Posted: Friday August 24, 2012 9:17AM ; Updated: Friday August 24, 2012 9:17AM
Will Carroll

Padding may tell the story of who's healthy and who's not this season

Story Highlights

Michael Vick wasn't wearing usual safety paadding when he had bruised ribs

Vikings are limiting Adrian Peterson to keep him from pushing himself too hard

Cowboys have grown increasingly frustrated with Miles Austin's repeated injuries

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Michael Vick's use of older equipment saw him leave his second preseason game early with yet another injury.
Michael Vick's use of older equipment saw him leave his second preseason game early with yet another injury.

The third week of the preseason brings longer stints for starters and the possibility that those injured now won't be ready for Week 1. On to the injuries ...

Michael Vick, Eagles (bruised ribs)

Vick wasn't wearing his preferred rib protector last weekend and he paid for it. Vick is an endorser of the Unequal brand of rib protectors, a kevlar-based product that holds the potential for an astounding at the amount of protection. How do I know? Watch. Vick wasn't even wearing a normal, bulky rib protector, such as the one Nick Foles was wearing when he came in the game later. (Just look at the difference in equipment apparent in those two pictures!) You'd think that the Eagles would want Vick, an injury-prone player because of his size and style, bubble-wrapped from the time he leaves the tunnel, but like most players, Vick was left wearing equipment that's a generation behind.

Unequal provided me with some examples of their latest rib protectors and other protection products, which I compared with the available pads at a local sporting goods store. There's no question that the Unequal is sturdier and offers more protection despite being significantly thinner, which has to give pause to the youth and high school players that will be relying on this type of venue to outfit them. Instead of wearing what amounts to stylish couch foam, players or schools could spend a couple dollars more and have better protection. The tradeoffs are minor at this level. For the pros, with million-dollar athletes and huge equipment budgets, it's unbelievable that there are not more players wearing this.

Unequal proclaims that its pads can reduce forces up to half in some areas, based on a recent test commissioned by the company. The test drops a three-pound weight from a height of three feet, creating a force of 8.5 joules. (To contrast, an NFL linebacker hitting a QB generates about 100 joules of force.) Unequal found its material reduced the forces by nearly half over the most commonly-used NFL pads. That's impressive, especially considering that there's no penalty in thickness, weight or flexibility.

Watching players who wear Unequal's materials, as well as those like Robert Griffin III, who are wearing a different but similarly advanced Evoshield padding, is going to be one of the most telling stories this year. Players and teams choose their equipment to some extent, influenced by style and by sponsorship. For years, I've called for teams and athletes to take a more proactive stance. To a much greater extent than previously possible, injuries can be prevented by the simple choice of equipment.

Vick will not play in the next preseason game and could be held out in the final matchup unless the Eagles have full confidence in his health.

Adrian Peterson, Vikings (post-surgical knee)

A lot of people are reading the Vikings' decision to hold Peterson out of preseason games as a setback. It's not. After talking to people inside and outside the team, as well as some who have watched his rehab (and similar rehabs) closely, I understand it. Let's leave aside whether the preseason is necessary, given the dangers to players. Peterson didn't miss much time at the end of the season, so it's hardly the same "getting up to speed" we're seeing for someone like Jamaal Charles. The real issue here is protecting Peterson from himself. Peterson can't play well at 80 percent and asking him to dial it back, to not do things or push himself, is pretty much impossible. Peterson is going to hit the field and be Adrian Peterson whether his knee is fine or not. It's part of what makes him an elite-level back. The Vikings are keeping Peterson out of games not to protect his knee from hits, but to protect it from Peterson pushing it too much. If there's any positive sign I'm paying attention to, it's that he's having no swelling after practice. He'll be ready when it counts, Week 1.

Trent Richardson, Browns (post-surgical knee)

Richardson's ADP is falling faster that the Curiosity Rover did a couple weeks back. The landing might be just as good for you, if you're the one who can accurately gauge where Richardson's true value is. His recent, minor knee surgery shouldn't change your opinion of his short-term prospects. There's no one in Cleveland to take his carries, which is one reason they used the high pick on a feature back like Richardson. While his durability is a bit more questionable than most realized, Richardson has been productive during game-years at Alabama. There's little reason to think that won't remain the case. The longer season is something of a worry, but that's something to factor in now and then worry about come Week 9. Richardson's ADP is probably too low. If you liked him when he got drafted, you're probably going to like him sliding into the second round. Take him. He'll be ready in Week 1.
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