Injury concerns heading into the Sunday and Monday games can be critical. Every Saturday, this entry will be dedicated to those players who appear on the official weekly NFL game status injury report and will discuss how their respective statuses may impact fantasy teams.
For those who may be new to this blog: Injury reports provide some insight into a player's status. The NFL requires teams to submit practice injury reports several times per week, identifying the body part that is involved in the injury. For detailed information on how to interpret injury report language click here.
Early in the week, the practice injury reports indicate whether a player did not practice, was limited in practice or was a full participant in practice. On Fridays, all teams file a game status injury report assigning one of the following designations: questionable, doubtful or out. The designations listed here reflect the injury reports filed with the league office on Friday evening. Teams playing on 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 is not playing Sunday.
Questionable (Q): This remains the most dreaded player designation. By definition it means a player is "uncertain to play." How uncertain is uncertain? There is no percentage or measurement scale, which leaves this classification rather vague. Whether a player ends up active or inactive often comes down to a game-time decision based on how he feels on game-day morning or how he performs during warm-ups. Final inactives are due 90 minutes before kickoff.
Doubtful (D): The doubtful designation means a player is unlikely to play that week. Rarely does a player labeled as doubtful end up playing, unless he experiences a major turnaround before game time.
Each week in the Saturday blog, I 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 insight. The primary fantasy positions are covered (quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end).
At the end of each positional section, there is a subgroup of players, "Players off game status injury report." The probable tag no longer exists, so players who would have been listed as probable in previous years are now simply removed from the report. This means there will be players who appear in the practice injury reports during the week but will not appear on the game status report Friday, since they are presumed active for game day. They are included in this blog so that fantasy owners can see where players who were on the practice injury report during the week have been upgraded to in advance of the games.
At the end, key fantasy players listed Friday as "Out" for the week's games will appear as a group.
The Chiefs and the Patriots played on Thursday night, and the Buccaneers and Dolphins have had their matchup postponed to Week 11. Everyone else is playing, and their fantasy-relevant injured players are represented here.
Good luck in Week 1, everyone!
Players off game status injury report
Jamaal Charles, Denver Broncos, knee: Charles showed that his nearly two years of rehab efforts have paid off when he took the field in the team's third preseason game. He appears on the injury report this week, since he was given a day of rest for his knee on Thursday. On Friday, he was a full participant for the team's workout in pads and repeated a full practice Saturday. The expectation is that Charles will be active for Monday night's game.
Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants, ankle, (Q): Perhaps the biggest fantasy football injury story heading into Week 1 surrounds the status of Beckham. Injured in a preseason Monday night game on Aug. 21, when he took a hit to the lateral thigh, just above the knee, Beckham's daily progress has been the most discussed topic on the injury front heading into the first week of the regular NFL season.
First, the injury could have been much worse. Beckham is fortunate his foot was not planted flat on the ground at the time of contact, or his knee would have absorbed the brunt of the force. With little play in the side-to-side direction available at the knee joint, the hit could easily have resulted in extensive ligament damage and beyond if his foot were flat. Instead, Beckham's heel was in the air, allowing some movement at the ankle and thereby distributing some of the force below the knee. The result, of course, ended up being an ankle sprain, the specific type and severity of which has not been revealed by the Giants nor by Beckham himself.
Suffice it to say that there were positive signs in the immediate aftermath of the injury that suggested it was not serious. After undergoing initial X-rays at the stadium, Beckham returned to the sideline walking normally, full weight-bearing, with no protective boot or splint. Even after further testing the next day, Beckham remained without any protective device. These injuries often feel worse the day after they occur, and that appeared to be the case for Beckham.
Rest and treatment became the primary order of business in an effort to decrease pain and swelling and restore normal motion. Beckham did not return to the practice field until Wednesday, and even then, it was just for warm-ups and stretching. Throughout the remainder of the week, Beckham did only individual work on the side along with his rehab routine. He has been observed doing straight-line running, always without any tape or wraps. Beckham was classified as a "did not practice" on the team's injury report throughout the week, and he is questionable heading into Sunday night's game in Dallas.
Coach Ben McAdoo has reiterated that the decision as to whether Beckham can play or not will be made by the medical staff; if he is cleared by the medical team, Beckham will be able to play despite not formally practicing. For his part, Beckham has said he wouldn't count himself out, but he's also said he's day-to-day, both of which can very easily be true.
The challenge facing the medical staff is twofold: 1) Can Beckham perform at a high enough level to warrant taking the field Sunday night? 2) If he does take the field, how much risk is there of aggravating the current injury?
The first answer informs the second. Whenever a player takes the field at less than full health, it is easier to not only aggravate a current injury, it may be easier to incur a secondary injury. Unfortunately, the only way to truly know whether a player is at full health is to see him perform at the highest level -- i.e., in a game -- to see how he responds. There is always an element of theorizing when deciding to return to play. So why not practice more in advance of the game? Perhaps because resting and not stressing the ankle truly gives the best opportunity for the ankle to recover in advance of the game. This all would suggest that Beckham's is a classic case for a game-time decision, where the player sees how he feels after traveling, then, if no setbacks, takes the field in pregame and is put through a series of paces to better assess his readiness to return to action.
It's worth noting that while the medical staff is in the best position -- both from their medical knowledge of the situation and their personal familiarity with the athlete -- to evaluate his readiness to return, there is no way to simulate a game situation until, well, the game.
The seasonal calendar cannot be ignored either. This is Week 1. A setback could potentially cost the player, and thus the team, a multiple-week absence. The prospect of that outcome might steer toward the conservative why-not-wait-an-extra-week outcome. If this were the Super Bowl, with a lengthy rest period to come afterward, perhaps the scale tilts toward taking more of a risk, assuming the athlete is pushing to play.
The bottom line is that these decisions are not easy. They are dependent on multiple variables, most notably the immediate medical concerns along with the player's relevant injury history, with other considerations as noted. And no one is clairvoyant. There are an infinite number of reasons why Beckham, just like any other player who takes the field for any NFL game, is at risk of injury. Saving him one week doesn't guarantee 15 additional games. Fantasy owners may not like the fact that this will be a game-time decision on a Sunday night. But just as the team will need to have a backup plan in the event Beckham cannot play, fantasy owners should do the same.
Keep in mind there are two games on Monday night, so there are a few more possibilities for a plug-in than usual.
Players off game status injury report
Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos, hamstring: Thomas was listed on the injury report this week after missing a couple of practices last week. From the start of this week, Thomas indicated he planned to play on Monday night, and his return to full practices this week would support this.
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.
Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts, right shoulder: Luck's offseason surgery and absence throughout the preseason is well-documented. The biggest question right now is when Luck will join his teammates at practice. Stay tuned.
Will Fuller V, WR, Houston Texans, shoulder: Fuller broke his collarbone in the preseason and underwent surgery to repair it. He is expected to be out for all of September.
Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers, back: Williams is not yet practicing with the team despite being removed from the Physically Unable to Perform list at the end of the preseason. He will likely be brought along slowly to help prevent a flare-up of the disc condition that caused him to miss all of the preseason.
Devontae Booker, RB, Denver Broncos, wrist: Booker is still wearing a splint on his right wrist after undergoing surgery during training camp to repair a fracture. He is expected to be out for at least two more weeks.
Games are underway
The following players were originally included at the top of this post, but with their games underway, fantasy players have already made their decisions and rosters are locked.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers, right shoulder, (Q): Not to worry, fantasy owners and Panthers fans; Newton is "ready to roll," according to Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. This should not come as a surprise. Newton has essentially been on track with his recovery since undergoing surgery in March to repair a partially torn rotator cuff in his right (throwing) shoulder. Yes, he had to scale his activity back for about a week when he developed some soreness after his first few days of throwing in training camp, but this is not outside the realm of normal during a return-to-throw progression.
More important, Newton had his shoulder reevaluated during that time, and the medical staff confirmed that the healing was on track and that he could pick up where he left off when the soreness subsided. Well, pick up he did, and he hasn't looked back since. He participated in the team's third preseason game and engineered an offensive drive with notably more running plays than throws, but the two throws he did make were on point ... and one was for a touchdown.
The Panthers have maintained their desire for Newton to get rid of the ball more quickly, and their intent for him to run less, both of which are designed to lessen his exposure to risk from physical contact. But it doesn't mean he won't run at all and, when he does, it could be at the goal line. The one thing that hasn't been tested yet since surgery is Newton's throwing endurance across four quarters of a football game, so fatigue could be a factor. If he can avoid some of the contact he experienced in 2016, however, it could make the difference in how Newton looks as the game progresses.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens, back: It's something every coach dreads: Your star quarterback suffers a weight-room injury that threatens his availability for actual football. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened with Flacco right at the start of training camp. Despite being referred to by the Ravens at different points as stiffness or a low-back strain, the mechanism of injury, the symptom complaints, Flacco's age and the time to resolution all pointed to a disc component to the problem.
Rest and treatment filled up the bulk of Flacco's time throughout the remainder of camp and much of the preseason, but he was able to return to practice last Saturday.
The challenge before the start of the season isn't necessarily playing the game; as Flacco himself noted, he has played plenty of football. It's creating chemistry and timing with the other offensive players, particularly when two key players in that offense are new (Jeremy Maclin and Danny Woodhead). Flacco reportedly spent extra time this week working with receivers, and perhaps that will pay off on Sunday.
While Flacco is off the injury report heading into Week 1, what remains to be seen is just how well his back will hold up as the season progresses. It's not just the contact, although taking big hits won't help. It's also the general physical wear and tear of a long season, the travel on airplanes and buses, and balancing strength maintenance in-season with avoiding overload. How Flacco moves on Sunday, and how well he is protected, will provide the first big clues as to what we can expect.
Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills, concussion: Taylor suffered a concussion in the team's third preseason game. On Wednesday, Bills head coach Sean McDermott confirmed that Taylor had cleared the concussion protocol and would be the Week 1 starter. It's important to remember that the caveat for any player returning from a concussion is that he must remain symptom-free (occasionally symptoms return even after a player has cleared the protocol) in order to play. Fantasy owners should feel confident in the plan for Taylor to start but should still confirm his status prior to kickoff.
LeSean McCoy, Buffalo Bills, illness: Nothing to see here. McCoy was listed as limited at Thursday's practice because of an illness, but he returned to full participation Friday and was removed from the injury report.
Danny Woodhead, Baltimore Ravens, thigh: Woodhead -- who is returning from a right ACL reconstruction following an injury sustained in Week 2 of last year -- injured his hamstring in the second preseason game and didn't return to practice until last Saturday. He put in full practices each day this week and is no longer on the injury report.
Lower-extremity soft-tissue injuries in the progression back from major knee surgery are not uncommon ... but one hopes they are not a sign of things to come. Woodhead has missed nearly two entire seasons due to injury -- last year and 2014, when he suffered a severe right high ankle sprain and fractured fibula in Week 3. The good news? When he returned from injury in 2015, he led all running backs that year in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns. Maybe another bounce-back season is in the works with his new team, as long as Woodhead can keep the soft tissue injuries at bay.
Jeremy Hill, Cincinnati Bengals, ankle: Hill injured his ankle in the team's third preseason game and sat out the preseason finale as a result. He has been a full participant in practice throughout this week, however, and his removal from the injury report indicates he will play.
Matt Forte, knee, and Bilal Powell, ribs, New York Jets: The Jets' top two running backs have both spent time on the injury report throughout the preseason. Forte had offseason knee surgery and has had his time managed in his return. Powell took a big hit in the team's first preseason game and originally had what was described as a sore neck but was able to play in the third and fourth preseason games. Both backs have been full participants in practice throughout the week, and both have been removed from the injury report. Expect to see both on the field on Sunday.
D'Onta Foreman, Houston Texans, groin: Foreman is off the injury report after putting in full practices all week. With fellow back Alfred Blue ruled out of this week's game, Foreman has the potential to see some action behind Lamar Miller, although it would likely be limited at best. More important, if Miller were to sustain an injury, Foreman could be called upon with Blue out.
T.J. Yeldon, Jacksonville Jaguars, hamstring, (Q): Yeldon injured his hamstring in the second week of the preseason, and his return to practice did not come until Thursday, when he was listed as limited. After another limited practice Friday, Yeldon is listed as questionable and is likely to be a game-time decision.
Thomas Rawls, Seattle Seahawks, ankle, (Q): Rawls injured his ankle in mid-August, and Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll acknowledged this week that Rawls was still recovering from a high ankle sprain. On Wednesday, Carroll indicated they were going to try to progress him throughout the week. To that end, Rawls was listed as a full participant in practice Wednesday through Friday. Still, he is listed as questionable for the game in Green Bay, and Carroll said he will be a game-time decision. With Eddie Lacy and C.J. Prosise fully healthy and Chris Carson waiting in the wings, the Seahawks have options. It's worth noting this is a 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff.
Jamison Crowder, Washington Redskins, hip, (Q): Crowder popped up on the injury report on Thursday afternoon, which always generates some concern. He was listed by the team as limited, with a hip flexor injury, and was again listed as limited on Friday, leading to the team's questionable designation. According to ESPN NFL Nation reporter John Keim, Crowder ran routes at full speed during individual drills on both days. For his part, Crowder expressed confidence that he would play, while coach Jay Gruden said any player who is listed as questionable is "a concern" and that the team would see how Crowder was faring Saturday. This may come down to an official game-time decision, but Crowder's confidence is encouraging.
Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions, ankle, (Q): Golladay, the star of the Week 1 preseason contests, tweaked his ankle in practice this week and remained a limited participant throughout the week. Listed as questionable, Golladay is expected to be active. If he is, his playing time may be limited as a result.
John Ross, Cincinnati Bengals, knee, (Q): Ross exited the team's preseason finale with what was termed a sprained left knee, and the expectation was that he would miss Week 1. His return to limited practice Thursday and Friday left the door open for Ross, with head coach Marvin Lewis saying he "could" play, which the questionable designation supports. Given his injury history and the recency of this latest ailment, it would be somewhat surprising if Ross were to play, especially if he is at anything less than 100 percent. But that's why we pay attention to the pregame inactive reports on Sunday morning.
DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans, thumb: Hopkins' absence from practice for much of the preseason raised some eyebrows, but there was never really any concern about his status in Houston. After full practice on Wednesday, he was removed from the injury report and remains off the pregame report as well.
Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders, knee: Cooper was limited Wednesday because of his knee but returned to full practice on Thursday and Friday. His removal from the pregame injury report signals he will play.
Kenny Britt, Cleveland Browns, knee: Seeing Britt's name on the injury report with the word "knee" next to it evokes memories of his years in Tennessee, where knee problems plagued him for the better part of three years. It appears this is nothing to worry about, as Britt practiced in full every day this week and has been removed from the pregame injury report.
Jordan Matthews, Buffalo Bills, chest: In his first practice with his new team on Aug. 13, Matthews suffered a chip fracture to his sternum (chest bone), which sounds painful (it is) and serious (not as bad as one might think). It was largely going to be a matter of when he could tolerate twisting, reaching, falling and absorbing the contact of a ball or a player. Matthews returned to very limited work within days and has gradually been increasing his activity. He was a full participant throughout the week, and his removal from the pregame injury report confirms McDermott's statement this week that Matthews would play.
Josh Doctson, Washington Redskins, hamstring: The oft-injured Doctson has been battling a hamstring issue for much of the preseason. He was a full participant in practice every day this week, however, and his removal from the report indicates the team has confidence in his availability.
Jeremy Maclin, hand, and Breshad Perriman, thigh, Baltimore Ravens: Maclin was listed on the practice injury report with a hand issue that was reportedly minor. After fully practicing each day this week, he is off the injury report heading into Sunday's game.
The same goes for Perriman, as far as being removed from the injury report after practicing fully, but his injury was a little more significant. Shortly after the start of training camp, Perriman injured his hamstring and did not return to practice until September. While the team may have been exercising caution, given their slew of injuries, it is still the case that Perriman has missed all of camp and the preseason for the third time in as many years. Between Flacco being out this preseason with a back injury, Perriman being out and Maclin being new to Baltimore, it's been a challenge for everyone to get on the same page. It will be interesting to see how things unfold as the season begins for the Ravens in Cincinnati.
Tyler Eifert, Cincinnati Bengals, knee: Eifert's last season ended prematurely due to a disc problem in his back for which he underwent surgery. After rehabbing throughout the offseason, Eifert participated in the bulk of training camp but was held out the final two preseason games with what Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis referred to as tendinitis in his knee. Given Eifert's extensive injury history, any soft-tissue ailment is of concern. The good news in the short term, however, is that Eifert was a full participant in practice this week, and his removal from the injury report altogether signals he will play on Sunday.