- With training camp underway and real, live football players running around in the heat of July, I have turned into the guy so many of us turn into this time of year: the guy who lives in constant fear of terrible injury news. In the parlance of one of our newest voices on the site, Kevin Ricca, we have entered prime butt-clenching season. There is nothing on the line yet that gets represented in the win-loss column, and stats for real and fantasy purposes don’t count for another month. I know we all fancy ourselves as expert analysts, so digesting one-on-one drills to determine “how far along” players and schemes makes for a month of exhaustive debate. Don’t get me wrong—I will filibuster for days on what it means when I see Alex Smith dropping bombs on Josh Doctson deep down the field. I will wax philosophic on linemen drills like it’s nobody’s business. Still...the number one item on the news menu every single day between now and September is injury updates. That’s it.
- Was it always this way? I ask the question because I know some of you are in the same boat as our recent guest, Kevin Hogan. You have grown up in the big money, staggering contracts, free agency buffet era. Some of us (kind of me, but also not really me) recall a time when this wasn’t necessarily the case. Injuries are nothing new of course. Football is a violent and dangerous sport, but a few CBA’s ago, the injury news didn’t feel this intense. If you’re out there and think this is wrong, please tell us. I remember Joe Gibbs seeming to have an extra 50 players stashed all over the place, so the roster limits and rules have certainly played a part in the way that injuries impact your team. In the small town where I grew up, they hadn’t even run cable everywhere yet, so network news received by over-the-air antennas is really my earliest memory of following the Redskins. There was a nice staggering between NBC, ABC and CBS (the Fox network wasn’t even founded until 1986) so you could flip around and get all the camp updates from guys like Glen Brenner, Tim Brant and George Michael (to be fair...I was really young for this!). While I am sure there were bad news days, mostly I just recall joint practices/scrimmages with the Pittsburgh Steelers and updates on top draft picks. For those of you who are at least a little older than me, were you living in fear during the day, hoping that it wouldn’t be bad news that night, or was it just kind of a tiny portion of the daily sports report, without the high drama and clenching?
- Tim gets a little uncomfortable when the conversation harps too much on the clenching, and therefore so do many of you, but you get the point. There is this odd feeling that every day without an injury is a day where you kind of dodged something. I guess it might also be something unique to those of us who care so much about football and the Redskins specifically. We understand very well what it means when we see the letters A, C and L.
- There is a bright and shiny side of the coin here though: some smaller injuries could actually keep a player off the field as a precaution, saving him for the fall. In the case of Da’Ron Payne, his ankle injury is nothing to sneeze at, as it could easily turn into a nagging nightmare. It could also heal fully with some rest, and I am not seeing much of anything out there that suggests our mountain of a nose tackle won’t be ready for the Cardinals. In my opinion, I read the Payne news as, “Take two to three weeks off of worrying about Payne news.” See? We’re boldly hoping already!
- Focusing for a moment on themes we have been covering leading up to training camp, I know I am joined by the rest of you in being excited to see Jordan Reed healthy. As much fun as Alex Smith would have divvying up targets between Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder, Paul Richardson, Chris Thompson, Derrius Guice and Vernon Davis, when you add in a Jordan Reed, things are just plain different. The trick of course will be how Jay Gruden keeps him both involved yet fresh in the weeks ahead. Is there a player other than Reed that you would be completely fine with seeing in street clothes until week one? (You will potentially be shocked at how emotional of a debate this becomes.) Would anyone out there understand why I am nicknaming Jordan Reed “Sgt. Hulka” or is that movie reference too obscure? (We’re talking Bill Murray here, people.)
- Let’s spend the last point here on a conversation-starter in the rarified air of preseason NFL trades. One thing I have been harping on leading up to this preseason is the fact that the talent in the middle and bottom of our roster is such that we have players right now in burgundy and gold that will almost certainly be playing for someone else this season. This is in stark contrast to the days when the Redskins marked the terminal stop for many players. If you got cut from the Redskins in years past, you were probably not expecting any other team to want you. If it is true we have guys who belong in the league that might not make our roster, should we be getting aggressive with trying to make a trade? I am certain plenty of other franchises feel the same way about their teams, and there are still some solid veterans that remain unsigned. Still, for a moment, let’s pretend the Redskins are getting calls about...who? Who would be willing to move and what are you looking for? Are you willing to try and go blockbuster-style, or are you just thinking an extra 5th or 6th rounder in the pocket would be pretty damn good?
P.S. I am still getting used to seeing #10 on the field.