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Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Keep close eye on Big Ben, Barber injuries


In the course of 48 hours, we have learned of three key players whose 2008 season ended almost as quickly as it began. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is going to have season-ending surgery on his left knee. The Patriots have yet to specify the exact nature of his injury, but it likely involves at least one major ligament if surgery is involved. The Seattle Seahawks, who were thin at wide receiver to begin with, lost Nate Burleson to a torn ACL, and he too will undergo reconstructive surgery. Lastly, San Diego Chargers All-Pro linebacker Shawne Merriman had a significant knee injury that was well-documented before his start of the season. Merriman played substantially in Week 1, but apparently the knee issues proved too daunting to overcome. Merriman has now been placed on injured reserve as he too prepares to undergo reconstructive knee surgery.

For all the fantasy owners in mourning over this latest turn of events, don't despair; that's why there's the waiver wire. At least you know these players are done. On the other hand, there are plenty of players who got nicked up this weekend whose status is a little less than certain. Here's what we know so far.

Vince Young
Vince Young likely will miss at least a couple of games with a knee injury.
Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans: Tests have confirmed the initial diagnosis of a medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprain, according to The Tennessean. Early reports suggested that Young could miss two to four weeks, which, for a mild sprain, represents a feasible time frame for a quarterback. Since the lateral mobility demands for a quarterback are less than that for a running back, a quarterback can often return to action a little sooner, wearing a brace for reinforcement. Young plays a physical game, though, and it would be surprising to see him back early, especially considering how much pain he looked to be in at the time of the injury. He was also nursing a sore hamstring heading into Week 1, so he may benefit from extra time to ensure that he is truly healthy before he attempts to return.

The other issues surrounding Young's overall well-being cannot be ignored. Nashville police were searching for Young on Monday night when his family did not know where he was and he did not have his cell phone with him. All ended well, and it turned out that Young was with a friend, but the incident raised the specter of how adversity might be affecting the young quarterback. Young's mother, Felicia Young, told The Tennessean, "It is hard, all he is going through right now. He's hurting inside and out."

If Young is your quarterback, be sure to get a replacement this week. It looks as if the reins have been turned over to Kerry Collins for the immediate future, and there is no guarantee, particularly if Collins does well, that Young automatically assumes his role when he returns.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers: There does not appear to be any major cause for concern here. After all, what sort of football season would it be in Pittsburgh if Big Ben were not getting a bit banged up? Roethlisberger appeared to suffer a leg injury (later called a knee bruise) in the first half and looked to be limping, but returned in the second half, proving it was not serious. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Roethlisberger said his knee was hyperextended on a tackle by Amobi Okoye.

Turns out Roethlisberger also suffered a bruised shoulder in the season opener, thanks to a Mario Williams sack. That injury seemed to be a bigger concern to coach Mike Tomlin, who told the Post-Gazette that he expects Roethlisberger to be limited in practice with the sore shoulder. Other than calling it sore, there has been no particular diagnosis on Roethlisberger's shoulder, which is a good sign. A hard fall on the turf, when it doesn't result in a separated shoulder, can impact the rotator cuff tendons. Any swelling or bruising in the area could affect a thrower's ability to deliver the ball accurately. Rest, ice and some treatment in the training room are no doubt a big part of Roethlisberger's schedule over the next few days. Stay tuned.

Marion Barber
Marion Barber had two scores in Week 1, but his hard rushing style has already resulted in an injury.
Marion Barber, RB, Dallas Cowboys: Team owner Jerry Jones told the (Fort Worth) Star-Telegram that Barber likely will have to play in some pain for a while. I wonder if he's ever had a rib cartilage injury. Hmmm. It hurts just to take a deep breath, much less take a hit from a large human moving at breakneck speed.

That aside, it does sound as if the Cowboys expect Barber to return to practice Wednesday and be ready for Monday night. Despite the optimism, keep an eye on practice reports throughout the week, as this is the type of injury that can linger. It's also possible that Barber may wear added protection for his ribs. The bulkiness of the extra gear can make ballhandling a bit more difficult, so players often prefer not to use it. After Barber practices this week, we should have a better picture of his Monday status.

Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints: Wow, this one was a surprise! Colston apparently suffered a ligament injury to his left thumb during Sunday's game, which ultimately required surgery. The surgery was performed Tuesday, according to The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, and Colston is projected to be out at least a month. Depending on the healing process, the time frame could extend upwards to six to eight weeks. No specifics have been given as to which ligament was damaged, but in all cases, the role of the thumb for a receiver is critical in terms of ballhandling. This is not exactly a position where it would be easy to return wearing a splint or a cast, so expect him to be out closer to six to eight weeks. More catches could be in line for David Patten, Devery Henderson and tight end Jeremy Shockey as a result.

Dallas Clark, TE, Indianapolis Colts: Clark underwent an MRI on his injured right knee, but the specifics have not been made public. According to The Indianapolis Star, general manager Bill Polian said team physicians were "fairly optimistic" about Clark's knee. This is another situation where Clark's practice activity this week should give a better hint as to whether he will be available this weekend. Coach Tony Dungy told the Star that he hopes Clark will be OK, but "if it is going to be a couple of weeks, we'll adjust." It sounds like contingency plans should be made if you're a Clark owner.

Drew Bennett
As if the Rams offense needed any more bad news, Drew Bennett has a fractured foot.
Drew Bennett, WR, St. Louis Rams: Bennett suffered a foot fracture in Sunday's opener and is expected to miss at least a month and probably longer. Fractures take four to six weeks to heal, and then there's the issue of actually being able to run, turn, jump and land on the foot effectively enough to play the receiver position. If Bennett is on your fantasy team, it's probably worth going in a new direction as it will be quite some time before he could potentially contribute. Not to mention the Rams' offense didn't exactly light it up in Week 1. Bennett is likely to be replaced by rookie Keenan Burton, and the Rams just signed veteran Eddie Kennison.

Maurice Morris, RB, Seattle Seahawks: It wasn't enough for the Seahawks to lose a receiver to injury. They also saw one of their running backs exit the game with a knee sprain. Fortunately, Morris' injury was not as serious as Burleson's, but nonetheless he is expected to miss at least two weeks. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Seahawks are hopeful that Morris, Deion Branch (still recovering from a reconstructed left ACL) and Bobby Engram (healing from a fractured shoulder) will all return after Seattle's Week 4 bye. Former Cowboy Julius Jones will get the starting nod at running back in Seattle, at least for the time being.

Jeff Garcia, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Garcia sprained his ankle Sunday but managed to finish the game, tough guy that he is. It does appear that the ankle injury could be problematic, though, since coach Jon Gruden told The Tampa Tribune that Garcia had swelling, and he has been labeled as questionable this week. Garcia was already nursing a calf injury during camp as well as a jammed pinkie finger on his throwing hand. Garcia is known to play through pain, but wasn't altogether effective last Sunday, which may factor into the overall decision on whether to start him.

Fantasy owners beware. We've been down a similar road before. Late last season, Garcia took a shot to the back and was stiff, sat out part of practice, but by the end of the week was assuring everyone that he could play. At the last minute, Gruden scratched him from his start, much to the dismay of Garcia fantasy owners. For his part, Gruden told The Tampa Tribune that he wants to decide who will be under center by Wednesday. (Brian Griese is the backup in Tampa Bay).

Let's see what Garcia actually does in practice this week, but if you own him in your league, secure a replacement just in case.

It's not too late! Leagues are forming and drafting until Sep. 20, with scoring retroactive to Week 1.
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Ahman Green, RB, Houston Texans: Did you really think Green would stay healthy the entire season? He has had a tough time of it over the past year or so. Last year, he was continually challenged with inflammation in his knee that effectively ended his season prematurely. This year he was limited in camp with a groin injury but had recovered enough to suit up for Week 1. The clean bill of health did not last long, however, as Green was forced to the sideline early with an ankle injury. Other than listing him as day-to-day on their official Web site, the Texans have not released the specifics as to the nature of Green's ankle problem.

Rookie Steve Slaton saw increased action as a result and likely will continue along that path. However, according to the Texans' official Web site, they plan to bring in some other running backs for workouts and may also consider bringing up Darius Walker from the practice squad. Could Shaun Alexander show up here? He's certainly made it known that he's available. This could get interesting.

That should get your waiver wires going for the week. Be sure to tune in to my chat Friday at 11 a.m. ET here on ESPN.com as we discuss all things injury-related. Also, my injury blog will update Saturday with the latest injury-report information headed into the Sunday games.