Tag Archives: Injuries

What Effect Will Early NFL Retirements Have On the College Game?

Even though football season is but a few months away, there are some incredibly intriguing events taking place that could have lasting effects on America’s most popular sport. If you’ve been under a rock the last three months you may not have a clue as to what I’m talking about. But, for the purpose of this piece, I’ll assume you have some knowledge of the most recent current events.

The most recent current event I am speaking of is player safety and the preventative measures some players are doing to stave off permanent injury. Within the last six to eight years, there have been numerous cases in which retired NFL players are seeking just compensation for irreparable brain injuries (click here for list of players). Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease usually suffered by athletes who have experienced repeated blows to the head throughout a playing career, has garnered loads of attention because of its connection with diminished quality of life, including erratic and sometimes deadly behaviors. Players now have taken a vested interest in what developments have been discovered through research of CTE and incorporate those findings into their decision making process moving forward with their careers. As a result, there have been a recent string of players retiring at earlier stages in their careers.

Although the average career of an NFL player is three and a half years, this is somewhat unprecedented when you have high-caliber players calling it a career at the apex of their careers. And their rationale for retiring, you ask? Health concerns. Health concerns? Football is one of the most violent contact sports on the planet. A number of these players have been involved with football for at least 15 years. Imagine spending your entire childhood through adolescence to early adulthood conditioning your body for such physical damage and once you’re fortunate enough to make it to the pinnacle of your sport, you site your future health as a reason to stop.

Don’t get me wrong now. I am certainly not condemning these players for preserving their bodies for a life beyond football. I commend them for it. It takes a lot of courage to walk away from something you’ve strived for, for so long. But, I must wonder, when a player was going through all those stages of competitive play and suffered all the punishment, why did it not resonate with them at an earlier stage? Call it youthful ignorance, denial, invincibility complex, whatever- what’s most important is that they’ve chosen their life beyond a dream; something that’s not pondered until one has exhausted mind, body, and soul at an advanced age in the game.

With earlier retirements now becoming more prevalent in recent years, I wonder if this will have an impact on the college game. Imagine, a majority of these players enter the league between 21 and 24 years of age. The prime of their careers, should they be fortunate enough to make it, is between 25-28 years of age (depending on the position of course). So, for an established and impactful player, that’s only four to seven years to make top dollar and set oneself up financially. Now couple the concern of long term health into the equation; it could possibly shorten the career length. Again, it all depends on the position played and level of dependence others have upon them (sad, but true).

Where this can impact the college game is that there could be a petition to lower the eligibility age to play professional football. Because it’s a high impact sport, the earning potential is only best within a certain age range. Therefore, the earlier a player can become eligible, the likelier the player is to make the most of his possible earning potential. Although this scenario is highly unlikely, if this were to come to pass, the college game would suffer dramatically. Top tier talent would not want to risk future earnings to play at the “amateur” level, when there could be millions made at the professional level. As a result, you may have players not going all out, but instead taking it easy to preserve themselves.

Or consider this, eligibility requirements remain the same and players continue to weigh long term health against their playing future and decide to retire before any more damage can be done- where does this leave he NFL? Despite the findings of health related issues associated with football, I know there would still be a line several miles long vying for a chance to play professional football. However, if impactful talent only stayed a mere seven years or so due to health concerns, the turnover would inevitably affect the overall product of the game. Yes there will be an abundance of players to choose from, but will the level of quality be the same? Would fans be privy to a diminished product on the field?

To put a face on this issue, the last two seasons in the NFL saw the departure of tremendous talents calling it a career, in some cases far too soon. Patrick Willis, LB for the San Francisco 49ers, 30 years old, hung up his cleats. Rookie Chris Borland (2014), LB for these same 49ers, 25years old, calls it a career after one professional season. Marshawn Lynch, RB for the Seattle Seahawks, 29 years old, hangs them up. Most recently, WR Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions, 30 years old, retired due to concerns of his long term health. All these players mentioned were either in their prime, or just barely coming out of it. With the exception of Chris Borland, these players are quite difficult to replace. However, teams have and will continue to do so. But, will the replacement be anything like the predecessor?

It’s a very interesting time in the realm of collegiate and professional football. There will be lines drawn in the sand in regard to player safety and ultimately, the quality of life during or after a player’s career has ended. Question is, can we set aside our passion for compassion for these men risking life and limb, literally, for a sport that’s as taxing as it is exhilarating? We’ll just have to wait and see.

NHL Player Safety Evaluation

There is a life after sports for professional athletes. Anybody who has played any kind of physical sport growing up knows that athletics can take a toll on your body. Chronic physical wear and tear, broken bones/cartilage, muscle sprains and tears are only a small number of things that can potentially happen playing physical sports. The potential of injury is exponential (hours training and playing and progressively higher levels of competition) when becoming a professional athlete. Injuries and man-game’s lost are a test for professional sports teams, forcing organizations to flex coaching and management strategies and exercise the ability to utilize team-depth. But what about the long term effects to a player’s health after a sports career? What have professional leagues done to ensure the safety of these individuals so prone to injury? There has been progress in other professional sports league, such as the NFL introducing player safety policies that saw a decrease in concussions this last season. However, I think no league stands out quite like the NHL in their attention to detail involving on-ice hits and player safety regulations.

The NHL Department of Player Safety was established in 2011. Originally, it was developed to take all-possible measures to ensure the safety of its players and preserve the nature of the game. A nature rooted with combat, physicality, and speed. There is a fine line when disputing a legal hockey happening at a top speed versus a late check as someone was admiring his pass a little too much. Especially before research was being done and athletes were taking notice to their health and the long-term effects. Late checks, cross-checks, and slew-footing would happen more frequently, but for some reason it went unnoticed due to what (we as) fans thought typical hockey should look like. Think of players like, Tie Domi, who was notorious for playing with a bit of an edge and a little dirty. Or Chris Simon, dude stomped on somebody. While both players had received supplementary discipline on numerous accounts, most cases were merely brushed aside by fans and chalked up to the notion that hockey is physical.

Now, the NHL Department of Player Safety educates hockey fans on what is legal and illegal. Giving video reasoning, showing the highlight, outlining information about what was wrong or okay with the incident under review, breaking down the play frame-by-frame, and concluding a statement based on evidence the department has before them. With former players and NHL executive personnel such as Brian Burke and Chris Pronger, it acts as a trial of peers. Both, Pronger and Burke, and other appointed safety officials know the game and have studied the game with a tuition most fans do not have.

The NHL Department of Player Safety knows that the game is physical and knows that injuries can happen. To break it down further, the Department of Player Safety makes distinctions as to why hits are illegal or legal, it discusses accidental collisions and checking from behind. Also taking into account whether a player is a repeat offender such as Matt Cooke and Daniel Carcillo, or not. With the technological advances in broadcasting and video replay, every move of every NHL player is being watched and that gives the NHL Department of Player Safety a better chance to truly dissect each individual occurrence.

The NHL has done a great job developing awareness to player safety for two reasons: to educate players and fans alike and to save their own asses. It is no secret that lawsuits are starting to surface from professional athletes about how their lives post-sports have been diminished because they were not aware of the damage that can be done and the league is responsible. However, that sounds like suing McDonald’s for being diagnosed obese after consuming red meat, fried starches, and hydrogenated sugar water everyday. These players take that risk when pursuing professional sports as a career and are not only paid better than most, but have top-notch medical technology at their disposal. I do not feel badly for players and am entertained by the physical side of hockey. I can appreciate a clean, open-ice hit or a fight just as much as I can appreciate a nice offensive zone play finished with a nice goal scored top shelf. However, I/we as fans can appreciate a player’s life and legacy more than any of that and the NHL has done a better job in doing so with the Department of Player Safety.

It's A Happy New Year For The Browns

First off, happy New Year everybody. May 2015 be better than 2014. Especially for us Browns fans.

That five game skid to end the season was painful. I have to admit, when we were sitting atop the division in early November, I really truly believed that we would sneak into the playoffs, and I was 100% certain that we would at least finish with a winning record. Alas, neither of those things happened, and us Browns fans had to suffer through a skid that was reminiscent of past years. But despite that ickiness to end the season, we fans have many a reason to be happy and excited heading into this new year:

1. Our Coaches Don’t Take Bullshit

Mike Pettine’s reaction to Johnny Manziel’s alleged party and its after-math (in which Josh Gordon, Justin Gilbert, and Manziel were all late to mandatory team-related activities) shows that he does not have patience for players who don’t put their team and their job first. Suspending Gordon and forcing the rookie tandem to remain in the locker room for the duration of the game showed that Pettine isn’t willing to waste time on individuals who are unwilling to make sacrifices for the team. Although this sort of attitude has adverse effects on the team in the short-term (I’m sure Connor Shaw could’ve benefitted from Gordon’s presence), over the long-term it will lead to a team that is more… well, teamly. The players will trust each other more without this type of toxicity in the locker room, and as a result the team will play better on the field.

2. The Injury Bug Can Only Eat So Much

Armonty Bryant (11 games missed), Alex Mack (11), John Hughes (10), Phil Taylor (11), Miles Austin (4), Paul McQuistan (1), Desmond Bryant (1), Pierre Desir (1), Barkevious Mingo (1), Jordan Cameron (5), Ben Tate (2), Ahtyba Rubin (3), Billy Winn (3), K’Waun Williams (3), Johnson Bademosi (2), Andrew Hawkins (1), Marlon Moore (2), Karlos Dansby (4), Tashaun Gipson (5), Gary Barnidge (3), Joe Haden (1), Brian Hoyer (1), Ryan Seymour (1), Ishmaa’ily Kitchen (1), Johnny Manziel (1). Every single one of those players was inactive due to injury at some point during the season. Considering the caliber of the players on the list, I think it is fair to say that the Browns got unfairly roughed up this season. And yet still managed to improve vastly from previous years. Sure, there will inevitably be injuries next season, but I just don’t see there being as many as this season. With more of our core players remaining in the game, expect improvement.

3. Ray Farmer is Kind of a Minor Personnel Genius

The number of rookies who contributed significantly this season was astounding. Joel Bitonio, K’Waun Williams, Christian Kirksey, Terrance West, and Isaiah Crowell all played big roles for the Browns. Pierre Desir and Connor Shaw both out played expectations. Both Manziel and Gilbert disappointed, but they are both talented enough to turn themselves around this offseason. Combine the rookies with the free agent signings of the past year (which include Karlos Dansby, Donte Whitner, Miles Austin, and Andrew Hawkins, among others), and Ray Farmer’s first class of personnel changes is astounding. With two first round picks this year and less holes to patch up, Farmer is set up to have another great offseason.

4. The Curse of Eternal Browns Optimism

 This is probably the biggest reason we fans should be excited going into next year – we always are. Realistically we often know that the Browns are not going to have a great year, but nonetheless the most exciting time of the year is when Week 1 rolls around. Even if this team was set for a decline, we would still be excited for next season. Life is just not the same without football, and win or lose we are always going to be there cheering (and complaining).

I’m really bummed that I have to suffer through watching the Steelers, Bengals, and Ravens all play this coming weekend, but I’m still happy with what the Browns did. They are an organization that is poised to keep improving over the next few years, and I have little doubt that we will be playing in January in the next season or two.

Cheers and Happy New Year.

Why the Browns Have Me Waiting For Next Year

I’m afraid to admit this, but the ship has sailed on anything good this season. It’s the same old Browns in a slightly different skin. They might be a few wins better than normal, but at the end of Week 17, there are tee times to be set and a May draft to think about, but no games until August. Fortunately, we’re so familiar with the routine that it should depress us no longer.

There are excuses more legitimate than we’ve seen in years past, and we have no problem with anyone upgrading this bunch from the standard F or D- to a more motivating C+, but they’ve once again failed this pass/fail course we call an NFL regular season. Sure, it’s one of their more successful fails, compared to what we’ve become accustomed to, but we’ve waited two decades for a post-season victory in Cleveland. We can wait another 365 days.

Mike Pettine hasn’t had all of the answers this season, but DAMNIT JIM, he’s a football coach, not a doctor.

The simple answer is the same as always. The reason why the Browns aren’t going to entertain us with January football is that they’ll fail to win the amount of games required for entry into the tournament. The complicated answer is also the same, though to a lesser degree than we’ve come to know and love. They lack the talent to do so.

In the past, we’ve denied lack of talent because it was tough to slice through all of the dreadful coaching to learn the truth. When Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn co-existed in Berea, some were excited at the idea of two real NFL-caliber quarterbacks being on the roster, but the reality is that there were none. Then, there was the time Joshua Cribbs was easily the best player on the roster. Needless to say, that wasn’t a roster worth celebrating, which is the same sentiment many have for the long list of coaches and executives that have taken money from the fans, but offered little in return.

If you think things are terrible at quarterback with Hoyer on the field and Manziel waiting in the wings, I present defense exhibits A & B.

Before you go measuring the emptiness of the current glass, let me assure you that it is most certainly half-full, but it’s going to be capped with an air-tight lid until 2015. First, applause is due for an outstanding first season from Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine, the loudest voices in the board room and on the field, respectively. You can nit-pick the little things all day long, but at the end of the day, it’s hard to deny these guys have done their job, perhaps better than any of their counterparts before them, going back to 1999.

I suppose a full 180 degree turn from the 4-12 team that left Pittsburgh with their lame duck head coach would mean finishing in the Final Four instead of the bottom 4 in the NFL, and that’s not going to happen, but they’ve righted the ship. Mathematically, they can flip their win-loss record from a year ago, but an honest look at the state of this football team doesn’t suggest that being they way things will play out.

Look at the way the way were built. You play to your strengths, and the make-up of this roster said they would be strong running the ball and letting their defense win games. Depending on how you looked at it, you could come to the conclusion that no one making decisions took the idea of throwing the football too seriously. That isn’t a slight on Brian Hoyer, but it’s clear they were willing to settle for the hometown kid as a place-holder while other needs were met.

They had the best receiver in the game with Brandon Weeden throwing the football and no one better than Greg Little opposite Josh Gordon, so they prioritized other deficient areas. Ben Tate was an obvious target before we even knew Kyle Shannahan would be in the fold, which only made the former-Texans back a better fit. If you paid attention to the draft experts, Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell were home run picks on paper, and the Browns brass was rounding the bases on Draft Day.

With a couple of youngsters from schools you’ve never heard of running the football, Kyle Shanahan has put himself in a good position to interview for some head coaching jobs.

Some were curious about the selection of Joel Bitonio over any highly rated pass-catcher in the second round of the draft, given that word of Gordon’s potential absence from the 2014 roster had come down between Rounds 1 and 2, but they stayed the course and found a monster of a man to play guard between Joe Thomas and Alex Mack. If everything played out the way was it planned, it promised not to be an awful plan. They weren’t going to half-ass themselves into a passing team. It wouldn’t have made any sense.

If this were a video game, you would have taken one look at the Browns depth and turned injuries off. Missing time was just not an option. If you had to make a list of offensive players they could least afford to take the field without, it would go something like this:

1. Joe Thomas
2. Josh Gordon
3. Alex Mack
4. Brian Hoyer
5. Jordan Cameron

Thomas, their first-round pick in 2007, has never missed a snap, in this season or any other. Mack, taken in Round 1 two years later, shared that distinction until a broken leg took him out for the year in early October. We know Gordon was handed a ten game suspension by the league, but it’s six fewer games than we initially feared. Cameron has missed time with brain injuries and Hoyer has taken every snap, save three plays designed for their popular rookie back-up. Add in time missed by Ben Tate and Andrew Hawkins, and then wonder how this team has won 60% of their games.

There goes the season

The team released the highly-touted Tate on Tuesday, after ten games of sub-par production. It was a pretty ballsy move, but many would approve of them making good football decisions that aren’t the best PR moves. It goes to show where their priorities are. They like what they see from their tandem of rookies from small schools. We all know the results would be better if the offensive line was at full-strength.

On the defensive side of the ball, I think it’s fair to say we expected better, back when this was a team playing at full strength. We wondered why Joe Haden was getting $60 million contracts when he struggled to cover the aging Steve Smith. We wondered what this team saw in Justin Gilbert, given his lack of production, and if the Buffalo defensive coaching staff of 2013 could graduate Barkevious Mingo from project to football player.

Steve Smith, Joe Haden
This picture doesn’t tell you whose star is fading and whose is allegedly rising.

Players were thought to be busts from the free agent market, like Paul Kruger and Desmond Bryant, started earning their paychecks. Tashaun Gipson and Buster Skrine have looked a lot more competent in the secondary, and having Karlos Dansby, Phil Taylor, and Armonty Bryant up front made the entire unit better. Unfortunately, we won’t have the services of the latter three available for the better part of what remains this season.

In the end, it adds up to a very talented list of football players on the Injured Reserve and not enough talent on the active roster to compensate for those losses. And while their presence arguably made their teammates better, their absence does contribute to a significant decline. We’re not looking at a lost cause, but definitely a lost season.

You might call me a wet blanket for observing this thing with my eyes open, but I’m simply not going to set myself up for the inevitable disappointment that will dawn on the eternal optimists out there. There’s no waiting for the bottom to fall out here; that happened when Mack went down, rendering the strength of this running game to a fraction of what it’s supposed to be. Granted, it’s forced the defense into a previously undiscovered gear, but now they’ve set the bar high for themselves and they can’t possibly sustain it with the personnel they’ve been left with.

The silver lining resides in the fact that in writing off this wildly successful season of growth and development, we’re not watching the window of opportunity slam shut. Our optimism isn’t rooted in the unknown of what could be added to the roster, but in the utilization of known commodities, guys that just happen to be banged up right now. For the first time in a long time, the present is very nice and the future is actually much brighter.

After 16 years, we’re all tired of that Bad News Bears mantra, “wait ’til next year”, but we’ll all be ready for something very special in 2015. I’ll be there with bells on.

Browns Overcome Injuries – Embarrass Steelers

Validation. The rematch between Pittsburgh and Cleveland did not disappoint Browns fans as the good guys win 31-10, proving to all critics that Cleveland is here and the league should take notice.

The game on Sunday was the first time this season we have seen both the offense and defense play a full four quarters. While there were a few hiccups the first couple of drives for Brian Hoyer and the offense, a deep play action pass to Jordan Cameron that went for 42 yards seemed to open up the floodgates.

Once again, the offensive play calling was dominated by the running backs, with Ben Tate rushing 25 times for 78 yards and two scores and Isaiah Crowell running for 77 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Terrance West was a surprise healthy scratch for the game.

-5344ab007f5c3d23With the Browns finding so much success with the run, that left Hoyer with only 17 passing attempts—completing a meager 8 of them. While a 47% completion percentage leaves much to be desired, Brian Hoyer’s shortest completion of the day was to Jordan Cameron for 9 yards towards the end of the third quarter. Hoyer’s longest pass also went Cameron’s way on a perfectly thrown 51 yard bomb for a touchdown in the 2nd quarter.

Something we aren’t used to this year is the team holding a convincing lead. The Browns defense came through in a big way, holding the Roethlisberger and the Steelers to a field goal until a garbage time touchdown to Lance Moore with about 2:45 left in the game. The Browns held the Steelers to 10 points while forcing five QB hits and two sacks. Buster Skrine also collected an interception after a John Hughes pass deflection.

What is most impressive about the success of the defense is they were without three key defensive linemen in Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin and Billy Winn. Not only that, but Armonty Bryant went down in the second quarter with a knee injury—what we now know is a torn right ACL which will unfortunately end his season. The importance of the depth of the defensive line cannot be overstated. With Bryant’s promising season being cut short, its next man up once again.

The offense was not spared from the injury bug, as Alex Mack suffered a fractured fibula and could also be done for the season (undetermined at time of writing this article). Joe Thomas admitted he became emotional after the injury to his fellow Pro Bowl teammate. One positive that came from this injury is the offense was not stunted because of Mack’s departure. John Greco moved over to center and Paul McQuistan came off the bench to replace Greco at right guard. The loss of Mack is a huge concern going forward, as the Browns have relied on the success of the running game this season.
Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns

The camaraderie shown by the entire Browns team to Alex Mack shows why they have found success this year compared to others. Despite not having a quote “superstar” on the field this year, they have come together and have played as a team. The heart is there. While they haven’t played perfect football, they pick each other up and fight for each other. Joe Haden and Paul Kruger, who both were very questionable to play, suited up to take on the division rival. Haden ended up making a highlight pass defense on Antonio Brown, soaring over Brown in the end zone, knocking the ball away.

It is fantastic to have won against the Steelers, but it is time to look forward. In the next three weeks, the Browns will be traveling to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars, then it is home against the Raiders and Buccaneers—a combined record of 1-16 between the three teams. The only win from these teams is when Tampa Bay traveled to Pittsburgh and beat the Steelers 27-24 in week four. The Jaguars nearly won week five as well as this past week. The opponents? Pittsburgh and Tennessee, the Browns’ last two games that vaulted them from a 1-2 record to 3-2.

While it is fun to look ahead to the next three opponents, dreaming of a 6-2 record, the Browns need to focus on this week against the Jaguars. Playoff teams beat teams they are supposed to beat. By all accounts, the Browns are supposed to beat Jacksonville, Oakland and Tampa Bay. Cleveland can’t play down to their opponent. They’ll need to build off their momentum heading into Cincinnati for the week 10 Thursday night game.

But to get to 6-2, you must first attain 4-2.

Go Browns.

Terps' Biggest Challenge in 2014: Staying Healthy

On the verge of the first season as newcomers to the Big10, the Maryland Terrapins football team undoubtedly faces many uncertainties in the coming months. Perhaps the greatest uncertainty does not involve facing new opponents in an overall more talented football conference. It does not have anything to do with traveling to and playing in new stadiums, some packed with 20,000 more screaming fans than the most of any ACC stadium. It does not concern how head coach Randy Edsall’s style of coaching will pan out in a new power conference. The primary uncertainty, in light of the past two season of Terrapins football, is if the Terps can stay healthy.
In the first game of 2013, junior starting cornerback Jeremiah Johnson suffered a broken toe which sidelined him until the final game of the season. Johnson had started all 12 games for the Terps in 2012. In week three, Maryland’s remaining starting cornerback Dexter McDougle suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in a win at Connecticut. The injury ended the senior’s streak of 27 consecutive games started at cornerback and his collegiate athletic career. McDougle was on fire to start the season, recording three interceptions and returning one for a touchdown through the first three games. Despite being injured for the final nine games of the 2013 season, the New York Jets took the cornerback in the third round of the 2014 NFL draft.
Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, the team’s top two wide receivers, both suffered broken legs during a loss to Wake Forest in week seven. Diggs’ value to the team is unparalleled. It is widely assumed he will forego the 2015 season to enter the NFL draft and is projected to be a late first round or early second round pick. That is, if he can stay healthy and produce as well as he has the past two years despite average quarterback play. As a freshman in 2012, Diggs caught 54 passes for 848 yards and six touchdowns. He was the lone bright spot for a Maryland team with an overall anemic offense that finished the season with just four wins. Throughout seven games in 2013, he was on pace to surpass his impressive freshman statistics. Diggs snagged 34 passes for 587 yards and three touchdowns before his sophomore season was cut short. The wideout has also played a role in the return game the past two seasons, which further increases his value to the Terps in 2014 (and to NFL teams in 2015). In 2012, Diggs returned 22 punts for 221 yards and 25 kickoffs for 713 yards, a 28.5 yards/return average, and two touchdowns. In his seven games last season he averaged 23.4 yards in his 12 kickoff returns.
Deon Long stepped up as the Terps’ number two receiver last season before he, like Diggs, suffered a broken leg in week seven against Wake Forest. In his shortened season he caught 32 balls for 489 yards and a touchdown.
Terrapin starting quarterback C.J. Brown, now entering his sixth season with the team, missed two games due to a concussion suffered during a lop-sided defeat by eventual National Champion Florida State. Linebacker Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil suffered a season-ending pectoral injury in the fifth week of the season after recording 18 tackles, three sacks, and an interception. He was recently selected to the Butkus Award watch list for the 2014 season, which is given to the nation’s best linebacker. Safety-converted-to-outside-linebacker Matt Robinson was leading the team in tackles through five games last season before missing two games due to a shoulder injury. The senior has spent much of his collegiate career playing through injury, and this was a determining factor in the decision to make the switch from safety to linebacker prior to the 2013 season. Linebacker Cole Farrand became the team’s leading tackler through eight games last season before missing two of the next three games due to a concussion and a shoulder injury.

After missing all of 2012 and two games in 2013, Maryland starting quarterback C.J. Brown will need to remain healthy for the Terps to compete in the Big10 in 2014.
After missing all of 2012 and two games in 2013, Maryland starting quarterback C.J. Brown will need to remain healthy for the Terps to compete in the Big10 in 2014.

The 2013 parade of hobbled Terrapin contributors came after WR Markus Leak decided to take a year off from football and RB Wes Brown’s season-long suspension for his involvement in a drive-by shooting.
And while injuries are obviously nothing to make light of (especially for a Terps fan who is hoping for good karma in the 2014 season), the amount of injuries suffered in the 2012 season, particularly at the quarterback position, were even more outrageous. Just ask Shawn Petty, who quarterbacked for the final four games of 2012. After reigning starter Danny O’Brien transferred to Wisconsin prior to start of the 2012 season, four Terrapin quarterbacks fell to season-ending injuries which pushed Petty into the starting QB role. Petty was a freshman… and a linebacker. First-string QB C.J. Brown went down before the season began with a torn ACL. Backup QB Perry Hills, also a freshman, started the first six games of the season before suffering a torn ACL. Backup to the backup Devin Burns saw his demise from a Lisfranc injury to his left foot. Fourth-stringer Caleb Rowe tore his ACL ending his year, which led to Petty taking over under center. Burns has since transferred, but Brown, Hills, and Rowe all remain Terrapins. Petty has also transferred, although he saw significant time at linebacker last season and was presumed to compete for the starting gig in 2015.
If Maryland plans to compete in the Big10 in 2014, those aforementioned Terrapins still with the team will need to remain healthy. The defensive unit has the potential to be solid if linebackers Cudjoe-Virgil, Robinson, and Farrand can stay on the field. Terps fans have seen what the offense can do at times behind the dual-threat ability of a running quarterback in Brown, and in Diggs’ explosive downfield ability and NFL-worthy talent. If the Terps can stay healthy on both sides of the ball, this team could have surprising success in the upcoming season.

The Baseball Injury Epidemic

Injuries in sports have always been a big part of the game. No matter the sport, no matter if it is professional, amateur or recreational. No matter whether it is a team sport or an individual sport. Injuries have always been a part of the world of sports. Sometimes the injuries are well publicized. Sometimes they are kept completely quiet by the athlete or the team. Sometimes they are simply described as “lower body injuries” or “upper body injuries” so as not to permit opposition players to focus on the injured area specifically during a game. Is an “upper body injury a headache, a concussion, a stiff neck, a sore shoulder, a sore elbow, a broken finger or a broken rib? Is a lower body injury a strained calf, a broken leg, a sore hip, a sore foot or a twisted ankle? It’s all meant to keep the opposition guessing.

It seems that in today’s world of professional sports, injuries are becoming more commonly reported and players taken out of action as a result of injury.

What has become alarming is the number of injuries now being reported by players/teams. In examining the four major professional sports in North America; Baseball, Football, Basketball and Hockey we see some common trends and some not so common trends. Football and Hockey deal with their injured players similarly. They have larger rosters than they are allowed to dress for each game, so if all players are healthy, some must go to the Taxi Squad (NFL) or sit as “Healthy Scratches” (NHL). Basketball has its own unique system in that an injured player is often simply replaced by a player from the Development League or by a player signed to a 10 day contract.

Baseball is unique. Baseball is always unique and I don’t say that to be negative. Just the opposite. I love the uniqueness of baseball. A game where the defense controls the ball. A game where a key strategist (the catcher) plays most of the game in foul territory and is the only player on the field who gets a clear view of all other players in the game. Even its substitution rules are different than the other major sports in that once removed from the game, a player cannot return. Its treatment of injured players is no different.

For those who don’t follow baseball beyond an occasional visit to the ballpark for an evening’s entertainment or a way to pass an hour or so in front of the TV, Major League Baseball (“MLB”) teams carry a playing/active roster of 25 players. The make-up of that roster is strictly at the individual team’s discretion, but usually comprises 11, 12 or sometimes 13 pitchers, with the balance of the 25 players being “position players”, i.e. non-pitchers.

If a player gets hurt, the team has to make a quick assessment of how long they think the player may be inactive. The severity of the injury is a factor of course, as is the player’s position. A starting pitcher, who generally works only one day in five, would be assessed differently than an outfielder if both were injured and expected to be out for 10 days. The starter would miss one, maybe two starts. The outfielder might miss 10 starts. A team can deal with an injured player two ways. If they think the injury is short term, they will just keep the player on the MLB roster and effectively play a man short for a few days. If the injury looks like it may keep the player out of the lineup for 10 days, they may consider putting the player on the Disabled List (“DL”) and replacing him with a player from their minor league system.

The DL allows a player to rest his injury, while receiving treatment for it, or even just plain resting it. Of course, once that decision has been made, it means the player is ineligible for the time he is on the DL. Most players placed on the DL are put on the DL for 15 days, meaning they are ineligible for a minimum of 15 days. They can return to the roster when healthy, once at least 15 days have passed. So if a team decides to put a player on the DL, they need to be sure that he will be out a sufficient amount of time to justify their decision and that they are prepared to get along without him for 15 days. The majority of players put on the DL are ineligible for 15 days, however longer term injuries often mean a player is put on the 60 day DL. As the name suggests, it means the player is ineligible for a full 60 day period rather than 15. The only advantage to placing a player with a more serious injury on the 60 day DL is that it also frees up a spot on the team’s 40 man roster (its 25 man MLB roster plus its best 15 players).

*Editor’s Note: This had to be in here. It just HAD to.

It seems to me that in recent years we have seen teams using the DL much more than we did 20 years ago. There are numerous theories as to why this is the case. Are there more injuries? Are players reporting their injuries to their teams more than they were 20 years ago? Are doctors better educated in diagnosing injuries and advising the teams to DL a player more today than they were 20 years ago? Are teams protecting their huge financial investments in their “assets” more today than they were 20 years ago? Are players smarter about treating injuries today? The real answer is likely a little bit of all of those theories. We’ve even seen the advent of a 7 day DL used almost exclusively to protect a player with suspicion of a concussion injury. Twenty years ago, the player would not have reported such an injury and simply played on, thinking that his injury was just part of being a baseball player. Concussions have become a huge factor in how all professional sports teams protect their players, not just baseball. This is undoubtedly a good thing. You can’t mess with a person’s brain. It’s too big a risk.

Looking at the 30 MLB DL’s on July 13, we see a startling 157 players officially on the DL. That doesn’t include those players with short term injuries that are classified as “day to day”. Of those 157 players, three were on the aforementioned 7 day DL, so we will not take those three players (Skip Schumaker – Reds, Carlos Beltran – Yankees and Carlos Ruiz – Phillies) into our discussion.

Ironically, of the remaining 154 players “disabled” the split is about 50-50 (78 players on the 15 day DL and 76 players on the 60 day DL). That represents an average of approximately 2.6% of each team’s roster on the 15 day DL and approximately 2.6% of each team’s roster on the 60 day DL. On an MLB wide basis, that is a staggering average of five players per team, or looking at it another way, the equivalent of 6.6 complete MLB rosters. That is a lot of talent, expensive talent sitting out.

There is no rhyme or reason as to how use of the DL has affected each team’s performance. One would think that logically, we could look at the DL and expect that the teams with the least players on the DL would have the best records and the teams with the most players disabled would have the poorer records. Not always the case. Some are as you would expect…..Texas has 15 players on their DL (nine on the 60 day list) and they are at the bottom of the AL West and San Diego has 11 players on their DL (six on the 60 days DL) and they too are at the bottom of their division. However, the Dodgers have eight players on their DL (four on the 60 day list) and they have a slight lead over the Giants, who have only one player on their DL in the NL West.

Baltimore has only three players on its DL and enjoys a four game lead atop the AL East. But Boston also has only three players on its DL and the Red Sox are nine and a half games out, in fifth place in the same division. Detroit and Houston both have six players disabled, but look at the difference in those two teams’ records.

Clearly, while injuries play a part in a team’s performance, they are not a direct indicator of a team’s ability to perform. The value of the player to the team makes a huge difference. The Rangers have Prince Fielder on the 60 day DL as he is out for the season. That is a bigger loss, on paper, than Maicer Izturis of the Blue Jays, also on the 60 day DL is and I say that with no disrespect to Izturis. It is just fact. The quality of a team’s farm system is also an issue. It is well known that teams with deeper systems are better able to cover for injured players. The Blue Jays have certainly found that out this year. Brendan Morrow is on the 60 day list of a team that was already thin in pitching. Then you add three big bats, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Brett Lawrie to that list and it is clear to see that the team doesn’t have the depth to survive those key injuries and the results are very evident in the standings over the past month. Left handed pitching has been killing them for almost a month.

Is there an injury epidemic? Perhaps. I think that all teams now are so much more protective of their players than they were 20 years ago, in all sports. Players are more inclined to “fess up” about an injury. Medical technology has improved so much that doctors are now able to more accurately diagnose an injury and prescribe rest/treatment. No one wants to take a chance on a star player/prospect in which millions of dollars have been invested. In baseball we see so many more pitchers now with arm injuries, even though pitchers are making fewer starts and working under pitch counts than they were 20 years ago. GM’s are charged with protecting assets, which are now more costly and harder to find. Protecting those investments is just good business sense.

Athletes are Humans, Too

On Sunday Matt Schaub was tackled and injured his right ankle. While he was being attended to, some fans were heard cheering while he was down. Why on earth would fans cheer when a player is clearly injured? You have no idea how serious it can be or what is going on?!

Schaub, who prior to his injury had a 64.4% completion, throwing for 1,152 yds, 8 TDs, 9 INT and a 78.8% completion rate for this season, his worse game was against the San Francisco 49ers two weeks ago when he threw 3 INT and was replaced by backup QB T.J Yates.

Schaub doesn’t deserve that kind of disrespect at all. He has been nothing but a great quarterback for the Texans and has never done anything to be treated in that sort of way.

Again, I know football is a tough and contact sport. But when a player is down and for a significant amount of time it is out of respect to stop and be silent and cheer when that player has gotten up. For someone to cheer while a player is down is beyond me. I don’t know what would make someone cheer like that.

Sports are supposed to be fun, lighthearted and a great time to spend with your family. When these kinds of acts are happening at games what is that teaching our kids? Granted we can’t shelter the youth from all the bad that is out there, but there needs to be some accountability for people’s actions and we need to be able to take kids to games and show that it is a fun atmosphere and we shouldn’t be exposing them to that kind of rudeness.

Think if that was your boyfriend, your brother, your dad, your friend or your cousin who was playing and people were cheering while he was lying on the ground in pain. You would be worried too and how awful that would be witnessing people cheer on a member of your family while they are hurt. You wouldn’t want that type of thing happening to you or your family member.

Many fans may respond to this as “well they are athletes; they get paid millions of dollars why should it matter if some fans cheered?” It’s just tasteless and inappropriate. Just because they have tons of money that doesn’t mean you just disregard the fact that they are humans and have feelings too. Yeah they signed up for this job, but that doesn’t mean that it’s ok to just disrespect people.

Seeing athletes get hate towards them is something I do not care for. Seeing them have to deal with some really hurtful comments is just ridiculous. I’m all for saying your opinion, but when you start attacking a player and wishing hurtful things on them you are taking it too far and no longer have a valid point. There’s a difference between saying “I really don’t like this athlete because of his actions,” and, “I hate that guy. I hope he burns in hell for costing us this game.”

People need to realize that athletes are humans too and the things they say do have an effect on them. Nobody needs to be hurtful to an athlete because of his performance on the field, and no athlete deserves to be hated.