Week 1 is finally here and at long last teams will provide a more concrete injury report with player designations for the upcoming games. Pay attention to what a team is saying AND doing to better prepare for your upcoming matchup. The best early example comes out of Buffalo and centers on their starting quarterback.
The Bills have been tight lipped regarding the knee procedure that the rookie quarterback needed just 16 days ago. The team referred to the surgery as a minor procedure but never expanded beyond that vague description. It has been speculated Manuel underwent a plica removal or a minor meniscus debridement. Either procedure would allow for a quick recovery but a two week return from a meniscus-related surgery would only be possible if the tear was isolated to the outer periphery of the fibrocartilage disk. The outside portions of the meniscus receive a better supply of blood creating a more suitable environment for healing.
However, instead of attempting to guess what surgery Manuel needed, focus on the moves Buffalo did regarding his Week 1 availability. Over the weekend the team placed Kevin Kolb on the injured reserve due to a concussion and waived quarterbacks Matt Leinart and Thad Lewis. These moves left just two signal callers on Buffalo's active roster suggesting the team is very confident Manuel will be available. Manuel's return to practice further strengthens this argument and it appears he will make his pro debut in Week 1. However with the Patriots on the schedule and limited practice reps available, he remains a risky start.
The Bears receiver underwent his third hip surgery during the offseason and appeared to be fine throughout training camp. However, Marshall recently expressed his frustration with the recovery process and missed the subsequent practice for a follow-up exam on his hip. The doctors found no structural abnormalities during his examination and conveyed no concern about Marshall playing in Week 1 against the Bengals.
Marshall has since returned to practice and admitted his comments may have been taken out of context. Given his previous history following similar procedures in 2009 and 2010, don't expect a drop in productivity. He may still show up on the injury report but this seems more like a scenario where an elite athlete is holding himself to an extremely high standard. The Bears have progressively managed his workload since the January surgery, limiting his reps in minicamp drills and throughout preseason. As a result the Pro Bowl receiver will enter the season with a legitimate shot at a third straight Pro Bowl appearance.
Brown went down with a broken leg in New York's preseason finale against the Patriots. This marks the second straight season that the running back has suffered a lower extremity fracture after breaking his left fibula last year. He missed the final six weeks of the season following the injury. The initial reports indicate a similar timeframe but Brown is confident he can return quicker, calling the break a "little crack". He continued to downplay the injury, believing it is less severe than the previous fracture. While this may be true, it is a bit alarming to see a guy like Brown suffer two separate breaks to the same area.
The fibula sits on the lateral or outside portion of the lower leg and is vulnerable to hits from side. It is particularly susceptible to injury near the proximal and distal ends where it is poorly protected by muscle or fat. While it seems likely the initial fracture healed, it may have played a small part in the second injury. Either way the more recent break did not displace and will not require surgery. If the bone heals smoothly a return in four weeks is plausible. However it appears the Giants will be overly cautious and place Brown on the short-term IR, meaning he won't be back until Week 10. If you were counting on Brown for productivity in Week 1 then you have plenty of other problems to manage.
In the meantime starter David Wilson will see an increase in his carries and won't have to worry about losing time to Brown. An increase in workload will raise his fantasy value but also slightly elevate his inherent injury risk.
Le'Veon Bell: The Steelers rookie has shed his walking boot but still has a tough road ahead of him in his recovery from a midfoot sprain. Don't expect him back until he can put full weight through the foot and perform sharp and hard cuts. Bell's hope of returning in Week 2 appears to be a longshot at best.
Victor Cruz: The Giants receiver is back at practice after missing time with a heel contusion. He was moving at "full speed" and had no problems making the cuts on the grass surface of the Giants practice facility. However it's worth mentioning the team plays in Dallas Week 1 on a less forgiving artificial surface. Cruz remains a must play but the chances of aggravating the injury will remain high for at least the first week of the season.
Blaine Gabbert: Gabbert will remain the starter and is on pace to play in Week 1 against the Chiefs. He has been nursing a fractured thumb suffered in the team's third preseason game. An injury of this kind would affect his grip, limiting his throwing strength and accuracy. It could also pose a problem during handoffs, making a fumble more likely. He'll be a low-end option for Week 1.
Robert Griffin III: RGIII has been cleared by Dr. James Andrews and the rest of the Washington medical staff to play in Week 1. It's hard to know what we are going to see from the former Heisman winner since he did not participate in preseason action. His confidence appears to be there but whether or not his body, particularly his legs, will be up to speed remains the question.
Darren McFadden: McFadden once again resumes his weekly place on the Raiders injury report. On the bright side he will start the year managing a minor shoulder injury instead of a lower leg issue. He was at practice Monday and should be ready to play against the Colts.
Roddy White: The Falcons remain optimistic that White will be available for the team's season opener against the rival Saints. White has not practiced since sustaining an ankle injury in a preseason loss to the Raven. A high ankle sprain has been ruled out and fantasy owners should expect the generally durable receiver to be in the lineup.
Jeff Stotts is a Certified Athletic Trainer, MAT, PES and the Injury Analyst for Rotowire.com. You can follow him on twitter @RotoWireATC.