Analysis: NFL can’t protect QBs from freak injuries like noncontact Achilles tears

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The NFL has done everything in its power to protect quarterbacks short of putting a flag on them.

Can’t hit them high. Can’t hit them low. Can’t touch them too late.

But the two most devastating QB injuries this season didn’t involve a violent hit. Kirk Cousins wasn’t even touched before he went down Sunday.

Aaron Rodgers was barely hit on a sack when he suffered a torn Achilles tendon on the fourth play of his first game with the New York Jets in September.

The Minnesota Vikings won’t have Cousins for the rest of the season because he also has a torn Achilles tendon. Cousins had never missed a game because of an injury in his 12-year career before suffering the noncontact injury on a freak play.

“Three-man rush and he kind of stepped up in the pocket. That is all I saw,” Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said. “I just know in some of my dialogue with Kirk it seems like maybe his cleat might have gotten stuck in the ground or whatever it was. It probably isn’t right for me to speculate. I just know that it was incredibly, incredibly unfortunate in that moment.”

Rodgers was spun around by Buffalo’s Leonard Floyd on a seemingly innocent play when he got hurt. His injury occurred on a turf field at MetLife Stadium, leading the NFL Players Association to call for all teams to switch to a high-quality natural grass. Half the league’s stadiums have turf. Cousins got hurt on a grass surface at Lambeau Field.

Minnesota Vikings QB Kirk Cousins (8) is carted off the field after sustaining an injury during game against the Green Bay Packers, Oct. 29. (Carlos Gonzalez Star Tribune via AP)

Injuries are piling up for quarterbacks across the league.

Matthew Stafford, Tyrod Taylor, Kenny Pickett and Desmond Ridder couldn’t finish their games Sunday. Deshaun Watson, Daniel Jones, Anthony Richardson, Justin Fields and Ryan Tannehill were among the other starting QBs who didn’t play in Week 8 because of injuries.

Taylor got hurt when he took a crushing shot and was tackled on turf. He was running to the right sideline when Quinton Jefferson wrapped up his legs and C.J. Mosley hit him from behind, landing on his back and driving Taylor’s chest into the ground.

Taylor was hospitalized with an injury to his rib cage. He was staying overnight for observation.

“You never know what play it is, what time it is, if it’s going to happen, if it’s not going to happen so there’s a tough part about staying ready, being ready for that role, which is what makes that position so difficult,” said Giants third-string QB Tommy DeVito, who replaced Taylor. “So, I thought Tyrod did a good job helping me throughout these last couple months being here, and just when he went down, everybody just looked at me and we were all good and we were going to go through with (what) our game plan was.”

DeVito was an undrafted rookie who played at Illinois last season after transferring from Syracuse. He threw the ball just once in regulation before the game went to overtime. DeVito finished 2 of 7 for minus-1 yard in a 13-10 loss to the Jets.

Except for the Vikings, who were up 24-10 and won by that score when Cousins went out, every team that lost its quarterback on Sunday lost.

Stafford injured his thumb in the first half of the Rams’ 43-20 loss at Dallas. Pickett injured his ribs in Pittsburgh’s 20-10 loss to Jacksonville. Ridder was evaluated for a concussion and cleared to return but didn’t come back into Atlanta’s 28-23 loss at Tennessee.

Several other QBs played through pain.

Jalen Hurts threw four TD passes on a banged-up knee in Philadelphia’s 38-31 win at Washington. Patrick Mahomes struggled with flu-like symptoms and suffered cuts on his non-throwing hand in Kansas City’s 24-9 loss at Denver.

Justin Herbert had the middle finger on his non-throwing hand bandaged up but he wasn’t limited in the Chargers’ 30-13 win over Chicago. Herbert threw for 298 yards and three TDs.

The No. 1 priority for every offensive line in the NFL is to keep its quarterback safe. Sometimes that’s not good enough to prevent serious injury, as the Vikings found out.



Read the original Associated Press article here.

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