Michael Bennett, RB, MIN
Huddle Up: The Vikings were initially very concerned about RB Michael Bennett's sprained neck. The team's medical staff thought that the injury could keep him out of Week 1 action. However he's made a speedy recovery and had already returned to practice. He was held out of the final pre-season game as a precaution but his neck is reportedly strong and pain-free. Head coach Mike Tice has been pleased with his progress and he expects Bennett to be the starting RB against the Bucs in Week 1.
Stephen Davis, RB, CAR
Recovering from Microfracture knee surgery
Huddle Up: Panthers RB Stephen Davis made his pre-season debut last week as the starter in the team's final exhibition game and carried the ball 5 times for 17 yards. But most importantly Davis did not complain of any pain or discomfort in his knee during the game and he did not experience any swelling in his knee after the game. Since being activated from the PUP list and returning to the practice field over a week ago Davis has impressed the coaching staff with his strength, speed and agility. He's been practicing with the first team offense and several team officials believe that he will be the starting tailback in Week 1. Davis will definitely share carries with DeShaun Foster but those of you who used a late round pick on Davis are starting to look clever.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, ARI
Huddle Up: Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald sprained his right knee during the first quarter of the team's pre-season game against the Raiders. The injury forced Fitzgerald from the game and it kept him out of practice for a few days but he returned to the field on August 31 and played in the Cardinals pre-season finale. Fitzgerald was originally diagnosed with a grade 1 (mild) knee sprain but the injury is no longer an issue so expect to see him in the starting lineup in Week 1.
Eric Johnson, TE, SF
Partially Torn Plantar Fascia
Huddle Up: 49ers TE Eric Johnson is still about a week or two away from being completely healthy which means there is a good chance that he will be inactive for the team's regular season opener against the Rams. Johnson partially tore the plantar fascia on the bottom of his foot during a training camp practice in early August and he missed all four pre-season games as a result. According to reports Johnson may test his foot in practice later this week to see if he will be able to play in Week 1 but there is little chance of him being ready in time. The 49ers medical staff is being extremely cautious with the injury so don't expect Johnson to play until at least Week 2.
Eli Manning, QB, NYG
Huddle Up: Giants QB Eli Manning is scheduled to practice without restrictions today (Tuesday) for the first time since spraining his right elbow 2 weeks ago. Manning was hurt when he was sacked by Panthers DL Julian Peppers during a pre-season game. An MRI performed the next day revealed a sprained ligament on the inside of his elbow. Manning was restricted to throwing the ball on the sideline while he recovered by with the regular season right around the corner the team's medical staff has cleared him to resume full practice and according to reports he will throw the ball about 100 times a day. Manning's arm is well rested and close to being completely healthy so look for the young QB to be ready when the regular season begins.
Eric Shelton, RB, CAR
Lisfranc fracture / dislocation
Huddle Up: Panthers rookie RB Eric Shelton will miss the entire 2005 season after breaking and dislocating his foot during last week's pre-season finale. Shelton was injured when he was hit in the first half but the team's medical staff checked his knee following the incident and was unaware of the injury to his foot. Shelton returned to the game in the second half and carried the ball 3 times for 15 yards. Shelton received treatment for his knee after the game but it wasn't until the following morning that he began to experience pain in his foot. He was then taken for X-rays and an MRI revealed a fracture and dislocation of the joint between the forefoot and midfoot, an injury known as a Lisfranc fracture. Shelton has already been placed on injured reserve and he will likely undergo surgery to repair the damage. Recovery should take at least 2 months but he should be healthy when the Panthers start off-season minicamps next year.
Brandon Stokley, WR, IND
Huddle Up: Colts WR Brandon Stokely has been cleared to practice this week after missing a month with a dislocated shoulder. Stokley was hurt when he collided with a teammate during a passing drill at the Tokyo dome while the Colts prepared for their pre-season debut against the Falcons. An MRI revealed only minor structural damage so surgery was not needed. Rehab has gone well and he's been catching passes for over a week without a problem. Stokley's availability for Week 1 will be determined sometime this week and while he remains optimistic head coach Tony Dungy told reporters that he would like to see him practice over a couple of days before making a decision on his status. Check back on Friday for an update.
Fred Taylor, RB, JAX
Torn MCL and PCL / knee surgery
Huddle Up: One of the biggest fantasy football stories during the off-season was the slow recovery of Jaguars RB Fred Taylor. The team initially called Taylor's off-season arthroscopic knee surgery a minor procedure but after months of speculation Taylor finally came clean about his injury. He had major knee surgery to repair a torn MCL (medial collateral ligament) and PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) and in a recent interview Taylor said that the rehab was by far the toughest thing he has ever endured in the NFL. The team's medical staff limited his participation in training camp and he only had 4 carries total in the pre-season. But according to head coach Jack Del Rio not only will Taylor be the starting running back in Week 1 but that he would like to give the veteran RB between 20 and 25 carries. I'm not so sure that he is ready to get the ball 20 times but it is nice to see that Del Rio is showing confidence in his recovery. There is just no way of knowing if Taylor's knee can make it through an entire game but we will see soon enough.
Ben Troupe, TE, TEN
Surgery to repair fractured foot
Huddle Up: Titans TE Ben Troupe did not play in the team's pre-season finale but head coach Jeff Fisher expects him to be activated from the PUP list and take part in unrestricted practice for the first time since undergoing off-season surgery to repair his fractured foot. Troupe has progressed nicely in his rehab over the last month going from straight-line running to cutting and running routes. He still complains of soreness in his foot following bouts of activity which means he isn't completely healthy but Fisher told reporters that Troupe might play in Week 1. Erron Kinney will be the open the regular season in the starting lineup but if Troupe can remain healthy he could be the team's top TE by mid-season.
Panthers' DL Julius Peppers has missed the last couple of pre-season games with a sprained ankle but the team's medical staff expects him to be ready for Week 1 action. Peppers has been wearing a protective boot on his ankle as a precaution but according to several reports he's kept himself in great shape by riding a stationary bike. He will likely be limited in practice this week but unless he suffers a setback he should be good to go on Sunday. Packers' DL Grady Jackson finally made his pre-season debut against the Titans last week but despite feeling a little rusty his knee appeared to be strong. Jackson missed a majority of training camp and the pre-season while he recovered from off-season arthroscopic knee surgery and as a result he is a bit out of shape and a little overweight. But after playing in his first game Jackson believes he will be fine when the season starts next Sunday. He did wear a knee brace in the game and according to reports he will wear it for the entire season. Packers' DL Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, who is stiff recovering from a stinger that he suffered in the pre-season game against the Patriots, was held out of the team's pre-season finale as a precaution. Biamila was experiencing irregular bouts of numbness and loss of strength in his arm but he's significantly improved and the team expects him to start in Week 1. Dolphins rookie DL Kevin Vickerson will likely miss the entire 2005 season after tearing the ACL in his left knee during the team's final pre-season game against the Falcons. The injury occurred when Falcons right guard Austin King threw himself at Vickerson's legs making a cut block while attempting to protect backup QB Matt Schaub. The incident angered several Dolphins players but head coach Nick Saban didn't believe that the play was dirty. Team doctors aren't sure if Vickerson suffered a partial or complete tear or if he will require surgery but several team officials have said that they think he is done for the year. The team is waiting for the swelling in his knee to go down so they can run tests.
Chargers' LB Shawn Merriman sprained the PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) in his left knee during the exhibition game against the Vikings a couple of weeks ago and according to team officials he could be out for at least another 2 - 4 weeks. Merriman believes he will be ready for the start of the regular season but head coach Marty Schottenheimer said that he doesn't expect the rookie to be active. After missing most of training camp and the first three pre-season games with a sprained shoulder Chiefs' LB Kendrell Bell made his 2005 debut against the Rams last Friday and played in two defensive series. Bell told reporters that he was a little winded but that his body held up fine and that he expects to be at full strength when the regular season begins.
Bills' DB Nate Clements left the team's pre-season finale in the second quarter with a shoulder injury. Clements was hurt when he fell on his shoulder while attempting to tackle Lions WR Roy Williams. The exact nature and severity of the injury has not been made public but head coach Mike Mularkey doesn't believe that Clement's shoulder is serious. He did not practice on Monday and there has been no indication as to when he will be back on the field but the team doesn't appear to be too worried. Vikings' DB Fred Smoot, who has been limited during training camp and the pre-season because of neck and knee injuries, was held out of the the team's final exhibition game after jamming his injured right knee in practice. Head coach Mike Tice told reporters that he wanted to give Smoot as much time to heal as possible so that his knee is strong when they open up the regular season. By all accounts he is ready to play right now so expect him in the starting lineup on Sunday. Broncos' DB Champ Bailey has been dealing with a strained left hamstring and it has kept him in and out of practice since the start of training camp. But the team's medical staff has been extra cautious with his rehab and recovery in an effort to keep the injury from becoming a lingering problem. They held Bailey out of their pre-season finale but they expect him to be ready for Week 1 action. The Rams got a scare when DB Terry Fair suffered a neck injury during the team's final pre-season game against the Lions. Fair was hurt when he collided with Lions RB Kevin Jones while attempting to make a tackle. Fair told reporters that he never lost consciousness but that he couldn't feel anything in his arms and legs for several minutes. Thankfully he began to regain the feeling in his extremities but his head and neck were stabilized and he was carted off the field as a precaution. Fair spent the night in a Detroit hospital where he underwent several tests that came back negative. He was released the following day and outside of an aching neck and sore arms he seems to be fine. There is a chance that he could return to practice sometime this week and play in the Rams regular season opener but he probably won't be activated until Week 2.