Real practice, unfortunately, means a real risk of injury. Now that training camp is well under way across the league, the list of casualties grows daily.
One of the most notable training camp injuries thus far, especially for those closely following the AFC North, is that of Dennis Pitta. The Baltimore Ravens will lose Pitta for the entire 2013 season after he suffered a dislocated hip during practice on Saturday.
Pitta's absence is likely to have a significant impact on Baltimore's offense, as he was a large part of their passing game last season on the run to a Super Bowl victory, becoming one of Joe Flacco's most consistent targets. The defending champions are now looking at entering the upcoming season without two players that lead the team in receptions during that run. Anquan Boldin was traded to the San Francisco 49ers in March.
The Ravens acted quickly to mitigate the damage as much as they could, signing former Minnesota Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, though it would be a stretch to expect him to fully replace what Pitta brought to the offense.
Baltimore wasn't the only team to lose a major offensive weapon due to an injury suffered during training camp practices. Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin tore his ACL on the same day and his since been placed on Injured Reserve, keeping him out for the season as well.
A day later, the Denver Broncos lost center Dan Koppen for the season after he, too, tore his ACL during training camp drills. Koppen started 12 games for the Broncos last year after joining the team in September, but now is added to a list of recent woes for Denver's offensive line tasked with protecting 37-year-old Peyton Manning.
It's not all on the offensive side of the ball either. Among the other names showing up on Injured Reserve are Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle Brandon McKinney and Eagles linebacker Jason Philips, both due to knee injuries suffered during practice yet again.
If only limited to sprains, swelling, soreness, and the like that causes players to miss time during training camp, the list could go on for quite some time, including recent notable names such as Broncos CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Washington Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall, or Buffalo Bills DE Mario Williams, who's been luckily enough to have since returned to practice.
Fortunately for the Cleveland Browns, the team has made it through training camp thus far relatively unscathed. But they've had their scares. Josh Gordon, who's already been suspended for the first two games of the regular season, was pulled from practice on Monday because of patellar tendinitis in his knee. Head coach Rob Chudzinski said it wasn't due to any particular incident during drills and that "it shouldn't be too big of a deal."
More alarming, with regards to concern about player safety, was Ryan Miller's injury on Sunday. ESPN described the scary moment:
Miller was taking part in one-on-one blocking drills inside the team's indoor field house when he dropped after making contact with his helmet. He lay motionless for several minutes, and his teammates huddled around him in prayer as he was immobilized and strapped to a backboard. The Browns initially feared Miller had suffered a devastating injury and were relieved to learn he was responsive and moving his limbs.
Though the outlook for Miller's impact as a backup on the Browns offensive line may not have been considered largely significant, teammates, coaches, and fans alike are happy to find out that the concussion doesn't seem to be as severe as it appeared and Miller is recovering.
Let's hope the Browns can remain as lucky on the injury front for the rest of training camp and preseason. Most fans are well aware of how devastating it can be a lose a major piece before things have even really started.
I'm not superstitious, but it's better safe than sorry: I'll knock on wood after this one.
Cleveland's preseason will kickoff Thursday, Aug. 8, as the Browns take on the St. Louis Rams.