Sometimes There's Just No Explanation For The Bad Luck Players, Teams Experience

By Jason Keidel
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NFL rosters are morphing into MASH units. The litany of injuries is so bad, Tom Coughlin has turned into Mr. Rogers, spawning a “Spa Day” — giving his players a list of holistic ways to burn an afternoon.

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This is the same coach who suggested that injuries were a thing of the mind.

It speaks to Coughlin’s courage to change. But it also speaks to the flaming debate over the number of preseason games.

Cynics assert that the four-game slate is little more than a money grab. Teams can gouge ticket holders for extra quid for season packages. You also have the concessions, advertising, and television incomes.

That all may be true. Probably is true. No, I’m quite sure it’s true. The NFL is a coin-gobbling monster that never met a revenue stream it didn’t like. Mike Francesa had to change the name of his Sunday show just because the Shield didn’t want Mike to use its name without the league taking some tax.

But how do you prevent Jordy Nelson from making a doomed pivot on a harmless pass in the flat? His ACL would have snapped the same in practice, crumbling before a defender pawed him.

Maurkice Pouncey, All-Pro center of my beloved black & gold, was rolled by a RB/LB boulder, cracking his fibula. Pouncey is simply snakebitten, gets injured just flushing a toilet. (We also lost our kicker in the Hall of Fame Game.) There’s no way to avoid the whims and winds of basic football plays.

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Imagine how Eagles fans wince whenever Sam Bradford rolls out. How do you explain Bradford’s twin ACL injuries while Eli Manning has played every snap since the Civil War, pinballs around the NFL pocket for a decade, and is basically as stout as he was at Ole Miss?

Bradford has played in 49 games; Manning has played in 180, including the playoffs. We hate injecting obscure or abstract sentiments, but sometimes it’s your time, and nothing can negate the violence of football or the randomness of the collision-free injury.

ESPN listed the more notable preseason injuries in league history, including hard-luck blows to Osi Umenyiora, Mark Sanchez, Dustin Keller, Terrell Thomas, and Jason Sehorn. The reason it seems or sounds so amplified is the games don’t count. But there’s no proof that players drop more often in August than in October.

The prevailing thought is that one lost player in preseason is too many. But there’s no injury-free formula to football, or any sport. In baseball, we hear of pitch counts and innings limits, yet elbows are still snapping like twigs since we’ve been told that 100 pitches are the watermark of any start, and any season. Mariano Rivera blew out his knee shagging fly balls. Dan Marino popped his Achilles’ without being tapped. Likewise with Kobe Bryant.

The Giants are stacking bodies like logs for a bonfire, while the Jets suffer more from idiocy than injury. Gang Green’s most notable offseason scratches come from a locker room right hook and a cinematic joyride from Sheldon Richardson. Are the Jets magically more limber? Is their training staff more astute than their co-tenants at MetLife Stadium?

There’s no way to shave 90 players down to 53, get reps and rhythm without practice. And there’s no way to become better at playing football than to play football. The NFL has already stripped the pads from practice, banning those interminable two-a-days in jungle heat, relegating the hardcore contact to Sundays. Yet players are still falling like autumn leaves.

Sometimes a player, team, and town just suffer from bad luck, injuries that blow the mind. Even if some think injuries are a thing of the mind.

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Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel