week 14:

[+] EnlargeBrett Favre
AP Photo/Hannah FoslienA clavicle injury is the latest ailment that threatens Brett Favre's consecutive games streak.
• Why not start with the one player who seems to draw the most attention when he's injured? Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre lasted only a few plays Sunday before exiting with what is being called a sprained sternoclavicular (SC) joint. The SC joint is where the clavicle (collarbone) meets the sternum (breastbone). In other words, the joint is located right at the center of the chest, just below the neck. Because the other end of the clavicle forms the point of the shoulder (acromioclavicular or AC joint), an injury to the SC joint will affect the ability to throw. The SC joint is protected by strong ligaments to help prevent displacement of the clavicle and injuries here are relatively uncommon, but can occur, usually as a result of trauma. In sports, the trauma is either a direct hit to the joint (kick or blow to the chest) or a fall on the shoulder which translates force through the clavicle, injuring the joint. There can be a fracture or break of the clavicle (there was no fracture in Favre's case) or a sprain.

A sprain is any ligament injury, and as with all sprains, the degree of ligament damage determines the severity of the sprain. In Favre's case, we do not know the degree of sprain, so this could range from minor ligament damage to subluxation or displacement resulting from more serious ligament damage. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, coach Leslie Frazier said doctors did not tell him the degree of sprain but did say the injury is "not something that can surgically be attended to." The fact that Favre did not require surgery tells us that it was not the most serious version of a subluxed SC joint (typically where the collarbone is displaced behind the sternum, dangerously encroaching on delicate structures). In the absence of a surgical situation, the standard treatment is rest and ice to help control pain and swelling, perhaps some treatment of the soft tissue in the area which may be in spasm (some of the neck muscles, for instance) and then a lot of wait and see. Sometime a few days of rest will allow the bulk of the pain to resolve, depending on the severity of the injury.

Presuming Favre is medically cleared to play, the main concern will be whether he is able to throw the ball effectively. Doctors can provide pain-relieving injections for the game, but given the location of the injury, there is no external brace or harness that would offer much in the way of support. It's always important, however, to place an athlete's injury in the context of that particular player. Favre has started 297 consecutive games. If he doesn't start this week, do we really expect Favre to start again in two or three weeks? Is his career going to end with him sidelined because of pain (as opposed to not being medically cleared to play), thus fading away into the end of the season? It's a hard scenario to envision. While he may have no choice if the injury is insurmountable, at this point it's too early to bet against him. As far as fantasy owners are concerned, there are better choices at quarterback for Week 14. This could come down to a game-time decision and even if Favre starts, it's always possible that he doesn't finish. This situation is too risky on which to hang fantasy playoff hopes.

• Sticking with the Vikings, running back Adrian Peterson actually seemed to emerge from the game better than when he started it! Three touchdowns and over 100 yards would make anyone feel better, but most importantly, Peterson's ankle reportedly felt no worse after all the work. He should be good to go again this Sunday.

[+] EnlargeRoethlisberger
Rafael Suanes/US PresswireBen Roethlisberger's foot seemed to hold up Sunday, but he emerged from the game with a broken nose.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had his face slightly rearranged Sunday night by Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. As if Roethlisberger's ailing foot wasn't enough, he endured a bloody and broken nose and emerged victorious. Pretty impressive. Roethlisberger underwent surgery Monday to reset his nose and is expected to miss some practice time this week, which probably benefits his right foot as well. The Steelers plan to have him available Sunday.

Carolina Panthers running back Mike Goodson sprained his right AC joint late in the game Sunday. According to the Gaston Gazette, Goodson says he originally injured the shoulder several weeks ago and it was aggravated during a kickoff return by an opponent's direct blow with a helmet. Goodson seems to think the injury is not too severe, but this may have cemented Jonathan Stewart as the primary back going forward.



Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan told reporters Monday that he expects running back Ryan Torain to be in practice this week. Torain actually was listed as a limited participant Friday, but the team was not comfortable returning him to the lineup just yet. Looks like this could be the week he returns, but fantasy owners beware of the dreaded timeshare.

• Another returning running back this week is likely to be the New Orleans Saints' Pierre Thomas, who has not played since injuring his ankle in Week 2. Thomas was far more active in last week's practice than in previous weeks, and the Saints were hinting even then at a Week 14 sighting. The likelihood of his return was confirmed Monday by coach Sean Payton. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Payton says he remains "cautiously optimistic" about Thomas' availability Sunday, adding, " ... I would say based on the way he practiced last week, that there is a lot of optimism he will be involved in this plan." Still, the Saints have shown that they will be cautious with a running back in his first game back (think: Reggie Bush on Thanksgiving Day) and Chris Ivory did enough last week to earn the majority share of carries. Thomas may be decent insurance for fantasy owners to have though in the event something happens to Ivory.

• There were a couple of tight ends added to the injury list Sunday. Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez rolled his left ankle Sunday, which he blamed on the slick surface at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Gonzalez said he wore long cleats because of the surface and they "roll easily." The good news is that he expects to play in Week 14. Meanwhile, Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap strained his hamstring Sunday night and so far the outlook is not too encouraging for this week. Fantasy owners should plan on an alternative.

[+] EnlargeSteve Smith
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonThe Giants' Steve Smith is hoping to return from injury in time for the fantasy playoff push.
• The New York Giants are hoping to get their two injured wide receivers back in the near future. Hakeem Nicks may be available this week depending on whether he can practice in advance. Nicks, who has a healing leg wound following a fasciotomy procedure, is hopeful to return to practice Wednesday. Teammate Steve Smith is recovering from a partial tear of his pectoral muscle. He has missed four games and could miss another, depending how this week goes. Smith hopes to try practicing Wednesday with the goal of seeing some playing time Sunday but knows he would still be limited. In fact, according to the Newark Star-Ledger, Smith says he expects to be uncomfortable for the remainder of the season. The muscle is under strain when being stretched (when the arm is extended to make a catch) and when contracting (as it would with bringing the arm across the body or pushing off) and the goal is to ensure that Smith does not suffer a setback. To that end, he will likely wear a protective harness that limits his motion but will still need to guard against overdoing it.



• The San Diego Chargers continue to be challenged by various injuries. Fantasy owners are eager to hear whether receiver Vincent Jackson will be available, something that won't be known until later in the week. The plan is to test his calf strain with some running in the early part of the week. Meanwhile, Legedu Naanee suffered an apparent setback to his hamstring and is looking doubtful for this weekend. Tight end Antonio Gates continues to have pain but also continues to fight through it. Running back Ryan Mathews was active Sunday but did not get in the game. That's one way to stay healthy.

Seattle Seahawks receiver Mike Williams returned from a foot injury Sunday only to leave the game early with a sprained ankle. The Tacoma News-Tribune reports that it is a first degree sprain (the most minor) and the Seahawks are optimistic that he could be available Sunday. More to come later in the week.

• The Indianapolis Star reports that running back Mike Hart aggravated his ankle injury Sunday. With Joseph Addai appearing still a ways away from returning, expect Donald Brown to start again Thursday night.

• Thursday night should herald the return of one of the Tennessee Titans from injury. Wide receiver Kenny Britt, who has missed time with a serious hamstring strain, is no longer on the injury report. Britt practiced last week but the Titans opted to give him a few more days. The first game back is always a big test for a hamstring injury, but fantasy owners should keep an eye on Britt's performance. If he does well, it could be a good sign for his value throughout the remainder of the fantasy playoffs.



We will continue to update these injuries and others as the week progresses. Check back for the latest injury updates affecting Week 14 on Thursday and Saturday!



My sympathies are with my fellow San Francisco 49ers fans this morning as everyone tries to resolve conflicted feelings of joy over a big Monday night win and sadness from the loss of running back Frank Gore to injury. Gore suffered an apparent right hip fracture and looks to be done for the season. It's an unusual injury to be sure and the details are lacking (such as where exactly the break is), but any fracture is serious and typically requires more than a month to heal, which is about all that is left to the season. Gore, as most people know, is more than just a running back for the 49ers; he represents a significant portion of the offense. Matt Maiocco of Comcast Sports Net Bay Area provided a telling statistic last night: Gore has accounted for 37 percent of the 49ers' total offensive yardage. Think he'll be missed? More than a little, I'd say.

[+] EnlargeFrank Gore
AP Photo/Paul ConnorsFrank Gore finishes the season with 1,305 total yards, five total TDs and 147 fantasy points in standard leagues.
It's worth noting, however, that the fresh legs of Brian Westbrook handled the bulk of the running workload after Gore's injury, making him look like a far more critical acquisition now. Anthony Dixon still found his way into the end zone, but the 49ers saw that Westbrook can provide a spark. Westbrook is no stranger to injury himself, with a history of chronic knee and ankle problems, not to mention the concussion issues that cut his 2009 season short. But the time off -- from fewer games played last season to the paltry five carries he had heading into Monday night's game -- may be a huge benefit now. Westbrook showed that he can still make big plays; whether he can do it for 16 games remains in question. Luckily, the 49ers need Westbrook's productivity for only five more weeks unless, of course, they make the playoffs. After all, they are only one game out of first place in the, ahem, less competitive NFC West. Maybe Westbrook is in your fantasy future after all?

And on that note, here's who else we're talking about in the injury department as we count down to Week 13:

• What would the injury blog be without a section dedicated to the San Diego Chargers? They have dealt with a myriad of injuries on the offensive front, and there appears to be no end in sight. Most notably this week, wide receiver Vincent Jackson was limited to two plays in his 2010 debut before being forced out with a calf injury. And then the conspiracy theories began. Ultimately the questions are just how injured Jackson was and why no one saw it coming. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Chargers confirm that Jackson's injury, a strain of his right calf, is legitimate. The chronology of Jackson's injury began in Friday practice when Jackson reportedly hurt his left calf but did not leave the field. The injury was decidedly not serious, with some suggesting it was more soreness from overdoing it in practice than a true injury. According to the Union-Tribune, Jackson then injured his right calf in pregame warm-ups but attempted to play, obviously unsuccessfully.



With regard to Jackson's status, Coach Norv Turner told the Union-Tribune, "I would think it would probably be hard for him to play this week. Then, after that, it would be on a week-to-week basis." Good thing Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee appear to have emerged relatively unscathed from Sunday's game. Both wide receivers are recovering from hamstring strains.

Perhaps the best news for the Chargers coming out of the Sunday night game was the return of tight end Antonio Gates to the playing field, and the fact that he felt pretty good afterward. According to Turner, Gates felt "better than anticipated," welcome news after his first big test since he tore the plantar fascia in his right foot. Gates did not appear to be moving particularly well early in the game but managed to contribute nonetheless. Considering he was still struggling in practice Thursday, his performance was impressive. While he's not 100 percent, he looks to be able to move forward.

Last but not least, Chargers running back Ryan Mathews has been out for two weeks since aggravating his high ankle sprain. While the Chargers indicate Mathews could be available this week, it remains to be seen whether he can return to practice, a likely precursor to game play.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Peterson
Rafael Suanes/US PresswireAdrian Peterson still had 70 total yards and a touchdown before leaving Sunday's game with an ankle injury.
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has an injured right ankle, which forced him to leave the Week 12 contest early. Interim head coach Leslie Frazier told reporters Monday that Peterson had an MRI which revealed "only" a sprain. Peterson's availability will largely depend on what he is able to do this week. Severe sprains can significantly hamper a running back's mobility, especially laterally, so while there has to be relief that nothing is broken, this injury can still present a challenge for Peterson.



Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young has taken to the social media airwaves again, tweeting that his thumb surgery was a success. Since he's on injured reserve, we'll wait until next year to see how his thumb is faring. Of more immediate concern is who will run the Titans' offense in Week 13. Kerry Collins has been sidelined with a calf strain but appears to be approaching a return. Coach Jeff Fisher indicates that the team will have a better idea of Collins' status late in the week.

• The Pittsburgh Steelers saw their quarterback suffer an injury in Week 12 as well, as Ben Roethlisberger suffered what is being called a foot sprain. ESPN is reporting that Roethlisberger expects to play in Week 13 but likely will wear a protective boot to rest his foot during the week. Coach Mike Tomlin told reporters that they will "see where the week takes us." Roethlisberger has already shown he can perform with limited practice and he never was the most mobile quarterback. So far there is reason to be encouraged about his status.

• The usually quiet Indianapolis Colts have given us a clue about the status of one of their key players for Week 13. According to Phillip Wilson of the Indianapolis Star, general manager Bill Polian said that running back Joseph Addai will need more time before returning. Addai returned to limited practice (noncontact drills only) last week, but his recovery from a nerve injury affecting his left shoulder continues to be slow. Donald Brown likely will be the starter again this week.

[+] EnlargeMike Williams
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesMike Williams had two straight 100-yard games before sitting out Week 12 with a foot injury.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Mike Williams sat out Week 12 because of a foot injury. Williams, who was injured in Week 11, was originally believed to have a serious foot injury that might threaten his season. By late last week, however, the Seahawks were comfortable that the injury was not nearly as bad as feared, but Williams was still not able to be on the field. His status for this week remains uncertain. Coach Pete Carroll told the Tacoma News-Tribune that the medical staff examined Williams "and there wasn't a lot of improvement." The team would like to have him practice by the end of the week if he is to play Sunday.

• Wide receiver Greg Jennings suffered a foot strain in Week 12. The Green Bay Packers' website reports Jennings could miss some practice time this week, but he does not appear in danger of missing playing time. Foot injuries can be problematic for receivers when trying to push off and cut, so the test will come when Jennings tries those maneuvers. Fantasy owners should keep an eye on this one just in case it turns into something bigger.

• The Dallas Cowboys initially sounded as if they expected to be without running back Marion Barber for a couple of weeks because of a calf strain suffered on Thanksgiving. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram is reporting, however, that Barber's calf improved significantly over the weekend. While he still appears likely to miss this week's contest, the Cowboys are calling him day-to-day. Calf strains tend to linger a bit, though, and if Tashard Choice is available, fantasy owners may want to go and get him. He'll be the beneficiary if Barber is down.



We will continue to update these injuries and others as the week progresses. Check back for the latest injury updates affecting Week 13 on Thursday and Saturday!

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