Throughout the 2022 NFL season, the Denver Broncos were among the most injured teams in the league, losing starters (or rotational first-team players) like Javonte Williams, Tim Patrick, Garrett Bolles, Caden Sterns, Randy Gregory, KJ Hamler, and Jonas Griffith to season-ending injuries.
The team also had to spend several games without key players like Justin Simmons, Greg Dulcich, and Quinn Meinerz. Needless to say, if Broncos Country seems a little on edge about injuries, it’s for good reason.
Already the team has lost Jonas Griffith (again) and Tim Patrick (again) for the season while receiver Brandon Johnson and offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey will miss a few weeks as well.
Therefore, as the team’s season opener Friday night grows near, and given that head coach Sean Payton is intent on playing starters, the conditions of State Farm Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals, may have fans a little jittery.
Last September, Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid was publicly critical of the conditions on the field, going as far to assign responsibility to injuries to kicker Harrison Butker and defensive back Trent McDuffie.
The stadium would come under much more scrutiny following Super Bowl LVII, where it played host, as players could be seen slipping and sliding as if they were on an ice rink, and several players were vocally critical after the game.
Most recently, running back Marlon Mack tore his ACL on the turf during training camp and will miss the season.
When asked about the poor field conditions this week, Payton said outside of perhaps changing up the cleats the players would wear, he is determined to get the first team 15 to 18 plays before moving to the backups.
Payton’s predecessor Nathaniel Hackett’s first big criticism (of which there would be many) came when he chose not to play starters in any preseason game, despite it being a new QB and playbook that had yet to test themselves against opposing competition. Payton said in his infamous USA Today piece blasting Hackett that he wanted to do the exact opposite of what Hackett did last season, and playing starters in the preseason certainly fits that strategy.
Yet, given the team’s history with losing players to injury combined with field turf that is apparently sentient and intent on taking players down, one would have to forgive Broncos fans across the country if there are simultaneous gasps every time a Bronco player takes a hit or a juke step.
A fanbase accustomed to being disappointed in this fashion doesn’t typically approach these situations with a glass-half-full attitude.
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