Monday, September 19, 2011

Blame injuries on the lockout

What’s with the spate of major injuries in the National Football League?

Only two weeks into the season and the injury list continues to grow. Football is a rough game, but I’ve never seen so many calamitous injuries in such a short period of time.

Many high profile players, counted on by their teams to put them in the best position to win, are falling and can’t get up.

It seems as though the teams that avoid the injury crisis, for lack of a better term, are the ones that will have the best shot at playing into January and February. That would make the trainers the most valuable members of the team.

So what is causing all this? No one knows for certain, although there are those who speculate that the prolonged owners lockout that extended to the beginning of training camps could be a contributing factor. Maybe even the major factor.

Players held what amounted to informal workouts during the lockout in order to stay moderately busy and hopefully in shape. But that’s the not nearly the same as OTAs and minicamps. That’s not the same as being able to come into a facility at any time and use the equipment.

The discipline of staying in shape during the offseason and getting ready for the new season was absent. The rhythm of preparing for the upcoming grind was thrown off by the lockout.

Maybe that’s the reason we’re seeing some of these stars wind up on injured reserve. Stars like Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles, who shredded his ACL with a common move Sunday.

Or Dallas quarterback Tony Romo winding up with a couple of fractured ribs, courtesy of a porous offensive line that might have performed better with more practice.

Arian Foster, the National Football League’s top running back last season, is of no use to the Houston Texans right now because of a balky hamstring, no doubt achieved when he tried to get in shape too quickly. He tried it again Sunday against Miami and reaggravated it.

Offensive linemen are not exempt. Center Nick Mangold of the New York Jets, who never misses a game, is out for several weeks with a high ankle sprain. Rookie offensive tackle Gabe Carimi of Chicago has a dislocated knee and will miss at least a month.

Minor injuries that could become major have hampered Felix Jones, Dez Bryant and Miles Austin of the Cowboys.

The weekly injured lists enlarge and show no signs of stopping. It has become somewhat epidemic in proportion and no doubt concerns the league that many of its star performers are on IR.

Most likely, this phenomenon won't happen again for at least the next 10 years. That’s how long labor peace is expected to rule. Or so we’ve been told.

Still, rushing the players back without proper preparation appears to have paid a dear price to the teams and, more important, the fan-paying public that expects to get bang for their bucks.

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