Cleveland Browns safety Grant Delpit will have surgery on his ruptured Achilles tendon and will likely miss the entire 2020 season.
Delpit was injured on Monday during an interception drill when he went up for a pass and came down in pain despite not having any contact.
It is disappointing that Delpit’s rookie season has come to an end essentially before it began, but the bigger concern may be the impact the injury has on his career.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic altered the normal offseason conditioning programs for teams across the NFL, leaving the players to workout and prepare on their own before transitioning into training camp practices.
The last time the NFL went through a similar offseason was during the lockout in 2011 when players did not have access to team facilities from the middle of March until almost the end of July. That summer, 10 Achilles tendon injuries occurred during the first 12 days of training camp and two more players suffered Achilles tendon injuries during the opening two weeks of training camp, which was more than the number of those type of injuries that normally occur over an entire season.
The study found that while the 31 players who suffered an Achilles tendon rupture from 1997 to 2002 had played in the league for an average of six years, half of the injuries in 2011 hit rookies like Delpit and the average experience of the 12 players was just 1.4 years.
That may have been a result of the lack of access to a team’s training staff during a normal offseason, which can help young players as they make the transition from college football to the NFL, according to the study:
The recent NFL Lockout has also created a unique perspective to evaluate the rapid transition of younger players in the NFL into high-level structured practice and conditioning without regular preparatory training sessions that provide the needed opportunity to gradually adapt to the rigors of NFL training. If this historic NFL Lockout was the “tipping point” between the absence of adequate player preparation and an increase in preseason injuries, one might expect the effect to be more pronounced in rookies as opposed to veteran NFL players who are more familiar with the rigors of training camp and better positioned financially and experientially to prepare themselves for the upcoming season.
The key takeaway from the study, as it relates to Delpit, is the long-term impact that an Achilles tendon injury may have on his career:
Unfortunately, these injuries likely represent career-altering and often career-ending events for professional athletes, as one third of the players who sustain an Achilles tendon rupture in the NFL never return back to competition. The remaining two thirds, who are able to return back to play in the NFL following Achilles tendon repair, require approximately 11 months of rehabilitation. Moreover, these returning players experience a greater than 50% reduction in their power ratings, which is a measure of performance using statistics gathered during game play (eg, passing and rushing yards for an offensive player and tackles and interceptions for a defensive player).
While Delpit’s injury was not something that was preventable, it may also not be all that surprising given that this year’s offseason mirrored what occurred following the lockout in 2011.
The bigger concern now may be how this injury will impact Delpit’s ability to be the player the Browns were expecting when they selected him in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.