There's no life line in the NFL. You can't phone a friend, you can't make a last minute trade, and there's not much out there on the free agent wire by Week 9 unless you're looking for Daunte Culpepper or willing to take a risk on someone like Cedric Benson. Over the last week, I've seen some people looking to the PUP list as a potential life preserver for some teams, but it's not. There are few names out there that will make any sort of difference when they come off, and there are actually few who would be difference-makers had they been healthy from the start of the season.

No, the NFL is WYSIWYG -- what you see is what you get, with it being a trick for the trainers to keep people healthy or at least bring them back healthy from week to week, game to game, giving the field staff something to work with or at least plug into the system. There's no cavalry coming, at least until you have Mel Kiper and Mike Mayock second-guessing you. Let's get to the injuries:

The facts surrounding Jackson's quad strain are getting murkier. The strain was, by all reports, a very minor one, but was "uncomfortable," leading the Rams to make the conservative decision to hold him out last week. Now, midweek, Jackson's quad is still sore and the Rams are once again giving much the same signs as last week, that Jackson's status is iffy. One week is conservative but two tells me that something more is going on here. Sources tell me that Jackson is simply healing slowly, but that the quad strain is still, and always has been, considered minor -- "Grade I, I+", according to a team source. The problem is the location, one that Jackson feels on every stride, holding him back from the powerful "push" that defines his talent. Some people are questioning Jackson's heart as much as his healing, so this one bears watching right up to gametime on Sunday.

No matter whether Witten plays this week or any week, no one's going to question his toughness. Witten left last Sunday's game with what most thought would be broken ribs, but tried to come back. After an MRI, the fracture was finally confirmed as the proper diagnosis. Witten says he wants to try and play, but the schedule may work against him. The Cowboys have a Week 10 bye, which would give Witten three weeks off between games if the Boys hold him out in Week 9. It's possible for him to play with painkillers and a flak jacket, but one high-reaching catch and one low linebacker would make this much, much worse. Sources indicate to me that the early thinking in Valley Ranch is that they'll hold Witten out. If you think back to Devin Hester or Marion Barber, you'll get the range of possibilities for trying to play through this, though neither is an exact comp.

While the Colts are prepping for the Pats, they're also getting healthier. Or at least, that's what they want you to believe. Bill Belichick artfully criticized the Colts' usage of the OIR, forcing the team to defend its status reports on Peyton Manning. The QB is not the worry this week, but things are looking better for Addai. Just two weeks after a significant hamstring strain, he's back at practice. There's more here, though, as the early reports have him "fully participating," but observers tell me that the practice never called for Addai to really test the hamstring with bursts or full runs. What was seen was positive, but it still doesn't show a healthy Addai ready to take the feature load back, though there is still some time to see that. It's much more likely that Addai will play but share carries with Dominic Rhodes. The surprise is that Sanders wasn't even listed on the OIR. He practiced and looked healed up from both his high ankle sprain and knee scoping, but sources tell me he'll start, but be spotted in and out so as not to expose him too much.

The Pats have their own injury worries at RB with Jordan still very questionable with his calf strain. The Pats were happy with the combo of Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (I love that name), but Jordan and Sammy Morris would offer a power attack that the Colts' undersized line hasn't been able to stop. Unable to practice on Wednesday, Jordan is expected to try and go on Thursday, but sources tell me that Jordan's not close to 100 percent and the the Pats are hoping he's able to be used rather than hoping he'll be able to be a full member of their RB committee. A rushing game would help take some pressure off Matt Cassel and the Colts expected blitz assault of him.

Pittman made it to practice on Wednesday, but he was sore after being the primary rusher last Sunday. Ribs, back, hamstrings -- he would have been a prime candidate for the "overall fatigue" description we see in the English Premier League. What it really means is that while Pittman is productive, he's not likely to hold up under a feature back's load. That means that Young and Torain become even more important. I've been sounding the alert that Torain would be a good pickup for a couple weeks, and this week might be the time that pays off, now that he's back at practice and showing no deficits from the nasty elbow injury that held him out this long. Of course, Young is also back at practice and while he's not yet 100 percent from his groin strain, it's much more likely that the Broncos backfield will be some sort of committee. Of course, with Mike Shanahan, you never can tell.

The Steelers play the Monday night game this week, and that extra day means a lot for the team and for Parker. That extra day gives him more time to get ready for his return, one that looks almost assured. Of course, it looked that way a couple weeks ago before he stepped onto the practice field and re-injured his MCL, re-starting the clock on his rehab and costing him a couple more weeks. The team is going to be very cautious leading up to the game, making sure that Parker isn't headed for another setback. The downside for Parker is that he's unlikely to work up to a feature load and that he'll be wearing the brace that bothered him a bit last time. Still, some is better than none and Mike Tomlin seems quite excited about the options Willie Parker will give him on offense.

After a 70-yard touchdown, Williams just couldn't take the pain any more. By the end of the run, the grimace of pain that was on his face rather than a smile tells us all we need to know about the bone spur in his heel. Williams will have surgery to remove it, ending his '08 season and leaving Joe Flacco without one of his deep targets, though after last week, maybe Flacco is his own replacement. Williams should have no trouble coming back and should be healthy enough to participate in most of the off-season activities.

It's easy to know what will happen when teams tell you early a player will be out, so don't look for Deion Branch, Matt Hasselbeck or Carson Palmer this week ... Now Darren McFadden has turf toe on both feet, meaning he looks to be inactive again this week ... Brandon Lloyd didn't look ready to come back from his knee injury, meaning Devin Hester and Rashied Davis will get to have all the fun against the Lions ... The Jags think that Mike Walker will be ready in Week 10 as he continues to come back from an infection in his knee ... Josh Reed is in a boot and out this week with a foot/ankle injury ... Colts guard Ryan Lilja is expected to start practicing next week, but sources say not to expect much from Lilja all season ... Cadillac Williams is getting more time in practice this week, but he's unlikely to be activated ahead of the Bucs bye. On the upside, Joey Galloway looked "blazing," according to one observer.

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