Injury concerns regarding players heading into the Sunday and Monday games can be critical. Each week, this Saturday blog entry will be dedicated to information on those who appear on the official Friday NFL injury report and how their status may affect fantasy teams.
For those who may be new to this blog: Injury reports provide some insight to a player's status. The NFL requires teams to submit their injury reports several times a week, identifying the body part that is involved in the injury. Early in the week, these reports will indicate whether a player is not practicing, is limited in practice or is a full participant in practice. On Fridays, all players on the injury report are assigned one of the following designations by their teams: probable, questionable, doubtful or out. The designations in this blog reflect the injury reports filed with the league office on Friday evening. Teams playing on Monday night do not have to issue their designations until Saturday.
The explanation for each designation is as follows:
Out: This is the easy one; the guy's not playing Sunday.
Probable (P): This designation indicates a player is expected to play, barring a setback between the final injury report and kickoff.
Questionable (Q): This is the most dreaded player designation, yet it manages to be the one most frequently utilized by teams (sometimes to keep everyone guessing). It means a player's status is on the fence; there is technically a 50-50 chance that he's on the field come game time, although some teams utilize the questionable designation far more broadly. Whether a player ends up active often comes down to a game-time decision based on how he feels on game-day morning or how he performs during warm-ups. Final inactives are due 90 minutes before kickoff.
Doubtful (D): The doubtful designation means a player has theoretically less than a 25 percent chance of playing that week. Rarely does a player labeled as doubtful end up playing, unless he experiences a major turnaround before game time.
Each week in the Saturday blog, we run down a list of key fantasy players, by position, who appear in the Friday injury report, along with the injured body part as listed on the report, player status and any relevant developments or insight. The primary fantasy positions are covered (quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end). At the end, key fantasy players listed Friday as "out" for that week's games will appear as a group.
Good luck in Week 1, everyone!
Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys, back, (P): Romo had surgery in late December to address a lumbar herniated disk. He started the 2014 season on time, but later suffered two transverse process fractures in his lower back. It’s understandable then that he would benefit from regularly scheduled rest during the week to help ensure his back cooperates throughout the season. Like last year, Romo is getting Wednesday off to rest, then returning to full practice Thursday and Friday. And, like last season, he can be counted on for Sunday.
LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills, hamstring, (P): McCoy has been working his way back from a significant hamstring strain suffered during practice on Aug. 18. At the time, coach Rex Ryan told reporters: “It’s not off the bone, so that’s real positive.” Positive indeed, as an avulsion -- or complete tear of the hamstring off the bone -- almost certainly would have resulted in season-ending surgery. The fact there was even a question, even briefly, as to whether McCoy might have suffered such an injury indicates it was more than just a minor pull. His progress was good enough to permit a full return to practice this week, however, and McCoy is now on track to play in the Bills’ season opener. McCoy acknowledged to reporters he is not quite 100 percent, but feels good enough “to compete.”
The concern now is not whether he will take the field this week but whether he will be able to get through an entire game without a setback. The greatest risk for a hamstring injury is a recent hamstring injury; fatigue and dehydration can also play a role. Those factors may all co-exist for McCoy in the course of four quarters of football, particularly given he may still be recovering from the initial injury. If he gets through Sunday’s contest without issue, it should give him -- and fantasy owners -- increased confidence heading into next week.
Tre Mason, St. Louis Rams, thigh, (Q): Mason strained his right hamstring early in camp, and the team even gave him an extra couple days of rest after he was medically cleared before returning him to practice. But, hamstrings being the tricky things that they are, Mason aggravated the injury in late August. It’s no surprise then that the Rams might be a little nervous about bringing him back this time. In fact, Mason has not practiced at all since suffering the setback. Coach Jeff Fisher said on his radio show early in the week that Mason would likely be a game-time decision, but according to ESPN.com’s Nick Wagoner, Fisher expressed confidence in Benny Cunningham (most likely to start if Mason is out), Isaiah Pead and even Chase Reynolds. It’s tough to see Mason emerging from two weeks of non-practice to debut against the Seahawks, but the official word won’t come until Sunday.
Duke Johnson, Cleveland Browns, concussion, (P): The Browns really like what they see in Johnson. They just haven’t seen much of him yet. Johnson suffered a hamstring injury early in camp that sidelined him for weeks. When he finally made his debut in the team’s third preseason game, he lasted just beyond the first quarter before a concussion forced him out. He has recovered to the point of returning to full practices this week, and the probable designation indicates the team expects to have him available Sunday. There is a good chance he sees some action, but how much is unclear, given his limited experience. Isaiah Crowell and Johnson will likely share reps, but if Johnson excels, he could get increased opportunities going forward.
Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons, hamstring, no designation yet: Freeman and his rookie teammate Tevin Coleman both sustained Grade 1 (mild) hamstring strains on the same day of camp in early August. Coleman returned from his injury to play in the team’s third and fourth preseason games, which bumped him up to the lead position on the running back depth chart.
Freeman returned to limited practice Thursday followed by a full practice Friday. While he may end up being available Monday night, it’s hard to imagine him seeing extensive work after being absent for multiple weeks.
Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers, shoulder, (P): The good news is that Cobb has practiced each day, albeit on a limited basis, leading to a probable designation Friday. He will play but he knows he is not going to be at full strength. More importantly, he is hoping to avoid suffering a setback that could potentially sideline him altogether. Cobb is still experiencing discomfort and his range of motion remains somewhat limited, which could make it challenging for him to fully extend the arm, particularly overhead. But the biggest concern is landing on that injured right shoulder in the same way he did when he suffered the initial injury. To that end, he has already been practicing how to fall, according to ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky.
“I'm going to do my best to fall a certain way and fall the right way," Cobb said. "I can't help it if a guy lands on top of me. I'm going to do everything I can to protect myself. But I have to play fearless. I've always been a fearless player and that's part of it."
Alshon Jeffery, calf, (Q); Eddie Royal, hip, (Q); Marquess Wilson, hamstring, (Q), Chicago Bears: The Bears’ wide receiver corps has been hit hard, starting with rookie Kevin White, who is sidelined for an indefinite period of time as he recovers from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his leg. Naturally, they would not want to see their other receivers suffer significant injuries that could sideline them for extended periods. Perhaps that is part of the caution with Jeffery in particular, clearly the leading receiver of the bunch. Jeffery strained his calf in practice Aug. 12 and was spotted on crutches and in a walking boot the next day, sounding alarms everywhere. The boot and crutches were gone within a few days, but Jeffery remained absent from practice until this week.
After returning to limited practice Wednesday, Jeffery repeated the effort Thursday and Friday and it appears he will take the field on Sunday, although coach John Fox has said he will not make the final call until game day. It’s worth noting that Jeffery’s injury was described by Fox initially as day-to-day, but it was nearly four weeks before he returned to practice. So was the lengthy absence due to the fact the injury was more severe than the team indicated initially? Or was it a proactive measure to help ensure a second receiver wasn't lost for multiple weeks? There’s no way to know for sure, just as there’s no way to definitively know how ready Jeffery is for game action.
Calf strains can be stealthy, allowing an athlete to feel he can do anything until he does just a little too much -- one explosive move, for instance -- when the pain can resurface out of nowhere and sideline him again. The only way to know an athlete is past the injury is to see him play without incident, several times, then retrospectively pronounce the injury gone. Hamstring injuries and to a lesser degree quad injuries can behave similarly, but max demands of the calf are hard to simulate in non-competitive situations.
In the meantime, Royal and Wilson are dealing with injuries of their own. Royal is recovering from a hip injury that cropped up two weeks ago. He resumed individual drills a week later and returned to practice this Monday. Wilson strained a hamstring in the team’s preseason game against the Colts. He resumed individual work alongside Royal and also returned to practice Monday.
The tea leaves are hinting at all three receivers being available for Sunday, but their final status won’t officially be declared until inactives are due. The good news for fantasy owners? This is an early game.
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, hamstring, (Q): Evans injured his hamstring in the second preseason game and immediately afterward coach Lovie Smith indicated he didn’t believe it was serious after talking with his player. Except then Evans wasn’t seen again for the remainder of the preseason. Until Friday, that is, when Evans returned to practice for the first time, running routes at full speed. Evans’ assessment was simple.
“I feel really, really good.”
According to ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas, Smith remains undecided on Evans’ status and is waiting to see how Evans feels leading up to Sunday. He has pleaded his case to play, and his practice effort on Friday hints at him being able to suit up against the Titans. But is he fully healthy? The only way we’ll really find out is if he takes the field Sunday ... and stays on it.
Sammy Watkins, Buffalo Bills, hamstring, (P): Watkins had offseason hip surgery and was progressing nicely through camp until a soft tissue injury sidelined him. Back in full practice all week, there does not appear to be much concern about his health status as the probable tag indicates. He is expected to play Sunday when the Bills host the Colts.
Percy Harvin, Buffalo Bills, hip, (P): Harvin experienced some soreness in his surgically repaired hip during training camp and was forced to rest after receiving an injection to help with inflammation. Although he did not practice Wednesday (a rest day, according to Harvin), he did participate fully on Thursday and Friday and the probable tag indicates the team expects him to play in the season opener. Just how much action he will see is unclear.
DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins, foot, (P): There is much excitement in Miami about the rookie wide receiver, who was drafted 14th overall. The Louisville product underwent left foot surgery in June, however (his second procedure on the same foot, this one to replace a screw) and the Dolphins brought him into football action gradually. He did see some action in the team’s final preseason game and emerged feeling no residual soreness in his foot. The team would like to keep it that way, so while he is expected to be available Sunday, it may be in a limited role.
Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals, hand, (Q): Floyd’s training camp injury was one of the more gruesome of this preseason. He injured three fingers on his left hand and subsequently underwent surgery to repair the damage. Initially required to keep his fingers splinted, Floyd could only observe at practice for the first couple weeks post-operation, although he diligently worked to maintain his conditioning and practiced one-handed catches with his non-injured arm. Floyd returned to practice this week and coach Bruce Arians sounded impressed with what he saw, saying he looked “really, really good,” according to ESPN.com’s Josh Weinfuss. More importantly, he appears to have put his hand through some important tests, including diving to catch a ball in practice.
His status is shaping up to be a game-time decision, but there appears to be a decent chance Floyd will play. Still, he was only recently cleared for full activity and his game exposure may be limited in his first outing, particularly if it comes this week.
Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys, hamstring, (P): After a hamstring issue cropped up the first week in August, Bryant’s activity was limited for the remainder of the preseason to ensure he entered the regular season healthy. It appears he will be doing exactly that. Bryant was a full participant in practice throughout the week, and according to ESPN.com’s Todd Archer, he put his athletic talents on display while snagging passes from Tony Romo.
Full go. Based on ridiculous catch I just saw from Dez in 1v1 work, he's ready. https://t.co/UtLbrlKevj
— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) September 10, 2015
He is expected to start as usual.
Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons, elbow, (P): After his full practice Saturday, the expectation is that White will play. White, long considered one of the most durable wide receivers (he did not miss a game in the first eight years of his career), is seeing the effects of multiple years of playing this game catch up with him. Most recently, he underwent arthroscopic elbow surgery to remove debris from the joint, something that should actually help his range of motion and make it easier for him to play. He was back in full practice this week and should be ready to roll on Monday.
Charles Clay, Buffalo Bills, knee, (P): Clay left practice early on a Tuesday in late August because of his knee, but it couldn’t have been too serious because he played in that week’s preseason game. He has been a full participant in practice throughout the week and is expected to play.
Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs, ankle, (P): Kelce rolled his ankle in practice two weeks ago but it never appeared to be a significant issue. Coach Andy Reid indicated if it were the regular season, Kelce could have played in that week’s game. He has been a full participant in practice this week and is expected to play.
Eric Ebron, Detroit Lions, ankle, (P): Ebron was held out of the team’s two final preseason games with an undisclosed injury but this week’s injury report indicates his ankle was the culprit. After a limited practice Wednesday, Ebron practiced fully Thursday and Friday and the probable tag indicates the team expects him to play.
Ladarius Green, San Diego Chargers, concussion, (Q): Green made a surprise appearance in practice Friday, running routes and catching passes just two days after being diagnosed with a concussion. This would suggest his symptoms had cleared entirely within 24 hours and he was moving through physical activity testing. He would still need to be cleared for contact and cleared by all physicians to return to play in a game before being eligible to suit up Sunday, hence the questionable tag.
Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles, groin, (Q): Ertz underwent surgery to repair a core muscle in the first week of August and returned to practice earlier this week. After limited participation Thursday and Friday, Ertz was listed as a full participant Saturday. His progress is impressive, but he is still a shade on the early side for a return to four full quarters of contact football. He will remain a game-time call for Monday night.
This space is intended for a list of key players, not including those who have been moved to injured reserve status, who are officially listed as "out" for the upcoming game.
Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans, groin: The news on Foster’s recovery from Aug. 7 surgery to repair a torn groin muscle has been all positive, with hints of his return as soon as late September or early October. Just not yet.
Todd Gurley, RB, St. Louis Rams, knee: The Rams are excited about their rookie running back, but they want to keep him around for a long time. That means no rushing him into action. On his rehab track from an ACL reconstruction, Gurley is doing everything including absorbing some physical contact in practice. That contact will become far more intense in games so he remains out for now.
C.J. Spiller, RB, New Orleans Saints, knee: Spiller underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee in the preseason and isn’t quite ready for prime time. ESPN.com’s Mike Triplett suggests Spiller could return as early as next week, so keep an eye on his practice status.
Julius Thomas, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars, hand: Thomas broke the middle finger in his right hand in the team’s first preseason game. He subsequently underwent surgery in early September due to concerns of potential instability and is expected to miss roughly the first month of the season.
Lorenzo Taliaferro, RB, Baltimore Ravens, knee: Taliaferro sprained his MCL in the preseason and from the outset the team labeled it a multiweek injury. The good news is he did return to a limited practice Friday, indicating improvement.
Breshad Perriman, WR, Baltimore Ravens, knee: Perriman suffered a sprained PCL in the preseason and his recovery has been a bit slower than what the Ravens originally anticipated. He has not yet returned to practice.
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