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Injury Analysis: Gronk Ahead of Schedule

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.

Robert Griffin III
The Redskins continued their strong push for the playoffs behind their rookie quarterback. However it wasn't the former Heisman winner behind center but instead a guy taken 100 picks later. Kirk Cousins threw for 349 yards and two touchdowns filling in for the injured RGIII and could be in line for a second straight start.

RGIII did not play after spraining the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) in his right knee. We detailed the injury last week and discussed how an injury of this magnitude would limit a mobile quarterback like Griffin. The limitations remain the same despite the progress shown by Griffin last week. RGII was able to participate in practice but Cousins continued to work with the first-team. If the Redskins take the same approach this week then it is a good sign that Griffin will miss another game. However if he is cleared and physically able to receive a majority of the reps with the first team that should serve as a good indicator he will be back against the Eagles. If you are a RGIII owner with a fantasy title in play, cross your fingers that he continues to make progress but make sure you add Cousins as insurance.

Brent Celek and LeSean McCoy
An independent neurologist has cleared both Eagles players to return to action after each suffered a concussion. McCoy has missed four games since sustaining his head injury while Celek missed last week's contest recovering. Celek seems more likely to play in Week 16 and remains a low-end tight end option. McCoy's status is less clear despite coach Andy Reid suggesting he could be available. McCoy's concussion was significant enough to sideline him for a quarter of the season. Exposing him to another hard hit when your team has little left to play for would be an unwise decision. Rookie Bryce Brown may have cooled down since big games over the Panthers and Cowboys but Philly should use the final two outings to see if he is capable of splitting time with McCoy in the future. Utilizing two backs may be somewhat of a headache for fantasy owners, but the occasional carry by Brown next season could help McCoy avoid another injury and keep his legs fresher for the entire season. Expect the Eagles to make a decision by the weekend.

Ahmad Bradshaw
The Giants running back insists he will play against the Ravens this week after sitting out New York's blowout loss to Atlanta. Bradshaw suffered a sprained knee in a win over the Saints and was forced to watch as David Wilson had a breakout performance. However Bradshaw has made progress in rehab and feels the knee will allow him to play against Baltimore and a defense that is 26th in the league against the rush. Still I'm not sold on Bradshaw just yet. His nagging foot injury remains an issue and its unlikely the knee is 100 percent. He's only received 20 or more carries in four of the 12 games he participated in and I suspect Bradshaw will split carries with Wilson if he does manage to play.

Dez Bryant
Despite a broken left index finger Bryant was able to not only play against the Steelers in Week 15 but haul in four passes for 59 yards and a touchdown. He played the game wearing a protective splint on the digit, fighting through any associated pain. While his presence was a boost for the Cowboys and fantasy teams alike, he remains a risk. The break is significant and reports are surfacing that Bryant may ultimately need a bone graft. A bone graft is often used in situations where the pieces of bone are having trouble joining together. A small piece of bone is taken from another part of the body, usually the iliac crest of the hip bone, to help fuse the pieces together by creating an environment better suited for feeling. A straight, solid union is necessary so that the bone can serve as the anchor for the intricate system of ligaments and tendons that allow for proper finger function. Look for Bryant to address the issue when the season has concluded. In the meantime he will play with the splint and try to help Dallas sneak into the postseason. Keep him in your lineups but understand there is a good deal of associated risk that comes with his achy finger.

Rob Gronkowski
The Patriots offense could get a lift if their Pro Bowl tight end is able to return. Gronk has been out since November 19 after he suffered a fractured left forearm in a win over the Colts. Surgery was required to stabilize the break and insure a proper union would occur during the healing process. It appears to have helped as he returned to practice late last week but was inactive against the Niners. A return this week remains possible with the Patriots still fighting for a top seed and first round bye in the AFC playoff hunt. If he plays you have to start him, bone heals quickly and there should be little limitations on what he will be capable of doing on the field. Watch his practice reps to see how active he is and keep in mind he has a minor hip issue as well. If all goes well throughout the week look for Gronk to return slightly ahead of the initial projected timeline.

Turf Burns

Maurice Jones-Drew: MJD remains a long shot to play this week as he continues to recover from a midfoot sprain. He has missed eight consecutive games and the Jaguars have no incentive to play him in the final two games of the year.

Ryan Mathews: A broken right collarbone delayed the start of his season and a broken left collarbone will end it. Mathews finishes the year with 707 yards and one touchdown.

Torrey Smith: The Baltimore receiver sustained a concussion in the loss to the Broncos and will be subjected to the NFL concussion protocol before he will be cleared to play.

Roddy White: White played through a minor knee injury Sunday and finished with just two catches for 16 yards. The Falcons play Saturday night so a short week is working against the receiver. Look for him to sit for most of the team's practices but be in uniform against the Lions. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

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