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.
The Bengals signed Antonio Bryant to a four-year contract worth $28 million with $6.95 million already handed to Bryant, including a $250,000 workout bonus, which he struggled to get through. Then he practiced. Once. Was he allowed to practice because Bryant demanded it, saying he's much, much better, while the newly signed Terrell Owens joins the team with a standing ovation from the fans? Or did the team clear him in the hopes to prove to everyone that was already questioning the signing due to added reports of his injured knee? Whomever felt that their ego was greater, the one practice forced Bryant to be ineligible from the PUP list and Bryant, having still not recovered, was later released because he would consume an all-important roster spot.
The question, with newly minted characters playing in the same story, centered around the team's medical staff, asks whether the issues with his knee during the physical was noticed just before he signed. It's possible that the medical staff knew of his injury and told the team of their concerns. Perhaps desperate to make a splash in free agency, the front office disregarded the medical staff's concerns. Or maybe Bryant didn't say a word and the Bengals medical staff, pressured by the front office to either pass Bryant, or at least conduct the physical with expressed expediency, the physical was nothing more than a "how do you feel?" question. Of course Bryant, starring at loads and loads of free money, says he's fine.
We could speculate all day. The fact is, the Bengals wasted a lot of money on a guy with a major knee problem. Whether that's on the medical staff, the front office, or Bryant himself, is irrelevant. Unfortunately, this isn't the only time the team's medical staff has been under fire.
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The very next day, the Bengals released linebacker Rashad Jeanty, who failed a physical months after suffering a fractured fibula during the team's Wild Card loss to the New York Jets, to get within the 75-man roster by Tuesday's deadline. Jeanty's agent, David Canter, expressed disappointment, saying that "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." Joe Reedy would go on to say that the Miami Dolphins' medical staff advised Jeanty, who was being courted by Miami before the physical, that "he needed significant ankle surgery to stabilize the leg. There was also ligament damage in the leg." The Bengals would go on to sign Jeanty to a contract soon after.
On August 21 in 2006, Chris Perry went public with his own disappointment in the medical staff when he claimed that they misdiagnosed the severity of his injury.
"They checked it out and said nothing was wrong with it and came back and told me something was wrong with it," he said of the knee. "Same with the ankle. That's why it took so long. If they had told me about it in February, it would have happened in February. I knew it was hurting, but to the extent that it was, I had no clue. I didn't know that (until) I went and got a second opinion and found out how hurt I really was."
Perry would go on to miss 10 games in 2006.
When Carson Palmer had his knee shredded in the 2005 Wild Card game, the quarterback had such little trust that he reportedly never allowed the medical staff to treat his injury. Levi Jones and Willie Anderson have been critical of the medical staff and there was some criticism on Peter Warrick's deteriorating knee in 2003.
And mistrust between players and the medical staff can be traced further back than that. 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.
And it's not like the front office doesn't know it. In late January this year, Marvin Lewis and Mike Brown both said that they were concerned with the number of players on injured reserve. Based on the generality of the statement, who knows if the team is talking about some mythical magically induced protective shield that keeps players off Injured Reserve, or if they actually believed the medical staff needed to be addressed.
So a note to players. Stay healthy. Because if you're injured, you have perhaps the worst medical staff in the NFL working on your injuries, eventually telling you six weeks later that the pulled hamstring was actually a broken neck.