“We like to say that dependability is more important than ability,” --Bill Belichick, Sept. 13
That was Belichick before the season opener telling the media a virtue he values in his players. Those words ring hollow now that WR Danny Amendola missed his first game as a Patriot with a groin injury. According to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, Amendola could be out for up to six weeks.
Belichick should have seen this coming. Even if the comparison between Amendola and Wes Welker is handicapped to strike out Amendola’s 2011 season which he missed 15 games due to an ACL tear, Amendola still missed 8 games in four seasons to Welker’s three in nine seasons.
Unfortunately Amendola isn’t alone on the sideline. He was joined by rookie TE Zach Sudfeld who, while at the University of Nevada, suffered injuries that cost him all of 2008 and all but the season opener in 2011 as mentioned in his profile on the Wolfpack's official site.
TE Rob Gronkowski was also a health risk as he entered the NFL Draft from the University of Arizona. The 2010 Sporting News Draft Guide stated “Gronkowski could be drafted anywhere from the first to the fourth round due to his risk of future injury.”
The biggest recent disappointment was CB Ras-I Dowling, who played in six games in two seasons with the Patriots. Dowling was cut before the 2013 season.
Taking fliers on medical red-flag players is nothing new in the NFL. The decision comes down to the team’s medical staff reports that determines if the player checks out physically or if they expect problems down the road, how soon, and how often.
Unfortunately for New England, Amendola, Gronkowski and Sudfeld are sidelined simultaneously, and the offense had to get by without them in Week 2 against the New York Jets.
Based on the Patriots’ actions, these risky players are worth the gamble.
Gronkowski quickly established himself as one of the best tight ends in the NFL, but his physical style of play has led to additional injuries, like the high ankle sprain suffered in the 2011 AFC Championship.
Physically, Amendola is more talented than Welker. Amendola proved to be a gamer when he played through a groin injury in the season opener against the Buffalo Bills.
New England’s logic is being supported as Welker already has a handful of drops with his new team, the Denver Broncos. But Welker also has three touchdowns and has been on the field for two games.
Sudfeld was impressive during training camp and the preseason, but it is too soon to rate his pro career after just one game played. As a rookie free agent, anything Sudfeld contributes is a bonus since no one expected anything from him.
So far availability has the advantage in 2013. New England needs ability gain the edge and soon.
Gronkowski has been working out with the team since before Week 1, though he’s unlikely to play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Amendola will try rehabbing his injury first, in hopes he returns in two weeks. If Amendola doesn’t recover properly, then he will opt for surgery, which could sideline Amendola for up to six weeks.
Sudfeld was listed as questionable last week. The injury report for Week 3 hasn’t been released yet.
New England barely got by the Jets without Amendola, Gronkowski and Sudfeld. Playing so short-handed will catch up to the Patriots offense quickly.
Maybe rookie receivers Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson won’t be blinded by the NFL bright lights anymore and can carry the offense.
If not, then the team will suffer for Belichick not following his “availability over ability” mantra.
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