The whole "next man up" philosophy sounds good in soundbites, but as he said, there's no way to replace the talent level of some players. Sure, you can get lucky and have a solid player as a backup or have someone step up like LeGarrette Blount did last week, but deeper in the depth chart, the real key is to hold serve. "That's right," Faulk said. "You can know a guy's prepared, know he's going to play hard, but you don't know what he's going to do. You'll tolerate a little bit more from him."
I asked Faulk if he though the recent focus on concussions was valid or overblown from the player's standpoint. "It's necessary, especially as they shift to an 18-game schedule," Faulk answered. "The human body isn't made to do this kind of thing. Even the kicker is going to have a sore leg. I mean, football is the only sport where your parents have to consent. Anything else, you can just sign up.
"Fans don't see it, but I see guys I played with just a few years ago and the sunlight bothers them or they're having some memory loss. It's not something I saw when I was playing."
He doesn't think, though, that the NFL needs to or even can legislate that RBs can't lead with their head. "It is what it is," he said, speaking like a true RB, one that did the same thing that we've seen from Adrian Peterson and Steven Jackson when they're about to take a hit. Faulk may disagree, but I think that's going to end up as the next point of emphasis for the NFL in it's ongoing battle with brain trauma. There are lots of other traumas around the league, so let's get to it.
I'm not sure if you heard, but the Vikings dropped Randy Moss this week. Many speculated that Moss' presence wasn't needed since Sidney Rice would be returning from hip surgery imminently. That view was helped along early this week when Rice was activated from the PUP list.
Rice owners, don't get too excited. The PUP list removal was procedural; Rice is still likely to be inactive at least one more week, though sources tell me their best guess is Week 11 for a return. The team has three weeks before it has to make another move with him. Rice is still not running full speed, is not making hard cuts, and is taking little or no contact. To think that he could go from this point to full-go in a matter of days is folly. He is back at practice, but we'll have to see major progress for him very soon.
Percy Harvin has dealt with a little of everything this season, from migraines to sleep apnea and a handful of leg problems. His latest, an ankle sprain, looks to be the one that might keep him out. He had some lingering swelling in the ankle on Wednesday and didn't sound confident that he would make it back for Week 9. Rice will need to get on the practice, even in limited form, by Friday to have a shot at playing. The absence of both Rice and Harvin, plus the move with Moss, could leave Bernard Berrian and the forgotten Greg Camarillo at WR1 and WR2, but Visanthe Shiancoe might end up with an Antonio Gates' style share of targets.
The claim on Moss tells us a lot about the severity of Kenny Britt's hamstring strain. When Britt went down on Sunday, you might have noticed something unusual. As he laid on the grass after the injury, Britt didn't reach back. The "grab" is a natural instinct and one of the most telling things in assessing the location and severity of an injury just after it happens. Trainers are trained to watch for it to help them with their work. Britt didn't, which might seem a good sign, but it's the opposite.
I spoke with one of my Athletic Trainer sources on Wednesday, who explained it to me: "If the strain is bad enough, it goes numb for a bit. I've seen it last a minute or two before the player even feels it. He knows it's wrong, knows its bad, but you don't get that instantaneous grab or the rush of pain. Britt did the smart thing and just laid there, but you could see that when they got him up, it kicks in."
Watching the tape, there's a point where a couple of steps into his assisted walk back to the sideline, Britt crumples a bit and his arm, draped over the trainer's shoulder, starts to pull back as if he's going to grab at the hamstring. We seldom get as clear a picture. Britt's injury is significant, and while Jeff Fisher is saying that the WR will be out until Week 11, that's the optimistic view of the injury. It could be significantly longer or even an IR situation. The team will wait a couple weeks to see how it heals.
I wonder if Bill Polian saw Marshall Faulk on Monday night during the Texans-Colts game, looked down at the RB4 getting carries in a key late-game situation, and thought, "You know, Faulk looks like he's still in pretty good shape ..." Probably not, but at this stage, it's not a horrible idea.
The Colts won't have Joseph Addai as they head to Philadelphia. His nerve issue in his neck/shoulder has made little or no progress, causing the Colts to worry that he'll be out the worst-case length of a month. Donald Brown played on Monday, but showed no push and continued to have some issues with blitz pickups. His hamstring wasn't said to have a setback, but we have to guess that his complete absence late in the game might have some physical component.
Mike Hart, who exploded against a weak defense, ended up icing down a severe ankle sprain. Hart had an MRI on Monday, but the Colts refused comment on his condition. The Colts will go with Brown, who practiced on Wednesday, and Javarris James, who showed very little aside from a good grip in his late-game touches, come Sunday in Philly.
If the Colts RBs are a big issue, the Chargers WRs are almost as big. The Chargers' saving grace is Antonio Gates, who played through pain brilliantly, running much more comfortably, it appeared, as he broke several big plays. Problem is, in compensating to keep the toe from hurting, he ended up aggravating the plantar fasciitis that the medical staff had kept at bay since training camp. Gates is expected to play, but seeing him sitting on a scooter Wednesday can't make Norv Turner very confident about featuring him in the game plan.
The Chargers also lost Buster Davis for the season to a rib injury. With Vincent Jackson still weeks away, there's not much help coming immediately. Legedu Naanee was an interesting inactive last week, in that he was dressed and listed as the QB3. He didn't play and worse, didn't practice. Malcolm Floyd continues to be out with his hamstring strain, but there's some hope that he could practice late this week and come in on Sunday, though no one seems willing to say that he's anywhere close to 100 percent.
Once again, it appears that Gates will be the big target with Patrick Crayton getting the looks of a WR2 with Seyi Ajirotutu only an option in the deepest leagues. Somehow though, Philip Rivers remains a decent play, which is a testament to his skill. If Rivers remains a top-tier fantasy QB despite a lack of viable WRs, he should really get some serious consideration for being placed with Payton Manning and Tom Brady in next year's draft rankings.
Andre Johnson hopped off the field Monday, trying to keep the weight off his ankle. It was taped and braced, but by the end of the game it was bruised and swollen. Johnson's ankle simply isn't healing, and given that he was coming off the bye week, even a week off doesn't appear to help.
Word is that Johnson won't be practicing this week but is currently expected to play on Sunday against the Chargers. The no practice might even become the standard operating procedure for Johnson, allowing him the maximum rest. Losing the reps isn't going to be a huge deal for Johnson and Matt Schaub, but it doesn't help. If the ankle is so problematic that it takes the full seven days (or six in this case) to get him back to productive, you can't expect much more than what he put up the last couple weeks ... which is pretty solid. As long as they continue to maintain it, Johnson remains a fantasy starter.
The big news for DeSean Jackson wasn't that he was back at practice, but that he had shown up wearing the Schutt DNA helmet. After the concussion he had, it's not that much of a surprise. It's like someone who's been in an auto accident buying a Volvo. Sure, you can still wreck again, but karma only got him so far. This time he wants lots of airbags.
The Schutt helmet isn't perfect protection and it's doubtful that it would have protected him from the kind of hit he took, but it might have lessened the impact some. To torture another analogy, I'd rather not get hit by Mike Tyson, but if I have to, I'd rather get hit with the left than the right.
With Michael Vick back under center after the bye week, Jackson's not in the starting lineup yet, but things look good. The next question is whether he'll be ready to do all the things he did to be a successful receiver before, including going over the middle. By the way, if you skipped the link to the helmet, check it out and pay close attention to the note at the bottom.
The problem for Vince Young isn't the ankle sprain. Yes, that's the proximal problem, as doctors would call it, but the systemic issue is one of real instability. Young has an ankle sprain that's exacerbated by the instability of the knee above it. The old song that says the ankle bone is connected to the knee bone is true in some ways beyond the real placement of the tibia.
Normally, we think in terms of bottom-up stability. If the foundation of something isn't solid, the top is going to be even more unstable. In the body, things work in both directions. There's an easy demonstration for this -- stand up and lift one leg until the thigh is parallel to the ground. This "Daniel-san" position is inherently unstable for the human body. Now, note how the other leg -- the one on the ground -- begins to adjust to the instability. The ankle, knee and hip will adjust, moving in concert. (It's actually the muscles surrounding the joints that are moving things, but we're concerned with the joints here.)
That's what's happening with every step for Young. As he runs, he's not just running. His body is unconsciously adjusting for stability and that compensation also makes it more likely that he'll reinjure something, as he did last week. The ankle sprain isn't considered serious and he's questionable for this week, but it's the chance that he'll keep doing this or making it worse that's the real problem.
Now that Chris Wells -- I don't know him well enough to call him Beanie -- is establishing himself as the RB1 and a real fantasy option in Arizona, his knee is a problem again. The same knee that was scoped earlier this season is starting to swell up on him during and after games. Since he came back so quickly, it's safe to assume the hidden surgery was a meniscectomy, where the surgeon removed the damaged portion of cartilage. Removing it, oddly, heals more quickly than repairing the cartilage, at least in the return-to-play sense. The downside is that the cushion the body has between the femur and tibia is now gone. It's a bit like having bad shocks in your car. Each bump is a bit harder.
The body's response to those harder bumps is swelling, as it tries to heal and protect. The swelling is like a suggestion from Wells' body that he shouldn't be doing what he's doing, in this case, running. Yes, that's bad and the fact that it's happening so soon after surgery is even worse. Many athletes that have meniscectomies are finding themselves needing further procedures, such as Synvisc injections, microfracture, or even knee replacements down the line, but it's usually years down the line. This doesn't speak well for Wells' longevity in the NFL, but for now, they'll try to manage the condition and get him back out on the field.
Things looked very bad for Nnamdi Asomugha as he went down on the sideline of Sunday's game. The cover king was already braced up tight from a previous ankle sprain and some doctors on my Twitter feed were guessing fracture. Instead, the forces transferred and found the weakest link. This time it was the joint called the syndesmosis, which, when sprained, we call a high ankle sprain. The syndesmosis is the joint between the tibia and fibia, the two large bones of the lower leg and with a word like "syndesmosis," you can see why high ankle is easier to say.
Asomugha's high ankle sprain on top of the "low" ankle sprain is definitely a bad combo and one that is likely to keep him out this week and beyond. Asomugha's not a speed player, but instead relies on positioning and strength as much as his speed, so this isn't quite as bad as it sounds. For this week, the Chiefs WRs might be a bit better off.
Brett Favre's chin is as much a problem for him this week as his ankle. The ankle showed zero issues, even in specific activities that would be taxed by his avulsion ... Michael Vick is back under center after the bye week and is showing no issues with his ribs. This is now a pain management issue, but keep in mind that the cartilage is likely not 100 percent healed. Another big hit is something he'll want to avoid ...
Colt McCoy should get another start this week as Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme continue to heal ... Late word out of Seattle is that Matt Hasselbeck did not pass his concussion screens. That means Charlie Whitehurst will be making his first start. That downgrades the WRs and could upgrade the RBs a bit, if Pete Carroll follows pattern for QB2s." ... The Redskins might be in a real jam if Ryan Torain's hamstring keeps him out next week. Clinton Portis is definitely still out, so Torain's status needs to be monitored closely ...
Ryan Mathews is showing that as he acclimates to the NFL and has a functional ankle, he's going to be a good one. The ankle isn't quite 100 percent yet, so there's more there ... Felix Jones' sprained ankle is keeping him from cutting. That alone should keep him from getting the RB1 share of the RB split this week ... The Saints RB situation is static. Looks like Pierre Thomas is out a while, that Reggie Bush is out at least this week, and that Chris Ivory, while banged up, should be the RB1 ... Calvin Johnson is still having a lot of pain from his shoulder injury. He had a great game with Matthew Stafford back, but this is something to watch. He's shown he can do everything but stay healthy ...
There's a chance that Austin Collie plays in Week 9, just two weeks after thumb surgery. Whether he goes or not will depend on whether Anthony Gonzalez is out, again, this time with an undefined knee injury ... Donald Driver aggravated his quad on Sunday. With the bye in Week 10, expect the Packers to limit him or even sit him in Week 9 ... Golden Tate had one of the more gruesome ankle sprains I've seen in a while, jumping and then landing on the side of his ankle. He's lucky it's not a whole lot worse than a Grade II sprain ...
Zach Miller's foot injury is being classified as an arch injury, but he's still on crutches as of Wednesday. We'll have to see how this progresses, but it's not looking good for this week ... Sean O'Hara has a Lisfranc sprain, which isn't a Lisfranc fracture. Giants fans know what the fracture does. For a lineman, the sprain could cost him a month ... Be sure to check out my Friday chat on Facebook for all your fantasy questions.