Things are really starting to shake up. Real football now takes place on Thursdays, in addition to Sundays and Mondays. Fantasy football playoff qualifiers are being determined and every week means potential elimination for some unlucky owners. In other news, the sun continues to rise and set every day and the Patriots are still winning.
With regards to the injuries, here's what we know so far heading into Week 12.
Due to the upcoming Thanksgiving Day games, the layout is a bit different this week. Key players involved in Thursday's games are listed first, followed by the Sunday/Monday crowd.
Green Bay at Detroit
Ryan Grant, RB, Packers Grant reportedly has a mild ankle sprain (likely Grade I, which means minimal structural damage). He is being held out of practice early in the week to rest the ankle with the expectation that he will play this Thursday.
Kevin Jones, RB, Lions: Jones is dealing with some soreness in his surgically repaired foot, and the thought was that he would be limited somewhat in his activity Sunday, in anticipation of a short week. According to coach Rod Marinelli, Jones emerged from Sunday's game "fine" and is expected to play Thursday.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions: Johnson will also play, although the Lions acknowledge that his action has been somewhat limited due to his still ailing back. Marinelli told The Detroit News that Johnson's back is one factor in determining how much he is utilized but indicated that the Lions' offensive schemes, which sometimes call for Johnson to play a decoy role, are another. If Johnson were 100 percent, he would be more involved, according to quarterback Jon Kitna. Johnson made a nice leaping catch in the end zone Sunday, and I was watching in particular to see how he looked getting up after landing on his back. He stood up without hesitation, which was a good sign. At times he appears a bit less acrobatic in some of his catches, still lifting his sizeable 6-foot-5 frame over defenders, but perhaps without quite the same separation we saw early in the season, suggesting that his power is a bit limited because of the lingering soreness and stiffness. As time goes on, those things will continue to improve, barring any setback, and Johnson will likely find himself becoming a more frequent target.
New York (Jets) at Dallas:
Laveranues Coles, WR, Jets: The Newark Star-Ledger reports that the Jets' star receiver sustained a high left ankle sprain Sunday and is unlikely to play on Thanksgiving Day. The Star-Ledger cites an unnamed source who spoke with Coles after the game. The Jets are not very revealing when it comes to injuries so we may not get confirmation from the team that it is, in fact, a high ankle sprain. Assuming that is the case, however, we know that these tend to be a bit slower to resolve than a typical lateral ankle sprain. One thing to point out is that Coles did attempt to return to the game last week after the initial injury, meaning it did not appear severe when tested on the sideline, which should translate to a quicker return time. Coles is tough; he missed his first start in more than three years just three weeks ago when he was sidelined with a concussion. If the injury is mild, he could return in Week 13, but until the Jets initiate Week 13 practice, we probably won't hear anything more. He is a good candidate to keep on your fantasy roster because he very well could return within another week or two.
Patrick Crayton, Cowboys: Crayton sprained his ankle during the first quarter of Sunday's game, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Crayton managed to finish the game, indicating that the injury could not have been too severe. It was bad enough to keep Crayton out of practice Tuesday and to cause Wade Phillips to say that Crayton might miss Thursday's game. He is expected to be a game-time decision so be sure to check the inactives Thursday.
Colts at Falcons
Marvin Harrison, WR, Colts: His still-inflamed knee is expected to cause him to miss the Thanksgiving Day game, and he won't have Aaron Moorehead to back him up. Moorehead was placed on injured reserve by the Colts after experiencing a flare-up of a chronic back problem last week. According to coach Tony Dungy, Anthony Gonzalez, who has been out with a hand injury, will likely be back in the lineup. Harrison is being projected to perhaps return in Week 13, but whenever the timing is dependent on the resolution of swelling, especially swelling that has been lingering for nearly six weeks, understand that the reliability of the projection is questionable.
Byron Leftwich, QB, Falcons: Leftwich returned to play Sunday after being out following ankle surgery. His ankle seemed solid yet his performance was anything but, and Joey Harrington replaced him in the third quarter. Apparently, Leftwich also suffered a tailbone injury during the game and has not been able to practice. Harrington will get the start over Leftwich on Thanksgiving Day.
Larry Johnson, Chiefs: ProFootballTalk.com reports that Johnson traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina to meet with Dr. Robert Anderson, the same physician who performed Kevin Jones' surgery, for an evaluation of his foot. The report states that Johnson has a Lisfranc injury and that the main question was whether Johnson would require surgery to repair the condition. The Chiefs have not issued any formal statement as to the exact nature of Johnson's condition, other than that he is dealing with a midfoot sprain. Last Thursday, the Kansas City Star reported that Johnson said he expected to return this season. Johnson described all of the rehabilitation he has been doing, and without disclosing any specifics about the injury itself, remarked that the swelling had been severe initially but pointed out that he was now walking without a boot. On Monday the Kansas City Star quoted Chiefs president Carl Peterson as saying "If a patient doesn't want medical information out there, then (the doctor) is obligated, as we are, under the rules of HIPAA, of not going into detail." This statement clearly suggests that it is Johnson himself who is requesting that the organization keep the details surrounding his injury confidential, as he has the right to do. Peterson went on to say that the Chiefs would only report what was required by the NFL and that they would continue to evaluate Johnson on a week-to-week basis.
So what are the takeaways from this?
We don't really know the severity of the injury. There has been speculation that Johnson has a fracture in his foot. That has neither been confirmed nor denied publicly by Johnson or the Chiefs. There are a few clues, however, as to how bad this midfoot injury might be. If it were definitely season-ending, the Chiefs would likely have acted by now to move Johnson to injured reserve, so as to open up another spot on the active roster. The Chiefs indicate that Johnson will be evaluated week-to-week, meaning they anticipate progress from week-to-week. Johnson has been seen walking about in a sock, out of the ankle boot, within two weeks of the injury. More severe injuries require a longer period of immobilization (4-6 weeks minimum), with the most severe cases resulting in surgery fairly soon after injury.
Lisfranc injuries are not all created equal. There is a Lisfranc joint complex in the midsection of the foot (the name actually refers to the region of the foot as well as any injury associated with that region). Injuries to this area can be very serious (fracture/dislocation), especially if not properly diagnosed and managed early on, which is why teams become very nervous when they hear this name associated with an injury to one of their athletes. That being said, the injury can be less severe (sprain), requiring less immobilization time and no surgical intervention, which appears to be the case with Johnson. The injuries to the Lions' Kevin Jones, and most recently to the Colts' Dwight Freeney, are of the serious variety, requiring major surgery followed by lengthy rehab. (In Friday's blog we will examine the serious Lisfranc injury in more detail, specifically related to Dwight Freeney and Kevin Jones.)
Keeping Johnson on your fantasy roster is a gamble. You now know why we do not know the specifics related to his time frame at this point. Assuming that the injury is, at best, only a sprain, with no fracture present, it would still likely be two-to-three weeks before Johnson could return, not likely in time to help out your fantasy team much. If you have already made the playoffs and can afford to keep him as an extra on your roster in the event that he returns, then do so. But if you need running-back help in the next few weeks, you should seek that help elsewhere.
Priest Holmes, Chiefs: Keeping it right here in the Chiefs' family, Holmes, who had stepped up his role in Johnson's absence, was shaken up during the second half of Sunday's game. There have since been reports that Holmes re-injured his neck, which coach Herm Edwards confirmed to ESPN's John Clayton, although he gave no detail as to the severity of the injury. Holmes reportedly has been visiting with medical specialists and conferring with family members and is scheduled for a Wednesday press conference. There has been speculation that he will announce his retirement, but the Chiefs have not confirmed that. Holmes originally suffered a concussion and a bruised spinal cord back in October, 2005. There was doubt at that time that Holmes would ever play football again, but after rehabbing extensively and working his way back towards football shape, Holmes made a comeback, albeit a brief one, in October of this year. While his efforts were admirable in terms of both his physical conditioning and mental resolve, there was always some concern about the potential consequences of another head or neck injury. It looks as if we may be seeing the end of a fabulous career. With teammate Larry Johnson out indefinitely, it looks as if rookie Kolby Smith may be forced into starting duties.
Ahman Green, Texans: Green continues to struggle with ongoing inflammation in his knee and there is no timetable for his return. Despite the efforts of coach Gary Kubiak to limit Green's practice during the week in order to save him for the weekend, Green's knee has prevented him from taking the field for the last few weeks. As ESPN's John Clayton reported, the Texans at this point are considering shutting Green down for the remainder of the season. If he is on your fantasy team, you should be searching for a replacement.
Selvin Young, Broncos: Young left Monday night's game with a "knee issue" according to the Denver Post. He did manage to return briefly, however, and the team says he is "fine." Practice reports this week will tell us if that really is the case.
Adrian Peterson, Vikings: According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Peterson (torn LCL) continues with his rehab progress, running on an underwater treadmill for the first time this week, which allows him to condition his cardiovascular system and get his running form back while minimizing joint, and therefore ligament, stresses. Coach Brad Childress has indicated that he does not expect Peterson to return to play this week (which would mark only two weeks since the injury) and the Vikings continue to approach this as a day-to-day situation. Childress did add that Peterson would wear a brace when he returns. Knee braces, although by no means a guarantee against further injury, are more effective at providing medial/lateral stability (more reinforcement for the medial collateral (MCL) and lateral collateral (LCL) ligaments) than rotational stability (ACL). It still remains to be seen what Peterson's true timetable is because he has yet to run on land, which will begin with straight in-line running. He then will have to progress through various drills and ultimately will need to demonstrate control in directional running and cutting (typically late in the progression), not to mention make it through complete practices, before he sees the field. Do not count on his return for another two-to-three weeks, and bear in mind that this is a sliding time scale depending on Peterson's response to each level of activity.
Brandon Jacobs, Giants: We're still not hearing much about the extent of Jacobs' hamstring injury. Jacobs said initially that he did not think it was serious, yet he hopped off the field grabbing his leg. That looked like more than a minor tweak. The New York Post states that coach Tom Coughlin, when asked how Jacobs was doing after undergoing some tests, merely stated "He's sore." If you look at the effect hamstring injuries have had on key fantasy players already this season (Rudi Johnson, Todd Heap), you know to hope for the best but expect the worst. Despite his protestations regarding the seriousness of the injury, expect Jacobs to be out of your lineup for two-to-four weeks, meaning, you may not have him back this fantasy season. Derrick Ward may be moved to action, but keep in mind that he has been out with ankle and groin injuries for several weeks and would be a risky fantasy start. Reuben Droughns and Ahmad Bradshaw are the next two Giants on the running-back depth chart, though the team signed veteran Patrick Pass this week.
Vince Young, Titans: Young suffered a quad contusion (bruise) on Monday night, on the same quad that he strained earlier in the season. In the Tennessean, coach Jeff Fisher said he expects Young to play this Sunday, even if he does not practice the entire week. When Young strained the muscle, he actually tore muscle fibers which had to repair themselves in order for the injury to heal. A contusion is a deep bruise to the muscle, and the main goal in the next few days is for the bruising and local swelling to dissipate, at which point the muscle function should vastly improve. Consequently this injury should not take as long to resolve.
Alex D. Smith, 49ers: Smith will not be returning any time soon. ESPN's Len Pasquarelli reports that Smith visited Dr. James Andrews for a consultation and was told that the shoulder may be in worse shape than at the time of the initial injury. Smith will continue with his rehab efforts (keep in mind that his forearm continues to be a problem as well) for two weeks and will then be re-evaluated. It sounds as if he is ultimately headed for surgery; the question is whether it will be during the season or afterward. To compound Smith's physical problems, he and coach Mike Nolan have exchanged some very public barbs recently, perhaps underlining the general frustration present in San Francisco. There is not a lot to suggest that Smith will be rushing back any time soon, if at all, this season.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Santonio Holmes, Steelers: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says it's a mild high ankle sprain that is affecting Holmes, and he is already listed as doubtful for next Monday night's game against the Dolphins. Even if the sprain is minor, the location (high) makes it a more serious injury. Expect him to miss two-to-four weeks, give or take.
Javon Walker, Broncos: Walker is optimistic, according to the Rocky Mountain News, that he will resume full practice this week and be ready to start Sunday at Chicago. Walker is recovering from an arthroscopic knee surgery on his previously ACL-reconstructed knee and has been progressing nicely. Prior to the surgery, Walker had been dealing with persistent swelling on the back side of his knee. Walker now says that it was a "cyst" in his knee that was causing the problem. Walker is most likely referring to what is called a Baker's cyst, which is a pouch of synovial fluid (the fluid found normally within the knee joint) that collects and forms a cyst-like structure as an extension of the joint capsule, typically on the back side of the knee. The cyst generally forms in response to some irritation within the knee joint itself. Remove the source of the irritation, which ranges from torn meniscus to cartilage flaps or fraying, and the cyst then typically resolves. If that is indeed the scenario, then Walker should be in much better shape for having had the procedure, and should return strong and without fear of further injury.
Don't see your player here? Be sure to check back after Friday practice reports when we check further Week 12 updates. We will also quickly touch on any Thursday game injuries at that time.