Griffin, Nicks lead Week 6 injury concerns

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel has already been ruled out of Sunday's game because of a concussion. Brady Quinn will get the start against the Buccaneers.

Green Bay Packers running back Cedric Benson was placed on IR (designated for return) with a Lisfranc injury. It's a shame for Benson, whose opportunity arose when James Starks would not be able to start the season on time because of turf toe. Benson, who had been devastated when he found himself without a team as late as August, seemed to be making the most of his chance with the Packers, providing them with a viable option on the ground. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, injury cut his season short.

So does Starks attain the role originally believed to be his? Not necessarily. Starks is just getting back into the running back mix over the past two weeks and has not seen any game action. This week, the start will go to Alex Green. Whether he stays the starter will depend on how he and the other backs perform. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, coach Mike McCarthy said the first carry will go to Green, noting he is ahead of Starks at this moment. "But we have three halfbacks, and we'll utilize all three of them," he said. The ever-unpopular running back by committee will be in play in Green Bay, at least for this week.

Here's who else we're keeping an eye on in Week 6:


Robert Griffin, Washington Redskins (head): Griffin wins the "most discussed injury of the week" prize, as everyone has an opinion as to whether he could or should play Sunday. The only people who matter when it comes to making the actual decision have not yet weighed in, however, as Griffin has to progress through the remainder of the week first. He was cleared to return to light practice, which he did Wednesday and Thursday. For his part, Griffin has said he feels fine with no recurrence of symptoms.

The bottom line is if Griffin has passed all his tests, including physical measures and neurocognitive testing results, there is no arbitrary amount of time to sit him in the hopes of preventing another injury. The most critical element of ensuring safe return to play -- as far as what is currently understood about these injuries -- is establishing complete resolution of all subjective (what the athlete complains of, which requires the athlete to be honest and forthcoming) and objective (things that can be observed or measured) findings at our disposal.

There is still much to learn when it comes to concussions, but as of now, the best approach is an individual one. There is no perfect grading system, no proven recovery timetable. Some athletes will recover from an injury within days; others will take months or longer. The severity of the injury is measured in hindsight, in the time it takes to recover, not in the moments after the injury occurs -- hence one of several reasons "mild" should be eliminated when describing a concussion immediately after it happens. One thing we have learned is if an athlete returns to action before full recovery and sustains a second injury, the consequences are potentially far greater in terms of symptoms and total recovery time. As this long-term risk is better understood, everyone becomes more responsible in managing these injuries.

The cautious approach is certainly warranted, but an arbitrary one is not.

Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings (knee): Ponder is dealing with inflammation in the bursa sac in his knee, according to ESPN 1500 Twin Cities. Although it is undoubtedly causing him some discomfort, he maintains it is not limiting his play. Ponder has practiced fully this week, nothing suggests he is in any danger of missing time.

Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers (finger): Smith has been practicing fully, making it seem as if the finger is of little concern. There appears to be little doubt he is planning on playing against the New York Giants. The question is whether the finger will be a factor in his performance.

Running Backs

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings (ankle): We don't want to see Peterson listed here, not after everything he has done to get off the injury report, but we already knew he suffered a mild ankle sprain in Week 5. He (wisely) did not practice Wednesday but was out there on a limited basis Thursday.

LaRod Stephens-Howling (hip) and William Powell (head), Arizona Cardinals: With Beanie Wells on IR (designated for return) with a turf toe injury and Ryan Williams done for the season following shoulder surgery, Stephens-Howling and Powell are next in line for duty. Stephens-Howling has been dealing with a strained hip flexor for the past few weeks, and Powell suffered a concussion. Stephens-Howling was limited in practice Wednesday but was upgraded to full participation Thursday. Powell was a full participant both days. It's not definitive how this partnership will shake out in Arizona and may be in part a function of their collective health.

Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts (knee): Despite not yet being listed as out this week, Brown should not be expected to play considering he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday. According to the Indianapolis Star, Brown injured his knee during last week's contest against the Packers. Interim coach Bruce Arians said the team expects him to miss two to three weeks, but it can take a bit longer to return following even a minor scope. The key immediately after surgery is to eliminate any swelling and regain muscular strength as quickly as possible. Returning too soon can put the knee at risk for further injury, particularly if muscular balance has not been adequately restored first. In the meantime, the Colts have indicated that Vick Ballard is expected to start in place of Brown.

Ben Tate, Houston Texans (toe): Tate's sprained toe still has him in limited practice mode. As of now, his status for Sunday is very questionable.

Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins (concussion): This is the second time he is listed on the injury report with a concussion. Thomas has not practiced and is not expected to play. Although Reggie Bush appeared on the report Thursday, there is no apparent threat to his Sunday status.

Andre Brown, New York Giants, (concussion): He hasn't practiced this week, and it doesn't appear he'll be ready to play Sunday.

Peyton Hillis (ankle) and Shaun Draughn (ankle), Kansas City Chiefs: Stop me if you've heard this before. Hillis is not practicing this week because of his sprained ankle and should not be counted on for Sunday. The addition here is Draughn. The good news is that Draughn was listed as a limited participant Wednesday and Thursday, and he appears to be healthy enough to go this week. The better news is that Jamaal Charles is nowhere near the injury report.

Wide Receivers

Hakeem Nicks (foot, knee) and Ramses Barden (concussion), New York Giants: Nicks didn't practice Wednesday but did some light work Thursday. This is the most we've seen of him in the past two weeks, so it's an encouraging sign. ESPN New York reports that after Thursday's outing Nicks said, "The defining moment will be tomorrow when I do a little bit more than individual [work] and see if I'm able to compete." Meanwhile, Barden put in full practices Wednesday and Thursday and looks to be ready to go in Week 6.

A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals (knee): Although Green was limited Wednesday, his bump up to full practice Thursday suggests he is on track to play Sunday.

Percy Harvin (hamstring) and Jerome Simpson (back, foot), Minnesota Vikings: Uh-oh. Harvin was a Thursday addition to the practice report with a hamstring ailment. While there is no reason to panic yet, this certainly warrants close attention Friday.

As for Simpson, he experienced weakness and numbness in his leg before Sunday's game and, although he was cleared to play, could not perform effectively. The culprit? His lower back, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, although no specifics have been offered as to what structures are involved. While the team has maintained optimism, this is not typically the type of thing that resolves quickly. Simpson did not practice Wednesday but was able to do some light work Thursday. He has a ways to go before being game ready, which coach Leslie Frazier acknowledged Thursday. According to ESPN 1500 Twin Cities, Frazier said Simpson is still experiencing weakness. Even if Simpson is able to practice Friday, a decision on his status may not come before Sunday.

Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers (groin): Jennings is still not fully recovered from the groin injury, and he has made it clear he is not returning until he feels 100 percent. He has not practiced this week, and while he may attempt to do so Friday, there is little indication he is ready for game action. The Packers don't play until Sunday night, so this is a situation to avoid.

Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys (hamstring): After the bye week, I would hope Austin's hamstring is in better shape. Despite being listed on the injury report, Austin participated in full practice Wednesday and Thursday. There is little doubt he will play.

Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos, (hip): Thomas was limited Thursday because of a hip issue sustained during last week's game, according to The Denver Post. The ailment does not sound serious, and with the Broncos not playing until Monday night, this may have been a means of getting Thomas some additional rest.

Titus Young, Detroit Lions (knee): According to the Detroit Free Press, coach Jim Schwartz said the knee soreness that has been bothering Young for several weeks is affecting his ability to produce on the field, not just physically in the moment but in the form of lack of practice reps. Young did not practice Wednesday, which raises an eyebrow because the Lions are coming off a bye week. He did return to limited practice Thursday, and the expectation is he will continue to play through the injury. Just how much he can deliver in the aerial offense remains to be seen. The hope seems to be that he will grow into the role as his knee improves. That all sounds reasonable as long as there are no setbacks, but Young is clearly not out of the woods.

Stephen Hill (hamstring) and Jeremy Kerley (illness, finger), New York Jets: Hill was unable to play last week because of the hamstring injury, but things seem to be looking up. He turned in limited practice Wednesday and Thursday. Even coach Rex Ryan said he expects Hill to play this week. Let's see him get through a Friday workout first. Meanwhile, Kerley was limited Wednesday but returned to full practice Thursday. It appears he will be available Sunday.

Julian Edelman, New England Patriots (hand): Edelman returned to limited practice for the first time Thursday. Wait to see what he does Friday.

Tight Ends

Rob Gronkowski (hip) and Aaron Hernandez (ankle), New England Patriots: Both tight ends are again listed as limited participants on the injury report without much other information being offered. Gronkowski's ability to play each week suggests he will continue to do so again. Hernandez may still be on the early side of recovery. Since the Patriots travel to Seattle, perhaps a decision will become apparent early based on who makes the trip.

Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers (shoulder): He hasn't practiced yet and won't until at least Friday, said coach Mike McCarthy.

Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions (knee): Pettigrew was listed as a limited participant Wednesday and Thursday, but according to The Detroit News, he was just getting some extra rest. It will be nice to see him go through a regular workout Friday, but there does not appear to be any serious injury.

Dustin Keller, New York Jets (hamstring): Keller's hamstring has been very problematic. He has not played since sustaining the injury in the first game of the season and has already endured one setback. After not practicing last week, Keller was able to function as a limited participant Wednesday and Thursday, so there is some progress. The last time Ryan said he expected Keller to play, he aggravated the hamstring in practice. If that doesn't happen again, Keller could see his first game action in more than a month.

On a final note, don't forget to adjust lineups for teams on a bye this week -- Chicago, New Orleans, Carolina and Jacksonville. They will not appear on the NFL official injury reports.