The New Orleans Saints must be breathing a sigh of relief this morning after finding out star quarterback Drew Brees will only need about 6 to 8 weeks to fully heal from an elbow injury sustained Saturday during the annual National Football Leagues’ Pro Bowl and should be available for the start of the 2007 season.
While the quarterback’s injury, which occurred on the second series of the game, won’t likely cause the exhibition game to be cancelled, fans shouldn’ t overlook the potential impact it will have on the event.
Brees’ injury was to his non-throwing arm and will most likely not affect him next season. However, few will disagree that it could have been much worse, even career ending.
What is really surprising is the limited amount of injuries you do see during the event.
Granted, the players don’t usually hit as hard as they do during the regular season. But, during the regular season, the players get the benefit of practice and training during the week to help keep them healthy during the games. During the Pro Bowl, many players are playing after having several weeks off, increasing the chances of them not being in good enough shape to be playing. Brees, for example, hadn’t played since Jan. 21 (when the Saints were eliminated from the playoffs). And, several players on the field, who played for teams that didn’t make the playoffs, hadn’t played a game in nearly 6 weeks.
While I don’t believe the injury will prompt the NFL to discontinue the Pro Bowl (it brings in too much money), I do think that the injury will cause a ripple effect on the event.
First, I think Brees’ injury will encourage more players to skip the event. This year, 16 players invited to the Pro Bowl did not play, citing injuries or personal conflicts. While I’m sure some, if not most, had a legitimate injury, I also suspect many of the injuries weren’t anything serious enough to cause them to miss playing time if this were the regular season. The players are paid for the game, but most make less money than they do for a game during the regular season. NFL contracts aren’t guaranteed and, if he would have landed on his right arm instead of his left, it could have cost Brees as much as $50 million.
Seeing how close Brees came to a serious injury will likely keep many of the stars from attending in the future; especially anyone who is a free agent or looking to rework their contract. Even a minor injury can reduce their value.
I also believe that, much like other times when a big-name player got hurt, you’ll see rule changes in the event, most likely cracking down on excessive hits (even though Brees’ injury didn’t come from one); something that many younger players seem to be doing during the event. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a rule change protecting the quarterbacks the same way they would be protected in a scrimmage; with players not being able to do more than what you would see in a touch football game.
And, even though I do think it is unlikely; don’t rule out the possibility of the NFL eventually doing away with the Pro Bowl. If enough stars skip the event, viewer ship will drop off and, along with it, sponsorship money. A few years from now, it might not be worth the cost.
In the mean time, I think NFL teams are happy to be entering the off season with very few injuries to their stars.