You have to feel sorry for Bengals players, the victims of a questionable medical staff employed by a billion dollar company. It's almost like players walk solemnly towards the executioner, who wears a black mask with a steel axe that blinds your eyes if positioned right.
We wrote that on August 31, just as news surfaced that the team's $28 million investment would be completely lost after Antonio Bryant's contract was terminated in a truly embarrassing, and inept example of the issues that the Bengals front office imposes on themselves. What's worse is that the training staff wasn't vocal enough to prevent Bryant from joining the team on the practice field during the first session of training camp. This proved fatal as the practice prevented the Bengals an option to place Bryant on the Players Unable to Perform list, giving the team a roster exemption through the first six weeks into the season. Bryant didn't practice again and he was released.
It was later discovered that it wouldn't have mattered anyway with Bryant reportedly suffering from Chondral Defect of the Knee. A source told Peter King:
"If you're not looking for it, you won't find it,'' this official said. "It's a long-term knee problem that won't go away.'' The ailment refers to a complicated cartilage injury to the knee.
Rashad Jeanty broke his leg against the Jets during last year's Wild Card game and was released a day after Bryant was served his walking papers. Jeanty's agent, David Canter spoke out against the medial staff after Jeanty was released.
"It’s tremendously disappointing on the way this has been handled," Canter said. "We don’t see how the Cincinnati Bengals can do this without any inclination that this was even a possibility. It’s a tad shocking how he was released and was done in a disheartening, callous and unfair manner. The only reason why he isn’t healthy and wasn’t able to pass the physical is because they failed to fully diagnose and mistreated the injury."
In 2000, the NFLPA conducted a survey from 1,152 players in the the league, asking them to rate their own medical staff. Former ESPN writer Tom Farrey analyzed the data, finding out that only 19% of the team's players rated the medical staff as "good" or better. Want to know how bad this is? The team ranked second-to-last was Arizona and 50% of the players rated their medical staff as "good" or better.
The training staff issue has other examples of Chris Perry, Levi Jones and Carson Palmer.
Sometimes when a team is overrun by injuries, it could be argued the cause could be any number of issues with the Bengals training staff. It could also just be terrible karma. Either way, injuries are a reoccurring theme this year, providing said argument from those in power that this season was lost because of injuries that's largely depleted the defense. And that's a terrifying reality if one wants radical change this offseason.
Jason Shirley, the displaced defensive lineman that was converted into a guard, kicked off the Season Of The Injury while doing nothing remotely related to football, rupturing his Achilles during a charity basketball game in early April. Safety Gibril Wilson was placed on Injured Reserve the same day that Antonio Bryant was released. Fui Vakapuna's shoulder injury suffered early in training camp forced him on IR a week before the season started. Andrew Mitchell suffered a knee injury against the Denver Broncos in the preseason, placed on IR in late August.
Then, for a little while, the injuries slowed until mid-October when Adam Jones was placed on IR after suffering from a herniated disk in the neck against the Falcons. After that, we've seen seven starters, including five defensive players, placed on Injured Reserve in a time frame of less than ten days.
Andre Smith broke his foot during practice, placed on IR in mid-November. Morgan Trent was placed on IR a few days later with a knee injury he suffered against Miami; Mike Nugent was also placed on IR the same day. Jonathan Fanene joined Trent a few days later with a hamstring injury that he suffered against New England, forcing him to miss seven of the first nine games this season. And during this week, the Bengals placed Chris Crocker, Frostee Rucker and Tank Johnson on season-ending injured reserve.
Here's the dates and players that have been placed on Injured Reserve dating back to early August.
November 23: Tank Johnson
November 22: Chris Crocker, Frostee Rucker
November 18: Jonathan Fanene
November 15: Morgan Trent, Mike Nugent
November 14: Andre Smith
October 26: Adam Jones
September 5: Fui Vakapuna
August 29: Gibril Wilson
August 24: Andrew Mitchell
August 11: Cordera Eason
At this point, we're only talking about players placed on Injured Reserve. Players like Keith Rivers, Johnathan Joseph, Chinedum Ndukwe, Roy Williams, Jordan Shipley, Brandon Ghee and Brian Leonard have all missed games this year due to injuries.
If someone wanted to argue that the Season Of The Injury is what's crushing this team, I wouldn't stop them. This team, especially on defense, has been completely decimated and it shows from the radical downfall from a season ago. On the other hand, the argument for injuries can only go so far when a 2-8 team lacks the depth to adequately fill in where injured players fall.