The Falcons, a playoff team in 1991 but 5-7 this year, have lost quarterback Chris Miller for the season to reconstructive knee surgery and five defensive backs for at least one game apiece. Says cornerback Tim McKyer, "I have to shake hands and introduce myself to the safeties every week, because I'm never sure who I'm lining up next to."
Even one of the worst teams in the league, the 2-10 Seattle Seahawks, can lay some of the blame for their failures on injuries. They lost their top wideout, Brian Blades (broken clavicle), on his first play of the season, and wideout Lewis Clark (broken rib) and left guard John Hunter (torn knee ligament) both went down three weeks ago against the Los Angeles Raiders. The two quarterbacks who fought for the starting job in training camp, Kelly Stouffer (separated shoulder) and Dan McGwire (broken hip, out for the season), have missed 10 games between them. "It's maddening," says Seattle coach Tom Flores. "A nightmare. An absolute nightmare."
Woe is everyone, everywhere. Quarterback Hugh Millen of the New England Patriots had such a grotesquely dislocated shoulder that as he walked out of the shower one day last month, revolted teammates yelled at him to cover the injury. The Indianapolis Colts' millionaires on defense—end Steve Emtman and linebacker Quentin Coryatt, the first two players chosen in the '92 draft, and veteran linebacker Duane Bickett—all got hurt in games against the Dolphins. Emtman, who is out for the year after undergoing knee surgery, and Bickett, who missed four games with a pulled hamstring, were hurt on the same play on Nov. 8. Coryatt, who suffered a displaced bone in his wrist on Oct. 25, is probably finished for the season too.
Cornerback Albert Lewis and tight end Mike Dyal of the Kansas City Chiefs broke their left forearms in the same game against the San Diego Chargers. Linebacker Kurt Gouveia and safety Danny Copeland, both of the Redskins, slammed into each other on a play against the New York Giants—and both got up with sprained necks.
As for the quarterbacks: Got an hour? They've been KO'd in the pocket (Jeff Hostetler and Phil Simms of the Giants, and Timm Rosenbach of the Cardinals), scrambling out of the pocket (Miller and John Elway of the Denver Broncos) and diving for a first down (Moon). There are all kinds of dime-store theories about what should be done to protect quarterbacks, but changing the rules again isn't the answer. If quarterbacks are to be better protected, three things must be done: Officials must become more vigilant about calling late hits, more quarterbacks must slide or duck out of bounds instead of diving for the extra yard, and, most important, teams must practice "max-protect." That's coachspeak for keeping in enough blockers to protect the quarterback.
The Oilers might spare Moon another concussion by adding an H-back and subtracting a wide receiver or by keeping running back Lorenzo White at Moon's side on every pass play. Teams can protect their quarterbacks if they want to, but the newfangled offenses, with four and five wide receivers, make it appear as though coaches don't want to.
On the play in which Moon broke his arm, he was trying to convert a third down in the closing minutes of a crucial game for Houston. He dived for the first down, hitting the artificial turf at the same time that Viking Vencie Glenn's helmet rocketed into Moon's left shoulder and upper arm. "Warren sacrificed his life for the team," says Oiler receiver Haywood Jeffires.
A poignant thought, and there are a lot of similar ones in the Jets' locker room these days. "People say, 'You football players get paid too much money,' " said New York rookie defensive tackle Mario Johnson on Sunday evening. "But it's not too much if you lose your legs, your arms, your touch. There's no sport like this."
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