Patrick Daugherty

Football Daily Dose

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Hoping For Hernandez

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Smoke signals. Shadow puppets. Hieroglyphics.  

These are all less oblique forms of communication than the words that typically come out of Bill Belichick’s mouth.

It’s why even though Aaron Hernandez got in his first (limited) Wednesday practice in nearly a month yesterday, no one knows for sure whether or not he’s ready to return.

All we can do is read the signs, and the signs are good. After “walking briskly” through the Patriots’ locker room last Wednesday, Hernandez made a surprise return to practice on Thursday.

Although he never really appeared close to suiting up for Sunday’s game against the Broncos, the fact that his status was ever even in doubt was extremely promising since his original timetable had him sidelined 4-6 weeks.

We’re now in week four (of the timetable), and wouldn’t you know it, Hernandez is on track to participate in all three practices. Hernandez’s limited tag shouldn’t be taken as a red flag since, as you can see here, Belichick was limiting so many people Wednesday, it’s a surprise he didn’t start listing players from other teams.

Hernandez is within his original timetable, practicing for the second straight week and hasn’t had any reported setbacks. If you were reading the tea leaves, you’d probably arrive at the conclusion he’ll suit up against the Seahawks.

His status will be updated later this afternoon.

Robert Griffin III

While Belichick remains as secretive as ever, his colleague Mike Shanahan has taken on a strange new personality trait: occasionally saying things that seem to at least vaguely resemble the truth.

He’s been at it again this week, letting Griffin say what’s really on his mind instead of ordering him to speak through platitudes and cliches. And what was Griffin saying after his return to limited practice Wednesday?

That there’s “no doubt” he’ll play Sunday, and the only “symptom” he’s experiencing from his concussion is “irritability,” because “they keep asking me the same questions.”

While his status once appeared to be in major doubt, it’s all but certain Griffin will be under center against the Vikings.

A Tale of Three Backfields

Wednesday brought news of three backfields. We’ll start in Green Bay, where coach Mike McCarthy confirmed Alex Green will get the “first crack” at carries in the absence of Cedric Benson — who was placed on injured reserve “designated for return” — but also that the Pack are likely to use a “hot hand” approach at running back.

That means carries for James Starks and Brandon Saine. How many, nobody knows, but at least in Week 6, Green is the only good fantasy bet.

The Packers’ faith in Starks before Benson’s injury was so low that he was a healthy scratch for Week 5, leaving them in a major pickle when Benson departed the second quarter. Add Green, consider Starks and monitor Saine.

Donald Brown

The news was more unexpected in Indianapolis, where it was revealed Brown underwent knee surgery just two days after his finest performance in ages. (Well, technically, last Week 15.)

Brown suffered torn cartilage on the final touch of his 17-carry, 84-yard day against the Packers, and will be sidelined 2-3 weeks after undergoing a scope.

Fifth-round rookie Vick Ballard will get the start in Brown’s absence against the Jets. How has Ballard fared thus far this season? Not well. 42 yards. That’s what he’s gained on 21 carries. That, of course, comes out to a Shonn Greene-esque 2.0 YPC.

The good news is, he’ll finally be given a chance to get into a rhythm Sunday, and will be facing a team allowing a pathetic 172 rushing yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry. Ballard is worth an immediate add as an RB2/flex.

Down In The Desert

It remains to be seen how the Cardinals plan to fill the vacuum left by Ryan Williams’ season-ending shoulder injury, but signs point to a committee attack between third-down talent La'Rod Stephens-Howling and bruiser William Powell.

Although LSH will probably be the technical “starter” in Sunday’s game, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Wednesday it’s Powell who will likely be in the driver’s seat for the most carries.

"Powell did lead the NFL in rushing this preseason, and there's a buzz in the Cardinals' organization about him,” Schefter passed along on SportsCenter. “The players believe he can do it. He'll have to prove he can during the regular season. But there are some people in the Cardinals' organization who believe Powell can get the job done for Arizona."

Both players are worth speculative adds, but LSH’s value figures to be greater in PPR leagues, while Powell could prove the better touchdown bet. It’s a situation to monitor closely this weekend.

Number of Tackles Shonn Greene Has Broken This Season: One.

Running Back Quick Slants: Adrian Peterson (ankle) missed practice, but it isn’t believed to be more than a precaution. … Rashard Mendenhall (knee) is listed as probable for tonight’s game. Just four days after looking surprisingly strong in his 2012 debut, he’s ready for a 15-20 carry night against the Titans’ soft defense. … Ryan Mathews sat out Chargers practice, but coach Norv Turner is “confident” he’ll be ready for Monday Night Football. Mathews should be good to go this afternoon. … Reggie Bush (knee) admitted he’s not 100 percent, but is absent from the Week 6 injury report. He should benefit greatly from Miami’s Week 7 bye. … Texans coach Gary Kubiak expects Ben Tate (toe) to be active for Week 6. Of course, he also said that before Tate sat out in Week 5. … Steven Jackson is absent from the injury report. … Evan Royster (knee) is practicing in full. … Brandon Jacobs is upset.    

Receiver/Quarterback/Tight End Quick Slants: Kenny Britt (ankle) is listed as probable for tonight’s game after declaring Tuesday he’s “definitely getting back to where I was last year." He’s a high-upside WR3. … Hakeem Nicks (knee, foot) didn’t practice, but appeared to be “moving well” during side work. He’s looking 50-50 for Sunday’s showdown with the 49ers. … Alex Smith (finger) practiced in full. His “injury” won’t be an issue against the Giants. … Julio Jones (hand) is absent from this week’s injury report. … Dustin Keller (hamstring) expects to return this week.

Good luck to Chris Johnson This Evening: As he'll be looking to surpass the fabled 24-yard barrier for the second time in 2012.   

Patrick Daugherty is a football and baseball writer for He can be found on Twitter .
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