Now that Super Bowl 2013 is set and the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens are preparing for the coming battle in New Orleans on Feb. 3, it is a fitting time during this transitional week to look back at some of the more interesting ways in which injuries in the NFL this season changed the dynamics of play for many teams. In certain cases, like what we witnessed with the botched handling of the Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III's series of knee injuries, it may have cost this young man dearly in terms of his career longevity.
Hopefully, Griffin has a disability policy in place just in case he needs to look at alternate career choices, pending his long road of rehabilitation on the same knee that he injured back in 2009, while he was at Baylor.
The good news for Griffin is that if he makes the commitment to his rehabilitation schedule, much like Vikings running back Adrian Peterson made to come back this season from a similar (although not as complex) injury from the 2011 season, Griffin can match a Peterson-like achievement of having his best year in the NFL (Peterson fell nine yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson's single season rushing record).
Or, maybe he can take the lead of fellow NFL quarterback, Peyton Manning in Denver, who also missed the 2011 season with four neck surgeries, only to lead his new team all the way to the second round of the NFL playoffs this season, losing to the Ravens at home 38-35 in double overtime.
Back in New Orleans, where the city is sweeping the streets, and throwing a fresh coat of paint on every piece of city-owned property getting ready for the Big Game, the Saints are sitting around waiting for next season much like a child anticipating Christmas in July.
How could we locals forget the Saints' bountygate scandal, which has only been matched so far in terms of national publicity by the 21-count federal indictment of our former mayor, Ray Nagin – the first mayor in our city's history to be indicted and achieve Saints like national publicity just two weeks before the world arrives in New Orleans.
While Mayor Nagin may face in excess of a 10-year prison term if convicted on all counts, the Saints, who were found guilty by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell of placing a bounty on opposing teams, had Coach Sean Payton banished to the golf courses in Dallas for this season.
The good news was Saints fans could relish the record-breaking performance of our own $100 million quarterback, Drew Brees, who set the NFL career mark for consecutive games with touchdown passes, only to be devastated later against the Falcons by matching the highest number of interceptions in a game (five).
Over in Green Bay, quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who many consider to be the best QB in the game, played through minor injuries taking his team to a second round playoff loss to the 49ers, only to step aside from a Pro Bowl appearance because he failed the Packers' season-ending physical.
In week 5, I made this comment in my column, "Keep in mind, injuries can be an important part of the game, if used as any aggressor force should, to hinder their opponent(s) ability to succeed." A perfect example occurred in the Ravens' 28-13 upset win over the Patriots, who were playing at home.
Here is what The New York Times said Monday, regarding the effect of an injury to Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib. "(Joe) Flacco led three sustained scoring drives — including one of 90 yards and another of 87 yards — with a mixture of no-huddle passing and timely runs by Ray Rice, undoubtedly aided by the early departure of Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib, who injured a thigh and did not return."
In week 7, when the Saints were playing the Bucs, I quoted the great battle strategist Sun Tzu, in his manuscript, "The Art of War." "Speed is the essence of war (or business). Take advantage of the enemy's unpreparedness; travel by unexpected routes and strike him where he has taken no precautions. "
From The New York Times quote, you saw Joe Flacco give the Patriots a dose of their own medicine - the no-huddle offense - which Patriots QB Tom Brady has used so effectively this season, to throw off the unprepared Patriots defense. Add in the fact the Ravens became very physical on all aspects of defense, and you can see why the Ravens put up 21 unanswered points in the second half.
In my column last week, I commented on the return of the 49ers defensive tackle Justin Smith. "Over in 49ers world, the defense relished the return last week of its co-captain, defensive tackle Justin Smith, who was sporting an arm brace to protect his injured triceps muscle injured in week 15, causing him to sit out for the last two weeks of the regular season, when San Francisco played none other than what could be their future Super Bowl opponent New England Patriots. By the way, Smith has made four Pro Bowls in five seasons. And, despite the arm brace, Smith had eight tackles last week against Green Bay."
Take a look at Smith's impact against the Falcons last Sunday, according to The New York Times. "And Smith, playing with a badly injured arm, led a unit that did not allow any points in the second half."
I think you can easily see that when everything is on the line, you find a way to win - the mark of great champions - despite the odds being stacked against you, as they were against the Ravens on the road at New England.
And finally, what a Super Bowl matchup - "Harbowl." I'm not talking about the two teams. Rather, I am referring to the brothers John Harbaugh (Ravens coach) versus Jim Harbaugh (49ers coach).
Here is what John is quoted as saying, after his win and competing against his brother in the Super Bowl: "I don't know if we had a dream this big. We had a few dreams; we had a few fights. We had a few arguments. We will try to stay out of that business. We'll let the two teams duke it out as much as possible."
Having spent much time working with Serena Williams and knowing quite well her sister Venus, I can tell you the action on the field during the Super Bowl will be anticlimactic to the sideline camera shots of the two opposing brother/coaches. A new first family of NFL football has arrived on the seen – the Harbaughs. Sounds much like a new reality TV show, does it not?