Forget about Peyton Manning. His injury had nothing to do with the lockout. Jamal Charles on the other hand… The rash of injuries both severe and minor seem to be creeping all over the NFL landscape. Vontae’ Davis is nursing a leg injury, Kendall Langford is banged up as well. In New England, the Patriots have already lost a couple of players for the season, and well, in Kansas City it’s almost easier to count how many players are not injured than those that are.
So what’s to blame? The lockout or the new CBA?
The lockout forced players to practice and condition on their own. In many cases, players were suspect to doing these types of things with the lockout in swing. Fear of getting injured was the main reason. In that scenario players would be left without any security. The fact that the players were away for over 100 days from the trainers they have come to rely on did them no favors. From hamstring injuries to pulled quads, shoulder injuries to ACL’s and Achille tendons. It’s all running it’s course in an early 2011 season.
On the other hand, the new CBA reduced two-a-day practices from 2 to, well, 1. Conditioning was all but gutted from second practices. Teams were allowed to conduct two practices but without contact and less physical conditioning. In addition to that, teams are only allowed to conduct 14 full padded practices throughout the entire season once training camp has broke.
The players wanted less and they are getting less but it appears they are also getting injured.
In Dallas the Cowboys may have to face the Redskins with their third and fourth string WR’s lining up as 1 and 2 with Miles Austin out until mid-October and Dez Bryant fighting a hamstring injury. Forget about the fact that Romo is banged up as well.
Each year the NFL goes through a rash of injuries in the first month of play but this year, the first two weeks have been brutal. The fact that so much of the season remains it has to be asked, how many more are going to be added to this list?
Speaking with Miami Dolphins Head Coach last Saturday night, Sparano expressed how difficult under the new CBA rules it is to get his young team acclimated to the south Florida heat. In years past, a rookie or even a free agent would have the entire off-season to become more accustomed to the Miami humidity and 99 degree weather. Through two-a-day practices the Dolphins often were far more ahead of the conditioning curve than most. This year, practices begin early in the morning and end well before the noon whistle blows. Afternoon walk through’s hardly make a player ready to play on Sunday.
The practice bubble has been a staple of the Dolphins training facility since Nick Saban took over as the coach. Fans love to chastise the bubble and blame its use for the terrible condition the players seem to be in or the seasons in September without a win. The truth is the bubble is only used on days where lightning threatens to the derail the practice schedule or when the Dolphins want to conduct private practices with no media. The team publicly states that the bubble has never been used to escape the heat.
Regardless of whether the bubble help or hinders the Dolphins, a fact that can be debated thanks to the many September losses over the last few years, the real question simply is did the long off-season of no player team contact contribute to the rash of injuries or is it the lack of training camp full contact practices? I suppose the next question would be, “or is this just typical of an NFL season”?
Whatever the reason behind the injuries are, the NFL and the NFLPA should take a long hard look at finding a real solution that conditions the player for the violent sport they play. Or start wearing little team colored flags around their waste.