There was a collective sense of mourning among fantasy owners of Houston Texans tight end Owen Daniels when he went down Sunday with a season-ending knee injury. Daniels, who had been having a tremendous season, tore his right ACL when his foot reportedly caught in the Ralph Wilson Stadium turf during the Texans' win over the Bills. As is typical, Daniels will have surgery in approximately two weeks once the swelling has had a chance to subside and he approaches full range of motion. In the meantime, Daniels' owners will hit the waiver wire and work the trade market this week to seek a replacement. It will be tough to replace Daniels' production, but forge ahead we must, as a lot of time remains to jostle for fantasy playoff spots.
So whom else must fantasy owners be concerned about when it comes to injuries? We take a look at what we know so far in the wake of Week 8 ...
Anquan Boldin, WR, Arizona Cardinals: Boldin started Sunday's game as expected, but an aggravation of his right ankle injury forced him to leave midway through the third quarter. This was the second week in a row when Boldin's ankle impaired his ability to contribute in the second half, and the Cardinals must decide whether to hold him back for a week to allow the ankle to heal further. For Boldin's part, he says as long as he can run and cut, he expects to be on the field whether he's 100 percent healthy or not. Remember, this guy returned undaunted after suffering multiple facial fractures last season, so we should not expect any less. The Cardinals, while no doubt admiring Boldin's eagerness to be on the field, need to evaluate whether continued setbacks such as this one are worth it in the big scheme of things.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt told The Arizona Republic that sitting Boldin a week and allowing him some additional recovery time would be an option. Whisenhunt indicated that Boldin's performance would be evaluated as the week progresses, which seems to be a familiar tune. Earlier this season his status was questionable for a couple of weeks because of a hamstring injury. Although he has not yet missed a game this year, he clearly has not been at full capacity on several occasions.
It was Boldin who indicated in the days after his ankle injury that he had suffered a high ankle sprain, which typically takes longer to heal than a standard lateral ankle sprain as it is. Even if, as Coach Whisenhunt suggested, the degree of injury has not increased, the ongoing setbacks ultimately may prevent Boldin from returning to full performance as quickly as he otherwise might.
It's definitely a challenging question: Do you play an athlete who is still recovering in the hope that he can contribute some and maybe last the majority of the game? Or do you rest him for a week and hope that the value of the performance goes up in subsequent weeks and the risk of setback goes down? This is perhaps what the Cardinals will be considering this week when it comes to Boldin's status. Fantasy owners are just hoping for an answer before game time, although thankfully the Cards play the Bears in the early slate of Sunday's games. Stay tuned.
Brian Westbrook, RB, Philadelphia Eagles: Westbrook missed Week 8 as he recovered from a concussion suffered the previous Monday night. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Westbrook will return to full practice Wednesday after undergoing some exercise testing.
Once Westbrook rejoins practice, he will continue to be monitored for any return of symptoms. Only after Westbrook has met all the targets of no symptoms at rest, no symptoms with activity and normal cognitive function (these tests are compared to preseason baseline tests) and medical clearance has been granted, would he be available to play in a game. That quite possibly could be this weekend, but there is no true predictive measure for a return from a concussion. Fantasy owners will have to wait patiently for updates from the team, but based on Westbrook's progress thus far, the signs are encouraging.
Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions: Johnson did not play Sunday, and based on his limited activity during the week (after a bye), it really did not come as a huge surprise. All fantasy owners want to know is, will it be this weekend that he returns? The Lions are still calling him day-to-day, and all coach Jim Schwartz would reveal is that "he's getting closer," according to the Detroit Free Press. Without divulging the specifics of Johnson's injury, it's nearly impossible to predict what his time line for return normally would be. So we consider his activity as our best indicator.
Johnson did return to limited practice Thursday and Friday (although reportedly less Friday than Thursday), which was an improvement over the previous weeks. That said, the nature of what Johnson needs to do on the field and his athletic and acrobatic style demands that he be close to full strength. A receiver trying to play cautiously could be a recipe for further injury. When Johnson shows he can run full speed and participate in a significant portion of practice, it will at least provide a clue that he is nearing return.
Jake Delhomme, QB, Carolina Panthers: On Sunday, Delhomme took quite a hit to the chest, which ended up sending him to the hospital for tests. According to The Charlotte Observer, Delhomme said about the hit, "I couldn't catch my breath, and I felt like it was my sternum." Indeed, his sternum (breastbone) and everything underneath it underwent a CT scan during the fourth quarter of Sunday's game, but Delhomme said afterward that everything was fine and he expects to play Sunday in New Orleans. Sternal injuries are much like rib injuries in terms of the intensity of pain as well as the motions that tend to aggravate them. It likely will be uncomfortable for Delhomme to take deep breaths for a while and may be difficult to make deep throws. The Panthers will have to see how he tolerates activity to determine his readiness to play, but the absence of a fracture and no internal organ damage (lung, spleen) are certainly positive signs. So was an interception-free performance.
Trent Edwards, QB, Buffalo Bills: The Buffalo News is reporting that Edwards is expected to return as quarterback for the Bills in Week 10. Naturally, projections of his return are accompanied by the standard caveat, "barring any setbacks," as Edwards increases his activity after his recent concussion. Buffalo is on bye this week, so fantasy owners should be sure to fill in their rosters accordingly, but it appears that Fitzpatrick becomes (even more) droppable.
Other quick hits: Willie Parker missed practice Monday because of illness. The Steelers won't play until Monday night, so this does not appear to be a major concern.
Indianapolis Colts running back Donald Brown missed Week 8 because of his shoulder injury and is no lock to be available for Week 9.
New York Giants tight end Kevin Boss told the Newark Star-Ledger that his ankle (which caused him to miss a week earlier in the season) was "tender" after Sunday's game but not nearly as bad as the original injury. He expects to play this week. We'll see what he does in practice.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has two sore feet after Sunday's loss to the Vikings, but coach Mike McCarthy indicated that he is expected to play this week, even if his practice is limited.
Indianapolis Colts receiver Anthony Gonzalez does not appear to be be making a return to the field this week. He has yet to return to practice. Even if he does begin to practice with the team this week, it seems unlikely he would get back in a game situation after only a few days.
The Raiders have a bye in Week 9 but are hoping to get running back Darren McFadden back in Week 10. McFadden began doing some side work with one of the team's athletic trainers, according to the Oakland Tribune. McFadden says he was working on cuts, and that his target is a Nov. 15 return. He still must clear a number of hurdles before playing in a game situation, including consecutive workouts and practice sessions without swelling. Stay tuned.
New England Patriots running back Sammy Morris did not practice Tuesday, nor did he practice the entire bye week. Although the Patriots have not provided any details about the nature of Morris' injury, the fact that he is not practicing at all yet suggests Laurence Maroney is likely to remain the starter this week.
More to come in Thursday's blog ...
See you at the injury chats (Tuesday 11 a.m.-noon, Friday 11 a.m.-noon and Sunday pregame 10-10:30 a.m.), and we'll have the latest injury updates affecting Week 9 in the Saturday morning blog!