One shouldn’t use a broad brush when painting a hot take that tries to explain that horribly long list of players wounded during Week 2 of the NFL season.
There are too many variables. Variables that aren’t limited to COVID-19 canceling the preseason.
If that were the reason, where was that same level of carnage in Week 1? And why were the two biggest supernovas to suffer season-ending injuries — 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa and Giants running back Saquon Barkley — guys who did just fine when they sat out the entire 2019 preseason?
No, the attention should instead be focused on that new surface at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey. The one the NFL says it certified as safe. The one the 49ers called “sticky” after losing five players and their Super Bowl hopes in routing the pitiful Jets. The one the NFL Players Association wants thoroughly investigated before what’s left of the 49ers’ roster has to travel back to play on against the Giants on Sunday.
There shouldn’t be another game played at MetLife until the league, the players union and both teams are OK with the field. With no fans allowed to attend, changing the venue shouldn’t be too difficult.
Sunday was a tough day, but the only legitimate Super Bowl contender seriously impacted was the 49ers. Essentially, their NFC title defense is over before Week 3.
The strongest team in the conference a month ago, the 49ers are 1-1 and underneath the 2-0 Seahawks, Rams and Cardinals in the NFC West. They’ve already been upset by the Cardinals, who look like they’re ready to hang with their division foes as well as the 2-0 Packers and Bears, and the 1-1 Saints, Buccaneers, Cowboys and Washington, which they beat 30-15.
A roster already missing George Kittle, Richard Sherman, Dee Ford and Deebo Samuel went to MetLife Stadium and lost its quarterback, top two running backs and two starting defensive linemen, including Bosa, a leading candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Bosa and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas suffered season-ending ACL tears to their left knees just a few plays apart. Running backs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman will miss time because of knee injuries, and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is day-to-day and unlikely to play this week because of a high ankle sprain.
Starting Oct. 18, the 49ers have 10 games in 12 weeks, facing the Rams twice, Seahawks twice, Patriots, Packers, Saints, Bills, Cowboys and Cardinals.
Overall, Week 2 delivered other headliner blows to Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (high ankle sprain), Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (strained rotator cuff), Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton (season-ending ACL), Colts safety Malik Hooker (season-ending Achilles), Colts receiver Parris Campbell (possibly season-ending knee) and, of course, Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr (season-ending pectoral).
If you’re among those searching your memory banks to remember another Sunday that brought such carnage, just Google “NFL injuries.” Punch in September of just about any recent year. You’ll find your memory will be quickly refreshed.
As one example, here’s a pre-COVID Week 1 from a year ago: Super Bowl LII hero Nick Foles broke his collarbone in his Jaguars debut. C.J. Mosley injured his groin and missed 14 games. Devin Funchess broke his collarbone and was done for the year. Malik Jackson suffered a season-ending foot injury. Tyreek Hill injured a shoulder and missed a month. Other stars went down for short periods of time.
A week later, the NFL lost Drew Brees to a serious thumb injury and Ben Roethlisberger to a season-ending elbow injury on the same day.
The narrative by some at the time? You guessed it. The NFL needed to do away with preseason games to keep the players fresher.
We all knew there would be injuries regardless of what the NFL and the players union agreed to when discussing the ramp-up to the 2020 season. Using the 2011 lockout season — with no league activity outside of the draft from March 12 to July 25 — as the closest reference point, Browns center and NFL Players Association President JC Tretter cited data that showed injuries increased by 25% in 2011, with Achilles injuries more than doubling and hamstring injuries increasing by 44%.
But let’s wait before assuming that every roster will be decimated by the time the playoffs start. And another tidbit from 2011 is just how brilliant and productive that rookie class was overall.
The group of players that should have been most affected by the lockout produced the likes of Cam Newton, Von Miller, J.J. Watt, Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Patrick Peterson, Cam Jordan and many more.
So until there’s more data, the primary focus should be stuck on further investigation of that “sticky” surface in East Rutherford.
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org