NFL Week 1 Med Check: Peterson, Richardson to play, though limited
Trent Richardson likely to play but may see his carries limited against Eagles
Vikings may be forced to increase Adrian Peterson's carries if he proves healthy
Marshawn Lynch will have to adjust style to play through pain of back spasms
Allow me a moment as we get ready for the first Sunday of the season to defend some people. Team medical staffs -- athletic trainers, doctors and the others necessary to keep a team upright and healthy -- take a lot of abuse, despite tough workloads, relatively low pay and little understanding of what it is that they do. On Tuesday, Jason Witten was cleared to play despite having suffered a spleen injury weeks before. A doctor ran the necessary tests and made an informed decision, only to have a bunch of people with free access to social media questioning the morality of such a decision.
"Medically cleared" is not a term that is just thrown around, especially given past jury decisions. The idea that a player could waive his protections is silly as, but more toxic than most realize. I don't doubt that Witten was prepared to do this, but it simply isn't an option. Medical staffs aren't without conflicts. They are beholden to the team in ways that sometimes raises the specter of conflict even when there's no evidence that it is affecting decisions. These men and women are lifesavers, career extenders and oft-times, the most valuable player on a team despite fans seldom knowing their names.
Remember -- updates will be here as they happen on Sunday morning, especially when it comes to the Game Time Decisions (GTDs.) GTDs are indicated here with a + or - designation. A positive means things are leaning toward that player playing, and the negative is the opposite. I'll also be doing some updates at App.net as well as a live chat here at 11 a.m. Eastern.
IND: Austin Collie was not cleared to play. Donnie Avery will get the start and is a decent flex sleeper.
HOU: Arian Foster is active and starting as expected.
MIN: Adrian Peterson is active and starting as expected.
ARZ: Reports are that Beanie Wells will play, but is limited. Ryan Williams is still the better (but not good) play in Arizona.
CAR: DeAngelo Williams is a nice play today with Jonathan Stewart out, but remember that Mike Tolbert is the RB who'll get involved most in the passing game and that Cam Newton takes some of the goal line touches.
PIT: Multiple reports have Isaac Redman getting the start in Pittsburgh. That's nice for him, but the ankle and hip issues make him a very risky pick, not to mention the options the Steelers have at RB.
CAR: Steve Smith is "110%" according to one team source. I'll settle for 100% with Cam Newton's favorite target.
BUF: Steve Johnson will start, but the Bills will adjust some of his routes to avoid causing issues for his strained groin.
WAS: Reports out of DC have Alfred Morris getting the start. This is more about Mike Shanahan messing with fantasy owners than injury issues for Roy Helu and Evan Royster.
MIN: Indications are that Adrian Peterson will not only play, but will start. Some of that is letting the crowd cheer for him, but I believe he'll get between 15-20 carries as well.
HOU: Arian Foster is expected to play, though the Texans won't finalize things until they see Foster on the field.
SEA: Marshawn Lynch should get the bulk of carries this week, but it is risky given his style and the recurrent back spasms.
KC: If Brandon Flowers and Kendrick Lewis aren't on the field, get ready for huge days from Julio Jones and Roddy White. They're must-starts anyway, but Red Zone might as well just stay on the Falcons without a healthy defense.
DOWNGRADE: Austin Collie
Brian Urlacher got downright testy when asked about his knee surgery on Thursday. Urlacher will play, but expect the Colts to use both tight ends to test him early. That could be good for both Coby Fleener and the surprising Dwayne Allen. Collie should play, but he's not a lock to start at WR2. (He's also got a new helmet, switching from Schutt to a new model Xenith X-2.) The Colts will spread around what doesn't go to Reggie Wayne among several options.
UPGRADE: Trent Richardson
The way the Cleveland media is talking, Richardson lost a leg, not had his knee scoped. He'll play, and while his carries will be down from expectations, he could still get enough work to have value. It's a tough defense to face, but grinding the ball might be the Browns' smartest play. Expecting Richardson to get more than 10-12 carries, though, might be too much. Michael Vick is healthy and the ribs are no issue at this stage, so play him as you would in any week. Joe Haden's suspension didn't happen, so he'll match-up with DeSean Jackson, which should be a help to the Browns defense.
UPGRADE: Sam Bradford
It's a good sign that both teams come into the season with no significant fantasy injuries. Both will need to keep it that way if they're going to meet expectations. The only upgrade is to Bradford, with Louis Delmas and Chris Houston out. He'll have to be upright to make that work, though, which has always been a concern with the Rams.
DOWNGRADE: Ryan Tannehill
Already? Arian Foster left Thursday's practice with a mild knee injury. Details are sparse, but even a very minor issue would tilt the split to Ben Tate. Foster's inability to stay healthy is all that keeps him from being the best back in the league. The team and Foster are downplaying this, but use this as a reminder of just how risky he is for whoever picked him in the first round. Expect him to play and to give up some carries to Tate, but not enough to downgrade him. The Texans' only other real concern is with Brian Cushing. His bruised ribs may affect his mobility, but he will play and is just crazy enough to either play through it or hurt himself more. The Dolphins are relatively healthy, but their one issue is a big one. If Jake Long loses even a bit of lateral mobility due to his knee sprain, Ryan Tannehill is in for a long day. Watch to see if the Dolphins cover Long with a TE or shift a FB over to help him, or if they're forced to roll Tannehill out to buy some time. The Dolphins will also try to run inside with Reggie Bush (yes, inside) to slow the rush some.
DOWNGRADE: Chiefs D/ST
Jamaal Charles is almost a full year out from his ACL surgery, and with Peyton Hillis partnering up with him, he doesn't have to be overexposed. That doesn't mean he won't get plenty of work. The biggest question is who'll get the goal-line carries. The Chiefs have a ton of issues on defense, missing as many as six starters. It's going to expose depth and some rookies will have to step up, like Dontari Poe, against an explosive Falcons offense.