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Thursday, October 20, 2011
Updated: October 21, 11:29 AM ET
Gates may return; Best, Bradford uncertain


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

Quarterbacks

Sam Bradford
Sam 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

Antonio Gates
Antonio 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.

Andre Johnson
Andre 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!