Where To Pinpoint The Colts Injury Problems?
Zach Bolinger | Getty Images
INDIANAPOLIS – The news was a surprise in that Matt Slauson hadn’t missed a single snap all season long.
But too many fans of the Indianapolis Colts have almost grown used to expecting the worst with the health of their team.
Even a guy who didn’t appear to be hurt at all after Thursday’s loss to the Patriots, all of a sudden going on injured reserve wasn’t much of a bombshell too some.
Just add Slauson’s name to the continued injury issues for the Colts.
It’s been a reoccurring theme now for years, even with the Colts altering strength and conditioning programs and totally revamping their nutritional approach.
Frank Reich says he wasn’t aware of the Colts’ recent injury problems when taking the job back in February.
However, it’s hit him square in the face through the first five weeks of the 2018 season.
Trying to seek out a specific reason, or reasons, for the Colts once again dealing with a slew of injuries is above Reich’s head right now.
“We have all been around this business a long time and sometimes you just get bit and it seems they come in waves and that’s unfortunate when it happens,” Reich says. “Some years you go and it seems like everybody stays healthy and then other years it seems like guys just are just getting dinged.
“There are so many factors that go into it, I just think it’s near impossible to try to pin it down. It doesn’t mean that you don’t look for things. It doesn’t mean that you don’t try to find ways to improve and do every little thing you can do to keep your guys healthy and keep them from getting hurt. Sure, we always are evaluating everything, but in the big scope of things I think it’s impossible to pin it to one thing.”
While it might be difficult to find the immediate solution, the numbers are alarming.
In their last two games, the Colts had 14 players not participate due to injury. The Patriots and the Texans---the Colts’ two opponents in those games---didn’t have a single injured player ruled out from their 53-man roster.
Yes, Thursday Night Football is never easy from a health standpoint, but the Patriots didn’t have anyone on the inactive list due to injury. The Colts had 6 ruled out before Thursday and then had 3 guys active who didn’t play due to injury (Darius Leonard, Nate Hairston and Anthony Castonzo).
Honestly, Reich isn’t the most qualified person to try and provide answers on a constant issue. He’s been the head coach for 7 months. This problem, one that has the Colts almost annually ranking in the bottom third of the league in injuries, is something that must be answered by higher-ups in the organization.
In the past three years, the Colts have made significant changes within their strength and conditioning program (with new hires in 2016 and in 2018), the nutritional component and even in their building itself by expanding the training room.
The Colts’ athletic training staff though has stayed intact for around a decade. Head Athletic Trainer Dave Hammer has held that position since 2009 and was actually named the 2018 NFL’s Athletic Trainer of the Year by the NFL Physicians Society.
Chris Ballard made a change to the strength and conditioning program earlier this year with the hiring of veteran Rusty Jones. Ballard, who takes a backseat to the media during the regular season, wasn't pleased with the soft tissue injuries in 2017, one of the reasons he sought out Jones in the offseason.
While it’s probably too early for Jones’ results to truly be seen, the nagging hamstrings (and tweaks) in 2018 have been extremely high.
“Rusty Jones might have been as good of a free agent acquisition as we made all offseason and the difference he’s going to make with this football team,” Ballard said earlier this year after hiring Jones.
“The things that he and his staff are going to do is really going to benefit us long term, not only from a player development standpoint but also from a health standpoint. He’s the best in the business, and I feel very fortunate for him to be here right now.”
Does one of those departments (strength and conditioning, nutrition, athletic training staff) deserve more blame than the other?
Are the continued injuries simply a fluke?
Are some of the players overexerting themselves in training on their own during the offseason, leading to early-season injuries?
So many questions and not a lot of answers as the Colts try to trudge through a season dealing with wounded personnel and already 20-some games lost due to injury from the starters.
“I got a lot of confidence in all the people in this building and the process that we go through,” Reich says. “Just have a lot of belief in our process as far as preparing our players and trying to do our best to keep them healthy.”