By Leo Roth - Rochester D&C
I'm not suggesting that the Buffalo Bills are snakebit when it comes to injuries, but this is how coach Doug Marrone opened his mid-week news conference:
"Start off with the players that didn't participate in practice. Obviously (Stephon) Gilmore with the wrist, (Dustin) Hopkins with the right groin, (Marquise) Goodwin with the hand, (Ron) Brooks with a foot, (Kraig) Urbik with a knee, (Leodis) McKelvin with a hamstring, (Alex) Carrington with a quad, Stevie Johnson with a hamstring, Mario Williams with an ankle, Kyle Williams with an Achilles. Limited were (Jairus) Byrd (with his foot problems) and Marcell Dareus (with a knee).
"Other than that, we're in great shape to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens."
OK, I added in that last sentence, but you get the drift. The Bills are already losing the NFL's sinister Battle of Attrition, and it's only Week 4.
Why the Bills seem to suffer more than their fair share of broken bones, torn ligaments and ripped hamstrings is partly due to myopia but still not easily explained. In fact, team leaders have been searching for answers and implementing ideas to curb injuries for a decade now with little if any success.
After Buffalo led the league in players placed on season-ending injured reserve in 2009, new coach Chan Gailey hired not one but two strength and conditioning coaches, thinking that would help. It didn't, and it was a big reason his teams never finished better than 6-10.
Last spring, the Bills began monitoring exertion rates using GPS tracking devices attached to each player in practice in hopes of predicting and thus avoiding periods when they are most susceptible to injury. I'd say the whole game against the New York Jets was one of those periods.
In our sprained neck of the woods, it's difficult not to perseverate on injuries in relation to the Bills' incurable streak of missed playoffs (13 seasons). It's natural to look for reasons, and injuries are definitely one. But the reality is that Buffalo has plenty of company in the ER - it's just that other NFL teams tend to weather injuries better when their depth is better, their drafting is better, their coaching is better.
To his credit and wisely so, Marrone isn't harping on his team's hurts. The rookie coach remains without his two best defensive backs in Gilmore and Byrd. He watched the Jets feast at that all-you-can-eat buffet. He knows the Ravens will do the same.
"The one thing I've always realized about this league," Marrone said, "is that no one ever feels sorry for you."
Yes, for a dose of perspective, one merely needs to call up the NFL's injury report from last week alone.
In Arizona's game against New Orleans, Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson lost the tip of his left middle finger (cringe now: doctors shaved the bone and stitched the skin back over). Chicago defensive tackle Henry Melton, Detroit defensive end Jason Jones and Minnesota fullback Zach Line each blew out knees. Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor suffered a concussion, one of nine players listed with head injuries.
Heck, the Lions lost top receiver Nate Burleson to a cheese and pepperoni pizza - he crashed his car trying to prevent a pizza from sliding off the front seat and broke his arm in two places. And I thought Bills quarterback Kevin Kolb hurting his knee slipping on a rubber mat was bad luck.
Studies show severe injuries are on the rise in the NFL.
One by Edgeworth Economics said injuries that forced a player to miss at least eight days rose every year from 2009-2012. League data reveals that players heading to IR rising from 10 to 13 percent, about 420 a year. Time players missed with concussions rose from just four days in 2005 to 16 last season, but that's a bit of good news based on better awareness and care.
The simple reason for the carnage can be summed up in the axiom: "Bigger, stronger, faster." Today's NFL player is a Corvette with muscles, yet the knee joint is the same design used by Y.A. Tittle.
The fact pro football is a year-round job now doesn't help with rest and recovery. The new union contract has made training camp much easier on the body. Yet that didn't prevent one of the worst preseasons for injuries in NFL history.
This just in: football's a dangerous game. So is driving out for a pizza.