Our football health continues to get slowly better as the importance of the games grows inexorably larger.
The injury reports for Baltimore were at a season-low 11 players. Two weeks later, for Oakland, 14 were listed, but 13 were probable for the Raiders and all 13 played in the win. Today's first I-report of the week for Sunday's Carolina game is back down to 11 players.
The one exception to the upward health trend: WR Stephen Hill, who was deactivated last week and did not participate in practice today at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center.
"That's more just trying to get him back where he can run out there, put that 4.2 out there," head coach Rex Ryan said. "The last several weeks we've all been like 'What's going on here?' And then I think it's become clear that he's had some swelling, some issues with his knee where he hasn't been able to burst out of breaks and things like that.
"He was practicing. He's gutting it out. He's tough. He'll do those things. But how much that's helped him, obviously it hasn't helped him a whole lot. We're just trying to get him back to where he can really run and burst out of cuts and things like that."
Ryan was asked the dreaded D-question: Could he be done for the year?
"I don't know. We'll see," the coach said. "Obviously, we'd like to get him out here if he can play and can be effective. That would be the best thing for us, the best scenario for us."
For the second year, Hill has started out with great promise but has gone into cold storage as injuries have worn on him. This season he had 23 catches for 340 yards and a TD in seven games (if you remove the Tennessee game, when he was knocked out of the game early on helmet-to-helmet contact).
But in the past five games he had just the one 2-yard reception for a first down against Miami on 13 passes targeted for him.
Geno Smith was asked today why the pair of second-rounders from the past two drafts haven't been able to hook up more this season and put the blame on his own shoulders.
"I think we've done a pretty good job for the most part," Smith said. "Obviously, there was a three-week span where we were pretty much awful and it all comes down to me when I think about it. I've got to put the ball in better spots for him and allow him to make those plays, and I think Stephen has done a great job at just working his butt off. He's a tough, tough, hard worker. He does his job every single day to the best of his ability. If I put the ball in some better spots for him, he usually makes the plays for me. It all comes down to me just doing that for him."
In fact, it would help Smith, the offense and the Jets if the Hill of last year's season opener against Buffalo and this year's Game 3 against the Bills was feeling frisky enough to take the field at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday. Every contribution will be accepted. Every one will be needed.
The Panthers list eight players on their injury report, six not participating in today's practice. However, three of the DNPs are non-injury-related day-off deals. The three injury DNPs are T Nate Chandler (elbow), TE Greg Olsen (foot), RB Jonathan Stewart (knee). Also, G Chris Scott (knee) and LB Jordan Senn (hamstring) were limited.