With one more game and a few more practices before teams really hit that "normal" rhythm, we're caught between keeping players healthy and getting players ready. With final cuts coming, these last games are going to be scouted heavily and the intensity will be notched up. That could mean a few more injuries for the guys who will be backups and special teamers. We won't see many of the starters, which brings up a question. Since we all seemed so worried about the changes the lockout caused in offseason prep, will changing the way playing time was apportioned in the preseason games change things? Just as with the offseason changes, I think it will be entirely individualized. It's easy to say things have simple causes, like Jim Haslett did a couple years ago when Steven Jackson was injured shortly after a holdout, but it's seldom simple. There's a holistic view that's so difficult to have in this 24-hour, Twitter-speed news cycle. It's not always easy to step back in order to get the right context and perspective, but it's always important. I like being first, but I like being right more. Let's get to the injuries:
I'm not a doctor, but I have a lot of the best doctors in the world on speed dial. When Arian Foster decided to tweet out a
There's a difference between "recurrent" and "chronic." (I'm not talking to you,
Peyton Manning returned to practice on Monday, coming off the PUP list as expected. While the PUP is a procedural move, it's what Manning has been able to do that's much more important. While he's not at full strength, observers at practice say that he's not having difficulties going through the passing tree. He's not yet throwing deep balls, facing coverage, or making reads, but it's enough to know that he could. The biggest test is going to be contact, of course, and that has less to do with Manning and more with the line. Rookie blindsider Anthony Costanzo is going to be the key person to keep Peyton from getting hit and draws a tough matchup in Week 1. Costanzo will get a lot of help, covering him with big blocking TE Brody Eldridge, holding in Joseph Addai on most plays, and creating schemes where the LG (likely Air Joe Reitz) will be freed up. This is a similar scheme to what the Eagles have used in the past and the Colts line is pretty well set up to handle this, especially against Houston's new 3-4 set. This setup will also limit the 3 WR sets that the Colts will be able to use. They have Dallas Clark as a de facto WR2, but don't think you can go three or four deep with Indy WRs and get fantasy value. Manning should be drafted where you would have put him. Disregard the injury and accept the risk.
It's hard to get a read on Wes Welker and his neck injury right now. In this last week of preseason football, teams are much more concerned about avoiding injury than they are in getting people back from it. Welker's neck wasn't thought to be an issue just after the initial problem and there's nothing since then that makes us rethink the assessment. Treatment is not indicative of anything in this case. It's standard and Welker, along with most NFL players, receive some sort of treatment regularly. Most close observers and scouts think Welker will be out there Week 1, though many wonder if his targets will be slightly down. "It's more about the ten million options that [Tom] Brady has right now. If Welker loses a couple looks to [Chad] Ochocinco or [Danny] Woodhead, is that so bad? Does that have anything to do with his neck?" Great point and one to remember in case the target numbers are off slightly.
Jeremy Maclin wasn't tackled by cancer, but the issues he did have this summer kept him not only from normal workouts, but any sort of physical activity. Maclin came out of it much better than the Eagles expected. Sources tell me that as Maclin's diagnostics ran longer and longer, they were more and more worried about him missing parts of the season (though they fully supported and understood the reason for it.) Once he got back to the team, they were pleasantly surprised by his conditioning. Maclin appears to be on track for his normal WR2 role, though it's tough to say if he'll get the same number of targets in Michael Vick's offense early in the season. He's both a nice WR3/4 pick in drafts and a player to watch in the first few weeks if you don't get him. Reduced target numbers early might make him a good trade target.
Antonio Gates made it through a week of practice, which is a very positive sign. His chronic foot and toe problems haven't hurt his production, since he's still a great red zone target. (Of course, so is Tony Gonzalez, who keeps dropping in ADP for no apparent reason.) Gates' foot problem isn't completely in the rearview, but a positive sign is a positive sign. The key here will be to watch how he's handled next week. The Chargers are going to be careful with him, but it's unclear exactly how careful. Getting some more time with Philip Rivers will help, but Gates' value is held up by that one ultra-valuable fantasy skill. Balance the risk with the reward and you'll find Gates isn't a bad pick for the first TE off the board, but there are other options.
Labrum tears are usually problems for pitchers or even QBs, but John Carlson has a big one. It's going to end his season as he won't have time to return from it after surgery to repair it and to clean up associated damage inside his shoulder. A TE like Carlson uses his shoulder both blocking and reaching up for the ball, so it's easy to see why he'd have such a difficult time. Sources tell me the tear is "significant, really nasty" and that there wasn't much question that surgery was going to be the route they'd have to go. Carlson gave it a quick shot to see if they could manage the pain and keep him productive, but it was quickly apparent it wasn't going to work. He was going to lose fantasy value to Zach Miller anyway, but this does hurt the Seahawk QB, whoever it is. The blocking is already weak and losing the cover TE isn't going to help. Seattle will have a close eye on the waiver wire next week.
Chris Johnson's holdout might end, but in the meantime, a lot of people have been looking at Javon Ringer as more than the typical handcuff. The problem is that one group that hasn't gotten a look at Ringer lately is the Titans coaching staff. Ringer's been out with a hip strain at precisely the time where he could have gained some valuable looks. He's expected to be back for Week 1, but his value is slipping. Remember that the Titans chose Ringer over LaGarrette Blount last season, so they had to have seen something in him despite Blount's 2011 breakout, a la Ryan Grant when he was dealt to the Packers. Ringer's still a nice handcuff, but don't expect much more out of him than being what he was last year.