Originally posted on FOX Sports  |  Last updated 11/20/12
Rob Gronkowski Gronkowski will miss an extended period after suffering a fractured forearm in New England's win over Indianapolis. The Pro Bowl tight end underwent surgery to fix the break Monday morning. The good news is bone tissue is able to repair itself back to its original integrity and the inserted hardware will insure the mending bone is properly aligned. Unfortunately, the news does little to help fantasy owners who will likely be without Gronk for the remainder of the fantasy season. The early timeline has been established at four to six weeks, meaning even in the best-case scenario he would return in Week 15 or 16. With the regular season of many leagues ending in Week 14 or 15 a late-season return is irrelevant. In the meantime, the return of Aaron Hernandez should help minimize the effects on Tom Brady's numbers. Hernandez has missed six games nursing a sprained ankle but hopes to return in Week 12. A quick decision will need to be made on Hernandez's availability with the Patriots traveling to take on the Jets on Thanksgiving. Willis McGahee The Broncos also suffered a significant hit on the offensive side of the ball as their starting running back will be out six to eight weeks after tearing the medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his right knee. He also suffered a fractured leg, most likely his fibula. McGahee does have experience with knee injuries after tearing the majority of the ligaments in his left knee during the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. However, his prediction that he can return in four weeks may be a bit rash. Unlike the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), the MCL can heal without surgical intervention. Unfortunately since the MCL, like all ligaments, anchors to bone, the leg fracture must be entirely mended before the ligament can completely heal. To insure the bone heals properly doctors have advised the running back to not bear weight on the leg. This decision will have another adverse effect on McGahee as the immobilization will cause the muscles in the leg to atrophy. He will be able to perform several rehabilitate exercises to help minimize the muscle loss by it will most certainly weaken during the healing process. Rehabbing the fracture, the sprain and the resulting muscle loss likely will take longer than McGahee's predicted four weeks, and fantasy owners cannot count on him returning during the regular season. Denver will turn to Ronnie Hillman as the primary back with Lance Ball likely to see carries as well. Week 12 should provide a good opportunity for Hillman to earn the trust of fantasy owners as the Broncos travel to Arrowhead to take on the hapless Chiefs. Denver's schedule after Sunday also sets up nicely with four of the five remaining games against defenses in the bottom 10 against the run. Steelers Quarterbacks With Ben Roethlisberger already sideline with a sternoclavicular sprain and dislocated rib, the Steelers could ill afford an injury to Byron Leftwich. Unfortunately, the backup quarterback suffered broken ribs of his own during the team's Monday night loss to the Ravens and is not expected to play against the Browns. He also suffered a shoulder injury during the game, but the ribs are the primary ailment limiting Leftwich. Veteran Charlie Batch will become the third starting quarterback in as many games for Pittsburgh, and the team plans on auditioning additional players to find a new backup. Roethlisberger is expected to miss at least two more weeks but even that seems improbable given the severity of his injuries. Although Leftwich's long-term status has not yet been determined, fantasy owners would be wise to avoid the situation for the time being and downgrade the Pittsburgh receivers accordingly. Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy It was refreshing to see the Eagles be very straight forward and release detailed information regarding their two concussed stars. Both McCoy and Vick are participating in the NFL concussion protocol, but neither has passed the first step. The Eagles stated that the players' scores on the IMPACT test have not returned to their preseason baseline numbers. Until these scores are the same or better, neither player will be permitted to continue on to the next step. The subsequent steps involve physical activity and clearance by a neurologist but, again, cannot be carried out until the first step is completed. Keep an eye on the situation as the week progresses but don't expect an early decision by the Eagles. TURF BURNS Alex Smith: Like Vick and MccCoy, Smith is also battling the effects of a concussion, but now he has an additional problem, Colin Kaepernick. With Coach Jim Harbaugh determined to use the individual "with the hot hand," even a healthy Smith isn't guaranteed to play. DeMarco Murray: A shortened week of preparation makes it likely that the Cowboys sit Murray once again. With the extra time to heal between Thanksgiving and the upcoming matchup against the Eagles, look for him to finally return in Week 13. However, the foot injury and the porous Dallas offensive line makes him a risky play. Darren McFadden: The Raiders are cautiously optimistic McFadden can return this week against the Bengals. While he has yet to participate in a full practice, McFadden has done some light work to the side. Even if he shakes his ankle sprain and suits up, expect him to see a lighter load than usual. Maurice Jones-Drew: No real surprise here but MJD isn't expected to play Sunday against the Titans. His slow-to-heal midfoot sprain has kept him out since Week 8. However, it is worth noting that Jalen Parmele has jumped ahead of Rashard Jennings on the depth chart and is a viable option off the waiver wire. Hakeem Nicks: Nicks said the bye week allowed him to get some much needed rest for his achy foot and knee. A healthy Nicks could be a nice boost for the Giants offense and could help out Eli Manning and even Victor Cruz owner as well. Jeff Stotts is a Certified Athletic Trainer, MAT, PES and the Injury Analyst for RotoWire. Follow @RotoWireATC on Twitter. Get a FREE RotoWire 10-day trial (no credit card required) at RotoWire.com .
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