Déjà Vu: Injury Bug Hits 49ers Again

May 11, 2004 at 12:00 AM


Maybe it's Karma. The football gods are punishing the 49ers for hoarding championships like a fat man hoards Twinkies. Whatever the reason, it seems like the 49ers cannot get through one camp without some kind of injury to a starter. The latest: a groin injury to newly appointed starting quarterback Tim Rattay.

Rattay will undergo surgery and, according to team doctors, should be back in 3 to 4 months - just in time for a few exhibition games and the start of the regular season. All is well, right? Dorsey gets some work in with the first team, coaches can get a good look at what the 49ers have at the quarterback position, and then Rattay can come back for the regular season. No harm, no foul. And Ratty doesn't even have to change his number from "lucky" 13.

Wait, this type of sly reasoning has fooled me once before. I will not be bamboozled a second season in a row! It was just last July when an optimistic 49ers organization announced that their starting quarterback injured his back. Of course, the injury was minor and according to his agent, Steve Baker, "if there was a game last week, he would have played." Even I bought it. The ending of the story, of course, was a tad different then expected. Jeff Garcia missed two exhibition games, failed to develop a rhythm with the offense until months into the season, and had his worst season since 1999.

The mini-camps all throughout May, June and July are crucial, especially for a developing quarterback who has thrown 164 passes in his NFL career, 118 of which were last season. In the few months before training camp, relationships are formed between teammates, tendencies are adjusted to, timing is developed, and plays are fine tuned to each player's abilities. Having a new quarterback makes this process indispensable. Taking into account that two of the top four wide receivers are rookies, and one is second year player the practices become crucial to the survival of the offense.

At least the 49ers are accustomed to dealing with injuries. During the 2002 season the injury list grew to over 20 players. Julian Peterson played 4 positions in one game, not because he was a better safety than Zack Bronson, but because Jim Mora was attempting to cover the glaring holes left by injuries. During 2002, the 49ers were described as a team decimated by injuries despite the fact that they won the NFC West for the first time since 1997. Last season the injury list hovered around 12 players per game. Anywhere from 5-10 of the players on the list were starters. At one point last season, 4 of the five starting offensive linemen were playing on some sort of ankle injury. The only player without an ankle injury, Ron Stone, wore a brace on his elbow because of an injury he sustained the previous season.

Maybe it's the shoes, or the soggy Candlestick turf. Maybe the shiny gold on the 49ers' helmets distracts the players long enough to get whacked by an enthusiastic young rookie trying to make the team. Whatever the reason, it seems as though the 49ers have the longest injury list in the NFL.

As a result of the injury to Rattay, the 49ers are looking at veteran quarterbacks; most notably former Bear's quarterback Kordell Stewart. Has the organization lost it? Maybe the shiny gold helmets distracted Erickson and Donahue from the fact that Stewart threw 12 interceptions and only 7 touchdowns last season before being benched. Since 1997, Stewart has thrown more touchdowns than interceptions only three times, the last time being in 2000. He has a career rating of 70.7, lacks consistency, and has confidence that is as brittle as the hip of an osteoporosis ridden 123-year old woman.

Bringing in Stewart, or any other quarterback, would be counterproductive. It would remove money that could be better spent on players with a future. It would remove time from Dorsey and Pickett, both quarterbacks that could have a future in San Francisco; but more importantly, it would add nothing of value to the team, unless Kordell decided to play wide receiver again.

The 49ers have to once again weather the injury storm and all of the ramifications that go along with it. Hopefully, the trainers get a hint and change the team's shoes. Or at the very least, dull those shiny gold helmets. Who knows? If the 49ers are willing to go so far as to even consider Kordell, they might as well go for broke.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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