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Dave's Thoughts On The State Of The NFL

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Dave's Thoughts On The State Of The NFL

David R. Smith

I saw that Shaun tweeted he didn't have anything for today, so I figured I'd start my day with a blog. So you're welcome, Shaun. Boy, what would he do without me?

Okay. So what's happening this year in the NFL? Teams are getting so injury screwed that it's getting brutal. I've been thinking about it all season, but last night it affected the team I cheer for in a massive way.

The Patriots lost Gronk.

It's the same knee that he buggered before which is disconcerting. But from what I've been told by reliable sources (namely, my brother who follows many people on Twitter and relays information to me) the injury might not be as bad as it looks. Which is nice. 

Now granted, the Pats have lost other key players due to injury. But with the exception of last night, they've been able to find ways to win. But the cupboards are getting bare, man. The amount of guys they've called up from their practice squad just to dress a team is ridiculous. And along with Gronk's injury last night, they also lost a key player in Dont'a Hightower. In case you didn't click the link there, I'd just like you to take a look at these stats:

This is the first time I've ever tried to embed a Tweet in a blog. Hopefully it worked...

Last night's loss to the Broncos sucks, sure. But I didn't expect the Pats to run the table this year. A 16-0 season is very hard to do, and there's some solid competition in the NFL. (At least on the AFC side. The NFC sucks this year.) But I'm more concerned about the stretch. There are 5 games left before the playoffs and the Patriots have a lot of guys out. 

Now, what this loss last night means is that if/when we clinch the division or conference, we don't have to worry about some "perfect season" so the coaches can be sitting starters once we know that there's nothing to play for. This means that fewer of the players run the risk of getting hurt. But we have to get to a point where we can ensure something like that. And that's going to prove tricky if our players keep dropping.

So I return to my question: What's happening in the NFL this year?? How are there so many injuries? Jamaal Charles, knee. Le'veion Bell, knee. Jimmy Graham, knee. Jordy Nelson, knee. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. These are just some of the notable players missing amongst a massive list of players who have gone down this year. And many of them are lower body injuries.

I got into an interesting conversation with somebody about this and they speculated that because the NFL is trying to limit the amount of concussions that players sustain, players are hitting lower on the body, which means that there is more impact on the lower body. A cursory count the Rotowire injury report gave me the following numbers: 45 concussions to 135 knee injuries. Now, in some of these cases, the knee injuries are day-to-day so they're not drastic. But I'd wager at least 1/3 of the injuries were season-ending knee surgeries. 

In the grand scheme of things, a knee injury is a thousand times better than a concussion. I'm not even going to contest the two. I'm glad the NFL is trying to crack down on concussions. And in all honesty, I don't think all these knee injuries are simply from hits. I mean, Dion Lewis of the Patriots hurt his knee without even getting touched. Sometimes these things happen. But there has to be some correlation between the lack of high hits and the increase in knee and ankle injuries.

So what's the solution? I have no idea.

Like all modern sports, the NFL is getting faster and more precise. Training is more regimented, players are faster, coaches are analyzing game tape so precisely that teams know every player's habits. It's become a science. How do we slow down a juggernaut?

One standing theory is that you make equipment less damaging. Instead of having body armour on players, have them wear old school, more giving protective equipment. Make it hurt to slam into somebody. It sure seems to work in Rugby, where they wear almost no protective equipment. It's still a full contact sport. But when it hurts you as much hitting a guy, as it does the guy you're hitting, maybe you'll slow down a little bit. 

(Note: I'm not suggesting football loses equipment all together. That's just absurd)

Sure, this means you get rid of those massive plays in the middle of the field where a DB lays out a wide-receiver. The type of play that makes a home team crowd jump to their feet. I understand that the fans are the reason you have a team and you don't want to do anything to jeopardize losing tickets sales, but (if the NHL is any indication) it seems that leagues don't really listen to what the fans want and they just do whatever the hell they want anyway.

At a certain point, I have to wonder if there are more and more injuries, whether or not it's worth playing. I honestly don't know, as I've never had the allure of tens of millions of dollars waved in front of my face.  What I do know is that if a team keeps losing their marquee players and the NFL is left with a bunch of teams that look like a squad of pre-season players trying to make the cut, what's the point? It's not the team we all want to watch.

I understand that changing equipment won't eliminate all injuries. Obviously things happen and injuries are unavoidable (hell, I got myself a pneumothorax playing non-contact hockey. It was a freak injury.) It might help, though! What's the harm in trying? I'm sure the fans will still come back to watch. Hell, it might lead to more touchdowns because guys can't destroy a receiver like they used to be able to.

I don't know the answer. I'm just a guy who likes football, who plays fantasy football (and has watched my team, as well as all the teams in the league, get ravaged by injury after injury) and who just likes to follow football and this year, beyond the 15 years I've been really into the NFL, it seems like injuries are getting worse and worse. I don't know how to fix it, but something needs to be done.

Granted, there's never going to be a cure for a football to the groin...

Happy Monday, folks.

D (@davidronn)

P.S. Just before I finished, I got a notification on my phone that Gronk might not even miss a game with his knee. I'm cautiously optimistic.

P.P.S. This Gronk news still doesn't take away from the fact that something needs to be done.