We're in Week 15, and the stress of almost a full NFL season seems to be taking its toll on a lot of players. Quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, and Matthew Stafford are all dealing with nagging injuries, though they're all expected to play through them. At running back, players that once dominated the fantasy scoreboard, like Matt Forte, Melvin Gordon III, and Mark Ingram II are now solidly in, "wait and see," mode. The same goes for wide receivers like Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, and A.J. Green. By this point in the season, it seems like Le'Veon Bell is the only truly healthy player in the league, and I'll be damned if I can figure out how.
Ryan Tannehill, ACL and MCL sprains
If ever it was good news to have an ACL and MCL sprain, such is the case for Ryan Tannehill, as it was originally feared he had completely torn his ACL. There are some semantics involved in discussing Tannehill's situation, as sprains are by definition any ligament damage, from microscopic (mild, or Grade 1) to full tears (severe, or Grade 3). So while Tannehill seems to have avoided a full tear (there's a second opinion pending) it's still unclear how much damage his ACL sustained. It's entirely possible that it's not fully torn, but will still require a full ACL reconstruction, as even moderate ACL injuries don't heal themselves.
If Tannehill's ACL sprain is mild enough, it's possible he returns later if the Dolphins make the playoffs. Kiko Alonso ended up playing through a partial ACL tear in 2015, though he missed six weeks before returning. This season, we've seen Breshad Perriman do the same, though Perriman missed a little over two months of summer camp and the preseason. Of course, the real question here might be whether the Dolphins have a shot at the postseason with Matt Moore at the helm, so perhaps Tannehill's potential timeline is purely academic.
Matthew Stafford, finger dislocation
Ben Roethlisberger gets a ton of press for playing through painful injuries, but I've always thought Matthew Stafford has a bit of a tough-guy streak as well. Stafford dislocated the middle finger on his throwing hand, and tore ligaments in the process. Both Stafford and the Lions have been adamant that Stafford will be able to play through the injury. Stafford was able to put in a full practice on Wednesday, though I haven't been able to find any reports pertaining to his actual throwing during practice. So far though, it appears that Stafford and the Lions are correct, and that the show will go on with Stafford.
Aaron Rodgers, hamstring and calf strains
I feel like we're seeing shades of 2014, with Aaron Rodgers battling his way through hamstring and calf injuries without missing any time. All reports so far indicate that while Rodgers' injuries aren't insignificant, his playing status isn't in any real doubt. I wouldn't expect these injuries to affect his performance, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him pulled from any garbage-time situations very early. Rodgers did not practice on Wednesday, but that was to be expected, and me might well miss more practice later this week.
Cam Newton, shoulder
Cam Newton wasn't reported to have suffered an injury in Week 14, but according to Bill Voth of The Black and Blue Review, Newton underwent an MRI on his throwing shoulder on Tuesday. Newton reportedly felt soreness in his shoulder, necessitating the imaging scan. According to that piece, the results indicate there is no structural damage. This might be nothing, but it's too early in the week to know for sure. The Panthers don't play until Monday night, so they won't release their first official practice report until Thursday. If Newton doesn't get in at least one full practice at some point this week, I'd question how effective he might be on Monday.
Matt Forte, meniscus tear
Matt Forte missed most of Week 14 with a knee injury. ESPN's Rich Cimini is always the go-to reporter when it comes to Jets coverage, and he didn't let us down with news on Forte. Cimini's already had two insightful reports. The first was that Forte hyperextended his knee, but that Forte didn't think there was any ligament damage. Forte went on to say that there was, "cracking and popping," in his knee, which led many to believe that he was potentially dealing with a meniscus injury. Cimini confirmed this on Wednesday, reporting that Forte has a torn meniscus, but that he hopes to still play this weekend.
I'm going to go ahead and just say that the idea of Forte playing through this injury is plain stupid. A meniscus tear requires surgery, either a small-scale trim or a more complicated repair. There's no way around that. The Jets are out of the playoff race, and in full-on, "rookie audition," mode now. Forte is in the first year of a three-year contract. Depending on the location and severity of the tear, there is a decent chance it could be made worse through further playing. What possible reason would there be to allow Forte to try to play through this? I can't see any way that this situation plays out responsibly without Forte ending up on injured reserve. Owners setting lineups should note that the Jets play on Saturday night this weekend.
Melvin Gordon III, hip and knee injuries
This might not come as much consolation for owners that were relying on Melvin Gordon III this week, but all news on Gordon has been surprisingly optimistic thus far, though he's still expected to miss Week 15. Ian Rapoport reported early on that the Chargers believed Gordon's injury to be a hip strain, and I haven't seen anything since to suggest that this has changed. As long as that diagnosis doesn't change, that's a lucky break for Gordon. Anytime a player suffers a hip injury, one of the more serious concerns is that the hip labrum has been damaged, an injury that usually requires surgery. In contrast, a hip strain simply means that Gordon has suffered some degree of damage to one of the many muscles that connects the leg to the pelvis. Depending on the severity, this is usually an injury that can be treated without surgery.
Later reports added a knee sprain to the mix, which is most likely an MCL sprain. Again, that's a lucky break, as he might be looking at a fairly minimal rehab rather than an extended one. Gordon himself has said that he's aiming for a Week 16 return, and that he's recovering a lot faster than he expected. I'm not convinced that he'll be back next week, but if everything we're hearing is accurate, he certainly stands a reasonable chance.
Theo Riddick, wrist
Theo Riddick missed last week due to an unspecified wrist injury, and it looks like he's in danger of missing this week as well. Riddick started off the week by missing Wednesday's practice, which doesn't typically bode well. We'd need to see at least one limited practice to think that Riddick has a realistic chance to play this week.
Zach Zenner, concussion
With the possibility that Theo Riddick could miss another week, it's important to point out that fellow Lion Zach Zenner is in the concussion protocol. This early in the week, it's impossible to know if Zenner will be cleared in time to play this week, but it's a situation to monitor on Friday or Saturday at the latest.
Darren Sproles, concussion
Darren Sproles suffered a concussion on Sunday, and did not practice on Wednesday. As I said above with Zach Zenner, we often don't get news on players in the concussion protocol until Friday or Saturday, so check back later in the week.
James Starks, concussion
As with the others listed above, James Starks did not practice on Wednesday because of a concussion he sustained on Sunday. Check reports going into the weekend to get a better idea of how close he is to a return.
Shane Vereen, concussion
Sorry to keep repeating myself here, but it's not my fault that we're dealing with a handful of running back concussions right now. Shane Vereen left Sunday's game with a concussion, though he was able to practice a bit on Wednesday. This practice, even a limited one, means he might be closer to gaining clearance than Sproles, or Starks, but it's far from a given. We should know more by Saturday at the latest.
Chris Ivory, hamstring strain
Chris Ivory put in a week of limited practices last week, but was ultimately declared inactive for Week 14, his second consecutive game missed. Given the fact that his status came down to the wire last week, I'd expect Ivory to return this week. He was able to put in another limited practice on Wednesday. Hopefully he can put in at least one full practice later this week to signal that he's a sure thing for this week.
Mark Ingram II, knee and toe injuries
Mark Ingram II missed Wednesday's practice with unspecified knee and toe injuries, but that's no different from last week. Ingram was limited in practice on Wednesday and Friday last week, and didn't practice at all on Thursday. He still suited up for Sunday, and there's no reason yet to think this week will be any different. He had a greatly diminished role last week, and the Saints backfield seems to have regressed into a full-on committee approach, but those are problems outside my injury scope.
DeAngello Williams, knee scope
After missing the last five games while recovering from a knee scope, it looks like DeAngello Williams will return to backup Le'Veon Bell this week. Williams was able to put in a full practice, so as long as he doesn't suffer a setback in practice, he should be ready for this weekend.
Adrian Peterson, meniscus repair
The possible return of Adrian Peterson is a tough read thus far. Peterson tore the meniscus in his right knee nearly three months ago, and underwent surgery to repair it, rather than the less-invasive meniscus trim option. In the long term, this repair surgery is basically the better option, but it comes with an extended rehab timetable. At three months, Peterson would be pushing the early end of the typical return-to-play window. Peterson is never one to hold back in his rehab, so it's entirely possible that he returns next week. But this might be a situation that revolves more around the Vikings playoff chances than it does around Peterson's health. To make matters even more cloudy, Peterson has been designated as the sole Minnesota player to return from injured reserve, but he hasn't been promoted to the active roster, so his practice participation isn't listed on the team's official reports. Because of this, we have no way of knowing whether he's truly returned to full practice or not. As of now, there's really nothing we can do except wait for more detailed reports.
Julio Jones, toe sprain
Wednesday brought news from Atlanta coach Dan Quinn that Julio Jones' toe injury is a sprain, not turf toe, as was widely reported. The fantasy football world seemed to take this as generally good news, as a simple sprain sounds less threatening than turf toe. Personally, I'm not convinced there's really any difference. By definition, turf toe is a sprain to the big toe, specifically the underside at the joint where the big toe meets the foot. While I don't think Quinn is being misleading, I do think there's such a nebulous line (with lots of overlap) with the nomenclature that I'm hesitant to change my expectations as to Jones' condition.
Regardless of the exact location of the toe sprain, this could very well come down to another game-time decision. As plenty of writers more versed in fantasy matchups than myself have pointed out, the Falcons should be able to beat the 49ers on the ground and without needing Jones, which only further complicates his status. Jones did not practice on Wednesday, so we'll have to hope for authoritative reports later in the week.
Mohamed Sanu, groin
After missing Week 14 with a groin injury, Mohamed Sanu was able to return to a limited practice on Wednesday, so he might be able to fill some of the void if Julio Jones misses another week. This is far from a given though, so be sure to check later practice reports.
Michael Thomas, foot
There have been no details on what the exact foot injury was that sidelined Michael Thomas last week, so it's hard to give an educated guess as to when he'll return. He was able to put in a limited practice on Wednesday, and I'd speculate that if he can string three limited practices together, he'll be active this week against Arizona. Thursday and Friday practice reports should give us a better clue.
Allen Hurns, hamstring strain
Allen Hurns' Week 15 status is not a difficult read. He missed the last two games with a hamstring strain, and was unable to practice on Wednesday. For us to believe that Hurns has a legitimate chance to return this week, we'd need to see a return to practice on Thursday or Friday. Short of that, he can safely be ruled out.
Donte Moncrief, hamstring strain
Donte Moncrief strained a hamstring back in Week 11, and it appears he re-aggravated the injury on Sunday. While he didn't end up missing any time with the first injury, there's a good chance that he sits out this week. Hamstring strains, even mild ones, usually lead to missing at least one game. Moncrief did not practice on Wednesday, so I'd say he's questionable at best for Week 15.
Torrey Smith, concussion
Torrey Smith suffered a concussion last week, and is likely questionable for Week 15. He did not practice on Wednesday, but we should have a clearer picture by Friday or Saturday at the latest.
Sammy Watkins, foot
Sammy Watkins did not practice on Wednesday, but, at least so far, there's no reason for concern. Watkins is attempting to play through lingering soreness in his surgically-repaired foot, and is expected to miss plenty of practice time. While he's likely to play on Sunday, he's a player that owners need to be checking on before locking any lineups, as his status could change without warning.
A.J. Green, hamstring strain
A.J. Green has missed the last three games with a moderate hamstring strain, but he's now returned to practice. He was able to put in a limited practice on Wednesday, which is obviously a big step forward. As for his status this week, I would still expect the Bengals and Green to play this cautiously and keep him on the bench unless he's a full 100%, and I wouldn't expect him to reach that point after only a few days of practice. It's important to note that from the start, I predicted Green wouldn't return until Week 16 at the earliest, so I might have a bit of bias here. Green himself has said that while he's a competitor who wants to be out there, he won't return until he's at full health.
Jordan Reed, AC sprain
Jordan Reed attempted to play through his Grade 3 AC sprain that he suffered back in Week 12, but he was clearly limited by the injury. We should expect that another week to heal will help Reed, but it's impossible to know exactly how much it will help. The fact that Washington plays on Monday is both a blessing and a curse for owners. The extra day of rehab could be useful for Reed, but it also puts owners in a bind should Reed suffer a setback or decide he needs a week off. As of now, I think the most likely outcome is that Reed suits up, but perhaps continues to share time with Vernon Davis.
C.J. Fiedorowicz, concussion
C.J. Fiedorowicz suffered a concussion in Week 14, and is in the concussion protocol. There is a chance he could still play this weekend, but it's more likely that he sits out. In situations like this, we typically have a clear answer by Saturday at the latest.
Dwayne Allen, hip
There are no details available yet, but Dwayne Allen was held out of Wednesday's practice with a hip injury. Allen was not reported to have suffered an injury in Week 14, so perhaps this was a planned day of rest. Obviously, this is a situation worth monitoring, especially with the possible absence of wide receiver Donte Moncrief.
Jermaine Gresham, knee
I'll wrap up this week's column with another surprise tight end injury, as Jermaine Gresham missed Wednesday's practice due to a knee injury. As is the case with Dwayne Allen, there are no early details on this one, so it might be premature to list it as a true injury. But starting off the week with a missed practice is always worth a mention.
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