In the preseason, any qualitative analysis of a game — or even a practice — will hopefully begin with one sentence: “No one got hurt.” Training camp and the month of faux games in the leadup to the regular season are useful for teams with new coaching staffs or a significant turnover in personnel, but even for them, the most important aspect of August is getting through it with the roster intact. The more significant training camp injuries began with Dennis Pitta and Jeremy Maclin, and they haven’t slowed. Nearly every team has one or more players likely to miss at least some of the regular season, and this time of year, it can get a little tough to keep track of who’s lost whom.
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On my way to record an installment of Grantland’s NFL preview podcast series (shameless plug!), I noticed a news alert on one of the many TVs in ESPN’s L.A. offices airing SportsCenter: “Jamaal Charles carted off field.” It was just vague enough to be the scariest possible blurb, and as I entered the podcast studio with only my notes, and no way of accessing the Internet, I was forced to spend the next half hour unsure about Charles’s status.
Are you a devoted fan of a professional football team located in a notoriously hardscrabble city on the East Coast? If so, Saturday really wasn't very much fun for you. In a matter of hours, Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta and Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin suffered injuries that will likely sideline them for the entire 2013 season. Every NFL team goes through some level of attrition during training camp, but it must feel awful to lose a key player within a few days of getting together and hunkering down for the months ahead. Both Baltimore and Philadelphia will find it difficult to replace their sidelined receiver, but these two players have each lost an opportunity they might never get the chance to replace.
The Pitta injury is the more serious and perhaps more impactful of the two. Details were scarce at first when Pitta was carted off the field after a collision with safety James Ihedigbo, but it was eventually revealed that Pitta had a dislocated hip that would keep him out for six to eight weeks. Shortly thereafter, it was reported that Pitta had actually also fractured his hip and undergone surgery that would keep him out for the remainder of the season. Mention hips with regard to football players and I start thinking of guys like Bo Jackson, who dislocated his hip and suffered a small fracture that eventually led to avascular necrosis, which ended his football career and shortened his baseball career. That's the danger with Pitta's injury, for which getting the fracture to heal might be the easy part. Over the next year, Pitta has to avoid complications and, in the future, hope that the dislocation doesn't become chronic. It's not an injury guaranteed to shorten his career, but one that makes the possibility of a short career more likely. That would be a shame: Pitta has become a very valuable part of the Baltimore offense and a versatile, entertaining player to watch.
In case you were busy realizing that your future isn't so bright, and you should probably take off your shades inside because you look foolish, here's what you missed in sports this weekend:
Derek Jeter came back with a bang, returning from injury by hitting a home run off the first pitch he saw in the Yankees' 6-5 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. I don't know about you guys, but given Jeter's impossible streak of heroism, isn't it time he got promoted? We all remember when Jeter got drafted out of Kalamazoo as lowly ensign, and then shot up the ranks, becoming Captain Jeter of the SS Yankees. But isn't it time that he's made a rear admiral of the AL East? Now we all know that Jeter is too humble to demand that we put stars on his shoulder, but I think we can all agree that no one deserves being given command of the entire AL East more than Jeter.
The U.S. men's national team reclaimed the Gold Cup title with a gritty 1-0 win over Panama in the tournament final. "Yes, good, now bring me the golden cup, for it must be the grail," said American manager Jurgen Klinsmann, who missed the final match because of suspension. "Finally, immortal life is mine!" Klinsmann then drank deeply from the cup only to find himself in immediate pain. "What is happening to me?" Klinsmann asked assistant coach Kasey Keller, who was screaming in dismay. Klinsmann then rapidly aged until he was nothing but dust and bone, before former manager Bruce Arena stepped out of the shadows and said with a modicum of irony, "He has chosen poorly."
Chip Kelly is the new head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. This is more exciting than it probably should be; obviously, coaches change jobs all the time. But this feels different, somehow. Kelly is the best contemporary offensive mind in America (that’s an arguable designation, but it’s certainly the argument I would make if you put a gun to my head and started asking bizarre, subjective questions about football strategy). The Eagles are an elite NFL franchise in total disarray, habitually hounded by a fan base that despises everything (including themselves). There are landmines aplenty, all in the form of questions. Here are the main ones:
Clay Harbor, for whatever reason, does not have Wi-Fi. According to Robert Griffin III, Andy Reid met with him at the NFL Scouting Combine back in February and expressed interest in drafting him, which must be music to Michael Vick's ears, assuming he can hear the music over the ringing bells, since his concussion (suffered this past Sunday against the Cowboys) is now being described as "pretty significant." Cullen Jenkins feels like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, and Jeremy Maclin is defending himself against criticism that he's pulling out of routes, which, seeing as how Maclin has been treated like a crash-test dummy by opposing defenses this season, seems totally reasonable. At least he can take heart in the fact that he is apparently replacing Justin Bartha in The Hangover 3. Ah. That feels not at all better [opens 22-ounce Yuengling].
Dunta Robinson's helmet-to-helmet hit on Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin cost the Atlanta Falcons cornerback $40,000 and probably killed whatever personal appearance prospects he had in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area for the rest of the man's time on earth. It also might have woken up the Eagles, just in time for their inter-division clash with the New York Giants on Sunday.