If there has been a common theme connecting the two local teams figuring prominently in the Philadelphia sporting consciousness, it is the appearance of the injury bug and the impact it's had (and is having) on the respective teams.
I haven't written much about training camp, mostly because I haven't had time (also don't feel the need to write about the riveting punter competition between the Austrailian rules guy and Dirk Johnson). But if there is one disturbing trend that I've seen emerge from training camp is that almost every Eagle of note is either coming back from an injury from last season or is nursing some sort of injury that keeps them out of practice. The list:
Jon Runyan (back spasms)
Brian Dawkins (achilles tendonitis)
Donovan McNabb (knee)
Donovan McNabb (knee)
Brian Westbrook (knee swelling)
LJ Smith (groin problems after sports hernia surgery in the offseason)
Lito Sheppard (strained ab muscle)
Shawn Andrews (sprained ankle)
Every one of the players listed above is either a Pro-Bowl caliber player or a player that plays just below that caliber. This list represents the heart and soul of the entire team. Does this list make anyone else nervous coming into this season?
I am especially nervous about Brian Dawkins. Dawkins' injury, while it is thought to not cost him regular season time, could potentially lead to him tearing or further damaging his achilles tendon. It seems the achilles injury is the new season-killer amongst NFL players. Takeo Spikes tore his achilles a couple of years ago and is just now rounding back into the form he had before he sustained that particular injury. I'm sure Quentin Mikell is a good guy and an adequate backup at Dawkins' safety position, but he's no Brian Dawkins. Dawkins is the leader of the defense and I would argue he's every bit as important to the success of this team as Donovan McNabb. Dawkins' status during the pre-season warrants monitoring.
The other injury that makes me nervous is on the other side of the ball. And no, it's not McNabb, Westbrook, or even LJ Smith, who may well be done for the year with his groin injury which no doubt is related to his sports hernia. It's actually Shawn Andrews. "The Big Kid" has grown (literally and figuratively) into one of the best offensive guards in the NFL. He was on crutches and a walking boot at the end of last week. Any prolonged absence by Andrews could impact the ability of the Eagles to run the ball effectively as they promised they would do more of at the end of last season. The injured ankle is also the same one that Andrews had surgery on in 2004. Again, this injury bears watching.....
Two players who may not be coming back as quickly as hoped are Shane Victorino and team leader and the best 2B in baseball, Chase Utley. Both of these players have endeared themselves to the fans for their hardnosed style of play and their hustle has been missed since they've been injured (witness Pat Burrell and Jayson Werth's misadventures on the basepaths and in the outfield over the course of last weekend).
Victorino was supposed to start a rehab assignment over the weekend, but since he felt tightness in his calf, he did not make that assignment. He is now scheduled to begin his rehab this Tuesday for AA Reading. Hopefully, he makes it back by the weekend...they desperately miss his speed in the outfield and on the basepaths. Victorino's speedy backup, Michael Bourn, will probably not be back anytime soon either, as he sprained his ankle in the same game that Victorino hurt himself in.
It was hoped that Chase Utley could come back by August 23rd when he was originally injured. That looks like a pipe dream at this point. Utley is scheduled to see a hand specialist today and from what I've heard on the radio, might not be back until September. While the team has been able to hang in there in the NL East in Utley's absence, don't believe for a second this team won't need Utley down the stretch.