As die-hard football fans, we all love the contact within the game. We jump out of our seat when pads and helmets collide on the gridiron. On the other hand, a major drawback inside the sport revolves around player safety and the injuries that follow.
It is always concerning when the training staff jogs onto the field, towel and water bottle in hand. Within a moment, the serious nature of the injury is observed. No matter what, positive or negative, a gesture to the sideline is passed along.
With each passing second, coaches, fellow teammates and all of the fans in attendance hold their collective breath.
Unfortunately, when a cart enters the playing surface, the news is never good.
This same scenario has played out far too many times in Tempe, Ariz. Dating back to spring practice, All-Conference shutdown cornerback and senior leader Omar Bolden injured his knee and is in danger of missing the entire 2011 season.
Along with Bolden, wide receiver and deep threat T.J. Simpson also tore an ACL during practice in preparation for the upcoming season.
Leaving spring ball, Erickson and the Sun Devils still felt confident with their squad. Although the key injuries during spring hurt, the depth Dennis Erickson recruited was expected to step up.
Although, much of the high praise Erickson’s Sun Devils have garnered this offseason stems from their experience and strength in numbers—especially the upperclassmen.
With each passing practice, another key contributor or slated starter has picked up an injury. Some players’ injuries are not as severe as the aforementioned names, but over the weekend, another big name for Arizona State found himself surrounded by sports medicine personnel.
Brandon Magee, starting linebacker and “backbone of the defense” according to quarterback Brock Osweiler, tore his Achilles tendon early in fall camp’s first scrimmage.
Magee’s injury certainly hurts the Sun Devils' plans at dominating the Pac-12 on defense. Yet ASU still has quality talent to fill the void at outside linebacker.
The Sun Devils starting linebacking corps was set to read “No. 6, No. 7, and No. 8” in terms of jersey numbers. Now, Magee’s No. 8 will likely be filled by Oliver Aaron’s No. 18.
Maroon and gold fans might remember Aaron from his highlight moment against in-state rival Arizona, where the Gainesville, Fla. native forced and recovered a fourth-quarter fumble.
Aaron’s intensity and ferocious style of play fits well with the other defenders, but Magee’s knowledge, nose for the ball and composure will need to be replaced.
Brandon Magee and fellow Corona Centennial High School (Calif.) teammates Vontaze Burfict and Shelly Lyons had a chemistry that no other linebacking corps in the nation could match. Magee also played an integral part in calming Burfict in crucial in-game situations last fall. As we all know, Burfict can occasionally boil over. Magee played a good Dr. Phil in many of those moments.
Aaron can try his best, but Burfict has to control what is above his shoulders. Although he is not the most senior member on the defensive side, or the roster—in fact he is not even 21 yet—Burfict will be forced to lead. Everyone knows he can speak with his pads and his hard-hitting tackles, but motivation comes in many forms.
How he chooses to lead should be very telling for the fans in the valley of the sun.
This Sun Devil team has high expectations for their future. Even through these impactful injuries, the goals are still far reaching. And that mentality has to remain consistent within the locker room. Another injury, at any position, could fracture that confidence, but the belief must be rock solid.
Injuries occur throughout all levels of football. Fortunately for college coaches, 85 scholarship players and nearly 40 invited walk-ons are at the staff’s fingertips.
Moments such as these should not be considered “red flags” or a time to press the “panic button.” A door is opening for a younger player to rise to the occasion and perform.
All of these players snapping on their chinstraps with a pitchfork on their helmet want to play football at the highest level. Now, they have their audition.
It’s time to step into a new role.