A while back, when the NFL strike settled, I remember hearing on commentator say "Will the fans forgive the NFL?"
He meant "Will the fans forgive the NFL for the lockout because they missed football news over the spring and early summer?" which is a silly question because those months are full of stupid NFL news, anyway, and abbreviating the free agent period to about 72 hours made no difference in the fan's lives, and left nothing to forgive.
What he should have meant was this: "Will the fans forgive the NFL for making the NFL season have even fewer games with teams that are ready to play at a high level, and also will the fans forgive the owners for setting it up so that even more players can get injured early on?"
Both of those things are what the lockout did, and they will have a huge impact on the NFL season.
I've mentioned in the past that NFL teams don't really start playing until Week 4, a figure I arrived at by noting that:
A. All NFL teams figure it takes about 4 weeks of preseason games to get up to speed on their offenses, and
B. No NFL teams run the "full package" of their plays, sticking with vanilla offenses and not really practicing their plays, to avoid giving the other teams films of their "real" plays to look at.
All of which means that:
C. NFL coaches are stupid and think that other coaches are, too, as if they've been on the job for more than a year, then the other teams have more than enough film of their plays -- unless NFL coaches every year introduce entirely new plays they've never run before, which would be even more stupid than just not practicing.
Plus, at best, not running your "real" plays in the preseason would only help for the first 2-3 teams you play -- by week 3, everyone's got film of your "real" plays, and
D. NFL teams, by not really practicing their plays with their first string during the preseason go into weeks 1-3 not totally prepared to play football for realz, as the kids don't say.
So this year, you're going to have teams be even more unprepared (less prepared?) going into the season, because they didn't get that extra few weeks of training camp before the exhibition games began, so by my estimate, it'll be about week six before teams really know what they're doing out there.
By which time, they'll have to get the backups ready to play, if The Dorsey Levens Effect is real, which it is.
The Dorsey Levens Effect is what I call the tendency of players who don't get a full preseason to be injured early on in the season. Back when the Packers were coming off their Brett Favre Super Bowls, Dorsey Levens was their starting running back, and felt like he should be paid more money than he'd agreed to be paid -- so he held out for a while in training camp, got a raise to $25 million, and then broke his leg the second week of the season. His holdout lasted 44 days -- 44 days of training camp he missed, only to come in and play the first two games.
My theory -- (and it's a theory like evolution is a theory, meaning that it's a fact unless you live in Texas, in which case you're more or less an Iranian when it comes to intelligence, treating people fairly, and actually being good for America) -- is that players who hold out tend to be injured at a higher rate than other players, and my reasoning is that even players who are as well-conditioned and work-out-year-round-y as NFL players are today need to bring their bodies slowly up to the even higher level of performance that's demanded on game day, when people move full-speed and they don't have that tendency to not actually hit the other guy that hard that their own teammates do.
(I assume that even though they hit hard in practice, players on the same team aren't really as motivated to knock down their own teammates as players on another team might be.)
Which means that a player who holds out doesn't have as much time to get his body back into real playing form before the hits start counting, and is that much more likely to be injured.
I'd like to tell you that a scientist somewhere or other has backed me up on this -- but googling "do holdout players get injured more frequently" led to nothing from science.
But, googling "missing training camp more likely to cause serious injury" led to this site, which said:
Also, by holding out,players become much more susceptible to serious injury because they have not had the benefit of the conditioning and preparation they would have received in training camp.
And that was written by a lawyer, so you know it's accurate.
But it makes sense, doesn't it? Not just the conditioning -- but the expectations a player has. A receiver who doesn't know the route to run, a running back who can't remember blocking assignments, and so on, are players who aren't expecting something -- so a block gets missed, a cut gets made late, and a player gets hit when he's not expecting it and gets injured.
Me and that other lawyer aren't the only ones who think this is true, either. Former Rams coach Jim Haslett blamed Steven Jackson's injury a few years back on his holdout. Darrelle Revis held out last year and then hurt his hamstring, with some people blaming the injury on the holdouts.
Which is interesting, because ordinarily, a holdout player has only himself to blame -- he didn't want to honor his contract, and got himself injured as a result. But this year, it's the NFL's fault if players start suffering injuries at a higher-than-usual rate because the NFL locked them out and then refused to move back or shorten the regular season. And with the NFL already being sued by former players who allege the league didn't do enough to protect them from injury, you'd think someone in the front office would have thought of this.
Essentially, the 2011-2012 season is a massive test of The Dorsey Levens Effect: This year, the NFL has essentially had nothing but holdouts, as the strike meant no mini-camps and no offseason visits to the team trainer, and as a result, I'm betting we'll see a higher-than-usual injury rate
But I'm hedging that bet by also betting that not a single commentator will call out the NFL for locking out its players and making them more likely to suffer serious injuries.