Several key players on playoff contenders are dealing with injuries that could affect their teams’ chances of making the postseason.
Most notable are Chicago running back Matt Forte, Houston receiver Andre Johnson and Giants safety Kenny Phillips.
Green Bay and San Francisco, the only teams to clinch playoffs spots with division titles, also are concerned about important players: Packers cornerback Charles Woodson and 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis.
The Bears said Monday that Forte should return this season from a sprained right knee ligament, but put no timetable on his recovery.
Chicago was already missing quarterback Jay Cutler, who is out indefinitely with a broken right thumb.
Johnson has a “mild” left hamstring injury sustained Sunday. The five-time Pro Bowl selection was playing his second game after missing the previous six with a right hamstring injury that required minor surgery.
An MRI exam showed that Johnson’s latest hamstring issue was far less severe than the last one.
Houston also lost punter Brett Hartman (torn left knee ligaments) for the season.
Phillips has a brace on his sprained left knee and Giants coach Tom Coughlin says doctors are uncertain how long he will be out. He was to be examined Monday.
Woodson left in the fourth quarter of Green Bay’s win over the Giants with a concussion and Packers coach Mike McCarthy said, “He’s going through the protocol. I would think, the medical staff feels good, that he will probably play this week.”
Willis, a four-time Pro Bowl linebacker, underwent an MRI exam on his right hamstring and his status for Sunday’s game at Arizona was unclear.
Coach Jim Harbaugh said he didn’t know the severity of Willis’ injury or whether it could sideline him for NFC West champion San Francisco (10-2).
Eagles prepare for return of Vick
Michael Vick, the NFC’s starting Pro Bowl quarterback a year ago, returned to practice after missing three games with two broken ribs, and will play this weekend as last-place Philadelphia (4-8) meets the Miami Dolphins (4-8).
The Eagles were 1-2 without Vick.
Painkillers at forefront of latest lawsuit
A lawsuit filed by 12 former football players against the NFL about its concussion policies says there was widespread pregame use of an anti-inflammatory drug that could put someone with a head injury at increased risk.
Pro Bowl receiver Joe Horn is among the plaintiffs named in the complaint that attorney Christopher Seeger said was filed in federal court in New Jersey on Monday.
It’s one of about a half-dozen suits filed against the NFL in recent months by past players who say the league did not do enough to protect them from concussions.
“The difference with this case is what we’ve learned from our players is that they used to administer a drug called Toradol, which is basically a painkiller … even when players didn’t have symptoms,” Seeger said in a telephone interview. “Our experts say that’s the worst thing you can do for a brain injury or a concussion.”
Seeger said it would be “impossible” to say exactly how much money Horn and the other plaintiffs are seeking.
“We’re looking for better medical benefits and compensation,” Seeger said.