Will Carroll
Saturday October 22nd, 2011

Every once in a while, the mainstream media joins in on the medhead fight. Mike Florio from ProFootballTalk has been following along with the Michael Vick story from his website and on NBC, questioning why there was no evaluation done for a concussion, as I did.

While Florio focused on reminding people that there are no independent doctors on the sidelines, I've been focused on whether an evaluation was done at all. The policy is that each player with concussion symptoms will be given a sideline evaluation, but within that, the team medical staff has complete latitude to determine who is evaluated or not.

Sometimes they'll simply miss it, as happened with Stewart Bradley last season. (Bradley was on the field while the medical staff was evaluating Kevin Kolb on the sideline.) With Vick, it seems a bit more sinister, though if the Eagles were to allow Rick Burkholder to give his side of the story, maybe it would make more sense.

I think that we need to come up with a better system, such as allowing any official, including the replay official, to flag a player for evaluation. The downside of this is that we'd be asking non-medical personnel to make something of a medical decision on top of their regular duties. Even in the process of finding the silver lining in Jerome Harrison's story and discussing making MRIs more ubiquitous came the disturbing news that Harrison's MRI was done only because of recurrent headaches, something on his medical record but evidently not checked in-depth by the Lions medical staff. (Sources tell me that Harrison had been checked for a concussion earlier this season and passed all screens, so I'm not suggesting they ignored this.)

I don't have a perfect solution, but I'd love to hear your ideas. The league and those monitoring the league are listening. For now, let's look around the league:

10:30 a.m.

BAL: Lee Evans is out again this week, meaning people will start Torrey Smith, not noticing that he's done basically nothing since he exploded in his first game.

KC: The Chiefs will feature Jackie Battle, despite Battle being on the OIR with a neck injury. Think of K.C.'s game plan system as a bit of a hot hand system, but with a bit more planning.

CLE: Early indications are that Peyton Hillis might not play at all. Montario Hardesty gets the start with Hillis' status not being determined until warmups.

10 a.m.

OAK: We're still waiting on official word about Sebastian Janikowski, but Dave Rayner is ready to step in if needed. It looks like Janikowski will miss this week and Rayner's as good a last minute sub as any.

IND: The Colts think Joseph Addai will be ready to go in New Orleans tonight. He'll start if available but don't get too excited. Jim Caldwell will give the ball to the "hot hand", a source tells me. On this offense, I'd think more about warm than hot.

SD: Antonio Gates made it through a full practice on Friday, so if there's ever a week to try to squeeze a little value out, this is it. His foot isn't healthy, but he's still big.

UPGRADE: Ryan Mathews

DOWNGRADE: Antonio Gates

The Chargers should get Gates back, but the foot is still a major issue. The upside here is not the Antonio Gates that was one of the best at his position, but the one that was useful at the end of last season because of red zone targets. The Chargers will also have both RBs despite injuries before the bye. Both are near full-go and will be used in their normal roles. Vincent Jackson's on the official injury report, but will play normally. The Jets have their normal long official injury report, but only Nick Mangold might be affected. He played last week, but is still a game-time decision (+) this week. He showed he made a huge difference, so if he's not able to go, the whole Jets offense has to be downgraded some.

UPGRADE: Fred Davis, Brandon LaFell

DOWNGRADE: Washington D/ST

The Panthers come in healthy this week, with only minor injuries to their TEs as mentionable. As much as Cam Newton, staying healthy has been a big reason for the turnaround in Carolina. If they can keep that while adding talent, they're on to something. The Redskins will be without Chris Cooley and have some defensive back issues, so look for Newton to test them with both his arm and legs. Note that Tim Hightower was not on the official injury report. Right now, Mike Shanahan has him listed as the starter, but that situation is as muddy as usual.

UPGRADE: Matt Forte

DOWNGRADE: Dane Sanzenbacher, Bucs D/ST

The London game is always a bit of a mess, but travel and facilities really aren't significant to injuries it seems. England will be more focused on the Glazer's other team, but the Bucs come into this game relatively healthy (as opposed to ManU, who'll be without Ryan Giggs.) The Bears are still without Gabe Carimi but get Earl Bennett back. Devin Hester is fine despite his bruised chest and casino issues. Bennett's return probably spreads the ball out a bit, and Sanzenbacher seems to have been noticed by DBs now. The Bucs are very unlikely to get LaGarrette Blount back, though he's officially doubtful. Let's call him a game-time decision (-), which is charitable. Gerald McCoy is a GTD- as well. If he does return, it will be in a rotation, which helps the Bears running game.

UPGRADE: Derrick Mason


The Texans come in with lots of dings and as many questions. Andre Johnson is the only fantasy-relevant player out this week, though James Casey is also not expected to play. Johnson's at least another week away, perhaps longer with his hamstring strain, though there were some positive indications on Friday. Jacoby Jones is expected to play despite a groin strain, so don't expect as much deep work for him, which upgrades Mason slightly. Mason got four targets last week and is deeper in the playbook coming in to the Houston game. Arian Foster is not on the official injury report despite being dinged up, so we can expect his normal touches. The Titans have a couple defensive injuries but nothing fantasy relevant.

UPGRADE: Montario Hardesty, Greg Little

DOWNGRADE: Marshawn Lynch

Cleveland's at a crossroads, it seems, with the front office raising questions about Colt McCoy's future, and Peyton Hillis combining injury with contract talks, which always makes for a media firestorm. Hillis is a GTD-, which puts Hardesty back in the RB1 slot. He showed last week that he's adequate, but he's a much different back than Hillis and doesn't succeed used the same way. We'll see if more practice time helps the offense figure that out. Hardesty's a speculative pickup if more than a handcuff, but that's not the worst speculation I've heard and could be worth the waiver move in the long run. The Browns defense has issues, with Scott Fujita out and Joe Haden a GTD-. Seattle will have Charlie Whitehurst at QB, with Tarvaris Jackson not ready to go due to his pectoral strain. Lynch has an ankle issue, but he's mostly a straight-ahead runner, so it shouldn't affect him as much. It could cost him some touches though.

UPGRADE: Michael Turner


The RB situation in Detroit has gotten desperate in a hurry. We have to keep Jerome Harrison in our thoughts after brain surgery Friday and wonder whether Jahvid Best's history with concussions will keep him out longer. Best is out this week, leaving Maurice Morris the RB1. While I expect the Lions will go pass-first, that could end with Morris getting a lot of clock-running runs in the second half. The Lions have some defensive injuries, so there's also the chance this could end up a shootout. Atlanta comes in missing Julio Jones for another week and should go much like last week. I'd anticipated Roddy White absorbing the targets, but instead, those went to the run. No reason to think that Turner won't get his number called again this week.

UPGRADE: Eddie Royal, Daniel Thomas

DOWNGRADE: Willis McGahee

Tim Tebow starts for the Broncos and as with any running QB, he's a risky proposition. His size and games at the end of last year show us that he can sustain the kind of hits he'll take in the NFL and get back up, but there's still the question of how long he can do that. Tebow (and any running QB) is playing a kind of lottery, with more chances to lose rather than win with each extra hit they're taking. There's both the "jackpot" of taking a traumatic injury on any given hit and the cumulative effect. Tebow will get Royal and Demaryius Thomas back in the lineup, taking some of the Brandon Lloyd loss out of play. He'll also have McGahee behind him, though McGahee's back could shift some touches back to Knowshon Moreno. The Dolphins have questions at RB again, with both Thomas (hamstring) and Reggie Bush (neck) dinged as normal. Both should play as they did last week. The Dolphins also have some depth issues in the defensive backfield.

4 p.m. games



Green Bay has an official injury report that looks familiar. Like most of the season, it's pretty extensive, with a couple key line players out, but most of the key fantasy players ready to go. Things aren't quite as clear in Minnesota where Antoine Winfield is a GTD- and the role of Percy Harvin having more to do with the coaching staff than the ribs that have him on the official injury report.

UPGRADE: Emmanuel Sanders


The Steelers have a number of players out -- James Harrison, Aaron Smith, and Casey Hampton on defense and Doug Legursky on offense -- but none of these are new, so the team's been able to adjust. The O-line remains a big concern with a lot of injuries forcing shifts, keeping Rashard Mendenhall on short runs and Ben Roethlisberger running for his life. Mike Wallace's hamstring strain is mild. He'll play but don't expect a lot of deep runs from him. That could open up Sanders a bit, since he has the same kind of speed if not the same size. The Cards will be without Heap, again, as they learn why the Ravens were willing to let Heap go.


DOWNGRADE: Kyle Boller, Sebastian Janikowski

Carson Palmer isn't an injury situation, but he does have a chronic elbow issue, which could factor in to whether he can step in to the Raiders offense. It would make more sense to let him pick things up with the bye week coming, but Hue Jackson has to put his best option on the field. Is that Boller or a Carson Palmer who's not deep in the playbook and who can't go deep? Word on Friday was that Palmer wouldn't play, but let's treat this like a GTD-. Janikowski is not only listed as questionable, but there are also some rumors coming out of Oakland that his hamstring injury might be more serious than the Raiders are letting on. The Raiders also have some defensive injuries that will affect them. Jackie Battle and Le'Ron McClain are the only Chiefs on the official injury report, but the RB mix in KC is still a mystery. Battle is expected to play, but there's no clarity now on how the split will go.

UPGRADE: DeMarco Murray

DOWNGRADE: Sam Bradford, Brandon Lloyd

Bradford is the huge story here. Unable to practice early this week, Bradford was able to do some activities and is listed as out. The team gives A.J. Feeley the starting job, and that would be a clear downgrade for the offense, especially when you consider they had to hit the street for a backup. Feeley's shown enough that the Cowboys won't completely stack the box against Steven Jackson, but it would have Rob Ryan opening up the blitz and disguise packages even more. Lloyd is not deep into the playbook yet, so he won't factor into the offense quite as much as many are hoping just yet. Felix Jones is the key injury for the Cowboys. Murray will get the start and be the big part of the split. Injuries to DeMarcus Ware and kicker David Buehler will need to be monitored as well up to game time. For those of you doing the Arlington doubleheader, I salute you.

Sunday Night Football

UPGRADE: Joseph Addai

DOWNGRADE: Jimmy Graham

Sean Payton is being hailed as "heroic" for staying on the sidelines last week after injuring his knee and leg in a collision. The word "heroic" is overused in sports and should be saved for real heroes, not someone who got injured and took a painkiller. To me, the bigger issue was that Payton for whatever reason saw himself as indispensable. He didn't trust his assistants enough to run the game in his absence. That's not heroic, it's shortsighted.

Graham is expected to play despite an ankle injury, though it could cost him some targets. With Olin Kreutz out, it's unclear how that could affect the Saints. There's no real comp for that situation, so just be aware of it heading in to Sunday night before locking in the Saints in what looks like a good matchup. Addai was a shocking full practice participant on Friday, but it's still not clear whether he'll be ready on Sunday. It is a very good indication of progress however, especially with the Colts usually setting their inactives from the Friday practice. I'm calling Addai a GTD+, but expect him to share carries with Donald Brown and Delone Carter (order intentional.) None of them are good plays this week. The Colts still have some various injuries on the lines that will factor into their play.

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