Injury Report Insight, Week 4

A critical look at this week's injury report.

Week three of the NFL season was a far cry from the bloodbath that was week two, but it still wasn't an entirely pretty affair. Aside from some new injuries, there were plenty of aggravations of older injuries that will likely result in significant lost time. If ever anyone needed examples of why a slow, conservative injury rehab approach is often the most sensible choice, this would be a good week to review. Players who have come back slowly and cautiously, such as Arian Foster and Drew Brees are now looking fairly healthy. On the other hand, players that have tried to play through nagging injuries, such as LeSean McCoy, Davante Adams, and Marqise Lee are now likely to miss even more time due to reaggravations.

Quarterbacks

Drew Brees, rotator cuff bruise

In a development that did not surprise injury pessimists like myself, Drew Brees made the call to sit out last week's game due to strength limitations and pain in his throwing arm caused by a rotator cuff bruise. He seems to be bouncing back nicely this week though, as ESPN's Ed Werder (the man to believe on Brees news) reported that Brees was throwing on Tuesday. If Brees keeps up with more throwing in practice, as is the plan, he'd be a safe bet to return to the lineup for Sunday night's game against the Cowboys. Checking Wednesday's reports, we see that Brees put in a limited practice and that he continued throwing. This is a very good sign for his chances to play on Sunday.

Jay Cutler, hamstring strain

I'm not sure that I went through the five stages of grief in a linear fashion, but I'm starting to feel a little bit of acceptance of the fact that I will never receive clear, honest injury information from Bears head coach John Fox. I was really angry about that for a bit, but I think I'm in a better place now. This season, Fox's words will be like a Zen test of our patience. Our mantra with all things Bears from now on should be, "check the practice reports." A pretty crappy mantra for sure, but it will serve us better than listening to anyone from within the Bears organization. John Fox has made it clear that he will not give any information away any sooner (or more detailed) than NFL rules mandate. Looking at the practice report for Wednesday, we can see that Cutler practiced, though only in a limited fashion. Most people I read seem to think this is a smokescreen and that Cutler will not play Sunday. If Cutler were to put in a full practice, I could see him starting Sunday, but these limited practices make me think he's questionable at best. Still, due to Fox, this might be a tough call, especially this early in the week.

Josh McCown, hand injury

After Sunday's game, Browns quarterback Josh McCown underwent an X-ray on his right, throwing hand. Browns beat reporter Mary Kay Cabot said that the X-rays showed no fracture, and that McCown should be fine this week. As insignificant as this hand injury seems to be, it bears mentioning because it could affect McCown's practice participation this week. Even if McCown has to take a few limited practices, expect him to start on Sunday against the Chargers. For whatever reason, the Browns front office has decided that McCown is their starting quarterback. On Wednesday, McCown was a full participant in practice, so all signs point to him starting Sunday.

Running Backs

Marshawn Lynch, hamstring strain

Seattle head coach Pete Carroll has already told us that Marshawn Lynch's hamstring strain is nothing to be alarmed about. I never jump at the chance to believe a coach, especially when a player seems to be stacking up multiple (likely-related) injuries. In general, Lynch has been fairly healthy running back who has played productively even through his chronic back problems. But rushing a player back from muscle strains is often counter-productive, and both Fred Jackson and Thomas Rawls should be able to carry the load and allow Lynch time to fully heal. As pointed out on the Seahawks website, this week's decision will probably come on Friday. Lynch traditionally rests or is limited on the first team practice of the week. Because Seattle plays in the Monday night game this week, that first practice comes on Thursday. Don't pay any attention to Lynch's practice participation on Thursday, as Friday will be the day to watch. Carroll has said that Friday will be the first real day that the Seahawks might have a feel for Lynch's status. If Lynch does not practice at all on Friday, he's almost certain to sit out this week. If he's only a limited participant, than we're looking at a, "game time decision," at best, and you should check Saturday's practice report as well.

DeMarco Murray, hamstring strain

Last week, DeMarco Murray suffered a hamstring strain in Wednesday's practice and ended up missing Sunday's game, despite earlier optimism that he would play. Resting him was undoubtedly the right call, and the combo of Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles didn't have any problem picking up the slack. Early expectations are that Murray will start this week, though the division of the workload remains a valid concern for fantasy owners. Looking at the practice report, Murray practiced on Wednesday, though he was limited. Keep an eye on Thursday and Friday practice reports for a better idea of how ready he might be for a full workload.

LeSean McCoy, hamstring strain

Please let this be the week that Rex Ryan finally just sits LeSean McCoy. In contrast to DeMarco Murray or Marshawn Lynch, McCoy has attempted to play through his hamstring strain, and no good has come from it. Aside from being generally ineffective on the field, he has only aggravated his injury, likely leading to future time missed. Karlos Williams has looked surprisingly good in his limited role, and this should help make the decision to rest McCoy that much easier. On Wednesday, McCoy did not practice at all. Also on Wednesday, Rex Ryan, when speaking about McCoy, said this in a radio interview: "I’m telling everybody, ‘Oh yeah, he’s got a great chance,’ but we all know he doesn’t." Taken together, it's safe to think that McCoy will not play this weekend.

Andre Ellington, PCL sprain

Coach Bruce Arians seems confident that Andre Ellington will be active this week for the first time since his week one PCL sprain. Ellington was able to practice a little last week, but it wasn't enough for him to get the nod on gameday. As I've noted before, PCL sprains are notoriously open-ended as far as rehab time, but Ellington's limited practices are indeed an encouraging sign. I would be more encouraged though if I were to see a full week of unlimited practice. On Wednesday, Ellington had a limited practice. Most people expect that he'll start this week, though I can't say that I'm fully convinced.

Reggie Bush, calf strain

Despite his own optimism, Reggie Bush did not practice at all last week, and ended up sitting out Week 3. As we saw with Alshon Jeffery, calf strains aren't always the minor injuries that players and coaches seem to believe. Without a full week of at least limited practice, I can't imagine Bush being ready to go on Sunday. On Wednesday, Bush put in a limited practice, so perhaps he's getting close to playing again. Practice reports later in the week might hold a better clue.

Arian Foster, core muscle surgery

Although it's no doubt frustrating for Foster owners and Texans fans alike, the glacier-like progress of Foster's return to play is a great thing. Foster has an extensive history of soft-tissue injuries, and his conservative rehab might help ensure that he doesn't land back on the injury report, a la LeSean McCoy or Marqise Lee. As for when Foster will actually return, the always-reliable Houston Chronicle's John McClain had this to say, "Arian Foster has done nothing but practice on a limited basis. He must have at least one week of full practice before he can return." It's sometimes hard to distinguish between facts and opinions in reports like that, but even McClain's opinions tend to be pretty congruent with those of the team's front office, so he is always worth listening to on all matters of the Houston Texans. Taking his word at face value, this would mean that Foster has to practice in full Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in order to even have a shot at playing on Sunday. Even if that happens, Texans coach Bill O'Brien has already said that he won't a final decision until after the pre-game warmups. On Wednesday, Foster practiced in only a limited capacity. If McClain's opinion is true, that means that we're unlikely to see Foster play this weekend, no matter how healthy he looks.

Tevin Coleman, rib fracture

Falcons rookie Tevin Coleman sat out last week with a rib fracture while Devonta Freeman absolutely demolished the Cowboy's defense and fantasy scoreboards. Returning from a rib fracture is mostly a pain tolerance issue, and it's entirely possible Coleman could play this week. Looking at the practice report, we see that Coleman did not practice on Wednesday, leaving him doubtful to play this weekend.

Chris Ivory, quad strain

Chris Ivory suited up with the intention of playing through his quad strain last week, but he ended up sitting on sideline instead. He practiced in only a limited capacity on Wednesday, but, barring any practice setback, he is expected to share Sunday's workload with Bilal Powell.

Jonathan Stewart, Tibia injury

Jonathan Stewart briefly left Sunday's game with an unspecified leg injury, but was quickly cleared to return. Stewart did not practice on Wednesday due to what was listed as a tibia injury. Hopefully this is an example of the team trying to manage the reps of a veteran player, rather than a serious injury. If Stewart does not practice later in the week, I would be concerned.

Wide Receivers

Alshon Jeffery, Hamstring strain

On Monday, coach John Fox declined to update the status on injured wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. Of course he declined. Why would we expect anything else from Fox? Since Fox will never tell us what's happening, we're left to comb the practice reports and extract what we can there. On Wednesday, Jeffery put in a limited practice. Since Jeffery has had a full two weeks off, his return is more probable than that of Cutler, who has only been out one week. Barring a practice setback, it's probably safe to think that Jeffery will see playing time this weekend. Then again, it's also safe to think that Jeffery might only see limited snaps and that he might well be at less than 100%. Start him at your own risk.

Eric Decker, Knee sprain or PCL sprain

We still have no confirmation from Decker or anyone inside the Jets organization as to what exactly is wrong with Decker's knee. If it is a PCL sprain, as was initially reported, a return for Week 4 would be surprising. This is the same injury that Andre Ellington and Breshad Perriman suffered, and a return after missing only one week would be fast. It wouldn't be impossible, but it would be fast. If however, the injury is to a different ligament in Decker's knee, the one week rehab might be more reasonable. Players often return from mild MCL or LCL sprains faster than they do from equally mild PCL sprains. Barring any clarifying details, we should just consider Decker week-to-week. Decker did not practice at all on Wednesday, leaving us to think he's more doubtful than questionable this week.

Breshad Perriman, PCL sprain

Ravens wide receiver Breshad Perriman might be cursed. Last week, he was finally getting on track with practicing again after a July 30th PCL sprain. He wasn't back yet, but it was starting to look like maybe he wasn't far off. Then Perriman suffered a setback in a pregame warmup. If you doubt my theory that he's cursed, keep in mind that he injured himself warming up for a game that he had already been ruled inactive for. The Ravens haven't said anything about a new timeline, but they have already ruled him out for Thursday's game.

Sammy Watkins, Calf strain

Early on, the talk was that Sammy Watkins' calf strain was fairly minor, and that he was day-to-day. But recent news looks to be trending more pessimistic, with ESPN's Mike Rodak reporting that head coach Rex Ryan has admitted that there is a chance that Watkins won't play in this week's delicious matchup with the Giants. Calf strains always worry me with wide receivers. Part of that worry is due to the fact that they can really linger. Another part is that there's some recency bias in play here, as we've seen both Alshon Jeffery and Victor Cruz sidelined by this injury recently. I should be sure to point out that there is no indication that Watkins' calf strain is as serious as the ones that Jeffery or Cruz suffered. Still, Watkins did not practice in any capacity on Wednesday, so he should be considered doubtful for Sunday. Furthermore, Rex Ryan all but declared him out already by saying that he would, "probably not," play this week. In his absence, perhaps Marquise Goodwin, now fully healed from fractured ribs, might finally find a role in the Bills offense.

Davante Adams, High ankle sprain

According to Ian Rapoport, the ankle injury that was bothering Davante Adams was a high ankle sprain, and he reaggravated it by trying to return to play without missing any time. If that diagnosis of high ankle sprain is accurate, it's a little crazy that Adams was even attempting to play through it. Granted, some players do play through high ankle sprains. At best, their performance suffers. At worst, they aggravate the injury and miss more time. It looks like Adams falls into that second category. We have no way of knowing how much time Adams will now miss, but he is not practicing on Wednesday, so we can consider him doubtful to play this weekend, at least until we hear otherwise.

DeSean Jackson, hamstring strain

When DeSean Jackson suffered a hamstring strain in Week 1, Adam Schefter quickly reported that Jackson would be out, "three to four weeks." At the time, that report seemed a little pessimistic, but not at all outside the realm of possibilities. Personally, I was more surprised that that report came out so quickly than with the timeline itself. It's far more common to hear, "week-to-week," reports that drag on and on than anything as drastic and forward-looking as what Schefter reported. Sure enough, we're now two and a half weeks post injury, and DeSean Jackson has yet to practice. He did not participate in Wednesday's practice, so he is doubtful at best for this weekend. Hopefully he'll be able to return to practice later this week or next week, and he'll have a shot at playing Week 5.

Marqise Lee, hamstring strain

At the risk of piling on, I'll admit that I'm becoming more and more fond of the nickname, "the Albino Tiger," that Jaguars offensive coordinator Greg Olson slapped on Lee back in August. It was perhaps a cheap shot, and Olson certainly shouldn't have made it public, but now it's too late and I can't un-hear it. Lee missed all of the preseason and then Week 1 with a hamstring strain. Since then, Lee has been limited by the injury and has not returned to full health. It's safe to wonder why the Jaguars refuse to shut him down for long enough to heal completely. Lee was pulled from last Sunday's game due to a reaggravation of his hamstring, and did not participate in Wednesday's practice. Until you hear otherwise, it's safe to assume that you won't see The Albino Tiger at the zoo anytime soon.

Victor Cruz, calf strain

I'm getting tired of always having to talk about Victor Cruz as though this might finally be the week he is activated. But alas, this time it looked as though it could've been for real. Cruz had been putting in limited practices, and both Cruz and coach Tom Coughlin had said that he would play Sunday against the Bills. Then, after what looked like so much progress, Cruz might've suffered a setback during Wednesday's practice. Reports are that Cruz's calf strain flared up again, and that he ended his practice early. Barring an impressive comeback in which Cruz practices in full Thursday or Friday, it's safe to think that Cruz is on the doubtful side for this Sunday.

Charles Johnson, rib injury

Charles Johnson left Sunday's game with a rib injury, but was cleared to return for the rest of the game. At first, reports indicated that the team was optimistic that he would be fine for Week 4. But Johnson was held out of Wednesday practice, which is obviously not a good sign. For a better idea of his status, be sure to check practice reports later this week.

Jarius Wright, hand injury

With Minnesota reciever Charles Johnson possibly missing this week's game, Jarius Wright might've been in for a bump in snaps. Unfortunately, Wright is dealing with a still unspecified hand injury and sat out Wednesday's practice. I have zero details on Wright's injury, but it's notable that Ian Rapoport has already said that Wright is, "expected to miss a game or two."

Travis Benjamin, rib injury

Travis Benjamin was able to put in only a limited practice on Wednesday due to an unspecified rib injury. There is no reason yet to think that Benjamin will not play on Sunday, but you will want to check practice reports later in the week just to be safe.

Riley Cooper, Knee injury

I have no knowledge of Riley Cooper having suffered a knee injury last week, but there he is on the Eagles practice report as having missed practice with a knee injury. Hopefully we'll get more details about his status as the week progresses, but there's nothing to add right now.

Tight Ends

Crockett Gillmore, calf

We still haven't heard an exact diagnosis on Ravens tight end Crockett Gillmore's calf injury. It's most likely a strain that he suffered during Sunday's game. Regardless, we do know that Gillmore has already been ruled out for Thursday's matchup with Pittsburgh. Rookie Maxx Williams saw an increase in snaps once Gillmore checked out on Sunday, so we will likely see a larger role for him on Thursday.

Dwayne Allen, ankle injury

Allen suffered an ankle injury in his Week 2 game and subsequently sat out Week 3. There have been no updates on the details or severity of his ankle injury, though if Allen were to miss any more playing time, I would suspect this to be a high ankle sprain. Without any more details, all we can do is look to the practice report. On Wednesday, Allen did not practice. Unless this status changes on Thursday or Friday, I have no reason to believe that Allen will be back this weekend.

Ladarius Green, concussion

Chargers tight end Ladarius Green missed Week 3 due to a concussion, the second concussion he's suffered in September. Injury histories like that are concerning, and I have no reason to think the Chargers aren't being conservative and deliberate with his treatment this time around. Green had only a limited practice on Wednesday and has not yet been cleared for contact, but the Chargers release of backup tight end Kyle Miller would lead us to believe they're counting on Green being able to play.

Julius Thomas, hand tendon surgery

Today, the Florida Times-Union reported that Julius Thomas has yet to be cleared to practice in full or play in a game, leading us to believe that he will not play Week 4. In that piece, Thomas provides some details that help fill in the full picture, explaining that the original diagnosis of a fractured hand was incorrect, and that the tendon tear diagnosis only came after Thomas did not respond to the immobilization treatment for what they had thought was a fracture. Because of this misdiagnosis, Thomas' rehab was delayed by almost one month. Until we hear that Thomas has been cleared to play and see him practicing in full, we can safely rule him out of the lineup.

Vernon davis, knee

Vernon Davis missed part of Sunday's loss to Arizona due to an unspecified knee injury. Davis said he didn't feel it was a long-term injury, and it seemed like his Week 4 status would not be in doubt. But Davis did not participate in Wednesday's practice, leaving me to wonder if this injury could be a concern. It would be worth checking back and seeing how he practices on Thursday and Friday to get a better idea of whether he will play this weekend or not.

Other Positions

Joe Haden, rib contusion, Finger

Browns cornerback Joe Haden briefly left Sunday's game in order to get X-rays on a rib injury. The results came back negative, meaning that Haden only had a contusion, and he returned to finish the game. On Wednesday, Haden was able to put in only a limited practice, and was also listed with a finger injury as well as the rib injury. Still, the expectation seems to be that Haden will be fine for this week.

Darrelle Revis, hamstring strain

Darrelle Revis exited Sunday's game against the Eagles early with a hamstring strain. Previous to that game, Revis was already playing through a groin strain, though that was thought to be minor. Taken together, the two injuries might be concerning, especially given that his position at cornerback requires the particular movements that would stress both of these nagging injuries. However, as of Wednesday, nobody seems concerned about Revis' chances of playing against the Dolphins in London this week. Even so, I'd still like to see at least some limited practices from Revis this week before I were to dismiss these injuries. On Wednesday, Revis was limited in practice. Be sure to check on his practice status as the week goes on.

Jairus Byrd, meniscus repair

Saints safety Jairus Byrd has yet to play this year due to a knee injury. The Saints, as is their style, have offered no details, and we're left to assume that this rehab is related to Byrd's 2014 meniscus repair surgery. Indeed, meniscus repair rehabs can be lengthy, as opposed to the more common meniscus trim surgeries, where a surgeon simply removes a damaged portion rather than trying to repair it. Byrd put in only a limited practice on Wednesday, so I'm not convinced that, even after this long, we're all that close to seeing his return.