Over the last two seasons, DeMarcus Ware has been a shadow of his former self. In 2013, Ware collected fewer sacks than he had in any other NFL season. DeMarcus also missed the first three games of his NFL career during the 2013 regular season.
While many focused on his elbow, what kept Ware off of the field was a serious neurological injury commonly termed a "stinger". A stinger is a nerve traction injury that causes pain, weakness, and can be cumulative.
"Damage to the brachial plexus can occur when the nerves are stretched too far from the head and neck...Symptoms often disappear within minutes and usually within hours, however, repeated nerve trauma can cause recurring stingers, chronic pain, and muscle weakness."
As the nerve injury becomes worse, the weakness in the arm becomes more pronounced. It is very possible that further injuries to the nerve plexus could lead to permanent weakness in the upper extremity.
This condition is similar to the injuries sustained by Tony Romo and Peyton Manning with a major exception. In the cases of the quarterbacks, a protruding disc was causing the weakness by pressing against a nerve. In those situations, a surgery removing the portion of the disc causing the problem will often resolve the problem.
With a nerve traction injury caused by repeated stretching of the plexus, there is no surgery that is capable of fixing the issue. In other words, while Manning and Romo will likely experience minimal adverse effects from their respective disc herniations, Ware has a significant chance of having recurring symptoms increase throughout his career and even after his football playing days are over.
Furthermore, studies have shown that weakness lasting over three months due to nerve damage have a high probablity to become permanent. Ware sustained the nerve injury in September and was unable to regain his form through December: about four months. It took less than two regular season games for Ware to reinjure his nerve plexus despite reshaping his body and starting the season in great shape.
As has been widely reported on BloggingtheBoys.com, the Cowboys were under the cap and did not need to renegotiate Ware's contract. This move is less about the salary cap and more about the expected production from a damaged player.
While DeMarcus may string 16 consecutive games without aggravating his nerve injury, his recent history suggests otherwise. The maligned Cowboys medical staff likely had a strong say in this move, as MRI results would be consulted to confirm the diagnosis and prognosis.
Ware was a great player that is a class act. I will miss seeing him making big plays in a Cowboys uniform, but have grown accustomed to watching him disappear in December the last two seasons. Of course, he was injured and playing with one arm at the conclusion of the last two years.
Were he in a Cowboys uniform on December of 2014, nobody would notice him...again.