Injuries are a part of the NFL. It's a brutal sport where teams have to face the harsh reality of losing valuable players at any given point in the season. Though the Bengals have avoided the catastrophic injuries that strike other teams (knock on wood), some of the more severe ones have occurred in an unconventional way: while practicing.
Most severe injuries come in the melee of real game time, but that's not the case with Cincinnati. Of the Bengals players that have missed or will miss significant time, many have occurred in practice and not in games. And frankly, though a freak coincidence, is still a maddening way to lose players instead of being in the true heat of battle.
The first major injury in practice suffered was to starting linebacker, Thomas Howard. He tore a ligament in his knee during practice drills in the middle of the week and it paved the way for undrafted rookie Vontaze Burfict to start in his absence. Howard was arguably the team's best defensive player in 2011 and though Burfict has filled the role well, Howard's ability to defend the pass is missed.
Though the Howard injury began the trend, you could look at the year-long situation with Cincinnati's supposed free agent prize, Jason Allen. Technically, Allen tweaked his hamstring in the preseason and wasn't able to participate in practice for most of the season. He's only played in two games because of injury and the effectiveness of the other corners on the roster. Still, not a in-game injury.
The wide receiver corps has been hot particularly hard by injuries in practice. Both slot receivers have had injuries that cost them game time and were sustained in practice. Andrew Hawkins suffered a knee tweak that caused him to miss two games this season during drills. Though he was missed, his injury paved the way for rookie Mohamed Sanu to emerge during the team's four-game win streak.
Then, just as Hawkins was returning to the lineup, Sanu broke a bone in his foot during practice. Another frustrating injury that wasn't during a game. Though Hawkins has stepped in and contributed since, the Bengals offense hasn't been nearly as effective in the red zone over the past two weeks without Sanu.
Injuries are a freak thing that can't be helped the majority of the time. While there were other unfortunate injuries to guys like Bernard Scott and Travelle Wharton, at least one can say that they were sustained in game action. It's when you're losing players in practice and not even in the games that has to be frustrating from a fan's perspective. At least the Bengals have had enough depth to overcome some of these injuries.