The Buffalo Bills have endured a spring and summer littered with serious injuries and suspensions, which has led to the incessant inclusion of Rex Ryan’s now infamous “we won the offseason” quote in what feels like every national article written about his club.
However, another AFC East team, THE AFC East powerhouse that is the New England Patriots has gone through a training camp and preseason with similarly unlucky incidents on the injury front.
Before I continue, here’s how Ryan responded after being asked to explain his “we won the offseason” quote back on June 16:
I think the weight room, when we do things were you get points for you know for how you perform and all that, and it wasn’t even close from this year, from this season compared to last season. I thought we had a good offseason last year, but not like this. It is so much different. We competed so well against each other, even in those type of little things the challenges that we had. I just feel great about it. I look at where this team is now compared to this time last year and I said it was a zillion miles, I mean it really is so much further along than we were. You see guys making strides, almost individually you can see it, this guy is getting better. I guess it goes without saying you got a year under your belt and things, but wow it looks good to me.
Bill Belichick and Rex couldn’t have more contrasting personalities, but now entering what will be his 22nd year as an NFL head coach (compared to Ryan entering his 8th), the Patriots’ shot-caller has learned to say little-to-nothing to the media and never, ever give bulletin-board material to opponents.
Ryan is as boisterous and outspoken as head coaches come... and while his candidness routinely makes headlines, oftentimes his unfiltered choice of words backfires on him.
I’ve rambled a bit... the point of this piece isn’t to opine on head coaches’ press-conference behavior or make Bills fans “feel better.” Hopefully, it’ll simply serve as a reminder that injury issues are an enormous part of every NFL season for every NFL team, and the best teams are the ones that persevere despite having a handful of injured players on the sideline.
For the Patriots, a report surfaced Sunday that lightning-quick running back Dion Lewis needs to have another medical procedure on the same knee in which he had surgery to repair a torn ACL he suffered last November.
CSNNE’s Tom Curran wrote the following on the news, and gave a somewhat specific timetable for Lewis’ return: “The nature of the procedure isn't specifically known, but it doesn't involve the ACL or any other ligaments. Depending upon when he has the procedure, it should be about 8-10 weeks before he can begin training, which means he will begin the season on the physically unable to perform list.”
Jim McBride of The Boston Globe, the same guy who broke the Lewis story, had more exclusive news Sunday, reporting that New England’s starting right tackle, Sebastian Vollmer, was “likely headed to IR.”
This was another report from the McBride breaking-news trifecta:
BREAKING: #Patriots G Shaq Mason has broken hand, per league source. Timetable for the second-year player's return is unknown at this time.— Jim McBride (@globejimmcbride) August 21, 2016
Here’s the insight Rich Hill of Pats Pulpit offered up regarding Mason, a 2015 fourth-rounder who started 10 games last season:
In the grand scheme of today’s reports, this is the “best”. A broken hand shouldn’t be a season-ender, and he could wear a club on his hand so he can play (although that’s better for defensive linemen). Mason is a leading candidate for the short-term injured reserve so he could return mid-season without taking up a roster spot.
Lastly and most importantly, Rob Gronkowski hasn’t practiced since he pulled up lame on August 15. However, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweeted the injury to the All-World tight end “is as minor as it seemed. No worries.” As of August 22, receiver Danny Amendola remains on the PUP list.
Beyond all those injuries to offensive players, The Boston Herald reported that Jabaal Sheard, who’s expected to be “the team’s best pass rusher in 2016,” is dealing with a sprained MCL but should be back by the regular-season opener. There’s a similar expected return date for Rob Ninkovich, who tore his triceps on August 9.
Do these injuries automatically mark the end of the Patriots reign over the AFC East? Absolutely not. New England’s been the most resilient team in football over the past decade plus and much of that has to do with the almighty tandem of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.
Without Brady and likely three offensive starters for the first month of the season — maybe some defenders as well? — the Patriots’ fortitude will face a test unlike any other it’s experienced since 2008.
Sure, Rex would love to have back his “we won the offseason” comment, and it’s become the low-hanging fruit regarding the Bills for the past few months. But they’re certainly not the only team in their division fighting through injury and suspension issues that will leak into the regular season.