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Thursday NFL Notes

 
The Steelers received some good news, as Le'Veon Bell (foot) is not expected to need surgery. The rookie running back's injury is being referred to as a mid-foot sprain, and while he can all but be ruled out for Week 1, it now seems possible that Bell could have an impact in the first half of the season. Isaac Redman is currently listed as the starter in Bell's stead, while Jonathan Dwyer and LaRod Stephen-Howlings also stand to see more playing time as a result of the injury.
 
Robert Griffin practiced at full speed against the Redskins' first-team defense for the first time since suffering a torn ACL last January. He hasn't had any notable setbacks in his recovery and remains on track to start Week 1 against the Eagles.
 
Jonathan Stewart (ankles) will meet with Dr. Robert Anderson in an attempt to determine a timetable for his return. Though Stewart has not officially been ruled out for Week 1, he will likely miss a good chunk of the season, and is a good candidate to open the year on the PUP list. DeAngelo Williams is the unquestioned starter in Stewart's absence, while Kenjon Barner figures to work as the No. 2 back. Barner suffered a foot injury in Thursday's preseason game, and if his ailment turns out to be serious it could mean more work for Tauren Poole and possibly starting fullback Mike Tolbert.
 
Marques Colston (foot) returned to practice Thursday and is still expected to suit up for Week 1. He's been in and out of practice all throughout training camp, however, and may not be 100 percent healthy by the time the season starts. While it wouldn't be shocking if this were a nagging issue that Colston has to deal with into the regular season, it's probably worth noting that he's had success playing through minor injuries in the past

Kendall Hunter (Achilles) will play in Sunday's preseason game against the Vikings and may have a chance to win back his No. 2 running back job at some point. LaMichael James has held down that position all throughout training camp, but Hunter has an extra year of experience and is considered to be a superior pass protector. Both running backs looked good in limited playing time last season, as did every player who had the privilege of running behind the vaunted San Francisco offensive line. When drafting James or Hunter, fantasy owners should account for the possibility that the two backs will split backup duties behind Frank Gore. If that were to happen, it would be nearly impossible to count on either player for production, unless Gore were to suffer an injury.
 
 Mohamed Massaquoi signed with the Jets, only a few days after being released by the Jaguars. The fact that he's a borderline roster candidate for those two organizations probably tells you everything that you need to know about his fantasy prospects for 2013. Massaquoi was a popular breakout candidate in deeper fantasy leagues during his time with the Browns, but it's hard to imagine a format where he will be draftable this season.
 
DeAndre Hopkins (concussion) has officially been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Saints. He's still on phase one of the NFL's concussion protocol, although that really isn't too concerning less than a week removed from the initial injury. Hopkins looks like a pretty good bet to be ready for Week 1, and even if he misses a game or two, a prolonged absence is unlikely. There seems to be somewhat of a consensus that Hopkins and Tavon Austin are the top fantasy options among this season's crop of rookie receivers, and that isn't too surprising given that Hopkins came out of Clemson as one of the more polished wideout prospects in recent memory. Health permitting, he seems to have a solid grip on the starting job opposite Andre Johnson.

 Ryan Williams (knee) returned to practice Thursday and has not been ruled out for Saturday's game against the Chargers. He probably doesn't have much of a role in the offense at the moment, and may even be on the roster bubble. With that being said, the Cardinals have a weak stable of running backs, so there could be an opportunity for Williams somewhere down the line. It's probably best to forget that he was a second-round draft pick in 2011, as he hasn't shown anything to justify the selection through the first two-plus years of his career.

Despite seeing sporadic work throughout practice this week, Dwayne Allen (foot) will not suit up for Saturday's game against the Browns. The fact that he's been able to practice at all should be taken as good news, and the second-year tight end looks like a pretty good bet to be ready for Week 1.

Fellow Colts tight end Coby Fleener (sprained knee) is basically in the same spot as Allen, although he hasn't been practicing this week, so his status is perhaps a bit more tenuous for Week 1. Fleener's knee sprain is mild, however, and an MRI came back negative earlier in the week. Both second-year tight ends figure to have major roles in the Indianapolis offense and it seems likely that each will cut into the other's fantasy value. Fleener has more upside as a downfield target, but Allen is a better blocker and, unlike Fleener, he has already proven himself to be an above average starting tight end.

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