Kevin Kolb (concussion) was placed on season-ending injured reserve, putting an end to any hopes that he could return in 2013. The veteran quarterback is reportedly contemplating retirement, as this is the third major concussion that he’s suffered since entering the league in 2007. With Kolb out of the picture, E.J. Manuel (knee) is essentially a lock to start once he’s healthy, but Manuel won’t necessarily be ready for Week 1. Jeff Tuel, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Washington State, will get the start against the Patriots if Manuel isn’t ready by next Sunday.
Dennis Pitta (hip) will likely be paced on IR/designated to return, which would make him eligible to play in Week 9. He isn’t expected to be ready by Week 9 and could very well still miss the entire season, but the Ravens have apparently seen enough progress to at least consider the possibility that Pitta could make a late-season return. Ed Dickson (hamstring), who is filling in as the Ravens’ starting tight end, returned to practice earlier in the week and is looking like a good bet to be ready for Baltimore’s season opener against the Broncos. Should Dickson miss that game, veteran Dallas Clark figures to get the start against Peyton Manning and co.
DeAndre Hopkins has passed through four of the five stages in the NFL’s concussion protocol, and the Texans are hoping that he will be cleared over the weekend, which would allow him to return to practice Monday. Hopkins has a solid grip on the starting wideout spot opposite Andre Johnson, as he’s surprisingly polished for a rookie receiver. He’s looking like a good bet to be ready for Week 1, but in the event that Hopkins isn’t able to go, there could be more targets available for Lestar Jean, Keshawn Martin, and DeVier Posey. The Texans have a speedy group of backup receivers, but realistically, Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels figure to carry the receiving load if Hopkins doesn’t suit up.
Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) will handle an increased workload in practice next week in an attempt to get ready for a favorable Week 1 matchup against the Raiders. Vick Ballard figures to get the starting nod if Bradshaw can’t suit up, while No. 3 running back Donald Brown would likely handle backup duties. Bradshaw is tentatively expected to play, but it won’t be particularly surprising if he isn’t able to go.
Tom Crabtree was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain after leaving the Bucs’ final preseason game with a potentially severe injury. The news isn’t as bad as it could have been, but Crabtree can essentially be ruled out for Week 1 and will likely miss time beyond that. Prior to suffering the ankle injury, Crabtree was expected to serve as the top backup to Luke Stocker, who has just 28 career receptions heading into his third NFL season. Crabtree may be able to push Stocker for the starting job, but we’ll have to wait to find out.
LaMichael James was diagnosed with a sprained MCL and is expected to be out for three weeks. James worked as the 49ers’ No. 2 back throughout much of the offseason and training camp, but fell back to No. 3 once Kendall Hunter (Achilles) returned. Hunter is clearly the preferred handcuff to Frank Gore and should hold some stand-alone value in San Francisco’s powerful rush attack.