Hybrid players like Aaron Hernandez create contractual headaches for NFL teams. (Getty Images)
As they returned to practice following their bye week, the New England Patriots listed 14 players with "limited participation" in Wednesday's practice, including tight end Aaron Hernandez, who missed the London game against the St. Louis Rams with an ankle injury. Hernandez turned 23 on Tuesday and will likely be available to face the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
In addition to Hernandez, Patriots wide receivers Brandon Lloyd (knee) and Wes Welker (ankle), tight end Rob Gronkowski (hip), guard Logan Mankins (calf/hip), right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back/knee), linebackers Brandon Spikes (knee) and Don't'a Hightower (hamstring), cornerback Kyle Arrington (concussion) and safeties Patrick Chung (shoulder) and Steve Gregory (hip) were limited.
The Bills were without six players for Wednesday's practice, including wide receiver Steve Johnson (thigh), right tackle Erik Pears (hip), defensive tackle Kyle Williams (ankle) and defensive end Mark Anderson (knee). Johnson is expected to return to practice on Thursday and should be available for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots, who had 17 players either limited or not participating in Wednesday's practice.
Atlanta Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon missed Sunday night's win over the Dallas Cowboys with an ankle injury. The same ankle kept Weatherspoon from practicing on Wednesday, but his status for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints has not been determined. While Weatherspoon was out, the Falcons listed defensive tackles Jonathan Babineaux (hamstring) and Peria Jerry (knee), left tackle Sam Baker (ankle) and cornerback Asante Samuel (hip) as "limited" participants. Saints running back Darren Sproles (hand) and right tackle Zach Strief (groin) did not practice on Wednesday.
Good and bad injury news for the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday. Wide receiver Dez Bryant (hip) returned to practice, as did running back Felix Jones (knee). The Cowboys were without nose tackle Jay Ratliff, who re-injured his left ankle in the second quarter of Sunday night's 19-13 loss to the Falcons. Running back DeMarco Murray (foot) was also not participating in Wednesday's practice. The Cowboys travel to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. The Eagles placed right tackle Todd Herremans (foot) on injured reserve and if Wednesday's practice is any indication, the offensive line is getting a bit of a shake-up as King Dunlap played on the right side while Demetress Bell moved over to left tackle. The Eagles were without running back LeSean McCoy (illness) and right guard Danny Watkins (ankle) for Wednesday's practice.
Denver Broncos cornerback Tracy Porter has missed the last three games after experiencing symptoms similar to a seizure he suffered in August. The Broncos' medical staff is taking a cautious approach with Porter, who did not participate in Wednesday's practice. In addition to Porter, the Broncos were without Chris Kuper, who is expected to miss some time with an ankle injury. Wide receiver Eric Decker (thigh) was limited, but should play against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. The Panthers were without eight players on Wednesday, including defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (ankle), who made an appearance on the Shutdown Corner All-Underrated Team this week. Defensive end Charles Johnson (hip) got the day off, but should play against the Broncos.
The Detroit Lions' injury list continues to include the team's top players. Wide receivers Calvin Johnson (knee) and Titus Young (knee), defensive end Cliff Avril (back) and safeties Louis Delmas (knee) and Amari Spievey (concussion) missed Wednesday's practice along with Kyle Vanden Bosch, whose absence was not injury-related. Linebacker DeAndre Levy (hamstring) was limited. Delmas missed last Sunday's win over the Jacksonville Jaguars and is considered day-to-day, but it would be a surprise if he missed Thursday's practice and played against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. Wide receiver Percy Harvin, who was playing with a sore right hamstring before injuring his left ankle in Sunday's 30-20 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, missed Vikings' practice on Wednesday, but head coach Leslie Frazier is hopeful to have his top receiver for the Lions game.
"I'm hoping that they both make it," Frazier said [of Harvin and defensive tackle Letroy Guion according to 1500ESPN Twin Cities]. "I'll learn more as the week goes on. But I'm hoping by Friday, they can both participate to some degree."
In better injury news for the Vikings, No. 2 tight end John Carlson fully participated after missing two games with a concussion. Running back Adrian Peterson (ankle) and wide receiver Jerome Simpson (calf) were also full participants.
New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks experienced swelling in his knee and was given Wednesday's practice off, as was running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) and guard Chris Snee (ankle). Safety Kenny Phillips (knee) did not participate on Wednesday and is not expected to return until after the Giants' bye week, which means he'll miss Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals. For the Bengals, running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (illness) and center Jeff Faine (hamstring) missed Wednesday's practice.
Coming off their bye week, the New York Jets were without tackle Kenrick Ellis (knee) and running back Joe McKnight (ankle) missed practice on Wednesday, while center Nick Mangold (ankle) and linebacker Bart Scott (toe) were two of several players who were limited. For the Seattle Seahawks, five starters — guard James Carpenter (concussion), running back Marshawn Lynch (back/wrist), defensive end Red Bryant (foot), linebacker K.J. Wright (concussion) and safety Kam Chancellor (quadriceps) — missed practice on Wednesday. Defensive tackle Jason Jones, who has missed the last two weeks with an ankle injury, was limited and the club is holding out hope that he'll play against the Jets. Seattle did activate cornerback Walter Thurmond from the physically unable to perform list. Thurmond has been out since the middle of last season with a broken fibula and could see time in nickel packages.
Oakland Raiders running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson, who both suffered ankle injuries in Sunday's 42-32 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, missed practice on Wednesday. Both backs could miss this Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens. Defensive tackle Richard Seymour also missed practice with a hamstring injury and his availability for the Ravens game won't be known until later this week. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (shoulder/knee) and safety Ed Reed (shoulder) were among five starters to not participate in Ravens practice on Wednesday. Guards Bobbie Williams (ankle) and Marshal Yanda (knee) were also absent, with Williams being the more likely of the two to miss the Raiders game.
Buccaneers cornerback Eric Wright (Achilles) was a full participant Wednesday's practice, but that he was available is a sign that his rumored four-game suspension for violating the league's policy against performance-enhancing drugs will not take affect this week. Defensive end Michael Bennett (shoulder) was limited on Thursday, but should play against the San Diego Chargers, who were without linebacker Antwan Barnes (hamstring) and only had left tackle Jared Gaither (groin) and safety Atari Bigby (quadriceps) on a limited basis.
The St. Louis Rams are coming off their bye week in better shape, health-wise. The biggest names on the injury report is wide receiver Danny Amendola, who was limited by a sprained SC joint, but could make his return to the lineup in Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers. One area of concerns for the Rams is the offensive tackle situation. Left tackle Rodger Saffold (knee) and his backup Wayne Hunter (back) were limited, while right tackle Barry Richardson was on the report as a full participant, but with a head injury. The 49ers are also coming off their bye and did not list any players as "limited" or "did not participate" on their injury report.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker has missed the last five games after dislocating his non-throwing shoulder twice in a four-game game at the start of the season, but returned to practice on a full-time basis on Wednesday, taking all the snaps with the first-team offense and will start against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
"I think I have said from the beginning, if we feel he is ready to play physically and mentally, he is our starting quarterback and he'll start," [head coach Mike] Munchak said [of Locker via Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean].
Titans middle linebacker Colin McCarthy (ankle) missed Wednesday's practice, but that's more due to a change in his practice schedule. McCarthy may not practice on Thursday, but should hit the field on Friday and play against the Dolphins on Sunday.
For Miami, outside linebacker Koa Misi missed practice with a calf injury, while nose tackle Paul Soliai (ankle) and center Mike Pouncey (knee/ankle) were limited.
In the Sunday night game, Houston Texans running back Ben Tate (hamstring), wide receiver Kevin Walter (groin) and tight end Owen Daniels (back) missed practice. Defensive tackle Shaun Cody also missed practice with broken ribs and a punctured lung he sustained in Sunday's 21-9 win over the Buffalo Bills and could miss this week's game against the Chicago Bears. Running back Arian Foster, cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph (quadriceps) and Brice McCain (knee) and defensive end Antonio Smith (ankle) were limited, though Foster's limited workload was not injury related.
The Bears may be without cornerback Charles Tillman, who is making a bid for Defensive Player of the Year as his wife is set to give birth to their fourth child. Tillman's daughter Tiana was born with a heart defect, which plays a role in his decision to put family first, reports Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune.
"This game is important to me, but after what we went through with my middle child Tiana, to me football is second," Tillman said. "It will always be second or third in my life."
If Tillman does have to miss the game, McClure adds that he has the support of head coach Lovie Smith.
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