If “build the monster” meant actually building it, out of carbon and rubber and steel, the game of football would be easy. When a player went down, you’d just replace a part and throw him back in. Kind of like an IndyCar.
But football players aren’t machines. They’re human. And human bodies need blood and oxygen and nutrients to repair themselves, along with rest. And time. Sometimes, more time than we allow.
And that is both the blessing and the curse of the game we love.
Last season the Colts put a league-high 17 players on injured reserve. Guys like running back Vick Ballard, tackle Donald Thomas, tight end Dwayne Allen, and wide receiver Reggie Wayne.
The Colts haven’t even played their first preseason game and already Ballard and Thomas are back on that list for the season.
Football is a brutal sport. Injuries are inevitable. And the Colts are taking the issue seriously. It’s affecting everything from how players rehab to how they practice.
“We went to work. We looked at the last two seasons…trying to find common threads, common things, themes, and do everything we can do within our power. Again, be proactive so we don’t put 17 guys on IR.”
-Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano
And then there’s the personal aspect. The pain and disappointment you feel for the players who worked so hard to come back. We talked to Donald Thomas on Wednesday, heard him say how difficult it was to watch from the sideline last year and how good it felt to get back out there and contribute.
Just hours later, he limped off the field in disgust, obviously aware of his condition. We all felt his pain, but no one more than Reggie Wayne.
“I saw Donald go down (Wednesday) and I said to myself, ‘Damn, this is like a scene from Final Destination.’ But I mean, I get the whole thing, taking it easy, being smart, and like I said, I get it, I understand it. Yeah, I do respect it. But the only thing I can do is pray about it and go out there and do the things I’ve been doing.”
-Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne
Machines are easy to fix. Humans are not. But it’s the human vulnerability, the human spirit: the strength, the determination, the will to return to the game they love, that sets the stage for some of the greatest stories in sports.
Machines don’t feel. They don’t bleed.
And they don’t inspire.