|Severe NFL injuries rose every season from 2009-12|
|Thursday, August 01, 2013 12:26 AM|
Sure didn’t take long for some significant injuries at NFL training camps — Philadelphia Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin, Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta, Denver Broncos center Dan Koppen, to name only three.
Immediately, some theories developed: Too much offseason work. Not enough. New labor-contract rules limiting padded practices to one per day, while generally seen as helpful, are hardly a cure-all.
Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher thinks some guys get hurt in camp because players are trying so hard to impress coaches and earn a roster spot or a starting job.
“You know now coaches are really evaluating you,” added Fletcher, whose teammate, second-year linebacker Keenan Robinson, tore his left pectoral muscle on Day 1 of training camp. “You’ve got guys with a competitive spirit and they’re looking at it, like, ‘My job’s on the line. I need to make a play’ and not realizing there’s going to be times to show coaches that you can hit, you can make plays in preseason games, but you don’t want to have a guy go down because of something that happened in practice.”
Whatever the cause, severe injuries are increasing in the NFL lately. The number of injuries that forced a player to miss at least eight days jumped every year from 2009-12, according to an analysis of NFL injury data released Wednesday. The study by Edgeworth Economics, based on information collected by the league, also shows that players with concussions missed an average of 16 days last season, up from only four days in 2005, while the length of time out for other types of injuries has been steadier.
“Severe injuries are increasing in frequency,” Jesse David, the economist overseeing the study, explained in a telephone interview from Pasadena, Calif. “I know that’s a very important issue for both the players’ association and the league — trying to tweak the rules and the equipment to deal with that. But despite everything they’ve been doing, it’s still going on.”
David said his company has done consulting for the NFL Players Association in the past and received the data for this study from the union but wasn’t paid by it.
The study reports there were 1,095 instances of injuries sidelining a player for eight or more days in 2009 — including practices and games in the preseason, regular season and postseason — and that climbed to 1,272 in 2010, 1,380 in 2011 and 1,496 in 2012. That’s an increase of 37 percent.
“The way I look at it, really, is that injuries are part of the game,” said cornerback Kyle Wilson of the New York Jets, who lost another cornerback, Aaron Berry, for the season when he tore a knee ligament on the first day of practice last week. “Injuries happen sometimes. They’re unfortunate but it really is just part of the game.”
Concussions have become a far-more-noticed part of football in recent years, with more discussion of the links between head injuries and brain disease, hundreds of lawsuits brought by thousands of former players and rules changes made by the NFL to try to better protect players.
During the nine years examined in David’s study, the average number of days missed because of head injuries by players in the league went from 4.8 in 2004, four in 2005, 4.1 in 2006, to 10.9 in 2010, 12 in 2011 and 16 last season.
“We have experts at practice every day to let you know, as a coach, if someone does have a concussion, so that makes it pretty easy. They leave it out of our hands; they put in the experts’ hands,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. “But, yeah, I think there’s more awareness in a lot of different areas when it comes to injuries over the last few years and rightfully so.”
David said “you now have more severe injuries overall” because of the hike in lengthy absences for reported concussions.
“Are the brain injuries actually more severe now than they were five years ago? Or is that players simply being held out longer for the same injury? That we can’t tell from the data,” David added. “My guess is it’s both but how much of each factor, I don’t know.”
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, who said the league will look at the study’s findings, attributed the longer absences for players with concussions to more caution in the treatment of those types of injuries.
“We do know that the game is safer now but we still have work to do. We continue to work hard on many fronts to make the game better and safer for our sport at all levels,” McCarthy wrote in an email. “Our ongoing efforts include making rule changes designed to take dangerous techniques out of the game and also improving medical care to properly manage and treat concussions and raise awareness of their seriousness.”
Eagles’ Cooper apologizes for racial slur
PHILADELPHIA — Saying he was “ashamed and disgusted” with himself, Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper apologized repeatedly for making a racial slur at a Kenny Chesney concert that was caught on video and led to him getting fined.
The video of Cooper using the N-word surfaced Wednesday on the Internet. Cooper issued a statement of apology, then met with reporters outside the team’s practice facility.
“This is the lowest of lows,” Cooper said. “This is not the type of person I want to be portrayed as. This isn’t the type of person I am. I’m extremely sorry.”
Cooper said he was drinking when he directed the slur at an African-American security guard at the concert in June and noted he was fined a significant amount of money by the Eagles.
The league released the following statement: “The NFL stands for diversity and inclusion. Comments like this are wrong, offensive and unacceptable.”
A fifth-round pick out of Florida, Cooper is entering his fourth season in the NFL. He has 46 catches and five touchdowns in three years with the Eagles.
Cooper had tentatively moved into a starting role after Jeremy Maclin tore his right ACL in practice last Saturday. Still, he’s not guaranteed a roster spot in Chip Kelly’s new offense.
“I’m willing to accept all consequences,” Cooper added. “I know no one in Philadelphia is happy with me right now. I accept that. I hope they see the true me and accept my apology. I know it will take a while.”
Cooper planned to speak to teammates after talking to the media.
NFL Pro Bowl rosters to be determined by draft
NEW YORK — The NFL Pro Bowl rosters for next year will be selected in a draft by team captains, with Deion Sanders and Jerry Rice assisting as alumni captains.
The NFL will abandon the AFC vs. NFC format that has been in place since 1971.
The league says Wednesday that fan voting will determine the players in the draft pool. The draft will be televised by the NFL Network on Jan. 22. The game will be played Jan. 26 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Other changes are coming to the game, too.
The ball will change hands at the end of each quarter, which could double the opportunities for 2-minute drills. Kickoffs (and return specialists) will be eliminated — teams will start on their own 25-yard line. Defenses will be allowed to play cover-2 and press coverage in addition to man and several clock tweaks have been instituted to speed up the game and prompt offensive play.