Grain of salt needed with offseason news

Posted June 15, 2010 @ 10:24 a.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

The sun is shining, and almost everything is glorious in the NFL.

By that I mean that summer, which is almost upon us, is the ultimate time for optimism in football. Injured players are rehabbing, almost universally, “ahead of pace.” Rookies are looking sharp in minicamps — in helmets and shorts. And new coaches are expressing excitement over the challenges that lie ahead.

Not to dampen things, but some perspective is needed.

Take Panthers LB Thomas Davis. A month ago, the Panthers were beaming with the news that Davis, six months removed from ACL surgery, had run a 4.47 40-yard dash in his attempt to return this season. It sounded great. But anyone who has suffered an ACL tear (I have) will tell you that straight-line speed is secondary to cutting and twisting. I was suspicious when I read just how far Davis had come.

Sure enough, Davis suffered another huge blow — his second ACL tear, which likely will end his 2010 season. Though the Panthers have yet to place him on injured reserve and are holding out hope he can play at some point, it doesn’t look good.

We have to keep that same injury perspective in mind when we hear that Patriots WR Wes Welker and Jets QB Mark Sanchez are doing well, running around, and will be ready for training camp. The Patriots have not said anything on Welker, naturally, as they almost never comment on players’ injuries. But the optimism over seeing him run around in OTAs has some fans believing Welker will be ready to play from Week One.

Honestly, I doubt it. Just as I tend to doubt Sanchez will be 100 percent, no matter what he or Rex Ryan says. And if Sanchez is spending a good portion of his time this offseason rehabbing and not progressing as a quarterback, the Jets will be a disappointment this year. Mark my words.

The rookie hype machine is in full swing for players such as the Chargers’ Ryan Mathews and the Cowboys’ Dez Bryant. The way people are talking, we are looking at a couple of future Pro Bowlers here. And perhaps they are. But before we talk about players putting their teams over the top in their first seasons in the pros, let’s think about how many rookies actually have done that recently.

Matt Ryan was great for the Falcons in 2008, and Adrian Peterson was magnificent the year before. But neither player won a playoff game his first season. I think you have to go back to Ben Roethlisberger in ’04 to find a rookie who really made the caliber of impact we’re talking about here. So when you read about Mathews or Bryant or C.J. Spiller or Eric Berry looking great running around in shorts, remember what we are talking about here. Let’s see how they fare when the pads come on.

I don’t doubt the Redskins are a better team with Mike Shanahan at the helm. And I think having Donovan McNabb alone makes them 2-3 wins better, assuming nothing else on the team improves. But I am not ready to bury the Eagles, a more time-tested and talented team, in their wake just yet. I think Shanahan will realize that even with all of the Redskins’ ability, they have a lot of holes and a lot of things to figure out when camp arrives. There’s a reason this team constantly dominates the offseason and falls short when the games are played. The previous regime consistently went for the headline-grabbing signings and trades, eschewing the tried-and-true method of building: patiently, through the draft.

This is not meant to be a downer. Surely, some players who are impressing now will carry on and build into great seasons. Some team that has had a good offseason will have a great regular season and playoffs.

And of course, the opposite can be true, too. Teams that are wallowing in seas of bad karma could be ready to break out. Likewise, the news that Logan Mankins wants to be traded might sound awful to Patriots fans who are looking forward to the season, but there’s something to keep in mind. These things almost never are as bad as they read when the news breaks, and they seem to work themselves out.

It’s all part of the fun of the league, but it’s also part of the dangerous spring and summer months. The good news seems great, and the bad news seems awful.

But the best news of all? Training camps open in about six weeks. That’s when most of the speculation ends and the real action begins. Until then, question everything you read. It's probably not as good (or bad) as it seems.


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