Another day of offseason workouts, another potentially season-threatening injury. On Thursday, New York Giants linebacker Jon Beason was carted off the practice field with a foot injury. The extent of the injury is unclear, according to the New York Daily News. Head coach Tom Coughlin didn't offer up many details. Beason is arguably the Giants' most pivotal defender, however, and so fans are understandably freaking out.
The injury extends what has been a troubling offseason for teams. Season-ending injuries have seemingly become a regular occurrence, the most recent example being yet another ACL tear for former Giants wide receiver Domenik Hixon, who was attempting to resuscitate his career with the Chicago Bears. Other casualties include Sean Weatherspoon, Sean Lee and Fili Moala. So what lessons do we learn from this?
1) Don't be a middle linebacker
Weatherspoon and Lee have already suffered season-ending injuries during OTAs. If you count Daryl Washington's season-long suspension, we're currently up to three starting middle linebackers who will not play a snap this season.
A couple more may miss at least a few games. We still don't know the prognosis on Beason. Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers' NaVorro Bowman is making his way back from a torn ACL he suffered in last season's NFC Championship Game, and though he is reportedly lobbying to play Week 1, head coach Jim Harbaugh has thus far suggested he will return by midseason.
2) Don't have a history of this stuff
Moala suffered his second torn ACL of his career. Lee and Hixon both notched their third ACL tears. Weatherspoon missed all but seven games last season with foot and knee ailments before rupturing his Achilles. Beason had appeared in just five total games over the course of 2011 and 2012 due to Achilles, knee and shoulder injuries.
3) Expect this to keep happening
Jenny Vrentas at MMQB pointed out at the end of last season that the number of players landing on reserve lists has been on a very steady rise from 2009 (223 players) to 2013 (269).
Specifically, preseason ACL injuries have increased rather significantly. It should be noted that preseason roster sizes increased from 80 to 90 players in 2012, but still:
We acquired the NFL's ACL injury data from 2004-12 through Edgeworth Economics, an economics and statistics consulting firm that works with the players' union to analyze injury trends. For 2013, we produced our own unofficial tally of the number of ACL injuries based on team releases, media reports and our own reporting.
We counted 27 preseason ACL injuries, the highest tally since records were first kept in 2004. Past preseason counts ranged from 12 (2005, 2006) to 25 (2008).
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick blamed last season's uptick in injuries on offseason workout limits. The 2011 collective bargaining agreement mandated fewer organized offseason workouts, and no live contact until training camp.
"I'm in favor of total preparation for the players for the season," Belichick said, via the Associated Press. "And I think that's been changed significantly and, I would say, not necessarily for the better, when you look at the injury numbers."
The NFL's crackdown on defenders who target opponents in the head has also been blamed for the rash of lower-body injuries of late, though that reasoning nor Belichick's explains why it seems that more serious injuries are happening now, during OTAs, when no contact is taking place. At this time last season, serious injuries to outside linebackers Melvin Ingram and Victor Butler were the most noteworthy, before the annual wave of training camp ailments began.
Perhaps this year's OTAs are simply an outlier in regard to injuries, though one that nonetheless demonstrates that the NFL is becoming an ever more dangerous league.