In the summer of 2011, Miles Austin was a 27-year-old stud wide receiver coming off a Pro Bowl season in Dallas. That offseason, he suffered a hamstring injury that was deemed by the team not to be serious.
But Austin ended up missing nearly half of the ensuing campaign and was severely limited in both 2012 and 2013 due to hamstring problems. His productivity plummeted, and he hasn't been the same since. Now approaching his 30th birthday, he was recently released by the Cowboys and is expected to be nothing more than a bit player on a one-year prove-it contract with the Browns.
It's the summer of 2014, and DeSean Jackson is a 27-year-old stud wide receiver coming off a Pro Bowl season in Philadelphia. Now with the Redskins, he suffered a hamstring injury that has been deemed by Jackson himself to be "no big issue."
Not all strained or pulled hamstrings are created equal, so it isn't our intention to fear monger, but it's a fact that injuries to that group of tendons aren't ideal for players who rely significantly on their speed.
"It can be a tricky pairing," ESPN.com's John Keim wrote of hammy injuries and speed guys, "especially as a player ages."
Jackson was hampered by the same hamstring early in 2012 but didn't miss any time as a result. But Austin had never missed time due to his hamstrings before 2011, so it's not as though these things can't come out of nowhere.
Sudden hamstring problems also helped derail Roddy White's 2013 campaign and forced Larry Fitzgerald into an early-season slump in Arizona. Andre Johnson lost the vast majority of his 2011 season due to a hamstring strain suffered in Week 4. And for the same reason, Hakeem Nicks and Julio Jones also weren't themselves that year.
And while Michael Vick isn't a receiver, he does rely on his speed to a large degree, and Jackson saw firsthand how hamstring troubles pretty much ended Vick's starting career in Philadelphia last year.
Jackson isn't a big guy, and he missed nine games in four seasons due to various injuries between 2009 and 2012. He's susceptible. This is a real concern.
"A player involved in a sprint or one who moves in cutting motions—like a wide receiver—is more likely to require a longer recovery period," wrote fitness coach Mackie Shilstone in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, "while a more stagnant player, like a lineman, may heal faster."
At some point, this injury becomes less than innocuous. At some point, it has to be classified as nagging. The original injury was suffered nearly two weeks ago, but it appears Jackson is still quite limited as organized team activities continue this week.
And the last thing they want to do is rush Jackson back. From Shilstone:
The hamstring injury has a reputation of keeping players on the bench much longer than expected, since the injured hamstring can be more difficult to treat, and overzealous players who return to the field too soon (often entering a type of sprinting play) could expect a re-injury rate of up to 50 percent. …
The hamstring injury should not be underestimated, for its potential for devastating an athlete’s season, much less career, if re-injury occurs. I fear that many players are convinced, or manipulated, both by their egos and those of a coaching staff, to return to the field too quickly.
But Jackson is supposed to be getting acclimated to a new offense. It's a tough spot to be in. And at his position, at his age and with his skill set in mind, this is no longer an injury to be taken lightly.