Every year in the NFL, there seems to be at least one significant injury to an important player during the summer, whether that’s in drills at training camp or in preseason game action.
One wrong move or one bad hit can cause a team’s entire season to be throw into disarray, as well as change the future of the injured player. Just last week the Los Angeles Chargers suffered a huge blow as star cornerback Jason Verrett suffered a freak season-ending Achilles injury in a conditioning test.
Here are five noteworthy preseason injuries in NFL history that were massive at the time, but became even more momentous in hindsight.
Trent Green, St. Louis Rams, 1999
If it wasn’t for Green tearing ligaments in his knee on a hit by Rodney Harrison in a preseason game, the Greatest Show on Turf may have never been born. With the Rams’ starter knocked out, in stepped the little-known Kurt Warner, who picked up the MVP award and guided the team to their first Super Bowl title.
Ryan Leaf, San Diego Chargers, 1999
Though he’s known as one of the biggest busts in NFL history, the No2 overall pick was the victim of bad luck in his second season, which he missed entirely after tearing the labrum in his throwing shoulder during a workout in training camp. After recovering, Leaf made just 12 more starts in his brief career.
Just when it seemed like Bridgewater was about to take the next step in his third season, a non-contact dislocated knee and torn ACL in practice ended his campaign before it even got off the ground. The former top prospect had attempted all of two passes since and is now trying to revive his career with the New York Jets.
No stranger to crunching hits during his playing days, Romo was seemingly always playing hurt. But a broken bone suffered in his back during a preseason game against Seattle forced Romo to relinquish the job to rookie Dak Prescott, who never gave it back. After the young gun took over, Romo threw just four more passes before heading into the TV booth.
Darryl Stingley, New England Patriots, 1978
One of the most devastating hits in the league’s history just so happened to come in a meaningless preseason game in 1978 when Oakland Raiders safety Jack Tatum levelled Stingley, leaving him a quadriplegic. A truly sad moment that changed the course of history in the worst possible way for the Patriots receiver, who died at the age of 55 in 2007.
At a time when he’s looking for a job, Dez Bryant isn’t keeping much of a low profile.
The star wide receiver went off on several of his former teammates during a Twitter tirade on Friday, in response to a tweet from SiriusXM NFL Radio, which quoted Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones.
The tweet mentioned Jones saying Dak Prescott had Bryant “in his ear” last year, when the full quote in the interview mentioned former tight end Jason Witten also being in the quarterback’s ear.
Bryant responded by tweeting “Here we go with this scapegoat s***” and “garbage a** play calling” before accusing former teammates Travis Frederick and Sean Lee for orchestrating his release.
Bryant tweeted: “He’s (Stephen Jones) not clueless.. Jerry (Jones) was the only one who was clueless.. s*** was a planned to get me out ask Travis and my brother snake Lee I mean Sean Lee.”
He’s not clueless.. Jerry was the only one who was clueless.. shit was a planned to get me out ask Travis and my brother snake Lee I mean Sean Lee https://t.co/7BK9cEkW90— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) July 27, 2018
Bryant, who is a three-time Pro Bowl selection and 2014 First-team All-Pro, has never lacked for talent or athleticism, but his behaviour on the sidelines and in the locker room has been a concern during his career.
After Bryant’s comments on Twitter, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report tweeted on Friday evening that players he talked to “are glad Dez is gone”.
Talked to a couple of Cowboys players this evening. To summarize:— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) July 28, 2018
1. Players I talked to are glad Dez is gone.
2. They collectively felt a player of Dez's reputation needed to be a better leader.
3. Instead of being a leader, they felt Dez was neg. influence on young players
It’s fair to wonder if Bryant is hurting his case with potential suitors who may be considering signing the outspoken receiver as a free agent.
Bryant, however, doesn’t seem to be worried about landing a deal as he responded to a tweet on Friday by saying: “Me getting signed is not a focused of mine right now.. trust me Big dog I’m living my life…I’m taking care of myself..”
One team that has recently expressed interest in Bryant is the Cleveland Browns, with general manager John Dorsey saying this past week that the team have had discussions about bringing him in.
Wherever Bryant ends up, his baggage will come with him and be something a team has to deal with.
There’s bad luck with injuries and then there’s what the Chargers continue to deal with. On Friday, the team lost cornerback Jason Verrett for the season after he suffered a torn Achilles during his conditioning test. The blow comes less than two months after tight end Hunter Henry suffered a torn ACL during OTAs (organised team activities), which will also keep him shelved for all of 2018.
Major injuries are nothing new for the franchise, who’ve been without key players like Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead, Melvin Gordon, Mike Williams, Denzel Perryman and others for various stretches over the past two years.
Verrett himself has been unable to stay on the field following his Pro Bowl campaign in 2015. The 27-year-old missed all but four games in 2016 due to a partial tear of his left ACL – an injury that bothered him again in Week 1 of 2017 and placed him on the injured reserve.
Chargers have fielded arguably the most talented roster over the last 5 years. In that time:— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) July 27, 2018
► 3rd most games lost to injury
► 4th worst record in 1-score gms
► 1 playoff trip & 1 win v Bengals
Either the unluckiest team ever or a serious top-down issue w Management & Coaching https://t.co/8fqb5XeKrC
The loss of Verrett and Henry dampens what was an optimistic outlook for the team heading into the new season.
A healthy Verrett was expected to pair with Casey Hayward to form one of the best outside corner duos in the league, while the rest of the secondary features talented defensive backs like Desmond King, Trevor Williams and Jahleel Addae, along with rookie safety Derwin James.
Without Verrett last season, the Chargers’ defence more than held up against the pass, ranking third in yards allowed (197 per game), sixth in yards per attempt (6.5) and fourth in passer rating against (78.1).
Especially with the addition of James, who was drafted 17th overall in this year’s draft, the Chargers are more than equipped to compensate for Verrett’s absence. But what was supposed to be one of their biggest strengths will now be without one of its brightest talents.
It’s also possible Verrett has played his last game with the team as he enters the fifth and final year of his rookie contract. He’ll earn $8.5 million for his lost season, but will likely have to prove himself and his ability to stay healthy on a short-term deal with his next contract before earning a payday commensurate with his talent.
Henry’s injury, meanwhile, robbed Los Angeles’ passing game of one of its best playmakers.
The 23-year-old was set to be the full-time tight end after sharing duties with longtime veteran Antonio Gates for the past two seasons and racking up 81 receptions on 117 targets for 1,057 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The Chargers can bring Gates back into the fold after parting ways with him in the offseason, and his familiarity with the offence will be a source of comfort for quarterback Philip Rivers.
But the season hasn’t even started yet and the team are already in a spot where they can’t reach their full potential.