If there's a single thing the NFL off season provides its fans, it would have to be a respite from player injuries. While some do happen (see: Michael Crabtree), the casualty list is low compared to the regular season. Since today is the start of NFL training camps, fans need to gird themselves for what's all but inevitable.
Each NFL season seems to have a injury which will haunt it, and this year it's going to have something to do with Achilles tendons. Michael Crabtree went down earlier this off season, and today Dallas Cowboy's defensive end Tyrone Crawford hit the turf with the same injury. Last year, it was foot injuries; sidelining players like Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew. ACL-s are always big on the list too, and I guess we can't discount concussions, given the over 4000 former NFL players who are suing the NFL currently.
They're coming, these physical twinges which seem to gut a favored team at the wrong moment. In a physical game like football - and the monster size and speed of NFL players - the human body can only stand so-much punishment. 300 pound linemen fall on the legs of other linemen. Running backs cut just a little to sharp for tendons and ligaments to withstand. Then there's "the Law of Tonnage"... It's not going to work out well when a 180 lbs running back hits a 250 lbs linebacker at full speed.
Let's be clear about one thing though, injuries happen in EVERY sport. Football has its fair share to be sure, but bicycling and basketball see more kids to emergency rooms than football in a given year.
When I consider some of the promising teams in the NFL, I can' help but look past the pure potential of key players and coaches' designs. Looking at the St. Louis Rams roster is a great example of a team on the edge of possible greatness. When you look at their offensive line, names like Jake Long, Scott Wells, Rodger Saffold and Harvey Dahl jump out at you. If they stay healthy, the Rams could have a break out season. Yet, all four are coming back from injuries, two of whom are recovering from triceps surgeries.
This is a tough injury to recover from in the best of circumstance, and for an offensive linemen it's even more so. Reattachment of the Tricep or Bicep tendon isn't done how many think. The tendon - at the head of the muscle on either end - is attached below the original location of the tendon before the injury. It's why you'll see a space at the top of the arm of many players who've suffered Biceps injuries. Since an offensive lineman needs both strength and reach to fend off their opponents, these two injuries can have a great deal of effect. Strength training - with weights - is held off until the player is fully released from their recovery period. So Jake Long and Harvey Dahl will most likely be in a weakened state when train camp kicks off, let alone the NFL regular season.
Medical knowledge and surgical methods have advanced to the point where ACL injuries aren't season ending. Recovery time have been slashed from only five years ago, when a full year would have been the lowest norm. Players like Adrian Peterson are charging back - and excelling - after only six or seven months. Robert Griffin III is coming back from both ACL and MCL surgery, and by all reports is way ahead of past recover times for similar injuries.
What we as NFL fans have to take into account, is every injury is different in terms of recovery for each player. Can RGIII have a banner year like Adrian Petterson did in 2012? Sure, but don't be shocked if the Redskins alter the game plan to accommodate the diminished ability of RGIII's leg. Offensive linemen really don't have the luxury of having the way they have to play the game of football altered. A player like RGIII can run the ball less and stay in the pocket. A linemen like Jake Long must still handle defensive ends on the quarterback's blindside, and the Triceps injury he's recovering from won't make this an easy thing to do. As a defensive end uses his incredible strength to swat Long's arms aside, the amount of strain on his surgically repaired Tricep will be incredible.
Injuries are a fact of life in the NFL. While we'll struggle to mourn the loss of a favored player who falls to the field on any of the 17 Sundays ahead in 2013, it marks two heroic moments we should all take to heart. First, the will of a player to recover and return to the game they love is second to none. Second - and most important from a team stand point - is how both coaches and players band together to replace the fallen. Teams that do win, and they make a mark on NFL history...