Long's injury a special (teams) case

Tomorrow’s column tonight:

You’ve seen those lists of “most dangerous jobs.” Stuff like, “farmer, bodyguard, logger, Alaskan crab fisherman.”

I have a nomination: University of Louisville wide receiver.

Wideouts — especially starting wideouts — seem an endangered species at U of L. JaJuan Spillman was arrested for DUI, pot and carrying a concealed weapon, and dismissed. Trent Guy was shot, though thankfully, is recovering and could return to practice as soon as today.

And now Scott Long, the lone experienced receiver left in all of Louisville, breaks his foot in a non-contact drill Monday and is lost for the opening weeks of the season.

When Guy was shot, many rightfully posed the question, “Should a U of L wideout be out in a club after hours?”

And now with Long’s injury, I submit another question.

“Should U of L’s primary receiver and lone experienced wideout be blocking on a punt return?”

That’s what he was doing when the injury occurred. What next? Hunter Cantwell as a wedge buster?

I do want to be fair here.

U of L coach Steve Kragthorpe said it was a freak thing. He said there was no contact on the play. “He puts more force on his foot running a slant route,” he said.

There’s nothing to say that Long wouldn’t have sustained the injury doing something else that day. I saw Michael Bush take a wrong step at the end of a run in a spring practice in 2004 and break his foot.

“With the depth limitations and scholarship limitations that you have, your best players play on special teams now,” Kragthorpe said. “What we try to do is limit it to starting on two special teams units. We did the same thing when I was at Texas A&M, and you look at Florida State, USC, and it’s the same situation in all college football.”

It sounds reasonable. Until you remember the danger zone that is the Cardinal receiver corps. Given its bad luck, I’d have thought that Long would have been met coming off the practice field by a team of caretakers and carried in a velvet-pillowed rickshaw to be placed in a germ-free bubble for safekeeping.

Understand, the sum total of varsity catches for the rest of U of L’s wideout corps is two — unless Guy can get back. And Guy, at 5-9, 165 pounds, is not the same type of receiver as the 6-2, 211-pound Long, who had emerged as the team’s strongest, most dependable pass-catcher and best deep threat.

Given that there’s no comparable replacement, you have to wonder, why Long? Why not some scrapper dying to get onto the field? Because even if Long hadn’t been hurt in practice, you’re still taking a risk having him block on live punt returns in games.

Frankly, considering this team’s dearth of receivers, using Long as a special teams blocker seems a little like using your wife’s best dress as a dishrag.

No offense to special teams. Or blocking. Or dishrags.

At least there’s some good wide receiver news. Guy’s return could come as soon as today, when he meets with doctors. In fact, he’ll be given a chance to get up to speed in time for the season opener.

Guy, of course, is a special teams star, a return specialist. And while I’m not saying he shouldn’t return kicks, I am saying that they might want to get that rickshaw and bubble ready, given the dangerous nature of the job.


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