Blackmon: Bad luck or brittle?

It's not too early to wonder if the coaches can count too much on oft-injured cornerback Will Blackmon,'s Steve Lawrence says.

Will Blackmon was drafted by the Green Bay Packers with a great reputation. Big-time athlete (4.46 seconds in the 40-yard dash). Durable (three-year starter never missed a game). Selfless (the all-conference cornerback shifted to wide receiver as a senior to help his Boston College Eagles).

Now, Blackmon is developing the type of reputation that could end his career before it really starts: injury-prone.

Blackmon, a fourth-round draft pick last year after a remarkable career at Boston College, just can't stay healthy. It's too early to say he's cut from the same bolt of cloth as oft-injured receiver Robert Ferguson, but it's not too early to have some concerns.

Blackmon broke a bone in his foot during a May minicamp last year, and the injury cost him the rest of the offseason workouts and all of training camp. Blackmon was on pace to return for the season opener against Chicago, but he re-injured the foot. Blackmon finally debuted during the Week 4 game at Miami, then played in a special-teams role the next three games before a rib injury landed him on season-ending injured reserve.

This offseason, a time when Blackmon should be playing catch-up, Blackmon hasn't been playing much at all. He made it through the May minicamp unscathed — lining up as a starting cornerback in the absence of Al Harris and Charles Woodson — but missed the last week of this month's organized team activities because of a groin injury.

There's no reason for the alarm bells to be sounding just yet. It's not like Blackmon was milking some phony-baloney injury last year. And missing a handful of practices during June OTAs is hardly the end of the world.

But, some players just have bad luck. Take Ferguson, for instance. Ferguson by all accounts is a good guy and teammate. He's not as good as he thinks he is, but he's certainly talented. He's a hard worker and a leader. During minicamp, Ferguson was helping some of the rookies — guys who potentially could be taking his job.

But Ferguson simply hasn't stayed healthy.

Is that going to be the case for Blackmon, too?

The problem with injury-prone players isn't just that they're injured. In a way, the bigger problem is the time investment.

If you're defensive coordinator Bob Sanders, can you count on Blackmon filling the key role of nickel cornerback? Can you afford to give Blackmon the bulk of the reps in practice if you're not sure he'll stay on the field for 16 games? Remember, every rep Blackmon gets is a rep his backup isn't getting. If his backup isn't prepared, that's when mistakes are made. And mistakes in the secondary often wind up as touchdowns.

If you're special-teams coordinator Mike Stock, can you count on Blackmon being one of your kick returners? Special teams is no different than offense and defense. Practice makes perfect. Can you give Blackmon the bulk of the precious-few reps the return units get during practice if you fear he might not be available for the majority of the season? Special-teams turnovers are the worst kind of turnovers because of the massive field-position swings and the fact a winded defense has to go right back on the field.

Obviously, it's way too early in Blackmon's career to give up on him. Remember Mike Flanagan? His first three NFL seasons were ruined by leg injuries. Instead of giving up on him, the Packers stuck with him, and he became one of the NFL's top centers.

Blackmon could remain healthy for the next 10 years and become a big-time starter once age catches up to Harris or Woodson. For now, though, Blackmon's health is something worth watching when training camp kicks off on July 28.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to Send comments to

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