NFL Limping Towards Regular Season Opener
Is it just me or is the National Football League looking a little ragged these days? Don’t get me wrong, I am sure there are millions excited about the upcoming season as well as their requisite fantasy football drafts and other assorted pool and gambling ventures (myself included), but to my eyes the NFL is looking a little like an aging prize fighter, sitting on its stool, mustering its strength to answer the bell for Round 15. Let me clarify. The league is in amazing financial shape and has fans out the wing-wang, but this 2013 campaign seems to be starting with some fairly dark clouds hanging over it.
The first thing that jumps out at you, as you prepare to watch the final week of meaningless exhibition games where teams sit all their stars in order to protect them, is just how many of those teams have already lost significant players from their rosters. Sure, these things happen every year but it looks as though just about every team, especially a number of pre-season favorites, have taken significant hits. Here’s just a quick list of some of the more high-profile teams and their assorted woes:
Green Bay Packers: Left Tackle Bryan Bulaga out for season. Two untested players manning both tackle spots on the offensive line.
Denver Broncos: Linebacker Elvis Dumervil leaves via contract screw-up while linebacker Von Miller will miss first six games serving a drug suspension.
San Francisco 49ers: Wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham are both on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. Manningham may make it back at some point this season. Same can’t be said for Crabtree.
New England Patriots: One tight end, Rob Gronkowski, still out recovering from multiple surgeries. The other, Aaron Hernandez, may be guilty of multiple murders.
Seattle Seahawks: Prized off-season acquisition, wideout Percy Harvin, out indefinitely after hip surgery.
Baltimore Ravens: After going through the usual post-Super Bowl hangover roster losses (Boldin, Reed, etc.) the Ravens also lost starting tight end Dennis Pitta for the season after hip surgery.
This is just a small sampling, but you get the point. And these are just the “major” setbacks from a handful of teams that are Vegas darlings. There are plenty of issues on other teams which include such names as Arian Foster, Brandon Marshall, and Le’Veon Bell, to name a few. But it’s not just these current events that the NFL is dealing with.
As has been reported on various news outlets this week, it appears that the NFL may have pressured ESPN to bow out of a collaborative effort with the PBS show Frontline on the connection between football and brain injuries. Though the NFL denied the report which first appeared in the New York Times, the league can only run from this problem for so long. [Ed. Note: As I wrote this, it was reported that the NFL has settled the lawsuit brought by 4,500 former players by forking over $765 million.] But even with today’s lawsuit settlement (a drop in the bucket for the NFL) the issue of repetitive brain trauma and other debilitating injuries isn’t going anywhere soon.
So, are we ready for some football? Yes, of course we are. But it’s pretty clear that there’s a significant amount of uncertainty surrounding the upcoming season as well as the future of the league itself.