Injury Report Insight: Week 6

A critical look at this week's injury report.

Right up until Wednesday, Week 5 was yet another quiet week as far as injuries go. Even some of the injury situations that we were monitoring seemed to be more about the effectiveness of replacement players, such as Brian Hoyer, Dak Prescott, and the Oakland backfield than about the initial injuries themselves. Then Wednesday brought news of Eric Decker going on injured reserve, Jordan Reed's concussion, and collective injuries in the wide receiving corps of both Baltimore and Pittsburgh. So much for that quiet week.

Quarterback

Trevor Siemian, non-throwing shoulder AC sprain

All reports so far indicate that Trevor Siemian will start Thursday night against the Chargers. He has been throwing with the first team in practice, so the only thing that would keep him out now would be an unfortunate setback. He is officially listed as questionable for Thursday, but likely would've been listed as probable under the old injury rules.

Jay Cutler, thumb sprain

It looks like Brian Hoyer gets at least one more week to audition for the starting quarterback job in Chicago, as Jay Cutler started off the week missing practice due to his thumb sprain. I suspect that Cutler will need at least a week of full practices before being able to return to the lineup, though it sounds like there might be plenty of push-back from the Bears organization once that time comes. If Hoyer can sustain his early success (a problem he has struggled with in the past) then we might just see a healthy, sulky Cutler holding a clipboard for longer than a thumb sprain rehab usually takes.

Josh McCown, non-throwing collarbone fracture

Cody Kessler, rib

Wednesday marked Josh McCown's first return to practice, where he was able to get in a limited session. That's great news and it bodes well for his chance to return soon, but from everything being said, it appears that Week 6 still belongs to Cody Kessler, as long as he can play. Kessler will attempt to play through an unspecified rib injury, though it's reported he is still in pain. Kessler's Wednesday practice was also limited, but I would expect that to increase to full by the end of the week. This is a situation that should be clear long before Sunday's game.

Tony Romo, vertabra fracture

Tony Romo has cleared the first hurdle in his return to play, as his latest MRI shows that his vertabra is fully healed from the compression fracture he suffered in late-August. His next hurdle is getting back into football shape, which I've heard estimated to be about a two-week process. Depending on who you listen to, there might be a third hurdle to Romo's comeback, as there's a chance the Cowboys continue to start Dak Prescott as long as Prescott is playing as well as he has been. As an injury guy, I can't speak to that last issue, but it might cloud the waters a little in regards to Romo's possible return date. As of now, there's no reason to think that Romo has any chance of returning before the Cowboys Week 7 bye.

Carson Palmer, concussion

After missing Week 5 with a concussion, Carson Palmer has been fully cleared and will start on Monday night against the Jets. The Cardinals will not issue their first practice report until Thursday, but we can expect Palmer to practice in full all this week. Palmer couldn't ask for a better return matchup, as the Jets secondary has been routinely torched this season.

Cam Newton, concussion

Carson Palmer isn't the only quarterback facing a cake matchup after coming back from a concussion. Cam Newton was able to return to a limited practice on Wednesday after missing last week. Newton is still in the concussion protocol and has not been fully cleared, but his progress so far is promising. We should know by Friday whether Newton has received full clearance. The Panthers face the Saints this week before their Week 7 bye.

Running Back

Eddie Lacy, ankle

James Starks, knee

Based on the first practice report of the week, the Green Bay backfield has some potential volatility. After a confusing day of injury reports, ESPN's Rob Demovsky had the clearest summary, giving his opinion that Eddie Lacy was more likely to play this weekend than James Starks. Lacy had a limited practice, and was seen with tape on his left ankle. Although this information is very limited, it would fit with the possibility that Lacy simply has a minor ankle sprain. In contrast, James Starks was not spotted at practice, and was listed as a non-participant with an unspecified knee injury. Until we hear details, it's impossible to predict when Starks might return to play. But as long as Lacy continues to get in at least limited practices, he should start this weekend.

Jeremy Hill, chest

The Bengals have yet to clarify exactly what Jeremy Hill's injury is, but head coach Marvin Lewis has mostly dismissed it as minor. While the official practice report lists it as a chest injury, this summary from SB Nation points out that it appears more shoulder than chest. Based on the limited information available, this sounds more like a re-aggravation of an AC sprain than a chest injury. Regardless, Hill was able to participate in a limited practice on Wednesday, so there's a very good chance he can play through the injury, whatever it may be.

DeAngelo Williams, knee

Most reports I see indicate that DeAngelo Williams suffered a knee injury in Week 5, but the Steelers report that he missed Wednesday's practice for reasons that weren't injury related. As of now, there's nothing to dig into here, but practice reports later in the week should clarify whether this is a true injury or not.

Latavius Murray, turf toe

Latavius Murray was held out of Week 5 with a turf toe injury, and it looks like he's on the same path this week, as he missed Wednesday's practice. Turf toe is a nagging injury that can linger for weeks and sap the explosiveness and effectiveness from a running back, and it appears that the Raiders are wisely taking their time in bringing Murray along. Oakland's backfield rotation is more than capable enough to hold down the fort while Murray is out, giving him all the time he needs. The larger question now might be what sort of a role will be available for Murray upon his return, but that's beyond my injury scope.

Rashad Jennings, thumb

This early in the week, it's still impossible to get a read on when Rashad Jennings might return from his unspecified thumb injury. Jennings was able to put in a limited practice on Wednesday, which would normally be an optimistic sign. But for the last two weeks, Jennings was able to put in limited practices before ultimately being inactive. Given that history, I'd speculate that Jennings will not return until he has a full practice, but keep in mind that's really just my gut doing the talking. Reportedly, the issue for Jennings is that he has difficulty catching a football with his left thumb wrapped up. A full practice, especially one where reporters witness Jennings catching passes, would really be the only news that would make me confident that he was returning to the lineup.

Jonathan Stewart, hamstring strain

By all accounts, Jonathan Stewart will return to action this weekend against the Saints. I had previously speculated that he might be held out past the team's Week 7 bye, but Stewart made some notable progress last week and then was able to put in a limited practice on Wednesday. As long as he avoids a setback in practice this week, it sounds like he'll start on Sunday.

Arian Foster, hamstring

Arain Foster seems to be making steady progress towards a return after missing the last three weeks. He is no longer listed with a groin injury, though the more recent hamstring strain still had him limited at practice on Wednesday. Encouragingly, Foster put in two limited practices on that same hamstring last week, so it appears that he has a real shot to return this week as long as he doesn't suffer a setback.

Doug Martin, hamstring strain

There haven't been any concrete updates on Doug Martin's expected return from a hamstring strain, but it's widely believed that he'll play following the Buccaneers Week 6 bye. Unfortunately, we won't likely receive any useful, detailed updates during the bye week, so we'll have to wait until the first practice report of Week 7 before we might learn anything new.

Theo Riddick, ankle

Dwayne Washington, foot sprain

Detroit's one-two combination of Theo Riddick and Dwayne Washington both missed Wednesday's practice. Riddick appears to be nursing an ankle injury sustained in his Week 5 game, while Washington's foot sprain occurred in Week 4. Of the two, I'm much more optimistic that Theo Riddick is able to return this weekend. As for Washington, foot sprains can be very serious injuries, and I wouldn't expect him to return until he's put in a few full practices.

Wide Receiver

Dez Bryant, knee bruise

I'm still having trouble figuring out exactly what Dez Bryant's knee injury really is. It seems like the media is split as to whether it is a bone bruise in his knee or whether it's a tibia plateau fracture, perhaps of the hairline variety. We might never know the exact diagnosis, but we can tell that whatever it is, Bryant is getting closer to a return. He was able to put in a limited practice on Wednesday, the first practice he has participated in since the injury. More likely than not, he will sit out this week and return following the Cowboys Week 7 bye.

Steve Smith, ankle

Steve Smith injured his ankle in Week 5, and while we still have no details on the exact diagnosis, it sounds like Smith might miss Week 6. I would usually steer clear of casting so much doubt so early in the week, but ESPN Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley feels that Smith won't play this week, and Hensley has proven to be a reliable source when it comes to Ravens injuries. Smith did not practice on Wednesday, so he's starting off the week on the wrong foot. The fact that there is so much doubt so early in the week indicates that his injury might be a high ankle sprain, an opinion shared by our own Dr. Jene Bramel. I'm nothing close to a doctor, so I'll trust Dr. Jene when he says that the injury had the look of a low-grade high ankle sprain. Steve Smith has always proven himself to be tough and able to effectively play through minor injuries, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt here. I think it's safe to rule Smith out for this week, but I'd give him a legitimate chance to return next week. Were this just about any other player, I'd suggest that the team will likely hold him out until after the Week 8 bye.

Mike Wallace, chest

With Steve Smith's status up in the air, it's worrisome that Mike Wallace had only a limited practice due to an unspecified chest or rib injury. The fact that he practiced at all though indicates that this is likely a minor injury such as bruised ribs. I'd expect him to play on Sunday, but hopefully he'll return to a full practice later in the week and clear up any doubt.

Eric Decker, partial rotator cuff tear

On Wednesday, the Jets placed Eric Decker on injured reserve due to his lack of progress in rehabbing a partially torn rotator cuff. We can expect to hear of Decker undergoing surgery soon, which was the route Decker had been trying to avoid previously. There is little doubt that this is a true season-ending injury. If there's a bright side to this, it's that Decker has plenty of time to get healthy and return for next season.

Stefon Diggs, groin

Minnesota's bye week couldn't come at a better time for Stefon Diggs, who is attempting to rehab a groin injury that has bothered him since Week 3. While we probably won't hear anything about Diggs this week, it will be important to watch how he practices coming out of the bye. Hopefully he'll return in full health and we'll be able to dismiss his groin injury as a minor ailment, and not a larger issue that might plague him or snowball into something larger.

Josh Doctson, Achilles tendinitis

Does it make me an awful person that I'm sort of hoping Washington finally pulls the plug and moves Josh Doctson to injured reserve? It's not that I dislike Doctson, it's just that the current approach isn't working and I'd like to see Washington admit that and give Doctson the time that he probably needs. For now though, the important part is that Doctson started off the week with another missed practice. He will certainly not play this week, but beyond that is still unclear.

Randall Cobb, neck

Randall Cobb was cleared of a possible concussion after getting hit on Sunday, so it's troubling that he missed the first practice of the week with a neck injury. After the game, coach Mike McCarthy said that Cobb was, "going to be fine." As of now, this could be a serious injury or it could be the team being smart and treating a minor injury very conservatively. Until we hear more details or see more practice reports, it's impossible to know how big of a deal this is. Be sure to check back later in the week.

Eddie Royal, calf strain

Eddie Royal did not practice all last week due to a calf strain, yet still suited up for the Week 5 game. Because of that, it's not necessarily alarming that Royal seems to be starting off the week the same way by missing Wednesday's practice. Hopefully Royal will get in a limited practice later in the week so that we're assured that he will start, but even if he misses the entire week again, there's still a good chance he continues to play through the injury.

Sammie Coates, finger laceration

Markus Wheaton, shoulder

After an impressive performance on Sunday, Sammie Coates missed practice with a lacerated finger. According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, Coates has a large soft-cast on his left hand. Fowler goes on to say that he, "can't imagine Coates doing much in practice this week," with that cast. I would tend to agree. Either the cast (or possibly wrap) comes off and Coates returns to practice, or he doesn't play this weekend. The next man up on the depth chart, Markus Wheaton missed practice as well. Wheaton has dealt with a shoulder injury for much of the season, and it appears that is what sidelined him again on Wednesday. Both players are question marks at this point, but both situations should be more clear by the end of the week.

A.J. Green, calf

Julio Jones, knee and shin injuries

T.Y. Hilton, hip

It seems like every week this season, I've had a few last-minute marquee name additions to the column, and this week is no different. A.J. Green, Julio Jones, and T.Y. Hilton were not reported to have suffered any injuries over the weekend, yet all three were held out of Wednesday practices. Every indication so far is that these are just standard rest days for veteran players who no longer need to practice every day. But there's always the chance that this is something more, so owners need to be sure to keep tabs and monitor their returns to practice later in the week. As it stands now, there shouldn't be anything to worry about here.

Tight End

Tyler Eifert, back

It was originally expected that Tyler Eifert was going to make his season debut in Week 5, but a back injury sidelined him for at least another week. While most reports indicated that the back injury was minor and wouldn't be a concern going forward, I found it odd that Adam Schefter's tweet used the odd phrasing that the Bengals believed, "there's a chance," that Eifert would return for Week 6. So even though this was supposedly a minor back injury, the team was already dialing back their optimism at his chances of a return for the following week. Combine that with the fact that Eifert was held out of Wednesday's practice, and I'm starting to wonder what pieces of this puzzle we're not being shown. Maybe this is a minor injury. But until I see Eifert return to practice, I'm hesitant to believe that he's anywhere close to regaining his starting role.

Julius Thomas, elbow

While we still don't have any details on exactly what sort of elbow injury kept Julius Thomas out for Week 4, we do know that he was able to put in a full practice on Wednesday. The Jaguars had a Week 5 bye, and Thomas appears to be all-systems-go for a matchup with the Bears this weekend.

Jordan Reed, concussion

There was scary news out of Washington on Wednesday when it was revealed that Jordan Reed was experiencing concussion symptoms, and had entered into the NFL's concussion protocol. Unfortunately, Reed has a long history with concussions, which makes this a potentially volatile situation. This is at least Reed's 6th career concussion, which is troubling. Reed suffered a concussion in 2013, tried to hide it, and subsequently suffered another concussion that ended his season, missing the last six games of the year. In 2015 he missed another two games due to a concussion. Obviously, the question now is how many games Reed will miss this time. The only truthful answer is that there's no way to know. While I'm always the first one to dig up historical comparisons in order to ballpark a useful return-to-play estimates, that approach is dangerous here. Unlike muscle, ligament, or bone injuries, brain injuries are unpredictable. The fact that Reed has missed so much time in the past doesn't necessarily mean that he will miss an equal or greater period of time with this latest concussion. But what his history does indicate is that Washington's medical staff is likely to be extremely cautious with his rehab. For now, as long as Reed did indeed suffer a concussion, we can safely rule him out for Week 6. I'd guess there's a good chance that Reed is out beyond that as well, but it's important to remember that this is a guess based upon how conservative I expect the medical staff to be.

Eric Ebron, ankle and knee injuries

Eric Ebron had been playing through an ankle injury for a few weeks, but last week he added a knee injury and ended up missing Week 5. Adam Caplan tweeted that Ebron will need, "a couple of weeks," to recover. Without having specific details of the injuries, I can't even guess whether that's an accurate timeline, so we'll just have to accept it for now. Hopefully that relatively small absence indicates that these are both fairly minor injuries, and Ebron can return at 100% well before the Lions Week 10 bye.

Rob Gronkowski, hamstring strain

Martellus Bennett, ankle

As of this writing, there's no reason to worry about either of New England's tight ends. But it's worth noting that both were limited in Wednesday's practice. It sounds as if Bennett injured his ankle on Sunday, but was able to return and play through it, indicating that it was minor, perhaps a mild ankle sprain. As long as both continue to practice in any capacity this week, I wouldn't worry about their gametime status.

Zach Miller, ribs

Zach Miller has been dealing with a rib injury sustained back in Week 4, and missing practices has become a routine for him while rehabbing the injury. Still, as with all missed practices, owners need to check back later in the week to make sure there isn't any pessimistic news.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, ankle

Another season, another team, another injury to write about for Austin Seferian-Jenkins. I'll admit that's unfair of me. Still, it's a troubling sign when Seferian-Jenkins gets a much-needed second chance with a different team, a team who has talked up his potential role and workload, and he still can't make it through his first week without an injury. Seferian-Jenkins was held out of Wednesday's practice with an ankle injury. Hopefully this is a minor injury and he will return to practice later this week, forcing me to eat my bitter scorn. I'd be happy to do that if it meant that Seferian-Jenkins finally got to capitalize on a perfect situation and break through into the player we've seen flashes of in the past.