<
>

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

Arizona: The Cardinals haven't yet said whether receivers Steve Breaston (knee) and Early Doucet (hernia) will return from surgeries in time for Sunday. Neither practiced Wednesday. New quarterback Max Hall needs all the healthy targets he can get, but this would be a good week for the Cardinals to explore their running game. New Orleans has had some problems against the run. Arizona isn't healthy enough at receiver or far enough along offensively to win a passing contest with Drew Brees and the Saints. Hall will have had minimal reps with Breaston and Doucet, should they play. This seems like a good week to use two tight ends more frequently, in part because of injuries and in part because of the matchup. On defense, a pelvis injury limited inside linebacker Paris Lenon. The Cardinals need him to stay healthy. Depth at the position is a concern.

St. Louis: Steven Jackson practiced on a limited basis, a strong indication the groin strain he suffered in Week 3 remains manageable even if it limits his range of motion. The Rams feel good enough about their quarterback situation to trust rookie Sam Bradford on the road, independent of Jackson's health. That was the case at Oakland even though Jackson was healthier. Getting Laurent Robinson back from an ankle injury gives the Rams another option at receiver, improving depth. Brandon Gibson got good experience while Robinson was sidelined, helping the depth further. Left tackle Rodger Saffold suffered a shin injury and was limited Wednesday. Saffold has shown good ability to this point in his rookie season. Depth at tackle is a concern and losing Saffold would hurt the offense quite a bit. Saffold is expected to play at this point. The Rams have injury issues at defensive tackle, cornerback and tight end. Tight ends Billy Bajema and Michael Hoomanawanui are working their way back into practice this week. I'd be surprised if either were ready to contribute in Week 5.

San Francisco: Tight end Delanie Walker suffered a high-ankle sprain, a significant development for the 49ers because Walker presents matchup problems for opponents. The 49ers are getting receiver Ted Ginn Jr. back from a knee injury this week. Walker's expected absence and Ginn's return could lead to more three-receiver personnel groupings, particularly with Mike Johnson having taken over as offensive coordinator. Rookie Nate Byham could also get many of Walker's snaps, in which case the 49ers would be more of a running threat from their "12" personnel package. Center Eric Heitmann is off the injury report, but the 49ers have no plans to work him into the lineup right away, if at all. David Baas has played well enough to keep the job for now.

Seattle: The bye week is allowing some of the Seahawks' veteran players to rest injuries. Marcus Trufant (ankle) in particular can use the extra time. He moved pretty well against the Rams after missing practice time, but he was quite a bit more effective before the injury. The veteran's courtesy did not apply to rookie left tackle Russell Okung, who returned from an ankle injury in Week 4, but could not finish the game. Okung practiced this week. The Seahawks are now off until Monday. Seattle wanted Okung to get as many reps as possible, both in practice and the game at St. Louis, because he has missed so much time. It's important because Okung faces the Chicago Bears' Julius Peppers following the bye.