By Max Luckan
They say injuries are part of any sport, which they are. But in the NFL, for whatever reason, injuries seem to have an abnormally large impact on a team’s performance. Of course, teams have to find a way to cope with these injuries, but that’s not always easy. The injury bug is undoubtedly random, as no one specific team is always suffering from an influx of injuries, though it may seem like it. This season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had to deal with many injuries, but it’s the magnitude of the injuries and those who’ve suffered them that’s dampened the Bucs’ 2012 season.
The Bucs basically had to start over this season after going 4-12 in 2011, which resulted in a major overhaul. Of course, Greg Schiano was brought in as head coach, along with an entirely new coaching staff. The Bucs had, what the philosopher John Locke would call, a “tabula rasa,” or clean slate.
But then the injury bug started to strike. First, defensive end Da’Quan Bowers tore his Achilles in an offseason workout, and the Bucs thought he’d surely miss the 2012 regular season. Bowers missed plenty of time, but was able to return after a somewhat remarkable recovery. So, they got lucky with the return of Bowers.
However, the Bucs weren’t so lucky on the offensive line. Pro-Bowl lineman Davin Joseph went down in the preseason, and consequently, was placed on injured reserve. The loss of Joseph was huge because the Bucs’ offensive line could be one of the best, if not the best, in the NFL. Just shortly after, newcomer Carl Nicks was placed on injured reserve because of a nagging, yet painful, toe injury that required extensive treatment. Almost simultaneously, the Bucs lost two of the top offensive linemen in the entire league. Later, reserve Jeremy Trueblood would also be placed on IR, which strained the depth on the offensive line even further.
For a while, it looked like the Bucs would be able to maneuver around the flurry of injuries on the offensive line, but the solid play started to slowly decay, and it first became apparent in the game against the Atlanta Falcons. Quarterback Josh Freeman started taking more and more hits and Doug Martin was finally slowed down. Things just weren’t clicking on the offensive side of the ball anymore.
Because the injuries finally caught up to the Bucs. It’s obvious that the Bucs were going to have to make adjustments because of injuries, and that the offensive line wasn’t going to be able to play at a high level consistently. This is precisely the effect of injuries.
Do injuries put an asterisk next to a team’s record that season?
Not quite. As stated, injuries are part of the game and every team is equally susceptible to them, though one could maybe argue otherwise. The point is, the Bucs currently sit at 6-7, but they could easily be at 8-5 if it hadn’t been for the flurry of injuries. That might be obvious, but the simple fact that injuries severely affect a team’s general chemistry and morale is easily forgotten. While speculating that the Bucs “could” be 8-5 if they had their key players may be inaccurate, it exemplifies the reality that injuries to key players can cost a team three or four wins, which in the NFL, can make a huge difference.
The situation for first-year head coach Greg Schiano hasn’t been ideal, but the Bucs have been dealt a difficult hand in 2012, and are doing what they can with that hand, which happened to be filled with injuries. So while the Bucs may not make the playoffs, one could argue that they have learned to successfully overcome huge losses.
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Max Luckan lives in Tampa, FL and is a sports writer covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and NFL. Luckan has been covering the Buccaneers for a few years now. You can find more of his work at Examiner.com.