Usually we don't get much information from the teams that are on bye weeks as they quietly rest their injured players and give everyone some much-needed downtime. That said, there are a few interesting tidbits from a couple of teams who are not playing in Week 9.
While there is other news swirling among the Oakland Raiders, fantasy owners might want to note that running back Darren McFadden has returned to practice for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in October to address a torn meniscus. The Oakland Tribune reports that McFadden practiced without experiencing any setbacks. Of course, the all-important test is how the knee responds in subsequent days. If McFadden continues to practice, this is a good sign that he will be available in Week 10. The Tribune indicates that the Raiders expect McFadden to play next Sunday, but that the status of wide receiver Chaz Schilens, who is still slowly recovering from foot surgery, remains questionable.
On the opposite coast, Buffalo Bills quarterback Trent Edwards has returned to light practice following a concussion. The Buffalo News quotes a team source as saying that Edwards will return to his starting role in Week 10, assuming no setbacks as he continues to increase his practice activity.
The New York Jets are literally taking the week off as coach Rex Ryan gave everyone six days of vacation. Most players indicated that they had never had this kind of time off midseason. It will be interesting to see whether it proves to be the beginning of a fresh start for the slumping Jets. It could certainly help all the recovering muscle strains on that team.
Thankfully this is the last of the six-team bye weeks so fantasy owners have to contend with only one more frantic search to find substitutions. The Bills, Raiders, Jets, Cleveland Browns, St. Louis Rams and Minnesota Vikings all have this week off.
Here are some status updates to help you shape your roster as we look ahead to Week 9.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: Rodgers is nursing two sore feet and did not practice Wednesday as expected. According to the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Rodgers has a sprained big toe on his left foot (sustained during last week's game) as well as a right foot sprain which he has been dealing with for two weeks. Rodgers broke the fifth metatarsal (long forefoot bone that connects to the fifth or pinkie toe) in 2006, so this new left toe injury is in a completely different location. The big toe is critical for push-off, so Rodgers' mobility may be compromised a bit more than usual, making his pocket protection that much more important.
Veteran tackle Mark Tauscher, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last December and has not played since, may make his season debut at right tackle this Sunday. It appears that Rodgers will also have his veteran left tackle Chad Clifton back in the lineup this week. Clifton, who has had recurring problems with an ankle sprain, was active last week but did not see playing time. That could very well change this week when the Packers face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Look for Rodgers to do very little physical activity until Friday, as a measure for ensuring his availability for Sunday.
Jake Delhomme, Carolina Panthers: Delhomme was a full participant in practice Wednesday despite suffering a chest contusion in Week 8. As of now, it appears he is ready to take the field Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.
Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia Eagles: On Tuesday, I outlined what would have to happen in order for Westbrook to be eligible to play in Week 9. So far, so good. Westbrook practiced fully on Wednesday and Thursday and coach Andy Reid says "he's good to go," according to the Eagles' official Web site. The expectation is that he will practice every day this week and barring any setback, will be prepared to play Sunday. Expect the typical Westbrook and LeSean McCoy rotation as the team looks to balance his workload, which has been a constant throughout the season. Westbrook continues to run well when called upon; he is just called upon less frequently as the Eagles utilize all their options.
Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants: As expected, Bradshaw did not practice Wednesday to rest his foot and ankle. Bradshaw likely will do limited work before the game and then play Sunday when the Giants host the San Diego Chargers. Bradshaw did not have his best statistics Sunday and it is no secret that he is playing in pain. Nonetheless he has performed well overall despite playing with the injury and there is no reason to think that he won't continue to do so.
Donald Brown, Indianapolis Colts: Brown did not play in Week 8 because of his shoulder injury but was back in practice Wednesday trying to make his case for this Sunday. In fact, fantasy owners may think he's in the clear since Brown did not even appear on the Colts' official practice injury report for Wednesday. Not so fast. The Colts are holding off on making a decision as to whether or not Brown will be available until late in the week. No doubt they will want to see that he can practice on consecutive days without limitation. This could result in a game-time decision, but for what it's worth, the Colts face the Houston Texans in an early matchup.
Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions: Smith injured his left shoulder in Sunday's game, taking him out of the game early. Apparently it was not so serious that Smith could not have returned, but since Maurice Morris was running well, the Lions went with him. This is not the same shoulder Smith injured earlier in the season (which did not result in any missed time). Smith did not practice Wednesday but was back in practice Thursday. Jim Schwartz went to the trouble of explaining that the workload split in Sunday's game between Smith and Morris was a result of that shoulder injury, but that Smith is the Lions' "workhorse running back, getting most of the carries." So it appears that if Smith is able to go, he certainly will. The Lions have tended to earmark their injured players as game-time decisions, so expect Smith to fall into that category as well. If he practices again Friday, it would certainly support the notion that he will start.
Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions: After a few weeks of doing little or nothing in practice, Johnson has returned to increased practice activity this week. Johnson reportedly moved well in practice, but the Lions remain noncommittal about his availability in Week 9. The fact that Johnson is appearing in back-to-back practices on Wednesday and Thursday is already more encouraging than anything he has done since the injury. The Lions clearly need him on the field not only to provide the obvious target for quarterback Matthew Stafford, but also to force opposing defenses to respond to him. That said, they do not want him to be at risk for something more significant in terms of injury. The Detroit Free Press is reporting that coach Jim Schwartz says Johnson's availability will likely be a game-time decision (not surprising as this has been the case before) but this is an early game so fantasy owners can take some consolation there.
Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez, Indianapolis Colts: Wayne had a good game in Week 8 despite a recently strained groin and was back in practice Wednesday (and off the injury report). Wayne has a good history against the Houston Texans and it certainly looks as if he will be starting against them this week.
Meanwhile, Anthony Gonzalez is not any closer to returning to the field. Gonzalez sprained his knee (PCL) early in the season and was originally projected back after the team's bye but has not yet been able to even participate in practice. Gonzalez did not take part in team drills Wednesday and is seeking outside consultation for his injured knee.
According to Tom James of the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, Colts head coach Jim Caldwell is not sure as to exactly where Gonzalez stands in his recovery. Says Caldwell, "I know he's trying to get to the point where he feels like he can function at his normal level. He is not there yet. How long that takes him just depends. I know he's taken a look at it and getting some more opinions and things of that nature and moving forward."
At this point, fantasy owners who were still holding out hope for Gonzalez need to relinquish the space on their bench and find an alternate player who can contribute now. While Gonzalez may yet return this season, there are still too many question marks as to if and when that will be, not to mention how he will perform.
Anquan Boldin, Arizona Cardinals: His status is becoming "iffier" by the day. Boldin, who has acknowledged that he does not expect his ankle to be 100 percent healthy, did not practice Wednesday and there seems to be some momentum building toward resting Boldin for a week to afford the ankle some opportunity to heal. While it's unlikely that one week will allow the ankle to recover completely, it certainly could go a long way toward improving his chances of making it through a full game.
Boldin has played the past two weeks despite the injury but has struggled after the first half. According to the Cardinals' official Web site, coach Ken Whisenhunt is evaluating the situation and insists, "We always try to make the decision that's in the best interest of the team." Fantasy owners think it would be in their best interest to find out before game time, especially since the past two weeks have resulted in frustration. At least the Cardinals play early this week, but it's fair to say that unless Boldin makes a miraculous recovery, it certainly seems as if the team is leaning toward sidelining him for Week 9.
Mario Manningham, New York Giants: Manningham sat out Week 8 after injuring his shoulder in practice late last week. The good news is that he's been back in practice this week and looks as if he will be available Sunday.
Donald Driver, Green Bay Packers: Driver suffered a stinger in Sunday's game but early indications were that it was not serious and that he would play in Week 9. It is a bit concerning that Driver did not practice Wednesday or, apparently, Thursday. The Green Bay Press-Gazette reports that Driver was on the field but not in pads during the portion of practice open to the media. It certainly could be the case that the team is being cautious with Driver and avoiding any contact during the week. So far there is no indication that his status for Sunday is in doubt, but Friday's practice should yield more clues.
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 pre-game (10-10:30 a.m.). And check out Fantasy Football Now on Sundays at ESPN.com from 11:30 a.m. ET to kickoff for last minute inactives, rankings and more!