The injury reports have been filed and player availability for Week 4 has become more clear. We take a look at player designations and practice participation levels to get the best idea of who’s playing this week and who isn’t. Updates will still filter in as Saturday goes on, especially for the GTD (Game Time Decision) folks. So let’s take a look at the guys who have all of us racking our brains as we head into Week 4.
Keep in mind, if a guy isn’t listed here, he’s already been ruled out or I’m not concerned enough about the injury to discuss. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at z_dahdul for breaking news and up to the minute analysis as news breaks this weekend.
(injury and designation in parentheses)
Miles Austin (hamstring, Out): No shocker here that Austin is out with a hamstring strain, as this is officially the third season in a row he’s dealt with a hamstring strain. Regardless of the reason for his chronic susceptibility for hamstring strains, this is one guy who just cannot be trusted no matter what grade strain he has suffered. We know he’s out this week for sure, but be sure to watch for him next week as a chronic strainer (I made that up) can take longer to recover than a first-timer.
Rashard Mendenhall (toe, Probable): He had two full days of practice on Thursday and Friday and looks to be pretty healthy at this point. His matchup is brutal, as the Bucs are top five in the NFL against the rush, so this isn’t an ideal matchup. Regardless, he’s the “starter”, so I have to give him his just due, this just doesn’t seem like the right matchup for him. Regardless, he’s healthy, so if you need him, use him.
Ahmad Bradshaw (neck, Out): In a surprising turn of events, Bradshaw was ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Jaguars with a neck injury. No news was disclosed about the extent of the injury, but if you recall, Bradshaw did miss time last season with a cervical sprain (sprain refers to an injury to the ligaments that connect the verterbae in the neck), so this isn’t uncharted territory for Bradshaw. This appears to be precautionary (at least that’s what coach Chuck Pagano made it sound like), but he’s officially on a “wait and see” timetable, so who knows what this means moving forward. Expect Trent Richardson to carry the rock quite a bit on Sunday in what many think will be his breakout game of 2013.
C.J. Spiller (knee, Probable): Boy did this guy scare the crap out of me this week. Spiller looked to have suffered quite the knee injury on Sunday, but apparently it was nothing more than a quadriceps strain. While that’s nothing to scoff at, it sure beats Spiller having some structural damage to the knee itself. The quads a big power muscles for runners, so this could cause him to have a little bit less burst and/or drive on his carries this Sunday, but my guess is they’ll spell him with Fred Jackson to give him some rest, which is actually the right move for Spiller long term. Expect him to play against the Ravens and be relatively successful, but with a mild quad strain and a tough matchup, don’t expect a big game from him.
T.Y. Hilton (foot, Probable): Some good news for the Colts, as Hilton is expected to play in week 4 after dealing with an undisclosed foot injury all week. Hilton sat out practice as a “precaution” on Friday. Without knowing the extent of his injury or the exact injury itself, it’s hard to speculate on Hilton’s productivity in week 4. He’s going up against a porous Jaguars defense, so he has that going for him. Expect him to be involved, but if the game gets out of control, there could be a chance he sits to give his foot some rest.
Vincent Jackson (ribs, Questionable): Jackson is fully expected to play in Week 4 as he deals with bruised ribs. Jackson returned to practice on Friday on a limited basis. My guess is that this was a way to get Jackson some rest and treatment without subjecting him to unnecessary contact in order to allow his bruised ribs to heal. Because rib injuries can take a while to fully heal, he will most likely play with a little extra padding in addition to taking it easy in regards to deep breathing and trunk rotation. Expect him to be ok for this Sunday’s game, but the possibility of a flare up or some pain medication in-game will be moderate.
Mike Williams (hamstring, Questionable): Another Bucs wideout with injury issues, Williams also returned to practice on a limited basis Friday. The expectation is that Williams is dealing with a mild strain to his hamstrings and it is not considered serious. He looks like he got some precautionary rest during the week and should be ready to go come Sunday.
Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring, Probable): Two really positive signs that Fitz will be back to his old self this week: 1, three consecutive days of full practice participation, 2, the probable designation means there was no doubt about his availability this week. One bad sign for Fitz returning to prominence: Revis Island. Expect Fitz to be as healthy as he’s been in a few weeks, which to me means he will do some damage, Revis or not. He looked much better during Week 3 than he did in Week 2 and was much more spry in practice this week by all accounts. I expect him to be damn near 100% and ready to go this week.
Chris Ivory (hamstring, Out): Ivory has been ruled out for this week’s game with a hamstring injury. Bilal Powell will handle RB1 duties in his stead. This was a lingering hamstring issue for Ivory that flared up during last week’s game with Buffalo. No word on how much time Ivory will miss, but this isn’t his first go-round with this type of injury, so another missed week or two wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. Stay tuned.
Danny Amendola (adductor tear, Questionable): So what do we make about the Pats’ upgrading Amendola from Doubtful to Questionable? I think it’s much ado about nothing. I have to say, researching Amendola’s practice statues confused the hell out of me. The Boston Herald has sources reporting he’s not going to play. The Boston Globe is reporting that their sources say he is going to play, but on a limited basis. I will tell you what I know about this injury though. Amendola suffered a complete tear of the adductor longus muscle, which runs on the inside of the thigh and functions to bring the leg toward the midline of the body primarily. There is some debate about how much stability it provides to the pelvis during aggressive, dynamic activity like playing football, but we can split the difference and say that it does have some function in this regard as well. Without this muscle, the rest of the adductor muscle group (there are two more) will pick up the slack, and admittedly, it’s not a crazy important muscle for a football player. However, my main point will be the inform you that although there’s a chance he plays, there really is no chance that he’s 100%, or anywhere near that. He’ll be gutting out another performance, which means there’s a higher probability of reinjury. Whether he plays or not, he shouldn’t be on your roster this week, especially when you consider he’s less than 100% and the Pats play on Sunday night. Week 5 could be a more legit possibility, but this week isn’t the right time for him and it shouldn’t be for you either.
Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm, Questionable): There’s more speculation about Gronk playing this week than not, which leads me to believe he has a good chance of making his season debut this week. I take a slightly different stance with Gronk than I do with Amendola. In regards to his back, it appears he’s had two weeks of contact now with no reported setbacks, which is great news. He’s such a freakish athlete that there’s no reason to believe he wasn’t able to stabilize his core well enough to withstand blocking/hitting/twisting like a champ. The forearm seems to be the bigger concern, as the multiple fractures and surgeries over the last year can really take a toll on any bone, weakening it’s overall infrastructure. My guess is, based on the multiple reports I’ve read, is that Gronk will play in some capacity, probably on a limited snap count. Again, the Pats play Sunday night, so you better have either another player in this game or Monday night’s game just in case if you do decide to roll the dice. For example, I have one league where I’m temporarily penning Gronk into my Q/R/W/T flex spot, but just in case he’s a surprise inactive, I have Marques Colston ready to take his spot. Expect a return to Gronk, and really, 70% of Gronk is better than anyone not named Jimmy Graham or Jordan Cameron this year.
Ray Rice (hip flexor strain, Questionable): Rice appears to be a game time decision this week against Buffalo after putting in three straight day of practice this week without a reported setback. The expectation is that Rice will test the hip flexor on Sunday during warm ups and the coaching/training staffs will make the decision at that point. Hip flexor strains are not easy to come back from, as this muscle connects to the spine and runs across the front of hip, ultimately attaching to the outside of the femur (thigh bone). It’s main function is to bring the knee up towards your chest, which is a big part of a runners power to drive the knee forward as we run/sprint. It also serves to provide stability to the core/hips as it’s attachment to the spine can have a bearing on the overall mobility of the back as well. Rice himself seems confident that he has a shot at playing this week, but from a healing standpoint, it’s hard to imagine 7-10 days being enough to be back to near full health. Even a grade 1 strain can take a minimum of a week or two to feel right, and we don’t even know the exact extent of his issue. But it was enough to make him miss week 3, so we can’t downplay the severity. Bernard Pierce is in line to receive the lion’s share of carries if Rice can’t go, but this looks to be the epitome of a game time decision.
Reggie Bush (knee, Probable): Bush is expected to make his return to the lineup on Sunday against the Bears. Bush has been dealing with a bruised knee, which basically means he just suffered a blunt trauma to the area that caused damage to trabeculae of the bone. This basically leads to pain tolerance, as a bone bruise can cause a good amount of pain that tends to linger because bone does not heal very rapidly. Bush was able to participate fully in practice this week, which shows he could tolerate the demands of running, and should be ready to roll on Sunday.
Andre Johnson (shin bruise, Questionable): Johnson was limited in practice all week, but appears to have had a very strong practice on Friday, leading to him and Coach Kubiak proclaiming he’ll play on Sunday. Johnson left week 3′s game after suffering a bruised tibia due to blunt contact (see Bush above for what a bone bruise is). He tried to return, but clearly looked in pain and not able to move the way he would like. All signs point to Johnson being ready for this brutal matchup against the Seahawks. Again, this type of injury is basically pain tolerance, so if he gets smacked in the shin during the game, it could be enough to knock him out. My guess is they’ll pad the area to give him some support and hope he can move well in spite of the bruise. His overall mobility probably won’t be 100%, but he should be good enough to play well on Sunday barring a setback.
Le’Veon Bell (Lisfranc Injury, Probable): Bell is set to make his rookie debut this week against the Vikings after putting in three more full days of practice this week. Bell has not had any reported pains or setbacks with his increased workload, which is a great sign for the overall stability of his midfoot with all football-type movements. If it were me, considering how affected his foot probably was from this type of unstable injury, I’d wait one week before playing him, just to see what he has to offer before you send him to the wild. If you’re in a crunch, he looks like he’ll be ready to go, but I have to see him get through a full game before I’m ready to count on him in my fantasy lineup. There’s really nothing you can do to recreate game conditions, so if the decision was mine, I’d avoid him this week if I could until he shows me what he can do.
Terrelle Pryor (concussion, Questionable): After looking like a lock to miss this Sunday’s game all week, Pryor appears to have a good chance of suiting up against the Redskins. From my standpoint, this whole situation doesn’t seem right. From my understanding of the league mandated ImPACT concussion testing, a player had to take a full 24 hours on each of the 5 stages before being pronounced cleared to play. Since Pryor’s injury was suffered on Monday night, Friday marked just the fourth day since his concussion, which by my calculation is not 5 days. Again, this is based on my understanding of the testing, but 24 hours symptom-free seemed to be a big component of this protocol. Nevertheless, the report is that Pryor has to pass one test on Saturday for him to be officially cleared, so we’ll I’m sure hear about that after the test is done. Keep an eye on that before you put him in your lineup.
Roddy White (high ankle sprain, Questionable): Did you watch him during Week 3? This guy just looks like a shell of himself. He hasn’t shown any burst or precise route running, none of the things that have made him a top WR year in and out. Until he does something more than be a decoy out on the field, you should be sitting him. You may miss a week of him scoring a TD or having a 100 yard game at some point, but is it worth ruining another of your weeks on the off-chance that his high ankle sprain heals with MORE activity? I don’t think so. High ankle sprains just don’t get better with continued play on it; it usually requires anywhere from 2-6 weeks to fully recover, but that’s usually when a guy gets rest and treatment on it while allowing the ligament that connects the tibia (inside shin bone) to the fibula (outside shin bone) to heal properly. Again, sit him until he shows you something.