Dare we say aloud that this could be a favorable year, health-wise, for the Green Bay Packers? It’s early, but so far the Packers have largely avoided serious injuries.
In the broad scheme of things, i.e. pursuing a Super Bowl win, minor injuries that keep one off the field for only a week or so, are a mere annoyance. It’s the injuries that put players on injured reserve that threaten a Super Bowl drive.
Going into Saturday’s game, the Packers’ injury list looked like this: Jay Elliott (back), Derrick Matthews (concussion), William Stanbeck (hamstring), Dean Lowry (knee), Jordan Tripp (concussion), Jermaine Whitehead (hip), Davon House (hamstring), Montravious Adams (foot), Bryan Bulaga (ankle) and Jake Ryan (shoulder). Outside of Adams, these all appear to be short-term ailments – though House’s hammy is of some concern.
Herb Waters is out for the season. Vince Biegel and Demetri Goodson haven’t participated in camp at all yet. We’ll want Vince Biegel off the list before the regular season starts.
Truly serious injuries fall into the IR or PUP categories.
When a player is placed on injured reserve (IR), he generally cannot return that season. Though he can stay with the team, he cannot practice with them. Until this year, one person on IR could be selected for return, but now two such persons can be selected. The IR designation immediately frees up a roster spot for a replacement.
The physically unable to perform (PUP) designation is for players with long-term, but not season-ending injuries sustained during the previous season or offseason. Such players can participate in team meetings and such, but they cannot practice. Players on this list can be moved to the active roster at any time during the preseason, but then cannot be returned to the PUP list.
If one is still on the PUP list when the regular season starts, he can be put on the regular-season PUP list. If so, he must sit out at least the first six games. Then he has a five-week window in which he can start practicing with the team, and the team has an additional 21-day window to decide whether to add him to the 53-man roster. If either deadline is not met, the player is through for that year.
During the regular season, players on the IR or PUP list do not count against the league’s 53-man roster maximum.
Most fans count Green Bay’s injury jinx as starting in the Super Bowl season of 2010. I counted 14 players who went on IR that season. That’s not so unusual a number for this team, but the quality of those players was high – including Nick Barnett, Morgan Burnett, Brandon Chillar, Jermichael Finley, Ryan Grant, Brad Jones, Mike Neal, Brady Poppinga, and Mark Tauscher.
In addition, three valuable players started the 2010 regular season on the PUP list: Atari Bigby, Al Harris, and James Starks. Each missed at least the first eight weeks of the season.
Here’s the number of Packers placed on IR since 2010: six in 2011, 16 in 2012, 17 in 2013, 13 in 2014, seven in 2015, and 14 last year. 2015 might have been a year to celebrate, except one of those seven was Jordy Nelson, who missed the entire season. From 2010 through 2016, the Packers have averaged 12.4 players going on IR in the course of the season.
Here are the numbers of Green Bay players who started the regular season on the PUP list: three in 2010, three in 2012, four in 2013, and none in 2011 or from 2014 through 2016.
Having most of the team in good health at this point is encouraging, but it’s no guarantee the roster won’t be devastated by serious injuries in the ensuing four to six months.
It stands to reason that a team with a small number of serious injuries is more likely to go all the way to winning a Super Bowl than an injury-prone team. With that premise in mind, I’ve taken a look at the last seven Super Bowl winners, and their number of IR and PUP players that season.
The first number is injured reserve, the latter is PUP list.
The last four Super Bowl victors were all blessed with comparatively good health. The 2010 Packers and the 2012 Ravens, on the other hand, went all the way despite huge personnel losses.
These raw numbers of course do not identify how many of the injured players were stars, starters, or reserves. In 2010, the Packers’ IR and PUP players missed a total was 196 games. On the other end of the spectrum, the 2013 Seahawks missed only 112 such games. More telling, 76 of those were games lost by Chandler Fenner, Anthony McCoy, Greg Scruggs, and Tharold Simon. Ever hear of them? None is even in the league anymore.
The 2010 Packers were truly a team of destiny and a remarkable group of overachievers.