In Part 1, I advocated for the Packers to pay heed to the past health histories of all players they might want to acquire. In Part 2, I listed three more factors to consider when acquiring or utilizing players. In this segment, I’m providing several additional tips that should aid in reducing the number of injuries that Green Bay has been experiencing.
Quick Pass Game
Back in February, I wrote that Aaron Rodgers had one of slower release times among current NFL quarterbacks – he throws his passes on average 2.95 seconds after he gets the snap – that’s 35th in the league. Here are some other well-known names: Ben Roethlisberger, 2.55 (2nd); Drew Brees, 2.59 (4th), and Tom Brady, 2.61 (7th).
These three players prove that you can win by being a quick-release passer. There’s also evidence it can be good for a QB’s health. In his 11 years as a starter, Aaron has missed 18 games due to injury. In 17 such years, Brees has missed only nine starts.
In 18 such years, Brady has missed 23 starts – but 15 of those came in the season opener in 2008, when he tore both his ACL and MCL. By my timing, Brady held the ball for six seconds on the play, allowing Chiefs’ safety Bernard Pollard to get back on his feet after being flattened, and lunge low into Brady.
In 15 years, Big Ben has missed 24 starts, and most of these came earlier in his career when he was more reckless and more often strayed from the pocket.
The Packers quarterbacks (mostly Rodgers) took 102 QB hits in 2018. Drew Brees and the Saints incurred 52 hits. By his style of play, Rodgers exposed himself to just about twice as many hazards as has Brees. More hazards = more injuries = more missed games = fewer wins.
Proper Tackling Technique
I’ve long advocated that Packers coaches teach their defensive players, and particularly the defensive backs, the best and safest way to make tackles. Defenders who tackle haphazardly often get concussed when they lead with their head. Players who try to tackle bigger players up high often get injured when struck by the other player’s helmet or shoulders. Tackling right at the knee also invites injury.
The best – and safest – places to tackle a person are around the thighs, the waist, or below the knees.
Not knowing what I’d find, I looked up stats on Willie Wood, the soundest tackler I’ve ever witnessed. Willie was 5’10” and weighed 190. He played exclusively for the Packers, from 1960 to 1971, and is in the Packers’ Hall of Fame. Drum roll please: in his 11 years as a starter, he never missed a game. He tackled by the book, and in doing so he avoided injuries – despite his small stature.
As of December 14 last season, Seahawks’ Bobby Wagner led the league in solo tackles – and he had just one missed tackle on the year. The next closest defender had seven misses. Watch this 6’ 245-pound linebacker if you want to see great tackling technique. Wager has only missed two games in the last four years – one was for a pectoral strain and the other for a hamstring strain.
Throwing into coverage
Some quarterbacks get a reputation for leading receivers right into defenders with their passes- an extreme health hazard for receivers. Though it’s illegal to hit such a defenseless player, that doesn’t hold back many defenders.
Aaron Rodgers gets an A+ on this. In his whole career, I can count the times on one hand that he’s put a receiver is such jeopardy.
Coming Back Too Soon from an Injury
Over the past decade, I recollect any number of times that a Green Bay player was sent back out on the field without properly healing from an injury. Many of these players of course re-injured themselves, and some turned a minor ailment into a serious injury. Below are just a few recent examples.
Eddie Lacy, who had a history of ankle sprains, rib contusions, and groin strains, was continually allowed back onto the field when injured – and it only made his injuries worse, and recovery more prolonged.
In 2017, Ty Montgomery broke his ribs in Week 4. He returned in Week 6 as a backup. In Week 10 he came in when Aaron Jones injured his knee. Guess what – he re-injured his ribs, eventually was placed on IR, and while on IR he underwent surgery on his wrist.
In Week 5 of 2013, Clay Matthews broke his right thumb. After missing four games, he returned in November wearing a protective “club” cast. He wore a smaller glove-type protector as the season went on, until he fractured the thumb again in the next to the last game of the season.
In 2018, Trevor Davis almost immediately went on IR with a hamstring injury. He was re-activated on November 15. On December 1 he was placed back on IR after suffering another hamstring injury.
Too many Packers players to mention have returned from hamstring injuries only to re-injure themselves and worsen their conditions.
For many years, the Packers have followed a custom of having all five of its offensive linemen play every offensive snap of the season if possible. At the least, they ought to give these heavyweights an occasional blow, especially when the outcome of the game is decided.
Should a player be injured in the final minutes of a game that has been decided, wouldn’t it be preferable to have it be a sub, not a starter?
I’ll be watching to see if the Packers’ mostly new coaching and front office people will adopt injury-reduction strategies, such as the ones I’ve presented. If they have the attitude that injuries are inevitable and unavoidable, then nothing will change. There needs to be a belief – and a commitment – to reducing accident probabilities or Packers fans can expect more high injury rates going forward.
The team already has a huge head start on having a low-injury season in 2019. The four new free agents all have favorable health histories. Also, the Packers no longer have several players who have troubling health histories, including Clay Matthews, Randall Cobb, Nick Perry, Ty Montgomery, Jake Ryan, and (likely) Davon House.
We’ll see how the Packers rank as to average age when the final roster is announced. Many older players have left the team in the last two years, including Jahri Evans, Brett Goode, Jordy Nelson, Ricky Jean Francois, Morgan Burnett, Muhammad Wilkerson, Martellus Bennett, and Ahmad Brooks. Green Bay should once again rank among the league’s youngest teams this season.
The only players currently on the team’s roster Including some free agents) who are likely to receive much playing time are: Jimmy Graham (32) and Aaron Rodgers (35). Other guys who are 30 or older aren’t key players or are hanging on by a thread: Bryan Bulaga and Eddie Pleasant (30), Lance Kendricks (31), Marcedes Lewis and Mason Crosby (34), and Tramon Williams (36).
I’m optimistic that 2019 will be a better than average year, health-wise, for the Packers. How much better will depend on how dedicated the team is to keeping its players out of unsafe situations.
Good news: this series is at an end.
Other random injury prevention alternatives….
1) Keep high draft picks on bench. (See Spriggs)
2) Have all of the defensive players enroll in the “Tramon Williams School of Career Extension”. Less tackles = less chance of injury. It works people.
3) Have more draft picks sign a contract, give them their signing bonus, then excuse them and then send them home for the season. I can personally guarantee that player will never end up on the injury list.
4) Possibly acknowledge that the O line is a problem. Sure, we can keep pretending that the Packers line gives Rodgers as much time to pass as Big Ben and Brady’s O line, but i prefer living in reality.
Now…..about that Safety Managers position. How much, and is there a company vehicle and an expense account involved?
Spriggs is still on the team? Now that they have turnstile Turner who has been released 3 times (so far)…aka Don Barclay all the OL problems are solved.
Um, look at the statistics. The offensive line actually had pretty good stats as far as time allowed for the quarterback to throw the ball, on average. They were among the best in the league.
Um, time allowed, or time bought?
^ ignores part of article where it clearly states “Rodgers ranked 35th in getting the ball out”
A lot of that was due to wideouts not being open…due to a shit offense.
The guards were problems at times and I agree they need an upgrade but Rodgers is complicit of holding the ball too long on his fair share of plays. Best game of year was vs Chicago in 2nd half where he was getting the ball out in 2 seconds
Interesting series, Rob.
I want to go into one of the points you made, regarding height and weight. While some guys may tick the scales at a lower than average weight, some of them are also shorter, which means they are more blocky and therefore more difficult to injure than a tall and lanky guy.
Typically, the longer the bone, the easier it is to crack, as you can have longer leverage to the points of support, while a larger cross section means more durability.
For the same weight, you can expect the shorter guy to be quicker, as he will likely have more muscle cross section, therefore a better strength-to-weight ratio, meaning quicker acceleration bursts. Aaron Donald, for instance, is significantly lighter than your standard DT, but he is as well shorter, so he is strong enough at that playing weight. Heck, he accelerates that mass too quickly for OLs to deal with him properly. Mike Daniels is about average for a DT in weight, but he was more explosive off the snap than average, about three seasons ago. DuJuan Harris and Danny Woodhead were short even for regular people, let alone NFL players, at about 5’8″, but were roughly 200lbs, i.e., blocky enough to take RB-level punishment.
Of course, lose height and you lose terminal velocity and range, which is for example needed for 3-4 DEs. Raji and his T-Rex arms were out of position at DE, but he was a good NT for some years. OLBs benefit from being rangy as they can more easily get ahold of the QB or RBs. Guys like Vic Beasly need speed to compensate for his shorter range. DB can have a better disrupting radius the lengthier they are, see Richard Sherman, or our beloved Ladarius Gunter. Sam Shields in turn used pure speed and jumping ability to disrupt taller receivers, as he was always shorter than the WR he covered.
There is a lot to ponder about this, but overall, each position has its prototype standards for a reason. Over time, rule- and in-game-tendency changes (e.g., shiftier RBs that act as receiving threats as well weren’t mainstream five years ago) can shift what is considered the ideal for a given position.
I guess my remarks on Seahawk tackling after reading part 2 of this series, was a day early. I would still like to see the concussion statistics of the Seahawks compared to the rest of the NFL teams who don’t use rugby style tackling techniques.
I’d like someone to invent some clever brace thing, light and comfortable, that completely prevents any chance of ACL tears and such knee injuries.
Failing that, grow giant part-bionic stone-hard grasshopper legs and swap them out with the actual player legs. The forty foot hops will transform the game into a three dimensional sport and those gigantic backward grasshopper legs will keep the players knees healthy.
You know what they say: You can’t injure a knee that isn’t even there.
There would be some player reticence due to fear of rejection by females. However, they will learn quickly that the babes will still be there for them and their fame and millions of dollars. The women will pay no attention to those giant grasshopper legs other than dutifully rubbing them down and oiling them up as needed….
Reticence used in a sentence. No matter how hard you try to sound intelligent…all Packer fans know the truth. And yes I know the definition, was a journalism major and have written a lot of copy. Next time just say reluctance. You writing about rejection by females is appropriate…maybe you are an expert on a subject after all.
Lonely Boy keeps getting schooled, but keeps coming back.
Something really wrong with that boy.
I don’t know if there is a stat on it, but quick change of possessions and busted plays appear to have a higher injury rate than other plays.
Coaches script plays in practice. The players run their part of the scripts to the best of their ability. When a player does not perform their job properly it can impact another player resulting in injury. Remember Brad Jones taking out two Green Bay corners in one bad out of control play, or how about Marshall getting beat badly around the edge and having the defender take out Sherrod’s leg. How about Brice making an out of control ankle biter tackle attempt and wiping out Wilkersons ankle. There are many other examples some including injuries to QB#1.
Interceptions and fumbles, recovered or not, result in injuries at a high rate. Think Clifton and Adams, and the cheap shots by Sapp and Davis.
These are just a few examples of injuries resulting in players not performing their jobs, or occurring after turnovers, resulting in injuries. Other teams have similar examples.
Every player gets beat or makes mistakes. Get players that are going to do their job on a consistent basis, and not get beat bad at a high rate leaving other players exposed.
The off season takes so damn long. Summer helps with the warm weather but it seems like an eternity between football seasons.
The draft helps a bit. Some fans will bitch about who we didn’t get and who we should have got. Some will guess how many Pro Bowls draft pick X and draft pick Y will get voted too. Some will even think we have a good chance because of the draft and free agency, taking us to the promised land. The talking heads and Mock draft experts will act like they are all-knowing. The rest of us just kick back taking mental notes.
Then we’ll have camps, and we’ll hear who the camp MVP’s are. We may even here again how well Rodgers and Graham are jelling and building rapport and timing…just like last year. We’ll hear about the progress of MVS and St. Brown. Hopefully Billy Turner doesn’t get injured and miss the season for 11 million.
Then comes pre-season and the yearly…how much will Rodgers play discussion throughout. We’ll have our pre-season MVP’s we can all gush about. Maybe Kizer can be the MVP of pre-season, who knows. But he has mighty big shoes to fill bettering a 129 passer rating.
Then, after the always boring as hell game 4 of the pre-season, we’ll finally have the arrival of the regular season, when were all tired of the heat and humidity.
Then, and only then, we will start to discover what we’ve acquired in the draft and free agency. In my mind…the team has to really improve, or Mark Murphy puts his house up for sale. To me it’s a win/win either way.
Being a hardcore fan is a long arduous 24/7 365 days a year job.
It might be good to give the linemen a rest if the game is in hand, but they’d have to take Rodgers out as well, to avoid injury. Which might give a few valuable reps to the backup.
I’ve said this before, but if you get the chance, watch Super Bowl XLV again. At that time, Rodgers saw a receiver and released the ball quickly. He hit guys in stride, back shoulder throws, throws over the middle, throwing guys open. It’s like night and day from what we’ve seen the last few years.
For whatever reason, or maybe there is more than one. Rodgers isn’t the same QB he once was. He doesn’t pull the trigger on receivers coming open, which is what you need to happen in a short passing game, he looks at guys wide open and instead pulls the ball down and gets outside the pocket trying to make things happen.