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Saturday, September 22, 2012
Injury updates on key fantasy players


Ryan Mathews
Ryan Mathews is expected to make his season debut this week.

Welcome to Week 3, everyone! Hopefully some savvy fantasy players picked up -- and started -- Giants RB Andre Brown and WR Ramses Barden. They filled in quite capably for regular starters RB Ahmad Bradshaw and WR Hakeem Nicks, who sat out Thursday night's game with injuries. Who else will miss this week because of injury? Let's take a look:

Quarterbacks

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints, ankle (P): Brees could be seen limping a bit Sunday after suffering an ankle injury, but he has practiced fully every day and is expected to start against the Chiefs.

Mark Sanchez, New York Jets, back (P): Sanchez is listed on the injury report because of his back, but he practiced daily and is expected to start in Miami.

Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars, glute (P): Joke if you will about a glute (err, hip) injury, but they can be very painful. And they certainly can make it difficult to power off the involved leg and can affect core stability as well as rotational movements. Fortunately for Gabbert, given his position, he should be better able to perform, and his participation in full practice every day suggests it has not been a major issue.

John Skelton, Arizona Cardinals, ankle (Q): It appears Kevin Kolb will again get the start for the Cardinals, but Skelton is making progress. He was able to return to limited practice Thursday and Friday, an encouraging sign but not enough to hand the reins back.

Running backs

Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams, groin (Q): It's a good thing this is a 1 p.m. game because Jackson will be one of the dreaded game-time decisions. We discussed his questionable status Thursday, but his continued absence from practice Friday did nothing to help clarify the situation. Although Jackson is a veteran who can play Sunday without practicing during the week, he also has been known to miss games in the past with similar injuries.

The big concern on the part of Jackson and the Rams will be balancing the desire to have him in the lineup if it appears he can perform with the risk of potentially turning this into a bigger injury. Because the team won't know until it sees him, there's no way for fantasy owners to know for sure whether he'll play -- at least until inactives are announced -- and what to expect from him if he does. Sigh.

Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers, shoulder (Q): After a couple of weeks of "Will he or won't he?" the answer this week is finally "He will." Or at least that's the expectation for Mathews, who, by all accounts -- including coach Norv Turner's -- should play Sunday for the first time this season. According to Michael Gehlken of The San Diego Union-Tribune, Turner said he's confident Mathews will face the Falcons on Sunday, barring a setback.

Mathews broke his clavicle (collarbone) the first time he carried the ball this preseason and has had to watch from the sideline for the first two weeks. He was cleared for contact late last week and, after getting a full week of practice under his belt, Mathews appears ready to turn it loose. The bigger question appears to be just how much work he can be expected to get in his first appearance. Per Gehlken, Turner hinted at a fluid situation Friday, saying the feel of the game and Mathews' response to being in a real game would affect his workload.

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs, knee (P): On Thursday, we indicated Charles looked likely to play this week despite suffering a knee bruise in Week 2. After another full practice Friday and a "probable" tag, Charles appears to be right on track to play against the Saints.

Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns, knee (P): It's safe to say Richardson continues to progress after he notched more than 100 yards on the ground in Week 2. He also picked up 36 yards on four receptions. Perhaps most importantly, there were no reports of any problems with his knee after the substantial uptick in work. Richardson remains on the injury report but was a full participant in practice each day. He is expected to start when the Browns host the Bills on Sunday.

Chris "Beanie" Wells, knee (P) and Ryan Williams, knee (P), Arizona Cardinals: Wells isn't off the injury report just yet, but he did practice fully each day and is expected to play. Williams also practiced daily but was kept to limited work early in the week. Both should be available against the Eagles.

Jonathan Dwyer, toe (P), Pittsburgh Steelers: Dwyer's practice pattern was the same this week as last. He was out Wednesday but was back in full practice Thursday and Friday. With Mendenhall already ruled out, Dwyer is expected to again share work with Isaac Redman as the Steelers visit the Raiders.

Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins, concussion (P): After missing the first two weeks with a head injury, Thomas was able to practice fully every day this week and is expected to play, although how much work he will get is unclear.

Rashad Jennings, Jacksonville Jaguars, knee (D): Although Jennings' status is an upgrade over being listed as "out" last week, he is still not expected to play. Jennings only returned to limited practice on Friday. We'll see whether he is able to increase his work throughout next week.

Shane Vereen, New England Patriots, foot (Q): Vereen continues to be limited in practice. If he does play, he will remain behind Stevan Ridley.

Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks, back (no designation yet): Lynch continues to be listed on the injury report because of his back but has played in both games so far this season. He was limited Thursday but a full participant Friday. It appears he is on track to play again Monday night.

Wide receivers

Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions, ankle (P): Johnson did not practice Wednesday to rest a sore ankle. He practiced on a limited basis Thursday and fully on Friday. As usual, he is expected to play.

DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles, hamstring (P): Although his teammate Jeremy Maclin has gone downhill and is already ruled out of Sunday's game, Jackson's status is trending upward. After limited practice Wednesday, Jackson returned to full practice Thursday and Friday and is expected to start in Arizona.

Pierre Garcon
Pierre Garcon's status for Sunday remains very unclear.

Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins, foot (D): There is little encouraging news here. Garcon was listed as a participant in practice every day, but only to a limited degree. On Thursday, we noted coach Mike Shanahan's comment suggesting that Garcon's foot was bothering him more than the team had hoped. Perhaps the biggest signal that there has been little, if any, progress is the "doubtful" tag next to Garcon's name. Translation: There is less than a 25 percent chance he'll play.

Marques Colston, foot (Q) and Devery Henderson, concussion (P), New Orleans Saints: Colston was limited in practice all week, and Saints interim coach Aaron Kromer suggested that the injury was affecting his in-game speed. Colston does not often miss games, and the lighter practices might have been designed to help rest his foot a bit. Still, it will be important to confirm his status before kickoff.

The Saints also should have Henderson back in the lineup after a concussion suffered in Week 1 forced him out last week. Henderson was a full participant in practice each day and is expected to play.

Julio Jones, thigh and Roddy White, knee, Atlanta Falcons (P): On Thursday, we noted that the limited practices early in the week for these two were designed to give them some rest. They both returned to full practice Friday and, at "probable," both are expected to play.

Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers, groin (P): Wallace's groin ailment doesn't appear to be serious. He was given Wednesday off but practiced fully Thursday and Friday. The Steelers expect to have him on the field against the Raiders at full capacity.

Austin Collie, Indianapolis Colts, head (P): We have seen Collie participate fully on an intermittent basis but never before (at least never since this season began) three consecutive days in a row. This is definitely a significant improvement, and the team's designation of him as probable signals that it expects to have him in the lineup Sunday.

Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys, hamstring (P): Once again, Austin has been listed as a full participant in practice every day. He will be on the field against the Buccaneers.

Sidney Rice, Seattle Seahawks, knee (P): He's on the report with a new ailment this week (sore knee) but, after a couple of days of rest, Rice was back in practice Friday. The "probable" tag indicates the Seahawks are confident he will play against the Cowboys.

Brandon Stokley, Denver Broncos, shoulder (P): Stokley is listed here with a shoulder injury but practiced in full every day this week, even after a Monday night game. He is expected to play when the Broncos host the Texans.

Brandon Lloyd, New England Patriots, thigh (Q): In typical Patriots fashion, there has been very little information released regarding Lloyd's status or even specifically what the injury is. (Is it the front of his thigh? The back of his thigh? Some part of the thigh we haven't thought of?) The Patriots often allow their questionable players, of which there are usually many (10 this week), to attempt some level of warming up or work pregame. The problem for fantasy owners is this game is not until Sunday night. If Lloyd is on your roster, you'd better have a backup plan in place.

Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers, groin (Q): See Brandon Lloyd. In the case of Jennings, the waiting game is even worse because the Packers don't play until Monday night. It's quite possible there won't be a decision beforehand. Earlier in the week, coach Mike McCarthy did not sound positive at all about Jennings' status. Jennings then returned to limited practice Friday and told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that, although he knows he won't be 100 percent, he expects to play Monday night. "I'm not going to sit here and act like it's 100 percent, but it feels really good," Jennings said. "Right now, in my mind I'm up [active on game day]. I'm ready to go."

Jennings might not have the final say, and we certainly would feel much better if the Packers were saying he definitely would play. Although the team is encouraged by Jennings' improvements late in the week, Green Bay will wait until testing him Monday before making any official determination. The risks for fantasy players are obvious: Monday night game with a player who acknowledges he will be at less than full capacity. But are they worth the potential reward if he manages to produce? There's no way around it; this is a difficult call.

Tight ends

Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers, ribs (P): This week seems to have gone much better than last for Gates. There was less rib soreness, a return to full practice Thursday and Friday, and an upgrade to probable status. Those are all good signs for fantasy owners.

Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys, abdomen (P): Witten continues to practice daily and will be in the lineup again Sunday. His conditioning is only improving with every passing week.

Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers, abdomen (P): Miller's rib cartilage injury seemed to be a bigger concern earlier in the week, but his return to full practice Friday and a "probable" tag indicate he is expected to play.

Out

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

Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears, ankle: Not surprisingly, Forte is out this week after not practicing at all.

Aaron Hernandez, TE, New England Patriots, ankle: Hernandez is out this week and likely several more with his injured ankle.

Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills, knee: Jackson continues to make good progress in his workouts but isn't yet practicing with the team. He remains out this week.

Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers, knee: Mendenhall ratcheted up his activity in full pads work, but it's not surprising the Steelers are keeping him out for another week. They have a bye coming in Week 4. There's a good chance we'll see Mendenhall make his debut in Week 5.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles, hip: Maclin tried to practice a bit Thursday, but it didn't go too well. He did not practice Friday and was ruled out for Week 3.

Dustin Keller, TE, New York Jets, hamstring: Keller has been trying to progress past his hamstring injury since hurting it in the Jets' final preseason game, and it has been slow going. This week, Keller did not practice Wednesday and has been able to do only limited work since. He did not travel to Miami after being ruled out Saturday.

Be sure to check out "Fantasy Football Now" at 11 a.m. ET this Sunday on ESPN2 for last-minute inactives, rankings, injury impact and more!