The biggest risk for any team, and any player for that matter, is injury. They can end careers. They can wreak havoc in struggling team’s rebuilds. What has happened over the last few years? What has changed? Why does it seem everyone is hurt all the time? I did a deep dive into the injury epidemic the NFL finds itself in recently.
A lot of factors are at play here. One could argue that not much has changed and the total media exposure of every aspect of the sport in this information age just highlights the same occurrences that have always been there, but without the publicity. Another argument is the players are softer. Could this be a mindset issue? A work ethic issue? Some players are just there for the payday and they lack the work ethic to grind out the conditioning regimen to stay healthy while others are 100% heart and there to be the absolute best. These are, of course, not absolutes and injuries happen. This report in no way attributes negative connotations to any player whatsoever.
Believe it or not, this subject was actually very difficult to research. All the information points to medical science dramatically improving over the years as well as training philosophies etc. But I believe there is a correlation between medical advancements and mindset. And I believe they work at cross purposes. What I have found is yes, training programs have very much improved. But at the same time, trainers are also limiting players in an effort to keep injuries from happening in practice and training. Medical science improves and we hide the players away from the very thing they need to keep their bodies healthy. You combine this with the incredible advancement of the players themselves.. Players are bigger, faster, stronger. They hit harder. More so than any time in the history of the sport. Less contact in practices, softer run throughs only to go into full speed game situations where people are getting crushed. The body is just not prepared for what is coming.
I believe this stems from how much money is invested into each player. Tens of millions per contract. Hundreds of millions over the course of some careers. Do you really think Cincinnati didn’t take extra precautions with Joe Burrow in camp or practice? What about San Francisco having more than $53 Million in salary on injured reserve right now? Having more than $90 Million on IR throughout the season? The numbers are astounding.
Ultimately, there is no one right answer here outside of the fact that injury is just an aspect of the game that is going to happen. Regardless of how well you train or what philosophy you hold regarding player health, it just happens. There are a combination of factors and all are valid. Some players just don’t put everything they have into staying healthy while others who will be hitting those players will. Some teams are too soft on their guys and that leads to complications. Some coaches put an injured player on the field when they shouldn’t.. Adam Gase, I’m looking at you! The game is faster and harder hitting than it ever has been and I would go out on a limb here and say that even someone like Lawrence Taylor would step in today’s NFL and be mauled by some of the bigger and faster O linemen who are playing today. It is just a different world in the sport today. Is there an answer? Unfortunately, I don’t think so. It is just something players will have to accept going in and they will have to make the personal choice of how they will conduct themselves while at this level.
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