It’s been a tough week for the Detroit Lions at camp. The moderate temperatures of this summer have given way to the heat and humidity that we all knew was coming. Practices are more situation-oriented, pads are back on shoulders and knees, and jobs are on the line. So too, it seems, are healthy bodies.
What started with injuries to high-profile rookies Louis Delmas and Brandon Pettigrew has now blossomed into some potentially serious depth concerns. The ranks of inactives roaming the sideline has now swelled to include rookie Lydon Murtha, defensive backs Marquand Manuel, Anthony Henry and Daniel Bullocks, receivers Calvin Johnson, Dennis Northcutt and John Standeford, and other key players including Jared DeVries, Casey Fitzsimmons, Zach Follett and Damian Cook. That’s a pretty significant list for a team that already had depth concerns, given the general lack of talent accumulated over the last decade.
Injuries are part of the game. Those of us who have stood on the sidelines of a football game, either donning helmets or headsets, know that better than most. We have heard the sounds of bodies taking more impact than they can handle and giving out under the strain. We accept injuries, though we don’t like them. They make the game more difficult and less enjoyable for all those involved. They add uncertainty to game planning and preparation. They end careers.
So what can the Lions do about the “injury bug” that has bitten them so hard this off season? Wait and hope that all of these men can return to the field sooner than later, one hundred percent ready in all respects?
This reminds me of one of my favorite stories: the parable of the talents. It comes from the book of Matthew, and is about a man who is leaving for a long journey. He decides to divide his assets among his servants based upon their abilities. To his first servant he gave five talents (a unit of money worth more than what the servant would have earned in fifteen to twenty years), to the second he gave two talents, and to the third he gave only one. He then set off on his journey. When he returned, he called all three servants back to him and asked what they had done with what he had given him.
The servant who had been given five talents traded them with others, and earned five more talents. The servant who was given two talents also invested them, and earned two talents more. The servant who had been given one had buried it in the ground and returned to his master only what he had been given. The man was so disappointed with this third servant that he sent him away forever.
So what is my point?
We all have talents. Some more than others, some less. All that we can do is make the best use of what we have been given. If the younger players and reserves on the Lions roster step up — use all of their talents — the team will see its way through these injuries and develop into a stronger, deeper organization.
A perfect example is Ikaika Alama-Francis. His first two seasons in the NFL have been marked by untapped potential and inconsistent performance, as was the case with a large portion of the Lions roster. Alama-Francis will be called upon to fill in for the injured Jared DeVries at the important left defensive end position. He’ll be given his shot. The question is: will he use all of his talents? If he does, the Lions will have a quality young player living up to his draft status. If he does not, he may just end up sent away like the third servant.
The Lions face the same injury situation that has plagued NFL teams in the past and in the present. What defines successful teams, what makes them what they are, is how they use their talents. Will the Lions use all of theirs?