by Alex Poletti
Photo by USATSI
After one of the most brutal weeks injury-wise in football history, the NFL made an unprecedented move, agreeing unilaterally to a rule change mid-season to allow players to use wheelchairs, casts, crutches and even motor scooters for the rest of the year. This decision was due to the fact that so many players were injured that without the rule change, the NFL would be too understaffed to play week 3.
“We’re glad that we can still play football next week in whatever way we have to,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, who lost reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa and quarterback Jimmy Garappolo to injuries before half time, says. “And if you think Jimmy can’t throw a perfect spiral with his throwing arm in a sling, you have another thing coming.”
Due to the lack of a preseason, the start of the football season has been especially difficult for players. Saquon Barkley, one of the league’s brightest stars, suffered a potential ACL tear in the first half of Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears. While most years he’d be sitting on the sidelines for the rest of the season, Barkley now has a chance to go out and help his team win next week.
“I want to contribute in any way I can,” Barkley says. “It’s gonna take me a while to learn how to juke in a scooter, but I’m sure I’ll be able to make it work. Hopefully we can get that top speed up from last week and change our game for the better.”
The results of this week were a shock to many owners, who forgot that they were dealing with actual human players and not numbers on a stat sheet that magically turned into dollars. Realizing that their human playthings could get hurt, owners were quick to endorse the new set of rules.
“My mind still doesn’t fully comprehend it,” Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, who lost his quarterback Drew Lock, says. “We let the players go at it without any preseason or physical conditioning and now they get hurt? Is that how they repay us letting them have the salaries previously guaranteed to them?”
While the injured players stand to benefit from this decision, there is one player who has more to gain here than anyone else.
“Now that the rest of the league is on crutches, it’s an even playing field,” Dolphins rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa says. “They’re just getting used to it, but I’ve been playing like this for months. Let’s see how it goes when they’re playing my game.”