Terrell Owens and defenseless receivers

June, 28, 2011
6/28/11
12:09
PM ET
The knee injury receiver Terrell Owens suffered this offseason got me thinking.

Surely the NFL can do more to protect defenseless receivers who are taping shows for VH1 or conducting personal workouts.

At least no one can blame Owens' fate on the helmet-to-helmet collisions that made headlines last season. That discussion led to concerns suggesting receivers could face more damaging hits to their lower bodies as defenders sought to avoid incurring fines with hits to the helmet.

A quick look at higher-profile NFC West injuries suffered at the position does not validate those concerns:
  • Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals: Houston Texans safety Eugene Wilson hit Fitzgerald low during the exhibition season, leaving the Pro Bowl wideout with an injured knee. This hit, more than any other that left an NFC West wideout injured, fit the profile. Fitzgerald was leaping when he made the reception on the play in question, however. The pass from quarterback Matt Leinart was a little high. Those factors contributed as much or more than Wilson's approach to the play, I thought.
  • Steve Breaston, Cardinals: He underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in September. Breaston has had knee problems in recent seasons. He played at least one game with the injury before undergoing surgery. I do not recall a specific play leading to the injury.
  • Ted Ginn Jr., San Francisco 49ers: The knee injury Ginn suffered against Seattle in the opener looked like a fluke play. Cornerback Kelly Jennings tackled Ginn low because there wasn't another alternative. Jennings was trailing Ginn and had to dive to make the tackle.
  • Dominique Zeigler, 49ers: Zeigler was injured on a special-teams play.
  • Kyle Williams, 49ers: The rookie suffered a turf-toe injury, not the type of injury in question here.
  • Mike Williams, Seahawks: Williams suffered a foot injury against New Orleans, not the type of injury in question here.
  • Deon Butler, Seahawks: No one sought to hit Butler low on this play. Butler got caught in traffic and suffered a freak injury.
  • Mark Clayton, St. Louis Rams: Clayton suffered a torn patellar tendon going after a ball along the sideline. No one hit him low.
  • Donnie Avery, Rams: Avery suffered a torn ACL during the exhibition season after landing awkwardly while trying to make a reception.
  • Mardy Gilyard, Rams: Gilyard underwent surgery for a wrist injury this offseason. The injury had lingered for some time. It wasn't related to getting hit low.
  • Dominique Curry, Rams: Curry suffered a torn ACL while covering a punt in Week 3.

The NFL's emphasis on protecting defenseless receivers from head injuries could still promote other types of injuries, as some have feared. I did not see evidence of that happening in the NFC West last season.

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