Adam Gase is right. There’s only so much you can worry about in football.
Jay Ajayi being diagnosed with a concussion during Monday’s practice has people talking and thinking about the risks and rewards of having a full-contact session with helmets and pads and tackling so early in training camp. There’s no predicting, however, when or where an injury will come.
A head coach can’t make any part of his team’s preparations for the season entirely safe. The game doesn’t work that way, even with finely tuned athletes, and even with expert medical trainers constantly working to keep those athletes healthy.
The strangest concussion ever involved former Dolphins kicker Caleb Sturgis, who wasn’t even in the game at the time.
Last August Sturgis was warming up for a preseason game between his Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers when a ball punted from the other end of the field by teammate Donnie Jones came hurtling out of the sky and hit him in the head.
Sturgis wasn’t wearing his helmet at the time. Up in the press box, NFL concussion spotters saw the whole thing and ordered him to the locker room for evaluation, causing the unlucky guy to miss the game.
Not much a head coach can do about something like that.
On the first day of training camp in 1997, Miami’s Yatil Green, a first-round draft pick, blew out a knee while running a pass pattern and was lost for the season. It was a non-contact situation. Same thing happened to Larry Izzo that same day as he ruptured an Achilles while running simple drills between some pylons.
Not much a head coach can do about that, unless he wants to confine his team to the meeting room until the opening kickoff of the regular season.
During 2015’s training camp Carolina lost wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and Miami lost safety Louis Delmas to season-ending ACL injuries. They went down within 20 minutes of each other during a joint practice session between the Panthers and Dolphins in Spartanburg, S.C., and each injury happened in one-on-one drills rather than a full-contact scrimmage.
Not much a head coach can do about that, except protecting his highly competitive players from being in highly competitive situations.
Minnesota quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is still working to get back from a terrible knee injury from last August’s training camp. He was dropping back to pass during a non-contact team drill when a wrong step ruined everything.
Not much a head coach can do about that, though Vikings coach Mike Zimmer did end the practice session right there, after just 25 minutes, and sent the whole team back inside.
Football is full of risks, in and out of practice sessions, in and out of live tackling situations. Gase is getting his guys into football shape the only way that he can. The rest is out of anyone’s control.