Guerry Clegg commentary: 2013: The year of the injury

December 28, 2013 

uga_clemson

Georgia receiver Malcolm Mitchell, right, winces after celebrating Todd Gurley's touchdown run in the season opener against Clemson. Mitchell suffered a season ending torn ACL injury that will red shirt him for the rest of the season.

BEAU CABELL — bcabell@macon.com

Typing carefully, here. We still have three days left in 2013. Somehow, I've managed to avoid injury. Most of our local sports teams have not been so lucky. You might want to take precautions yourself. Protective eyewear might not be a bad idea.

2013 will go down as Year of the Injury.

It started just two weeks into the calendar year when Hawks guard Lou Williams suffered a torn ACL and was lost for the season. Two months later, the Hawks lost Zaza Pachulia for the season with a knee injury.

Then the Hawks suffered another huge injury, a deep contusion to Josh Smith's ego. Smith wanted the Hawks to make him a "max money" player. The Hawks, in a rare move of financial sanity and even rarer moment of basketball intelligence, let Smith sign with the Detroit Pistons.

Apparently someone within the Hawks organization visited the Braves in spring training and coughed in the clubhouse, because the injury bug hit before the Braves broke camp.

It started with reliever Jonny Venters, who blew out his left elbow, the same one he had had Tommy John surgery on. They must have used an after-market tendon to transplant into Venters elbow the first time, and, wouldn't you know it, the Braves declined to take out the extended warranty.

So Venters' season was done after just seven spring training appearances. This mysterious contagion carried over into April and lasted through August. By September, the Braves had 16 players of their projected 25-man roster who spent time on the disabled list. That doesn't include two key players added after opening day, reliever Luis Ayala (acquired from Baltimore) and utility infielder Tyler Pastornicky (promoted from the minor leagues).

It also doesn't include Brandon Beachy, whom they had hoped would be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery by the All-Star break. But Beachy's rebuilt elbow for the stress of regular use, so he had to be shut down again.

It was not just the number of injuries but the unusual variety. There was Jason Heyward's emergency appendectomy, Gerald Laird's kidney stones, Dan Uggla's Lasik eye, Heyward's fractured jaw and Ayala's anxiety disorder.

The Braves get no sympathy from the Georgia Bulldogs football team. Their bad luck actually began late in 2012, when prized recruit Tramel Terry, who could have seen meaningful playing time at receiver, suffered a torn ACL on the opening kickoff of a December high school all-star game. Safety Tray Matthews, another potential impact freshman, pulled a hamstring in the Dogs' fourth practice and was not fully ready for the opener against Clemson.

And what a painful opener that was. Todd Gurley's first carry of the season resulted in a 75-yard touchdown. And a strained quadricep muscle for Gurley. And a torn ACL for Malcolm Mitchell, who jumped to body-bump Gurley. Gurley gutted out the rest of the game in pain. Mitchell was done for the year.

Gurley severely sprained his ankle against LSU and would miss several weeks. At least the Dogs had depth at running back and receiver. "Had" was the operative word. Keith Marshall, making his first start with Gurley out, suffered a torn ACL against Tennessee. Then came another blow to the receiving corp. Justin Scott-Wesley, who was having a break-through season, suffered a torn ACL just running down the field. Michael Bennett sprained his knee standing around the pile after a play ended.

So the Dogs went into the next game against Missouri without their top two running back and top three receivers. Then quarterback Aaron Murray's career at Georgia abruptly ended against Kentucky -- another torn ACL.

But Georgia gets no sympathy from the Atlanta Falcons. They have lost -- either for the season or for a significant portion -- offensive tackle Mike Johnson, receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, running back Steven Jackson, defensive lineman Kroy Biermann, linebackers Akeem Dent, Sean Weatherspoon and Stephen Nicholas and cornerback Asante Samuel. A victory today would be simply sending quarterback Matt Ryan in one piece. Preferably upright.

So now we've come full circle. The Hawks just lost their best player, Al Horford, with a torn pectoral muscle. There has been no prognosis announced, but he missed almost all of the 2011-12 season with the same injury.

So the state of Georgia sports community bids goodbye to 2013. And good riddance.

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