Will Carroll: Vick learns the importance of equipment - Sports Illustrated

Padding may tell the story of who's healthy and who's not this season

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The third week of the preseason brings longer stints for starters and the possibility that those injured now won't be ready for Week 1. On to the injuries ...

Vick wasn't wearing his preferred rib protector last weekend and he paid for it. Vick is an endorser of the Unequal brand of rib protectors, a kevlar-based product that holds the potential for an astounding at the amount of protection. How do I know? Watch. Vick wasn't even wearing a normal, bulky rib protector, such as the one Nick Foles was wearing when he came in the game later. (Just look at the difference in equipment apparent in those two pictures!) You'd think that the Eagles would want Vick, an injury-prone player because of his size and style, bubble-wrapped from the time he leaves the tunnel, but like most players, Vick was left wearing equipment that's a generation behind.

Unequal provided me with some examples of their latest rib protectors and other protection products, which I compared with the available pads at a local sporting goods store. There's no question that the Unequal is sturdier and offers more protection despite being significantly thinner, which has to give pause to the youth and high school players that will be relying on this type of venue to outfit them. Instead of wearing what amounts to stylish couch foam, players or schools could spend a couple dollars more and have better protection. The tradeoffs are minor at this level. For the pros, with million-dollar athletes and huge equipment budgets, it's unbelievable that there are not more players wearing this.

Unequal proclaims that its pads can reduce forces up to half in some areas, based on a recent test commissioned by the company. The test drops a three-pound weight from a height of three feet, creating a force of 8.5 joules. (To contrast, an NFL linebacker hitting a QB generates about 100 joules of force.) Unequal found its material reduced the forces by nearly half over the most commonly-used NFL pads. That's impressive, especially considering that there's no penalty in thickness, weight or flexibility.

Watching players who wear Unequal's materials, as well as those like Robert Griffin III, who are wearing a different but similarly advanced Evoshield padding, is going to be one of the most telling stories this year. Players and teams choose their equipment to some extent, influenced by style and by sponsorship. For years, I've called for teams and athletes to take a more proactive stance. To a much greater extent than previously possible, injuries can be prevented by the simple choice of equipment.

Vick will not play in the next preseason game and could be held out in the final matchup unless the Eagles have full confidence in his health.

A lot of people are reading the Vikings' decision to hold Peterson out of preseason games as a setback. It's not. After talking to people inside and outside the team, as well as some who have watched his rehab (and similar rehabs) closely, I understand it. Let's leave aside whether the preseason is necessary, given the dangers to players. Peterson didn't miss much time at the end of the season, so it's hardly the same "getting up to speed" we're seeing for someone like Jamaal Charles. The real issue here is protecting Peterson from himself. Peterson can't play well at 80 percent and asking him to dial it back, to not do things or push himself, is pretty much impossible. Peterson is going to hit the field and be Adrian Peterson whether his knee is fine or not. It's part of what makes him an elite-level back. The Vikings are keeping Peterson out of games not to protect his knee from hits, but to protect it from Peterson pushing it too much. If there's any positive sign I'm paying attention to, it's that he's having no swelling after practice. He'll be ready when it counts, Week 1.

Richardson's ADP is falling faster that the Curiosity Rover did a couple weeks back. The landing might be just as good for you, if you're the one who can accurately gauge where Richardson's true value is. His recent, minor knee surgery shouldn't change your opinion of his short-term prospects. There's no one in Cleveland to take his carries, which is one reason they used the high pick on a feature back like Richardson. While his durability is a bit more questionable than most realized, Richardson has been productive during game-years at Alabama. There's little reason to think that won't remain the case. The longer season is something of a worry, but that's something to factor in now and then worry about come Week 9. Richardson's ADP is probably too low. If you liked him when he got drafted, you're probably going to like him sliding into the second round. Take him. He'll be ready in Week 1.

Another concussion has Collie's career in question. The media was in full frenzy, with my friend Bob Kravitz begging the Colts to cut Collie to save him from himself. I understand where Bob is coming from, but if Collie wants to play, he'll find a team to let him do it.

Collie has been solid in his camp work with Andrew Luck and figures to get plenty of targets, assuming he can keep his head attached. The forearm he took from a Steelers DB isn't something unusual, but it's hardly the kind of helmet-to-helmet hit most would worry about causing a severe issue. It's a bit more troubling that something relatively minor could cause another problem, lending credence to those that believe that concussions make players more susceptible to concussions. The studies are mixed, but more are starting to shift to that way of thinking, and let's face it, better safe than sorry when it comes to brain injury. This will come down to Collie's decision, the timing of his recovery, and potentially equipment. There's no indication that Collie wants to hang it up just yet. The Colts have decent enough WR (and TE depth), especially if Donnie Avery makes it back in time to work into the mix. Collie was back at practice on Tuesday, though he has not yet passed the tests necessary, but indications are that will come quickly.

To me, the interesting part may be equipment related. Collie was one of a few athletes that tested the new Simpson-Ganassi helmet last season, though he ended the season wearing the same Schutt AirXP that he was wearing against the Steelers last weekend. I'm going to get a look inside the SGH factory this week and will have a lot more on this soon.

The Cowboys have an issue with hamstrings. Going back a few years, and specific to WRs, there are just more there than we'd expect. Some of that is personnel; maybe they draft greyhounds with tight hamstrings. That's an accepted risk that some teams are comfortable with, hoping that their medical staff or divine providence keep them healthy enough to be competitive.

Austin is having continued problem with his recurrent hamstring strains and has been ruled out for the rest of the preseason. Jerry Jones sounds frustrated with the situation, which is never good. Austin seems to be under the Kardashian Kurse, though Reggie Bush has shown that doesn't last forever. (Maybe it's just Dallas.) Austin will need to show progress soon or his Week 1 status and WR1 role are going to be in question.

Speaking of questions, I have a lot about Bryant's knee injury. He slipped, leading to pain, inflammation and an MRI. The Cowboys said it was patellar tendinitis, but that doesn't fit with the facts. Tendinitis is a progressive, lingering issue, while Bryant had a clear trauma -- slipping on wet turf -- that would fit much more with issues like a ligament sprain. The diffuse swelling that was seen fits more with sprain that internal inflammation as well. Either situation isn't good, though Bryant seems a lock for Week 1. Bryant is never going to be a plug and play player anyway, so watch this situation as well.

We've seen David Garrard up on a table with the old style electrodes on his knee thanks to Hard Knocks. It might be our last image of him. The Dolphins may cut him for cap reasons as much as his slightly slower than expected pace of healing ... Dennis Allen says he isn't going to "baby" Darren McFadden this year. That means you better not draft him without figuring out who you'll handcuff him to or drafting an extra backup ... Darren Sproles' knee issue is minor, but watch the schedule. The hard turf at the Mercedes Dome won't help him ... It's not good news that Isaac Redman's groin problem isn't really a groin strain. He has a hip labrum tear, one that will need surgical intervention at some point. The Steelers will try to keep him going but this is a boost to Jonathan Dwyer's value in the short term and Rashard Mendenhall in the long term. Overall, it's all bad for the Steelers ... James Starks might not just lose his starting job because of a toe injury, he could lose his roster spot. The Packers like Cedric Benson and don't like Starks' injury history ... Roy Helu is still having problems with both Achilles. Missing the preseason isn't helping him ... It's not just Helu. Evan Royster is having knee issues as well. It's even harder to pick who'll get the points in the Washington offense. Best guess? Robert Griffin III ... Infections are no joke. Steve Smith is out of the walking boot, but there are questions about his availability for Week 1 right now. Keep a very close eye on this if you're high on him or Cam Newton ... Hakeem Nicks is taking a lot of reps and having no problems with his surgically repaired foot. Pick him on talent, not worry ... I'll be stunned -- stunned -- if Jason Witten is ready to go in Week 1. Week 2 is possible, Week 3 or 4 is more reasonable, though football players are seldom constrained by reason ... James Harrison is optimistic about Week 1. Quietly, the Steelers are more focused on getting him back by Week 3, though they're not ruling anything out ... Things are confusing with Casey Hampton. He was activated from the PUP. Sources tell me "he's either going to be able to play or not, flat out." The roster spot isn't a big concern, but Hampton's long term prospects are still very risky ... Special teams speedster Marc Mariani broke his leg in Thursday's preseason game. That makes the return game a problem that the Titans will need to solve in a short period.