Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Rick Telander

More games mean more injuries

With the Bears having missed the playoffs, odds are good that quarterback Justin Fields will be healthy going into spring drills. (Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

There is one good thing about the Bears not making it to the upcoming NFC Championship Game for the 12th consecutive season: Nobody will get hurt.

Those extra games can cause injuries, you know. At least the Bears don’t have that problem. Unless quarterback Justin Fields steps into an open manhole or tight end Cole Kmet slams a car door on his hand, the players all should make it to spring drills undamaged.

The NFL regular season is now 17 games, and it’s possible for a wild-card team to play 21 games en route to the Super Bowl. That’s likely too many for the human body to bear.

As it stands, the injury rate for NFL players during a season is about 100%. That is, if you play a season, odds are you’ll get hurt.

According to one analysis, the average player has about a 4.1% chance each game of suffering an injury that will keep him from playing the next game. Leading the way for the most dangerous position? Running backs at 5.2%. Their average of then missing 3.9 games is also the highest.

Which brings to mind Tarik Cohen, the little Bears running back who was doing great until he was tackled on a punt return three games into the 2020 season, tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee and fractured his tibial plateau. Basically, that was that. Here today, out of the league tomorrow.

We almost lost Chiefs superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes to a high ankle sprain Saturday against the Jaguars. He says he’ll play Sunday in the AFC Championship Game, but you wonder how well he’ll be able to plant on that injured right leg.

We also saw Cowboys running back Tony Pollard leave his team’s game Sunday against the 49ers with an ugly ankle injury, exiting with a towel over his face in the back of a cart.

No problem there. The Cowboys lost, so Pollard can enjoy rehabbing for half a year. 

In the midst of the thrill of the playoffs, it’s easy to forget that football at this level is thinly concealed savagery and that those of us who dig it are not much different from folks who whooped it up at ancient Roman gladiator festivals.

Less than three weeks after Bills safety Damar Hamlin nearly died on the field after tackling Bengals receiver Tee Higgins, Higgins was again the unwitting focal point of a brutal injury Sunday. Actually, two injuries.

This one involved Bills defensive backs Tre’Davious White and Jordan Poyer, who collided helmet-to-helmet over the falling Higgins and knocked each other out. Seeing the two men lying semiconscious in the snow was a stunning sight. The replay even evinced an ‘‘Oh, wow’’ from TV analyst Tony Romo.

The most amazing part of the crash? White somehow would be cleared to go back into the game.

That reminded one of a reckless era we thought had faded, one nicely described by Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson in his new book, ‘‘Watch My Smoke.’’ In the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 12, 1986, against the soon-to-be Super Bowl champion Bears at Soldier Field, Dickerson was concussed by a brutal tackle from Mike Singletary. He writes:

The trainer asked me, ‘‘You all right?’’ I said I was.

‘‘Where are you?’’


‘‘Who are you playing against?’’


‘‘What’s your name?’’

‘‘Eric Dickerson.’’

‘‘What’s your date of birth?’’

That I didn’t know.

Three out of four correct! Back into the game Dickerson went.

One recalls the terrifying back injury to Bears receiver Johnny Knox in 2011, called in one headline, ‘‘The Most Gruesome Spinal Injury in NFL History.’’ I remember watching that play from the press box and thinking Knox might be broken in half and paralyzed.

Much later, Knox said: ‘‘For me to be able to walk after an injury like that, that’s big.’’

Even if it’s with the limp he now has.

So remember the danger each Chiefs, Bengals, Eagles and 49ers player faces as his team fights it out for the big prize. And maybe take solace in the Bears’ lousiness, if only because those guys can lie on couches and watch in safety, like the rest of us.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.