A fourth of the season has passed already and the injuries keep piling on. The New York Jets have been on the receiving end of two of the biggest blows, losing cornerback Darrelle Revis to a torn ACL in Week 3 and wide receiver Santonio Holmes this past Sunday to a Lisfranc injury. Holmes is expected to undergo surgery in the near future and faces a lengthy rehabilitation and recovery process. The good news for both Revis and Holmes is that they should make full recoveries.
Every other team is facing their own injury concerns as they try to field healthy squads from one Sunday to the next. Here's who else we're keeping an eye on in Week 5.
Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers, (knee): It's showtime! Mendenhall is set to make his season debut following reconstructive surgery to address a torn ACL in his right knee. Mendenhall has impressed recently in practice and the Steelers have been gradually increasing his activity and his contact. This week Mendenhall has been careful not to say he is definitively playing as the final determination has not been made but he sounds like he is ready to take it to the next level. "I have been taking steps accordingly so I feel confident in everything I have been able to do," said Mendenhall on the Steelers' official website. "It feels good." It will feel good to have Mendenhall as a fantasy option but he's unlikely to see the maximum workload in his first game action.
Ben Tate, Houston Texans, (toe): Tate's sprained toe has kept him out of practice so far this week, enough to raise some concern for his availability in Week 5. According to Nick Scurfield of HoustonTexans.com, coach Gary Kubiak said Tate will also be held out Friday to give his toe additional rest. The team will allow him to test it Saturday but will also prepare Justin Forsett, "just in case." The Texans don't play until Monday night meaning fantasy owners should also make alternate plans, "just in case."
Matt Forte, Chicago Bears, (ankle): Forte has been held to limited practices this week but that's no surprise given the Monday game. He came through without a setback but is still in the process of recovering. He's expected to play this Sunday.
Reggie Bush, Miami Dolphins, (hip): The good news is we're not talking about Bush's knee. Unfortunately he is still on the injury report but Bush bumped up his practice level Thursday to full after being limited Wednesday. This does not seem to present a serious threat to his status for Sunday.
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles, (knee): After last week's game coach Andy Reid indicated McCoy had "tweaked" his knee. It certainly doesn't appear serious since he has practiced fully every day this week.
Evan Royster, Washington Redskins, (knee): Royster remains on the injury report as a limited participant with his strained patellar tendon. Alfred Morris is the unquestioned leader here, the actual question is where Royster will mix in with recently acquired Ryan Grant.
Brandon Jacobs, San Francisco 49ers, (knee): Jacobs appears to be making good progress with his knee which he injured in the preseason. He participated in full practice Wednesday and looks as if he could be available this Sunday. It was Jacobs who told the 49ers official site," I want to get out there and really be a part of it." No word yet on whether he'll be given the green light.
Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants, (foot/knee): Nicks continues to struggle with soreness in his surgically repaired foot and persistent swelling in his knee. The Giants have already ruled him out for Week 5, and at this point are offering no forecast as to when he might return. While the team attributes his absence to both body parts, there hasn't been anything to suggest he has gone backwards with his foot. His absence in Week 3 was not completely out of the realm of reasonable after only three days' rest following his first significant post-surgical game action. The following week, it was the issues with his knee which didn't allow him to test himself in practice. If his foot is still sore, which is not unexpected in light of his recently ramped up activity, there is no way the team would allow him to push it when he also has a swollen knee. If Nicks is compromised because of his knee it raises the possibility of creating a far more serious problem with his still recovering foot and simply makes for a bad combination. The worry will go up next week if we hear that his knee is still failing to progress. For now there is not much definitive information to go on and so Nicks' status remains in a holding pattern. Looking ahead to this Sunday, Ramses Barden is still recovering from a concussion sustained in Week 4, meaning the Giants are again lean at wide receiver. Domenik Hixon will presumably get the start in place of Nicks.
Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers, (groin): On Tuesday we talked about the possibility that Jennings would sit out to allow the groin to heal completely. It appears he is doing just that as he has already been ruled out for Week 5. For those who are wondering just how long Jennings can be expected to be sidelined, he told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "We don't know what the timetable is." He's being truthful. As is the case with most soft tissue injuries, progression is made based on how the player feels. Typically that progression is advanced more slowly when a player has already suffered a setback like Jennings did in Week 4. Translation: Wait and see.
Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins, (foot): It does finally appear as if Garcon has turned a corner with regards to his ailing foot. It's not a full 180 degree turnaround just yet, perhaps it's more like a soft curve which is trending in the right direction. Garcon managed to get through last week's game -- his first since Week 1 -- without a setback and this week he has resumed full practice with the team. He told the Washington Post, "It's going to take some time to feel back like my old self, like it was in training camp," but added, "It's getting better every day." That is exactly what fantasy owners want to hear.
Andre Johnson, Houston Texans, (groin): Johnson was limited on Thursday but the Texans have been routinely resting him early in the week. Although they don't play until Monday night there seems to be little reason to doubt Johnson will suit up, so plan on using him as you normally would.
Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons, (hand): Jones appeared to be impaired by the laceration on his hand in Week 4, catching only one ball. Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Eight targets and one catch is not a good percentage. Julio's hand is not 100 percent." For his part, Jones told the Falcons' official website that last week's performance had nothing to do with the hand and more to do with the defensive coverage he was facing. With regards to this week Jones said simply, "I'm ready to go." The good news is that regardless of whether his hand affected him or not, with another week there has been more time for the cut to heal. Jones was a full participant in practice Wednesday and Thursday and is expected to be a full go this weekend.
Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans, (ankle): Britt did not play in Week 4 because of an ankle injury and it now looks as if he could miss another game. He has not practiced this week although he is doing some individual work on the side, including some running. According to the Tennessean, coach Mike Munchak said of Britt on Wednesday, "There's no doubt he's going to have to improve the next couple of days to help us on Sunday.
Lance Moore, New Orleans Saints, (hamstring): Moore has been added to the Saints injury report with a hamstring strain and has not practiced so far this week. That makes his status iffy at best and the Saints don't play until Sunday night. It might be best to make an alternate plan.
Julian Edelman, New England Patriots, (hand): Edelman has still not practiced at all this week. Not encouraging for his chances for Sunday.
Rob Gronkowski (hip) and Aaron Hernandez (ankle), New England Patriots: Gronkowski played last week despite the hip injury so he should play again this Sunday. He sat out Wednesday practice but was back on a limited basis Thursday. The more interesting tidbit is seeing the return of Aaron Hernandez to a limited practice on Thursday. Hernandez has been out since suffering a high ankle sprain in Week 2. This is very early in the return-to-activity phase so color me skeptical about any rumor he will return this Sunday. This is a great sign that he is making progress as expected but there is a long ways to go before returning to game action where there is easy risk of re-injury.
Jared Cook, Tennessee Titans, (shoulder): Cook remains limited in practice so far this week but it appears to be a proactive measure. After playing last Sunday, albeit in a limited role coming off his shoulder injury, the expectation is Cook will play again this week when the Titans visit the Vikings.
Dustin Keller, New York Jets, (hamstring): As if the Jets don't have enough injury issues, Keller continues to be sidelined with a hamstring strain. He has not practiced yet this week and with the Jets playing on Monday night, his uncertain status is risky.
And on a final note ...
Despite all their injury news at other positions, Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw is no longer on the injury report.