7 Biggest Injuries of the NFL’s 2014 Season

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All injuries suck, but not all injuries are created equal. Particularly in the NFL, which is such a brutal sport to play on a regular basis that few professionals are able to withstand just 16 full games of it a year at the highest level, the difference between hoisting the Vince Lombardi trophy and watching your team get a high draft pick can boil down to something as unpredictable and reductive as which teams can keep their best players the healthiest.

So, then, we’ve taken up the task of evaluating which injuries are going to make, or have already made, the biggest differences in the league this year — some of them are recent, some of them have simply manifested themselves heavily this season. All of them are bummers, have been bummers, and could very certainly be bummers in the near future, but it is what it is. Here’s seven players who aren’t in the best shape right now.

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7. Tony Romo

Hang on, you might say. This isn’t even an injury at all. Romo came back onto the field! All that worry was for nothing, right? Not so much — every report you can find on the return of the Dallas quarterback, who took a knee to his chronically injured lower back against the Redskins, suggests that he was only able to come back because he was so zonked on painkillers he couldn’t feel a thing. He certainly played like it, anyway.

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6. Lamar Houston

OK, so it’s easy to be snarky about Houston’s ACL injury, since it came when he was celebrating a sack during what was, by any measure or definition of the word, a complete and utter blowout at the hands of the New England Patriots, but even if Chicago’s secondary is diminished compared to their recent heights, that’s still a real bummer. Plus, he was the second defensive player to have this happen to him. Which is part of the reason he’s bumped down a notch.

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5. Stephen Tulloch

The first was Stephen Tulloch, of the Detroit Lions, who tore his ACL celebrating a sack against the Green Bay Packers in the early weeks of the NFL’s season. For a team that’s long dreamed of fielding an adequate defense — underscored by the potential departure of their best defensive player — this is a real bummer.

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4. and 3. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller

Paired together because they’re on the same team and were both injured in the same game, Buffalo’s twin heads of their running offense, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, each left Sunday’s game in considerable pain, as they suffered a fractured collarbone and a torn groin, respectively. For a Bills team enjoying what passes for success in the frozen tundra of Western New York, this is nothing but brutal.

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2. Calvin Johnson

How do you stop the best wide receiver in the game? Well, one answer to that problem is to make him suffer a high ankle sprain, that most devious of football injuries that doesn’t seem like it should ever stop a player for as long as it does. Johnson’s missed three straight games with the injury, and he’s served as little more than a decoy in the majority of the games that he’s even seen the field. While Stafford-to-Megatron was hardly the single principle to build an offense around, the Lions without him are just kind of bad.

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1. Robert Griffin III

This one is just haunting. Remember when the debate over who won the trade between Washington and St. Louis looked like it was going to tilt in the favor of the D.C. franchise? Feels like forever ago, doesn’t it? In any event, Griffin still doesn’t look like the player he was before he blew out his knee, and with the ‘Skins on what feels like their C-list for replacement quarterbacks, the loss of a potential franchise talent still lingers.