It's time for fantasy owners to make midweek moves to boost their fantasy rosters. Injury concerns naturally factor into those decisions as we try to gauge who is going to miss time and just how long that absence will be. This week there are four teams on bye: Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers, so be sure to secure your replacements. Here are some status updates as we look ahead to Week 5.
Eli Manning, New York Giants: On Tuesday, I detailed plantar fasciitis, the condition afflicting Manning. On Wednesday, Manning sat out practice and coach Tom Coughlin indicated Manning would be considered day-to-day. For his part, Manning appears intent on playing and Coughlin has said that his star quarterback could play even if he's unable to practice during the week. The bottom line at this point is that this is shaping up to be a potential game-time decision, one which will depend on whether Manning can maintain his normal throwing mechanics despite the pain.
Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle Seahawks: Hasselbeck sat out Weeks 3 and 4 while recovering from a broken rib and was still having pain with deep breathing last week. Coach Jim Mora told reporters his quarterback is "without question doing everything possible to get out on the football field." Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp remarked that Hasselbeck's throwing motion looked fine but that he was not quite in football shape. However, he shared practice time with Seneca Wallace on Wednesday, according to The Seattle Times. Hasselbeck indicated that he wanted to come back, but would go with what was in the best interest of the team. A main concern for the Seahawks will be providing him enough protection up front should he be able to play Sunday. Despite the team's recent struggles, the goal is clearly to avoid any setbacks and to have him available for the long haul. On the other hand, the Seahawks have been plagued with offensive line injuries, which may also factor into the decision as to whether he gets the start in Week 5.
Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia Eagles: McNabb will start Sunday. Coach Andy Reid said it himself Wednesday and made it clear that McNabb is resuming control at the helm in Week 5. McNabb is reportedly feeling much better, but knows he is not yet 100 percent recovered. He acknowledged on the Eagles' official Web site that things like laughing and coughing still cause discomfort, but he does not expect to be restricted at all playing football. McNabb will no doubt be wearing some extra protection over his ribs this weekend, but now that he's back in practice, fantasy owners can expect to have him back in their lineups as well.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: Stafford reportedly suffered a patellar subluxation in Week 4 (although the Lions are staying mum on the topic), and on Tuesday I outlined the nature of such an injury. He did not practice Wednesday, which is not especially surprising given the nature of the injury. Although coach Jim Schwartz is not speculating as to whether Stafford is going to be available for Sunday's contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers, if the rookie misses another day, it would be hard to imagine him playing. From the physical perspective, Stafford would need to have enough resolution of pain and swelling to allow his quadriceps muscle to function normally. He needs to be able to play the position without apprehension that his patella (kneecap) will go out on him again, so quadriceps strength plays a large role. Although Stafford could (and most likely will) eventually play with some sort of support around the kneecap, it seems unlikely that he would be turned loose against the Steelers' defense if he is not fully mobile. If Stafford is on your fantasy team, it is probably best to secure another option at this point.
Marc Bulger, St. Louis Rams: Kyle Boller filled in for Bulger last week as Bulger nursed a bruised throwing shoulder. Bulger did perform some throwing in pregame warm-ups, however, and continued with light throwing Monday. On Wednesday, Bulger continued to progress with his throws, but ESPN's NFC West blogger Mike Sando reports that it is almost certain the Rams will hold Bulger out another week. With his shoulder still on the mend, some issues with the offensive line and a tough Minnesota Vikings pass rush, the decision might be to simply allow him another week of healing and avoiding hits.
Felix Jones and Marion Barber, Dallas Cowboys: Barber was a full participant in Wednesday's practice and Felix Jones was absent. While nothing definitive has been said regarding Jones' status, at the time of his injury (PCL sprain), there were rumblings that he would miss a couple of weeks and fantasy owners should plan on his not being available. Meanwhile, Barber, whose quad tightened up in the second half of last week's game, should fare better this week. If he continues to practice fully throughout the week, he can be expected to start Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. By the end of the week, we should have a better idea as to how much work we can expect from Barber in the game.
Willie Parker, Pittsburgh Steelers: Parker sat out Week 4 with a case of turf toe sustained during the Week 3 contest in Cincinnati. Although Parker appeared to be holding out hope during the week that he would play, as the Sunday deadline approached and he was still unable to run, it became apparent that he would need to rest the painful toe. As is often the case with turf toe, this is not a problem with a quick fix. Parker seems to be resigned to that and is not nearly as optimistic heading into Week 5. After not practicing Wednesday, Parker told reporters that although he wants to go out and compete, he is not where he needs to be right now to perform. Given Rashard Mendenhall's solid performance in Week 4 and knowing the Steelers are headed to the turf of Detroit's Ford Field, it is sounding as if Mendenhall will again take the place of Parker in Week 5.
Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia Eagles: Westbrook will join his teammate Donovan McNabb back in the lineup in Week 5. Westbrook missed Week 3 as he recovered from a sprain to the right ankle he had surgically addressed in June. It appeared that Westbrook's intended return would follow the bye week, and so far things are going according to plan. Coach Andy Reid has already indicated on the Eagles' official Web site that he expects to rotate Westbrook with LeSean McCoy. We have been saying for some time now that this was the likely evolution at the running back position so that the Eagles could make use of Westbrook's talents while not overloading his joints. Barring a setback late in the week, Westbrook should at least be in line for a portion of the action Sunday, but how much time he sees is unknown.
Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers: Regular readers won't be surprised to learn that Frank Gore has been ruled out for this Sunday's contest with his ankle injuries, according to Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. Gore was initially projected to miss a few weeks and was not expected to return until after the 49ers' bye week (which is in Week 6) at the earliest.
Correll Buckhalter, Denver Broncos: Buckhalter suffered a sprained left ankle in Week 4 and it looks as if the door has been opened for rookie Knowshon Moreno to get his first career start. Buckhalter missed practice Wednesday and reports suggest that the Broncos may be without his services when they face the New England Patriots in Week 5. Moreno appeared to be progressing toward a starting role for the Broncos as his workload has expanded over the first few weeks of the season. Buckhalter's injury may have just moved the timetable along. Moreno's fantasy owners have to be excited about the prospects here.
Clinton Portis, Washington Redskins: The Washington Times reports that Portis will be ready to face the Panthers in Week 5 despite aggravating an ankle injury. Earlier this year coach Jim Zorn indicated that Portis was dealing with bone spurs in both ankles and had been trying to play through pain. Just last week, Portis remarked how much better his ankles were feeling with his current treatment regimen. Despite that optimism, this situation is likely to be ongoing throughout the season. Nonetheless, Portis was not on Wednesday's injury report, which is a good sign heading into the weekend.
Fred Taylor, New England Patriots: Taylor did not practice Wednesday and was listed on the practice (injury) report as "ankle." Given the Patriots' notorious secrecy when it comes to injuries, there are no indications as to whether this is a serious injury that could result in missed time or whether they are resting Taylor's ankle in advance of this week's contest. Stay tuned for practice reports as the week progresses.
Roy E. Williams, Dallas Cowboys: Williams says he expects to play in Week 5 despite injured rib cartilage, according to The Dallas Morning News. That said, Williams did not practice Wednesday. His status could evolve heading up to game time, so stay tuned for updates.
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions: Johnson rested his bruised thigh Wednesday and did not practice. Although the Lions have not indicated whether or not they expect Johnson to be available, his status will remain day to day until proven otherwise.
Wes Welker, New England Patriots: Welker was finally able to get back on the field in Week 4 after being limited with a mysterious knee ailment that had kept him out since Week 2. Welker had a modest fantasy performance Sunday but showed that he was able to run at full speed and make some plays. Welker was held to a limited practice Wednesday, suggesting that the Patriots are still being cautious when it comes to his knee. However, if he continues to practice daily it's likely he will see the field again this week.
Antonio Bryant, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bryant was able to get in the end zone Sunday and appeared to be more Antonio Bryant-like in Week 4. He has been working his way back from post-surgical knee soreness that appeared after his Week 1 debut. Although Bryant was limited in practice Wednesday, this may well be a precautionary measure to ensure his availability for Sunday.
Be sure to check back on Saturday for post-Friday NFL injury report updates on all your fantasy players heading into the weekend.
See you at the injury chats (Tuesday 11:00 a.m.-noon, Friday 11 a.m.-noon and Sunday pregame 10:00-10:30 a.m.). And check out Fantasy Football Now on Sundays at ESPN.com from 11:30 a.m. to kickoff for last-minute inactives, rankings and more!