I saw the Pirate Ship as I landed in Tampa Thursday afternoon and it reminded me how close the season is to starting -- and none too soon. The final preseason games behind us, there are actual games ahead.
It's a big week for drafts, and in a recent expert league draft, I ended up making what some people thought were risky picks. I'm often guilty in fantasy baseball of accepting too much risk, but with guys such as Peyton Manning (who had come back to practice earlier on the day of the draft), Kevin Curtis (a known risk with a known return path), and Marvin Harrison (who's looked good all preseason), I'm swinging for the fences, something you have to do when you draw the 11th pick in a 12-team league. I play fantasy to win, not to finish in the middle, so I'll make some moves -- Felix Jones in the third? -- that some will question. We'll see when we play the games, but I'll leave you with this before getting into the injuries -- don't be too scared of things you know. That includes injuries. Let's look around at the latest:
While Manning was able to finally practice and reportedly looked good, the Colts got a bigger hit. Saturday, the linchpin of the line, is out for at least six weeks and likely more after tearing his MCL. Saturday, known as one of the best at adjusting schemes and as a bruising pull blocker, is going to be limited even once he returns. The Colts have Mike Pollak in camp and ready, another instance of the Colts drafting for need before the need even arises, but he's going to be a step down from the underrated Saturday. With some new components to the line adding to the need for mobility and less knockdowns, Saturday's knee might end up being as important to Manning as his own knee. As for Manning, he's "on track," according to Tony Dungy, and from the limited observations possible, it appears that he's likely to start Week 1 when the Colts officially open their new stadium.
Earlier this week -- I do a Tuesday column at Rotowire.com -- I broke down the Osi Umenyiora breakdown and nothing has changed. Umenyiora is done for the season after a tear in his lateral meniscus came loose in his knee. The Giants quickly blamed a misstep on the hard Giants stadium turf for the injury, but many of you have noted that a meniscus tear is normally a few weeks rather than a lost season. The reason is that the surgeons will try to repair the meniscus rather than simply removing the damaged piece of cartilage. Removing it -- a meniscectomy -- would leave Umenyiora with very little cushion in his knee and the likelihood of reducing his career and later problems due to bone-on-bone grinding. He's had surgery before on the knee after tearing his medial meniscus, done by Jim Andrews while Umenyiora was in college. Umenyiora should be back next season with no deficits, but the Giants pass rush this year now has a lot of questions.
It was about 20 minutes after drafting Lewis in the second round that I got a text saying "JLewis no prac. Ham." My reaction was more grammatically correct, but much less printable. The Browns, Lewis, and the people like me who drafted him, though, got a bit lucky; he's expected back at practice next week as the Browns gear up for Week 1 and is expected to be healthy enough to get "most of the carries," I'm told. It's hard to say if that means a normal load or something slightly less, but it should be enough to make him a good start.
The deep cut on Edwards' foot has him questionable for Week 1. It will affect him, but until he gets back out on the practice field, we're not sure how or how much. Since he's a speed player, any problem with the foot is going to limit him, but trainers I spoke with think this is something the medical staff can get him through pretty well. We have a week of practice to watch.
Finally, Anderson is still working back from a concussion. He's not completely symptom free, though the symptoms he still has are minor. He's expected to be ready for Week 1, but Brady Quinn is at the ready and reading up.
Plaxico practiced, then he practiced again. Going out on back-to-back days isn't a big deal for most players, but Burress was limited much of last season and much of the preseason due to his chronic ankle issues. Burress didn't play Thursday, but he's doing better than expected, which gives him some chance of being more than just a red zone target. With Jeremy Shockey gone, Burress is one of the tall targets left for Eli Manning, who has a tendency to throw high. Burress had a very solid season last year and with just a bit more health -- he's never going to carry anything less than a high risk -- he can be the weapon that Manning needs. If you can use the injury and the risk to steal him in a middle round, do it.
Hackett has always put up the secondary numbers that screams "breakout," but every season, he seems to breakdown instead. This year, he has a chance to be a key component for the Panthers' passing game, but his foot injury is holding him back. He didn't play Thursday and is likely to hit the first Official Injury Report as "questionable", according to my sources. Hackett remains a speculative play. Last year, he performed well in Seattle, but only between injuries. Until Hackett proves he can stay healthy, he's just tantalizing waiver bait.
It's just a coincidence, I'm sure, but the Chargers have four big "stars" on the team and all four of them have had major injuries since the 2007 regular season ended. Merriman is the latest, having two "loose ligaments" -- PCL and LCL -- and there's no clear indication of how this happened. We'd assume that Jim Andrews didn't see this during his March surgery to clean up the left knee, and Merriman himself said in July that his knee was fully healed, but again, there's no known trauma that would cause significant ligament tears. Since Merriman tends to speed rush the RT, and the normal blocking on that is to push him further out, that's exactly what would tax his knee. The Chargers could flip-flop him to help, but this is going to be one of those things that is going to mostly go off of Merriman's ability to feel comfortable and to play through pain. Merriman's accustomed to needles, so I think he'll be able to play, but I'm not sure if he'll be able to make it through the season. Dr. Neil ElAttrache, one of the top orthos in sports, said that "if Merriman were 30 and had played longer in the NFL, this could be career-threatening. However, Merriman will be more game-to-game." It's clear that if Merriman had the surgery, he'd be stronger and safer, but the path he seems to be choosing is doable, but risky.
I'm not even going to try listing all the players who will miss the final preseason game. In most cases, it's not meaningful information ... If you're high on Bernard Berrian, remember that turf toe lingers ... Both Bengal WRs -- please don't make me type it -- look better in practice and should be ready for Week 1 ... Kyle Boller looks to be out for the season with a shoulder injury. He's not on many draft boards anyway ... Maurice Jones-Drew has a minor ankle sprain, but should be fine for Week 1 ... The first Official Injury Report comes out next week. It's not enough, so I hope you'll join me each Thursday here for a breakdown on the info you'll need, then again on Sunday morning, just before it's time to set your rosters, when I'll help you understand how injuries will affect that week's games.