Somehow, many missed the point here. This is not a physical issue; it's one of confidence in a knee that his physically fine. At nearly a year post-injury and post-surgery, there's no doubt that the knee is fine. Getting the confidence to do the acrobatic or even the mundane is something that Welker himself is going to have to let come to him. We've often seen players "guard" the knee early in a comeback. The most famous example is a run by Deuce McAllister a couple years back after coming back from his first ACL reconstruction. He'd spent the first few weeks of the season running straight ahead, but on one run, he instinctively cut, burst outside and ran for a touchdown. In the end zone, McAllister clearly looked down at his knee. That cut was an epiphany, letting McAllister realize that yes, he was fine and, yes, he could do that again. He did it for the rest of the season and kept doing it until the other knee blew out.
Welker hasn't had that moment yet where he stops worrying about his knee, which tells me that when he does, hold on. His numbers haven't been bad up to this point, with 44 receptions for 355 yards and 3 TDs. It's amazing to me that the difference might not be talent, but confidence in talent. The NFL often shows the fine line between confidence and arrogance, but self-confidence in all contexts is huge. There are plenty of other injuries around the league, with and without confidence issues, so let's get to it, starting with the NFL's first midweek game of the season.
UPGRADE:Tony GonzalezDOWNGRADE: none
The first of the Thursday games gets ready to go, throwing off the schedule for a lot of fantasy leagues. If your entire roster locks with the first game played, now the game-time decisions get really tough. This game does have one big-time fantasy player who is a GTD. Roddy White left last week's game with a mild knee sprain. He's said since Sunday that he would play, but will he be able to play effectively? That's a much bigger question and could force Matt Ryan to go away from his favorite target and spread the ball around more. Tony Gonzalez is the likeliest beneficiary. Jason Snelling is also dealing with swelling in his knee, but is expected to play. The Ravens are mostly healthy, though Tom Zbikowski is out again.
Matthew Stafford has a shoulder injury and is out for Week 10. That's really about all we know. The rest is speculation, while the Lions continue to seek opinions on what can be done. Stafford's injury has been reported as both very serious and not serious at all, ranging from rumors of a Grade III sprain, an injury that often requires surgery to correct. The movement of the shoulder will damage internal structures, including ligaments and tendons, structures that have to be repaired in order to have the same structural integrity and strength. "Strong and accurate" was the selling point for Stafford coming into the NFL. Losing that would leave him, well, as the guy who's throwing to Calvin Johnson, another guy with talent that's had some issues staying healthy. As with Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson, we won't know what the Lions have until their both healthy for an extended period of time, but I'm just not sure that's going to happen. While the Lions wait to see how long Stafford is out, they'll try to bring Shaun Hill back. Hill has a broken forearm, but it's not his throwing arm and it was plated. He's relatively safe to return, but how he takes a hit will matter. Keeping him from taking that hit is going to have to be a huge priority for the Lions on Sunday. Hill is practicing with a huge cast on his arm, though I'm told that's not what he'll have on Sunday.
I'll leave the off-field questions for now, but for Week 10 at least, Austin Collie is out. The Colts are short-handed at WR, but not as badly as most think. Dallas Clark essentially functions as the WR2 behind Reggie Wayne, or did before his injury, but Jacob Tamme showed that he could take the targets, if not have the same level of talent. That leaves a need for a WR3 -- a healthy Pierre Garcon -- and some depth. It's unclear how long Collie was unconscious, but saying that it was somewhere around a minute seems pretty reasonable, considering the medical staff made the decision to cut away his facemask. Collie was cleared to travel and has been reported to have a progressive lessening of symptoms. Those are all good signs, pointing to his clearance sometime next week. We can't know how significant the impact was, but the vector was more perpendicular than collision. Where things get tougher is that Collie couldn't fly off the hit since he was also being hit on the other side, which is reminiscent of how Michael Vick broke his ribs. (We'll get to that lie later.) My final knock on this situation is that as far as I can tell, the Eagles' Kurt Coleman was never checked for concussion himself, despite being staggered after the hit. He was on the field later in the game and there's no notice that he's had any symptoms, but his head hit Collie's head just as hard. That the Eagles might not have even checked him during the time Collie was being treated is pretty amazing, post-Stewart Bradley's situation.
With the Redskins QB situation in turmoil, the RB situation is murky this week as well. Ryan Torain is still dealing with his hamstring strain while Cliinton Portis is back on the field after rehabbing his strained groin. Reports on Wednesday were that Portis was "very sore" and that at best, he was looking at a split come Sunday, but only if he showed by Friday that he could handle a feature load. I know this is a bit confusing -- why need a feature load if he's only going to split? The answer from the Redskins coaching staff is that with both backs hurting, either (or both) could go down quickly, forcing the other to take up the slack. That makes some sense, but there's also depth behind those two. Keiland Williams had a TD against the Lions in Week 8 and isn't the worst speculative play given Torain and Portis' situation. Both are GTDs, at best, and at this point, I'd have a hard time recommending either.
The Rams rushing defense is about mid-pack this year, depending on which measure you use, but perhaps the most telling statistic for fantasy players is that Mike Goodson has been named the Week 10 starter and is only owned in about 0.7 percent of leagues. With both DeAngelo Williams (foot) and Jonathan Stewart (concussion) out of practice and unlikely to play in Week 10, Goodson becomes the starter by default, lining up behind new starter Jim (not Jimmy!) Claussen. There's no word from the Panthers on whether Stewart had passed (or even taken) his concussion screens, but he did not practice and I'm told is unlikely to practice this week at all. Williams is making slow progress with his foot sprain and, like Pierre Thomas, seems to have his coaching staff frustrated. There's hope that Williams will push to get back on the field by Friday, but few think he'll be ready to play by Sunday. I'm not sure you should rush to up that percentage of Goodson owners, but the Panthers don't seem to have any other real options for Week 10.
Dislocated toe on one side and a torn plantar fascia on the other. That's not going to make for a fun morning run, let alone trying to play an NFL game. That's what Antonio Gates is dealing with. Last week, he just couldn't go and with the bye week, it made sense for the Chargers to give him the extra time. That's what they're doing with practice as well, holding Gates out completely this week and hoping that he can get back on the field late next week. It's possible that Gates will be held out of practice altogether as the team tries to figure out how to maintain a situation that's obviously cascading. The compensations he made for the toe injury likely led to additional force on the opposite foot and the eventual tearing. That plantar strain is extremely painful, so controlling that will be the key. Gates has shown time and time again he can play with injuries and be effective. I just wish he didn't have to show us so often.
A lot of how we look at injuries depends on how we set expectations. When Sidney Rice had hip surgery, the initial expectations were that he could return in eight weeks, which seemed very aggressive to me. Instead of 8 to 10, I thought it would be more like 10 to 12 and let's call this one in the middle. Rice is back at practice but not quite ready to get back to the job of catching what Brett Favre slings at him. Where he could have value is in coming in on spot duty, especially in the red zone where his size is an advantage. The Vikings will have to figure out ways to make sure that the hip doesn't get too taxed. There's one more advantage to bringing him back this week and that's Soldier Field. The Bears' home field is grass, not turf, which should give Rice a bit more cushioning for a hip that just had it's cushioning and stability repaired. It's about expectations again this week for Rice. Keep your expectations low and he could surprise you with some points, but don't expect WR1 numbers just yet.
One of the things that many people don't understand about the Official Injury Report released by the NFL each week is that it is purely forward looking. There's nothing there to learn about last week. If you didn't watch the Giants in Week 9, there's nothing on this week's OIR to remind you that Hakeem Nicks ended the game on the sideline with a sprained ankle. The reason is good for Nicks' owners, because there's no limitation, no expectation that Nicks will do anything other than line up at WR1 come Sunday. The OIR cares about play or not play, limited or not limited, not that there's a Grade I sprain that Nicks will deal with. Expect him to get his full targets against the Cowboys, a team that doesn't seem able to stop anyone from putting up big numbers.
Michael Vick told the CBS broadcast crew last Sunday that he had broken ribs, not torn rib cartilage. If true, his return goes from normal to slow and raises some questions about Andy Reid's management. ... Tom Brady missed Wednesday's practice, which is unusual for him. In addition to the perpetual right shoulder problem, he was also listed as having a "foot" issue. He's expected to play, but this bears a bit more watching than normal ... Matt Hasselbeck has cleared his concussion screens and is expected to start on Sunday ... Matt Moore has a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder and is done for the season ... Seneca Wallace is healing a bit more quickly than Jake Delhomme, but not enough that Colt McCoy won't start this week. Wallace will be, at best, the QB2, but don't expect him to get looks in the wildcat just yet ... Chris Wells continues to have swelling in his knee. The cause was said to be an allergic reaction to a lubricant, but this appears to be lingering ... It looks as if Joseph Addai is out again for Week 10, but seems to be targeting Week 11's game at New England for his return. Donald Brown and Javarris James will get the carries against Cincy ... Fred Taylor is back at practice, but he's just getting going. With turf toe on both sides, don't expect much from him if he even plays this week ... Dexter McCluster is making some progress from his high ankle sprain, but he's still very questionable for Week 10 ... Sources tell me that Deion Branch (hamstring) not only looked good in practice Wednesday, but that Brady seemed very focused on keeping him involved ... Heath Miller is working with the Steelers medical staff to get the swelling down on his knee. Watch to see if he practices on Friday for a sign, but expect him to play against the Pats ... Reports are that Stephen Gostkowski will need surgery on his strained quad. The Pats put him on IR, so get another kicker if you had him ... The NFL's focus on helmet to helmet hits showed no teeth this week as concussions continued to mount. If the sheer numbers and watching hits like the one on Austin Collie or Jonathan Stewart don't scare you enough, read this ... We're doing something new for Friday's fantasy football chat. It's still a bit experimental, but if everything goes as planned it should be a nice improvement and allow me to get to even more of your questions. I can't tell you much more about it now, but be sure to block out an hour (Noon eastern) on your schedule.