It's become one of the most disturbing annual rites of passage for NFL teams. Every year, NFL teams lose valuable players off their rosters due to injuries suffered in the offseason.
These injuries come in a variety of forms, but the season ending types are usually a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or an Achilles tendon rupture.
Sometimes the injuries come in regular workouts during organized team activities (OTA’s), mini-camps, or training camp.
However, some injuries also occur during a casual activity or under extraordinary circumstances.
In the 2009 season, one such injury that stood out was the ACL tear of Philadelphia Eagles middle linebacker Stewart Bradley.
The former star of the University of Nebraska was participating in the Eagles Flight Night, a somewhat glorified night practice in front of fans at Lincoln Financial Field instead of the team's usual practice facility at Lehigh University.
Losing Bradley on August 2 gave the Birds little time to find a replacement, if one could have even been found for the ascending star.
Philadelphia tried myriad of "stopgaps" including bringing Jeremiah Trotter off the radio airwaves and out of retirement. Nothing worked and the Eagles performance in 2009 was clearly worse than it would have been with Bradley in the middle.
In 2010, several more players have already gone down with an injury and the following slides represent an attempt to rank these injuries in order of the least severe impact to the most.
Limas Sweed caught all of one pass last season and has seven catches in his two-year career. His chances of making the Pittsburgh roster were iffy at best.
Any chance of playing in the NFL at all in 2010 disappeared when he was placed on injured reserve after tearing his left Achilles tendon during a May 2 mini-camp practice.
The Steelers still have Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, and third round draft pick Emmanuel Sanders at wideout. Still, their depth at the position is clearly lacking after Pittsburgh basically gave away Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets, tired of his off-field troubles.
Having Sweed on the roster arguably wouldn't have made much of a difference.
Reserve Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Bryan Smith was also lost this offseason with a torn ligament in his knee. However, I couldn't rank him as he was not projected to make the roster anyhow.
By now, most people are familiar with the tragic and near fatal story of Chad Jones. For those who missed it, at early dawn on June 25, Jones broke his left leg and ankle when the sports utility vehicle he was driving struck a utility pole.
Jones had to be pried away from the wreckage. There was nerve damage, a lack of blood flow, and the initial concern that his leg would have to be amputated.
Thankfully, he appears to be doing better after surgery according to his father and his agent.
He clearly will miss the upcoming season and may never play football again, which I am sure is the least of his concerns right now.
As for the Giants, they lose a good free safety prospect, but should be fine due to the free agent signings of Antrell Rolle and Deon Grant.
The problem is that the team is concerned about the return of safety Kenny Phillips who suffered a serious knee injury last year in Week Two.
Any future setbacks for Phillips or injuries to Rolle or Grant would leave New York extremely thin at the position.
What's the saying that sums up Marlin Jackson's career? "If he didn't have bad luck, he wouldn't have any luck at all." After signing a two-year free-agent contract with the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason, he ruptured an Achilles tendon in a June 1 practice.
While with the Colts, Jackson missed the second half of 2008 with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and returned in 2009 before tearing the ACL in his left knee during a November practice.
The problem for the Eagles is that they were looking for veteran leadership at the free safety position, something they sorely missed when Brian Dawkins left as a free agent last offseason.
The Eagles probably would have started second-round pick Nate Allen at free safety anyhow, but now he has to step right in and produce. Remember, the Eagles also traded veteran cornerback Sheldon Brown to the Browns in the offseason.
About the only remaining dependable component is cornerback Asante Samuel. He's consistent at picking off passes (nine last season) and missing tackles (don't ask Eagles fans to count these).
Hixon's injury was initially thought to be a hyperextended right knee, but an MRI revealed a torn ACL.
The injury occurred during the Giants' first workout inside the New Meadowlands Stadium, when Hixon caught his foot in the new FieldTurf surface while attempting to cut during a punt return.
Hixon averaged 22.6 yards on 57 kickoff returns (just 12th in the NFC) and 15.1 yards on 17 punt returns, (he fell just shy of the qualifying number of returns, but he would have ranked second in the NFL just shy of the Eagles' DeSean Jackson) including a 79-yard touchdown return December 6 against Dallas.
As a receiver, Hixon would likely have been fourth on the depth chart or worse, so the G-Men won't miss him there.
The injuries to the next three players on this list will have a tremendous impact on their teams.
Weakside outside linebacker Thomas Davis was on his way to the Pro Bowl in 2009 before tearing the ACL in his right knee in Week Nine against New Orleans.
He was making a fast recovery when he re-tore the ACL backpedaling during a non-contact drill in early June.
The injury leaves Carolina without one of its speediest and best defensive players. It could lead natural middle linebacker Jon Beason to move to Davis' old spot in the Panthers' 4-3 scheme.
The Panthers were ninth last year in points allowed (19.2 per game), but in addition to losing Davis, defensive end Julius Peppers, defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu, and linebacker Na'il Diggs departed during the offseason.
The Panthers haven't ruled out Davis returning late this season, but coming off back-to-back ACL tears it’s doubtful that he would have an impact.
The Steelers right tackle has already been declared out for the season after rupturing his right Achilles tendon. The recovery from this injury is typically around nine months, but could easily take a full year.
The loss of Colon is huge for a team that has already lost starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for six games (could be reduced to four) due to suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy.
As mentioned previously, the Steelers jettisoned arguably their best receiver in Holmes.
Colon is Pittsburgh's best offensive lineman and may require the team to put rookie first-round pick Maurkice Pouncey at right tackle instead of right guard or center where he is a better fit.
Despite the Steelers' switch to more of a passing attack, I expect them to return to a run first scheme at least during Roethlisberger's suspension.
The loss of Colon's superior run blocking skills will make the emergence of running back Rashard Mendenhall a bit tougher.
Combine this with Byron Leftwich's elongated delivery and absence of mobility, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Clady comes with a major asterisk. His left torn patellar tendon suffered on April 28 may not require him to miss the season. Clady estimates that he will be recovered in three months, which could theoretically have him in playing shape by the regular season.
I'm not buying it. United States soccer player Oguchi Onyewu tore his patellar tendon in mid October of 2009 and did not return to action until mid April of this year (six months later).
At 6-4, 210 pounds, Onyewu is a big soccer player, but the pressure and wear and tear he puts on his patellar tendon can't be anywhere close to that of the 6-6, 325 pound Clady. Beyond a simple comparison, one key to Clady's game is his lateral quickness to get to edge pass rushers. This might be one of the last traits to come back during his recovery from this type of injury.
If he is gone for the year, Clady ranks as the most devastating loss because he is arguably the best left tackle in the NFL today. Denver quarterback Kyle Orton already has lost a 100 catch per season wide receiver in Brandon Marshall (who was dealt to Miami). Forget about finding a receiver, Orton likely won't remain upright without Clady.
Mind you, there are several players with uncertain timetables for coming back from injuries last season, Ed Reed, Wes Welker, and Steve Slaton come to mind right away. But, this list is only for players who suffered season-ending injuries (or in the case of Clady, a potential season-ending injury) this offseason.