Over the past couple of days, one of the dominant themes of training camp has been the number of injuries the Cowboys have sustained. And because headlines about the impending Apocalypse (see FOXSports' "Cowboys searching for stars as injuries wreak havoc on roster.") always do better than a story about WR Devin Street returning to practice, we find ourselves in a constant state of alarm about the Cowboys.
And that constant state of alarm leads to all sorts of panic-induced mental short-circuiting (see: "National analyst: Dallas Cowboys should give ex-Ravens RB Ray Rice a try" or "Babe Laufenberg: Chris Johnson would certainly be worth a look for Cowboys").
With that in mind, it's worth looking back at previous years to understand whether the Cowboys have been hit particularly hard this year, or whether the injury rate is just the normal attrition level that's to be expected in an NFL training camp - and whether we're all just hyperventilating again thanks to the alarmist headlines competing for our clicks.
The league doesn't require teams to release injury reports during training camp, so we can't compare the Cowboys numbers to those of other teams. But if we look at how many injured players the Cowboys had after the Blue/White scrimmage in each of the past years, we'll get a pretty good idea of how the injury rates compare. What we know is that the Cowboys had 14 players on their injury report at this stage of camp in 2013, and 18 players at this stage in 2014. This year, the number on the injury report is 16 players. Keep in mind though, the injury report numbers cover a different number of practices in each year:
2013: Seven practices (Incl. Blue/White scrimmage)
2014: Eleven practices (Incl. Blue/White scrimmage and the two practices after that)
2015: Ten practices (Incl. Blue/White scrimmage and one practice after that)
So through yesterday's practice, the Cowboys injury number is exactly average for the last three years, which should put some of the recent headlines into perspective. Also, a closer look at the injury reports from all three years shows that the difference in the number of injured players is less about the quantity of injuries and more about the severity of the injuries:
|Day-to-day||TE||J. Hanna||Hamstring||CB||M. Claiborne||Knee||WR||D. Bryant||Hamstring|
|WR||C. Beasley||Quadriceps||CB||S. Moore||Groin||RB||L. Dunbar||Ankle|
|WR||D. Bryant||Hip/Quadriceps||CB||T. Patmon||Hip||CB||O. Scandrick||Knee|
|WR||D. Coale||Knee||S||J. Hamilton||Head, Jaw||DT||N. Hayden||Ribs|
|G||M. Bernadeau||Hamstring||S||M. Johnson||Hamstring||OT||D. Free||Foot/Ankle|
|G||R. Leary||Calf||DE||B. Bass||Hamstring||DE||D. Lawrence||Back|
|LS||L.P. Ladouceur||Calf||DE||G. Selvie||Groin||RB||J. Randle||Oblique|
|OL||R. Cook||Back||DE||B. Gardner||Shoulder||WR||A. Goodley||Hamstring|
|DT||I. Igbinosun||Lower leg||LB||R. McClain||Hamstring, Knee||OT||J. Wetzel||Knee|
|Out 1-2 weeks||RT||J. Parnell||Hamstring||DT||T. McClain||Ankle||DT||T. McClain||Hamstring|
|DT||J. Ratliff||Hamstring||T||D. Weems||Shoulder|
|Out indefinitely||DE||A. Spencer||Knee||DE||D. Lawrence||Foot||DE||K. Boatright||Neck|
|DL||T. Crawford**||Achilles||DE||A. Spencer*||Knee||CB||B. Carr||Hand|
|LB||S. Lee**||Knee||DT||C. Whaley**||Achilles|
|DT||C. Whaley**||Knee||OT||C. Green*||Hip|
|Other||OT||D. Bell||Conditioning||DT||A. Okoye||Illness|
|* PUP/NFI, **Out for Season|
Couple of observations:
- Joseph Randle, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Doug Free all suited up for the Tuesday morning padded practice, an indication that many of the knocks and bruises suffered by the players with a day-to-day injury status (the cells above marked in green) are not serious. Also, an argument can be made that many of the guys here are sitting out practice as a preemptive measure, perhaps more so than in previous years. Finally, Goodley and Wetzel are not listed on yesterdays' injury report from DallasCowboys.com, but I also have no indication that they returned to practice yesterday.
- As you look at the overall amount serious injuries (marked here in red) 2015 looks like a catastrophic year, but the numbers are a bit misleading: Four of the players in the red section (Green, R. McClain, McFadden, Nzeocha) entered camp on the PUP/NFI list, and all four are expected to return at some point. Of the remaining three players, Brandon Carr's injury is the only serious training camp injury to a starter so far, and he's projected to be back at the very latest for the season opener. Compared to previous seasons where presumptive starters were lost for the season or large parts of it, the Cowboys look to be in better shape overall, Chris Whaley's torn Achilles notwithstanding.
- Similarly, the amount of injuries where a player is out for one to two weeks (marked in yellow) is at a comparatively low level.
- Injuries become more noticeable when they disproportionately affect a specific position group. The corners and running backs are the hardest hit of all the position groups, but most of the players are nursing day-to-day injuries that should see them back at practice shortly.
Football is a violent sport in which injuries happen. It feels like the Cowboys have been hit hard by injuries once again this year, but the numbers suggest that this is more about a regular attrition rate than about any serious injury problem.
"It’s going on to varying degrees across the league," executive vice president of personnel Stephen Jones said Sunday. "Everybody, when you get two weeks into camp, you have to work with it. Every situation is different. A veteran player getting hurt is different than a younger player."
What's your take on these numbers?