The recent announcement that Buffalo Bills first-round pick Shaq Lawson would be undergoing shoulder surgery was met with plenty of derision and skepticism by Bills fans and observers. Specifically, there was a great deal of blame placed on Doug Whaley and the Bills' front office for even drafting Lawson, knowing that he would likely need the surgery, holding on to the (now false) hope that it could be put off until after the season.
The ever-optimistic Jerry Sullivan wrote an article on the situation, placing the "share of the blame" on Whaley and Rex Ryan. Vic Carucci went so far as to call it "a major embarrassment." A Twitter poll by WGR showed that 46 percent of voters (not a majority, but a fairly strong share) would have passed on Lawson had they known he was going to "miss time."
Everybody really needs to calm down.
Is it an embarrassing development? Yes, to a certain extent. The post-draft talk about Lawson's shoulder being fine, and the fact that they were hoping it could be delayed until after the season, blew up in their faces pretty hard when he couldn't make it through a non-contact minicamp practice without aggravating the injury. The team's own press release on the situation uses rosy language like "pre-emptive measure" and saying he'd be "capable of playing" without the surgery. If that were the case, they should have caught that before the draft and been ready to go with the surgery the moment they picked him.
Still, though, is this really "major embarrassment" territory? This is an front office that has set that bar pretty high.
Actually, higher than that.
No, wait, there's the bar.
In the end, the Bills drafted a talented defender who is a great fit for Ryan's defense. He's a great fit for most defenses, really, and that's the key. Most reports have him missing 5-6 months (that's from the date of the surgery, not during the season). During that time, he'll still be with the team. He'll be in meetings, he'll be at practices, and he'll be learning the playbook. His development doesn't completely stop just because he's not on the field.
By November at the latest, he should be back in pads, and guess what happens then? The Bills have a healthy pass rusher who many pegged as a Top 15 talent, and he'll be on the team for several seasons thereafter. He'll (ideally) play a full 16 games next season, and every season after that. The shoulder injury will be a distant memory.
Sure, there's always a chance it won't be. He might hurt it again, even during rehab. Of course, Stephon Gilmore is coming off a torn labrum, and that hasn't stopped a fairly sizable contingent of the Bills fan base from hoping the team signs him to a long-term deal. Karlos Williams missed two games with a shoulder injury last season, and NFL.com just pegged him as one of the top three backup running backs in the league.
In the end, this situation has really been blown way out of proportion. The Lawson pick hit an 88 percent approval rating on this site soon after it was made. Everybody inside and outside of the Bills' front office had Lawson pegged as a day-one starter. The fact that he's missing as much as half a season doesn't change the fact that the Bills drafted a great prospect who will be with the team long after this surgery is a distant memory.