There are several injury storylines heading into Thursday night's matchup between the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. Here’s a look at a few players on both teams whose injury status might affect your lineup.
Star veteran receiver Roddy White began his season injured, limited by a high ankle sprain sustained in an exhibition game. Just when the ankle appeared to be turning a corner in the recovery process, White strained his hamstring. As a result, White was sidelined, forced to miss games for the first time in his career. He returned from the hamstring and ankle injuries in Week 10 and appears to be the healthiest he’s been all year, finally netting his first touchdown Sunday. He is still working his way back to form but is no longer being limited in practice and is not on the injury report this week.
Also off the injury report is running back Steven Jackson. He was injured in Week 2 when he suffered a hamstring strain and went on to miss the next four games. Jackson returned to action in Week 8 but managed only 6 yards on 11 carries. He has not found the end zone rushing yet this season and still has a ways to go to get back to looking how he did in Week 1. Meanwhile, RB Jacquizz Rodgers is listed as probable with his ankle injury and is expected to be available. Interestingly, ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure notes that coach Mike Smith is looking to get running back (and special-teamer) Antone Smith more involved in the ground game after his Week 11 performance.
Before White and Jackson could get healthy, the Falcons lost yet another star offensive weapon in Julio Jones. Late in their Week 5 contest, Jones refractured the foot he had surgically repaired prior to starting his NFL career, abruptly ending his season.
With the team’s top two receivers and starting running back sidelined due to injury, other Falcons have had to step up. Harry Douglas did exactly that for the team’s receiving corps but took some extra punishment as a result. Douglas was recently on the injury report because of a sore knee but is no longer listed there this week. He is expected to start across from White.
Tony Gonzalez, TE, toe (Q): Gonzalez is the most notable pass-catcher on the injury report this week. He hurt his toe in Week 10 and was questionable coming into last Sunday’s game. Gonzalez managed to play and was a regular target for quarterback Matt Ryan. His involvement in last week’s game would suggest that he will play Thursday, despite the short week. It makes sense that he was restricted in practice given the limited recovery time between outings (did not practice until Wednesday and then on a limited basis), but he still comes into Thursday night’s game as questionable. Coach Mike Smith anticipates Gonzalez playing Thursday, noting that the tight end's practice involvement included “much more workload” than last week.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints haven’t exactly been immune to the injury bug either, and just last week they lost another player when cornerback Jabari Greer suffered a torn ACL.
While Greer’s season is over, not all of the Saints' injured stars are dealing with ailments of that magnitude. With the short week, however, prognostication becomes a bit more challenging.
Jimmy Graham, TE, elbow/foot (P): Graham has been playing despite his plantar fascia injury (with mixed results). After an initial post-injury outing where Graham saw limited yet efficient action, his involvement from a snap-count perspective increased significantly the following week. The subsequent week he was not used as much, prompting concerns about his health. Graham later noted that had more to do with how the Saints were matching up against their opponent, although it’s possible the elbow injury he suffered the week prior had an influence. In Week 11, Graham’s time on the field increased again, but his productivity from a scoring perspective was limited. His availability for Thursday night’s game is not really in doubt given his daily practice appearances and probable tag, but it’s hard to know what to expect in terms of production. That said, Graham is always a threat even when injured -- and it’s hard to envision three straight weeks without an end zone grab.
Darren Sproles, RB, knee/ankle (Q): Sproles’ status may be the toughest read of the week. He sustained knee and ankle injuries (to opposite sides) in Week 11 but after some attention on the sideline was able to return and finish the game. He has not practiced this week, and according to ESPN.com’s Mike Triplett, practices have been especially light considering Thursday’s game. It is unclear whether this is a proactive measure to rest Sproles so that he is available come game time or if he is truly at risk of missing the game. His questionable status is legitimate. Even if he plays, there is the question of how much he will be asked to do given that he's less than 100 percent. Fantasy owners should be sure to check Sproles’ status before kickoff.