Timing of two injuries couldn't be worse

Jeremy Maclin (Al Bello/Getty)

The Vikings have stayed relatively healthy early in camp, but two big injuries over the weekend couldn't have come at a worse time for the players.

By all accounts, Saturday was supposed to be a day like any other in the NFL. But in the new landscape of the NFL, Saturday may be a day that will live in infamy – and have some long-term ramification.

All was relatively quiet in Mankato on the injury front (except for a minor injury to the elbow of DT Letroy Guion). But in two other football-intense cities – Baltimore and Philadelphia – a pair of injuries took place in the infancy of training camp that is potentially going to significantly impact the teams involved, but also become a lucrative bargaining chip heading into the transition of B.C. (Before Collective Bargaining Agreement) and A.D. (After Decision).

Two players – Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta – were both lost for the season due to training camp injuries. Maclin was lost with a torn ACL. Pitta broke a hip. What they have in common is that they were both entering the final year of their rookie contracts.

While both Pitta and Maclin were drafted prior to the work stoppage that led to the new CBA being enacted, one of the keys to the agreement was the rookie cash pool would be less and players would be focused on getting to their second contract to reap the benefits of being an NFL star. Given the severity of their injuries, the Maclin and Pitta bargaining power is likely going to be greatly diminished coming off of surgery and, as receivers, their injuries couldn't be much worse. A wide receiver with a surgically-repaired knee and a tight end with bum hip are going to be red flags for some teams in free agency next year.

The injuries are magnified because both of them happened within hours of one another, but it sends a message to young players (and their agents) how fragile an NFL career can be. A football career can end in an instant – whether in the battle of a game or in the relative lack of contact in training camp or OTAs. The end result may well be players and agents looking to get to that second contract (the contract that will give the player financial security) sooner than most have in the past. The standard rookie deal now is four years. Prior to the new CBA, five-year contracts for high-round draft picks were the norm. Maclin signed a five-year rookie deal. Under the new rules, he would have been a free agent after the 2012 season and would have already signed the long-term deal that would have provided him with that financial security. Now, his future earning power is up in the air, as is Pitta's.

Unless you're a fan of the Ravens or Eagles, you likely won't remember what happened July 27 as teams are making a playoff push in December or a Super Bowl run in January. But the injuries to Maclin and Pitta will linger in the minds of other young players entering the final year of their rookie contracts, as well as their agents. For players who have established themselves over their first three or four seasons, the push to get the second contract may become more pronounced.

The injuries to Maclin and Pitta weren't the first of the 2013 season and clearly won't be the last. But they may have a long-term impact on how talented young players and their agents view their value to a franchise. Hopefully Maclin and Pitta will heal, come back 100 percent and land the free agent contracts they were focused on achieving following a big 2013 season. But the timing of their injuries and the similarity of the contract situations may have an impact long after both are healed and back on the field.


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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