New England's Tom Brady watched his long throw sail past rookie Aaron Dobson just as Tampa Bay defensive end Adrian Clayborn pushed 320-pound
left tackle Nate Solder into him during a joint practice Wednesday in
Brady hit the ground, rocked backward and held his left knee — the same
one he tore up in the 2008 season opener that forced him to miss the
rest of the year. Even before he limped off the practice field, Twitter
went nuts, and not just because it was a two-time MVP quarterback.
Every twisted ankle and sprain has become a trending topic this
preseason, giving the impression there's an injury epidemic at training
camps from coast to coast. Teams say that's all it is — an impression.
"A lot of times there's a little bit of panic because all we hear about
is all the guys who get hurt in training camp," said Denver Broncos
Hall of Fame quarterback-turned-boss John Elway. "That hasn't changed
from when I played."
What has changed is how that information is disseminated.
Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, co-chair of the NFL's competition
committee, noted that while some big-name players have been lost to
major injuries, like torn ACLs, every bump and bruise seems to quickly
become part of the national narrative.
With so many bloggers competing with traditional news sources for
eardrums and eyeballs, "what goes on in the rush to break news now is
that people don't have the same standards to confirm the injury," McKay
said. "They want to make a splash on Twitter and sometimes it's not
All this in a year when the NFL put limits on padded practices, issued
new mandates on thigh and knee pads and made rules changes to protect
players on both sides of the ball.
Elway said he doesn't think there are any more injuries than before,
and McKay, whose committee recommends rules and policy changes to the
NFL, said owners won't get the injury figures from training camp until
their October meeting. As a result, he said it's too soon to tell if
there's been a spike in any type of injury or at any particular
position for that matter.
"We have no hard data yet," he said. "We've had some ACL injuries so
far. Last year, it was Achilles injuries in camp. I want to wait for
the six weeks of training camp and the preseason and compare year to
year and allow the experts to evaluate if there's any more injuries or
if the injuries are different than in years past. But I don't think
there's any more."
Like Brady, Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles also created
quite a buzz on social media.
Charles, who missed an entire season two years ago with a torn ACL in
his left knee, turned his right foot midway through practice Monday,
gingerly climbed into a green cart and was taken to the locker room.
Twitter was atwitter with "NFL insiders" giving conflicting accounts,
some saying the Chiefs feared the worst, others saying they were
Coach Andy Reid briefed reporters when practice ended and said it was a
strain and that X-rays were negative. Then, the speculation turned to
how long the Pro Bowl running back would be out.
On Tuesday, with speculation about Charles' injury still running
rampant, the Chiefs trotted out their trainer, who said Charles had his
foot examined by two orthopedic surgeons and they confirmed the team's
diagnosis of a mild strain.
The league has barred ball carriers this season from using the crown of
their helmets to make forcible contact with a defender in the open
field and eliminated the peel-back block. The changes were the latest
involving safety, and head injuries in particular, with the issue
receiving heightened attention amid lawsuits filed by former players
claiming that the NFL didn't do enough to prevent concussions in years
Camps had barely opened when Broncos center Dan Koppen, Chargers
linebacker Melvin Ingram, San Diego receiver Danario Alexander and
Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin went down with torn anterior cruicate
Bengals All-Pro receiver A.J. Green bruised his left knee trying to
make an acrobatic sideline catch on the first day of camp.
"I can't say that it's unique to this preseason," said St. Louis Rams
coach Jeff Fisher, co-chair of the league's competition committee with
McKay. "Unfortunately, preseason injuries are a part of the game, and
they happen every year. It's just something that you hope that doesn't
happen to you."
Some players, like Rob Gronkowski and Michael Crabtree, didn't even
make it to training camp healthy. Receiver Percy Harvin was sidelined
on the eve of Seattle's training camp by a torn hip labrum that would
require surgery, something he announced, fittingly, on Twitter.
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