Thursday, September 17, 2009

Injury Updates, Both Teams

The latest news on the Steelers' injury front is a bit disconcerting.

Joey Porter's Pit Bulls weren't really expecting linebacker Lawrence Timmons to play this weekend anyway, but the Post-Gazette reports he tweaked his high ankle sprain in practice yesterday. Backup linebacker and special teams ace Keyaron Fox played well for Timmons against the Tennessee Titans, and we are confident that he will continue to fill in ably. Depth is a bit of a concern, though.

Also worrisome is news that wide receiver Limas Sweed sustained a mid-foot sprain, and those can be very tricky.

We wonder if this inury happened before the season opener, given that rookie Mike Wallace had a more prominent role in the game against the Titans and that Sweed, a second-year player, was pretty much invisible.

This is probably needless fretting -- there's no basis for this -- but we'd hate to think that Sweed might have a lisfranc injury, which could be a season-ending injury. They're serious. The New York Giants were mightily concerned this week that top draft pick Hakeem Nicks, a wide receiver of similar size and speed to Sweed, had sustained a lisfranc injury in the season opener vs. the Redskins.

As reported in the Newark Star-Ledger, "The lisfranc joint is located in the center of the foot and connects the metatarsal bones (those in the toes) to the tarsal bones (those in the arch). ... Lisfranc injuries are notoriously painful and slow healing."

Sweed had been looking decent in training camp, and we were optimistic he'd make the kind of big leap in performance you want to see wide receivers make from their first year in the league to their second. Rookie wide receivers typically struggle and take a full year or two to transition to the speed and nuances of the NFL. Sweed appeared to be making progress, but this injury could be a setback. How major or minor it will be, only time will tell. Again, depth is a concern, although rookie Mike Wallace has looked surprisingly polished.

The Chicago Bears are battling the injury bug, too. Just as the Steelers will miss one of their marquee defensive leaders, Troy Polamulu, the Bears will miss star linebacker Brian Urlacher. Also on the injury list for Chicago, according to the Chicago Tribune, are the following players:

"Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa said there is no chance he will play in Sunday's game as he recovers from a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, meaning Nick Roach will start at strong-side linebacker. Tinoisamoa had a sleeve on Wednesday as he sat out practice along with defensive end Mark Anderson (toe), cornerback Trumaine McBride (knee) and nickel back/returner Danieal Manning (back). "

So, let's review: That means Chicago will be starting two backup linebackers (Hunter Hillenmeyer and Nick Roach), and possibly one new cornerback.

That's because, according to the Tribune, there will be a shake-up in Chicago's secondary. Second-year cornerback Zack Bowman apparently will make his first NFL start.

The Bears selected Bowman out of the University of Nebraska with a fifth-round pick in the 2008 draft. The club placed him on the practice squad last year, only to add him to the active squad for game seven against the Minnesota Vikings. Bowman reportedly played well, particularly on special teams, but was hurt in that game and placed on injured reserve for the rest of the season. During this summer's training camp, he battled to overcome a hamstring injury. Bowman tallied nine plays in the season opener at Green Bay.

If the reports are true, Bowman would replace veteran cornerback Nathan Vasher, who got burned on the last-minute, game-winning 50-yard touchdown pas Sunday night in Green Bay -- he slipped while to trying to cover Greg Jennings on a crucial third-and-one play, when he got absolutely no help from the safety who bit hard on Aaron Rodgers' play-action fake.

It seems kind of a risky move, replacing Vasher with a player making his first start in the NFL and coming off a hamsting injury. It makes you wonder if Vasher's completely healthy, although he's not listed on Chicago's injury report.

Photo credit: Dr. Cope, Lexington Veterinary

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