By Brandon Niles EBS Contributor
Football is a violent game. Kids learn that from the very first time they put on pads, and parents have long held their breath while watching youngsters attack each other with reckless abandon.
We cheer our gladiators in arenas big and small, but there’s a little part of us that knows just how dangerous the sport can be. Many of us remember gruesome injuries shown on television screens in the past. Images of Joe Theismann and Bo Jackson serve as cautionary tales for each new generation.
While statistically this season is on par with any other, the rash of injuries that have plagued the NFL through only the first couple of weeks seems astounding. This is because the players getting hurt are high profile.
Prior to the start of the season, Dallas Cowboys star quarterback Tony Romo injured his back and will be gone at least half the year. In Week 1, San Diego Chargers primary wide receiver Keenan Allen tore his ACL and is done for the season. After Week 2 a slew of injured players flooded the headlines, led by a knee injury for Minnesota Vikings All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson, shelving him for at least three months according to early reports.
Additionally, the NFL has seen serious injuries to two starting quarterbacks, a pair of high-use running backs, and an up-and-coming wide receiver. Combined with the short-term injuries to starting running backs Doug Martin of the Tampa Bay Bucs and Jonathan Stewart of the Carolina Panthers, this is shaping up to be a very long season. The Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots are already down to their third-string quarterbacks, though Patriots starter Tom Brady is suspended, not hurt.
The NFL always has a significant number of injuries, but only two weeks in as of this writing, it feels so much more impactful because of the names involved. Week 2 alone saw nine of 32 teams lose one of their running backs for at least the remainder of the game.
Things should even out and get better at some point, but it’s alarming to see so many high profile players go down early, particularly in an age where player safety is supposed to be at the forefront of league priorities. People complain that player safety measures have hurt fans’ enjoyment of the game, but ratings keep climbing anyway.
For those nursing their broken fantasy teams or lamenting their seemingly dashed playoff hopes, bear in mind that this early in the season, anything can happen. The Vikings have a dominant defense to help recover from the loss of Peterson, and Travis Benjamin shows a lot of promise as the primary receiving option in San Diego.
Fantasy owners can look to the waiver wire to add depth at the running back position, or perhaps take advantage of needy teams looking to make desperate trades to save their seasons.
Most of all, we should all be encouraged that the NFL is experiencing more leg injuries and shoulder issues, instead of glossing over concussions each week. While leg injuries can be damaging to a player’s career, repeated concussions can severely affect a person for the rest of their life. While the NFL undoubtedly took too long to address concussions, it does seem to be a legitimate focus for the league now, which can only be good for the long-term future of the sport.
So next time you sit down to watch a game and you find yourself angry about a missed tackle or a dropped pass, bear in mind that these players are risking a lot to entertain us. And the next time you find yourself concerned over the NFL’s rule changes that emphasize player safety, remember that the finesse and athletic talent in the game is far superior to the big hits and violent collisions.
Anything we can do to keep our favorite players on the field is OK in my book.
Brandon Niles is a longtime fan of football and scotch, and has been writing about sports for the past decade. He is a fantasy football scout for 4for4 Fantasy Football and is co-host of the 2 Guys Podcast.