Injury Report Insight: Week 8

A critical look at this week's injury report.

Surprisingly, it was a fairly quiet week for injuries. Aside from Arian Foster's devastating Achilles injury, there weren't too many injuries to the top tier, "marque," players around the league. Furthermore, the timing of bye weeks has worked out to the favor of many players. Denver, Chicago, and Green Bay all had a chance to heal some nagging injuries last week, though Cincinnati went into their bye relatively healthy. Likewise, Buffalo, Washington, Jacksonville, and Philadelphia all have this week to deal with injuries to some key players. With the possible return of Ben Roethlisberger and Dez Bryant, fantasy owners might feel like they've got some brand new toys to play with.

Quarterbacks

Marcus Mariota, MCL sprain

It would be premature for me to say that things are not looking good for Marcus Mariota to start this week against the Texans, but that's where the facts are leading me so far. Although there has not been any bad news per se, there has been some interesting deference on the team's part. On Sunday, Ian Rapoport reported that Mariota was expected to start Week 7. On Monday, head coach Ken Whisenhunt said that Mariota would test his knee on Tuesday. On Tuesday, Ed Werder reported that Whisenhunt was not ready to make a decision yet, but that the team was, "hoping to work the QB into practice tomorrow." (Tomorrow indicating Wednesday in that quote.) Do you see the progression there? With every passing day, the Titans seem to be kicking the decision down the road. That's not a great sign. Last week, Whisenhunt took the high road and chose to avoid any sort of smokescreen, so I don't read this week's indecision as a coaching head-game. Thankfully, the team had to release their official practice report Wednesday, and we can see that Mariota's practice was limited. Until Mariota gets in either one full practice or three consecutive limited practices, I would say he is more doubtful than questionable. For what it's worth, a two game absence would be more in line with historical MCL sprain rehabs than simply a one game absence.  

Ben Roesthlisberger, MCL sprain, bone bruise

In contrast to plenty of other injury situations around the league, both the Steelers and Ben Roethlisbger have been honest and forthcoming about Roethlisberger's expected return-to-play. Last week, Roethlisberger said that, if he was going to play, he would take the first team reps in practice. Although Roethlisberger saw some snaps with the first team, he mostly worked with the second team and, true to his word, he was inactive on Sunday. This week, Roethlisberger gave another interesting interview where he explained that his knee, while feeling good during practice last week, caused him more pain than he expected the following day. Both Roethlisberger and coach Mike Tomlin sound as though he will get the start this week, with Tomlin even going so far as to say that the decision is entirely up to Roethlisberger. On Wednesday, Roethlisberger backed down a little by saying that he's, "not getting his hopes up for Sunday." Personally, I think that Roethlisberger is just being cautious here and making it clear that he's not out of the woods yet. I think he'll get the start on Sunday, but we'll have a better picture when we see how he practices this week. Roethlisberger was able to put in a full practice on Wednesday, so now we'll want to check to see how he feels on Thursday and Friday.

Josh McCown, shoulder

As of Wednesday, we still don't have any details on Josh McCown's shoulder injury. The best video I've found of the injury comes from NFL.com, and you can watch it here. It appears that McCown is fine until he slips and his shoulder collides with a metal railing. Sort of a weird one to watch, as it seems to be such a low-speed collision. Nobody has confirmed what the injury is, but McCown did admit to undergoing an MRI on Monday. As opposed to an X-ray, an MRI exam tells us that they are most likely looking for ligament damage, such as would occur with an AC sprain, labrum tear, or rotator cuff damage. If McCown is lucky, he suffered only a bruise, and the MRI was simply to confirm there was no larger damage. Coach Mike Petine stated on Monday that McCown would not practice on Wednesday, so his missed practice isn't necessarily alarming. But it's not a good sign either. Unless McCown can return to even limited practice later in the week, I would guess that we'll be seeing Johnny Manziel on Sunday. Adam Caplan reported that though McCown did not practice Wednesday, he is still expected to start Sunday. Caplan has a good track record, but I'm always hesitant to believe that non-practicing players are still a lock for Sunday.

Running backs

Chris Ivory, hamstring strain

There seems to be a bit of a dispute about what injury was bothering Jets running back Chris Ivory during Sunday's game. Ivory himself called it a hamstring injury, which would match up with the broadcast footage of Ivory having his left hamstring worked on while on the sidelines. Coach Todd Bowles, however, referred to it as a quadriceps injury. Ivory has dealt with a quad strain earlier in the season, but, according to the official practice report, this latest injury is related to his hamstring. Regardless, Ivory was able to practice in full, so his status for this weekend is not in doubt, barring any setback.

Bilal Powell, ankle

This is not major news seeing as how Chris Ivory is looking relatively healthy, but Bilal Powell did not practice on Wednesday due to an ongoing ankle injury. Further down the Jets depth chart, Zac Stacey is healthy, although the team has yet to activate Stevan Ridley fro the physically-unable-to-perform list.

Carlos Hyde, foot Stress fracture

The foot injury that is plaguing Carlos Hyde is still a mystery. Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee has been on top of the story, and his details are interesting. Hyde himself said the injury is a stress fracture, but then also sort of backed off that comment later, saying it was, "something like that," when asked to confirm his own admission of a stress fracture. Coach Jim Tomsula has called the injury a foot bruise, which is obviously less concerning than any sort of fracture. Both Hyde and Tomsula have said that the injury cannot get worse by allowing Hyde to play through it, which would not be true of a stress fracture. Another article from Matt Barrows outlines two possible foot stress fractures that Hyde could theoretically be dealing with, but points out that both possibilities would require extensive rest, if not eventual surgery. One possibility that I haven't seen mentioned yet is a stress reaction in Hyde's foot, which would be the precursor to true stress fracture. Regardless of the specifics, most possible diagnoses have one thing in common, and that's the need for Hyde to get off his foot and rest already. Hyde has been regularly sitting out of practices recently, and while that's a good start, I question whether it will be enough to allow him to fully heal. Obviously, this is a tough situation to read without having more exact injury information, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Hyde eventually miss some time this season. Given his history of missed practices, we might not have any advance warning that he will sit. Again, that's just a guess on my part based on an incomplete read of the situation. On Wednesday, Hyde did not practice.

Dion Lewis, abdominal

We're two weeks into Dion Lewis' abdominal injury, and we still have no clarity on whether this is a minor strain or an injury that might hang around a while. As Dr. Jene Bramel pointed out in his Monday Injury Rounds, Lewis' inactive status last week raises some alarm, as abdominal and groin injuries that don't respond to treatment sometimes turn out to be larger core muscle (sports hernia) injuries that require surgery. This being the Patriots, we have exactly zero details, and we can expect zero details in the future. At this point, all we can do is watch the practice reports for clues. Since the Patriots play on Thursday night, we already have a full week of practice reports. Lewis put in limited practices this week, though the parctices were more of walkthroughs than actual physical practices. As Belichick quipped, even Belichick's own mother could've gotten through practice this week. Belichick has basically said that Dion Lewis will come down to a game time decision against Miami. Perhaps by this time next week we'll finally have more clarity on Lewis' health, but I feel like I said that last week too.

Tre Mason, ankle

Sometime around the Rams Week 6 bye, Tre Mason suffered an ankle injury that caused him to miss practice and, eventually, the Week 7 game. We have yet to hear any details about the injury, but we know that Mason did not practice on Wednesday. There's a good chance that Gurley gets another big start against San Francisco this weekend, but be sure to check practice reports on Thursday and Friday as well.

Joseph Randle, oblique strain

Cowboys running back Joseph Randle departed Sunday's game with what was initially reported as a back injury, but later clarified to be an oblique strain. The obliques are a group of muscles that are located on your side, between your abs and your back, so this initial diagnosis of a back injury was in the right ballpark. Randle missed one preseason game with a similar oblique strain earlier this year. NFL Network's Rand Getlin reported that Randle is expected to miss some time with this latest injury. Historically, oblique strains are pretty minor stuff, as they rarely limit a player for more than one week or so. Obviously, due to Randle's recent history, his injury might be more concerning, but I still don't think this is anything to get too excited about. On Wednesday, Randle was held out of practice. Hopefully Thursday and Friday practice reports will give us a better idea of Randle's likely status this weekend. Unlike other strains such as with the calf, hamstring, or quad, I think it's premature to rule Randle out based solely on one missed practice. Obviously, future practice absences would lead me to believe he will sit this week.

James Starks, hip

There's always at least one surprise injury in Wednesday's practice report, and this week it was James Starks. Coming out of his bye week, Starks was held out of practice with an unspecified hip injury. I have no idea yet as to how serious of an injury Starks might be dealing with, but that should come out in the next few days. It's entirely possible that Starks just had a planned day of rest, but we simply don't have enough information yet to make that determination. If he were to miss Week 8, it's notable that coach Mike McCarthy has said that Eddie Lacy's ankle, "isn't bothering him anymore," according to reporter Ryan Wood. Of course, that's just irritating, as it indicates that Lacy's ankle was recently bothering him, even though Lacy wasn't listed on the injury report after Week 4.

Thomas Rawls, calf

Seattle running back Thomas Rawls did not practice on Wednesday with what coach Pete Carroll called, "kind of a nasty calf thing." Carroll elaborated that the team is trying to determine if Rawls' injury is more of a strain or a bruise, but either way, it sounds like he will not play on Sunday. Marshawn Lynch missed Wednesday practice as well, but that's just business as usual for Lynch, and he should be fine for this weekend.

Wide Receivers

Emmanuel Sanders, shoulder

Emmanuel Sanders injured his left shoulder in Week 6, and the early reports were all over the board from dislocation/subluxation to just a minor bruise. ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio has reported it as an AC sprain, and that makes the most sense based upon how Sanders fell to the turf and how he immediately reacted. But it's interesting that Sanders claimed that his shoulder, "popped out but quickly popped back in." This quote is more consistent with a dislocation or subluxation, and those are generally more serious injuries than an AC sprain. Either way, Sanders had the bye week to rest and rehab, and is practicing, albeit in limited participation. As long as he continues to practice, even in limited capacity, he will start on Sunday. If this is an AC sprain though, it should be noted that players often don't return quickly at 100%, such as we've seen with Randall Cobb this season.

Vincent Jackson, knee

We still have no details on Vincent Jackson's knee injury, but that hasn't stopped Ian Rapoport from tweeting that Jackson will probably miss this week's game. Rapoport is usually, "take it to the bank," reliable, so I trust him as far as this week's outlook. I'd really need more specifics though before speculating on whether or not this is a, "day-to-day," or "week-to-week," injury. As Dr. Jene pointed out, Jackson might've injured either knee, so we're totally in the dark so far on this one. If the injury turns out to be a PCL sprain, as Dr. Jene speculated, this could easily sideline Jackson a few more weeks. Unfortunately, without better details, all we can do is wait. As for this week, I'm quick to believe Rapoport, as Jackson did not practice on Wednesday.

Jeremy Maclin, Concussion

Jeremy Maclin had been cleared to play in Week 7, but the Chiefs medical staff ultimately decided to hold him out, saying that the receiver, "wasn't quite right." Frankly, I don't know what to make of that. To be clear, I applaud the team for making the conservative medical decision. But as far as Maclin's status for this week, I no longer know who to trust. If Maclin had passed every step of the NFL's concussion protocol and was still held out, what would he need to do this week in order to start? It seems I'm in the minority on this though, and most people believe he will be in the lineup against the Lions on Sunday. Maclin practiced in full on Wednesday, and hopefully the team feels he is healthy enough to start on Sunday.

Dez Bryant, foot fracture

All eyes are on Dez Bryant as he works his way back from a Week 1, fifth metatarsal fracture that required surgery and a subsequent stem-cell injection. Reports so far have been optimistic, and Bryant had a limited practice on Wednesday. As early as Sunday, there was already talk that Bryant had a 50/50 shot to play in Week 8 against Seattle. I'm known to have a pessimistic or skeptical attitude towards players returning from serious injuries, and Bryant's case is no different. I suspect that Bryant will ultimately not play in Week 8, though I should point out that's completely a gut feeling at this point based more upon historical injury comparisons than on Bryant's particular case. Dez Bryant has had a favorable rehab so far, but I can't see the Cowboys pushing Bryant's limits without seeing a solid string of unlimited practices first. Again, that's just a hunch, and I'm curious to see how this plays out.

John Brown, hamstring strains

Battling through nagging hamstring injuries to both legs, Arizona receiver John Brown was still able to show up with four catches and a touchdown in his Week 7 game. There has been no word of Brown having suffered a setback, so it's thought that he will be good to go for Week 8 against Cleveland. On Wednesday, Brown did not practice, but that's not reason to be be concerned yet. Be sure to check back later in the week though to make sure that he's on track for this weekend.

Davante Adams, ankle

Davante Adams has now missed three games with an ankle injury that he refuses to admit is a high ankle sprain, though others have reported it as such. Coming out of a Week 7 bye, Adams might finally be getting over the nagging injury, as he's practicing in at least a limited capacity. A four week rehab is very much in line with historical comparisons for a high ankle sprain, and a rehab of this length should reduce the chances of re-injury while also ensuring that Adams is effective immediately upon his return. As long as he gets in a full week of practice, he should be fine for Sunday night's game against Denver.

Ty Montgomery, ankle

Taking a page out of fellow Packer Davante Adams' book, Ty Montgomery is still sidelined with what he claims is not a high ankle sprain. Montgomery had the Week 7 bye to get right, but the fact that he's still not practicing on Wednesday indicates that this is likely more than a garden-variety low ankle sprain. If he does not return to practice on Thursday or Friday, he can safely be ruled out for this weekend.

Cecil Shorts, hamstring strain

Cecil Shorts' hamstring strain caused him to miss Week 7, and Nate Washington came away as the biggest beneficiary with 16 targets. Adam Caplan reported on Wednesday that Shorts has done some running, but that he's still questionable for this weekend. Despite that report from Caplan, Shorts did not participate in Wednesday's practice. Given Shorts' extensive history with hamstring strains, I would put that tag a little closer to doubtful. Be sure to check Thursday and Friday practice reports for more information, but as of now, I would be surprised if Shorts was active this weekend.

Chris Owusu, concussion

Jets receiver Chris Owusu is dealing with a scary situation after suffering a concussion in Week 7. Owusu's history with concussions is extensive, as he had at least three at Stanford, and this marks his second concussion just this season. Until you hear otherwise Owusu can safely be ruled out for this week and probably beyond. Hopefully he can make a safe return whenever he is ready.

Leonard Hankerson, hamstring strain

Leonard Hankerson exited Week 7's game early with a hamstring strain, and his Week 8 status is still up in the air. He did not practice on Wednesday, which is obviously never an optimistic way to start the week.

Jarius Wright, concussion

With the emergence of Stefon Diggs, Minnesota's receiver corps seems to be undergoing some change recently. In a development that might muddy the waters a little more, Jarius Wright suffered a concussion in Week 7 and is now in the concussion protocol. If Wright misses this week's game against Chicago, perhaps Charles Johnson will have a chance to earn more of a role after his disappointing start to the season.

Tight ends

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, shoulder strain

Tampa Bay tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has finally returned to pratice after suffering what was reported as a strained shoulder in Week 2. Seferian-Jenkins was able to put in only a limited practice on Wednesday, but this is a big step in the right direction. With receivers Vincent Jackson likely out and Louis Murphy on injured reserve, it would seem that Seferian-Jenkins and receiver Mike Evans might be in line for more targets.

Antonio Gates, MCL sprain

For all Antonio Gates news, San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Michael Gehlken seems to be the guy to listen to. He was the first to clarify that Gates' missed practice last week was the result of an injury, not simply a day of rest as some people initially believed. (I should point out that I was one of those people, though I did caution that everyone should check later practice reports to see if Gates had an actual injury). On Monday, Gehlken tweeted that Gates was not close to playing last Sunday, and that, "It wouldn't surprise if Antonio Gates' MCL proves to be multiple-week injury." Indeed, a mutli-week absence is more in line with an MCL sprain, as we're seeing now with Tyrod Taylor and perhaps Marcus Mariota. Hopefully we'll be spared from another round of gametime decision reports, and we'll soon have more clarity on Gates' chances of being active against the Ravens. Gates did not practice on Wednesday, so his status for this weekend is very much in doubt. Oddly, Gates has yet to undergo an MRI, so it's possible that the Chargers don't even know the full extent of Gates' injury yet.

Maxx Williams, ankle

After missing Week 7 with an ankle injury, Ravens tight end Maxx Williams was able to put in a limited practice on Wednesday. This should put him on track to start this weekend, but, as usual, we'll need to monitor later practice reports before we take that for granted.