Helman: Coping With An Injury-Plagued First Week; Marking DeMarco

IRVING, Texas – My immediate reaction is that football is back and football is awesome -- but football also bums me out.

Allow me to quickly recap:

The Cowboys managed a last-second comeback win, the Rams and Seahawks went to overtime, Marcus Mariota had a rookie debut for the ages and Jarvis Landry won a game with a fantastic punt return touchdown. And that's just the stuff I remember off the top of my head.

The NFL definitely didn't disappoint in Week 1 – in fact it was a pretty fantastic start, as nine of 16 games were decided by eight points or fewer.

Which is why it's saying something that my favorite moment of the entire week didn't even happen on a football field. It happened in a stadium tunnel:

https://twitter.com/dallascowboys/status/643421591192236032

If you're reading this site, I have to trust that I didn't have to link that tweet for you to know about Dez Bryant's fantastic postgame reaction to his team's win. It's Dez's raw energy at its finest, and it's both hilarious and inspiring.

So why did it bum me out? Oh, right – the context of the video in question.

Dez Bryant, one of the most exciting players in the game, was congratulating his guys in the stadium tunnel because he broke his foot and couldn't continue. He's going to miss four-to-six weeks, which is going to deprive football fans everywhere of one of the league's most electric talent.

Unfortunately, that's a story that a lot of fans can relate to after one week of games.

In Denver, the Ravens lost Terrell Suggs – the guy who introduced me to Ball So Hard University – for the season with a torn Achilles. Now I won't be able to watch his Pro Bowl-caliber of play or his fantastic player introductions.

https://twitter.com/LAHowell/status/554389373287157760

In Jacksonville, Luke Kuechly – who is one of the most fun linebackers in this league to watch – suffered a concussion and did not return to the Panthers' 20-9 win against the Jaguars. You'd like to think that a concussion isn't a season-threatening injury, but it's still an all-too-real reminder of the dangers of head trauma in this game.

Up in Washington, DeSean Jackson is out for several weeks with a lame hamstring, and T.Y. Hilton is expected to miss two or three weeks for the Colts after hurting his knee in Buffalo. Arizona's Andre Ellington ran for 69 yards and a touchdown in the Cardinals' win against New Orleans, and now he's out for a few weeks with a knee problem.

None of this even includes the loss of the Cowboys' own Randy Gregory to a high ankle sprain – which has been well-documented on this site – not to mention several other notable injuries around the league.

This shouldn't really come as a shock. Football is a fast and violent game, and injuries are a byproduct of gigantic, super mutant athletes moving at absurd speeds. The Cowboys went into the season opener with no serious injuries, and they came out of it with at least three noteworthy ones – Dez, Gregory and Ron Leary – not to mention other bumps and bruises along the way.

 There also isn't a great deal you can do about it. Dez broke a bone in his foot – it wasn't a soft tissue injury like the hamstring that bothered him in August. No amount of offseason participation or preseason repetition is going to make you less likely to break a bone, or sprain your ankle when a massive offensive lineman drops 240 pounds of weight on it.

If there's one conclusion I can draw, it's to think back to the oft-repeated conversation about the NFL schedule, and the school of thought that teams should be playing 18 games – and how much I'd disagree with that.

I know how well these guys are compensated and I know how much demand there is for football, but I just can't fathom an extended season when it's already a war of attrition just to keep enough guys healthy to stay competitive.

There'll be other injuries coming, and some of them will be more devastating than anything that happened in Week 1. It's already easy to lose track of offseason losses like Orlando Scandrick and Dante Fowler, and some injury in October will surely make us forget what happened in September.

Players will often repeat the adage that any given snap can be your last, and for us watching, there are always the cold reminders that football can go from an entertaining game to a serious health risk in an instant.

Here's hoping it's more of the former and less of the latter going forward.

Missing DeMarc

I'm not a fan of first takes and hot takes, so look elsewhere if you're seeking a vicious takedown of the beginning to the DeMarco Murray Era in Philadelphia.

That said, the Eagles' 26-24 loss to Atlanta on Monday night certainly was a fascinating start to the proceedings, as Murray touched the ball a combined 12 times for 20 yards and two touchdowns.

It was quite a departure for the reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year, who averaged 28 touches per game and rushed for 100 or more yards in 12 of 16 games last year with the Cowboys. Murray famously touched the rock 449 total times for Dallas last season, while he's currently on pace for 192 touches with the Eagles.

That's veering dangerously close to knee-jerk reaction territory, which isn't my intention. It's worth noting that the Eagles fell behind, 20-3, in the first half, which has a way of mitigating the ground game.

That helps explain why Sam Bradford threw a whopping 52 passes on Monday. It also explains why Philadelphia only ran the ball 16 combined times on the night, with none of their trio of high-profile backs getting more than eight carries.

Still, it's bound to be a talking point when you consider the Eagles' offseason moves. The trio of Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles is accounting for $15 million in salary this season alone, and the collective value of their contracts is $61.5 million – with the vast majority of that going toward Murray.

Sproles posted 151 yards on Monday night, but the other two combined for just 48.

Obviously, with the grind of an NFL season underway, Chip Kelly and the rest of the Eagles' coaching staff don't care about the price tags involved. Philadelphia needs to find a way to involve its running backs because they're talented players who can make the offense work – and because they can't afford an 0-2 start in the stacked NFC.

It couldn't be any better scripted that Philadelphia will have a chance to rectify their problems in Week 2, with none other than Murray's old club coming to town. 

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