JPP and Playing Injured: Heroic or Stupid?

Last night I watched a little bit of the Giants vs. Dolphins game. I’m not a jpphuge Giants fan, but Eli is on the team. And since Eli was on my team at Ole Miss, we cheer for Eli’s team. Plus, they have OBJ, and the dude proves there’s hope for those of us under six-feet-tall. I’m not insinuating that there’s still hope for me, just that people who aren’t 6’3″ have a shot these days. Nice to know that if I was younger, and more athletic, and an actual athlete, I could make a  name for myself. But that’s completely beside the point.

What really caught my eye last night, and my ears this morning on talk radio, was the whole drama surrounding Jason Pierre-Paul’s hand—or rather, his club. It really hindered his ability to tackle and has people all abuzz about whether his career will be hindered as well. A fella needs both hands to tackle on the inside and outside of the line of scrimmage. Mike Golic from Mike and Mike said that JPP is going to have to relearn his position completely if he stands a chance at being competitive. You really do need the ability to grab a hold of a jersey when attempting to make a tackle in the NFL.

So what exactly happened to JPP? There was this holiday in July where he bought some fireworks, an annual thing he does with his kids in South Florida. He calls the even a “mistake,” takes full blame for it, and acknowledges the fact that this incident cost him a $15 million contract. He’s adamant that he is a better player and can return even stronger.

I know of a small handful (pun intended) of football players who have played with a club like this—come to think of it, they’re all defensive players. First,there’s the famous Patrick Willis who played with his club at Ole Miss through 2007. I was lucky enough to be on campus when he played and got to watch his magic. But the argument can be made that it was college ball, and Ole Miss wasn’t that great. Remember Coach O?

There’s also JJ Watt. He broke his hand this past week during practice, and is currently playing with a club as well. He’s of the same mindset as JPP. He feels his injury will not eliminate him as a defensive threat. He just said he has to overcome the pain of a broken hand. I’d almost argue “easier said than done,” but remember, I’m not on the same level as JJ Watt. These players have a physical ailment, a hindrance, that is clearly getting in the way of their efforts to dominate a game. But will their injuries hurt their impact?

Let’s swap sports. I remember being in fourth or fifth grade and being assigned a book report. We had to “dress up” as the person by building a sandwich board type of display and hang it on our neck. I chose one of (if not the) strongest players in baseball: Lou Gehrig. The man seemed to have no boundaries. He would start 2,130 number of games, setting a record that would not be broken until Cal Ripkin Jr. in 1995. Gehrig played with numerous broken bones in his hand, the flu, and many other injuries he never told anyone. This allowed him to start these 2,130 straight games. Seemed like the only thing that could take him out was the break down of his own body.

But in the present era, would we reward such an attitude? We are ankle taping, concussion preventing, personal training fools these days. I wonder how many “high ankle sprains” were in sports 75 years ago. I wonder how many ACL tears or torn plantar fascias were present.

My question is, were athletes tougher back in the day, or are we just smarter in this contemporary age of athletics? Honestly, it’s hard to answer this because of the mere fact that we know so much about season ending, career ending, even life ending injuries. But where’s the line where we are too cautious, too protective? Is there one?

The thing about Patrick Willis’s injury is that there was the hope of finality. His club would come off. He would be a powerful force on the defense. He would eventually be able to grab a hold of a running back with both hands. The same goes for Watt. It might not be this season. If the Texans actually make it to the playoffs, it’ll be later rather than sooner, but the way things are looking, he might get an early rest period. That can’t be said for Pierre-Paul.

Chances are JPP is on his way towards the end of his career. The Giants could certainly trade him. They may see him as a liability, and they don’t want to be the ones to pay for it. There’s little loyalty in business. It’s plain business. The “experts” (I clearly insert myself in this category…I mean, hey, I write a blog) say having two or three nubbin fingers leaves you vulnerable and costly. There’s no way he’s going to still be a threat.

But, if JPP proves us all wrong—something he says he’s not trying to do, but we all know better—we’ll mark him down as another hero of the game, overcoming obstacles (albeit self-inflicted obstacles) and forging ahead towards greatness. But the odds certainly are against him.


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