N. CAROLINA - This is an excellent time to reflect on how lucky the Carolina Panthers have been regarding injuries thus far. We tend to live up to our ‘black cat' reputation. Serious injuries have long been the bane of Carolina fans everywhere, striking early and often in key positions to ruin seasons. So far, this hasn't happened (yet).
So far, the only season-ending injury of any impact has been to Michael Bates. Losing a Pro Bowl return man and special team assassin hurts, and I myself was looking forward to seeing Bates back where he belonged. However, the impact is lessened when you consider we already successfully replaced Bates last year. Steve Smith is an outstanding Pro Bowl return man himself and Jarrod Cooper took over as the designated special team killer. The only worry is the bearing Bates' injury will have on Smith. With Smith expected to carry more of a load in the passing game, one worries about him getting worn out without Bates spelling him on special teams. We don't have anyone else who can make the impact on returns like Bates, so special teams will suffer or Smith's stamina will have to be most impressive.
The knee strain/cartilage injury DeShaun Foster sustained had fans everywhere in a panic. When he began to limp on the Foxboro turf and grab his knee, I had horrible flashbacks to Tshimanga Biakabutuka's injury against Jacksonville in 1996. Everyone knows how he lost his rookie season and was haunted by injuries throughout his brief and disappointing career. I just knew Foster's season was over – Biakabutuka part II. Fortunately, the report out of Pantherland says Foster's ACL is fine, and he should only miss 4 weeks. We can all rest a little easier knowing we should see Foster on the field by October. The collective backsides of the Panthers are covered since Lamar Smith is listed as the starter anyway!
Our other injury of the weekend was Mark Fields' left shoulder subluxation. Like many of you, I had absolutely no idea what a ‘subluxation' is, so I did a little digging. According to www.medterms.com., a subluxation is a partial dislocation of a joint. For clarification, a complete dislocation is called a luxation. Who knew? They could've saved us all a little head-scratching and said ‘partial dislocation,' but I don't make the rules. At least we know what it is and that he'll only miss two weeks, thank goodness.
The point of all this? It could've been worse. Fields could've had an injury that kept him out for six weeks, like Dan Morgan's broken leg last year. Foster could've had a season-ending or career-threatening injury, becoming another Biakabutuka. We could've been empty-handed trying to replace Bates, without having proven guys on special teams. For a team dominated by injury in the past, we've gotten off very lightly so far