Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thumbs Down

"On average each team loses 15% of the players 
from the opening day roster."

I am not a football fan. I don't follow team sports at all anymore. Sure I did when I was young, even played a few myself, but no more. But as the regular NFL season in the U.S. winds down and the playoffs loom, I want to relate a little sports item/research I did recently.

On a Sunday earlier this fall I was visiting some friends; the man of the house, his son and two boys from the neighborhood were watching the NFL on the big screen in the den. I spent time drinking some excellent Napa Valley cabernet, talking with the rest of the gathering who also were not sports fans.

Twice I walked into the den to chat up the boyz with a little football talk. Both times the screen was showing a player on a stretcher, sure just a coincidence, in fact I thought the second time was a replay but the boys pointed out it was another player from a different game.

This made me wonder how many cannon fodder players were injured in the NFL each week. I knew the rules for reporting injuries were codified by the league so I thought the research would be easy - not so much. You see the "injury reports" have categories, deadlines during the week and incentives both for reporting and not reporting the full extent of the injuries. On paper the NFL is 110% opposed to gambling on it's product but does everything it can to facilitate betting which boosts attendance and fan loyalty by an incalculable measure. To set a good betting line requires knowledge of who is playing, who is injured and if injured are they out for the week? two games? the rest of the season? Is it permanent, day-to-day, a 'game time decision'?

There is actually a category called PUP - 'physically unable to perform'. Rules on when you can come back to the active roster depends on whether you were on the preseason PUP or the regular PUP. And then there is the relatively new concussion protocols the league has humanely instituted after more than 1500 former players have joined a class action lawsuit alleging the league knew about the dangers of repetitive concussions but did nothing to protect the players for over fifty years.

But to the numbers. The NFL has 32 teams each with a 53 player active roster. So each week of play begins with 1696 players in uniform. It is very difficult to figure out when a player is injured and reported on the weekly injury report just how long he will be out, except in the case of players who undergo immediate surgery or are taken off the roster with a 'season ending' event. Here are the numbers for the week in question and the average for the month (October).

None of the 32 teams reported an injury free week. On average 16 teams reported a player lost for the year each week of the month. Over the course of the year that would mean 256 players out of the 1696 roster spots would end their season with an injury. Now it's true a week 16 injury could easily be much less severe than a week 1 season ender. But on average each team loses 15% of the players from the opening day roster. This does not take into consideration players who miss one or more games during the season and then return to play again. Clearly carnage is part of the NFL weekly expectation. Gladiators indeed.

Just to balance all the lost cartilage and torn muscles. The average NFL salary is $1.9 million dollars a year.

So my point? Throwing them to the lions does not necessarily mean they are playing Detroit.


Phillip C Carra said...

Very nice piece, Tim; as the data from concussions (as well as other injuries) continues to accumulate, and as television coverage reaches - even exceeds - saturation points (66 teams of scholar-athletes in bowl games?), I'm wondering if the sport has reached a tipping point...

The Shrink said...

Before our Alma Mater spent all that money on new athletic facilities, I approached the President about considering an alumni proposal to drop football as a sport. I was informed that taking the lead on such an issue would damage the overall viability of the institution.