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Injury Analysis: NFL Injury Updates

Jeff Stotts

Jeff Stotts works as a Certified Athletic Trainer (MAT, ATC, PES, CES). He won the 2011 Best Fantasy Football Article in Print from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association.

The first official injury reports are here, signaling a start to the NFL season. The opening game features the Giants and Cowboys and both teams have significant question marks as their Wednesday matchup nears.

Jason Witten and Miles Austin
Witten will undergo a CT scan on Tuesday to see how his lacerated spleen is healing. If the scan reveals adequate healing, doctors could clear the tight end to play in Week 1 but I still have my doubts. If the Cowboys elect to rest the Pro-Bowler he would get an additional 11 days off to heal before a Week 2 game against the Seahawks. When he does return, expect Witten to wear extra padding around the area to better protect his midsection. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo elected to wear a Kevlar infused flak jacket to protect his injured ribs and punctured lung suffered last season and a similar vest could benefit Witten.

Austin has been a full participant in practice after sitting the entire preseason with a hamstring injury. Dallas owner Jerry Jones said his receiver was at 100 percent and will play Week 1. Fantasy owners who spent a high pick on the receiver have to be encouraged by the recent positive reports but hamstring injuries are a chronic problem for Austin making him a risky play for the remainder of the season.

Hakeem Nicks
Soreness in his surgically-repaired foot kept Nicks off the practice field but all other indications suggest the receiver will play in Week 1. I've been high on Nicks since he returned to action but this minor setback is a reminder of the risk associated with his type of injury. When a screw is inserted to bone there is always the risk of the hardware failing or the bone rebreaking. Last season, Nicks' teammate Ahmad Bradshaw suffered soreness and pain in his foot when the head of the surgical screw began irritating him. He missed the entire month of November before playing a key role in New York's Super Bowl run. Look for Nicks to be in the lineup but Victor Cruz remains the better option for fantasy owners.

Adrian Peterson
I can't remember a player garnering as many preseason questions as Peterson has over the course of the last two months. After suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his left knee eight months ago, Peterson's progression through rehab has been widely and publicly documented and reported. The majority of the news has been positive and people are marveling about his ability to quickly heal. While I've looked at countless amounts of footage and remain impressed by Peterson's footwork and agility, I still won't have a definitive verdict until I see him in pads taking hits and making cuts. The Vikings will wait until gameday to decide if Peterson makes a Week 1 appearance and even then it appears his playing time will be limited. In an attempt to slowly bring Peterson up to speed, teammate Toby Gerhart is slated to get a significant amount of carries against the Jaguars. Fantasy owners must exhibit patience with Peterson and understand the Vikings will be extremely conservative with their star for the first few weeks of the season.

Ryan Mathews
A broken collarbone was not the way Mathews envisioned starting the season. However just a little less than month after surgery was required to mend the fracture, it appears the San Diego running back could have an outside shot of playing in Week 1. It is becoming more commonplace to insert surgical hardware to repair a clavicle fracture, in order to create an environment more conducive to healing. While it appears to have done the trick Mathews remains a risky start. If the arm isn't 100 percent the likelihood for fumbles would increase and an additional week of rest would only insure the bone is healed and at full strength. Given Mathews injury-filled past the Chargers would be wise to let him sit against the Raiders and shift his focus to Week 2 against the Titans.

Turf Burns

Peyton Manning
Manning will make his Broncos debut and his first regular season start in over a year when Denver hosts the Steelers. His surgically repaired neck has responded well throughout the preseason and the former MVP has been able to bounce back from several hits. He may need some additional time to get completely in sync with his new crop of receivers but he's a top 10 quarterback for Week 1.

Ryan Clark
Manning will catch a bit of a break as the Steelers safety will not play. Clark suffers from sickle cell trait (SCT). Some of Clark's red blood cells are thin and crescent shaped as opposed to the normal round red blood cells of a healthy individual. The shape allows for less oxygen to be carried and delivered to the various tissues of the body. This causes a serious issue when playing at a higher altitude where oxygen is less abundant. Clark suffered a scary incident several years ago that resulted in the removal of his gallbladder and spleen. It's a prudent move by the Steelers medical staff.

Trent Richardson
Richardson continues to get a healthy amount of practice time and the Browns remain "very optimistic" he will start at running back in Week 1. It's a tough spot for fantasy owners who must weigh the risk of playing a rookie with knee issues. However unless you were lucky enough to steal Richardson late, it's unlikely most owners will have a better option.

Andy Dalton
Dalton enters his sophomore campaign with lofty expectations and it doesn't look like a minor arm injury will slow him down to start. Dalton suffered an arm bruise in Cincinnati's preseason finale but will play in Week 1. It was reported he felt numbness in his hand suggesting he also irritated a nerve, likely the ulnar nerve (the funny bone). While there are better options available, Dalton will be good to go against an always stingy Baltimore defense.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Dalton will benefit from Green-Ellis's return to the backfield. Coach Marvin Lewis has said the Bengals offseason addition will be on the field in Week 1. An undisclosed foot injury has limited him throughout training camp.

Redskins RBs
Evan Royster has earned the top spot on the depth chart after Achilles' injuries limited Roy Helu for most of the preseason. Tim Hightower, who was recently released by the team, continues to have problems with his surgically repaired knee and may have issues finding a new home.

Jeff Stotts is a Certified Athletic Trainer, MAT, PES and the Injury Analyst for You can follow him on twitter @RotoWireATC.