Some of you don't want to hear about steroids, performance-enhancing drugs, or the painkillers that remain the dirty little secret of the NFL. If you're one of those who tells me you "just want to watch the game," or "they're paid to play, no matter what," well, I'll get to the injuries and we'll discuss the StarCaps situation a bit later. It's important enough that I hope everyone reads to the end, but for now, the injuries:
It's the small things in the NFL sometimes, like a patch of mud at practice. Roethlisberger slipped on a slick bit of ground Wednesday and felt something in his knee. The Steelers did the smart thing and pulled him, letting
The Cowboys got hit with a double whammy last week, losing key players on the offense and defense within moments of each other. Luckily, it could have been a lot worse. Barber dislocated his fifth (pinkie) toe, and it had to be reduced in the locker room. It's a very painful injury, but not as key to push off as the other toes. Where it will be tested is in lateral movements, and, to a lesser extent, in stopping. Barber isn't a start-stop runner, letting tackles slow him rather than his own power, so he should be able to get back relatively quickly and get back to a reasonable level. For this week, it's a question of pain tolerance on Barber's part and prudence on the Cowboys' part. If he can safely go, he will, though it's likely to be a timeshare with
On the defensive side, Ware injured his knee on a rush. He was thrown off balance and took a step awkwardly, hyperextending his knee. He was being propped up during the post-game interview while denying the knee hurt, which is always fun to see. However, Ware's injury was one of his own body weight, not of additional weight, and that saved him. It was sore and a bit swollen as of Monday, but the medical staff expects him to be able to play this week. There's some question of whether he will, though again, there are a couple days of practice and treatment before they make any final decisions.
While I often talk about the macho culture of football ultimately hurting the sport as players who try to work through pain just end up doing more damage, there's a lot about Portis that's just different. Portis has always been a bit injury-prone, mostly with traumas to his legs and shoulders, but this season, it's a bit of everything, from his knee to his hips to his shoulder. Still, he's playing through it. We've heard that he's doing it as some sort of tribute to
No one likes to hear "groin" and "very sore" in the same sentence. That's what Bills fans are dealing with, but just think about Edwards, who's actually feeling it. As the Bills head north this week to play in Toronto, Edwards may not be on the field, but if so, the field itself could be an issue. The Bills are one of the last teams to play on AstroTurf, which now consists of a new compound called Gameday Grass, which is more like FieldTurf but has additional cushioning underneath. The Rogers Centre has FieldTurf, which is more suited for baseball than football, as the Argonauts' complaints suggest. There were no problems of note during the Bills' preseason game in Toronto, but with a sore groin, the harder surface could be an issue if Edwards does play.
Sometimes it's more than just injury that decides how long a player is out. Schaub was the backup Monday after
Winslow's season has been about like the Browns' -- disappointing, but not in the way some would have expected. It's been a bit of everything for Winslow, in much the same way as Portis. Winslow's had hip, shoulder and now, a high ankle sprain that will keep him out of this week's game and likely beyond. While Winslow's injury problems have come off the field, his style on the field is so high-energy and high-contact that he's not the type who will avoid injuries, which could shorten his career. If you watch Winslow, he almost seems to be looking for a hit, where someone like
The Colts have been a story of injuries all season long. With
Of all the things that can come out of the suspensions the NFL handed down to six players this week for taking a supplement that contained a league-banned diuretic, the most telling is that both
That motivation, the argument goes, is to keep up the charade of effectiveness for the NFL's drug policy.
None of these players were taking steroids; they were taking, perhaps unknowingly, a strong diuretic. However, they were knowingly taking a substance that was not an approved or blessed supplement. (The "blessed list" is a list of supplements tested by the NSF as clear of all banned substances.)
If the NFL had bypassed the doctrine of athletes being responsible for everything going into their bodies, it would have kicked the remaining teeth out of the policy, one that's served the NFL well in avoiding the type of scrutiny and ridicule that baseball has faced.
The Williams' lawsuit offers an interesting assertion, in that the NFL's doctors may have known that StarCaps contained a banned substance. Again, though, the responsibility is on the athlete, not the policy's managers.
There are rumors the NFL didn't hold this standard, letting off someone who earlier tested positive for the diuretic and led the NFL to StarCaps. If so, the law will have an interesting question, but the policy remains one of "strict liability." It's only that doctrine that stands between the NFL's policy and irrelevance, a place it already stands dangerously close to. It's time for the NFL to improve.