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Are They Injuries or Excuses?

Discussion in 'RAMS - NFL TALK' started by -X-, Nov 22, 2011.

  1. -X-

    -X- I'm the dude, man.

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    Howard Balzer
    <a class="postlink" href="http://www.101espn.com/category/hbalzer-blogs/20111122/Are-They-Excuses-or-Reasons/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;">http://www.101espn.com/category/hbalzer ... r-Reasons/</a>

    [wrapimg=left]http://www.101espn.com/images/authors/medium/hbalzer.jpg[/wrapimg]There are certain catch-phrases that have become such a part of the sports vocabulary that when they are said it is just assumed they are true. But are they?

    Two of those, as it relates to the current plight of the Rams, are often blindly repeated when anyone dares mention that injuries have played a significant part in why the Rams are playing so poorly on offense.

    One is, "I don't want to hear any excuses."

    The other is, "All teams have injuries in the NFL."

    In his blog today, Cliff Saunders writes that he's sick and tired of hearing excuses. Many fans also say that. Well, what do you want to hear? Anyone can say the Rams are playing poorly. That's the easy part. But then comes the most important question: Why?

    When that question is answered, it becomes the explanation for what is happening. It's really as simple as that. The reality is that many people are coach-haters, and so when there is a bad record, they can scream "fire the coach," because that must be the only explanation for why a team has a bad record.

    Back in August, when it looked like the Cardinals were in the tank, John Mozeliak was being ripped for the trades he made that didn't work. Suddenly, the team came together after a few weeks, and one reason was that it took some time for the new players to mesh and come together for everyone to play as a team.

    Football teams don't have that luxury, this year especially. Teams were thrown together in the first week of training camp, and then expected to play together immediately. The chemistry is affected when there are constantly changing parts because of injuries, and it is difficult for players to come together as a team. On offense, timing in the passing game is paramount, and an ever-changing cast at receiver plays havoc with that.

    As for that notion that all teams have injuries, yes they do. But to what extent? All teams have injuries, but not the same amount of injuries. Have all teams lost their top four cornerbacks? Are all teams playing their third and fourth offensive tackles? Have all teams already lost 50 man games with more to come from nine different players on offense?

    Don't think so.

    Another often repeated mantra is how the Green Bay Packers had 15 players on injured reserve last season, but still won the Super Bowl. Yet, I'll bet those saying that couldn't name more than a few of the players. The reality is that those 15 players started a combined total of 84 games the previous season. That's an average of between five and six games a player and 58 came from four players, one of whom (Johnny Jolly) was suspended.

    Yes, there were a handful of key players: linebacker Nick Barnett, tight end Jermichael Finley and running back Ryan Grant (combined 42 starts in 2009). But there were also JAGs (just a guy) like Spencer Havner, Josh Bell and Derrick Martin. Of those 15 players, only five are currently on the Packers' roster.

    Of course, what's often overlooked is that the Packers were 3-3 after six games, were 8-6 with two to play after losing to Detroit 7-3, and wouldn't have even made the playoffs had the Giants not kicked the ball to Eagles punt returner DeSean Jackson (or tackled him) in Week 15.

    But they went on a nice run in the post-season, and now are undefeated. Of course, no one is talking about the Packers' injured reserve list this year. Why? Because they currently have only four on the list: safety Nick Collins, running back Alex Green, defensive end Lawrence Guy and wide receiver Shaky Smithson. Collins is the only notable of the four. The others are rookies, and Green is the only one who made the opening-day roster that went on IR.

    With all the discussion of what has led to the 49ers being 9-1, health is never mentioned. It should be. San Francisco has five players on IR: wide receivers Josh Morgan and Dontavia Bogan, tight end Nate Byham, cornerback Curtis Holcomb and defensive tackle Will Tukuafu. Only Morgan was a starter. Bogan and Holcomb are rookies.

    Always remember that the Rams' 1999 Super Bowl offense had just two missed games the entire season when left guard Tom Nutten was replaced by Andy McCollum.

    The stark reality is that injuries play a major role in all team sports. And while the notion of "next man up" sounds great and sometimes will lead to a discovery (see Kurt Warner), when a team has to go to that "next man up" over and over throughout the season and during games at key positions, there will be problems.

    Sure, the Rams could have done more to help the overmatched Kevin Hughes Sunday against Seattle. But would it have made a big difference? Chris Clemons had three sacks, and Bradford went down five times. However, he still got off 40 passes, but only completed 20 for just 181 yards.

    There are other explanations for what ails this offense, and it's not all related to injuries. But it's also disingenuous for anyone to dismiss them and simply label it an excuse.
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