The 2011 NFL season was a mostly forgetful one for Dallas Cowboys receiver Miles Austin. After two stellar games to start the season, Austin missed Weeks 3-5 with his first hamstring injury of the season. The 27-year-old rising star returned in Week 6 and played four forgettable-to-average games before being sidelined with another hamstring injury, which kept him out for another month. Austin said Monday those injuries were no fluke.
“I feel like last year I wasn’t prepared for the season the way I should’ve been condition-wise, even though I looked and felt it at the time,” Austin said. “That’s one thing that I have to keep an eye on. To make sure I’m in the best physical shape I can be.”
Austin was off to an incredibly fast start to the 2011 season before the first hamstring injury, but never quite recovered and then was sidelined again after he pulled the same muscle in his other leg. Austin hit the nail on the head by claiming he wasn’t physically ready for the season because no NFL player was. The lockout wiped out virtually the entire off-season in 2011, translating directly to the incredibly high number of injuries in the NFL last year.
Austin was just a prime example of what can happen to professional athletes when they aren’t properly prepared for such a high level of physical competition. Although Austin didn’t point any fingers, he would have been justified in doing so; the NFL was so concerned about not missing any regular season games due to the locket that it put its players at risk and several of them paid dearly.
The NFL saw a record number of ACL and Achilles heel tears in 2011 and the fact that happened during a season that was directly affected by the lockout is no coincidence. Austin wasn’t in shape for the season, but can all of the blame be place on him? Absolutely not.
Had the Indianapolis Colts been able to nurse Peyton Manning during the off-season following his neck surgeries, the team might not have lost its franchise QB to free agency. With proper attention from the Colts’ medical staff throughout the off-season, Manning might have been able to return sometime during the season and prevent the Colts from “earning” the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
That’s not to say that the Colts should be blamed for their situation; teams and players were not allowed to communicate during the lockout, much less get together for treatment. However, the NFL as a whole should be held accountable for the record-high number of injuries that its players sustained in 2011 due to lack of physical preparation for the season.
Austin is a prime example of a player who will be physically ready for the 2012 season and who will pray that his 2011 injuries don’t affect him going forward. That can’t be guaranteed, but apparently neither can a safe professional sports league.