There have been some grumbles about how the Patriots have treated injuries over the past few years. TE Rob Gronkowski suffered a hamstring injury and he’s slowly worked his way back towards his first activity this past week. LB Dont’a Hightower was inactive after practicing all week.
This deliberately slow handling of injuries can cause some eyerolls in a sport that loves putting a premium on hyper-masculine rub some dirt on it mentalities. But it’s the smart and right decision for a perennial contender.
Just look at the Houston Texans. They just ruined the best defender in football.
Sources: #Texans star DL JJ Watt has re-injured his back and is expected to be out for an extended period of time. Could be the season.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 28, 2016
Texans are placing JJ Watt on injured reserve on Wednesday and resigning DE Antonio Smith, per league sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 28, 2016
Texans DL J.J. Watt underwent back surgery over the summer and his projected return was set for late September. The Texans rushed him back to play week 1 instead of giving him those extra two or three weeks of rest. His season is now over.
Watt is a generational talent and a sheer force on the defensive line. He benefits from playing in a horrendous AFC South division, and Bill Belichick and the Patriots have no trouble scheming him out of games, but he’s a total force. He hasn’t looked that way all season and he was handled by Patriots RT Marcus Cannon pretty easily last week.
And now he’s gone. He’s easily the best player on that Texans roster and the cornerstone of what they do on defense. He was rushed back, reinjured, and is now out.
The Patriots learned their lesson in 2013 with the gross mishandling of TE Rob Gronkowski’s long list of injuries and surgeries, and that was a clear turning point in how head coach Bill Belichick looks at injuries.
Sacrificing a week or two of regular season play from a cornerstone player, like Gronkowski or Hightower or Jamie Collins, is not worth the risk of losing them for the full season.
Belichick has the right idea on how to handle these players and it goes beyond treating them like, you know, human beings. These stars aren’t at risk of losing their jobs if they take a couple weeks off to get fully healthy. Every party involved benefits from these players getting to 100% before taking the field.
That’s just the smart way to handle your investments.