I'll be honest with you- I'm sitting here typing this, after having my head in my hands for about the last 5 minutes. Call it Einstein's clichéd definition of insanity, but I honestly can't believe I'm writing about getting ready for Spartanburg and Jeff Otah is having injury issues again.
The Carolina Panthers announced today that Otah was having an MRI on his knee:
"Panthers RT Jeff Otah underwent an MRI on the knee that's bothered him the past 2 yrs. Ron Rivera said Otah tweaked it recently" - Joe Person, via Twitter
Injuries can't always be helped, but the question that keeps coming up with Otah is "Why now?". There's no intelligible reason why these injuries aren't getting discovered until June, when for the better part of a six months the players have had time to rest, recover, and heal from those injuries. If Otah's knee was in such a fragile position that a ‘tweak' is enough to warrant a MRI, then I have to question how these injury-prone players are being handled.
More after the jump
There are myriad reasons why an injury might not be disclosed, but a player masking one is more common than you'd think. The fear of losing their job and/or being cut is often enough to obfuscate an injury from a team There is a flip-side to this, however; nobody can deny that Otah is the most talented RT on the roster when healthy, and in his career here in Carolina he's been a dynamic, mauling RT, and a player who really helps the run game. The Panthers simply cannot enter 2012 with Byron Bell, Bruce Campbell and UDFA depth at the RT position if they hope to have offensive success.
Normally in these situations I'd step away from the ledge and say "It's only an MRI... let's wait and see", but realistically how many times can you say that before facing the music? Jeff Otah has played a paltry four games in the last two seasons. At this point it's more likely we should count him out for the season, than rely on a magic quick-heal.
In 2012 the Carolina Panthers don't need to fear a lack of a pass rush, or a Cam Newton sophomore regression; they need to fear injury, because it's the only thing that can truly derail a playoff run this season. All we can do is hope the front office has a contingency plan, and that this news about Otah doesn't set a precedent for the rest of camp.