The joy of having only two teams on bye this past week quickly faded when more players on the field translated to more players ultimately getting carted off the field. The New York Giants and the Houston Texans have to be thankful that they did not add to their injury reports as they watched the games from home. Concussions continue to take a toll on fantasy stars, as do ankle and foot injuries. Sprinkled in the mix are rib injuries, muscle strains and knee sprains. In what constituted perhaps my busiest week yet this fantasy football season, many a fantasy must-start quickly became a fantasy must-replace.
What happened to your key players this week and will they recover in time to perform this week? We take a look at what we know so far as we move toward Week 11.
Brian Westbrook, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: Westbrook suffered his second concussion in three weeks and his football future is uncertain. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, coach Andy Reid said that Westbrook was "foggy" when he came off the field Sunday after running into San Diego Chargers safety Eric Weddle. Reid has already indicated that Westbrook will not play Sunday night but the question as to when -- or if -- Westbrook plays again this season remains unanswered.
Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons: Turner suffered a right high ankle sprain Sunday and was seen wearing a walking boot after the game. While the team has not provided any official information as to Turner's status for this week, high ankle sprains typically require weeks, not days, for healing before an athlete can return to play. The challenges are perhaps greatest at the running back position, given all the stress placed on the ankle. Returning too soon can jeopardize the long-term health of an athlete.
The Falcons are hopeful that Jerious Norwood, who has missed the past four games with a hip flexor strain, can return in Week 11. Norwood began running last week, but has yet to return to practice. Jason Snelling stepped in when Turner was forced out, but he too was just coming back from injury (hamstring strain) and may not have quite worked up to full speed. Fantasy owners should anticipate the absence of Turner for at least this week and perhaps longer. Practice updates should provide clues as to whether Norwood or Snelling would be more likely to step up in his place.
Ronnie Brown, RB, Miami Dolphins: Ronnie "Wildcat" Brown was yet another running back forced out of Sunday's game because of a right ankle injury. At least that's how it appeared at the time. More recent news suggests that Brown's foot is the focal point of the injury concern, and the Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that the injury may be more serious than initially thought. Brown is still on crutches, not putting weight on his foot, also hinting at a potentially serious injury. He has already been ruled out for Thursday night's game, with Ricky Williams starting in Brown's place, and that may extend beyond Week 11. Lex Hilliard is expected to serve as Williams' backup.
Cedric Benson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals: In Benson's case, it wasn't an ankle that knocked him out of Sunday's game; it was his hip, as the team indicated that their star running back left the game with a hip flexor strain. The Cincinnati Enquirer, however, reports that the injury is officially being called a hip abductor strain. The Bengals' official Web site also references an injury to the abductor muscle. Both the flexor and the abductor are muscles that support the hip; both, when injured, can affect a player's explosiveness and mobility. The hip flexor, which as the name implies, flexes the hip and helps drive the leg when running. It is a very deep muscle (so deep in fact that it anchors to the front of the lower vertebrae in the spine) and can be slow to recover (see Jerious Norwood above who has missed four games thus far with the injury). The abductor muscle abducts the hip, or moves the hip laterally. Its more important function, though, may be as a stabilizer of the hip and pelvis, helping with balance and stability during all movement. Weakness of the abductor can result in a noticeable limp as the pelvis loses stability.
All muscle strains are measured by degree, and in Benson's case the indications from the team (and Benson himself) are that the injury, whichever muscle or muscles are involved, is not serious. In fact, it sounds as if this hip issue is truly an exacerbation of a pre-existing condition, one that has limited Benson in practice as recently as two weeks ago. While coach Marvin Lewis emphasized that the injury did not appear serious, he also indicated that the team would hold him out of Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders if necessary, according to the Bengals' official Web site. Said Lewis, "He really doesn't feel much worse for the wear. He has an opportunity this week. We'll be real cautious with him as we approach the game. If he's not healthy, he would not go. We'll see how he is as he goes through the week. Hopefully, he can make a comeback on this."
Nonetheless, Benson is very likely to be limited in practice this week, and as the Enquirer points out, he could be a game-time decision for the Bengals. That's always a fantasy favorite. It is also worth noting that Tuesday's signing of former Kansas City Chiefs star Larry Johnson is not expected to impact the running back depth chart, at least not yet.
Julius Jones, RB, Seattle Seahawks: Jones left the Seahawks' Sunday contest in the first quarter with what was called a chest injury initially. While Justin Forsett ran up a storm in his absence, Jones ended up in an Arizona hospital overnight with what the team is officially calling a bruised lung. Coach Jim Mora told reporters that Jones also was dealing with, "potentially, possibly a cracked rib." Mora added that it was "unlikely that [Jones] would be cleared to play on Sunday."
We've already seen an NFL player with a bruised lung this season. Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson suffered his lung injury in Week 7 but was able to play the following week. Not all internal organ injuries are created equal, however. The concern of a bony injury nearby could complicate the picture for Jones and lead to extended rest. This will be a wait-and-see situation, but Jones' fantasy owners should not wait to pick up an alternate back for Week 11.
Kyle Orton, QB, Denver Broncos: Despite Orton's early exit from Sunday's game with a left ankle injury, coach Josh McDaniels remains vague yet upbeat about the possibility that Orton returns for Week 11. While not revealing anything with regard to the specifics of Orton's injury, McDaniels told The Denver Post, "He's definitely not out for the game. We're certainly hopeful we can get him ready to go." Orton's status early in the week is clearly questionable, and much will depend on what he is able to do in practice by the end of the week. The team will be looking at his mobility and whether he can step up as he plants the leg to make longer throws. In case you were flashing back to last year, it was Orton's right ankle that was injured. Although he missed only one game then, he was clearly uncomfortable and far less mobile in his first couple of games post-injury. This very well could come down to game time.
Other quick hits:
• Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis sat out Week 10 due to lingering concussion symptoms. He may well be out another week. Although the team has not issued a formal status update, coach Jim Zorn told The Washington Post that Portis was still experiencing "blurriness" early in the week with quick head movements. Ladell Betts, who did not show any signs of being limited by a foot sprain Sunday, would get another start.
• Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings has accumulated an assortment of nicks this season. His latest injury is being called a knee contusion (deep bruise), and he is likely to miss some practice time this week. There appears to be no serious threat to his availability for Week 11.
• Indianapolis Colts running back Joseph Addai hurt a finger in the first quarter of Sunday's game, but was able to return in the third quarter, although he had two fingers taped together. His status is not likely to be updated until later in the week, as is typical for the Colts. Chad Simpson left the game temporarily with a head injury but was able to return. Donald Brown, who missed the past two games with a shoulder injury, came out of Sunday's game for a while with a sore back. The Colts already have perhaps the lengthiest injury list in the league. They have to hope that all of these situations are minor, which, at this point, seems to be the case.
• Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith suffered bruised ribs after taking a hit in the back when he made his second end zone grab Sunday. While it is still early in the week, there is no hint from the team yet that his Week 11 status is in jeopardy.
• Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu injured his left knee Sunday, the same knee in which he suffered a sprained MCL earlier this season. He did not re-injure the MCL, though. Coach Mike Tomlin told reporters Tuesday that Polamalu suffered a PCL sprain and that he would be evaluated throughout the week to determine his status for Sunday.
More to come in Thursday's blog.
See you at the injury chats (Tuesday and Friday 11:00 a.m.-noon, and Sunday pregame 10-10:30 a.m.), and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 11 in the Saturday morning blog!