Earlier this offseason during OTA’s, we all saw what could happen during an NFL practice, albeit minus pads, whenever highly-touted Jaguars’ rookie edge rusher, Dante Fowler Jr. already began making plans to debut in 2016, as he went down for the upcoming season with a torn ACL.
Training camp is an entirely different animal, with helmets, pads and live contact and if one is seeking the latter, I highly recommend checking out the backs on ‘backers portion of Steelers’ camp, as it’s always a fan favorite. Each and every year, numerous players go down during this grueling segment of the NFL calendar, some for days or weeks, others for months or the entire season.
Last season’s training camp season saw several players suffer key injuries including Colts’ running back Vick Ballard with a torn Achilles, ex-Jags’ wide receiver Cecil Shorts III suffer a significant hamstring injury and Giants’ rookie phenom Odell Beckham Jr. suffer a hamstring issue which hampered him all season. In fact, OBJ missed all the preseason and the first four games of the regular season before taking the league by storm.
The point is, freak injuries can happen as it’s a part of the game. The Steelers, along with Minnesota, seem to be more susceptible this year than any other team, considering the teams play an extra preseason game in the Hall of Fame game on August 9. That game will likely feature the starters for only a series or two, allowing the backups and players fighting for roster spots to prove their worth to the coaching staff.
In fact, the team is already experiencing the injury bug, as backup swing tackle Mike Adams is out 4 weeks due to back surgery on July 20. Also, All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey is out due to a foot issue, although it’s only precautionary as Mike Tomlin labeled it “minor.” This will give the coaches a great chance to get a nice look at some of the young blood they’ve acquired along the offensive line, namely inexperienced/undrafted guys like B.J. Finney, or the massive Alejandro Villanueva. However, this is the time of year where caution needs to be exercised because if not, something minor could turn into something serious down the road. As the adage goes, “it” rolls downhill.
We all remember a couple seasons ago, the absolutely gruesome injury that ILB Sean Spence went down with so it’s very telling that anything can happen. The injury bug seemed to luckily steer clear of the team last year, minus the obvious one in the playoff loss, as running back Le’Veon Bell was out due to the hyperextended knee he suffered the week prior versus Cincinnati.
The coaching staff obviously will be monitoring this situation closely, as it can ill afford an injury of that magnitude to enter a season, especially with the schedule they’ll be forced to navigate if they wish to return to the postseason. Perhaps because of this, the viewing audience will see even less of the starting units than they’re accustomed to each August.