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Should NFL adopt the Spurs' policy towards injuries? NFL Unfiltered Week 9

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Despite many rules changes, the National Football League is still a place where participant availability is uncertain.  

Players begin falling as early as the first organized team activity, and it continues through the Super Bowl. It is simply part of the sport.    

Even so, league officials must change the accepted point of view with regards to injuries.  It is time to consider the model adopted by Coach Gregg Popovich, and his NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.  

For those who don’t follow hoops, NBA basketball teams play an 82-game schedule.  And Popovich, knowing he had an aging but valuable player in forward Tim Duncan, began giving him nights off. In fact, Duncan sometimes misses entire road trips. Not because of injury per se, but merely because Popovich knows he needs his best at the most important moments of a grueling season.  Gregg Popovich/Tim Duncan photo: thehoopdoctors.com

Naturally, naysayers criticized Popovich, suggesting his approach isn’t in the best interest of the league or its fans.  Perhaps, but the Spurs are champions and Duncan is a big reason, even at 38 years old.  

Could a similar approach work in the NFL?  

In most instances, players and their teams err on the side of playing, because with only a 16-game season, purists say each one is critical.  

But if missed games are already part of the NFL ethos, what difference does it make why or when players miss them?    

In my view, there is no question some should sit, it is merely a question how.  And Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo is a perfect example.  

Off-season back surgery made Romo an injury waiting to happen.  And in actuality, he wasn’t moving all that well before he went down against Washington. Yet, owner/general manager Jerry Jones allowed Romo to soldier on.    

Granted, the ‘days off’ idea runs counter-culture to everything we think we know about professional football.  But too often, promising seasons are lost simply because of an injury to a good starting quarterback

Still, to make any Popovich-like plan effective, admittedly, you must have certain things in place.  You also must make some educated assumptions.  

To begin with, you must see a player like Romo as a 12-14 game participant.  The likelihood anyone like him plays 16 full games, is remote.  

Next, and most importantly, you need a very capable backup quarterback.  If that means you have to pay him more than the second best corner on your roster, so be it.  

You also need to play an offensive style conducive to quarterback health, which the Cowboys certainly do.    

And finally, you must decide in advance which games your starting quarterback misses, so everyone understands the expectations.  Maybe he plays all the conference games, plus one out of conference. Perhaps you go with a plan where he gets a bye once each month.  

In any case, teams must reconsider their stance on injuries.  

The plan should only apply to older, or physically ailing good players.  And while it doesn’t guarantee success, it is certainly worth a try.  

Either that, or continue to waste potentially good seasons with guys like Brandon Weeden at quarterback.  

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THINGS THE PUNDITS CAN’T OR WON’T SAY: Week 9

-Eagles second stringer Mark Sanchez did a solid job against the Texans, but in watching him, I couldn’t help but notice he is the same quarterback I remember … and that’s not a good thing.  Mark Sanchez photo: UsaToday.com

-Nick Foles is in his third professional season and he still has not started more than 10 games.  One of the biggest criticisms of former Eagles’ starter Michael Vick was his inability to stay healthy. No, this is not to suggest Vick should still be here.  It is just another observation of selective judgment by most “experts” and fans who use any excuse to discredit a player they don’t like.  

-By the way, the other main criticism of Vick centered on turnovers, and Foles does that at an alarming rate, too.  Oh, never mind.  

-Jeremy Maclin could catch 120 balls for 1,900 yards and 20 touchdowns, and opponents still wouldn’t defend him the way they do DeSean Jackson.  

-Wide receiver is such an important but supremely specialized position now that every team should consult with a former NFL great before acquiring one.  I doubt anyone on the planet knows more about how to succeed than Cris Carter and Jerry Rice. Why aren’t they as relevant as say, Todd McShay?       

-Wasn’t it fun watching Texans’ coach Bill O’Brien’s frustration?  At this stage, it must trouble him to even look at quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, but he has nobody to blame but himself and his obviously large ego.      

-Talk of a coach losing his locker room often centers on his personality.  Rumors are that he is too gruff, demanding or perhaps distant.  It is complete nonsense.  The reason coaches lose locker rooms is because players no longer believe the coach knows what he is doing.  Players aren’t stupid.  They know when strategies fail, so Jim Harbaugh’s problems in San Francisco are not due to his bullying nature.  They are due to his inability to figure out how to score points, particularly when a game’s outcome is hanging in the balance.  

-For the most part, coaches are frauds. They talk about how they’re looking for the best 22, but every team has two, maybe three players on the roster deserving of more playing time.  Yet, they sit behind some underperforming veteran because the coach knows any change shifts the focus off the player and on to him.    

-Obviously, Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick are more interested in building biceps and brands, than beating blitzes.  It is the only explanation, since both make the same mistakes they made two years ago.  They both have far too much physical ability to plateau this soon in their careers.  

 

Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area.  He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention.  His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.

Contact Earl at emyersiii@hotmail.com

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Gregg Popovich/Tim Duncan photo: thehoopdoctors.com

 

Mark Sanchez photo: www.usatoday.com