Welcome to the Tuesday following the second week of football. I am still recovering from the thriller I witnessed at Candlestick Park between the New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night. Although the game itself offered up plenty of discussion topics, the big injury news of the night was to running back Reggie Bush. When Bush tried to get up on his own -- and failed -- after getting hit hard in the fourth quarter, it immediately appeared serious. When Bush was helped from the field by two members of the Saints' medical staff and appeared unwilling or unable to put weight on his right leg, it confirmed the likelihood of a more significant injury.
ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that Bush suffered a fractured fibula and is expected to miss four to six weeks. The fibula is the long skinny bone on the outer part of the lower leg. The lower end of the bone makes up the outer portion of the ankle joint, which is why the ankle is generally immobilized for a period of time especially if the break is in the lower portion, as reports suggest. Bone heals well and has a fairly predictable timetable of four to six weeks.
The bigger issue for a running back with this injury is the immobilization of the ankle for a period of time. The joint has to be protected to allow the bony ends to heal; however, during that period of time, the ankle loses range of motion and can become quite stiff. Regaining that range of motion and strength about the ankle, particularly in the way that a player of Bush's slashing and cutting style demands, is especially challenging. Fantasy owners should prepare for an absence of at least six weeks. (For more on what to do with Bush on your roster, check out Eric Karabell's blog.)
As for Sunday's action, how many of you actually had Atlanta Falcons running back Jason Snelling in your fantasy lineup in anticipation of injuries to both Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood? I thought so. And while he was on your bench (or on the free-agent market if you, like me, released him earlier in the week to make room for some other guys who might actually, ahem, see playing time), all he did was score three touchdowns and rack up 186 yards. Turner's groin injury is reportedly mild, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that he could have returned to the game. Indications thus far are that Turner will play Sunday. Nonetheless, I suspect all Turner owners are scouring the waiver wire for Snelling at this moment. At least they should be.
And then there's Detroit Lions rookie running back Jahvid Best. In his best imitation of Houston Texans newly minted star running back Arian Foster, Best had 78 yards rushing, 154 yards receiving and three touchdowns for some insane fantasy points. He had been on the injury report all week with a toe ailment (although if you happened to catch my Saturday pregame blog entry, I noted that he put in full practice all week and suggested the toe injury was not serious) but came through in amazing fashion.
Which got me to thinking, I wonder how some of the guys we were watching most closely in advance of this week's games performed. In some instances, Sunday's performances can actually provide insight into how fantasy owners might view some of their injury question marks early in the week, before the first official NFL injury reports are even posted.
Here are a few of my observations:
• New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks entered Sunday night's game as questionable after an ankle injury in Week 1. Hicks was well enough to start Sunday, and although he did not have a performance to match Week 1 (it's pretty hard to repeat three touchdowns), he managed to play the entire contest, even netting 38 yards and a score for fantasy owners, despite the actual game being out of reach. For his part, Nicks told the Newark Star-Ledger that he did not emerge any worse for the wear. He says he'll practice all week and expects to play.
• Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin raised red flags last week when he went from limited practice Wednesday to no practice Thursday because of a hip injury. Harvin's Friday return and his insistence that he would play, along with the Vikings' nonsecretive plan to incorporate him more into the offense, made him a reasonable starting option Sunday once we learned he was active. Or so it seemed. Harvin was not on the field for the entire game -- only 11 plays in the second half -- as the hip became more problematic. In fact the hip was enough of a factor to send Harvin for an MRI on Monday. ESPN 1500 Twin Cities is reporting that the MRI showed a hip strain, alleviating concerns of any major structural damage. However, as was evident this past weekend, hip problems, even minor ones, are nothing to sneeze at. There are numerous muscles that act in concert to control the hip, and that coordination is necessary for the explosiveness and power of a player like Harvin. Until he shows he can be a full participant in practice, fantasy owners should be a little concerned.
• Savvy fantasy owners sat both Arizona Cardinals running back Beanie Wells and Oakland Raiders running back Michael Bush this past week. Wells had a 1 p.m. start, so his status was known well in advance of kickoff. Bush played in a late game, but the signs were there (decreased practice late in the week, his omission from contact drills) that he would sit Sunday. There are no guarantees that Wells will play this week, either, so fantasy owners need to maintain another option on their rosters. Meanwhile, it sounds as if Bush could see his first game action Sunday. The picture will become clearer as the week progresses.
And the injury list grows ...
Jerious Norwood, RB, Atlanta Falcons: The reason Snelling's value skyrocketed this past week was that in addition to losing Turner during Sunday's game, the Falcons also lost Jerious Norwood to a knee injury. Norwood was still on crutches Monday, and from the sound of things, this appears to be a more serious injury. Numerous reports said that Norwood tore his ACL and would be out for the season.
Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers: It appears that Mathews' fantasy owners can breathe a sigh of relief. The San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting that Mathews' sprained ankle was sore after Sunday's game, but he is expected to play this week. Mathews was replaced by Mike Tolbert on Sunday, and his performance probably awakened some to his value. Even with Mathews healthy, expect Tolbert to see some action going forward.
Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans: Johnson sprained his right ankle Sunday and exited the game for a bit in the second half before returning and making a spectacular catch in the fourth quarter for a touchdown. It's always a good sign when a player is able to return after injury, and an MRI taken Monday showed no significant damage. Texans coach Gary Kubiak called Johnson's injury a mild ankle sprain and said he will be "day-to-day as we head into the weekend." It appears that fantasy owners will have him available this weekend, barring a setback.
Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys: Witten suffered a concussion after a hard hit Sunday and, to the credit of the Cowboys' medical staff, was not permitted to return to the game despite his vehement pleas to do so. This is going to be the pattern we'll see with concussion injuries, as teams will err on the side of caution. It's also important to note that because none of us is there on the sideline, we cannot possibly know what the medical staff saw in its assessment that led to the decision. In other words, we can assume the trainers were making a sound decision based on their medical assessment at the time, nothing more, nothing less.
Witten reported no headaches or other concussion-related symptoms on Monday. According to the Dallas Morning News, head coach Wade Phillips expects Witten to be cleared to practice and return to play this week. It's important to keep in mind that Witten will need to continue to remain symptom-free after he returns to practice, but so far these are encouraging signs for his return.
Other quick hits:
• Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Dennis Dixon is scheduled to undergo lateral meniscus surgery Wednesday and is sidelined indefinitely. The speed of his return will have much to do with what exactly happens during surgery. Meniscus repairs of this type can be season-ending. If it is a more simple procedure, where a flap of torn meniscus is removed, it's conceivable that he could return within approximately four weeks. Of course, by that point, Ben Roethlisberger will have returned. Although Charlie Batch is currently the only fully healthy option, Byron Leftwich has been making progress from his MCL sprain. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Leftwich and Batch will compete for the starting job during practice this week.
• Detroit Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson suffered a high ankle sprain and is expected to miss two to three weeks. This seems like a low-end projection, so fantasy owners might want to seek another option.
• Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez is expected to miss more than a month with a high ankle sprain. Another sad start to a football season for him. Another reason for fantasy owners who had him stashed away to drop him.
We will continue to update these injuries and others as the week progresses.
See you at the injury chats (Tuesday and Friday 3-4 p.m.), and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 3 in the Thursday and Saturday blogs!