After sustaining big injury losses to their vaunted defense in Week 6, the Ravens' mood was somber. That frown turned upside down when linebacker Terrell Suggs, on the physically unable to perform list to start the season following surgery to repair his right Achilles tendon, rejoined the team for practice this week. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports Suggs expects to play Sunday when the Ravens visit the Texans. The biggest question will be whether a visibly heftier Suggs is in adequate "game" shape to take the field. Most athletes returning from this type of injury say it takes them a full year to regain the speed and explosiveness in their surgically repaired leg. It doesn't mean Suggs can't contribute right away -- even if that comes largely in the form of morale boosting initially -- but it does mean he's unlikely to look like the 2011 defensive player of the year out of the gate.
Here's who else we're keeping an eye on in Week 7.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (calf): Here's a name no fantasy owner wants to see on the list. A draft-day cornerstone for many teams, Rodgers was limited in practice Wednesday by a sore calf, apparently suffered on a running play in Week 6. The good news is Rodgers turned in a full practice Thursday, and it looks as if he fully plans on playing against the Rams this Sunday.
Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings (knee): Ponder has been working through knee discomfort associated with an inflamed bursa for the past couple of weeks. He continues to practice fully and should play again this Sunday.
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (ankle): Peterson's lack of activity during practice might seem worrisome but it sounds as if he and the team are taking a deliberately cautious approach in light of the next two games coming so close together. Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities reports Peterson plans to play Sunday despite not practicing Wednesday or Thursday. Coach Leslie Frazier echoed that statement, describing the rest as precautionary. Still, according to Pelissero, Peterson indicated his ankle is "hurting consistently," not enough to keep him from playing but perhaps enough to keep him from being as explosive as he'd like. It looks as if Peterson will play, and his best chances of being effective come from resting his ankle in the interim.
Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers (Achilles): Mendenhall has been downplaying his Achilles injury ever since it happened in Week 6's Thursday night game, insisting he was removed largely for precautionary reasons, primarily due to his recent return from ACL reconstructive surgery. Still, with Mendenhall not yet practicing this week, it's enough to make fantasy owners nervous. Isaac Redman also sustained an injury (ankle) in Week 6, and he too has yet to practice. Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports the Steelers think Mendenhall is closer to playing than Redman, but it would feel much more plausible if we were to see him get some practice reps. While that could happen Friday, it's also possible the Steelers will opt to give him as much rest as possible in advance of Sunday since that might be the best medicine for a sore Achilles. The Steelers do not play until Sunday night, so unless there is some better evidence of Mendenhall's readiness following Friday practice, fantasy owners will need to have a backup plan.
Trent Richardson, Cleveland Browns (chest, rib): Richardson has maintained all along that he will be ready to play this weekend. So far he seems to be making good on that promise, participating in practice, although on a limited basis, both Wednesday and Thursday. Expect him to wear some protective padding, as is often the case following rib injuries, but it appears he will be on the field, barring a setback.
Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) and Andre Brown (concussion), New York Giants: Uh-oh. When we see "foot" next to Bradshaw's name on the injury report, it starts dredging up memories of complications over the past two seasons. According to Kieran Darcy of ESPN New York, Bradshaw, who did not practice Wednesday and did only limited work Thursday, said this is not related to his prior stress fracture issues but that he had his foot stepped on in Week 6. Bradshaw also said he's "ready to go," suggesting his availability for Sunday is not in doubt. Meanwhile, Brown is on the mend from his concussion and practiced fully both days this week.
DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys (foot): Owner Jerry Jones already said Murray will miss this week's game in Carolina due to his foot sprain, although he is not yet listed as "out" on the injury report. The expectation is that Felix Jones will get the start. Until Murray returns to practice, there is little to update.
Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants (foot/knee): Nicks did something this week he hadn't done in a long time -- he put in back-to-back practices Wednesday and Thursday. Granted, he still is being limited in terms of his reps and he does not appear fully recovered from his ailments but this is a big status change for him. At the very least, it suggests his status will be less questionable heading into this week's contest.
Pierre Garcon, Washington Redskins (foot): Garcon has not practiced this week. After hearing last week that the plan was for him to take the time to let the foot heal before returning, it certainly looks as if he will be out again this Sunday.
Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers (groin): Jennings still has not practiced this week. His focus has been on rehab and conditioning work, and last week coach Mike McCarthy said Jennings would not test his groin until late this week. We'll see what happens Friday but it's hard to feature Jennings returning in three days.
Jerome Simpson, Minnesota Vikings (back, foot): After being forced to sit out in Week 6 because of weakness in his leg associated with a back injury, Simpson has made big improvements this week. He was a full participant in practice both Wednesday and Thursday, and while it is too soon to dismiss the injury as being totally behind him, his chances of playing Sunday are looking good.
Rob Gronkowski (hip) and Aaron Hernandez (ankle), New England Patriots: Gronkowski continues to be limited in practice, which doesn't come as a big surprise. He has been playing through what is being termed a hip injury and has not been quite himself on the playing field. Hernandez seemed to get through his first game outing well and returned to limited practice Wednesday. He did not practice Thursday, however, which could be cause for concern or just some proactive rest on the part of the Patriots. Remember, Hernandez did not practice last Friday in advance of Sunday's game, either. That turned out just fine. Expect Gronkowski and Hernandez to both be active Sunday against the Jets.
Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (ankle): The last time we saw Graham, he was in a walking boot following an ankle injury in Week 5. Then the team had a bye week, and there were no updates to offer clues. It wasn't until Wednesday's practice that the first real evidence of how much the ankle is limiting Graham became apparent ... when he did not participate. On Thursday, Graham did make an appearance, practicing on a limited basis. The Saints sound as if they would like to have him available Sunday, even if he remains limited. "You always want to have your best players so we hope we are going to have him," Saints interim coach Aaron Kromer said, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
The Saints have not offered specifics regarding Graham's ankle sprain (what type of sprain or what degree of severity) but it is worth noting that Graham did return to the Week 5 game after the injury. He appeared to be significantly limited for the remainder of the game but he did finish it out. In reviewing video of the injury, as Graham is tackled by Chargers defensive back Marcus Gilchrist, his foot is rotated outward relative to his lower leg. This is a common mechanism associated with a high ankle sprain but the team has not referred to it as such. While high ankle sprains are often associated with a prolonged recovery, it still comes down to how significant the actual tissue damage is. If there is instability and the injury is a high ankle sprain, caution is warranted so as not to lead to chronic degenerative changes in the joint. If the ankle is stable, the athlete can resume play more quickly. It will be worth monitoring how Graham's ankle responds to the Thursday work and whether he can repeat the effort Friday. If he can, it seems the Saints will lean toward having him available, even if his ankle has not fully recovered.
Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers (shoulder): Finley practiced on a limited basis both Wednesday and Thursday because of the same AC joint issue that bothered him last week. Given that he was active last week after not practicing early on, expect him to play again (and hopefully contribute) this week.
And on a final note ...
Six teams (Atlanta, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, Philadelphia, San Diego) are on bye this week, which means a lot of fantasy replacements are in order. These players will not appear on this week's official NFL injury reports.