For the second year in a row, the Cowboys have drafted players with injury baggage. Last year, the Cowboys picked Sean Lee in the second round even though Lee had torn his ACL in college. This year, the Cowboys took Bruce Carter in the second round even though he also tore his ACL and had reconstructive surgery. Both players were projected as first round picks before their injuries.
First round pick Tyron Smith has also had to deal with knee injuries and third round pick DeMarco Murray also has some question marks about his injury history, just like Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, last year’s fourth rounder, who was drafted with a shoulder injury.
While two years of drafting players with injury concerns doesn’t necessarily make this a trend, it does looks like the Cowboys are taking a higher level or risk than other teams. Jerry Jones doesn’t necessarily agree with this assessment though.
Rob Phillips from the mothership writes that Jerry Jones is willing to take more risks on injured players because he thinks the Cowboys have a competitive advantage due to the quality and proficiency of their athletic trainers, head athletic trainer Jim Maurer and associate athletic trainer Britt Brown, who oversees player rehabilitation
"We thought in both cases that those injuries helped us because both were second-round picks," Jerry Jones said. "So in that end you are probably getting players in the second round, like I said for Carter, that are first-rounders."
"We are one of, we may be the only team in the NFL that has two trainers, frankly almost equal trainers with one of them totally dedicated, Britt Brown, to rehab and that particular area," Jones said. "So I am real comfortable when we take a player that is in rehab because of the attention we give it and Britt Brown."
So let's take a brief look at the two men who will play a key role in how we judge the last two drafts a couple of years down the line.
Jim Maurer. Head Athletic Trainer.
Maurer is one of the very few people to have worked with every head coach this the Cowboys have ever had.
The 2011 season will be Jim Maurer's 22nd season as a Dallas Cowboys athletic trainer, the last 16 of which he served as the Cowboys' head athletic trainer. Maurer took over responsibility of the athletic training department in 1996 after serving as an assistant athletic trainer in Dallas for six years. Maurer first joined the Cowboys back in 1986, when he and Britt Brown were student-trainers for the Cowboys. Maurer was a summer assistant for the Chiefs in 1987, returned to the Cowboys as a graduate assistant for the 1988 and 1989 seasons, and was hired full time in 1990.
Maurer was elected to the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society (PFATS) Executive Board as the NFC head athletic trainer representative in 1999. He was re-elected to the same position for a fourth term in 2007.
A Dallas native, the 46-year old Maurer earned a degree in physical education in 1988 from Southern Methodist University, where he worked with the football and swim teams.
Britt Brown. Associate Athletic Trainer.
Britt Brown just completed his 20th year as an athletic trainer in the NFL and his 15th as a member of the Cowboys athletic training staff. Brown supervises the Cowboys medical rehabilitation program and assists with treatment programs.
Brown is a hard taskmaster, as Dez Bryant found out last year when he was recovering from his high ankle sprain in training camp:
"Once you get a taste of Britt, you’ll be lying, saying you are all right," Bryant said. "It’s hell. But at the same time I know he’s trying to get me right, trying to get me better. I appreciate that. By the way, he helped me lose 10 pounds. I’m 213. I feel great. That was something I needed to do. That’s my playing weight."
Before joining the Cowboys, Brown spent four years (1992-95) with the Miami Dolphins as an assistant athletic trainer. Before joining the Dolphins, Brown was the head basketball athletic trainer and assistant football athletic trainer at Southern Methodist University from 1989-92. While earning a degree in secondary education/biology with an emphasis in athletic training (1982-87) and a master’s degree in physical education/exercise physiology (1988-89) from Texas Christian University, he worked with the Horned Frogs football and baseball teams as a student athletic trainer. Brown worked as a part-time assistant athletic trainer for the Cowboys in 1986 and 1987 while attending TCU.
The Cowboys trio of athletic trainers is completed by Assistant Athletic Trainer Greg Gaither, who has been a fulltime member of the Cowboys athletic training staff for 10 years, after originally serving a two-year stint with the Cowboys as a graduate assistant (1997-98). Gaither assists Brown with coordinating player rehabilitation and treatment programs and oversees all medical records.
The trio is widely considered to be one of the very best groups in the NFL. Following the 2002 season, Maurer and his staff were recognized as the NFL athletic training staff of the year by their peers. Named in honor of Ed Block – a former Baltimore Colts head athletic trainer – the award is given annually to the athletic training staff that exemplifies courage, compassion, commitment and community.
The Cowboys seem to be convinced that the quality of their athletic training staff gives them an advantage in the draft. And if the players with injury baggage turn out the way the Cowboys envision they will, the last two draft classes would be quite an achievement. But for the trainers to work their magic, they need to be able to work with the players. Depending on how long the lockout continues, what the Cowboys initially thought would be an advantage could easily turn into a disadvantage.