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Early Injury Report - Championship Week
Philip Gentles
January 13, 2009
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This in-depth early week injury report runs down the key fantasy injuries from the past weekend's games. A more complete list of key injured players can be found in our Mid-Week Injury Tracker Report on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Be sure you check out our Priority News often during the week as all breaking news will be posted there.

QUARTERBACKS

Ben Roethlisberger, PIT – Spinal Chord Contusion / Mild Concussion

Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger looked healthy during Sunday’s win over the Chargers and team officials expect him to be in the starting lineup for the AFC Championship game against the Ravens. However according to reports Roethlisberger not only suffered a concussion when he was hurt in Week 17 he actually bruised his spinal chord as well. Head coach Mike Tomlin initially called Roethlisberger’s injury a “mild” concussion but there wasn’t mention of his spinal chord contusion. Roethlisberger did complain of headaches during and after practice last week and he even said that his head remained swollen as a result of the concussion, so much so that his helmet wasn’t fitting properly. However he was cleared by the team’s medical staff to practice and play and Tomlin claimed that everything was OK. NFL teams are notorious for doing whatever they can to get injured players back on the field as soon as possible regardless of what the long-term implications are. Tomlin expects Roethlisberger to be a full participant in practice this week and start against the Ravens this upcoming weekend.

RUNNING BACKS

Chris Johnson, TEN – High Ankle Sprain

Titans’ rookie RB Chris Johnson left Saturday’s game against the Ravens with a high ankle sprain and his status for the Pro Bowl on February 7 is in question. Johnson injured his leg on a carry in the second quarter. He was eventually escorted back to the locker room where his ankle was treated and taped. He tried returning to the game in the third quarter but he had a hard time putting weight on his leg and he never made it back onto the field. Johnson was seen wearing a protective walking boot on Monday and he was scheduled to undergo an MRI. The results of the MRI have not been made public however head coach Jeff Fisher has said that the injury has been diagnosed as a high ankle sprain and that had the team advanced to the AFC title game he probably would have been listed as doubtful. He might not make it back in time for the Pro Bowl in 3 weeks, but he should be completely healthy for the start of OTA’s.

LeRon McClain, BAL – Sprained Ankle

Ravens’ RB LeRon McClain, who was in and out of the lineup on Saturday because of an ankle injury, will probably be limited in practice this week and his status for the AFC Championship game remains uncertain. McClain turned his ankle when he was tackled on a carry in the second quarter. He later returned to the field but he appeared to aggravate the injury in the second half and he was seen limping off the field. The injury limited McClain to just 12 yards on 12 carries but head coach John Harbaugh has not said if it will be problem against the Steelers next weekend. We should know more about his status on Friday.

Brian Westbrook, PHI – Lingering Knee Inflammation

Eagles’ RB Brian Westbrook struggled against the Giants’ defense on Sunday and you have to wonder if his lingering knee problem is finally becoming an issue. Westbrook, who has dealt with knee soreness and inflammation since the start of the season because of cartilage damage, reportedly experienced swelling in the injured joint after the game and he was seen with his knee wrapped in ice as he left the locker room. Westbrook will likely miss some practice time this week as he gives his knee as much time to rest as possible, but he is far from 100% and he will probably have his fair share of problems against a Cardinals’ defense that has kept two of the best rushing teams in check the last two weeks. We’ll keep you posted on his recovery this week.

TIGHT ENDS

Antonio Gates, SD – High Ankle Sprain

According to reports the Chargers are concerned that TE Antonio Gates aggravated his injured ankle during the team’s playoff loss to the Steelers on Sunday and he is scheduled to undergo an MRI as soon as the swelling has subsided to see if there is additional ligament damage. Gates suffered what team officials called a significant high ankle sprain back in Week 17, the kind of the injury that would typically keep a player out anywhere from 4 – 8 weeks. But he was back on the field for the start of the post season a week later and after being held out of practice last week he was back in the starting lineup this past weekend as well. Gates told reporters after the game that the injury prevented him from cutting and jumping properly and if the MRI shows additional ligament damage he will probably have surgery to fix it. His status for the start of OTA’s in currently unknown but he should be at full speed in time for training camp.

Todd Heap, BAL – Lower Back Stiffness

Ravens’ TE Todd Heap aggravated his lower back injury during Saturday’s game against the Titans and he will likely miss practice time this week as a result. Heap, who originally injured his back against the Dolphins during Wild Card Weekend, was hurt when he was sandwiched between two defenders while trying to make a catch in third quarter. He stayed on the ground for several minutes before being escorted off the field. Heap was reportedly feeling very stiff and sore on Monday morning and team officials don’t expect him to practice on Wednesday and Thursday. He could be back by Friday and he should be active next weekend against the Steelers, but at this point it doesn’t look like he will be completely healthy for the game.

Stephen Spach, ARI – Torn ACL

The Cardinals have lost starting TE Stephen Spach for the remainder of the playoffs. Spach tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while trying to block in the second half of Saturday’s game against the Panthers. He was eventually taken off the field and escorted to the locker room where he was evaluated and treated. He did not return to the game and an MRI on his knee on Monday confirmed that his ACL was torn. Spach will have reconstructive surgery as soon as the swelling subsides and not only will he miss the remainder of the post-season at this point it looks like he will miss training camp next season as well. Spach wasn’t a big part of the passing attack, but he did a great job blocking on running plays. Leonard Pope will start in his place.

IDP’s

Jim Leonhard, DB, BAL – Mild Concussion

Ravens’ DB Jim Leonhard left Saturday’s game against the Titans after getting knocked out while making a tackle but he told reporters that he was feeling fine. Leonhard was hurt when he hit Titans’ TE Alge Crumpler causing him to fumble the ball. Leonhard hit Crumpler so hard that he knocked himself out and he had to be helped off the field by the team’s medical staff. According to reports he has been diagnosed with a concussion and he will probably be held out of contact drills this week. Leonhard said that the injury is mild but his status for the AFC Championship game is currently unknown.

Samari Rolle, DB, BAL – Strained Groin
Ravens’ DB Samari Rolle pulled his groin muscle during Saturday’s game against the Titans and his status for the AFC Championship game is in question. Rolle was hurt in the fourth quarter and he remained on the ground while the medical staff examined him. He was eventually helped up, but he limped off the field and he did not return to the game. Rolle’s strained groin was stiff and sore on Monday and he will likely miss practice this week while he gets it taken care of. His status for the game against the Steelers will be determined later on in the week and it could come down to a game-time decision.

Terrell Suggs, DL, BAL – Sprained Shoulder

Ravens’ DL Terrell Suggs, who sprained his shoulder when he sacked Titans’ QB Kerry Collins on Saturday, told reporters that he has every intention of playing this upcoming weekend against the Steelers. But head coach John Harbaugh said that he wasn’t sure if Suggs would be ready to play. Suggs appeared to be a in a lot of pain after getting hurt and according to reports his shoulder remains an issue. He has spent a lot of time in the training room getting treatment and he will likely be limited in practice this week as the medical staff tried to get him healthy enough to play. The severity of the injury has not been made public but there is speculation that he would be held out if it were an ordinary game. This could come down to a game-time decision but don’t be surprised to see him active and in the starting lineup.

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