- Stephania Bell, Fantasy Sports
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Week 1 of the 2013 NFL season got off to a big start Thursday night for fantasy owners who started Wes Welker, Peyton Manning and -- for the 9.3 percent of folks who started him in ESPN fantasy leagues -- Julius Thomas. For those who need to play catch-up, Sunday can’t come quickly enough.
As always, injury concerns regarding players heading into the Sunday and Monday games can be critical. Each week, this blog entry will be dedicated to those who appear on the official Friday NFL injury report and how their status might affect fantasy teams.
For those who might be first-time fantasy football players: Injury reports provide clues to a player's status for eager fantasy owners. The NFL requires teams to submit their injury reports several times a week, identifying the body part that is involved in the injury. Early in the week, these reports will indicate whether a player is not practicing, is limited in practice or is a full participant in practice. On Fridays, all players on the injury report are assigned one of the following designations by their teams: probable, questionable, doubtful or out. Teams playing Monday night do not have to issue their designations until Saturday. The explanation for each designation is as follows.
Out: This is the easy one; the guy definitely won't be playing Sunday. As painful as it might be to see this designation next to a player on your fantasy roster, at least you know in advance of the game that he's sitting out and can plan accordingly.
Probable (P): This designation indicates that a player has a greater than 50 percent chance of playing. Most players listed here are expected to play, barring a setback between the final injury report and kickoff.
Questionable (Q): This is the fantasy owner's most dreaded player designation, yet it manages to be the one used most frequently by teams (often to keep everyone guessing). It means a player's status is on the fence; there is a 50-50 chance he'll be on the field come game time, although, as many fantasy owners have come to learn, many teams use the questionable designation for any player with a hint of injury. Whether a player ends up active or inactive often comes down to a game-time decision based on how he performs in warm-ups. It is important for fantasy owners to check status reports leading up to the game.
Doubtful (D): The "doubtful" designation theoretically means a player has less than a 25 percent chance of playing that week. Rarely does a player labeled as doubtful end up playing, unless he experiences a major turnaround before game time. Fantasy owners who need to make roster adjustments beforehand can feel fairly confident about sitting a player listed as doubtful.
Each week in the Saturday blog, we run down a list of key fantasy players, by position, who appear in the Friday injury report, along with the injured body part as listed on the report, player status, and any relevant developments or insights. The primary fantasy positions are covered (quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end). At the end, key fantasy players listed Friday as "out" for that week's games will appear as a group.
Good luck in Week 1, everyone! May your players stay healthy and win for you.
EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills, knee, (P): Manuel was named the starter earlier in the week based on his recovery from arthroscopic knee surgery. After again participating fully in practice Friday, Manuel showed he is healthy enough to make his first NFL start.
Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars, thumb, (Q): The main question has been whether Gabbert’s thumb would prevent him from being able to grip and throw normally. A few days ago, coach Gus Bradley hinted at a possible game-time decision, something he continued to lean toward after Friday’s practice despite Gabbert taking the majority of the first-team reps. He has made steady progress, but the Jaguars apparently will wait and see what an additional couple of days will do before making the call.
Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins, foot, (P): ): Cousins’ participation in full practice Thursday and Friday would hint at his being available, should that be necessary. No one wants to think about what “should that be necessary” would mean for the Redskins, knowing it will be RG III’s first competitive action since ACL revision surgery.
Arian Foster, Houston Texans, calf, (P): After much drama in the offseason between Foster’s calf injury during organized team activities and his back issues in training camp, the Texans fully expect him to play Monday. The only question seems to be how much work he will get in his first game action of the season. As noted Thursday, there is little doubt Foster can still be productive even if he touches the ball fewer than 30 times.
Ahmad Bradshaw, Indianapolis Colts, foot, (P): As expected, the Colts have Bradshaw ready to go for Week 1. Full participation in practice every day this week is a strong sign that he is capable of returning to action. Given that this will be his first game since his latest foot surgery, it’s unclear just how much work the team has planned for him in this initial outing. And the Colts aren't sharing. Fantasy owners should temper expectations in Week 1, but, if Bradshaw has a good first outing, his workload should continue to increase.
Rashard Mendenhall, Arizona Cardinals, knee, (P): As predicted Thursday, Mendenhall’s status did become clearer after Friday’s practice. He did move up from limited practice Wednesday and Thursday to a full practice Friday. His "probable" status indicates the team expects him to play. The knee will be something to keep an eye on this season, though; no guarantee this is behind him.
Mike Tolbert, Carolina Panthers, hamstring, (P): With Jonathan Stewart on the PUP list and Kenjon Barner out with a foot injury, someone needs to be available to spell DeAngelo Williams on Sunday. Tolbert practiced fully Thursday and Friday and is expected for the season opener.
Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons, ankle, (Q): It’s hard to believe White’s status is truly questionable, especially after his comments earlier in the week. He put in limited practices every day this week and hasn’t missed a game in his NFL career. Although it’s always possible that a tweak of the ankle in-game could cause him to get pulled early, it would seem the odds are in favor of his playing. At least it’s an early game, so the mystery will be solved before lineups must be set.
Marques Colston, New Orleans Saints, foot, (P): Colston also started last season on the injury report with a foot ailment. Although it has been kept fairly quiet, Colston is dealing with a plantar fasciitis issue, an injury that rarely resolves quickly and tends to get worse with activity. On the plus side, Colston has looked good in practice when available (he also played briefly in the team’s final preseason game) and the Saints plan on having him Sunday. The concern is that, given that the foot issue is a carryover from last year, this might not be the last he has seen of this problem.
Danny Amendola, New England Patriots, groin, (P): At least there’s very little guesswork involved in the decision-making about Amendola; the "probable" tag tells us the Patriots plan to have him on the field Sunday, as expected. Amendola moved from limited practice Wednesday and Thursday to a full practice Friday, definitely a good sign. Still, injury concerns will surround Amendola throughout the season, based on his history. For starters, there’s no guarantee this groin issue is completely behind him; the only presumption is that it has improved to the point that he can play. Amendola getting through a complete game would be a nice start to the season.
Victor Cruz, New York Giants, heel, (P): Cruz told reporters this week that his heel was much improved, and the sight of him in consecutive practices each day, albeit on a limited basis, would support that. The "probable" designation indicates the Giants expect to have him for the big Sunday night opener against the Cowboys; the hope is that he will not aggravate the heel during the game.
Sidney Rice, Seattle Seahawks, knee, (P): Rice went overseas in training camp to undergo a procedure on his knee. The team has offered few details but always maintained that Rice would be ready by Week 1. With newly acquired Percy Harvin on the PUP list, Rice’s presence takes on added significance. After practicing fully each day, it indeed appears Rice will start Sunday against the Panthers.
DeAndre Hopkins (concussion) and DeVier Posey (Achilles), Houston Texans, (P): Both receivers practiced fully throughout the week. Hopkins suffered a concussion in the team’s second preseason game but has progressed back to full, consecutive practices. There seems to be a good chance the rookie will make his regular-season debut Monday night, although it’s not clear just how much he’ll play. Posey is working his way back from an Achilles tendon repair but did manage to see some preseason action. He should also be available for the Texans; however, coach Gary Kubiak has indicated he will be available only for limited service.
Malcom Floyd, WR, San Diego Chargers, knee, (P): Shortly after the Chargers lost Danario Alexander for the season to an ACL injury, Floyd went down with a right knee injury, and the team feared the worst. Fortunately, it ended up being a mild sprain and Floyd has recovered nicely. This week, he was able to practice fully with the team, and he is expected to play Monday night against the Texans.
Andre Roberts, Arizona Cardinals, quadriceps, (P): Roberts cropped up on the team’s Thursday injury report with a quadriceps strain. The fact he was able to participate Friday, even on a limited basis, is a good sign, and the "probable" designation tells us the team plans to play him Sunday.
Santonio Holmes, New York Jets, foot, (Q): Holmes has been recovering from Lisfranc surgery since last fall, and the progress has been slow. A slow recovery after such an extensive injury is not a surprise, but the dissonance between Holmes and the Jets when it comes to his status is a concern. The Jets have sounded optimistic about his availability, but Holmes has been extremely guarded when it comes to projecting a return. Whom to trust? Probably the player in this situation, as in, he doesn’t sound like someone who is ready to play football. Even if he does suit up Sunday, can anyone else really have confidence when Holmes has so little?
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots, back, forearm, (D): Gronkowski’s injuries have been discussed at length ever since he suffered his first forearm fracture in November. Although his presence on the active roster will permit him to return whenever the medical staff deems him ready for full-blown games, the "doubtful" tag indicates he is not going to be playing this week.
Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers, knee, (D): Miller is still working his way back from multi-ligament knee reconstruction. Although the sight of him taking part in limited practice every day this week is encouraging, he is not yet ready for game participation. There is no definitive return date, but it might take a couple of weeks more before we see him in action.
Matt Bryant, Atlanta Falcons, back, (P): Bryant has been on the injury report since experiencing some tightness in his back in the preseason, but it never seemed to truly threaten his Week 1 availability. Bryant practiced fully every day this week and is expected to be on the field Sunday.
Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland Raiders, right calf, (P): The Raiders need Janikowski, and it looks as if he will be available. After taking Wednesday off, Janikowski participated on a limited basis Thursday and Friday.
This space is intended for a list of key players, not including those who have been moved to injured reserve status, who are officially listed as "out" for the upcoming game.
Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers, foot: Bell might not play this week, but he said he was hopeful of playing in Week 2. The optimism is nice, but let’s see whether he’s able to practice next week first, something he did not do this week. In the meantime, Isaac Redman gets the start Sunday.
Kenjon Barner, RB, Carolina Panthers, foot: Barner has not practiced all week, and his absence does not come as a surprise.
Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets, right shoulder: It’s been clear for a while that Sanchez would not play this week, but what isn’t clear is the exact nature of his “shoulder bruise.” He has not yet practiced and looks to be out beyond this week.
Off the injury report!
Here’s a fun new section for fantasy owners. When teams remove a player who has recently been dealing with an injury from the injury report, it sends a signal that the player is now considered healthy. Any time there is one less status concern, it makes setting those lineups so much easier. With that in mind, here are a few players who had injury worries before the start of the season but do not appear on this week’s injury report.
Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins: Unless you were living under a rock for the past year, you’re well aware of Griffin’s injury (torn ACL/LCL, underwent reconstructive surgery in January) and every detail of his progress since. Officially declared the Monday night starter this week, Griffin -- who did not play in any preseason games -- is not on the team’s injury report.
Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers: Nelson and Cobb dealt with training camp injuries, but both now appear to be in the clear. Cobb had a right biceps strain, and Nelson underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee. Both returned to practice in late August. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Nelson has been running full speed for more than two weeks and more recently added cutting without any issues. Neither receiver played in any preseason games, so Sunday will be their first game action since last year.
Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: Jones-Drew spent the offseason recovering from surgery to repair a Lisfranc injury, but everything has gone smoothly throughout the process. Jones-Drew appeared in two preseason games and indicated that his foot felt great. Clearly everyone is satisfied with the health of his foot, as he does not appear on the opening week’s injury report.
Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland Browns: Richardson was challenged by a right shin injury intermittently in the offseason and into training camp. He did play portions of two preseason games, however, and is not on the team’s injury report.
Be sure to check out "Fantasy Football Now," Sundays on ESPN2 at 11 a.m. ET, for last-minute inactives, rankings, injury impact and more.
Week 1 of the 2013 NFL season got off to a big start Thursday night for fantasy owners who started Wes Welker, Peyton Manning and -- for the 9.3 percent of folks who started him in ESPN fantasy leagues -- Julius Thomas.