This week brought perhaps a few less injuries than usual, at least as far as those that are significant to our interests here. But what stood out out to me was that the injuries weren't dispersed across positions very evenly, as we saw a glut of significant injuries at the wide receiver position. Quarterbacks, running backs, and tight ends mostly retained their usual cast of characters, with plenty of players either coming back from injury or suffering only mild injuries (if there is such a thing). At wide receiver though, we saw some very significant injuries that could have very real impact across rosters both real and fantasy. Just in this column, I have covered the injuries to 19 wide receivers, and I could've dug deeper had I been so inclined. In both San Diego and Houston, injuries did enough damage that we're likely to see some fresh faces at wide receiver this week. Depending on how the week goes, we might see a different cast in Green Bay, Chicago, and Jacksonville as well.
Andrew Luck, shoulder
Andrew Luck will not play on Thursday. Okay, I just made that up. I have no idea at this point who will start for the Colts. In fact, nobody has any idea, as both Luck and backup Matt Hasselbeck are listed as questionable. But I'm not just trying to toy with you by saying that Luck won't start. Instead, that was a preparedness drill. When you read that, did your stomach drop down a little with sudden panic? If so, you're not prepared. If you remained calm and had a backup plan already in place, then you are exactly where you need to be. From everything I can tell, the only truly reliable information we will receive will come about 90 minutes before kickoff. If you have any vested interest in anything related to that game, you need a contingency plan.
To be honest, I still don't know exactly what Andrew Luck's shoulder injury really is. On Monday, Indy Sports Central reported it as a shoulder subluxation. At it's most basic level, imagine that as a dislocation-lite. The trouble I have with this report is twofold. First, Indy Sports Central is not exactly front and center on the list of my trusted sources. Second, the article claims that a shoulder subluxation is also known as a, "partial separation of the shoulder." Nope, sorry, that's wrong. A separated shoulder is another term for an AC sprain (such as what Randall Cobb and DeSean Jackson have dealt with this year). On Tuesday, ESPN published a report that Colts sources dispute the claim of a shoulder subluxation. Of the two sources, I'm going to have to go with ESPN. But all this argument is academic, as we still don't have exact details on what is wrong with Luck's throwing shoulder. What we do know is that, after missing Week 4, most reports sound optimistic. I don't tend to believe reports that can't back optimism up with fact. But what I do believe is practice reports, and they show that Luck has been practicing, even if only in limited fashion. Wednesday's final practice report (Indy plays Thursday night) also shows Luck as limited, though we have no details on whether or not he threw, much less the quality or quantity of throws. It's worth mentioning that on Wednesday, the Colts re-signed backup quarterback Josh Johnson, so perhaps the organization is not as optimistic as we were led to believe. Backup Matt Hasselbeck has missed practice time with an undisclosed illness this week as well. Since I can't get any clarity on Luck's status, I would simply advise everyone to have a backup plan in place so that you can move quickly when we know his status for certain.
LeSean McCoy, hamstring strain
The running back situation in Buffalo is getting interesting. LeSean McCoy missed three preseason games with a hamstring strain, but returned to play at less than 100% for the first three weeks of the regular season. He was inactive for Sunday's game, and Fox Sports Mike Garafolo reported that an MRI on McCoy's ailing hamstring revealed a new tear. McCoy has stated that he will not return until he's 100% this time, and Garafolo speculates that McCoy could be looking at a 3-4 week absence. Depending on how long this latest rehab stretches, that could put McCoy's return as late as Week 9, right after Buffalo's Week 8 bye. Until you hear that McCoy is practicing in full, it's safe to assume he is inactive for the next few weeks. McCoy did not participate in Wednesday's practice.
Karlos Williams, concussion
Karlos Williams did not practice on Wednesday after suffering a concussion in Sunday's game. If Williams cannot gain clearance to return for Week 5, Anthony Dixon will get the start. Be sure to check Thursday and Friday's practice report to get a better idea of what Buffalo's backfield might look like this week.
Marshawn Lynch, Hamstring strain
Marshawn Lynch was a gametime decision before the team erred on the side of caution and held him out of Week 4's Monday night game. On Wednesday, Lynch did not practice, which does not sound great for his Week 5 chances. We'll have to wait for future practice reports before we have any clarity on Lynch's true status for this week.
Arian Foster, Core muscle surgery
Arian Foster made his triumphant return in Week 4, and while his playing time and impact were limited, it appears that he is indeed back to full health. I would expect to see Foster's practice time managed conservatively, so don't be alarmed if he does not practice in full for the next few weeks. If he were to be downgraded and not participate in practice at all, you have my blessing to worry. Foster practiced on Wednesday, so it doesn't appear that he suffered any setback in his return. I would still expect him to share touches with Alfred Blue this week, though I would expect that Foster will get more of the load than he did in Week 4, when he carried the ball only eight times and was targeted five times in the passing game.
Tevin Coleman, rib fracture
ESPN's Vaughn McClure Tweeted that the Falcons hope to have Tevin Coleman back at practice this week, though that's far from a concrete development. Coleman has missed the last two games with a rib fracture, but his bigger concern now might revolve around his role rather than his health. In his absence, Devonta Freeman has run absolutely hog-wild on opposing teams, and it's hard to imagine that the Falcons won't continue to ride the hot hand in this running back committee. On Wednesday, Coleman was limited in practice, but it's a positive sign that he should return either this week or next.
Andre Ellington, PCL sprain
It looks like Week 5 will mark Andre Ellington's return from a PCL sprain that sidelined him for the last three weeks. In speaking to SiriusXM NFL Radio on Tuesday, coach Bruce Arians said that Ellington could have returned for Week 4, but that he was held out just to be safe. As far as I can tell, Arians has been the rare exception among head coaches in that he's been forthcoming and honest in regards to Ellington's condition, so I have no reason to doubt him. Ellington put in limited practices last week, and on Wednesday he had another limited practice. Of course, I wouldn't be surprised to see Ellington take only a limited number of snaps upon his return.
Joique Bell, ankle
Joique Bell missed practice all last week before being declared inactive for Week 4 with an unspecified ankle injury. This week, Bell did not participate in Wednesday's practice. At the risk of reading too much into one practice session, I'd say that Bell is more towards the doubtful end of the spectrum to play Week 5. This could change if Bell were to practice later in the week.
Fred Jackson, high ankle sprain
Seattle running back Fred Jackson suffered a high ankle sprain in Monday night's Week 4 game. Jackson should be fine in the long term, but this injury will probably keep him out at least the next three weeks.
Cecil Shorts, shoulder dislocation
Texans receiver Cecil Shorts dislocated his shoulder in Week 4, and has not practiced since. Houston has a short week, taking on the Colts on Thursday, and Shorts has already been ruled out. He should have a decent shot at returning next week.
Nate Washington, hamstring strain
The Texans will also be without Nate Washington on Thursday night, as he has also been ruled out after he suffered a hamstring strain in Week 4. With both Shorts and Washington inactive, we should see rookies Keith Mumphery and Jaelen Strong take on increased roles.
Malcom Floyd, concussion
Chargers wide receiver Malcom Floyd exited Sunday's Week 4 game early with a concussion. In Floyd's favor, he has a long week to get cleared for Week 5, as the Chargers play the Monday night game. Unfortunately for us, that means that the Chargers will not officially practice until Thursday, so we might not have great clarity as to Floyd's status during the week. Be sure to check up on his health later in the week, possibly as late as Saturday or Sunday to see if he has a shot at playing on Monday.
Stevie Johnson, hamstring strain
Floyd was not the only Chargers receiver to exit Week 4's game with an injury. Stevie Johnson left early as well with a hamstring strain. As with Floyd, the extended week could help Johnson's rehab and increase his chances of being ready for Monday's game. But again, this also means that we won't have any visibility as to Johnson's practice participation until Thursday at the earliest. If neither Floyd or Johnson can go on Monday night, Keenan Allen might have all he can eat against the porous Steelers secondary.
Davante Adams, ankle
Packers receiver Davante Adams has what he insists is a regular, low ankle sprain. As usual, I take the role of the cynic and doubt a player's words. The fact that Adams is still not over a Week 2 ankle sprain indicates to me that it is either one hell of a low ankle sprain or, more likely, a high ankle sprain. It's not unusual for players to try to return too early from a high ankle sprain, and I suspect that's what Adams did in Week 3, causing him to miss Week 4. Adams seems determined to make sure he's fully over the injury before he returns (this time) so it's probably safe to think that he will sit out at least another week. Adams did not practice on Wednesday, so I wouldn't expect him to return until Week 6 at the earliest. It might be worth noting that Green Bay's bye week is Week 7, so a conservative approach might be to hold Adams out until Week 8. I have no specific information to suggest that this might be the case, but it's a very real possibility.
Randall Cobb, shoulder
During Green Bay's Week 4 game against San Francisco, Randall Cobb was shown gingerly holding his right arm after falling on his shoulder in the end zone. No announcement was made at the time (or since) but it appears that Cobb either suffered a new shoulder injury or re-aggravated his preseason AC sprain. Hopefully we will hear more details soon, but for now, all we know is that he was limited in Wednesday's practice with a shoulder injury. I wouldn't be too concerned about this as long as Cobb is able to practice more this week, even if only in limited fashion.
James Jones, hamstring strain
Randall Cobb wasn't the only Packers receiver injured in the Week 4 game, as it appears that James Jones suffered a hamstring injury. As with Cobb, there are no details yet, but Jones was a limited participant in Wednesday's practice. Be sure to monitor Thursday and Friday practice reports to get a better idea of how serious this injury might be.
Alshon Jeffery, hamstring strain
The Bears have kept Alshon Jeffery out for the last three weeks with a hamstring strain, but are reportedly optimistic about his possible return for Week 5. I no longer trust anything the Bears say, but looking at this week's practice report, I see that Jeffery put in another limited practice on Wednesday. I'd need to see Jeffery put in a full practice before I could fully trust that he'll play this week, but I'm guessing we're looking at another week of only limited practice and probably a questionable tag for Sunday. If that's the case, I'd only be guessing if I tried to tell you which way this will go.
Eddie Royal, Ankle
This one caught me by surprise. There was no mention of Bears receiver Eddie Royal having any sort of ankle injury in Week 4's game, but he was unable to practice on Wednesday with an ankle injury. I have exactly zero details on this one. This being the Bears, we shouldn't expect to hear anything from the team. Thursday and Friday's practice reports will tell us if this injury is any risk to Royal's Week 5 status.
Sammy Watkins, calf strain
Buffalo's Sammy Watkins missed last week's game with a calf strain, the same troublesome strain that has sidelined receivers Alshon Jeffery and Victor Cruz at time this year. Bills general manager Doug Whaley has said that the Bills will see how Watkins responds to treatment this week, and that they hope to have him back for week 5. I always ignore those comments about hope, and chose instead to focus on tangibles. In this case, that tangible is Watkins' practice participation. Watkins did not participate in Wednesday's practice in any capacity, so I would already say that he is trending towards the doubtful side for Week 5. ESPN's Mike Rodak reported that Watkins will test his calf on Thursday and the Bills will make a decision based upon how that goes, so hopefully we'll have some clarity by Thursday afternoon.
Steve Smith Sr., back fractures
There is zero clarity on what the exact diagnosis is for Ravens receiver Steve Smith Sr. Some reports say he has four broken bones in his back, some say four broken ribs, and others say four micro-fractures. The underlying theme, as our own Dr. Jene Bramel pointed out earlier this week, is that, no matter what the specifics are, the limitations on Smith are likely dependent on his pain tolerance. As long as Smith can deal with the pain and is able to move reasonably well, he is not in any grave danger of injuring himself further by returning to play. Most speculation has Smith returning within a matter of a few weeks, and based on historical data, I have no reason to doubt that timeline.
Brian Hartline, ribs and thigh contusion (CHECK)
Brian Hartline was forced out of the Browns Week 4 game with both rib and thigh injuries. An x-ray of his ribs came back negative, meaning that he did not suffer any fractures, but he did not return to the game, most likely because of a thigh bruise. On Wednesday, Hartline did not participate in practice. Unless his practice participation improves in the next two days, Hartline will sit out Week 5.
Quinton Patton, concussion
49ers receiver Quinton Patton suffered a concussion last week, and did not participate in Wednesday's practice. We will have a better idea of his availability later in the week, but I'd err on the side of doubtful at this point.
Victor Cruz, calf strain
Let's just all stop talking about Victor Cruz. It seems like the closer we watch, the worse Cruz's rehab goes. It's like the Hawthorne effect, but in reverse. He recently suffered a setback with his calf strain, and Ralph Vacchiano reported that Cruz underwent PRP therapy. PRP stands for platelet-rich plasma. This is a procedure where a patient's own blood is extracted and spun in a centrifuge so as to concentrate the platelets. Those platelets are then injected into the injured site, in this case Victor Cruz's calf muscle. PRP therapy is far from scientifically proven to be effective for muscle strains. If this sort of thing interests you, there is more information here, here, or here. It would be unfair for me to call it quackery, but it's worth pointing out that plenty of intelligent doctors might themselves call it quackery. I'm not here to criticize unproven medical treatments, but I would point out that often people turn to these treatments only after traditional methods have failed. My guess is that both Cruz and the Giants are incredibly frustrated with his slow recovery, and this PRP treatment is part of a last-ditch effort to try something, anything, to see what might help.
Breshad Perriman, PCL sprain
I propose that, much like with Victor Cruz, we simply forget about Baltimore's Breshad Perriman for a while. It was originally reported that Perriman suffered a setback with his PCL sprain in a pregame warmup. But Ravens head coach John Harbaugh disputed that, saying that he wouldn't consider it a setback, as reported by ESPN's Jamison Hensely. Whatever Harbaugh wants to call it, it isn't good. Also, there seems to be a little dispute about exactly what treatment Perriman received since the, "don't call it a setback," incident. Ian Rapoport reported it as a knee scope, but Harbaugh seemed to focus more on the fact that Perriman received a stem cell injection. It's possible that either or both of these are correct. Regardless of the details though, we can safely bet that Perriman is not playing anytime soon. As to the actual timeframe, I would only be guessing. PCL injuries are tricky, though given Perriman's history thus far, my guess would not be optimistic.
Allen Hurns, ankle and thigh injuries
Jaguars wide receiver Allen Hurns missed some practice time last week with a thigh injury, but managed to play through it for a memorable 116 yard, 1 touchdown performance in Week 4. In the process, it looks like he might've picked up an ankle injury, as he was listed as a non-participant in Wednesday practice due to both thigh and ankle injuries. It's entirely possible that the Jaguars are simply being cautious and managing his reps. If he can't practice on Thursday or Friday, we'll know that these are serious injuries, but otherwise I wouldn't read to much into them.
Marqise Lee, hamstring strain
Allen Hurns isn't the only injured Jaguars wide receiver. Marqise Lee is also (perpetually) injured. He suffered a setback with his hamstring strain in Week 3 and has not practiced since. Although it's only Wednesday, he can already be ruled out for Week 5.
DeSean Jackson, hamstring strain
DeSean Jackson seems to believe that he might be ready to start this weekend, but nobody else tends to agree. ESPN's John Keim said that Jackson's practice on Wednesday was limited and that he ran approximately 50%-75% of his usual speed. That does not sound like the practice of a player who is mere days from returning. It sounds like Jackson might have a good shot at returning for Week 6, but I'd put him down as doubtful for Week 5.
Michael Crabtree, ankle
Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree briefly left the Week 4 game with an ankle injury sustained when a player rolled up on his foot from behind. Surprisingly, Crabtree was able to return to the game. No details have been released on the severity of his injury, but he did not practice on Wednesday, so this might be worth monitoring over the next few days.
Eric Ebron, Knee
At the risk of sounding like an awful Seinfeld routine, what is the deal with knee bruises in the NFL the last few weeks? Eric Ebron took an ugly hit to his left knee on Monday night's game against Seattle, but ESPN's Josina Anderson (who has been great with her injury coverage so far this year) Tweeted the following:
"TE Eric Ebron told me part of his knee injury is a "bruised knee." He was told altogether can tk up to 3 wks, but go off indv feeling"
Given how bad the injury could have been, a knee bruise is a fortunate outcome. But I'm still a little concerned by the words, "part of," in that Tweet. Those two words indicate that there could be more to this injury than just the bruise. Until we have more details, it's tough to know how long Ebron will be out. Even without any further clarification as to his injury, it is safe to rule Ebron out for Week 5.
Brandon Pettigrew, hamstring strain
With the loss of Eric Ebron, the Lions are hoping to have tight end Brandon Pettigrew back for Week 5. Pettigrew strained his hamstring in Week 1, and has not played since. On Wednesday, Pettigrew was able to put in a limited practice. I should point out that the Lions conservative treatment of Pettigrew was commendable here, as he now has a real chance to come back when they really need him again.
Vernon Davis, knee
49ers tight end Vernon Davis left Week 4's game with a knee injury that coach Tomsula later called, "a deep contusion," and went on to say that he didn't think there was any structural damage. According to Tomsula, Davis' return will hinge upon his pain tolerance, similar to what he saw a few weeks ago with T.Y. Hilton. Hopefully Davis will be able to practice in some capacity this week and have a chance to suit up against the Giants on Sunday. Davis had a limited practice on Wednesday, so he certainly has a chance to play this week. Be sure to check on him later in the week for a better idea of his status.
Jordan Reed, Concussion, MCL sprain, ankle sprain
I wouldn't guarantee that Jordan Reed sits out this week, but what's that level just shy of a guarantee? According to Mike Jones of the Washington Post, head coach Jay Gruden admitted that he is concerned about Reed, who suffered a concussion in Sunday's game. It doesn't help matters that Reed also suffered a mild MCL sprain and ankle sprain, though those are not the real concern here. The true fear is that Reed's concussion symptoms could be severe and linger for weeks, as they did in 2013. Back then, Reed suffered a concussion around mid-season, but later admitted that he hid it from the medical staff. A few weeks after that, Reed suffered a second concussion which sidelined him for the last six games of the season. Even though Reed had no reported concussion issues in 2014, I would still expect the Washington medical staff to play this one very conservatively, especially after the (deserved) bashing they took for bumbling Robert Griffin III's concussion earlier this season. Reed was held out of Wednesday's practice, and I would expect more of the same the rest of this week.
Julius Thomas, hand tendon surgery
As of October 1st, Jaguars tight end Julius Thomas still had yet to receive medical clearance to play following his September 1st surgery to repair a tendon in his hand. On Wednesday, it was reported that Thomas has gained clearance to catch passes, but doctors are not yet comfortable green-lighting him to play in a game. Thomas has put in limited practices, but until we hear specific confirmation of his full clearance, we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves and project a return date.
Dwayne Allen, ankle
Dwayne Allen has missed the last two weeks with an ankle injury that is most likely a high ankle sprain, though that has not been confirmed. It appears that Allen is on track to start in Week 5's Thursday night game against the Texans, as he has practiced in full all this week.
Crockett Gillmore, calf strain
Ravens tight end Crockett Gillmore missed Week 4 with a calf strain, and did not practice on Wednesday. He can safely be ruled out for Week 5.
Sean Lee, concussion
The Cowboys might be without linebacker Sean Lee this week against the Patriots. Lee suffered a concussion in Week 4 and did not participate in Wednesday practice. There is a chance that Lee could clear the NFL concussion protocol and make it back in time, but we won't know until later in the week.
Vontae Davis, foot
Colts cornerback Vontae Davis suffered an unspecified foot injury in Week 4, and he has been all but ruled out for Week 5's Thursday night game. He was seen in a boot earlier in the week, and has not practiced since then. What's even more ominous though is that coach Chuck Pagano has admitted that, "there is a reason for some concern," regarding Davis' foot. Pagano is not the most open coach when it comes to injuries, and anytime any coach says something as pessimistic as that, it's obviously not a good sign. Hopefully Davis will be back practicing next week and we'll have more clarity on his health. Luckily for the Colts, cornerback Greg Toler has been practicing in full and is expected to return on Thursday after his extended absence due to a neck injury.