C Matt Birk returned to practice Wednesday. He missed the second half of the Bears game because of a sprained left ankle. Barring a setback, he'll play Sunday, keeping his streak of 67 consecutive starts intact.
RB Moe Williams was limited in practice Wednesday because of a calf injury. But that doesn't mean anything. The Vikings believe the 30-year-old veteran is savvy enough to play effectively without much practice.
LB Chris Claiborne tested his injured calf in practice Wednesday. He says he's going to play, but he has said that before and been wrong.
MLB E.J. Henderson knee is out for at least one week. He will be replaced by rookie Dontarrious Thomas, who has the speed and size to play the position, but not the experience. Thomas had a game-high 13 tackles after Henderson was hurt in the Bears game.
TE Jermaine Wiggins won't play because he needs more time to heal his broken hand. His pass-catching skills will be missed for the second consecutive game. But his blocking won't.
DE Kenechi Udeze is appealing a $5,000 NFL fine he received for a celebrating his first NFL sack. The league disapproved of Udeze drawing his hands like pistols after sacking Donovan McNabb in a loss at Philadelphia. "You're not supposed to show a gun or anything," Udeze said.
LB Raonall Smith has never been more active or healthy in his three seasons as a pro. With six special teams tackles, he already has tripled last season's totals. The former second-round draft pick spent his rookie season in 2002 on IR. He played in seven games last season, and all three games this season. He might even make his first NFL start at WLB this Sunday.
CB Antoine Winfield doesn't act like a $35 million cornerback. He is second on the team in tackles 28 and also third in special teams tackles with three. He's by far the best tackler on the team.
RB Michael Bennett knee will miss at least two more games after having arthroscopic surgery on Monday. What else is new? Bennett has missed 11 of the past 19 games because of injuries. What hurts worse is RB Onterrio Smith's four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
DT Chris Hovan was kicked in the knee in practice and was listed as questionable. Barring further injury, he will play. If he doesn't, the Vikings can win without him. In fact, a pairing of NT Steve Martin and Kevin Williams at Hovan's under-tackle position might be worth a look.
CB Jerry Azumah returned to practice two months after undergoing surgery on a herniated disk in his neck. The team's original projection was that Azumah would be out 3-4 months, but he is expected to start in the next game, Oct. 17, against the Redskins.
LB Hunter Hillenmeyer has played well enough filling in for middle linebacker Brian Urlacher that he will start on the strong side once Urlacher returns, which is expected by the Bears' next game, Oct. 17.
"Hunter had his best game Sunday, and what we're trying to do is find the best three linebackers to get on the field," coach Lovie Smith said.
Joe Odom has started on the strong side since former starter Marcus Reese suffered a hamstring injury late in the preseason. Both of them played vs. the Eagles.
"Hunter a good football player," Smith said, "and he deserves more time."
MLB Brian Urlacher did not practice Wednesday, but he is expected back full speed by next week.
DE Adewale Ogunleye had one of his two sacks taken away by the league and given to rookie DT Tommie Harris. Ogunleye leads all Bears linemen with 18 tackles and the team with two forced fumbles.
P Brad Maynard is third in the NFC in net average 39.5 yards and second in gross average 45.4.
WR Bernard Berrian is fifth in the NFC with a 25.0-yard kickoff-return average. He is expected to keep the job for a while, even though CB Jerry Azumah who went to the Pro Bowl last season as a kickoff returner, could be back for the next game.
C Olin Kreutz had arthroscopic surgery to clean out loose particles in his right elbow but is not expected to miss any games.
CB Dre' Bly says he will try to play Sunday at Atlanta, but it might be a game-day decision. He suffered a sprained left knee in the season opener at Chicago and hasn't played since.
CB Andre Goodman was diagnosed with what seemed to be simply a strained thigh muscle but he has missed the last two games and - even after a week of rest during the bye - has not returned to the Lions practice field, an indication the team will be shorthanded in its secondary Sunday at Atlanta.
RB Artose Pinner is expected to get in greatly increased work load when the Lions play Sunday in Atlanta. Pinner is the backup to rookie RB Kevin Jones, who has a high ankle sprain and is not expected to play. Pinner is essentially a downhill runner, averaging 3.3 yards per carry on 17 rushing attempts this year.
QB Joey Harrington is off to the best start of his three-year NFL career with a 91.1 passer rating that puts him sixth among NFC quarterbacks. Harrington has completed a fraction less than 60 percent of his throws with six touchdowns and two interceptions. Coming into the season, he had a career passer rating of 62.2.
WR Roy Williams will get another rookie test Sunday when the Lions play at Atlanta. The Falcons come into the game as the 10th best defense in the NFL but have been best at stopping the run. If the Lions have to throw, Williams has become an early favorite of QB Joey Harrington and will undoubtedly get plenty of opportunities. In his first three games, Williams has caught 17 passes for 277 yards and four TDs.
RB Stephen Davis returned to practice on Wednesday after missing two weeks following knee surgery.
Panthers coach John Fox remained evasive on Davis' status, partly because he's waiting to see if Davis' knee swells up this week following practices.
WR Karl Hankton, a crucial part of Carolina's special teams, did not practice Wednesday because of a hamstring problem. His status remains up in the air.
DT Brentson Buckner was held out of practice on Wednesday and is listed as questionable, but said he will probably play this week. If not, the Panthers will be hurting at defensive tackle where they are thin since cutting Shane Burton.
RB DeShaun Foster can expect to split carries with Stephen Davis this week.
LB Mark Fields still hasn't recovered from back spasms and did not practice on Wednesday. He was receiving treatment and did not attend practice. He appears on the dark side of questionable right now.
RB Rod Smart did not practice Wednesday because of a knee sprain. He is questionable.
New York Giants
G Rich Seubert, still recovering from his compound fracture of his right leg, said he is running better each week, "and I'd like to think I can come off this list soon." The list is PUP-Reserve, and the team has a window between the seventh and ninth weeks to activate such a player.
DE Michael Strahan, who has 20 tackles and three sacks in four games, was speculating on a victory over Dallas this Sunday. "How great would it be to go 4-1 into the break," he said. "That would definitely put us ahead of the curve."
WR Amani Toomer leads the team with 18 receptions for 255 yards but has yet to score a touchdown. "If I catch a bunch of passes and help set up touchdowns, I'm just as happy," he says.
K Steve Christie is just five-of-10 in field-goal attempts since being signed by the Giants just prior to the opening of the season. "I have been through this thing a slump before," he said. "I will work my way out of it."
QB Kurt Warner, despite playing well and throwing just one interception in four games, is far from pleased. "I don't think this offense has reached anywhere near its potential," he said, "and I'm excited thinking about how good we'll be in a few more weeks."
RG Jermane Mayberry, who tore a bicep tendon in his arm two weeks ago, said there clearly is a loss of strength in the arm, as well as pain. But he played the entire game with the injury last week and expects to do so again next week when the Eagles face Carolina.
FB Josh Parry, who suffered an MCL sprain in his right knee in Sunday's win over Chicago, played with a brace on his knee and is expected to be able to play next week against Carolina.
FB Jon Ritchie, whose torn ACL precipitated the signing of Josh Parry, had successful surgery on his knee and is expected to make a complete recovery by next year. The Eagles placed him on injured reserve before the surgery.
WR Terrell Owens is on pace to establish Eagle season records for receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.
CB Dexter Wynn's chances of playing next week against Carolina are not good. Wynn, who is the club's dime corner, injured his hamstring Sunday against Chicago. If he can't play, another rookie, third-rounder Matt Ware, will get his first action of the season.
RB/KR Josh Scobey sprained a right knee and is lost for at least four weeks. He ascended to the backup spot after Marcel Shipp suffered a season-ending injury during training camp. Scobey has been especially effective with his high-average kick returns. With Hambrick moving into the backup RB role, Larry Croom becomes the No. 3 back. He's a rookie. Croom and WRs Reggie Newhouse and Nate Poole will audition to become the kick returner.
LB LaVar Arrington knee is leaving open the possibility of playing the Ravens, but the Redskins already have listed him "out."
LB Mike Barrow, who signed a six-year, $14.6 million contract this spring but hasn't played in a game for the Redskins, could see his season come to an end soon.
Coach Joe Gibbs said last week that the club was starting to consider shutting down the season for Barrow, who has been sidelined since the first week of training camp with a knee injury. First he was said to have tendinitis, then he revealed that he has a torn tendon.
This week Barrow visited a specialist as Washington seeks a resolution.
"We're doing every single thing in our power to see what that problem is, to see if we can get it fixed," Gibbs said. "It's one of those things that's hard to put your finger on. The more people we have look at it, we figure maybe somebody will come up with something."
DE Phillip Daniels groin won't play against the Ravens and is hoping to return next week for the Bears game.
WR Rod Gardner did it again -- he failed to string together consecutive big games. Coming off a 10-catch, 167-yard night against the Cowboys, Gardner caught just three passes for 19 yards at Cleveland.
For a moment it seemed as though Gardner would pick up where he left off. All three of his catches came in the early going. Then the faucet ran dry.
"When we started that game with that first drive, I said, 'Oh, this is going to be a big game,'" Gardner said. "But it seemed like we were going to the other side of the field. There weren't many plays called for me or running straight at me. And when it's third-and-long, it's hard to get anything going. If you're throwing 15-yard passes, they'll just sit in the zone."
WR Laveranues Coles is mad at himself despite having a perfect excuse for his drops and Sunday's crucial fumble -- the middle finger he dislocated in the Cowboys game.
Coach Joe Gibbs has been tremendously impressed with Coles, who didn't leave for even a play Sept. 27 when he dislocated his finger. And the receiver hasn't missed a practice. But he holds himself to the highest standard, and to him it's not OK to be healthy enough to play and unhealthy enough to make mistakes.
"When guys like myself are who the team depends on to make plays and do not come through, I think that is a problem," Coles said. "We have a lot of guys we are depending on, and when we do not make plays, that is costing us the game."
S Andre Lott hamstring is questionable for the Ravens game.
CB Shawn Springs ankle didn't practice Wednesday, but shouldn't have any problem playing against the Ravens.
RT Ray Brown hamstring didn't practice Wednesday, but has been listed "probable."
KR Chad Morton knee is increasing his practice activity and should be ready to play the Ravens.
DE Ron Warner ankle is expected to play the Ravens.
CB Aaron Beasley, who has played plenty at reserve left corner and at dime safety for the Falcons, would be the most likely candidate to start at right corner if Jason Webster's sprained knee prevents him from playing Sunday against the Lions, or if the knee limits Webster.
CB Mike Echols was signed Wednesday by the Falcons, who pulled him off of the Colts' practice squad. Depending on how starting RCB Jason Webster does this week with his sprained right knee, Echols might be active Sunday against the Lions.
S Kevin McCadam most likely would be the man to take over for FS Cory Hall if Hall's back spasms continue to be a problem, not that team officials expect that.
S Etric Pruitt, the Falcons' sixth-round draft choice, was waived Wednesday for the second time this season. His release made room for the team to sign former Colts practice squad CB Mike Echols as injury insurance for RCB Jason Webster sprained right knee. If Pruitt, who appeared last Sunday in his first NFL game when he worked on some special teams at Carolina, clears waivers, he'll most likely be re-signed to the practice squad.
RCB Jason Webster, who is third on the Falcons with 22 combined tackles and assists while leading the team with six pass breakups, did not practice Wednesday after spraining his right knee last Sunday at Carolina. Coaches hope he'll be able to practice Thursday, and play Sunday against the Lions, but that's no sure thing. Webster missed the first nine games of the 2003 season while with the 49ers after sustaining a hairline fracture in his right knee cap in training camp.
FS Cory Hall left practice early with back spasms, and was placed on the injury report as probable for the Falcons' game Sunday against Detroit.
WLB Keith Brooking was limited in practice Wednesday by a tight right hamstring, but it's not believed to be serious.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB Brad Johnson could be the inactive No. 3 passer in Sunday's game at New Orleans. Bucs coach Jon Gruden would not announce whether Brian Griese or Brad Johnson would back up Chris Simms.
WR Michael Clayton, who muffed a punt in last week's game against Denver that was recovered by the Bucs, will not return punts against New Orleans.
OT Kenyatta Walker played 48 percent of the plays last week against Denver and is hoping to at least split time with right tackle Todd Steussie Sunday at New Orleans.
"I've never been in a position like this," Walker said. "I don't think a lot of people have. My goals right now are practicing hard and helping this team. Being consistent. I've played good games before, but I haven't played a whole season good before. That's my goal, to be consistent."
RB Michael Pittman admitted he ran out of gas in Sunday's 16-13 loss to Denver, his first game back after a three-game suspension.
"I was a little tired," Pittman said. "As a matter of fact, I was really tired out there. Overall, I was pretty pleased. There were things I could have done better. There were a couple of runs where I could've been a little more patient. Overall, my first game, I think I did pretty well."
DE Simeon Rice, who was second in the NFC with 15 1/2 sacks last season, has just one sack in four games this year and is facing constant double teams.
DT Anthony McFarland groin did not practice Wednesday but is expected to return Thursday.
CB Duane Starks, just getting comfortable again after missing all of last season to a knee injury, suffered a dislocated shoulder that's going to sideline him for four to six weeks. Renaldo Hill will reprise his role as Starks' replacement. Robert Tate and Dyshod Carter move up to Hill's nickel and dime roles.
DT Wendell Bryant, a first-round pick in 2002 who has given the team essentially no return on its investment, returns from a four-game suspension imposed by the league for violation of its substance-abuse policy. The team has activated him for the 49ers game Sunday.
K Neil Rackers not only has been the most potent offensive weapon because of the unit's early season inability to get into the end zone, but he has become the defense's buddy, as well, with his booming kickoffs. The Saints started at the 20, 20, 18, 15, 15 plus 15-yard penalty, 12 and 8 after his kickoffs.
RB Troy Hambrick's 79 rushing yards in relief of Emmitt Smith were buried in the wake of Smith's 127 rushing yards against New Orleans. Both players had their highest outputs since joining the Cardinals. Hambrick, more of a pounding-style rusher, is emerging as an effective change-of-pace back. He'll be getting more opportunities now that No. 2 Josh Scobey is out for at least a month.
SS Adrian Wilson, an undeniable physical talent who often gets himself in trouble because he blows assignments and attempts to play outside his responsibility, was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Week. He returned a fumble 35 yards for a touchdown in a win over New Orleans.
DT John Nix, a backup, was cut Wednesday by Arizona. Nix was little factor in the rotation.
DT Ross Kolodziej was back at practice. The starter missed two weeks because of an ankle sprain.
St. Louis Rams
RB Steven Jackson continues to improve on a weekly basis, especially in the area most difficult for rookies: blitz pickup. After Jackson rushed for 46 yards in 10 carries against San Francisco this past Sunday, coach Mike Martz talked about the blitz when asked about Jackson's play.
"I'm very pleased," Martz said "He had a real nice blitz pick-up in the second quarter, on the last drive that we had. It was a real key third down, and he picked up the blitz and rode the defender past the quarterback, and Marc Bulger was able to step up and make the throw. Jackson is getting better in all phases of the game. Marshall Faulk has helped him terrifically. Marshall is such a student of the game, and I think he holds Steven to that same standard. I think that he really understands what we are trying to do now. It's as important to be physical, blocking, as it is to be a runner. He's getting better, and we are going to use him. Marshall comes out, we put Steven in, and we don't change anything we do."
OG Tom Nutten, who hadn't been played in a regular-season game since the end of the 2002 season until seeing action in short-yardage situations last week, worked with the first unit in practice Wednesday at left guard with Scott Tercero sidelined because of a broken bone in his hand.
SS Adam Archuleta will continue playing in nickel and dime defenses while recovering from back injury. His health has improved each week, but he's still not 100 percent.
CB DeJuan Groce knee could have played Sunday, but did not, and is now probable for this week. Groce took snaps with the No. 1 defense Wednesday.
LB Trev Faulk was named the team's special teams player of the week for his three tackles on kickoff coverage and one on punt coverage. Faulk was back on the field after missing two games because of a hamstring injury.
Noting the problems that can occur on special teams when injuries hit, coach Mike Martz said, "This Faulk's play goes back and reflects what I said earlier about special teams and its effectiveness, when you have those kind of players in your backup secondary and linebackers, who eventually can be starters, but when they are down or injured, it does effect your special teams. You can see the impact it has on any special teams to have those types of guys back and healthy. He certainly made his presence felt. And he is certainly capable of starting for us as a middle linebacker. He probably has had as good of camp this year as anyone we had on defense. He's just been remarkable."
LG Scott Tercero, who made his first start of the season this past Sunday against the 49ers, did not practice Wednesday because of a broken bone in his right hand. Tercero is probable for this week's game against Sunday.
OG Chris Dishman, who did not play last week because of a knee injury, participated in some individual drills Wednesday, but is not all the way back yet. He is listed as questionable on the injury report.
SS Rich Coady will start again this week with Adam Archuleta still bothered by a back injury. Coady was the team's defensive player of the game in Sunday's win over San Francisco.
MLB Robert Thomas ankle did not practice Wednesday to rest and injured ankle, but will play Sunday against the Seahawks.
RB Arlen Harris should be available for special teams work this week after not playing Sunday against the 49ers because of a hamstring injury. Harris was active only in the event he was needed as a running back.
Wednesday Workout Notes
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