It's December, and we're now officially entering the final push of the season where everything really counts. Hopefully your fantasy teams haven't been ravaged by injuries, but if they have, at least you can take some comfort in knowing that you're not alone. This time of the season marks a bit of a turning point in NFL injuries for two reasons. The first is that we should see more and more concussions as the accumulated trauma of so many sub-concussive hits starts to build up, thereby lowering the threshold for concussions, as I mentioned a few weeks ago. The second change we'll see in injuries is that teams will be much quicker to move a player to injured reserve, even if the injury isn't all that severe. A moderate injury such as a high ankle sprain that would've resulted in a three or four game absence earlier in the season might now end a player's season. In this sense, the toll of injuries will increase, though obviously this will apply more to the basement-dwelling teams than the playoff-bound.
Tony Romo, collarbone fracture
On only his second game back from a fractured left collarbone, Tony Romo again fell on his left shoulder and again fractured the same collarbone. Rather than send him immediately to injured reserve, as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones originally stated, the team is holding off on any final roster decisions. According to ESPN's Todd Archer, there is hope that, despite their dreadful 3-8 record, the Cowboys could make the playoffs and Romo could return at some distant date. Non-throwing shoulder collarbone fractures to quarterbacks are usually given a timetable of, "6-8 weeks," but I'm a little more conservative. The fastest recent rehab was Aaron Rodgers in 2013 when he missed only seven games. Arguing over that 6-week mark might seem like nitpicking, but it might make a big difference in Romo's case. Based on historical examples, I have serious doubts that he could be back in time for the Wildcard playoff weekend. Were he to do so, he will have missed only five games, and that's pretty optimistic based on my database of historical injuries. A more realistic timeframe might have him returning for the divisional round or even the conference championship round. Then again, it's tough to imagine a Romo-less Cowboys team advancing past the first round of the playoffs.
Ben Roethlisberger, concussion
It's impossible to know who exactly to believe in regards to whether or not Ben Roethlisberger suffered a concussion last week. Roethlisberger reported concussion-like symptoms and checked out of the game, but later said that he was diagnosed with a, "traumatic ocular migraine." Roethlisberger claims that he has completed the concussion protocol, but coach Mike Tomlin was quick to dispel that notion, saying that Roethlisberger was concussed and is still in the protocol. Even if you believe Roethlisberger, I find it a little suspicious that this migraine showed up immediately after taking a hit to the head. Sure sounds like a concussion to me. Regardless, it's great to see a player check himself out of a game for a thorough evaluation. As for Roethlisberger's Week 13 status, it would appear that he has a good chance to start, as he was able to put in a full practice on Wednesday. Typically this would indicate that a player has been cleared for contact, which would not be the case if he was still in the early stages of the concussion protocol.
Sam Bradford, AC sprain
After missing the last two games due to both a concussion and an AC sprain in his left, non-throwing shoulder, Sam Bradford looks as though he's ready to return. Eagles beat reporter Jeff McLane reported on Tuesday that Bradford did pretty much everything at practice. Bradford put in a full practice on Wednesday, so there's no reason to think he won't be ready on Sunday.
Case Keenum, concussion
Although Rams head coach Jeff Fisher has stated that Case Keenum will return as the starting quarterback once healthy, it's tough to know whether that will be this week. According to ESPN's Nick Wagoner, Keenum is still in the concussion protocol and was only able to put in a limited practice on Wednesday. It's possible that Keenum is in the final stages and will be cleared by Sunday, but it's a little troubling that, ten days after his injury, he is still not cleared. Hopefully Keenum will clear the protocol and return to full practice by Friday, indicating that he will get the start.
Chris Johnson, tibia fracture
Arizona's Chris Johnson suffered what was originally thought to be a bone bruise on his knee, but turned out to be a fractured tibia. Since the Cardinals had not used their sole injured reserve, designated to return tag this season, they opted to use it for Johnson. Not a bad choice, in my opinion. While many were quoting a rehab of, "6-8 weeks," I would've been surprised if Johnson had hit the low end of that range. Even if his tibia were to heal well without any setbacks, I would figure that he would need some time to condition and get back into game shape. Due to the rules of the IR/DFR tag, Johnson cannot return for any games before the Super Bowl (obviously only if Arizona advances that far). The Super Bowl is on February 7th, which would mark exactly 10 weeks since Johnson's injury. That's not an unreasonable possibility as far as rehabs go.
Andre Ellington, turf toe
As if the injury to Chris Johnson wasn't enough, Arizona might also lose Andre Ellington for a few weeks. Ellington suffered a turf toe injury, which is a sprain of the ligaments of the big toe. Although the injury is to his left foot, it is unrelated to the foot injury Ellington played through last year. Turf toe is a nagging condition that only gets better with rest, though it rarely requires surgery. Without knowing the full extent of the injury, it's tough to know exactly how long Ellington could miss, but this is certainly a, "week-to-week," type of injury. If nothing else, we can safely assume that Ellington will sit Week 13 and not risk further injury on the unforgiving artificial turf of St. Louis' Edward Jones Dome. Beyond that, this could be a tough situation to read, as I would expect that Ellington will put in nothing more than limited practices, even if/when he returns to full health.
Ryan Mathews, concussion
Ryan Mathews has already missed the last two weeks with a concussion he suffered in Week 10, and it looks like he might miss Week 13 as well, since he was unable to practice on Wednesday. It's possible that he'll be cleared and practice later in the week, but after already missing so much time and not having been cleared yet, I would consider him more doubtful than questionable.
Devonta Freeman, concussion
All signs indicate that Devonta Freeman is completely cleared of his Week 11 concussion, and ready to roll for Week 13. He was able to practice on Wednesday, albeit only in limited capacity. To be fully confident that he will start Week 13, I'd like to see at least one full practice on either Thursday or Friday.
Charcandrick West, hamstring strain
After sitting out last week with a hamstring strain, it appears as though Charcandrick West will be back to playing this week. West put in a full practice on Wednesday, which is always a great sign for any player returning from injury.
Chris Thompson, AC sprain
Washington running back Chris Thompson suffered an AC sprain to his shoulder in Week 12, but was able to play through the injury. Because Washington doesn't play until Monday night, their first official practice report doesn't come out until Thursday. While the injury itself might not be serious, AC sprains are painful, especially at the running back position where a player needs to be able to lower his shoulder and initiate contact. It's too early in the week to know anything for sure, but if I were to guess, I'd say that Thompson might be in the lineup with a reduced role, and on a short leash as well.
Carlos Hyde, foot stress fracture
At some point, the 49ers will have to just come out and admit that Carlos Hyde is done for the season, but it looks like that won't happen this week. Despite coach Jim Tomsula referring to Hyde as, "day-to-day," Hyde hasn't so much as practiced in five weeks. There's no indication that this will change, as Hyde was again held out of practice on Wednesday. Hyde can safely be forgotten about until next season.
Rishard Matthews, fractured ribs
The NFL Network's Rand Getlin reported that Rishard Matthews suffered, "multiple fractured ribs," in Week 12. Depending on the location and severity, this can be a very serious and scary injury. At best, Matthews can safely be ruled out for this weekend. A realistic timetable, based on what little we know so far, might be for Matthews to miss two or three weeks. If the injury is severe enough, or if the Dolphins are eliminated from the playoff picture, this could very well land Matthews on injured reserve. It looks like the clear beneficiary might be DeVante Parker, who will finally get his chance to audition for a starting role.
Eddie Royal, knee injury
Another week, another lack of details as to a Chicago Bears injury. Eddie Royal injured his knee back in Week 8, and he hasn't so much as practiced since then. Due to the lack of details from the Bears, there's not much I can add to this conversation except for a generic, "check back next week."
Allen Hurns, concussion
Allen Hurns has played through a lot of injuries this season, but it looks like the concussion he suffered in Week 12 might keep him off the field for this week's game against the Titans. Hurns dealt with a concussion last season, missing only a bye week, and it's impossible to say for certain whether or not he'll play this week, or even next week. What we know for now is that Hurns was unable to practice on Wednesday. To get a better idea of his Week 13 status, check back to see if he has cleared the concussion protocol by Friday or Saturday.
Josh Huff, concussion
Due to the fact that the Eagles played on Thanksgiving, Josh Huff had a few extra days to recover from a concussion. He practiced in full on Wednesday, so it looks like he's on track to start Week 13.
Danny Amendola, knee sprain
Last week, Danny Amendola was able to put in a few limited practices, but then didn't make the trip with the team for Week 12. Amendola's ability to practice in any capacity last week is an optimistic sign that this is a mild injury, but the fact he was still held out after those practices makes this a tough read. This week, he put in another limited Wednesday practice, leaving us with nothing concrete to go on when judging his chances for suiting up. Most reporters expect him to play, but I can't say that I'm convinced. One solitary unlimited practice would go a long ways to ease my mind, and perhaps he'll get that in on Thursday or Friday. Even if Amendola does play, I wouldn't be surprised to see him on a very limited rotation so as not to aggravate the injury and extend his rehab.
Ty Montgomery, high ankle sprain
When coaches talk about a player's rehab, one phrase I don't like to hear is, "more testing." But that's exactly what Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy feels Ty Montgomery might need, while also admitting that Montgomery, "hasn't made much progress," in his recovery from a high ankle sprain and subsequent setback. At this point, Montgomery's best ally in his recovery might be the dreadful play of Davante Adams, as it probably makes the Packers less likely to throw in the towel on Montgomery. Montgomery has been ruled out for Thursday night's game against the Lions, which marks his sixth-straight game missed.
Leonard Hankerson, hamstring strain
Leonard Hankerson sat out Week 12 with a hamstring strain, and he's not off to a good start for Week 13. He was held out of Wednesday practice, leaving his Week 13 status very much in doubt.
Vincent Jackson, knee
Vincent Jackson didn't appear injured in his Week 12 game, and there have been no reports that he suffered either a new injury or a re-aggravation of his previous knee injury. Despite all this, Jackson did not practice on Wednesday due to what was only listed as an unspecified knee injury. I suspect that this is nothing but the Bucs managing Jackson's practice reps, but this bears watching throughout the week.
Martavis Bryant, hip
Similar to the previous paragraph about Vincent Jackson, we have no way to know if Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant was held out of Wednesday's practice for rest or whether he has a true injury. The Steelers listed him with a hip injury, and all we can do is wait for more details in the upcoming days.
Rob Gronkowski, knee sprain, bone bruise
Most people are amazed that Rob Gronkowski's season might end with anything other than injured reserve after seeing him writhing in pain from a helmet hit to his knee. Personally, I was more amazed that the Patriots actually released an official, somewhat detailed, statement about his injury. In it, the Patriots refer to Gronkowski's injury as, "a bone bruise/sprain of his right knee." I wish we had more information as to what specific ligament was sprained, but this might not matter, as the bone bruise might be the larger issue. Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that a knee bone bruise can be an incredibly painful injury, and the word, "bruise," does not do it justice. Given Gronkowski's importance and the current record of the Patriots, I wouldn't expect the team to rush him back. He's obviously out for Week 13, but beyond that, I would tend to trust reports, like those of Adam Schefter, that mention a multi-week absence as a very real possibility.
Martellus Bennett, ribs
Martellus Bennett missed the Bears Thanksgiving game due to an unspecified rib injury, but it looks like he'll be fine going forward. Bennett was listed as a full participant in Wednesday practice, so he's almost certain to play this weekend.
Zach Ertz, concussion
From everything we can tell, Zach Ertz is recovered from his Week 11 concussion and ready to play this weekend. He practiced in full on Wednesday, which is a great sign for anyone recovering from a concussion.
Tyler Eifert, Stinger
Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert suffered a stinger in Week 12. A stinger is a nerve injury to the neck or shoulder that causes intense pain, though thankfully the pain is usually measured in seconds or minutes, and the condition clears up almost immediately. Typically, this is an injury that I would be quick to dismiss. In fact, Eifert said that he could've returned to the game if needed, though it's always hard to believe player statements. But Eifert has a bit of a history with stingers, having missed the final game of his rookie year with the same injury. He did not practice on Wednesday, so we'll need to check back on Thursday and Friday to get a better idea of his Week 13 status.
Heath Miller, ribs
Heath Miller left Week 12 with an unspecified rib injury, and was unable to practice on Wednesday. Without knowing whether Miller has something minor like a rib bruise or something more worrisome such as fractured ribs, it's tough to predict his Week 13 status. This is a case where Thursday and Friday practice reports will be worth checking on.
Garrett Celek, high ankle sprain
The 49ers, according to all early reports, have lost Garrett Celek for at least a few weeks due to a high ankle sprain. The latest news on Celek was that he was undergoing an MRI on his ankle, but that x-rays had shown that there was no fracture. Until we hear otherwise, it's safe to assume that Vance McDonald will have the starting tight end job moving forward.
Man, I cannot wait until we finally get the story on Austin Seferian-Jenkins' shoulder. He's missed the last 10 (ten!) weeks with what was originally reported as a shoulder strain, but obviously that wasn't accurate. Seferian-Jenkins has been practicing on a limited basis for weeks now, but according to multiple reports, he still has not been cleared for practice. Until he can put in one full practice, I wouldn't trust him to start this week, or any week in the future.