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THursday night EXPECTATIONS
This week is a little different in that both Chicago and Dallas played last Thursday and their players are not working on a short week of treatment and preparation. Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and Brandon Marshall are each playing through nagging injuries, but there's only player of note with a questionable tag tonight.
alshon jeffery | hamstring | questionable
I don't like seeing a wide receiver show up on the injury report with the same injury for multiple weeks. This is the second time this season Jeffery has been listed questionable with a hamstring strain. While it's not been confirmed this strain is to the same muscle injured earlier this season, it's a concern. Jeffery has played effectively through these injuries with little practice time on multiple occasions this season and there have been no indications he'll sit tonight. But there continues to be a risk his good luck in avoiding a serious aggravation will run out soon.
Fantasy expectation: Use Jeffery as you normally would. But cross your fingers his good luck continues.
We're now at the time of the year where every team -- those in playoff contention and those out of playoff contention -- will give players with nagging injuries more time away from practice than they did earlier in the season. Medical staffs will rest players with minor injuries rather than risk an issue in the cold weather in some towns. And it's been twelve weeks of games for every team now. There is no player whose health is what it was in Week 1.
So, it's no surprise that I pulled 36 names (including Jeffery above) from Wednesday's practice report to track this week.
The majority of them -- including Marshawn Lynch (back-DNP), Demaryius Thomas (ankle-DNP), A.J. Green (thigh-lim), T.Y. Hilton (hamstring-lim), Calvin Johnson (ankle-lim), Sammy Watkins (hip-lim), Mike Wallace (chest-lim), MIchael Crabtree (knee-lim), Greg Olsen (knee-DNP), Mark Ingram (ankle/toe-lim), Justin Forsett (knee-DNP), Reggie Bush (ankle/back-full), Latavius Murray (concussion-lim), Torrey Smith (knee-DNP), Zach Mettenberger (shoulder-lim), Travaris Cadet (hamstring-lim), and a few other lesser players are trending toward a "likely to play" designation.
But all of them should be watched closely for a concerning trend on Thursday and Friday.
BEN ROETHLISBERGER | NOT RELATED | DNP
The discussion over whether or not Roethlisberger has a broken bone in his hand yesterday is fascinating from an anatomical and accuracy of source perspective. I may get into that in this week's podcast a bit. But it's ultimately not important -- this week -- whether Roethlisberger has a fracture in his hamate bone or not. A fracture to that bone isn't commonly surgically repaired and it's not something that must be protected to preserve the stability of the wrist or hand. Any injury causing swelling to the back of the hand (fracture, bone bruise, hematoma) is going to be painful in the first week of the healing process.
So, let's focus on what we know for certain.
Roethlisberger told reporters on Wednesday he lost feeling in his pinky and ring fingers. That fits with him shaking his hand -- just like you would if you struck your funny bone and you had numbness and tingling in those fingers -- just after the injury for a few plays. It also fits with trauma to the area of the back of the hand in question. And it makes sense Roethlisberger was specifically inaccurate high and to the right with his throws after the injury as flexing the wrist and feeling the ball come out of the hand on follow through would both be affected by this kind of trauma.
Roethlisberger has played through some unbelievably painful injuries (high grade high ankle sprain) and recovered quickly from other bizarre injuries (wired jaw, sternoclavicular injury) so I think it's a near lock he'll play this week. And he's listed as DNP for a non-injury related reason on the injury report. But that's weird to me -- we know Roethlisberger has a hand injury.
The question of Roethlisberger's effectiveness will come down to whether a broken bone or blood in the back of the hand continues to irritate the nerve to those two fingers. If that happens, we'll likely see Roethlisberger less accurate on all throws and see the Steelers adjust their game plan and run-pass ratio accordingly.
It'll be a good sign if Roethlisberger returns to practice by the end of the week. That would probably be reassuring enough for me to consider him safe to use in lineups in all formats. But I'd like to see how this situation develops on Thursday and Friday.
ARIAN FOSTER | GROIN | dnp
There's been complete radio silence on Foster's Wednesday DNP. None of the primary beat writers or national media have tweeted or reported any concern with Foster. But they aren't tweeting reassurance either. Foster was seen stretching on the sideline often from the second quarter on last week. Though he broke off a good-looking run in the second half, it's possible Foster isn't 100%. In the past, not practicing on Wednesday has been a red flag for Foster. Bill O'Brien told reporters after Wednesday's practice Foster was "day-to-day like always." It's easy to read that quote both ways. Let's leave at this: If he's not practicing on Thursday, the alarms should start going off and you won't be able to hit snooze and shut them off for good until Sunday morning.
LARRY FITZGERALD | KNEE | limited
Fitzgerald put in his first real practice time on Wednesday. That implies the medical staff is comfortable with him putting his knee into a stressful situation and seeing how it responds. If he feels good on Thursday and his exam continues to show a stable knee joint, Fitzgerald has a great shot to return. If he's not practicing Thursday, I think it's likely he'll sit again this week. I'll flesh Fitzgerald's prospects out better on Sunday morning, but I'll likely not be comfortable pushing Fitzgerald as a WR2 play unless he's fully practicing without a brace.
roddy white | ankle | pending
The Falcons won't have their first practice until Thursday and play Monday night. Mike Smith told reporters on Monday White would return to play this week. But you know the Roddy Rule. Unless White puts in a full practice by Saturday morning and tells reporters he's ready to go, he's not a strong fantasy option. Be careful before sitting a top 25 option in Thursday's game while hoping White returns for the strong matchup against Green Bay.
desean jackson | shin | dnp
Jackson reportedly has a bruise of the bone on the outside of his lower leg. He was seen still limping on the practice field and locker room on Wednesday. Jackson has played through painful injuries this season and is tentatively expected to go. The injury will affect his lateral movement more than his straight line speed. If he plays, his boom-bust expectation won't take a huge hit.
rashad jennings | ankle | dnp
We've been through this before with Jennings. He says in the locker room after the game he'll be ready to play despite his new injury the following week. He then doesn't practice and misses at least a week. The DNP on Wednesday isn't a huge concern. But with the history and the possibility he has a low grade high ankle sprain, it's a definite red flag. It's absolutely possible Jennings will increase his practice participation this week and play effectively. But start to prepare other options if he isn't practicing on Thursday.
andre ellington | hip/foot | dnp
One of my long time orthopedic friends of the column -- Dr. Jeff Budoff, who writes a very good injury column for RotoViz now -- was kind enough to point out that I haven't been very clear on the anatomy of what a hip pointer is and why it's a painful injury. I'm always quick to acknowledge my limitations as a non-orthopedic / sports medicine trained provider, so I'm appreciative when experienced folks reach out to me.
If you're reading for my thoughts on Ellington this week, skip the next paragraph. If you enjoy the anatomy discussions I'll sometimes include in these columns, thanks for letting me quickly clarify.
Earlier this week, in the Monday column and on Twitter, my discussion of hip pointers implied that bleeding in the soft tissues around the hip bone irritated a nerve in the area which then caused muscle spasm. My sentence structure was flat out terrible and that's not correct. The bleeding does cause irritation to the nerve, which causes discomfort. But it's the bleeding (and other inflammatory factors) that causes the muscle spasm rather than nerve irritation. Both cause discomfort and contribute to the difficult recovery, but it's important to be precise on details like this. Again, my appreciation to the good doc for taking the time to make sure everyone gets the most accurate information.
Bruce Arians told us on Monday Ellington has a severe hip pointer. You can take that to mean Ellington will have very little chance of recovering in time to play effectively this week. I don't see him practicing at all this week and believe the very best case scenario this week is for Ellington to be listed as a game time decision, be a surprise active, and see just a handful of snaps. Consider him on the very doubtful side of questionable and make plans now for an alternative. I think there's a chance he could miss Week 15, too.
julius thomas | ankle | limited
dwayne allen | ankle | full
I think both tight ends play this week. Allen is a lock, as the Colts cut the practice squad tight end they added in Allen's place and he's already practicing fully. Thomas continues to improve and the added rest should allow him to fully practice -- assuming he truly is ready to play -- and get a probable listing on Friday. Tentatively expect to have both available for fantasy lineups while monitoring practice participation this week.
ISAIAH crowell | hip | dnp
I don't know what to make of Mike Pettine's "hopeful he'll be able to go" comment in a press conference before Wednesday's practice. There may be nothing here -- the Browns aren't pleased with Terrance West at all and the depth is no longer great with Ben Tate in Minnesota. Were I Pettine, I'd be hopeful, too. But the Browns did sign a running back this week. There's no specifics on Crowell's injury as yet. As soon as there's more clarity here, I'll update on Twitter.
Follow on Twitter @JeneBramel for breaking injury news, updates and analysis. Check back Sunday morning for my expectations on all of this week's game-time injury decisions.