Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com, the same Aditi Kinkhabwala who tried to claim she’d predicted the Steelers dismissal of Jack Bicknell and then stone walled when Dejan Kovacevic challenged her on it, dropped another bombshell:
Steelers haven't gotten one practice out of TE Ladarius Green. We're told it's NOT bc of surgically-repaired ankle https://t.co/5lXtYVfFAp
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) August 11, 2016
When Heath Miller suddenly retired following the 2015 season, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin didn’t blink an eye and immediately went out and signed Ladarius Green from the San Diego Chargers. The decision to sign Green was uncharacteristic for the franchise, but the move immediately bolstered a weak spot on the depth chart, and freed to Steelers to focus on defense in the 2016 NFL Draft.
- Since then Ladarius Green has done little except jog during spring practices and at St. Vincents.
Steel City Insider’s Jim Wexell has been on top of the story, asking early in training camp if the Steelers were facing “Chaos at Tight End” and then upping the ante two weeks into camp by describing the Steelers “Looming Crisis” at tight end. Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette followed with a similar story shortly after Wexell published his.
- The Steelers have claimed on the record that they knew of Green’s ankle injury and even realized that he could possibly begin the season on the PUP.
However, Kinkhabwala’s story, if confirmed, drastically alters the situation with Green.
Aditi Kinkhabwala quotes Green’s agent, Adisa Bakari as saying that Green’s ankle is fine, and reminds readers that Green has been seen sprinting on open fields at St. Vincents.
Impact of NFL’s New Concussion Consciousness
If Kinkhabwala’s report is correct, it carries serious consequences for the Steelers. Matt Spaeth failed a physical and is out of football, leaving Jesse James, David Johnson and Xavier Grimble as the Steelers top three tight ends.
- As discussed here before, Heath Miller proved to be about as automatic of a pass catch as you can get.
Jesse James looked good as a rookie last year, but he only caught 8 passes, one more than David Paulson, a rookie who “looked good” in 2012 and then flamed out into nothing.
While one might be tempted to gloss over the importance of tight end, the Steelers opened 2013 by starting their number 3 tight end (David Johnson) and went 0-4. Yes, tight end play was only a small part of the 0-4 start, but the Steelers offense didn’t really get humming until Matt Spaeth returned in December.
- But what’s bad for the Steelers offense, ultimately might confirm that the NFL has turned a corner on concussions.
The Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby suffered a concussion during the January 1st 2011 NHL Winter Classic and saw his symptoms linger for more a year beyond the initial event and was characterized several false starts an set backs.
At the time, someone, whose name now escapes memory, reminded everyone that this is not abnormal for people who’ve suffered concussions and questioned why NFL players never missed more than a few weeks with a concussion.
- According to Eric.O’Connell of Behind the Steel Curtain, Ladarius Green suffered two concussions in 2015 as well as another in 2014.
In the not too distant past, Ladarius Green’s headaches very well would have been met with either an implicit or even explicit pressure to “Tough it out” assuming Green mentioned his headaches to coaches in lieu of keeping them to himself, as Hines Ward suggested Ben Roethlisberger should have done back in 2009.
Neither the Green or the Steelers are going that route, and that is a positive sign of how the NFL’s culture on concussions is changing.