Bone breaking and muscle ripping, and just general body chaos will always be a part of football. A horrible and unfortunate aspect of the game for both the downed player and his team, but a reality nonetheless.
The pain of that reality is amplified when an injury occurs during the utter nothingness of a preseason game, or on the August training camp practice field. If those muscles are going to snap, you’d rather have it happen in September and beyond, when it feels like a far more worthy sacrifice has been made.
Even in late July a handful of key players had already crumbled and were lost for the season, including Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso and 49ers running back Kendall Hunter. We’re still 12 days away from the start of the regular season, and the list of the wounded is growing.
Here are five more potentially season-altering injuries so far during the preseason.
Darnell Dockett (defensive end, Arizona Cardinals)
Darnell Dockett isn’t what he once was. That’s a natural state of being as the body ages, and at 33 years old he’s no longer the dominating 3-4 pass rusher who once had nine sacks in a season.
But he’s still a crucial cog, and the impact of his absence now after a torn ACL and MCL in training camp comes in the form of cumulative hurt. Last year the Cardinals had a fierce front seven that sacked the opposing quarterback 47 times (sixth). Now they’ve lost Dockett, Karlos Dansby, and Daryl Washington, and John Abraham is a year older (he’s 36).
The damage report there is 14 sacks gone from the Cardinals’ 2013 total, which could be crippling in a division where life or death is a fate determined by the strength of each team’s pass rush.
Mike Pouncey (center, Miami Dolphins)
The length of time required for recovery here isn’t as long, but losing Mike Pouncey for a period of any significance will lead to instinctive jittery feet for Ryan Tannehill.
Tannehill was sacked a league-high 58 times last year, making Mike Wallace a walking waste of money, and slowing the quarterback’s development in his second season. The Dolphins’ offensive line has been reinforced elsewhere around Tannehill, with Branden Albert brought in to play left tackle, and a first-round pick invested in Ja’Wuan James.
But Pouncey is the anchor, so thankfully his hip injury shouldn’t lead to a long absence. He’s targeting a Week 4 return, though a Pouncey sighting in Week 6 seems far more likely. The Dolphins have a Week 5 bye.
Demarcus Lawrence (defensive end, Dallas Cowboys)
Losing Sean Lee for the season is the most crippling Cowboys injury. The loss of Lee may even be the most devastating injury of the offseason so far after he finished second on the team in tackles last year (99) and first in interceptions (4) all while missing five games. But the impact of his loss became worse when Demarcus Lawrence went down too.
The Cowboys paid a pretty steep draft price to bring in Lawrence, taking him with their 34th overall pick, just outside of the first round. His mission: to replace another Demarcus who was rather talented, DeMarcus Ware.
But alas, that good fight will have to wait. Lawrence broke his foot in late July, and could miss the first six weeks of the season. To review then, with the loss of Ware (to Denver), Jason Hatcher (to Washington), and now Lawrence, an already putrid Cowboys pass rush has lost 17 of its 34 sacks from last season, with no trusted threat to replace them.
Danny Trevathan (linebacker, Denver Broncos)
Luckily the Broncos’ offense has enough weaponry to make up for the loss of about five Danny Trevathans. But still, this hurts.
Trevathan injured his knee in practice earlier this month, and will be sidelined for up to eight weeks. That has him eying a Week 5 return, which still means the Broncos will play a quarter of their 2014 season without a critical linebacker and piece of their defense.
Trevathan is especially effective in pass coverage. In only his second season he recorded 10 passes defensed and three interceptions, along with 129 tackles (which led the team).
Dee Milliner (cornerback, New York Jets)
The Jets were already incredibly thin at cornerback and set to face a regular bombardment after they let Antonio Cromartie walk. Then Rex Ryan revealed Dee Milliner, his top cornerback who’s trying to avoid bust status, is dealing with a high ankle sprain.
We all know those never linger. High ankle sprains are horrible for anyone, but they’re especially troubling for a cornerback, a position that requires abrupt planting and cutting. At first it was thought Milliner may only miss Week 1, and optimistically that could still happen. If it doesn’t, the Jets’ already desperate depth chart at the position will reach panic button levels.
They’re set to start Kyle Wilson alongside Dimitri Patterson, and they moved Antonio Allen over from safety. Come back soon, Dee.