The best case scenario for any NFL team is to have all hands on deck and everyone healthy for the season opener. While that doesn’t happen as often as we’d like, the potential for injury early in the season is always a risk to be mindful of regardless. Healthy players certainly are not immune to injuries but those who have missed significant portions of time before hand generally need to take a little extra care.
Mike Wallace is one of those players who, after missing the mini camps, OTA’s, and preseason, will have only had a couple weeks of actual team workouts before the September 9th opener in Denver. That’s not to say that Wallace hasn’t been working out, when you train with Tom Shaw, you know you’re going to be in good shape. Just look at how Ike Taylor shows up to training camp each year as an example.
Still though, as the great Jerome Bettis himself mentions in a recent blog article:
With Mike Wallace finally reporting I expect him to jump right back onto the field as soon as possible, because that’s what the Steelers need him to do, but I don’t think that’s the best scenario. With a speed guy like that who hasn’t had any camp the odds of him pulling a hamstring are really great. There’s a difference between running in training and running in game conditions. In game situations, you have to go out there and start and stop, make cuts, and you can’t duplicate those on-field demands during training. I’m fearful he’s going to come in and be injured early in the season and leave that offense in even more trouble.
Another one is James Harrison, who also missed all offseason workouts and preseason. He had his arthroscopic knee surgery a couple weeks ago and has been up and down about his possibility of playing in week 1. Harrison also keeps himself in phenomenal shape all year around, working himself to the bone with every technique imaginable. He says his knee if feeling better and hasn’t had any significant setbacks, but at the very least the Steelers can and likely will limit his reps early in the season. We saw how Lamarr Woodley’s hamstring injury against the Patriots last year affected him the rest of the season. The defense can ill afford another year of one or both of their bookend pass rushers to miss significant time.
In fact, many are starting to feel that Harrison should just sit out this opening game. I’m personally on the fence with that stance; I’d like to see him play sparingly if he’s ready to go but not if the trainers aren’t fully convinced that he’ll be ok. As long as Harrison is honest with them, things should be fine.
Isaac Redman is another who’s had limited action since training camp. He’s been there in mini camps and OTA’s, but his ankle and hip issues have kept him from getting the reps he would have liked. He also says he’s feeling better but the fact that Mike Tomlin hasn’t named a starter yet is something to keep an eye on. Maybe he just wants to keep the Broncos guessing or maybe Redman really isn’t as far as long as we’d like. Either way, twisted ankles and hamstrings are something to be careful of here too. Redman has quick feet and uses a lot of spin moves and quick bursts through the line. Especially on field turf but really on any surface, one wrong plant on an already weak ankle can turn into a month’s worth of missed games easily.
Others to keep an eye on: Max Starks, who is getting better each week on his surgically repaired knee, still has to be careful. We’ll see in game time how he is able to adjust to pass rushers like Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil. Will he be able to put all of his weight on that knee and stand his ground on a bull rush, or be able to quickly move to adjust to an outside speed move?
Casey Hampton says he’s feeling good and he’s going to start. He also looked very good in limited preseason action, having been through ACL’s problems twice before in his career. Fortunately for him, he’ll be in a regular rotation with Steve McLendon just like always so that should help his cause.
There’s no way to avoid injuries in the NFL, sometimes it just happens. You plant your foot and it sticks in the turf, you’re on the ground and somebody rolls up your ankle, pull a hamstring running down field, etc. One thing is for sure though, the better football shape you are in the better.