Short-yardage passing had a good year, except at the end of the Super Bowl. We look at the return of quarterback runs, the rise in pass-happy strategy, and 2014 success rates for offense and defense.
27 Oct 2009
by Will Carroll
If you listen to the radio, you'll probably hear me typing. Not any radio -- that'd be weird -- but when I'm on. It doesn't even have to be "radio," like when I do Jeff Erickson's show, which is on Blog Talk Radio: neither a blog, nor a radio show, or even a podcast. Still, it's the word that holds -- radio. The typing is almost always me looking things up in my database. I usually know what I'll be talking about on most shows but even so, there always seems to be something I'm looking up. Sometimes I remember that fact I'm looking for, like the comp for a broken fibula or the three players from 2005 that had lower abdominal strains. I don't have to remember them and often I don't, but they're there, somewhere in some institutional memory, some database if I can just hit the right keys in the right sequence. I didn't have these -- or anything -- when I started doing this. Along the way, the phrase "I've forgotten more than you'll ever know" holds true for sports injuries, but not with any air of arrogance. More and more, we have no need to remember. Google it, we say. Databases have replaced our faulty memories, getting better and more powerful as Alzheimer's becomes an epidemic. One of the things I love about my Kindle is that when I read, I can note passages, bookmark them, and they're all there. Sure, I can also -- and did, prolifically -- do this in paper books. Somewhere in the world or more likely in a landfill somewhere are the dogeared copies of The Great Gatsby I read during my teenage years. I had two copies, after picking up a new one so that I could read it anew, without seeing the filled margins of the first. Those are lost, along with my copies of Bach's Messiah's Handbook, Fitzgerald's Collected Stories, DeLillo's White Noise, and McInerney's Ransom. In the Kindle, they're all there, as long as the gadget lasts, which is probably not long in the scheme of things and as long as Amazon's cloud holds up, which is longer given their recent earnings report. I write columns about the week's injuries that are -- poof, gone. It's only as permanent as next week's fantasy roster. So let's get to it:
Referees getting hit is part of the game and a good portion of those funny blooper videos we'd watch on Sunday mornings before pregame shows went to 24-hours. While it's OK to laugh, these referees, especially the umpire, are definitely in harm's way. With all the attention on head injuries around the NFL, perhaps it is time to worry more about these men. A story broke this weekend that the NFL is considering some kind of helmet for them. I doubt it will end up being a football-style helmet, but some sort of rugby-style headgear could work. (One source I spoke with said it was a full helmet that was being considered, much like those used by pit crews in the IRL and NASCAR.) At least these would be effective, as opposed to the small plastic helmets worn by base coaches in baseball. Still, I wonder if this isn't just an easy, visible move to show that the NFL is doing something on this front, in hopes that we won't notice that nothing's being done on the real issues of long-term head trauma and drug testing.
Joe Theismann. Like Tommy John and Lou Gehrig, just the name is enough to make people cringe, those that follow football enough to remember that terrible injury. It wasn't the worst broken leg (Tim Krumrie) or leg injury (Napoleon McCallum) in the collective football memory. Sure, that happened on Monday Night Football, but Krumrie's happened in the Super Bowl. I think it was one of those moments where the super-athletes on defense got close enough to the golden-boy quarterback to make something dramatic happen and shift the paradigm instantly. Since that point, the NFL has drastically changed the rules and changed how it operated, as chronicled in Michael Lewis' The Blind Side. (I'm guessing the movie won't show that part.) Leon Washington's gruesome open fracture of his fibula probably won't be remembered, in large part because he should be able to come back. The fibula isn't as important as the tibia (Theismann broke both, as did Krumrie) and we've had a lot of progress in both sports medicine and fracture care since then. Washington is done for the season, opening up playing time for Shonn Greene, but he should be back. Darren Sproles had a similar fracture, if not open, and has come back with no discernible problems.
(Know what I remember most from the Theismann injury? The announcers. They quickly figured out that Lawrence Taylor was calling for help, not taunting, and one quickly said that it was a terrible injury. I think Joe Namath was cringing out of sympathy, because it was O.J. Simpson that really seemed to grasp how serious it was and tried to get the show to break. Forgot it was Simpson, huh?)
I like being able to say "it looked worse than it was" about an injury. Andre Johnson collapsing on the field and holding his chest looked terrible, but in the end it was just a painful, scary bruise. Johnson fell on the ball oddly, but the ball doesn't usually cause that kind of injury. On Monday, we found out that that "tend to" is the key here. Players don't tend to get lung contusions, but that's the diagnosis here. It's very scary, but not a long term problem as long as the area doesn't take more shocks in the near term. The pain and shock is the problem here and if Johnson heals normally and there is really nothing more here than just the contusion, he should be back for the Texans' next game. He'll probably need a bit of extra padding in the area, which is easy enough for a medical staff and the equipment managers to put together.
Last week, I pointed out that Anquan Boldin might not be the best source for information on how his high ankle sprain would actually affect him. After the team said that he'd play in Week 8 and that he didn't have a setback on Sunday, I might now question them. Boldin was hobbled but playing and yes, he was reasonably effective for the Cards in their big win. Still, we have to wonder if this is a situation like Percy Harvin, where painkillers allowed him to play but might well be keeping him from healing. There's always a delicate balance to be found between getting a player on the field and getting him back to health. Don't take this as a question of the medical staff but one of Boldin's own stubbornness and the team's needs superseding the normal decision. Boldin's going to continue to be hobbled, so if getting a couple points is better than getting none for your fantasy team, you're going to love Boldin over the next few weeks.
Speed guy. Recurrent hamstring strain. You can see where I'm going with this. Berrian missed a couple games during preseason, but we talkin' about preseason. During the season, things are different. Berrian's the deep threat for the Vikings attack, but he's also option three among Favre's receivers and if there's anything we know about Brett Favre, it's that he wears Crocs and he focuses on one receiver. Sidney Rice is that guy, so Berrian's absence wouldn't be as bad as one would normally think. Recurrent hamstring strains aren't a good thing for any player, but the Vikings are going to need Berrian at some point. It'd be better to get him healthy now.
It's not his foot. Giants fans are in a bit of a panic after their team lost to two good teams after taking five not-so-good teams to the woodshed. (Sorry, Giants fans, it's called "strength of schedule.") Eli Manning's foot, his footwork, and even his throws -- which have always seemed to be high -- all seem the same. Manning continues to deal with plantar fasciitis, necessitating treatment and pain management, but people who make their living watching these kinds of things also don't see any significant change. The Cardinals blitzed Manning a lot, but they do that anyway, so it's hard to say if it's the foot or his normal lack of mobility that is the issue. Teams will likely go to school on the blitz as a tactic, hoping that it's the foot.
The Colts might seem like they came out of the Rams game with a blowout win and some tough injuries, but really, it's mostly just the blowout win. Reggie Wayne left the field early -- and we could leave it there, really. He had some tightness in his groin (cue twin bathtubs ...) and there was simply no reason to not use Hank Baskett, aside from Peyton Manning still not wanting to throw to him. Wayne's injury is not serious and not expected to cost him any time, though it is still worth noting. Donald Brown also left after a couple carries, giving Chad Simpson a chance to scamper. Brown told teammates that he'd had this problem before. Described as a sprain by Jim Caldwell, Brown actually described a lax shoulder, one that on occasion pops slightly out of joint, causing some pain and swelling. Again, there was no reason to risk using him in the game. Bob Sanders also was seen leaving early, but the fact that he was out there at all was something of a surprise. Sanders' knees held up, despite the turf and more playing time than was expected, so he could be back next week. Expecting him to play more than the six games he did last year is still folly, but Sunday was actually quite the positive for him.
With Sam Bradford's college career over (take the money!), there's going to be a lot of speculation about how far he'll fall. Once thought to be the likely No. 1 quarterback and perhaps No. 1 overall pick, it's unlikely that he'll be recovered in time to make the Combine. I'm sure he'll show up; the interviews may be more important than the drills, and as Michael Crabtree showed this year, an injury that can be assessed and understood won't make a player fall too far. Still, with a potential franchise quarterback, it's a much tougher decision. SI's Peter King noted in his column this week that Bradford expects to be ready just before the draft itself, in a year where the draft will have an increased focus on the first round. Bradford could well be the next Brady Quinn, falling uncomfortably down the draft. He'll have his shoulder surgery with Dr. James Andrews, which will be the biggest factor in his draft status. Andrews' confidence is going to guide a lot of teams and any ability to throw in the days leading up to the draft will help Bradford. He's shown that this is an injury that can recur and that taking big NFL-style hits might be an issue, but the last time Dr. Andrews went out on a limb for a player with a history like this, it was Adrian Peterson, also from Oklahoma, and that turned out pretty well for all concerned.
Brian Westbrook left Monday's game with a concussion. It's obviously too early to tell how serious this was or how he'll respond, but these knee-to-helmet hits are tough. I hope you had him paired with LeSean McCoy ... Matthew Stafford was moving well at the end of last week, leading many to believe that he'll be back at practice. Be careful here as the Lions are likely to be very, very conservative with Stafford ... The Bills are playing it safe and saying that Trent Edwards is out for next week due to his concussion. Smart move ... Donnie Avery made a nice catch, but in falling normally, came up with a severe limp. That hip is going to be an issue all season. Some Colts players mentioned that the St. Louis turf was especially hard ... While Miles Austin emerges, Roy Williams continues to struggle with injuries and the playbook ... Heath Evans left Sunday's game with what's being termed a knee sprain. I couldn't tell what the mechanism was here, so we'll have to wait to see if he's at practice ... Jermichael Finley will have images taken on his knee. Sources were mixed on the severity of his injury ... There was lots of bad news in defensive backfields this week. Antoine Winfield is out for a month, at least, with a broken foot. Will Allen is done for the season after tearing his ACL. Finally, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will be a wait-and-see guy after an ankle sprain that looked bad, but appears to be a Grade I+ ... Albert Haynesworth played, as expected, on Monday. Watch for this pattern to continue over the next few weeks if he avoids a setback.
20 comments, Last at 28 Oct 2009, 5:58pm by Jerry