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NFC West: Injury situations that matter

Arizona: The Cardinals practiced Wednesday during their bye week. Most players will be off until Monday. Quarterback Max Hall reported some ankle soreness, but no significant injuries following his first NFL start. Receivers Steve Breaston and Early Doucet expect to return from injuries in time to face the Seahawks in Week 7. Their presence dramatically upgrades the talent at receiver while restoring flexibility to the return game. The Cardinals know they can trust Breaston to field punts in a hostile environment such as Qwest Field if they're in a pinch. Arizona's best receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, was coming off a sprained knee early in the season and it showed. He looked closer to full speed in Week 5 and the bye should restore him all the way. Inside linebacker Gerald Hayes could return after missing the first five games. Rules have prevented him from practicing while on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Hayes gets clearance next week. Arizona has lacked depth at that position and the run defense has suffered at times. Backup linebacker Reggie Walker suffered a hamstring injury against New Orleans, but as coach Ken Whisenhunt told reporters Wednesday, "Well, since we don’t have to have an injury report out this week, everybody is doing great."

St. Louis: Cracks are forming in the Rams' already tenuous depth. Quarterback Sam Bradford lost his favorite and most reliable receiver when Mark Clayton suffered a season-ending knee injury Sunday. The Rams will not be able to manufacture the security Clayton was providing for Bradford. Up front, guard Jacob Bell was limited in practice Wednesday after suffering a concussion against Detroit. Bell missed time with a concussion last season. He underwent knee surgery during the offseason. He has missed three games in each of the last two seasons. The Rams lack depth on the offensive line and that is why they've been carrying only eight on their 53-man roster, one fewer than teams typically carry. Losing Bell would leave the Rams one step closer to serious trouble. Injuries wiped out their line in the second half of last season. Coach Steve Spagnuolo told reporters Wednesday he thought rookie Mike Hoomanawanui was looking good. Bradford and Hoomanawanui seemed to have a good thing going before a high-ankle sprain sidelined the tight end. Veteran tight end Billy Bajema is also returning from injury this week. His versatility should help the offense.

Seattle: Chester Pitts' recovery from microfracture knee surgery remains an uphill fight. He is not expected to make his first Seahawks start at Chicago. That means Ben Hamilton remains at left guard, most likely. The team expects left tackle Russell Okung to play a full game for the first time since suffering a high-ankle sprain during preseason. Okung's ankle was a problem against St. Louis. The job gets tougher in Week 6 as Okung lines up against Bears defensive end Julius Peppers. The Seahawks would like Okung and Sean Locklear to settle in as the starting tackles. A knee injury prevented Locklear from starting against the Rams. He's expected to start against Chicago. On defense, the bye week should allow cornerback Marcus Trufant to play at a higher level. A sprained ankle affected Trufant against St. Louis.

San Francisco: Receiver Kyle Williams, sidelined by toe and finger injuries this season could be available to return punts, although Ted Ginn Jr. fared well in that area Sunday. Ginn is averaging a career-high 29.4 yards per kickoff return. He is averaging 9.0 yards per punt return, which would be his highest average since 2007, his rookie season with Miami. Getting Williams back this week and Ginn back a week ago means the 49ers finally have preferred options in the return game. The 49ers are getting center Eric Heitmann back from a broken leg, but there are no indications the team will move Heitmann into the starting lineup. Messing with a line's continuity during the season isn't something teams want to do unless the returning player provides a significant upgrade. That is particularly true at center because the position affects the entire line, plus the quarterback. At tight end, the 49ers declared tight end Delanie Walker as "week-to-week" when he suffered a high-ankle sprain against Atlanta. That injury can require several weeks to heal.