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» Week 12 DVOA Ratings

Denver remains No. 1 in the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings, but New England moves up to No. 2 and has taken over as our Super Bowl favorite.

06 Sep 2005

Black & Blue Report: Tomorrow's Headlines

by Will Carroll

The last week of the preseason is something of a snooze. Teams like the Colts don't let their starters get past the coin toss, ignoring a meaningless blowout. It's more about keeping your starters healthy and available for week one than anything else. Sure, an important backup like Jeff Garcia can break his leg, forcing him out for at least eight weeks, but it's seldom that even the important backups see the field long enough to get hurt.

It's a smart strategy, but it leaves me with a dearth of material. (Dearth Material is of course the Sith Lord that writers fear more than any other. Okay, that's the last Star Wars reference of the season.) So instead of looking back at the injuries of the week, we'll gaze into the future at ten injuries I think we'll see this season. Unlike the Team Health Reports I do at Baseball Prospectus, there's no system to these. These are guesses, albeit somewhat educated, and hopefully the start of a fun discussion. Here's the rule – if you disagree, you have to stick your neck out too and make your own predictions.

Grab your crystal ball and lets get to it:

Trent Green was left a step slow by blood thinners. Add in a thin O-Line and Green was just an injury waiting to happen. In week six, Green was blindsided and driven into the turf, injuring his throwing shoulder and ribs. LaVar Arrington's blitz was unexpected and left Green writhing on the turf. Green could be back in time for the last couple weeks of the season, but the Chiefs' hopes now rest on the untested shoulders of Todd Collins. At 35, Green may see his career move back to the clipboard-toting role.

The surprise for Stephen Davis wasn't that his knees couldn't hold up the whole season, it was that they held up so long. Davis was platooned smartly with DeShaun Foster most of the season until a sore hamstring forced Davis to be used more than John Fox would have liked in Weeks 12 and 13. Davis was beaten up in a cold weather game at Buffalo, then wore down significantly as the game went on with Atlanta. The Panthers ran more than normal, trying to grind out a win against the high-scoring Falcons, but it cost the Panthers their top offensive threat. Davis will wait on surgery, hoping that he can return for the playoffs -- if the Panthers can make it without him.

The Falcons are a lot like the Colts. When their star QB goes down, their hopes of contention go with them. Unlike the Colts, the Falcons don't put much effort into protecting Michael Vick. Much of that is his scrambling style, the polar opposite of the nearly immobile Peyton Manning, but Vick also takes a bit too much punishment when he's just standing in the pocket. Vick missed two games this season with minor injuries – a rib cage strain in Week 4 and a deep thigh bruise in Week 10 – and the Falcons lost both games despite inferior competition. When the Falcons come up just short in the playoff chase, you can point to those two losses.

Byron Leftwich can play with a broken leg. Byron Leftwich can play with a sprained knee. Byron Leftwich can play with a concussion. What does it take to knock him out? A high ankle sprain suffered during a scramble ended his season in Week 7. The injury lingered all season, forcing the team to rely on it's unproven backups and push more carries onto their fragile backfield. The team collapsed over the last half of the season and when Leftwich rushed back in Week 12, his ankle simply couldn't handle the strain. His off-season surgery will determine whether the Jags are a team on the rise or decline in '06.

Speed kills, but knee injuries kill speed. Dwight Freeney, perhaps the fastest speed rusher in the game, was bitten by the turf monster in Week 9. After blowing by the tackle and depositing himself deep in the backfield, a last second pitch play designed by the Patriots to exploit his aggressiveness caused him to try and cut a little harder than his knee could take. Freeney's knee gave out and he was carted off. Robert Mathis and Raheem Brock were able to hold up in Freeney's place as the team buckled down, playing better against the run all the way into the playoffs.

Who had Week Five in the Charles Rogers Fracture Pool? Rogers managed to keep his collarbones healthy – by breaking his arm in a fall. Rogers just seems to be fragile, what some physical therapists call a “tissue issue.� It's amazing that anyone can hold up under the physical demands of NFL-style football, and adding in Rogers' acrobatic yet graceless falls makes this a near inevitability. Rogers clearly has the talent to play at this level, yet lacks the one skill that every player must have – the ability to get out on the field week after week.

The Niners turned to rookie QB Alex Smith early in the season. Weeks 4 and 5 were both solid and he looked ready to get his first win coming off the bye at Washington until the blitzing Redskins defense literally knocked him out. A short scramble rolled Smith out of the pocket and as he planted to throw, he was hit by “a host of defenders.� He stayed down after the pile got up and had to be carted off the field. Troy Aikman, who knows a thing or two about concussions, said it was one of the worst hits he'd seen a QB take. Smith was out for six weeks, the post-concussion syndrome leaving him weak, nauseous, and unbalanced. Smith is expected to be fine for next season.

Deuce McAllister spent most of the season chasing a rushing title as the vagabond Saints played inspired football despite trying circumstances. Instead of the Cinderella ending, McAllister's quest for the title ended in Atlanta in Week 14 with a painful turf toe. The Saints still squeaked into the playoffs, but without their rushing threat, upstart QB Adrian McPherson couldn't get the team very far. McAllister finished just behind Kevin Jones and Julius Jones despite missing three games with the injury.

Brett Favre's victory lap was cut short. In Week 7 at the Minnesota Metrodome, his nemesis throughout his long, storied Packer career, Favre threw a pass and hit one of his blockers' helmets, catching his thumb. The torn ligaments required surgery and ended what is sure to be a Canton-bound career. Favre waited to have the surgery, staying on to tutor Aaron Rodgers in his first season. Favre toyed with the idea of coming back for one more season, but will join the NBC halftime show instead.

It didn't take long to find out if Steve McNair would be able to make it through another season. It was the violent Ravens defense that tested his sternum, and McNair decided he simply couldn't play with the pain, handing the reins of the offense over to Billy Volek and calling it a career after the season was over. McNair made some appearances during the season, but was limited and protected closely. At the last home game, McNair received his due, having his uniform number retired by the Titans while the media recognized that he was one of the key figures in turning away from the “black quarterbacks� myth.

Posted by: Will Carroll on 06 Sep 2005

37 comments, Last at 12 Sep 2005, 4:35pm by Carl

Comments

1
by Israel (not verified) :: Tue, 09/06/2005 - 3:13am

A season injury report without Kendrell Bell?

2
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 09/06/2005 - 8:11am

Whither Fred Taylor?

3
by Marc (not verified) :: Tue, 09/06/2005 - 8:49am

Favre has smashed his hand into helmets while throwing in the past and never missed a start. Hell, he played well with a broken thumb on his throwing hand in 2003. If you had broken his leg or had him tear his Achilles tendon while being sacked or something it'd be more feasible.
Also in regards to the Metrodome being his nemisis, he's won his last two games there, including one with the previosuly mentioned broken thumb.

4
by Aaron (not verified) :: Tue, 09/06/2005 - 9:15am

Actually, the biggest danger for the Packers is not that Will's correct, and Brett Favre finally loses a significant part of the year to injury. The biggest danger is something between Will's prediction and reader Marc's memory of what happened last year -- that Favre gets nicked up over and over, but doesn't leave the lineup despite fading effectiveness.

As far as predictions, here's mine: One of those three older linemen on Kansas City is going to be out by midyear.

5
by DNL (not verified) :: Tue, 09/06/2005 - 9:26am

Hey Wil, now I get why you drafted Matt Schuab, Nick Goings, Antowain Smith, and Kevin Johnson!

6
by Arkaein (not verified) :: Tue, 09/06/2005 - 10:23am

Aaron, you and the rest of the FO's staff keep talking about Favre's decline as if it's something that has actually happened over the past few years, but your own stats do no support this (note: I'm not arguing that Favre hasn't declined since his MVP days, just over the past few years). Since 2000 Favre's DVOA ranks have been 18, 5, 22, 12, 10. No decline over the past three seasons, and in fact improvement in each of the last two.

His DPAR ranks have been 13, 5, 16, 9, 7. Exactly the same story. He has performed worse when injured, but his injuries (mostly hand) have not seemed age related, and he's in good shape now. If you want to say Favre is likely to decline because of age I'd understand, but I'm getting tired of hearing that he has declined over the past few seasons without any supporting evidence being given.

7
by Aaron (not verified) :: Tue, 09/06/2005 - 10:46am

I don't think any of us has ever written that Favre has declined. What we're saying is that he is now at an age where quarterbacks tend to either get injured or collapse unexpectedly. Steve McNair was 2003 co-MVP. Rich Gannon was 2002 MVP. And then, what happened? It's a prediction of the future, not a prediction of the past. Favre's amazing talents, he can never again be 26.

8
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 09/06/2005 - 11:07am

How was Favre's DPAR week-to-week last year? I'd imagine that's where age and fragility would come into play - not necessarily in overall ability, but in ability to stay at a high level.

Just because Favre peaked really high doesn't mean that he didn't hurt his team while playing at less than 100%.

9
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Tue, 09/06/2005 - 11:18am

Kingsbury might have a hard time leading the Saints anywhere since he's not on the roster.

10
by Aaron (not verified) :: Tue, 09/06/2005 - 11:51am

This is what we get for looking at the depth charts listed on NFL.com. (Seriously, why can't the NFL keep those things up to date?) Adrian McPherson it is!

11
by Vote for Kalas (not verified) :: Tue, 09/06/2005 - 11:56am

Arkaein-

For me at least, it is not Favre's numbers that have faded although the team he has this year will finally cause that to happen IMO, but more his mental approach has faded and/or his risk taking mode has increased...

He seems to be relying more on his gun slinging decision making style either due to being behind in most games and having to take chances to score or because of more broken plays that lead to improvisation on his part or the lack of faith in the Packers running game or because of declining skills that have not been acknowledged by Favre's brain yet...I am not sure, but more examples seem to pop up every year, and even though they are ignored and in some case GLORIFIED by the media, fans notice this and that leads to criticism of Favre IMO...

The INT against he Eagles in the 2003 overtime playoff game was inexcusable, the underarm sling last year from the 10 yd line while running was very strange and his play against the Falcons in 2002 and the Vikes last year in the playoffs was curious IMO...I know he wants one more ring before he hangs up the cleats, but his decision making seems to be working against that happening and even if he throws 35 TD this year, I do not see the Pack making noise in the playoffs, in fact I could see them missing the playoffs...

12
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/06/2005 - 12:31pm

Put Farve on a team with a good defense and I suspect his decision-making would improve quite a bit. Even good or great quarterbacks, when the come to think that they need to score 30 points game to be competitive, make a fair amount of of very bad decisions. What has really impressed me about Culpepper over the past two years is that he has doe waht he has one with a terrible defense, and, last year, with an offensive line that was pretty banged up.

13
by Bowman (not verified) :: Tue, 09/06/2005 - 12:48pm

Leftwich scrambling?!?! If the Jaguars are reduced to having the league's youngest immoble QB running, even as a last option, than they deserve the last-place finish DVOA projects.

14
by Aaron (not verified) :: Tue, 09/06/2005 - 12:59pm

You know, the funny thing is that you don't think of Leftwich scrambling, but he actually does it more than you think when you look at the numbers. His protection breaks down a lot.

15
by Arkaein (not verified) :: Tue, 09/06/2005 - 2:02pm

Sorry, Aaron, I guess I overreacted a bit to your remark about "fading effectiveness". Now that I think about it, most of the comments about Favre's decline have probably been made by FO readers rather than staff.

One thing that has interested me is what kind of numbers you have for predicting decline in QBs. You have very solid arguments for RBs, but QBs seem a lot more variable. You cite Gannon and McNair, but you also need to consider players like Moon and Flutie. Have similarity comparisons been very successful at predicting the aging of QBs, compared with aging of other positions or the development of younger players?

16
by MRH (not verified) :: Tue, 09/06/2005 - 2:53pm

yet lacks the one skill that every player must have – the ability to get out on the field week after week.

Must be reading from the Marty Schottenheimer Book of Wisdom: "A player's most important ability is his avail-ability."

17
by MCS (not verified) :: Tue, 09/06/2005 - 3:09pm

For those of you old enough to remember the 90's, Favre has always been an impulsive gunslinger. He's not a pup anymore, so that style of play is less effective now than it was when he was younger.

As a Packer fan by birthright, I believe taht Favre has earned the right to make the bad plays for as long as he wants. I will grimace and bear it.

I remember the Packers of the 80's.

18
by kevin (not verified) :: Tue, 09/06/2005 - 5:15pm

re #17:

No one deserves a free pass if they have a lousy game in the playoffs . . .

19
by Zac (not verified) :: Tue, 09/06/2005 - 11:25pm

Will,

If that comes true and I lose in FF because of McAllister's injury, you'll be hearing from me.

Just kiddin' ;-). Having him finish behind only KJ and Julius (who is my other starting RB) while missing only 3 games would be fine with me. Sure it would suck to lose him for the playoffs, but you know what would suck more? Not making the playoffs at all.

20
by Tom W (not verified) :: Tue, 09/06/2005 - 11:55pm

Re comment #12 about putting Favre on a team with a good defense: the Packers defense was fairly solid until they scapegoated Ed Donatell for the infamous 4th and 26 meltdown. Still, Favre threw a mind-boggling 12 picks (or was it 11?) in playoff losses to the Rams and Falcons in '01 and '02, along with the aforementioned over-the-head "what the hell" toss on the 1st offensive play of the overtime loss to Philly in '03, which amazingly, was barely even mentioned after the game. Brett is obviously a Hall of Famer, but just for perspective, Bart Starr threw 4 interceptions in his entire post-season career.

21
by Erik B (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 12:32am

Have you guys done any systematic analysis of injuries? It seems that injuries in football must be at least partly random. If you assume they are completely random, then Charles Rogers being hurt his first two years is just bad luck and doesn't portend anything for this year. I'm not suggesting that they are, in fact, 100% random since breaking a collarbone one year may make it weaker or cause a player to do odd things the next year. At the same time, I suspect there is more randomness than most traditional analysts allow for. It seems that the data would tell the true story.

I'm a little new to FO, so I apologize if this has already been covered, but I'd love to know the answer.

22
by Basilicus (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 4:10am

"Favre has smashed his hand into helmets while throwing in the past and never missed a start. Hell, he played well with a broken thumb on his throwing hand in 2003. If you had broken his leg or had him tear his Achilles tendon while being sacked or something it’d be more feasible."

This is true, but there's a difference between simply breaking a thumb and tearing ligaments. Ligament damage (I speak only from experience of tearing ligaments in my hand) limits your ability to both move the thumb and the rest of the hand in certain ways and to make those movements with strength behind them (i.e. active strength or the sort of strength that just withstands pressure.) You are still capable of moving a broken thumb in most cases pretty much how you move it normally, but it will hurt an awful lot. You are, in most cases, simply incapable of moving a thumb completely when there are sufficiently torn ligaments, even if there is very little pain. I could be wrong and I don't know any of the technical terms, but this is my take on it.

23
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 6:24am

The real question isn't what is going to sideline Favre. It's whether he manages to pass any of Elway's marks before he goes down.

Also, I'm surprised that, out of all the KC players mentioned as due for an injury, Holmes isn't on the list. Neither is C-Martin or Rudi Johnson, who both had a ridiculous number of carries last season (and as Aaron's article last year pointed out, history hasn't been kind in year n+1 to backs coming off of a high carry season).

24
by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 10:42am

A prediction for next March: Bennie Joppru, recently recovered from his ACL woes and raring to go for minicamps, fell down the stairs in the Texans weights facility and broke his right leg, both arms, seventeen ribs and his neck. A few days earlier, Kellen Winslow had suffered a career ending ankle dislocation in a freak bungee-jumping accident.

25
by Jim A (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 3:38pm

Erik B (#21): make sure you read Carl Prine's "Bloody Sundays" research, linked on the FO Links page.

If Carl is still around here, perhaps he will respond more authoritatively, but we know that a player's position greatly influences his likelihood (and type/severity) of injuries. Also, I think we can say that some injuries are more difficult to fully recover from and lead to more reinjuries than others.

Beyond that, there's probably reason to believe that a player's age and usage (particuarly among RBs) is a factor. Other than that, I'm not sure how predictable individual injuries are.

I also asked Carl whether injuries are predictable at the team level, and his response was no, they appear to be random. That is, there's no reason to believe that any particular team will be more likely to suffer injuries than another, except possibly for artificial turf teams.

26
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 4:34pm

I'm still wondering whether or not team injuries are predictable at the opponent level. It's got to increase your risk of injury if you play Baltimore as opposed to if you play St. Louis or Cincinnati.

Except maybe you'll get more sprains from St. Louis or Cincinnati by running past the defenders so often.

27
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 5:04pm

I remember when Baltimore's championship season when they knocked out the opposing QB in two straight playoff games, both times from a Sam Adams/Siragusa sandwitch, if I remember correctly. (Wow, does that sound disturbing.)

28
by Jim A (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 6:01pm

Pat, I've wondered that, too. But by inference, wouldn't that favor teams like Baltimore? It seems to me that being bigger, faster, stronger, and rarely out of position would help a team avoid injuries. And not coincidentally, those traits would also help you win football games.

29
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 6:19pm

There are certain players that seem to be more likely to cause injury to opponents, like Roy "Horse-Collar" Williams, the Denver cut-blockers, Rodney (whom I have the utmost respect for) Harrison. I'm sure we would see increased injury probabalities for teams they go against.

30
by Jim A (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 11:34pm

I would guess that, given the sheer volume of mostly random injuries in the NFL not involving "dirty" play (or physically dominating play), on the whole the predictable injuries aren't particularly significant. Plus, the NFL cracks down pretty swiftly on any player or technique (e.g. horse-collar) with suspensions or rule changes.

Still, it would be extremely valuable if a team could find a consistent and reliable way of avoiding its share of injuries, perhaps by better strength training techniques or optimal practice schedules. In fact, that's one of the advantages the Oakland A's reportedly have been able to gain with respect to pitcher arm injuries using their Moneyball approach. But a team can't avoid scheduling teams or players that cause an unreasonable number of injuries, so that's really where the league has to step in.

31
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 09/08/2005 - 12:49pm

Pat, I’ve wondered that, too. But by inference, wouldn’t that favor teams like Baltimore?

"defense wins championships", don't forget.

Yah. I think it would favor Baltimore.

It seems to me that being bigger, faster, stronger, and rarely out of position would help a team avoid injuries.

I dunno. Where's Carl when we need him? I've always thought that football injuries primarily result from impact, so you're better off avoiding impact. By playing St. Louis or Cincinnati, for instance, as you can just run freely through their secondary.

32
by Jamie (not verified) :: Thu, 09/08/2005 - 1:20pm

McNair wont go out because of the sternum this year. I'm not saying he wont have any other injuries, but that sternum is not a concern any longer. The operation was a complete success and it's fully healed.

Anyone watch the preseason game against the Bucks? McNair fell on the ball, just like he did last year, then jumped up with a huge smile on his face and quickly ran back to the huddle. Afterward, he said he felt allot of relief getting that hit out of the way. It answered allot of questions for him.

McNair has this aura of the most durable player in football, or at least used to. It's well deserved. In the off-season between 2000 and 2001, he almost died from a shoulder infection. It got so bad that they had him in a hospital with his shoulder ripped open, cleaning out the infection multiple times a day. They were very worried that it would become gangrenous. Not much they could have done at that point. Can't amputate past the shoulder.

My point is that McNair has come back from some very, very serious injuries in the past. He's also played with injuries that probably would have sidelined the great Bret Favre. This sternum thing has been effecting him for three years. He just got tired of it and that's the reason he contemplated retirement if the surgery wasn't 100% effective. He was just worn out from it.

33
by John (not verified) :: Sat, 09/10/2005 - 12:55pm

Just because it's healed doesn't mean it can't be reinjured.

34
by JB in DC (not verified) :: Sat, 09/10/2005 - 2:57pm

Just because it’s healed doesn’t mean it can’t be reinjured.

I think Correll Buckhalter demonstrates this principle annually.

35
by Carl (not verified) :: Mon, 09/12/2005 - 4:03pm

"Where’s Carl when we need him?"

I was at SRP at Ft. Indiantown Gap preparing for Iraq (don't worry, Aaron, I'm still slowly crunching the team injury numbers in my spare time).

Don't you always need me, especially for TMQ?

JimA is right. We carefully studied incidences of injury over a four-year period for every NFL team. Although there can be fluctuations from year-to-year, we found the league to be amazingly uniform in the number and type of injuries, depending, of course, on the positions being analyzed.

Take knees. It's nearly uniform (punters and kickers excepted) that players, no matter the position, experience the same rate of knee injuries. This largely is due to the fact that the basic mechanics of the knee are used and abused uniformly throughout the leage.

Of great interest to NFL executives, the NFLPA and me, however, was how certain injuries crop up disproportionately at certain positions. That led us to find out why this is so.

Case in point: DLs. While both offensive and defensive linemen suffer disproportionately high hand, finger, wrist and arm injury rates (from OLs holding out their arms to protect the passer; from DLs consequently windmilling their fists or using their hands to get around the arms of those across the line), it's the defensive side with the greater number of total injuries.

Why? The difference was in the high rate of leg, thigh, etc., injuries. Why? Players said cut blocks, roll blocks, leg whips, etc., that offensive players could (until recently) do legally to their foes across the line, but wouldn't be done to them.

Now, any injury is serious, but certain ailments are more serious than others. Certain very serious head/spine/neck injuries, for example, appear disproportionately within the ranks of DBs (CBs and Ss), QBs and WRs. For DBs and WRs, of course, this stems from high impact crashes, often in midair, or jolting tackles at great speed. For QBs, it's more often the blindsided, whiplashed head injury wherein the QB is relatively static compared to the velocity of the blitzer smashing his grape into Arrowhead Stadium.

We also checked to see if certain teams "caused" more injuries than others. This had a journalistic component -- I wanted to talk about the "meanest" team, and thought the award would go to a great defensive franchise such as Pittsburgh or Baltimore.

No such luck. The only difference we could find when it came to injuries was when teams played on Astroturf. There we found a six percent increase in total injuries. Other researchers have found higher rates (and more severe grades) for concussions on these surfaces. An internal NFL study found only a greater number of "abrasion" injuries, although our research doesn't exactly back that up.

Now, six percent doesn't sound like much, but if you're the Rams or Colts (or, for a year, the Bears), that can mean something. It doesn't necessarily mean they will lose more. It means that teams have to be especially worried about even higher injury rates for positions already beset with high injury rates (see DBs).

If you must staff a certain number of DBs for a season, and seven out of every 10 of these guys get seriously injured every year, adding another six percent risk of injury to them makes it tough for a GM to invest in a high-priced, shut down CB, right?

But this might not matter.

The Colts, ironically, have proven what the regression told us. By keeping certain key positions healthy, they tend to win more often than not (especially QB!). Because the high injury rates for certain positions (DBs, TEs), some teams (see Colts, NE) learned to economize by investing in lower-costing free agents.

This has worked out slightly better for the Pats than the Colts, although maybe not so this year.

36
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 09/12/2005 - 4:22pm

We also checked to see if certain teams “caused� more injuries than others. This had a journalistic component – I wanted to talk about the “meanest� team, and thought the award would go to a great defensive franchise such as Pittsburgh or Baltimore.

Hmm. This kindof makes sense - defense isn't about causing injuries, it's about restricting lanes of running and proper coverage - though I'd imagine if you looked deeper there should be some weak team-to-team component.

You'd have to imagine that playing sack-heavy would cause more quarterback injuries, for instance. It may be, however, that sack numbers are so volatile from year to year that it really just doesn't matter that much.

Of course, you could also see if QB injury likelihood is somehow correlated to number of sacks. There's anecdotal evidence for this, of course, with Carr, but I have no idea if there's any statistical basis.

37
by Carl (not verified) :: Mon, 09/12/2005 - 4:35pm

Pat, that might make for an interesting study. Do teams that play a lot of sack-happy defenses (Steelers, the Cover-two clones, etc.) suffer a disproportionately high rate of injuries? Do "scrambling" QBs experience lower injury rates because they evade blitzers? Or higher because they're more given to taking off and running like a tailback?

Just remember that QBs have injury rates (about two in every five get seriously hurt every season) more comparable to kickers and punters (about one in four get hurt) than defensive backs.

There's a reason for this. The NFL has slowly but steadily adopted and enforced rules designed to protect QBs, often at the expense of others on the field.

One of my favorite players, Jon Kitna (one of the nicest, smartest and most compassionate guys you will ever meet), once told me exactly how he would reduce injuries to QBs AND his WRs -- make every player on the offensive side a potential receiver.

Imagine every plump tackle or guard a potential TE? I bet we'd see a lot fewer offensive holding penalties or fat linemen.

Of course, the over/under would be something like 150.

Kitna knows this will never be adopted, but you've got to love the QB's perspective, right?