Each week, I ask my followers on Twitter who they want to read about in this column. It's a bit of crowdsourcing and a bit of double-checking as I begin my calls around the league on Wednesday. I don't want to miss any relevant injuries.
It's interesting how two distinct camps that respond. One is what Arian Foster would call "sick people" -- people who are clearly focused on their fantasy teams. The other is focused solely on their own teams, whichever one that is. They want a different kind of coverage, away from the so-called skill positions and going deeper into linemen and defense, as well as questioning the skill of backups.
The latter group is also more interested in timing, such as whether a player who's not expected back until midseason is on track for that. Fantasy players? They've usually dropped that guy and moved on.
While this column is in the SI Fantasy section, I've never written it specifically as a fantasy column. Actually, if you go back to the genesis of my injury writing in baseball, I had an editor who specifically would not allow any fantasy references!
Unlike the stats and scouts debate that's been reignited by the movie version of
So Vick injured his hand, had X-rays, and there were confusing results. What wasn't confusing is Vick continued to have swelling and pain while having more trouble gripping the ball. A CT scan was done on Monday and showed no conclusive evidence of fracture. There's no real difference in the treatment of a severe contusion and a break, so from a medical standpoint, Vick is getting appropriate and aggressive treatment. The question now is one of protection and function. If Vick can grip the ball and be protected enough on the inevitable hits he'll take, the Eagles could use him as early as Sunday.
Romo and his ribs made it through Monday night without any major problems. In fact, he came out of the game better than he did the previous week, showing the combination of healing and protection worked well. Romo is already back at practice after showing little or no ill effects. Romo should be treated as in any normal week. The fractured rib, while not completely healed, has to be discounted when projecting his future performance.
The bigger concern is Jones, who wasn't so lucky trying to play through his injured shoulder. Jones had a solid night up until late in the fourth quarter, when he re-aggravated his shoulder injury. I'm told the harness he was wearing limited the damage, but that it was painful and considered a major setback. At best, he's going to be back where he was at this time last week but with the bye coming up, the medical staff is considering holding him out of Week 4 and giving the shoulder three weeks to heal.
There's something about McFadden that looks different. I thought maybe it was just the old-school silver and black, but I watched some tape on him and realized McFadden is actually a body-type throwback. McFadden is tall and lean, with big shoulders accentuated by his pads. Most backs in the modern NFL are shorter with big legs, along the lines of a Maurice Jones-Drew. That's not likely why he's had such a problem with injuries during his career, but it is interesting to note. After his big day against the Jets, McFadden came up a bit lame again, this time with a mild groin strain. McFadden is said to be fine and will practice normally, but carefully. The Raiders likely will use Michael Bush a bit more this week, but it's a big game for them and to win, they'll need McFadden doing what he did last week -- running hard.
Foster's been a bust so far, while Tate has been the perfect handcuff. At some point, Gary Kubiak is going to have both backs available and the fantasy world will hang in the balance. It could be this week, though the Texans are concerned that Foster is pushing to get back too quickly, seeing what Tate's doing in his place. Foster's week off seems to have helped and had him back at practice on Wednesday with everyone saying all the right things. It does appear that there's going to be a bit of a timeshare, which, with Tate's mild ankle sprain, could end up somewhere in the 50-50 range. There's no real difference between the two RBs in size or role, so there's no role advantage. Instead, this might push the Texans to go up to 35-40 carries, taking targets from the secondary WRs. The problem there is, as we saw against the Saints, the run can be abandoned as needed. There's a lot of uncertainty here, especially in Week 4 with the unknown split and continued recurrence risk for Foster. Both could end up good fantasy plays, but this week, I'm not sure either is.
Gore is many things, but durable is not one of them. There have always been interesting tales about his first knee surgery, where rumor has it that a surgeon said his ligaments were thinner than normal. It came up again in the combine, but Gore is one of those players who's so good when healthy, it's easy to overlook his fragility. Gore's ligament issues apparently go down to his ankles as well, as his Grade II ankle sprain isn't showing much change as we get later in the week. The Niners' medical staff is working hard on this, but at best, he'll be a GTD going into Week 4 and he'll lose some touches regardless. Kendall Hunter is the next man up and will get 8-12 touches regardless.
There's a moment after getting hit in the kidneys that everyone dreads. You're standing at the urinal and you see red. It's those aftereffects that really mess with your brain. Grant's injury comes just as he was establishing himself as the better part of the RB split. If Grant can go he'll get more of the carries as long as he can keep producing like last week. One observer I spoke with said that on a week-to-week basis, Grant and James Starks will look better than the other more on matchups than on anything they or the offensive line is doing, so don't overplay this split too much based on any one performance. Watch the practice reports late this week.
Britt is out for the season, but not yet on IR. A lot of people have asked why teams wait to make this move. Fact is, there's just no rush to do so until the roster spot is needed. The Titans were working people out on Tuesday and Wednesday, expecting to add a WR, but until they make that signing, it's just extra paperwork for the Titans staff. Britt will have surgery sometime next week, which is normal, allowing the knee to get past the initial protective swelling. Because Britt tore both the ACL and MCL, the surgery is a bit more involved, but he should be back in plenty of time for 2012's camp. Nate Washington is the obvious pickup to replace Britt's targets, but in deeper leagues, don't overlook Marc Mariani, who could fit into a shorter passing game, and Jared Cook, a TE who often lines up wide.
Things are looking dire for Gates. His plantar fascia keeps re-tearing, leading to more pain and less function. Over and over, Gates is exacerbating the issue as the scar simply can't hold. The Chargers are doing everything they can, but Gates is at a point where he either can or can't go based entirely on pain tolerance. Rest isn't going to do anything more, according to Dr. Philip Kwong of the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic, so Gates could be back quickly if he can withstand the pain. The downside here is the function isn't likely to return, making Gates' slow descent from must-start to "Wow, remember how good Gates was?" accelerate. Randy McMichael will get more looks and anyone relying on Gates is going to need to get a TE upgrade sooner rather than later.