NFL in­juries are killing ev­ery­one but the Pa­tri­ots

The Covington News - - SPORTS - By Dave Gold­berg

In the open­ing week of the sea­son, the St. Louis Rams lost Or­lando Pace, one of the NFL’s best of­fen­sive line­men.

In the next few weeks, most of their re­main­ing of­fen­sive line­men went down, along with back­ups and back­ups to back­ups. Quar­ter­back Marc Bul­ger and run­ning back Steven Jack­son also went out, and the Rams started 0-8.

So it was no sur­prise that af­ter they won their first game two weeks ago with three of­fen­sive line­men who had been picked up off the street, coach Scott Line­han quipped: “We didn’t have an O-line­man sched­uled for surgery. That’s an im­prove­ment.”

The Rams are the clas­sic ex­am­ple of how in­juries kill in the mod­ern NFL, where lack of depth is leg­is­lated — the salary cap doesn’t al­low teams to stock­pile first-class re­serves be­hind starters.

It wasn’t that way be­fore the ad­vent of free agency and the salary cap in 1993, when teams that scouted and drafted well of­ten had back­ups who could start else­where and could be plugged in if a starter went down.

Look at the 49ers, who from 1987-90 had Steve Young as a backup to Joe Mon­tana, one fu­ture Hall of Famer cad­dy­ing for an­other.

In 1990, the New York Gi­ants lost quar­ter­back Phil Simms and re­placed him with Jeff Hostetler, who was in his sixth sea­son with the team. In his early years, he was so starved for ac­tion he per­suaded Bill Par­cells to play him on spe­cial teams and as a spare wide re­ceiver. But he was a good enough QB to step in for Simms, lead the team to the Su­per Bowl and then win it.

Hostetler went to the Raiders as a free agent in 1993, some­thing he might have done ear­lier but couldn’t un­der the rules at the time. The same process worked for a lot of teams in the pre-free-agency era; the Red­skins used to stock­pile play­ers on “in­jured re­serve,” win­ning Su­per Bowls af­ter the 1983, 1987 and 1991 sea­sons with three dif­fer­ent QBs, the last with Mark Ryp­ien, one of those held in re­serve un­til needed.

Even a team as good as In­di­anapo­lis can’t af­ford to lose stars.

With Marvin Har­ri­son play­ing the first six games, Pey­ton Man­ning had 11 TD passes and three in­ter­cep­tions and the Colts were un­beaten. Har­ri­son

the game. The Rams were pleas­antly sur­prised as they kept walk­ing closer and closer to the floor be­fore set­tling in their seats at court­side.

UGA ap­peared to over­match the smaller Elon squad and threat­ened to make a rout of the game with an early run; how­ever, the Bull­dogs were un­able to put Elon away un­til the end, 76-65.

It was a good learn­ing process for the Rams as they watched col­lege teams miss free throws and com­mit turnovers — two things you can­not do to be suc­cess­ful. Fun­da­men­tals and dis­ci­pline would con­tinue to be the theme for the Rams when they re­turned to prac­tice the next day. A good time was had by all, but this was not the first ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­ity for some of the Rams.

For­mer New­ton stand­out Rashad Gill now plays bas­ket­ball for the Univer­sity of North Carolina at Asheville. Dur­ing the sec­ond week­end in Novem­ber, Ras­mussen and as­sis­tant coach Joseph Adams took sev­eral play­ers to Asheville to watch and sup­port their for­mer team­mate.

One of Gill’s team­mates, Kenny Ge­orge, holds the dis­tinc­tion of be­ing the world’s tallest bas­ket­ball player. He stands at 7-foot-7, weighs 360 pounds and wears a size 28 shoe. (The height is a lux­ury Ras­mussen will not have this sea­son, as his tallest player is 14 inches shorter.)

Gill gave his for­mer team­mates the grand tour of the cam­pus and they were able to get a feel for what col­lege life is like.

In ad­di­tion, the Rams also got the op­por­tu­nity to watch a high school game fea­tur­ing one of the top ranked high school teams in the coun­try.

This group of New­ton play­ers has be­come a tight knit group. They get along well on and off the court, and their hard work at prac­tice has been rec­og­nized.

Only time will tell if they can par­lay that into suc­cess among the stand­ings.

RAS­MUSSEN

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