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NFL REPORT: Not all injuries are occupational risks
Each NFL season brings a tipping-point week of injuries, when seasons as well as ligaments are ripped apart.
In 2013, it was Week 7.
Three quarterbacks on NFC teams with playoff aspirations were sidelined for various periods of time: from St. Louis’ Sam Bradford (out for the year with a torn ACL) to Chicago’s Jay Cutler (at least four weeks with a groin tear) to Philadelphia’s Nick Foles (indefinitely with a concussion).
They weren’t the only victims. The Bears suffered a double whammy, losing their best players on both offense (Cutler) and defense (Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs, out six weeks with a shoulder injury).
The Colts lost their best and most experienced receiver (Reggie Wayne) for the season with a torn ACL, and the Packers are looking at life without star tight end Jermichael Finley for a while after he injured his neck against Cleveland.
Any chance the Texans have of rebounding from a 2–5 start took a major hit Sunday when Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Cushing suffered a season-ending knee injury. Houston already was without injured quarterback Matt Schaub, who was ineffective when healthy.
All of which made the NFL’s two-game suspension of Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather necessary, if not insufficient.
No one would argue that football is a violent and dangerous game, and that injuries are almost certain to occur every week. It’s a fact that players, coaches and fans accept as a price for entertainment.
But the injuries that hit Bradford, Cutler and Foles came on clean, relatively routine plays. Each was tackled legally, with no penalty flags.
Wayne was untouched when he tore his ACL. In the open field, he stretched awkwardly to try to catch an underthrown pass from Andrew Luck, who blamed himself for Wayne’s injury.
Luck’s sentiment aside, those injuries can be rationalized as occupational hazards. The same can’t be said for Finley’s injury—a reported bruised spinal cord—and Meriweather’s serial headhunting ways.
Cleveland safety Tashaun Gipson was flagged for unnecessary roughness for his hit on Finley, who temporarily lost feeling in his arms and legs. Finley spent Sunday night in an intensive care unit before being released Monday.
Gipson, who’s likely to be fined but not suspended by the NFL, knelt in prayer while medical personnel attended to Finley and seemed genuinely concerned. He later told reporters: “I’m definitely going to shoot my condolences to him. There wasn’t any ill intent.”
Meriweather showed no such remorse, insisting after the game that he’s trying to clean up his act. The photos in Tuesday’s Free Lance–Star of Meriweather going helmet-to-helmet on Chicago’s Alshon Jeffery and targeting Brandon Marshall suggest otherwise.
After being fined a career total of $127,000 for previous illegal hits, Meriweather probably escaped a longer suspension only because Jeffery and Marshall somehow escaped injury. Outspoken Bears tight end Martellus Bennett called Meriweather “a scumbag” on his weekly Chicago-area radio show Monday.
Meriweather said he didn’t think NFL officials were “targeting” him—an ironic use of words, considering his actions—but teammate Barry Cofield wasn’t so sure.
“When you get a reputation, they watch you closer,” he said, mentioning Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh as another allegedly dirty player who gets no leeway anymore.
Meriweather’s suspension won’t bring Cutler back any sooner. It may allow Denver’s receivers to sleep a bit better this week.
But it may send a message—and might help prevent more unnecessary injuries in the next 10 weeks.
Steve DeShazo: 540/374-5443
1. Chiefs (7–0) On pace for sack record.
2. Colts (5–2) Who is Luck’s No. 1 now?
3. Seahawks (6–1) Harvin’s return should help.
4. Broncos (6–1) Defense’s flaw exposed.
5. Saints (5–1) Three of next four at home.
6. 49ers (5–2) A vacation in London?
7. Packers (4–2) Ex-Hokie Boykin shined.
8. Bengals (5–2) They control AFC North.
9. Patriots (5–2) Obscure penalty was costly.
10. Lions (4–3) One takeaway in three losses.
11. Cowboys (4–3) No-name defense shining.
12. Bears (4–3) No Cutler, no success?
13. Chargers (4–3) Will bye slow momentum?
14. Panthers (3–3) Last over .500 in 2008.
15. Jets (4–3) Dominated the Patriots.
16. Ravens (3–4) Stumbling into bye week.
17. Titans (3–4) Special-teams gaffes costly.
18. Dolphins (3–3) Will McKinnie help line?
19. Cardinals (3–4) Upcoming schedule is soft.
20. Steelers (2–4) Ground game awakened.
21. Bills (3–4) Ended six-game road skid.
22. Browns (3–4) Benching Weeden again?
23. Eagles (3–4) Vick’s return is timely.
24. Rams (3–4) Sending out SOS for QB.
25. Falcons (2–4) RB Jackson set to return.
26. Redskins (2–4) Slim secondary in Denver.
27. Raiders (2–4) Offensive line in shambles.
28. Texans (2–5) Injuries, losses mounting.
29. Giants (1–6) Hillis helped run game.
30. Vikings (1–5) Freeman wasn’t the answer.
31. Bucs (0–6) RB Martin hurts shoulder.
32. Jaguars (0–7) Every loss over 10 points.