With the first week of real games in the NFL season comes a whole new set of injuries to discuss. After all, this is football we're talking about here. The question for fantasy owners is how much shuffling needs to be done before Week 2. Here's what we know so far:
Donovan McNabb, QB, Philadelphia Eagles: McNabb suffered a broken rib when he was fallen on in the end zone during the Eagles' rout of the Carolina Panthers, and McNabb's status for this week is now in doubt.
McNabb was clearly in pain as soon as he was hit, but it was not immediately apparent where the injury was. ESPN's Sal Paolantonio reported that coach Andy Reid said in a postgame news conference that the injury was to a rib in McNabb's lower left side. The location is significant because while any rib injury is painful, the lower ribs also serve as the attachment point for the large abdominal oblique muscles. It is no secret how challenging an oblique injury is to a thrower because of that muscle group's involvement in trunk rotation and throwing. As the left-sided obliques contract, they pull at their attachment site on the ribs. When one of those ribs is broken, each time the muscle contracts it places a movement force on the injured area, causing pain, which can potentially interfere with the healing process.
The primary issue for return to play following this type of injury is pain. While McNabb has proved over time that he is certainly tough when it comes to dealing with injuries, the fact is that the pain might simply override his ability to function. If he cannot be effective throwing the ball, and if playing simply exacerbates or prolongs his pain, then the Eagles might consider resting McNabb this week in hopes that he'll be more effective thereafter.
The primary treatment at this point will be rest. There are various rib belts that can help limit movement, which will in turn help with pain relief. When McNabb does return to play, he can wear padding to help protect the area and might be given a local injection for pain. Once the rib heals, it should not present any long-term concerns, but in the short term, fantasy owners should make alternate plans.
Tony Romo, QB, Dallas Cowboys: When Tony Romo was seen favoring his right ankle following Sunday's game, it was cause for concern with fantasy owners. The good news is that, according to The Dallas Morning News, an MRI did not show any major structural damage, and Romo is expected to play this week.
The injury is being termed a sprain, and it sounds as if it is a mild one. Romo, who was injured in the third quarter, was able to finish out the game, which is always a good sign when it comes to assessing the seriousness of an injury. It would not be surprising if he does a little less running this week in favor of alternate cardio work, and we can expect his ankle to be heavily taped for support. But it sounds as if Romo escaped a major injury and should be ready to go Sunday night.
Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Indianapolis Colts: In what might turn out to be the Week 1 injury with the most long-term fantasy impact, Gonzalez crumpled to the ground with a noncontact knee injury in the first quarter of Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. According to The Indianapolis Star, team president Bill Polian said Monday that Gonzalez sprained ligaments (note the plural) in his knee. While Polian did not offer a timetable for a return, he did say "we know that it isn't year-ending." Although the Star reports that sources close to Gonzalez say he could miss up to six weeks, it sounds as if this timetable is very open-ended, and likely will be updated based on Gonzalez's progress.
Many fantasy owners drafted Gonzalez in hopes that he would replace Marvin Harrison as the starting wide receiver, and run away with it. Now it sounds as if the Colts might seek another receiver to sign, depending on how much time they believe Gonzalez will miss. Without any additional details about the specific ligaments that were injured or the severity of the injury, it is impossible to speculate as to what constitutes a reasonable time frame. There is no question, however, about the need for Gonzalez fantasy owners to find a replacement that will suffice for at least a month.
Other quick hits:
• According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, the reason San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson was in and out during the second half was because of a sprained ankle. Although he was seen limping after the game, the good news is that he did continue to play, albeit on a limited basis. It does not appear that this will affect his status for next week; in fact, it might just add to the chip on his shoulder regarding theories that he's on the decline. Nothing helps healing like motivation.
• Pittsburgh Steelers' All-Pro, all-over-the-field safety Troy Polamalu sprained his left medial collateral ligament (MCL) last Thursday night. For more details on the injury, click here. The good news is that Polamalu will not require surgery; the not-so-good news is that the Steelers' defense will be without him anywhere from three to six weeks.
• Speaking of defensive losses, the Chicago Bears lost star linebacker Brian Urlacher for the season because of a dislocated right wrist. Urlacher underwent surgery to repair the injury and will now spend the rest of the season wondering what might have been. The Bears' defense also is dealing with the tenuous health of other players, including cornerback Charles Tillman, who missed the entire preseason while recovering from back surgery. Tillman was active Sunday but might take awhile to get to full strength. The Bears' defense also lost linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa Sunday night when he sprained the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in his right knee. Depending on the severity of the injury, it could cause him to miss time, although his status is currently being termed day-to-day.
• The New York Giants suffered a couple of losses on offense Sunday, including wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, a first-round draft pick this spring. Nicks left the game with a sprained left foot, but the Giants can at least be thankful he didn't suffer the dreaded Lisfranc injury, which can require season-ending surgery to the midfoot if it's severe. According to the Newark Star-Ledger, he did not suffer that specific injury, and it sounds as if the initial projection of two to three weeks is reasonable. Meanwhile, Giants running back Danny Ware also left the game with an elbow injury. The always-unsightly elbow dislocation is likely to keep Ware away for a few weeks as well.
• In the good news department, Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak has already indicated that wide receiver Kevin Walter, who sat out Week 1 because of a hamstring strain, will play this week.
Note: Stephania will update these injuries and others as the week progresses, including a Saturday update. Also, catch her injury chats Tuesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to noon ET, as well as Sundays from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. ET.