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Thursday, November 1, 2012
Murray doubtful, Mendenhall uncertain


It's baaack. The dreaded hamstring strain is making its presence felt across the league this week, especially among fantasy owners who are trying to gauge whether a player will suit up and, if they do, just how safe of a play they will be.

To be fair, hamstring strains never really left. On any given Sunday (or Monday or Thursday -- as the Chargers are well aware this week), an injured hamstring can sideline any player, from a speedy wide receiver to a stalwart lineman.

It's never clear how long the recovery from a hamstring injury will take. It might be referred to as a "cramp" or a "tweak," and the player ends up missing virtually no time. It can also be labeled as fairly serious from the outset, something often associated with the word "moderate," which implies that the athlete will be forced to miss at least a few weeks or perhaps more than a month. Or it can be a "mild strain," the most annoying form of the injury when it comes to predictability, as it's just enough to force a missed week or two but minor enough to yield overconfidence on the part of a player who could potentially make a premature return to action.

That early return is accompanied by the risk of a setback that results in a more severe injury, something no player, team, fan or fantasy owner wants to see. Factor in the timing of the injury relative to the rest of the season -- and the relative health of the other members of his team -- and it can directly or indirectly impact that player's status.

Here are several players nursing hamstring injuries this week:

Jordy Nelson
With Greg Jennings out indefinitely, the Packers are hoping Jordy Nelson returns this week from his hamstring injury.

Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers: He has already missed one game after the hamstring "tightened up" in practice last week, and he hasn't practiced since. While coach Mike McCarthy said Nelson was "close" last week, it remains to be seen how he responds to the planned test Friday. His status is uncertain.

Percy Harvin, WR, Minnesota Vikings: Despite receiving treatment for his hamstring for several weeks, Harvin has played -- and played well -- through it all. He was absent from practice Thursday, so there was initially some concern that the injury had taken a turn for the worse. However, coach Leslie Frazier later said his absence was due to a "family issue" and that he expects Harvin to play Sunday, according to 1500espn.com.

Ben Tate, RB, Houston Texans: His hamstring has kept him out of practice all week and coach Gary Kubiak indicated Monday that he expected Tate to miss some time. No word on what qualifies as "some time," but it appears likely that Tate will miss Week 9.

Kevin Ogletree, WR, Dallas Cowboys: Ogletree has been less of a factor with Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten featured in the Cowboys' passing game. Still, Bryant has a hip that's bothering him and Ogletree's absence all week due to a hamstring injury means he might not be available to fill in, if needed.

Owen Daniels, TE, Houston Texans: Daniels was added to the injury report Thursday, something we prefer not to see. He's had hamstring injuries in the past, so this is worth monitoring Friday to see if it threatens his Sunday status.

Here's who else we're keeping an eye on in Week 9:

Running Backs

Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles), Jonathan Dwyer (quad) and Isaac Redman (ankle), Pittsburgh Steelers: On Tuesday, we outlined the injury concerns facing the trio of Steelers running backs. As of Thursday, everyone is practicing in some capacity: Dwyer did not practice Wednesday but returned to a limited workout Thursday, as expected; Mendenhall was kept to limited work Wednesday and Thursday, an improvement over not practicing the last two weeks; and Redman returned to full practice Wednesday and repeated the effort Thursday, making him appear to be the healthiest of the three, at least for the moment.

If the Steelers have all three RBs to choose from, how much playing time does each one get? The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Dwyer and Redman are in agreement that Mendenhall should retain his starting status when healthy, regardless of what they are able to do in his absence. It's also worth noting that even if all three backs are healthy enough to be active, it doesn't mean that any one of them has recovered to the point of being able to carry a full load. It would make sense that the Steelers -- who have been cautious with their running backs in terms of health -- would not activate them if they were considered high risk. But they also know that the true test does not come until game day. Based on their activity thus far, it would appear that each has a chance to be available Sunday, although that could change by Friday's practice session.

To make the situation a little trickier, the Steelers will be flying into the New York City area on Sunday just hours before their game against the Giants. It seems Hurricane Sandy interfered with their plans as the hotel they were to stay at Saturday night is without power, according to the Post-Gazette. Therefore, the usual Saturday clue of who makes the trip with the team will not be forthcoming this week. This is a late game Sunday, making it all the more challenging for fantasy owners. Hopefully Friday's practice and the team's final injury report will offer further clues as to the Steelers' plans for their running backs.

DeMarco Murray (foot) and Felix Jones (knee), Dallas Cowboys: Though Murray is "moving around a little bit better," he has not yet practiced. As we noted on Tuesday, this is not shocking news, but it is pointing to another week without his services. Murray remains without a timeline other than day-to-day status, but it's worth noting that it has only been three weeks since his injury. Foot sprains are very tricky to manage and the downside of pushing too aggressively (risking more missed time) is not worth the gamble. This always had the look of a multi-week injury, but with Murray not practicing, it's impossible to tell whether he is significantly closer to returning. No evidence of that yet.

Jones' role was supposed to increase when Murray was sidelined, but few thought he could physically hold up. It didn't take long to justify the concern. Jones exited twice in the first game in which he started in Murray's place, and the bruised knee which caused him to miss the latter part of the game was still problematic in Week 8. On Thursday, the Cowboys noted that Jones, practicing on a limited basis this week, is also dealing with an injured shoulder. According to the Dallas Morning News, coach Jason Garrett said, "Felix is coming off of a knee injury and also got a little banged up in his shoulder in the game the other day." Added executive vice president Stephen Jones, "I'm concerned because he's not healthy." Blunt, yet not surprising.

Just to add to the fun, the Cowboys don't play until Sunday night. It appears Murray will be out, Jones will be limited (assuming he plays) and Phillip Tanner could perhaps be the beneficiary.

Donald Brown (knee), Indianapolis Colts: After playing in Week 8 with no reported postgame setbacks, Brown was not listed on the injury report Wednesday. On Thursday, he was absent from practice, which is enough to make us pay attention. Whether it was a proactive rest day or some sort of setback is unknown, but Friday's practice becomes more important as a result.

Quick Hits

Calvin Johnson
In addition to posting disappointing fantasy stats this season, Calvin Johnson is now nursing a knee injury.

Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson acknowledged his knee was bothering him, but the Lions maintain they expect him to continue to play. He will also likely keep up his routine of limited work during the week. Meanwhile, teammate Mikel Leshoure was absent from Wednesday practice, causing rumors to swirl of an injury sustained in Week 8. (Leshoure had been absent much of the fourth quarter.) Coach Jim Schwartz insisted Wednesday was a personal day for Leshoure and, lo and behold, the birth of his child was announced Thursday. Leshoure was back in practice Thursday and was not on the injury report; thus, all appears well for Sunday.

Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant appeared to be limping on Sunday after a big play, but the Cowboys expressed little concern about his availability this week. Now it's Thursday and Bryant has not practiced. Should we be concerned? Not according to Bryant. "My hip's bothering me a little bit, but I don't think it's going to stop me from playing Sunday," Bryant told reporters. "I'm ready."

New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who practiced Thursday after resting Wednesday, still expects to play Sunday. As ESPN New York notes, it may be his lone practice day this week. And while coach Tom Coughlin may not be a fan of the practice schedule, if it means getting Bradshaw over a hurdle, he'll accommodate.

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White is an addition to the injury report because of his back, and did only limited work on Wednesday. However, by Thursday he was a full participant. If he repeats the effort Friday, there would likely be little concern about his status on Sunday.

New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles popped up on the Thursday injury report with a hand injury. No word as to the specifics, but the Saints don't play until Monday night, so this may just be an extra day of rest. There should be more clarity after Friday.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been practicing on a limited basis this week and appears to have a chance to play after suffering a bone bruise and a thigh contusion in Week 8. The key is whether pain and inflammation limit his mobility and his ability to protect himself. Reporters at practice noted that he is wearing a compression sleeve but seems to be moving well. Still, the decision has yet to be made as to whether Tannehill can really participate in game action.

St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola (shoulder) seemed like a red herring to play in London just three weeks post-injury and, not surprisingly, he didn't. Still, he continues to progress and tells the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he expects to play in Week 10. The additional two weeks is good for soft tissue healing, and his activity in practice during the team's bye week is definitely an encouraging sign.

Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings had his abdominal surgery and now begins the recovery process, which could be approximately four to six weeks, give or take, depending how the rehab goes. One advantage is that he had been working diligently in the pool and on his conditioning prior to undergoing surgery. However, he will not rush back (as both he and the team have indicated). Jennings tweeted this photo of himself in his hospital attire and sounded upbeat afterward: "Surgery went well tweeps!!"

And on a final note …

Here is a positive note for the week: Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and tight end Jimmy Graham are no longer on the injury report.

Four teams (St. Louis, New England, San Francisco and the New York Jets) are on bye this week, which means players from these teams will not appear on this week's official NFL injury reports.