“Warming the Bench” blog: NFL Injuries

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) holds his knee as Steelers' head trainer John Norwig tends to him after he was injured in the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015 in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar) Photo credit: Associated Press

By Trey Gregory, Assistant City Editor

Injuries are the worst part of football. There is sure to be some sort of injury every week of the season in what seems like every game. This is just the reality of football. It is a physical sport with giant humans colliding into each other. Injuries always have, and always will happen

However, those who watched the NFL games this Sunday might have wondered if the NFL is experiencing more injuries than normal this season.

There were certainly many good reasons to think so. The San Diego Chargers had 12 players who were injured during their game. Those 12 don’t even include the six players on their injury report who did not play.

The Raven’s WR Steve Smith suffered a torn Achilles and is done for the year. The Steeler’s RB Le’veon Bell also suffered a gruesome knee injury and may be lost for the season. Chicago’s star RB Matt Forte suffered a knee injury as well. Chicago does not currently believe that Forte is done for the season and say they’re optimistic that he only injured his MCL, not his ACL, and may be able to return.

The scariest injury of the day happened to Seattle’s WR Ricardo Lockette.

The Seahawks punted the ball to Dallas and Lockette was on coverage duty. Cowboys’ free safety Jeff Heath blocked Lockette and ended up pummeling him unconscious. Lockette was clearly out before he hit the turf and stayed that way for minutes before he finally started moving his hands and talking to the training staff.

The officials called Heath for a blindside hit, but the play was not clearly illegal. Fox’s Mike Pereria said he believed the hit was legal, and I tend to agree. This is just one of the many dangerous, but legal, plays that exist in the NFL.

Other players of note who were injured:

  • Keenan Allen (kidney)
  • Reggie Bush (knee)
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick (left hand)
  • Calvin Johnson (ankle)
  • Joe Haden (concussion)
  • Jadeveon Clowney (back)
  • Rey Maulauga (calf)
  • Andre Smith (possible concussion)
  • Khiry Robinson (leg)
  • Larry Donnell (neck)
  • Dwayne Harris (knee and ankle)
  • Donte Whitner (concussion)
  • Duane Brown (concussion)
  • Brandon Marshall (toe and ankle)
  • Kendall Wright (knee)
  • Cameron Wake also tore his Achilles on Thursday Night Football.

So what gives? After looking at the injury list there are really two separate things going on here. Some of these injuries, the ones more orthopedic in nature, could be blamed on pregame and preseason preparation while the more worrisome head injuries are going to probably have to be dealt with through rules adjustments.

When the NFL and the NFL Player’s Association renegotiated their collective bargaining agreement in 2011, the players demanded shorter training camps and preseasons. Many people believe that this led to an influx of injuries in preseason games and even into the regular season because the players were not in proper football shape.

Being in football shape doesn’t only mean that the player is strong and conditioned, but also that the player’s body has adjusting to taking hits.

Injuries happen in practice and the preseason all the time and some argue that more practice would just increase the risk of injuries in the preseason. It is reasonable, however, to think that some of these injuries could be mitigated if the coaches and training staff had more time to properly ease these players into football shape.

The other issues that are sure to come up from the Lockette injury are about protecting players from traumatic brain injuries, especially on special teams.

Some of the biggest and most dangerous hits in football happen on kickoff and punt return/coverage duties. They have been the subjects of much scrutiny recently.

That scrutiny is what led the NFL to move kickoffs from the 30 to 35 yard line in 2011, hoping to create more touchbacks thus limiting big hits on kickoff returns. A proposal to move kickoffs to the 40-yard line came as recently as 2014 but the owners voted it down.

Then there has been talk of completely eliminating kickoffs and punts from the game. Many people think that is insane, but it has more support than some may think.

Former Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano seriously proposed an idea to eliminate kickoffs all together in 2012.

As much as it would pain so many fans to see kickoffs and possibly punts removed from football, I truly believe it’s only a matter of time. With more and more research coming to light about traumatic brain injuries and chronic traumatic encephalopathy in football players, I believe the NFL will be forced to make more drastic changes.

My preferred solution to help with brain injuries in football would be better helmet technology. It’s baffling to try and understand why the NFL hasn’t moved forward with this.

Still, extending preseason practices and making adjustments to punts and kickoffs are sure to be the most talked about solutions, and most likely to happen. Is this a good or bad idea? Let me know on Twitter @Trey_Gregory

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