By Steve Silverman
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Attrition is a fact of life in the NFL.
Injuries are going to happen at the most important positions and it’s not simply a matter of being lucky and avoiding them if your team is going to have a chance to win.
It’s no surprise that as the season has moved past the halfway point that quarterbacks are starting to go down.
In Week 10, Michael Vick, Jay Cutler, Alex Smith and Ben Roethlisberger went down with injuries and only Smith is likely to play.
Vick, Cutler and Smith suffered concussions while Roethlisberger suffered a rib injury that reportedly could have put his life in jeopardy because his displaced rib is so close to his aorta.
The NFL has a slew of rules in place to protect quarterbacks, but the NFL is all about hard-hitting collisions that put everyone in harm’s way.
Quarterbacks are going to be in the line of fire and the teams that are best prepared to cope will be able to survive.
Last year, the Chicago Bears were done in by Cutler’s broken thumb. Once he went down, the Bears had to turn the QB chores over to Caleb Hanie and he could not throw accurately or read defenses. You don’t have to be a football expert to know that’s a bad combination.
The Bears got rid of Hanie after the 2011 season ended and brought in Jason Campbell to back up Cutler. Campbell was forced into action in the second half of the wind and rain at Soldier Field against AFC juggernaut Houston, and he was unable to rally the Bears from a one-touchdown deficit.
Campbell had not had a single rep in practice prior to his game action, and that’s a common practice in the NFL. He had been limited to throwing on the side and working with backups.
With a full week of practice, the heat will be on Campbell.
The Bears seem to be in a stronger position than most, because Campbell has 70 career starts. The majority of them were with the Washington Redskins and he was a reasonable game manager for a below-average team.
The Giants also appear to be in better shape than most if they have to turn to their backup. David Carr was a longtime starter in the NFL. He lined up under center 79 times and he has a big arm if he ever gets the call.
Carr never developed into the star that NFL scouts thought he would be when he was drafted in 2002 by the Texans out of Fresno State, largely because he spent many of his seasons with the Texans getting rag-dolled by opposing defenses.
Carr has not started an NFL game since 2007 and that’s a long time to go between passes. However, if he is forced into action, Tom Coughlin should not have to make any limitations to the playbook.
The Steelers have to go with Byron Leftwich in place of Roethlisberger, and while Leftwich has 49 starts in his career, he is no sure thing.
Leftwich has a strong arm and is not afraid to take a hit. That must count for something, but he has almost no mobility and he takes far too long to get rid of the ball.
A quick release by the quarterback is essential in the NFL but you could time Leftwich’s with a sun dial. He can’t get away from the pass rush and he takes too long to throw it. That’s not a winning combination, but it’s the hand that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has been dealt.
Backup quarterback used to be considered a vital position. However, many teams are gambling that they aren’t going to suffer key quarterback injuries because it’s too expensive to bring in an experienced backup. The salary cap forces many teams to go with talented but untested No. 2 signal-callers.
That’s a gamble that rarely pays off. When a backup has to step in and play immediately without having practiced, it can be disastrous. For any contending team, that’s simply not the way to go.
Would the Giants be in better position than most teams if Eli Manning went down injured? Sound off below…