Gameday Injury Expectations: Week 9

Breaking down the fantasy expectations of today's injured players and gametime decisions, including Tony Romo and A.J. Green

NOTE: This column is a living document and will be updated throughout the morning. Major changes to the content will be in red. Check back often for additions as gameday inactives are announced and lineup / depth chart changes are reported. I'll also be retweeting those reports with quick bits of analysis, so make sure you're following @JeneBramel and checking my timeline on Twitter.

tony romo | back | questionable

On Saturday, Romo was officially reported to have two vertebral fractures.

This was considered the most likely injury during the week, had generated some speculation on Twitter, and was something I wrote about in my midweek injury feature. If you're interested in the anatomy, you can read my background on transverse process fractures and what Romo has been facing this week here. I'm going to copy the relevant sections on whether and how Romo may be able to play from Thursday's injury feature here:

As with any fracture, it's a painful injury, especially because many of the muscles running alongside the spinal column insert onto these processes. Muscle spasm and inflammation around the nerve roots coming out the spine add to the pain involved. These type of injuries are troublesome in the same way most rib injuries are -- there will be pain with any rotational movement of flexion/extension of the trunk.

Earlier in the week, Romo told reporters if it was an issue of pain tolerance he'd play. Mostly, that's the case here. But this won't be an easy injury to pad and inject. Padding will limit the risk of another direct hit causing more damage to the area. But Romo was wearing lower back protection during the game and suffered the injury anyway. And padding will do nothing to improve the pain felt when twisting to avoid a pass rusher, getting fallen on by a defensive linemen or each time he rotates around his trunk to thit'row a pass.

What about a gameday injection? I'm told by my neurosurgeon friend Toradol isn't a great option if the injury is a bony fracture. It can limit healing and increase the risk of bleeding around the injury. The medical staff may choose to use Toradol, especially if inflammation and muscle spasm seem to be the primary limiting factors on Sunday morning.

More likely, an anesthetic injection would be the treatment of choice. But there are issues with that, too. First, to ensure effective treatment for this particular injury, it's best to give this injection with x-ray guidance. And it's the type of x-ray guidance not available in an NFL locker room. So, the injection would have to be given off site and wouldn't be repeatable at halftime. It's a medication that could wear off as the game progressed as well.

So, although, Romo has played within seven days of a fractured rib and collapsed lung, suffered through multiple drives after last year's aggravated disc herniation, and returned to play within an hour of last week's hit, this is going to be very tough for him to play through this week. If he does, in-game aggravations and his general effectiveness are in question.

Jerry Jones, as only he can, put Romo on the spot on Tuesday morning and again on Wednesday, saying Romo was day-to-day. While that's technically accurate, it's minimizing what Romo will have to work through to be active today.

If Romo feels good when he wakes up Sunday morning, gets relief from the injections of choice, feels comfortable during warmups in his reinforced kevlar padding and can again talk the Dallas medical staff into allowing him to play, he'll play. That's quite a few ifs. Romo's history of playing through pain make it impossible to rule him out, however.

Fantasy expectation: I'd give Romo a less than 50% chance of starting today. As noted above, this is a painful injury and cannot be fully managed by padding and pain-killing injections. If Romo does play, every stressful situation in the pocket -- eluding pass rushers, throwing passes from an angle, and certainly any hits he may take -- could end his day early. It's hard to see the Cowboys asking Romo to play his usual game and there will be a sizable risk of Romo leaving the game early. He's a desperation fantasy play only today if active.

730 ET: A Dallas reporter for the NFL network has been told Romo will not play today:

This was the most likely outcome. It's possible Romo will sit, and possibly not even travel, to next week's game in London. That would give him through the Dallas Week 11 bye to recover. 

a.j. green | toe | questionable

I'll almost always recommend ignoring Marvin Lewis and his comments on his injured players. But Friday's post-practice comments feel different. As reported by Geoff Hobson at Bengals.com:

"A.J. has looked fine," Lewis said. "He wants to play. He's telling everybody he wants to play. If everything stays the way it is, he'll play."

That may not sound like Green is certain to play. But in Lewis-speak, it is. And it's backed up by three consecutive limited practices, something Green has been unable to do for a full month.

While I think it's a near certainty Green will be active, there's more to consider today. Green's toe injury is not likely to heal until after the season. The hope is he'll be able to play effectively enough with an orthotic in shoe providing support and limiting the chance of another aggravation. We've seen Green play through this injury effectively. He was 6-102 in Week 3 and 5-81-1 in Week 5. He also left a game after just a few snaps in Week 2 and has missed four weeks after aggravating the injury warming up before practice in Week 6.

Fantasy expectation: The consecutive practices argue Green is feeling good and having no issues with the new orthotic. That's enough for me to feel comfortable with Green in fantasy lineups today. It's hard to handicap Green's risk of another aggravation. More worrisome today would be the Bengals getting out to an early lead and effectively running the ball with Jeremy Hill. If that happens, Green's day may end early, too. Consider Green a high upside WR2 today.

730 ET: Adam Schefter confirms Green is expected to play today, barring a pregame setback.

 

Ronnie Hillman | shoulder | probable

Hillman was back to a full practice on Friday after local writers in Denver were consistent all week in writing Hillman's shoulder injury was of no concern. John Fox told the media Hillman "fell funny" in practice on Wednesday. That's not enough to be certain of a diagnosis, but it sounds like a possible low grade AC sprain. If Hillman takes another hit to the top of the shoulder today, his usage could drop. But there's no indication the injury is significant enough to worry over today.

Fantasy expectation: Hillman is a safe play today and belongs in the RB1 tiers.

robert griffin iii | ankle | probable

Griffin practiced fully this week after smoothly completing multiple weeks of conditioning, including football-related activity. Video of Griffin in shorts last week didn't look reassuring to me, however. Whether it's his knee or ankle, Griffin's gait is still limited. 

Fantasy expectation: Griffin will start today, but I'm not convinced he's healthy enough to move outside the pocket or improve the footwork issues that have limited his accuracy over the past two seasons. I'd avoid Griffin today if possible.

owen daniels | knee | questionable

Daniels fully practiced on Friday and is considered a game time decision tonight. Originally given a 2-3 week recovery timetable, the full practice less than two weeks after surgery is a surprise.

Fantasy expectation: There doesn't appear to be any certainty Daniels will play tonight. Unless you have late hedge options or an open flex position, wait until Week 10 to put Daniels back in your lineup.

Best of luck in your fantasy games this weekend. I'll be back on Monday morning to review all the Week 8 injuries in the Injury Rounds column. Follow me on Twitter @JeneBramel for breaking news and analysis during the games today.