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Monday October 31st, 2011

Sean Lee is the Cowboys' leading tackler so far this season. (Ray Carlin/Icon SMI)

Another week of the NFL season and another laundry list of key players left dealing with injuries.

How long will those banged-up players miss, and what impact will that have on their respective teams? SI.com injury expert Will Carroll helps us break down Sunday's walking wounded.

Sean Lee, LB, Cowboys (wrist): As if Sunday's demoralizing loss to the Eagles wasn't bad enough for Dallas, the banged-up 'Boys might be without their leading tackler for a while. Lee hit his wrist on Michael Vick's helmet while trying to make a tackle and immediately left the game. He's set to go for an MRI Monday. Dallas later lost Michael Jenkins to an apparent hamstring pull.

SI.com injury expert Will Carroll: For a linebacker, it's painful and annoying, but now he gets to have one of those Cowboy Bob Orton cast/club things to protect the wrist. He shouldn't miss any time and it will only affect him in shedding blockers and catching passes.

Who takes Lee's spot?: Keith Brooking was first up last night, but the Cowboys defense struggled with and without Lee in the lineup.

Montario Hardesty, RB, Browns (calf): Cleveland already was dealing with a lingering injury to starting running back Peyton Hillis. Hardesty was supposed to be Hillis' fill-in, but he made it through just two carries Sunday at San Francisco before injuring his leg.

Carroll: Hardesty's calf strain appears to be significant, putting the Browns in a tighter vise -- an injured Hardesty unable to replace an injured Peyton Hillis is an injury stack that few teams can overcome. Hardesty's hybrid style is going to be affected significantly. He has to be able to cut, push and move laterally or he's not going to be able to be effective.

Who takes Hardesty's spot?: Chris Ogbonnaya handled the load against the 49ers, rushing 11 times for 37 yards. His workload could increase going forward, but the Browns need Hardesty or Hillis -- and ideally both -- back.

Blaine Gabbert, QB, Jaguars (ribs): The last thing Jacksonville wants to see this season is its franchise quarterback go down. But Gabbert briefly exited Sunday after taking a shot on a scramble.

Carroll: It's 2011 and what did they do for Blaine Gabbert when he took a vicious shot from Brian Cushing? Wrapped a bandage around his ribs, strapped his pads on a bit tighter, and gave him a shot at halftime. Gabbert wasn't effective, but he wasn't a Luke McCown either. With more time, it's likely Gabbert will be able to get a more advanced flak jacket like Tony Romo has used.

Who takes Gabbert's spot?: It was McCown for a couple of plays Sunday, but Gabbert will be in the starting lineup so long as this injury doesn't get worse.

Nick Fairley, DT, Lions (foot): Fairley's bust of a rookie season suffered another setback Sunday, when he was inactive for Detroit's win over Denver.

Carroll: Fairley just wasn't able to recover after playing. His chronic foot issue flared up, causing him pain when in a stance and firing out of it, two necessary skills. He never had issues in college and came out of the combine with a clean bill, so this is one of those injuries that just happen, especially with all the pressure of a 300-pound man that moves like a panther. Health has been the key determinator for the Lions over the last three seasons, and this one will be just as key as the rest.

Who takes Fairley's spot?: The only good news for the Lions concerning Fairley's foot injury is that they haven't planned around him being in the lineup. Nothing changes with Fairley out.

LaMarr Woodley, OLB, Steelers (hamstring): Woodley terrorized Tom Brady Sunday, picking up two sacks and constantly pressuring the New England QB. He came up gimpy on a third-quarter pass rush, though, and did not return.

Carroll: The Steelers are running out of linebackers. While they should get James Harrison back in the near future, being without both Harrison and Woodley for any period of time is a definite issue -- the speed/size combo is tough to replace. It's a simple hamstring strain for Woodley, but he's the type of player that the medical staff will need to watch closely. It's worse when players try to come back and do more than they can, putting them back to square one.

Who takes Woodley's spot?: Rookie Chris Carter filled in against New England, but that's a major drop-off from Woodley. Carter has a grand total of three tackles in his NFL career.

• Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants (foot): On two separate occasions Sunday, Bradshaw headed to the locker room for further examination. He finished the game, though his impact dropped the longer he was on the field.

Carroll: Bradshaw had an irritation, not an injury. A few years back, Bradshaw had a screw put in his right foot to fixate a bone. It became irritated due to the hard turf at MetLife Stadium, an issue that seems to have been exacerbated by the cold. It's something we'll have to watch in the future. Bradshaw shouldn't have more problems but will need some changes to his footwear.

Who takes Bradshaw's spot?: Probably Brandon Jacobs, if he didn't hate the world right now. The Giants will try to nurse Bradshaw along and keep him in the lineup.

Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants (hamstring): The Giants have been dealing with an unending string of injuries since camp, so what's one more? Nicks exited Sunday's game in the fourth quarter after tweaking his hamstring and was set to undergo an MRI Monday.

Carroll: Nicks' history of leg injuries and style of play make any hamstring strain an issue. Nicks may say it's minor and in a "good location" -- is there really a good one? -- but we'll have to see him back out on the practice field. The extended recovery of Andre Johnson, a similar player, gives us a kind of comparable. We'll need to see not only Nicks out there running, but cutting, accelerating, and stopping.

Who takes Nicks' spot?: Victor Cruz would again see an increase in time if Nicks is out. Cruz had seven catches for 99 yards and a touchdown vs. the Dolphins.

Mike Pouncey, C, Dolphins (head): Miami's season went from bad to worse Sunday. Not only did the Dolphins blow a lead and lose to the Giants, but their rookie starting center sustained what might be a serious injury.

Carroll: Pouncey will need to be evaluated closely after a blow to the head left him without feeling in his extremities. It's an obvious concussion with a brief "nerve concussion" as well. These are more normally seen with neck injuries, where the spine is "shocked" with trauma but not damaged beyond the initial hit. The combination of big shots like this and repetitive sub-concussive blows is why the lineman position is ground zero for concussion monitoring. That the Dolphins aren't calling this a concussions shows us just how far we have to go. Who takes Pouncey's spot?: Nate Garner slid over from left guard to center initially, then Ryan Cook came off the bench to handle the snaps.

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