In Week 7, no player is healthy. NFL players take car-crash level collisions over and over, in games and practice. Even with a week between games, there's not enough time to recover completely. Players don't decline at the same rates however; some recover quickly, some avoid the biggest, most damaging collisions, while others degrade before our eyes. One guy I've been watching is Michael Vick. His style and the offense run by the Falcons seem to be exposing him to more big hits this year than in the past and he's feeling it. There are lots of other players around the league like this, guys who are taking on more of a role, taking more carries or catches, and their ability to stay or return to effectiveness will go a long way towards determining if they're stars or burnouts. Health is a skill, one that some players simply don't possess and other realize can fade. If you don't think Tiki Barber is thinking about this when he discusses retirement, you're fooling yourself. (Of course, if you note that his agent is also looking for a contract extension, you're cynical but smart.) Speed, smarts, hands, quickness -- the list of skills that we look for in football players includes this, but has to start with health.
Let's get to the injuries.
Byron Leftwich is today's big story, showing up with an ankle problem. Yes, it's the same ankle that was broken last season. Could this be related? Sure, but it's not likely. The story on how this happened hasn't come out yet, but it's serious enough that the team sent him for an MRI. Leftwich is going to be a game-time decision and between now and then, he's going to move into the training room. Leftwich has a history of being able to play at a high level despite pain. He's immobile when healthy, so it's not like he's going to be limited further by the injury. Be sure to have a backup at the ready, perhaps even David Garrard. I'll be sure to get the scoop in time for this Sunday's last minute Med Check.