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Saturday, December 10, 2011
Updated: December 11, 12:01 PM ET
Injury updates on key fantasy players


Michael Vick
It remains to be seen how effective Michael Vick will be in his return.

Hold on a minute -- what is going on in Southern California? While every other team in the NFL is getting increasingly bruised and battered as the season marches on, the San Diego Chargers are looking remarkably healthy as far as their key offensive weapons are concerned. It took a mere 14 weeks, but there are no Chargers running backs or wide receivers or tight ends on the injury report!

Not only did it look like the Chargers had returned to form in their MNF victory, they also demonstrated sound fantasy football strategy by ensuring their key players would be available for your fantasy playoffs. Nice going, Chargers. You have now created a dilemma for fantasy owners. With all those healthy players, who is going to rack up the fantasy points this week?

Fortunately, or rather unfortunately, most of the other teams have rounded out this week's injury report, forcing some tough fantasy start/sit decisions.

Good luck in Week 14, everyone! May your players stay healthy and win for you.

Quarterbacks

Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles, ribs (P): Vick is going to be back, but will he be back to being Vick-like? That is the big question as the Eagles head to Miami for this week's contest. Vick demonstrated early in the week that he was healthy enough to throw the ball well and put in full practices daily.

But as the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, Vick is conceding that he will now force himself to slide more to avoid contact, yet he doesn't sound completely comfortable with the adjustment. And let's not forget, his rib injury came while he was in the pocket making a throw (when he took a helmet to his side underneath his throwing arm).

Vick is expected to wear familiar protective gear over his still-healing torso, something he did in the past following a rib cartilage injury. What may not be as familiar for him is how he will react to impending contact and how he will finish out a play where he is forced to scramble. While fantasy owners cringe at the potential for lower points, the Eagles are hoping the transition will be smooth and injury-free.

Kyle Orton, Kansas City Chiefs, right finger (D): It took only one play for Orton to be welcomed to his new team with an injury, a dislocated index finger on his throwing hand. Residual discomfort and swelling in the finger have made it difficult for Orton to do much in practice (he has been limited daily), and he is not expected to be available for much, if any, duty on Sunday.

Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, right shoulder (Q): Freeman did not play in Week 13 because of the shoulder but has been back in practice this week, making throws, hinting at his readiness to return. Although Freeman was held to limited work each day, the Buccaneers' website indicates he threw "extensively both Thursday and Friday," and coach Raheem Morris sounded optimistic. Morris said he would like to see how Freeman is on Saturday, but the back-to-back workouts are encouraging.

Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings, hip (Q): Ponder suffered a hip pointer early in Sunday's game against the Broncos but managed to play through it. The deep bruising associated with a hip pointer can lead to inflammation, pain, stiffness and, ultimately, ineffectiveness when attempting to contract some of the hip and abdominal muscles in the region.

Ponder was not in practice Wednesday or Thursday but did manage to take a few reps Friday. As reported by Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com, Ponder thinks he could play but admits he doesn't know how effective he'd be. Honest, but not encouraging. Joe Webb, who took most of the first-team reps this week, may be in line for the start, but we won't know until game time.

Sam Bradford, ankle and A.J. Feeley, right thumb (no designation yet): Bradford suffered a setback with his left ankle and has not been in practice this week. His replacement in Week 13, Feeley, sustained a small fracture in his throwing (right) thumb and cannot yet grip the ball, causing him to miss practice daily. While the Rams don't play until Monday night, it appears Tom Brandstater will get the start after taking snaps with the first team all week.

Running backs

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings, ankle (Q): Peterson isn't 100 percent recovered from his high-ankle sprain; he will openly acknowledge that he cannot cut on his ankle the way he normally would, nor can he run with a normal gait. According to 1500ESPN.com, Peterson still would like to try to play after increasing his workload this week despite lingering soreness in the ankle. After not practicing Wednesday, Peterson put in limited work Thursday and Friday, primarily in the form of individual drills, and coach Leslie Frazier said he was "encouraged."

Peterson is doing what he should: getting treatment, doing the work he can do on the field and lobbying to play. But the barrage of setbacks around the league with players who have returned (apparently too soon) after high-ankle sprains (Sam Bradford, Kevin Smith) should signal caution. Drills are performed in a controlled environment without contact. After all, Smith reportedly looked good cutting and doing cone drills before he returned to game action. But running and cutting at the speed required in a live game combined with the unpredictable nature of the unavoidable contact a running back draws make Peterson's return from this injury risky.

If Peterson does play, he may very well put up nice numbers. Or he may find out that his ankle does not respond as hoped, or, worse yet, he could incur further injury. High-ankle sprains are particularly problematic because they threaten the integrity of the ankle joint itself, and lingering issues here can be career-threatening for a running back. In other words, it would not be a surprise if the Vikings decided to hold out the eager Peterson another week, even if he believes he can play.

Ahmad Bradshaw, foot, and Brandon Jacobs, hamstring, New York Giants (P): Bradshaw got back on the field in Week 13 without a setback. Limited practice during the week will be a likely scenario for him going forward, so the fact that Bradshaw did not show up until Friday is not especially worrisome. Teammate Jacobs was also absent Wednesday and Thursday because of a sore hamstring but returned for limited practice Friday. At probable, both backs are expected to play.

Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions, ankle (Q): Smith suffered a setback when he aggravated his high-ankle sprain in the Week 13 contest and was not in practice Wednesday or Thursday. When he tried to return to practice Friday, he was forced to leave early when, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, he could not cut. Those aren't exactly the signs you want to see heading into a game. It seems highly likely Smith will sit out and Maurice Morris will get the start in his place.

Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons, groin (P): Turner played last week despite the groin injury, and the probable tag suggests he will again. Turner rested Wednesday but returned to limited practice Thursday and Friday without incident.

Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals, knee/thumb/hamstring (P): Why three injuries on this week's report for Beanie? He's been running hard, and the physical toll is making itself known. There really isn't much in the way of news here; Wells has indicated the knee will be a management issue for the remainder of the season, and the thumb and hamstring are just minor additions.

More problematic might be his matchup against a team that has not yet allowed a rushing touchdown this year. The 49ers, however, will be without All-Pro Patrick Willis, so Wells may see some light down that tunnel.

Cedric Benson, Cincinnati Bengals, foot (P): Benson played in Week 13 after being limited early because of his foot. A full practice Friday and a probable tag indicate he will do so again.

Willis McGahee, Denver Broncos, knee (Q): McGahee has been banged up of late between the recent hand surgery, a knee hyperextension that resulted in a hamstring strain and a bout of a flu-like illness last week. McGahee rested his knee because of soreness early in the week but returned to a limited practice Friday. The expectation is that he will play.

Shonn Greene, rib, and LaDainian Tomlinson, knee (P) and Joe McKnight (Q), New York Jets: Greene and Tomlinson practiced fully every day and are expected to play. McKnight, however, is indeed questionable after hyperextending his elbow, and his status will be a game-time decision. With both Greene and Tomlinson in the mix, McKnight doesn't figure to factor in that much anyway, making a fantasy decision about him much easier.

Wide receivers

TBD
Miles Austin has had a hard time staying on the field this season.

Miles Austin, hamstring, and Laurent Robinson, shoulder, WRs, Dallas Cowboys (Q): Austin is on track to make his return Sunday night after missing four games with his second hamstring injury of the season. The Cowboys have benefited from the play of Robinson, allowing Austin an opportunity to gradually recover with less pressure to return. Robinson suffered a mild separated shoulder in Week 13 but finished the game.

This week Robinson did not practice Wednesday or Thursday but returned for a limited workout Friday. According to ESPN Dallas, Robinson says he is "ready to roll" Sunday night against the New York Giants. It appears the Cowboys will have both Austin and Robinson available.

Mario Manningham, New York Giants, knee (P): What a difference a week makes. From doubtful in Week 13 (to out) to probable a week later, Manningham and his knee have made progress. Apparently the problematic swelling is less so this week, as Manningham was able to turn in limited practice sessions daily. Just a week ago Manningham was hinting at an early end to his season and possible surgery. Now, barring a setback, it appears he will be available for the Giants when they face the Cowboys.

This does not mean the knee issues are behind him; it simply means that this week is better than last. There is also the possibility the swelling worsens before game time, so be sure to have insurance with this being a night game on Sunday.

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons, hamstring (P): Jones put in a full practice Friday for the first time in recent memory. Given the probable tag and the positive work week, Jones should be set to go Sunday.

Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles, hamstring (Q): Maclin's questionable tag came down Saturday morning after he was initially listed on Friday's injury report as probable. A Saturday downgrade is never a good sign, especially when the athlete in question had a setback with the same hamstring one week ago that delayed his return. There has to be serious concern about his playing status or his ability to get through an entire game should he be active.

Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings, finger (P): Harvin played last week after dealing with an illness. This week Harvin injured a finger during practice, but it appears to be no threat to his game status. Expect Harvin to play.

Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons, shoulder (P): White spent much of the early part of the season on the injury report because of his knee but never missed a game. Now he is listed there with a shoulder injury, but it doesn't appear to be of much concern, either. White put in full practices Thursday and Friday and, at probable, is expected to play.

Nate Washington, Tennessee Titans, ankle (Q): Washington has had his share of injury issues this year, especially of the hamstring variety. Last Sunday he suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter and, after trying to play through it briefly, left the game after turning it again. This week Washington was unable to practice, and although he remains a game-time decision, there seems to be dwindling hope about his ability to override the injury to play.

Wes Welker, New England Patriots, knee (P): Welker showed up one day with a splint on his wrist but seemed unfazed. Typical Welker. He might have appeared on the injury report for more body parts than any other player this season, but he has not missed a game. The knee report is not new and is not expected to be an issue. He's probable. Expect him to play Sunday.

Chaz Schilens, Oakland Raiders, foot (P): Given the injury-induced lack of depth in the Raiders' receiving corps, seeing Schilens listed as probable is about as encouraging as it gets. Although Schilens did only limited work Thursday and Friday, he is expected to play.

Braylon Edwards, San Francisco 49ers, knee (Q): Edwards has struggled to return to form since undergoing meniscus surgery. He is expected to play this week but may see limited action.

Tight ends

Visanthe Shiancoe, Minnesota Vikings, hand (P): Shiancoe injured his hand in Week 13, and swelling limited his practice early in the week. He returned to full practice Friday, however, and at probable, he is expected to play.

Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts, fibula (Q): Clark could sneak back into the lineup after being away for four games. Clark practiced fully every day this week, and although he is listed as questionable, it's worth noting the Colts tend to list their players who aren't "out" as questionable. Clark has a real shot at playing, but it's also worth remembering how the Colts' offense looks this season.

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.

Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts, neck: Manning remains out after neck surgery. This week team owner Jim Irsay acknowledged what many have suspected for some time now -- he does not expect Manning to play this season.

Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans, hamstring: This announcement does not come as a big surprise given that Johnson suffered his second hamstring injury of the season in unlucky Week 13. This time it was Johnson's left leg that caused him to pull up while running a route, and the injury was reported to be mild. Nonetheless, there is no sense in rushing Johnson back at the risk of a further setback ... to either leg. The Texans hope that this absence remains relatively brief.

Mark Ingram, RB, New Orleans Saints, toe: Ingram was hit with a case of turf toe in Week 13 and did not practice this week. Ingram said early in the week he would do whatever was best to help his team. This week that means he will sit out. Chris Ivory, who has been a healthy inactive for several weeks, will play instead.

Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears, knee: Forte suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain and is expected to miss anywhere from two to six weeks. The Bears hope he will return before the regular season ends, but it is too early to determine whether that will be possible. In the meantime, it's Marion Barber and Kahlil Bell.

Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears, thumb: The Bears' starting quarterback will join their starting running back on the sideline. Cutler is recovering from surgery to repair his broken right thumb.

Darren McFadden, foot, and Taiwan Jones, hamstring, RBs, Oakland Raiders: At this point, McFadden's return is looking anything but certain. What seemingly was a minor midfoot sprain has turned into an extensive absence and many questions. Meanwhile, Taiwan Jones remains out three weeks after injuring his hamstring.

Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore, WRs, Oakland Raiders: Foot problems continue to plague the Raiders at the wide receiver and running back positions. Neither Ford nor Moore was able to practice this week, again. Even Chaz Schilens had a foot injury that kept him out of practice Wednesday, but after returning to limited work Thursday and Friday, he is expected to play. Darrius Heyward-Bey somehow has managed to avoid the injury report ... for now.

James Starks, RB, Green Bay Packers, knee/ankle: Starks has tried to play through his ailments, but after getting forced out of a game early for the third straight week, it was clear the current plan was not working out. Starks will get some more extended rest in the hope that he can get better -- and stay better -- for the playoffs, seeing as the undefeated Packers already know they're headed that route. In the meantime, ground duties will be handled by Ryan Grant and Brandon Saine.

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