It's every coach's nightmare. A violent practice collision between two starters.
Monday's occurrence (per the Courier-Post) of incidental Eagle-on-Eagle crime—a scary, high-speed crash involving safety Nate Allen and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha—surely did a number on the coaching staff, the fans and the rest of Philadelphia's players.
Allen got up right away but appeared to be shaken. He was coughing and looked as though he was trying to make sure everything was still intact. He later said he couldn't breathe.
Asomugha lay still. One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four. Then some movement. Those not fearing the worst are eternal optimists. Very few sports fans fall into that category.
Asomugha would spend about five minutes on the turf at Lehigh before being carted off. There was a chance the four-time All-Pro had a concussion, which a decade ago would've required him to shake it off and take a Tylenol but in 2012 could mean weeks in street clothes.
It looks like the Eagles dodged a pair of bullets. Allen didn't miss a rep, and a day later, it's been revealed that Asomugha has nothing more than a lacerated lip and a sore neck. No concussion, no broken bones, no damaged muscles or joints (per CBSSports.com).
The team is being careful. Asomugha was not at the walk-through Tuesday morning, and we're yet to find out if he'll miss any full practices. Neck injuries can be problematic, too, and Philadelphia can't take any chances with its best non-pass-rushing defensive player.
There isn't much we can learn from an episode like this. The Eagles can't change the way they practice, and collisions are to football what apples are to apple pie. But if we take anything away from this, it's that dumb luck controls every team's destiny, and that the only way to beat the Grim Reaper of football is to be as deep as the salary cap will let you get.
The Eagles have protected themselves in quite a few spots. If Trent Cole goes down, there's Jason Babin and Brandon Graham and Darryl Tapp. If Jeremy Maclin goes down, they have Jason Avant. If Cullen Jenkins gets hurt, Fletcher Cox is there. Brent Celek has Clay Harbor. Brian Rolle has Jamar Chaney.
But every team has spots that lack depth, as well as irreplaceable players. In Philadelphia, the two most irreplaceable men are Asomugha and quarterback Michael Vick.
Without either of those players, it'd be almost impossible for the Eagles to make a championship run. The team's shallow backup quarterback pool is a story for another day, but I have a hard time imagining how Philly would replace Asomugha at corner.
On the opposite side alone, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is considered to be at least a minor liability. Joselio Hanson and Brandon Boykin are better suited for slot roles, and neither are looked at as starting-caliber corners at this stage.
A significant injury to Asomugha would have the Eagles strongly regretting an offseason trade that sent veteran Asante Samuel to Atlanta, and it would likely move second-year corner Curtis Marsh—zero starts, seven games, 13 snaps, two tackles as a rookie—into the starting lineup.
Pro Football Focus rated Rodgers-Cromartie 169th out of the 199 cornerbacks that took the field in 2011. Can you imagine a DRC-Marsh cornerback tandem facing Eli Manning, Tony Romo and Robert Griffin III?
What took place in practice Monday might have been a particle shy of being a death knell for the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles. Luck was on their side, which is instead quite encouraging. They'll need it, just like every successful team does.
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