A few years back, I wrote a piece for my friends at Rotowire called "Confessions of a Rumormonger." It was a fun piece, essentially explaining what those of us who work in sourced reports do behind the scenes. The mechanics of it haven't changed and while how the sausage is made might not interest many -- as long as you keep getting yummy sausage -- there are some lessons to take from it.
The first is "consider the source." That holds true in sports as much as it does anywhere else. The second is that reporters don't just make things up. They can make mistakes, get fed bad information, misinterpret something (or write something that can be misinterpreted), but make something up? For credible reporters, almost never. With injuries, there's all that, plus an ever-changing slope of information and individual response. Ask me something and I'll give you an answer that's accurate right now, but could change quickly.
On Thursday, between the time I completed the Injury Report and before it got up on the site, the Seahawks announced Charlie Whitehurst would start. Would it have been wrong for the original text, stating that Matt Hasselbeck was taking his concussion test and was expected to start, to make the Report? Yes and no, but that's why we do updates and why I do a chat on Sunday morning, to do my best to get you the most up to date information. I'll never be perfect, but I will try hard to be as close as I can be. Let's look at the Week 9 games:
UPGRADE: Donald Brown, Pierre Garcon, Michael VickDOWNGRADE: none
Things are crazy when it comes to the Colts right now, enough so that I'm putting this late game up front. Rumors are flying, from reports that Anthony Gonzalez is done for the season with a PCL sprain in his knee to another that said LB Clint Session might have been put back in Monday's game without seeing a doctor.
Session -- who is a GTD but unlikely to play -- dislocated his elbow and fractured his forearm, but still registered a game high in tackles. If Session was not cleared by a doctor to return despite the painful and serious injury, which coach sent him back in? If he was cleared, what did that doctor see that he thought Session could play through the injury and was Session given the proper information and options before doing so?
Gonzalez's knee was injured late in the game and the Colts have refused to provide any detail aside from practice reports and listing Gonzalez as "questionable". By "questionable" they mean "done for the season." Gonzalez was placed on injured reserve Saturday, though there's no immediate word on whether he is headed for surgery (or if Bernard Pollard was fined for the hit.) The Colts might get Austin Collie back just two weeks after thumb surgery. He's listed as a GTD, but sources tell me his practice Friday has him as the WR3 behind Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon. Don't expect full targets, but Collie and Manning do like to hook up. Joseph Addai is out, as is Mike Hart, so the Colts will share carries between Donald Brown and Javarris James. Brown is the better fantasy play, but he showed little push last week, leading some to think his hamstring is still an issue.
The injury to Brody Eldridge (ribs) last week forced the Colts to find a new TE, but instead of the waiver wire, they shifted Jacques McClendon out there. McClendon was a fourth round pick -- as a guard. The guy is 6-foot-3, 324 pounds, which has to make him the biggest TE in the game! There are defensive problems for the Colts as well. Beyond Session, it looks like the Colts will be without CB Jerraud Powers, while CB Jacob Lacey was able to practice despite his sore foot. Finally, DE Robert Mathis didn't practice Friday, but is expected to get spot duty, splitting time with disappointing-so-far rookie Jerry Hughes.
Oh, and Philadelphia has some injuries too. They'll get DeSean Jackson back on the field, wearing his new helmet after recovering from that horrendous concussion a few weeks back. Michael Vick also returns, though I expect him to avoid heavy contact. On a run, I wouldn't be surprised to see him give up a couple yards with a slide or a step out of bounds, though that shouldn't affect his value too much. The Eagles have some minor depth issues on defense, but they're healthier after the bye week and certainly a lot healthier than the Colts.
Sunday Update: The Pats will not only activate Logan Mankins, reports are that he'll start. If so, upgrade the running game a bit, esp BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Mankins is a road-grader of an interior blocker.
UPGRADE: Brandon TateDOWNGRADE: none
The Pats have two significant injuries this week, on top of the perpetual probable, Tom Brady. Patrick Chung wasn't able to go last week due to his sprained knee and is a GTD at best for this week. Sources tell me the Pats are leaning to letting him sit another week unless it's "all systems go" on Sunday morning. Deion Branch has a hamstring strain and, despite his pledge that he'll play, there's no reason to think he can be fully effective. Branch is a route-runner, so a hamstring won't affect him quite as much as a speed guy, but it's still enough to think some of his targets will shift, likely to Brandon Tate. The Browns will go with Colt McCoy at QB. His performance has allowed them to rest Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace, though McCoy hasn't taken their jobs just yet. They don't have any other significant injuries.
Sunday Update: Antonio Gates is inactive. Remove him in all formats and downgrade Rivers. Owen Daniels is inactive. That one is a bit of a surprise.
UPGRADE: Seyi Ajirotutu, Joel DreessenDOWNGRADE: Antonio Gates, Andre Johnson
At some point, Philip Rivers is going to drop back, look downfield, and see nothing. There's almost no one left to go into the pattern. With Malcolm Floyd, Legedu Naanee, and Antonio Gates all doubtful, it's Patrick Crayton and a bunch of guys right now. Granted, the Texans defense hasn't proven they can stop even a bunch of guys just yet, especially with Rivers playing well. Gates' injury is a compensation one; by trying to protect his injured toe, he ended up straining his plantar fascia. It's a small tear, though some sources are calling it plantar fasciitis. I prefer to think of it as a strain due to the acute issue of the injury rather than fasciitis, which tends to be more chronic. Gates is a GTD, but he will be very limited if he plays. The Texans have a long list of injuries, mostly on defense, but there are two big ones fantasy players are watching. Andre Johnson will play, but his game against Indy showed that the ankle is far from healthy. He could have a decent day or end up out on the first play, an unknown I just don't like. Owen Daniels is also dealing with a chronic hamstring strain, leaving him a GTD and Joel Dreessen a decent play for those looking for a TE pickup.
UPGRADE: Joe FlaccoDOWNGRADE: none
The Dolphins are among the healthiest teams in the NFL, but the Ravens are getting healthier. With Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, and Donte Stallworth all making practice this week, Joe Flacco could finally have all the weapons he expected to have this season, plus Ray Rice behind him. Stallworth could be the most interesting name there, if he's back near 100%. There's some issue on the defensive side at S with Tom Zbikowski out, but Ed Reed seems likely to play, making that more of a depth issue and something where special teams might see an effect.
UPGRADE: noneDOWNGRADE: Kellen Winslow
The Bucs might have something in LaGarrette Blount. At worst, they'll give him the chance to prove something again this week while Earnest Graham heals up. Kellen Winslow should play despite missing some practice time, but it does appear missing that is costing him some connection with Josh Freeman. Atlanta has some depth issues on defense, but nothing significant.
UPGRADE: noneDOWNGRADE: none
The NFL hopes that this game, here in Week 9, becomes the norm rather than one of the other games with scads of players on the OIR. This one? No significant injuries for either side. Yes, it's possible.
UPGRADE: Steve Smith, Chris IvoryDOWNGRADE: none
Once again, DeAngelo Williams is out for the week (officially doubtful), giving Jonathan Stewart another chance as the feature back. His performance last week was disappointing and he doesn't get an easy defense this week. The Saints think they'll have John Stinchcomb on the line this week, which could improve the line play and help Drew Brees get some more time. Brees has spent a lot of time this week denying reports about the severity of his knee injury. While it's clear there's something going on, it doesn't look serious and he's shown very little in the way of limitation. His biggest problem is one of comparison, failing to match up to an amazing 2009 season. That's regression, not injury. The Saints will go with Chris Ivory at RB, with Pierre Thomas still weeks away and Reggie Bush likely to wait until after the Week 10 bye to return. The Saints still have a lot of DB issues, so look for someone like Steve Smith to get a bit more targets than normal.
UPGRADE: noneDOWNGRADE: Calvin Johnson
The Jets come in pretty healthy, for the first time in a while. All their listed injuries stay on the defensive side and while Darrelle Revis is listed, he's seemingly past the hamstring problem that plagued his first half. The Lions aren't as lucky, with a ton of injuries, but only a couple significant ones. As I discussed on Thursday in the injury report, Calvin Johnson has played the last couple weeks with a significant shoulder injury. He played through it well last week, but against a physical defense, it will be a tougher test to do the same this week. Jahvid Best seems past the worst of his turf toe and Brandon Pettigrew should play, keeping him in the red zone mix despite an ankle that's limited his targets.
Sunday Update: Reports are that Percy Harvin is moving poorly in warmups. He is active however.
UPGRADE: Visanthe ShiancoeDOWNGRADE: Chris Wells
The big worry for the Cardinals is not this week, but the longer term for Chris Wells. His knee is seeing "significant swelling" after even practice, coming just weeks after surgery. The medical staff is not only going to have to work to keep him functional, but to make sure that this process doesn't continue to downgrade. Wells' condition can lead to further problems, such as more surgery to clean up the knee or something as drastic as microfracture. In the short term, Wells is likely back to sharing carries with Tim Hightower. WRs Steve Breaston and Early Doucet were limited in practice, but figure to play in much the same roles as last week, which definitely helped Larry Fitzgerald. On the Vikings side, there's the obvious concern with Brett Favre, who will play and showed zero issues with his ankle against New England. His chin shouldn't be a problem, though he'd be smart to go with a new-style chinstrap, rather than the one he borrowed from Bart Starr. The other significant injury is to Percy Harvin, who will be a GTD with an ankle sprain. While he was said to be "extremely limited", Harvin has played after practice limits before and appears to be a true GTD rather than one where the team really has a plan one way or the other. That could cut into his targets in most situations, but Favre tends to throw to guys he trusts. Either way, Visanthe Shiancoe should end up Favre's No. 1 target Sunday.
UPDATE: Wells' swelling wasn't a result of wear, but a reaction to the substance supposed to prevent wear. Wells reacted to an injection of lubricant like Synvisc. This is a good sign in the short term, but an aggressive plan of maintenance on his knee. Wells isn't likely to have a long career.
Sunday Update: Things look positive for Mike Williams. He could be a decent WR3 in most fantasy leagues today.
UPGRADE: noneDOWNGRADE: Charlie Whitehurst, Mike Williams
The big injury here is to Matt Hasselbeck, who was not cleared to return from concussion Thursday. The Seahawks decided to go with Charlie Whitehurst, who they picked up in a much-derided trade this summer. The Seahawks line has been porous, leading to some of Hasselbeck's issues over the last couple seasons, so Whitehurst draws a poor matchup. Osi Umenyiora is expected to play, another strike against Whitehurst. Add in that Golden Tate is out (ankle) and Mike Williams is running on a sore knee and there's just not much to like there. The Seahawks will likely run more, but the performance of the RBs don't give much confidence there either. The Giants O-line is very beat up, something that could affect both the run and pass game. Ahmad Bradshaw is not a between-the-tackles runner, so it shouldn't affect him much, but Eli Manning might need to look for shorter routes. That can hurt in yardage leagues.
Sunday Update: Doesn't look like Zach Miller will go. Tough day for Jason Campbell with no good targets, but could be good for Darren McFadden and Michael Bush.
UPGRADE: Matt Cassell, Dwayne BoweDOWNGRADE: Dexter McCluster, Zach Miller
The Raiders have re-emerged as a football team, rather than a punch line over the past few weeks, but they've paid a physical toll. Zach Miller and Louis Murphy both look to be out this week, with the anticipation of their bye factoring in. On the defensive side, Nnamdi Asomugha is very unlikely to play, which would open things up for Matt Cassell's passing attack. The only significant injury for the Chiefs is Dexter McCluster. He's not all the way back from his ankle sprain, so even if he plays, his flex role in the Chiefs offense is likely to be minimal. As always, McCluster could break something big and put up points, but he's a lottery ticket with longer odds than usual this week.