I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this anymore after covering the league for a while and following it my entire life, but it seems like fans should hold their breath this entire month, just hoping their team escapes a season-altering injury. Guys are going down all over the place, and while most of these ailments are short-term, there are also clubs losing players for the entire season before their first real scrimmage.
And there is also the reality that many of these “nagging” or “day-to-day” injuries will haunt certain players all season, whether it be calf or hamstring strains that simply never truly heal, or that discomfort in the knee joint that never goes away. That’s football, and there’s really no way around it. Every club searches for that perfect mix of strenuous practices to fortify bodies for the long grind. But there’s no elixir or formula and many of these injuries are total flukes; there’s no way to predict how or when someone will pop an Achilles merely backpeddling on a non-contact punt return drills, or how much damage a few blades of wet grass can inflict on a season.
Still, spanning around the league yesterday there were teams already almost wiped out at certain positions. The Eagles offensive line was without Stacy Andrews and Shawn Andrews. The Ravens were without two of their top three receivers — Mark Clayton and Demetrius Williams. The Falcons had to sign two free agent receivers off the street.
Some teams that seemed to be avoiding the rut of injuries, like Cleveland (all healthy bodies when I was there Wednesday), began to see the injury list grow Thursday. Check out the Detroit Lions list of missing players from Thursday: TE Brandon Pettigrew (a first-round pick), S Louis Delmas (first pick of the second round), DT Grady Jackson, TE Grady Fitzsimmons, S Daniel Bullocks, RB Maurice Morris, CB Keith Smith and LB Jordon Dizon. Yikes.
The Packers likely lost TE Tory Humphrey for the season, and their top pick, LB Clay Matthews, injured the hamstring that plagued him through the offseason; never a good sign. In Washington, team management is very high on second-year WR Devin Thomas, who had a strong offseason after a lost rookie campaign. But Thomas has missed much of the week with a hamstring injury; a year ago a hammie injury put him way behind and he never recovered.
There’s just no way to know how quickly a body will heal, and how often someone will continue to aggravate the same injury. And look out, because once the games start in earnest next week, the lists will only grow. Starters won’t see the field much in those contests, but valuable rookies will be exposed to the pro game for the first time, and that brings plenty of bumps and bruises, and unfortunately, often worse, with it.