Chad Jones, the Giants' third-round draft pick 10 weeks ago, had veered off the road behind the wheel of his 2010 Range Rover. This was a very serious accident. His life was in danger. His career probably was over.
You think about the entire life of a young man changing the instant his vehicle hit the streetcar pole. You wonder what he was thinking at the moment or moments afterward. You wonder how his life will change long after the Giants pack up for training camp, after teammates he barely knew and barely played with hit the highway for Albany, the road to the season, usually one or more per camp stopped for speeding along the way.
It's sickening news that seems to involve athletes more and more these days. Or maybe we just think that's the case because of the vast wings of by-minute media coverage. Auto accidents. Motorcycle accidents.
The poor kid. Doesn't matter why he hit that pole. Doesn't matter if he were at fault or not. What matters is that the kid's life will never be the same.
You don't always know what to think when one of your team's players has met up with mortality. You aren't sure if it's OK to think about the team as well as the player. That's one thing about sports: You connect with people you've never met in professional athletes. But your deepest connection is to the team that they encompass.
So there comes a point when you start to worry about the Giants a month before training camp even opens. Maybe somewhere in the jumble of crazy thoughts comes an especially bizarre notion. These Giants are snakebit. They are a land mine of distractions and accidents and injuries, still paying a debt for the football Velcro-ing to David Tyree's head that February day 17 months ago.
There are plenty of folks around the Giants who cite injuries as the primary reason for last season's dreadful finish. It was easy to downplay their injuries issues after seeing one listless performance after another down the stretch.
But injuries played an enormous role in the 8-8 finish without an accompanying playoff berth. The Giants were forced to use backups in prominent roles. They observed one injury after another. And the scary part is that it all began before the season got underway.
Just like this year.
Before it was rookie Andre Brown, who would add depth to the backfield, rupturing his left Achilles' tendon during an evening session of camp in mid-August. He would be out for the season.
Before it was linebacker Michael Boley, already suspended for the season opener, missing camp after surgery for a torn labrum in his hip in late June. He would play just 11 games after not missing a game his first four seasons in the league.
Before it was cornerback Aaron Ross missing most of camp with a nagging hamstring injury. He would play four games.
Before it was defensive tackle Rocky Bernard on the non-football injury list after arriving to camp with a hamstring injury. He would play all season with a partially torn rotator cuff, and it showed as Bernard had one sack and 22 tackles.
Before it was defensive tackle Fred Robbins having offseason knee surgery and being immediately placed on the physically unable to perform list in camp. He would struggle all season.
Before it was defensive tackle Jay Alford ripping up a knee in the second preseason game against Chicago. He would be out for the season.
Before it was defensive tackle Chris Canty, having never missed a game in four seasons, suffering a torn hamstring early in camp. He would play eight games.
Now we weren't even out of June when receiver Domenik Hixon tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during the team's first practice in its new stadium. Hixon, of course, is out for the season.
The Giants weren't even close to the northbound Thruway when Mathias Kiwanuka was involved in a motorcycle accident that left his brother in critical condition with a severe arm injury. Kiwi escaped serious injury.
Then there's the uncertain status of safety Kenny Phillips, who missed the final 14 games last season with an arthritic condition in his knee that required microfracture surgery, a potentially career-threatening remedy.
"You're coming off a huge disappointment on the part of everybody,'' Tom Coughlin told the team as 2009 training camp opened. The Giants crumbled in '08 after opening 11-1. "It's having the opportunity to get into a situation where we can do something about that bad taste we have in our mouth from last year.''
You have to wonder about Coughlin's pre-camp message to his team this year. They have considerably more questions entering this season than they did last season. For the first time in a while, their offensive line deserves close examination. Their linebackers are being viewed with similar skepticism as their receivers at this time last year. Fans can only hope a seemingly modest batch of 'backers can prove folks wrong the way those wideouts did.
Will Brandon Jacobs return to being the tackle-breaking, momentum-turning back he was in 2007 and '08? Can fellow back Ahmad Bradshaw stay healthy? How about Ross? He had enough setbacks with his hammy to make you question the rehabilitation program and why he kept being prematurely sent back onto the field.
Where is Osi Umenyiora's head? Oh, and don't forget the Giants trying to turn around their defense under new coordinator Perry Fewell.
The Giants enter training camp 2010 fresh from a grim offseason. There are a couple snapshots during an organized team activity practice in late May that capture the unpredictability of football, and of life. Hixon beat Jones and made a leaping catch. A few plays later Jones broke up a pass intended for Hixon. Two players competing. Less than two months later, the Giants are without both of them.
Kevin Gleason covers the Giants for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y.
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