Finally, we have games. We came out of Thursday night's kickoff game with nothing much to talk about -- and that's a good thing. I don't get some perverse pleasure out of watching players get injured. I wish there were a week when I had nothing to write about and could just extol the virtues of Drive-By Truckers' latest album or talk about my own coffee addiction. That hasn't happened in my career, but there's always hope. I don't believe in miracles anymore, but I do believe that medical science is often indistinguishable from magic. What was once a career-ending injury is now routine. What was once routine now costs only one or two weeks. Healthier players make for better teams and, at its heart, my column is about making the game better. So let's get to the injuries:
There's a fine line between what is an injury move and what is a coaching decision. A player says he's at less than 100 percent and the coach then has to decide if his backups are better options. That's the decision facing Redskins coach Joe Gibbs this weekend. Clinton Portis is reportedly assessing himself at about 75 percent, something my source calls "laughable -- none of his characters is a doctor, I guess." (For the uninitiated, Portis is known for portraying various humorous characters at press conferences, etc.) Portis' shoulder is fully healed and ready to go, but the combination of Portis' value and the team's depth at running back gives Gibbs enough leeway to back off on Portis if he feels that's the right decision for his team. Late word out of DC is that Portis didn't pass Gibbs' tests and will be on the sidelines for Week 1. The Skins are playing the "better safe than sorry" card here and long-term concerns remain low for Portis. Ladell Betts gets the start.
What's more important to a wide receiver -- his hands or his legs? The answer depends on the receiver. There are burners and there are possession guys and a million variations on those themes, so the same injury can affect two players very differently. Steve Smith is a yards-after-catch guy, gaining a lot of ground (and fantasy value) after the reception because of his explosive speed. Some of that dynamite in his legs went boom, causing a cascade of recurrences and even a bilateral compensation. What's that, you ask? An injury often causes unintended consequences, such as a limp due to a strained left hamstring causing a problem in the right hamstring, as happened with Smith. Smith is a ball of muscle wound as tight as Tobias Beecher in Season One of Oz. He's going to need to find some flexibility or he's seen the last of his days as an elite fantasy receiver.