The stars have come out on the league's injury report this week. The Steelers are dealing with Big Ben having his bell rung in Atlanta and the Seahawks are trying to overcome the loss of their second "franchise" player on offense.
Let's go to the injury review and find out who's in and who's out.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered his second concussion in less than five months in the team's overtime loss to Atlanta. Backup quarterback Charlie Batch is expected to see some of the first-team reps this week as team doctors evaluate the progress of Roethlisberger, who has already had an MRI on his neck and CAT scan. He also had a post-concussion test to determine if he suffered any short-term memory loss or motor-skill issues. The Steelers don't want to rush Roethlisberger's return and risk a setback. They feel comfortable with Batch starting on the road in Oakland. Roethlisberger practiced on Wednesday and wants to remain in the lineup as if cleared by team doctors. … The Seattle Seahawks will be without star quarterback Matt Hasselbeck for at least 2-3 weeks after he suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee during Sunday's loss to Minnesota. Versatile backup Seneca Wallace takes his place. The situation will allow Seattle's front office to further asses Wallace for the long term. Wallace has terrific mobility and a strong arm, but he often keys on his first read and abandons the pocket too quickly. The Seahawks have made a few calls around the league to veteran free agents. Former Buc and Cardinal Shaun King is on that short list, but Gibran Hamdan, who spent the spring in NFL Europe, is also being considered. … Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich is tending to a left ankle injury, which hindered him in Houston last week. The Jaguars insist that if healthy, Leftwich will be the team's starter this week. But if he struggles with his accuracy this week against Philadelphia, David Garrard could play. … The Dallas Cowboys have installed Tony Romo as the team's starting quarterback going into Sunday's game against Carolina. Former starter Drew Bledsoe voiced his displeasure over the move, saying that he still believed he gave the Cowboys the best chance to win. Look for the Cowboys to use more rollouts and even shotgun formations to utilize Romo's mobility. One area to watch: Romo has looked to make wide receiver Terrell Owens his first read, while Bledsoe spread the ball around to Terry Glenn, Jason Witten and the backfield. If Romo can make plays down field against the Panthers, it could spark an offense that has been missing the big plays to balance what can be a strong ground attack. … Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell is dealing with a rib injury. According to a league source, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder – clearly disappointed with the team's 2-5 record – could be close to stepping in and pushing for 2005 first-round pick Jason Campbell to be inserted in the lineup in place of Brunell.
Oakland Raiders starting running back LaMont Jordan figures to start against the Steelers on Sunday if he isn't too bothered by back pains. In his absence last week, the Raiders enjoyed one of their most effective running days of the season by using a combination of Justin Fargas, ReShard Lee and fullback Zack Crockett. The idea of combining Fargas' outside speed, Lee's toughness between the tackles and Crockett's short-yardage and goal-line skills is more of the old-style Raiders attack from a few years ago. … Seahawks starting running back Shaun Alexander is expected to be back in the lineup for the team's Monday night game Nov. 6 against the Raiders. … Carolina Panthers rookie backup running back DeAngelo Williams returned to practice Wednesday and expects to be back on the field against Dallas after missing the past two games with an ankle injury.
WIDE RECEIVER/TIGHT END
The Minnesota Vikings' most important reception this week will come with delivery of the final medical report on several of the team's wide receivers. Marcus Robinson seems likely to be out of Monday night's game against New England with a lower back injury. Troy Williamson and Travis Taylor continue to deal with the effects of concussions they suffered in last week's win over Seattle. Robinson's injury could linger past this week. That could mean more playing time for reserve Billy McMullen. … The Cincinnati Bengals could have the services of wide receiver Chris Henry for their game against Atlanta this weekend. Henry could be activated after a two-game suspension. The Bengals plan to evaluate him during practice this week and could use him to boost a stagnant offense that has failed to break the 17-point mark over their past three games. … New Orleans Saints tight end Ernie Conwell is out this week with a knee injury. Look for the Saints to give Nate Lawrie a few extra looks in passing situations. He has great size (6-foot-6, 260 pounds) and reliable hands. The Saints also added veteran tight end Billy Miller to the active roster.
Denver Broncos offensive tackle Matt Lepsis has been lost for the season after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee. Veteran swingman Cooper Carlisle, who currently starts at right guard, and reserve Erik Pears are the primary candidates to replace Lepsis. If Carlisle moves to left tackle, rookie Chris Kuper will start at right guard. … Miami Dolphins offensive guard Jeno James will miss at least one week after having surgery on his right knee. James could be replaced by second-year backup Joe Berger, who has yet to start a game in the NFL. The move means the Dolphins will have used a six different starters at left and right guard by the time they meet the Bears in Week 9. … The Cowboys could be on the verge of making a few moves along the offensive line. They have evaluated the play of both offensive tackles and could insert either Jason Fabini (right tackle) or Pat McQuistan (left tackle) into the lineup. That might require them to use a second tight end more as a blocker or incorporate less seven-step drops in favor of quicker three-step routes.
The Atlanta Falcons might have lost their premier pass rusher, defensive end John Abraham, for up to 4-6 weeks after he had surgery to repair a torn muscle in his abdomen. He has been dealing with the effects of a groin injury, and some had thought this surgery might have come after he was hurt in Week 1. The former Pro Bowl pass rusher has played in only two games this season after being signed to a new contract following his acquisition from the Jets. … Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle Montae Reagor will miss several weeks after having facial surgery to repair damage suffered in a car accident. The Colts turned immediately to recently acquired Booger McFarland to replace Reagor in the lineup.
New York Giants outside linebacker LaVar Arrington has been lost for the season after he suffering a torn Achilles tendon in the first-half of Monday's win over Dallas. The Giants will turn to a combination of Reggie Torbor and rookie Gerris Wilkinson to replace the high-priced free agent who is expected to miss up to six months. The Giants could also be without All-Pro defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who suffered a hip injury, and reserve cornerback Frank Walker, who has a strained hamstring, when they face Tampa Bay on Sunday. Rookies Kevin Dockery (cornerback) and Mathias Kiwanuka (defensive end) could see extended playing time if either veteran is forced to sit out this weekend. … Steelers outside linebacker Joey Porter could participate in full practices the rest of this week after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury. Pittsburgh has several injuries in their linebacker corps. Clark Haggans, who has an ankle injury and James Harrison, who will miss his third straight game with an ankle injury, have created additional playing time for recently re-signed veteran Chad Brown.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Brian Kelly has been put on the season-ending IR list as he continues to deal with a turf toe injury that will likely require surgery. Kelly was actively shopped before the trade deadline, so if he can return to full-strength by the spring, there is a chance the Bucs could look to deal him around draft time. Look for recently signed former first-round pick Phillip Buchanon to receive additional playing time over the course of the next few weeks, as well as undrafted free agent cornerback Dion Bynum. … Cleveland Browns cornerback Gary Baxter suffered one of the worst injuries in recent memory when he went down with damage to both of his knees. He required surgery and could face a year-long rehab. The Browns' secondary has been hammered by injuries, which could result in undrafted defensive backs Jereme Perry and Daven Holley starting. … Colts strong safety Mike Doss will miss the rest of the season after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee. Rookie safety Antoine Bethea is the only healthy member of the team's safety combo with Bob Sanders dealing with a knee injury of his own. Cornerback Nick Harper is still feeling the effects of injured ribs. The Colts' lack of depth in the secondary might force them to look for a veteran safety to fill the void left by Doss' injury. … Cowboys reserve safety Keith Davis has been dealing with a sprained ankle. If Davis is healthy, he could replace rookie Pat Watkins in the starting lineup. There is also the chance that veteran defensive back Marcus Coleman, who was re-signed after being released following his return from a four-game suspension, could find himself the team's starting free safety. Watkins has given up several big-plays in recent weeks, including the Giants' first score on Monday night to wide receiver Plaxico Burress.