Welcome to Week 4, also known as the first bye week of the season. Traditionally teams have not favored early bye weeks as the rest seems to be more welcome deeper into the season. But as it happens, some teams are truly benefiting from the timing of their byes.
For the Vikings, it means tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and the hamstring he injured in Week 3 get some extra rest. Wide receiver Percy Harvin and quarterback Brett Favre, both of whom have been dealing with various ailments, should also appreciate a less physical week.
In Dallas, Cowboys tight end Jason Witten suffered a concussion in Week 2 but played in Week 3, only to add a sprained MCL to his list of injuries. Witten's sprain was reportedly mild and he likely would have pressed to play this week if necessary, but that decision won't have to be made now. Witten can rest his knee and wide receiver Dez Bryant can rest his fractured rib.
Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Charlie Weis was in the hospital Monday undergoing gall bladder surgery and will have an easier recovery week given the bye. Not that it sounds like he would have missed any time. After all, Weis put up with the intense pain from the infection in his gall bladder through last weekend so that he could help orchestrate the Chiefs' demolition of the San Francisco 49ers in Arrowhead Stadium. It will be tough for any of the Chiefs' players to complain about their own aches and pains during the off week.
Down in Tampa, Buccaneers tight end Kellen Winslow has been playing despite experiencing pain in his surgically repaired knee. While Winslow has been able to play through the pain, the well-timed rest could help boost his productivity going forward.
Teams do not have to provide the same injury reports during their bye weeks, so fantasy owners will have to wait until next week for updates on any of their players who are taking a week off. In the meantime, here are some updates on other players of interest which may affect bye-week pickups:
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: Reports of Brees in a knee brace perhaps has fantasy owners worried, but it sounds like this is not something that will keep him off the field. Brees took a shot to his knee late in Sunday's game and was limping afterward. An MRI came back negative, much to the relief of Saints fans and Brees fantasy owners everywhere. He told reporters his knee was sore but added, "It's gotten a lot better since Monday." Whew.
Brees has been wearing a brace, however, which provides some compression and support and makes it easier for him to move around. Apparently, he was moving well enough for the Saints since he was not on the injury report Wednesday. Brees should be expected to start as usual this weekend.
Jake Delhomme, Cleveland Browns: Delhomme was out of practice again Wednesday because of his injured ankle but put in some limited work Thursday. Coach Eric Mangini has maintained all along that even if Delhomme were limited in practice, it would not prevent him from starting Sunday. If Delhomme is able to get back into the mix enough this week, it's quite possible he could take the reins this weekend.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: Despite the pronouncement that Stafford would begin throwing this week, he did not throw in the portion of practice open to the media Wednesday and was listed on the injury report as not participating in practice. He will have to move through a throwing progression before he can even return to practice. Do not expect him back this week.
Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens: Rice did not practice Wednesday, which comes as no surprise. Diagnosed with a knee contusion after Sunday's game, Rice's activity will be limited at best early on. The Baltimore Sun quoted a source close to Rice as saying the injury "is not that bad." Sure, it's not a ligament sprain or a fracture, but one shouldn't underestimate how limiting swelling around the knee can be for a running back. The big unknown is how much time it will take for the swelling to subside so that Rice has complete, easy motion of the knee and the ability to perform at full strength. Rice is eager to play; it's just a question of how the knee and the clock cooperate. Fantasy owners should prepare a backup plan but keep an eye on Rice's activity for the next two days.
Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams:
On Tuesday, we described how Jackson strained his groin in a rather atypical fashion. It's no shock then that he did not participate in practice Wednesday. Jackson continues to undergo rehabilitation for the injury but may not actually do much throughout the week. This is looking like it will be headed for a game-time decision, but savvy Jackson fantasy owners know to have a backup plan. He will want to go, he will try his best to get there, but the team may decide it's too risky to play him if he is anything at less than full speed.
Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers: Good news for Mathews' fantasy owners: He appears on track to return Sunday. Mathews, who showed signs of improvement in the ankle late last week when he did some treadmill work, returned to practice Wednesday. In response to an inquiry Wednesday regarding Mathews' chances of playing this week, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweeted "very good." Very good news indeed.
Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals: Wells was impressive in his return to the field Sunday after missing time for what we now know was an arthroscopic surgical procedure. The fact that he performed well on the field, along with no reports of unusual postgame swelling or soreness, suggests that his workload will only go up. Tim Hightower is expected to continue to start, but fantasy owners should feel comfortable that Wells will see significant action.
Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints: Thomas got his ankle twisted Sunday and the sight of it made it look like he might not return. But he did return and finished the game. Apparently his ankle didn't forget how it felt, though, as Thomas was out of Wednesday's practice. It's too soon to speculate as to his Sunday availability, but it is worth noting that rookie teammate Chris Ivory made his season debut last week. Ivory, who missed the first two games of the season with an MCL sprain, did not appear on Wednesday's injury report.
Jerome Harrison, Cleveland Browns: Harrison sat out last Sunday's game after missing practice all week with a thigh injury. He returned to limited work Wednesday but how he feels as the week goes on will ultimately determine his availability. If you happen to be one of those Peyton Hillis fantasy owners who celebrated last week, there's a chance you might do the same thing this Sunday. Stay tuned.
Andre Johnson, Houston Texans: Johnson's ankle, aggravated during Sunday's game, kept him out of practice Wednesday, just like last week. Johnson reminded people that it was Thursday of last week when he tested the ankle with some running and he plans to do so again this week. While Johnson remains upbeat about his chances for Sunday, coach Gary Kubiak continues to take the more conservative approach. The matchup at the Oakland Raiders is less than favorable for Johnson and would be less so if he is not firing on all cylinders. Kubiak has already expressed that the team would be cautious with Johnson, keeping the bigger picture of the season in mind. This may come down to a game-time decision but fantasy owners may want to have insurance at the ready.
Mario Manningham, New York Giants: Manningham was out of practice Wednesday with a concussion, initially casting doubt as to whether he will be available for this week's contest. It's no secret that managing players who suffer concussions is being taken seriously in the NFL, but Manningham was apparently well enough to return to some form of practice Thursday. Let's see how he responds as the week progresses.
• Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, which does not exactly support the notion of his return Sunday. Tuesday we outlined the problems with this type of injury and the difficulty it presents for a running back in particular. Fantasy owners need to make alternate plans.
• Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno was a late scratch last week after injuring his hamstring in practice. He was projected to miss more than one week initially, so it comes as no surprise that he was not practicing Wednesday. While he has not yet officially been ruled out, Moreno's fantasy owners should plan as if that's going to be the case.
• Indianapolis Colts running back Joseph Addai remains on the injury report because of his knee but was able to play last week and should again Sunday. Teammate Pierre Garcon remained out of practice because of his injured hamstring. It looks as if Austin Collie might be reprising his role this weekend.
• Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson showed up on Wednesday's injury report as a non-participant because of his knee. There is not much in the way of detail but unless Benson ends up out of practice for an extended period, this could just be a means of giving him additional rest.
• Washington Redskins running back Clinton Portis appears on the injury report again this week because of his wrist. Portis has played the last two weeks despite the wrist ailment. He fully participated in practice Wednesday so he appears to be in line to play again.
• Oakland Raiders tight end Zach Miller did not practice Wednesday because of an undisclosed injury.
I won't have an injury chat Friday but I will have the latest injury updates affecting Week 4 in the Saturday morning blog!