Press Coverage: Deebo, Chase, Fields

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Press conferences: They're either the most important thing in the world or something to be entirely ignored, depending on if they validate how you already felt or not. Nonetheless, they are an important window into an NFL organization. Much as the eye in the sky don't lie about players, coaches can't cover up every emotion or lean they have when they're asked questions. In omission, or in tone, even someone as tight-lipped as Bill Belichick or Nick Caserio can give something away. And that's what this column scans for.

Let's look at some of the trickiest situations for Week 12 lineups.

Deebo Samuel's new (and old) hamstring problems

Kyle Shanahan miraculously managed to avoid speaking to the press at any time before Friday's presser about Deebo Samuel's hamstring. He found the path to this by not becoming aware of Deebo's hamstring issues until after his early Wednesday presser:

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The good news is that Shanahan said that this is unrelated to previous hamstring issues this year, describing it as "inflammation." The bad news is that this gives us scant little to project on. However, let's use Deebo's past as a guide here. Deebo was off the Week 10 injury report with a hamstring on the last day and played. He didn't practice all of Week 8 and didn't play. He played through a groin injury late in 2021 after only getting in a late full session in a half-speed practice on Friday. His toughest game-time decision over the past two years probably came in Week 9 of last year when his calf apparently got worse -- per Shanahan -- on Friday after some limited sessions. He played.

What am I getting at with this? Whenever Deebo has been anywhere near questionable the last two years, he has played. When he's missed time to injuries, the practice participation was non-existent. Combine that with Matt Maiocco speculating that Deebo could have been off the injury report entirely (before that report came out), and I think we have a lot to be optimistic about here.

I'm not saying Deebo is going to just crush it this week -- but that has more to do with a lowering of his ceiling that comes from having all these healthy, great skill position players around him. Even Eli Mitchell is a legitimate fantasy starter. But if you are waiting on Deebo's late-game status, barring a new and negative report popping up on Saturday after this piece is written, I think you can feel pretty safe on that based on history.

Game-time decision for Justin Fields: Does risk outweigh reward for Bears?

The shoulder dislocation (or was it?) heard round the NFL on Sunday left Fields with three limited practices and a questionable tag that head coach Matt Eberflus said they'll take up to game day. I think the most important parts of this to focus on are two-pronged. One of them is that Eberflus couldn't say that Fields had been cleared for contact by the medical staff for contact:

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The other is that the Bears are ... 3-8. They've lost their two best defenders in trades, they're playing rookies. There's absolutely no reason for them to be risky at all with Fields' health. He's the franchise quarterback and he's finally showing major signs of life. Now Eberflus can say he's getting better, and that his preference is to play him if he's "100% ready to play," that's all fair. But that doesn't actually mean that Fields has much of a chance of clearing those benchmarks.

If Fields does play, I think you're talking about a quarterback who has been extremely run-heavy over the last few weeks taking a lot of hits -- not a good recipe for healing -- or you're talking about a script designed to limit him from doing this that will make him less valuable in fantasy either way. I can't tell you that there's no way he'll have a good fantasy game, but I don't like the signs of what we've seen here. I think the most fantasy-actionable thing you can do is pick up some Jets or the Jets D/ST here, because if Trevor Siemian tries to run the early Bears season playbook, that has the potential to be downright ghastly to watch.

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Ja'Marr Chase's hip has been off for four weeks, will it be enough?

Chase's hip flexor strain carries a lot of big season-long playoff questions with it, for both the Bengals and fantasy teams. While we don't have video of Taylor talking to reporters on Friday, the good news is that nothing he said to reporters on Friday seemed out-of-whack with reality. He mentioned that Chase "looked good," he mentioned that there would be "conversations" though the next 48 hours of whether Chase will or won't go, and Taylor said not to read anything into his limited statuses in practice this week by noting "We've got plenty of guys that don't practice full that end up playing on Sunday."

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The good news about Chase is that I think this week will tell us a lot about the rest of his season. If he gets through it clean, and by all appearances he seemed to get through this week's practice slate without any trouble, I think we can probably count on him (well, to the extent that you can count on any football player to stay healthy) for the remainder of the season.

The bad news is that if he doesn't play, or he leaves early, well, he might head right for injured reserve. The diagnosis at the time involved him keeping weight off the hip to let the bone heal. If the bone has not fully healed, that's an ominous sign. The Bengals could also opt to punt on playing him this week to let him get more of his legs under him -- remember, he's been on crutches for three weeks and that makes it hard to be fully in game shape. This is a case where we have to listen to not just the status, but what actually is reported about the injury.

This is a crucial week for Chase, though I'd say Week 13 will probably be the most crucial week either way -- be it recovery or an extra week or what-have-you -- I'd have lowered expectations for him coming off this injury in game one if he does play. That shouldn't stop you from starting him in season-long leagues -- the ceiling is just too high and you probably don't have four other WR1s on the roster -- but I'd make him a DFS fade.