NFL Training Camp: Injuries Already Mounting
When an NFL player chooses to hold out during training he is often blasted as “greedy” by fuming fans who loudly lament the decision and espouse the virtues of being a team player. It must be really easy to make statements like that when you’re talking about someone else’s money.
The reality is that most football players have a very short window to capitalize financially from the game. The rookie wage scale that was implemented in 2012 puts a substantial cap on athlete earnings in their first contract. Players that are drafted are locked in for 4-5 years, while undrafted rookies usually sign a three-year deal that pays the league minimum—or close to it.
A player that is lucky enough to make it through his rookie contract basically gets just one opportunity to negotiate a new contract with some leverage. Even if he defies the odds and makes it to a third contract, physical abilities will have diminished with age, which usually means a substantial pay cut or being replaced with someone younger and cheaper.
These guys have very few cards to play. We’re just days into training camp and a quick scan of the headlines from around the league will reveal exactly why so many choose to play the holdout card. Several players have already suffered serious injuries, most ending their season before it began.
Before we run down the injuries, just remember: If any of these guys had showed up to training camp as an act of good faith, in hopes of negotiating a new deal before the start of the season, they’d be SOL. No team is going to fall on their sword and sign a guy out of obligation or because it’s the right thing to do. Which is why fans shouldn’t hold athletes to a higher standard.
Onto the injuries!
On Saturday at Cleveland Browns training camp offensive lineman Ryan Miller sustained a concussion during a blocking drill. In the moments after the facility gradually went silent as he lay motionless on the field.
Miller regained consciousness and was immobilized on a backboard by medical staff and taken to a local hospital for tests and an evaluation. Right now it looks like he’ll be fine, but with head injuries receiving so much attention these days, you never know.
On Thursday at San Diego Chargers training camp third year linebacker Jonas Mouton injured his right knee during practice. A day later coach Mike McCoy announced he had torn his ACL and would miss the entire season.
Mouton should be used to this kind of thing by this point. He missed his entire rookie season in 2011 with a shoulder injury and only played three games in 2012. Definitely a bad sign for this kid’s future in the league.
On Saturday at Baltimore Ravens training camp tight end Dennis Pitta dislocated his hip in a collision with safety James Inedigbo; they were battling it out in the end zone for a pass from quarterback Joe Flacco.
Jeez. At least nobody will ever say this guy doesn’t practice hard. The next day it was revealed that Pitta would be undergoing surgery on the hip and will miss the entire season. Yet another big personnel loss for the reigning Super Bowl champs.
On Sunday at Philadelphia Eagles training camp veteran wide receiver Jeremy Maclin suffered a torn ACL in his right knee during practice. He will be out for a significant amount of time and could very well miss the entire season.
A very tough blow for first year coach Chip Kelly (and obviously for Maclin himself). Apparently limiting contact isn’t a surefire way to avoid injuries, because Maclin’s injury was incurred during a non-contact drill.
And there we have one half…of one week…of week one…of NFL training camp! Let’s hope these injuries don’t keep occurring at the same rate—it’s bumming everyone out.