- In a statement which came as music to the ears of his fantasy owners, Rob Gronkowski said Monday that he has been given the green light to play in the Patriots’ regular season opener against the Dolphins on Sunday. Gronkowski did not play in the preseason and his limitations in camp — he rejoined 11-on-11 drills and started taking minor contact just two weeks ago — had some fretting about a possible “game-time decision” tag in Week 1. However, while noting that he is “mentally and physically ready,” Gronkowski indicated that he may be eased into the gameplan, saying he’s “definitely not [playing] every single snap” and that he wants to “just get out there, get my feet wet.” Regardless, Gronkowski figures to be on the field whenever the team in the red zone, and he may end up seeing the most targets of anyone on the team when it’s all said and done.
- Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker returned to individual drills Monday, 10 days after suffering a concussion, his third since Nov. 17 of last year. According to the Denver Post, Welker could be cleared to fully participate in practice as soon as Wednesday or Thursday, which would put him in line to play in Sunday’s opener against Indianapolis. The injury led to speculation of retirement amongst the media, and resulted in many owners receiving a steep discount on draft day. Welker caught a career-high 10 touchdowns in his first season with the Broncos and is a strong bet for another 100-plus targets, but another concussion within the first several weeks could put him in danger of missing an extended period.
- Although he wore a protective flak jacket during last Thursday’s exhibition against the Lions, Sammy Watkins aggravated the rib injury he suffered a week prior. Watkins was still able to practice with the team Monday, and afterward he expressed confidence that he will take the field for Sunday’s game in Chicago. The 21-year-old suggested it’s a matter of pain tolerance, noting that “if I need to take a breather or take two or three plays off from being hit then that’s what I’m going to do.” The opportunity is there for the rookie to lead the team in targets by a significant margin, and he’ll get a Bears team in Week 1 that ranked among the bottom five in the league last season, with 4,281 yards surrendered through the air.
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- Wes Welker told Broncos coach John Fox that he was “feeling good” Monday, two days after suffering a concussion in the team’s preseason loss the Texans, his third concussion in roughly 10 months. Fox acknowledged concern but brushed off any talk of the injury forcing Welker into retirement, saying simply that the 33-year-old “will be out there when healthy.” Before Welker can return to practice, however, he must be cleared by the team’s medical staff and an independent doctor, per league protocol. With less than two weeks go until the regular-season opener against the Colts, Welker’s status is decidedly cloudy, but if he does end up sitting out Week 1, it would open the door for Andre Caldwell or perhaps Cody Latimer to see looks out of the slot.
- Vikings coach Mike Zimmer named Matt Cassel the starting quarterback for the team’s Week 1 matchup against the Rams, saying Monday “at this stage and where we’re at right now, that’s the best thing to do.” It was really just a formality, as Cassel started each of the team’s first three preseason games and played nearly three full quarters Saturday against the Chiefs. While first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater has fared well in exhibition play, completing 26-of-40 passes with four touchdowns and no interceptions, the veteran Cassel has successfully led a first-team unit missing Adrian Peterson, completing 26-of-39 passes with two touchdowns and one pick. Bridgewater will have to bide his time for now but he did run a pro-style offense at Louisville and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he started at least a handful of games as a rookie.
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- Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Jamaal Charles hurt his foot on a “grassy slope” while carrying a box out of his training camp dorm room at Missouri Western State University last week, saying he “just kind of rolled his foot over on the curb.” The choice of words could lead to some conspiracy theories, but Reid stressed, “It was that simple. That was it.” Although the team admitted some initial concern, Charles was said to be feeling better Monday and he was cleared by X-ray and MRI exams of any structural damage. Reid was unsure, however, whether Charles would be able to take the field for Tuesday’s practice, and it’s too early to tell whether Charles will be able to play in Saturday’s exhibition game against Minnesota.
- LeSean McCoy returned to the field Monday but his subsequent comments did little to ease concerns about his health. Explaining his absence from Sunday’s practice, McCoy said he was “really, really hurting pretty bad” after injuring his left big toe in a joint practice with the Patriots earlier in the week. He described the ailment as “a small version of turf toe” and revealed that he too underwent X-ray and MRI exams after suffering the injury. Clearly no fracture or major ligament damage was found, and McCoy was adamant that he’s “fine,” but he did say that the toe bothers him when he tries to push off. That’s not ideal for a player whose dominance is predicated on elite acceleration, and though he does expect to play in Thursday’s preseason game, he suggested his reps will likely be limited. If McCoy and/or Charles end up needing additional maintenance in the coming days, it could impact the top of some weekend drafts.
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The RotoWire Inseason Dollar Values tool — which you can access here: http://www.rotowire.com/baseball/dollarvalues_bat_lastyear.htm — is a great resource for not only comparing player values, but also for finding value that may be overlooked for one reason or another.
With dollar values based solely on season-to-date production, the tool is not an indicator of rest-of-season value, but it is helpful for analyzing trade offers, evaluating potential waiver wire additions, etc. It is customizable for league size, position eligibility requirements and scoring categories.
After running the tool Friday afternoon for a 15-team, mixed 5×5 rotisserie league with 14 hitters and nine pitchers, one thing stood out to me: the relative value of some of the league’s top setup men. With a $260 salary, Dellin Betances checks in as a $12 player, meaning he’s been as valuable as Hyun-Jin Ryu, Jeff Samardzija, and even Jordan Zimmermann to this point. Believe it or not, he’s returned more value than the likes of Kenley Jansen, Jonathan Papelbon, Lance Lynn and Jake Arrieta.
- A pin was surgically implanted in Marvin Jones’ foot over the weekend to stabilize a fractured fifth metatarsal, and the 24-year-old is expected to miss several weeks as a result of the injury. The Bengals are reportedly targeting Oct. 5 against New England for Jones to make his 2014 debut, following their Week 4 bye, so it’s possible he ends up missing just three games. In his absence, Mohamed Sanu will serve as the No. 2 wideout opposite A.J. Green, leaving Brandon Tate, Ryan Whalen and Dane Sanzenbacher to compete for looks out of the slot. Jones was going to be hard-pressed to match his fantasy output from a year ago anyway, with Hue Jackson relying heavily on the running game and timing routes to drive the offense, but by no means should he be written off because of this.
- It was believed that Jordy Nelson was simply a healthy scratch from the Packers’ first preseason game Saturday, but it became clear Monday that he was not. Coach Mike McCarthy revealed that Nelson did not take part in the team’s closed practice Friday leading up to the exhibition due to a hamstring injury, though he did go on to say he thinks it’s just a day-to-day situation. Nelson, meanwhile, said when asked about the injury, “I told you I was fine two years ago,” making reference to the hamstring issue that cost him four games in 2012. Perhaps he was just being tongue in cheek, but it’s still not what you want to hear at this point, so the situation is one to monitor closely in the coming days.
- Drew Brees sat out practice all of last week and again Monday with what has been diagnosed as an oblique strain. Normally, in baseball, a player with an oblique strain would be forced onto the 15-day disabled list, but coach Sean Payton reiterated his stance that Brees is merely day-to-day. It seems like a foregone conclusion at this point that Brees will not play in Friday’s preseason game against Tennessee, but the missed reps shouldn’t be too detrimental to the 13-year veteran. Teammate Pierre Thomas returned to practice after missing the team’s first exhibition with an undisclosed injury.
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