Two similar questions up next, so one answer follows:
Have we missed something? I always hear of Fred Taylor’s toe, but where is Sammy Morris?
Marvin & Irene Kestenbaum, Phoenix
As a New England native and current Jacksonville area resident, I am curious about Fred Taylor's status. I was very hopeful when he signed with the Pats, but this toe injury is a mystery. Didn't he suffer the same thing last year? Is he likely to recover and see action?
Vince Henderson, Fernandina, Fla.
You haven’t missed anything – Sammy just hasn’t been on the field much the last few weeks. Despite the lack of depth New England currently has at running back with Taylor on the shelf (a source had told me Taylor would have been back by now, so we’ll see if he’s on the field Wednesday), Morris is rarely seeing the field outside of special teams. Against San Diego, he had just one carry, despite the Patriots being in a few third-and-1 or fourth-and-1 situations – the types of situations that Morris has excelled at in recent years – and he also didn’t get many snaps at fullback.
To the best of my knowledge, he is not dealing with an injury. The 33-year old is in the last year of his contract, and at this point it doesn’t look as through he’ll be back for a fifth season in New England. And Taylor, who missed a great deal of time last year due to ankle surgery, is also in the second and final year of his contract with the Patriots. When healthy, as he showed in the preseason, Taylor is still a highly effective runner.
Shalise, we can almost count on Mankins signing his tender and reporting by the deadline. Question is, what do the Pats do with him? The O-Line has done a pretty decent job without him and he has the potential to be bad news for a locker room that management worked so hard to turnaround.
Pete, New York, N.Y. (born in Massachusetts)
Hey Pete…The offensive line had been holding up well, but against the Chargers it struggled to protect Tom Brady against the top defensive unit (statistically) in the NFL. Granted San Diego is very adept at getting pressure and sacks, but if this pattern starts to continue for the O-line, Mankins may well be welcomed back with open arms. Now, since he hasn’t played a game since Jan. 10, game fitness will be an issue at first, and if things got personal between he and Bill Belichick, that may be a problem as well. As for the locker room, I doubt adding Mankins to the mix would be detrimental. Players are always (understandably) leery of signing one-year contracts, when they essentially have to hope that they don’t suffer a significant injury which would affect their value on the open market, and Mankins is a respected veteran.
Hi Shalise - the latest hard-hitting controversy seems odd to me. The problem is not really the players, but the helmet. Most helmets designed for other sports are essentially designed to collapse and dissipate the force of the impact. Once they have been hit hard they are no longer usable and are discarded. The NFL helmet is as solid as a rock. A hard exterior and an interior suspension that is apparently rigid enough that even after a hard hit, it is still usable. Any other helmet that had been exposed to the Brandon Meriweather hit, for example, would have collapsed and would have had to be thrown out. The helmet needs to be redesigned so that it is safer. A player may go through a bunch of helmets per game, but that seems better than having injuries or concussions. I am not in favor of changing the rules. I think the defense should pound the living crap out of the offense when it gets the chance; that is how the game is played. Quarterbacks and especially receivers are already pampered like little girls and more of that junk will not make the game better.
Rick Booth, Los Gatos, Calif.
You make a good point, Rick. I don’t know much personally about collapsible helmets, but it certainly seems like that would be a good option for the NFL and tangible evidence to players as to why they shouldn’t be so quick to lead with their heads. As you mentioned, the cost associated with going through so many more helmets in a season would be prohibitive. But if the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell truly are dedicated to the safety of the players in league, any additional expense incurred would be done happily. Another, less expensive, thing players can do to help avoid concussions? Mouthguards. Not all players wear them, but there are studies that show they can help. Anyone who follows the Patriots knows what Ted Johnson has gone through because of concussions, and last week I got the chance to spend a few minutes with former tackle Kyle Turley, who also is starting to show the effects of head trauma. Turley is all for keeping the game physical, but is passionate about making his fellow players more aware of the long-term dangers of concussions.