It's little secret that the hottest controversy surrounding the NFL these days has nothing to do with who will start at quarterback for your favorite team or even Maurice Jones-Drew's prolonged and failed holdout. No, the topic that stirs emotion and raises voices like no other is the seeming epidemic of concussions and the result fallout that plague current and former football players at all levels. With the stain of player suicides and looming lawsuits clouding the promise of a new season, I fully expected to hear this week that Indianapolis Colts wide receiver would miss the season opener on September 9 against the Chicago Bears. Instead, head coach told reporters on September 4 that Collie is a "full go" for quarterback Andrew Luck's NFL debut despite missing two games with yet another concussion. As a fan, it will be comforting to see Collie's sure hands on the field, but I wonder if the move isn't just a bit short-sighted.
Collie suffered his latest concussion courtesy of a forearm to the head by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Larry Foote when the teams met in a preseason game on August 19. Collie then missed a heap of practice time and the last half of the exhibition schedule during his recovery, and fans were reminded of the scary events that unfolded during the last part of the 2010 season. He was first diagnosed with a concussion during a November 7 that season and then struggled to return to regular duty. In a late-season contest with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Collie took one more big hit and was actually unconscious for a few minutes. At that point, he was forced to pack it in for the year and missed the playoffs as a consequence.
Largely lost among the mess that was the Colts' 2011 season was Collie's successful return, as he managed to play in all sixteen games and stayed relatively healthy. We all hoped that his concussion troubles were behind him, but this latest setback has fans and media talking about his future again. Even leaving aside the more important and serious consideration of Collie's long-term health, there is the matter of Indy's prospects for 2012. While Collie might help Andrew Luck get off on the right foot, you might make the argument that giving the receiver a little more healing time could keep him in the lineup for a bigger portion of the season. If he comes back too soon and gets banged up again right off the bat, Luck could lose a nice target before he even gets into a groove.
Of course, you have to assume that the Colts wouldn't risk putting Collie on the field if they weren't pretty sure that he is completely healthy, don't you? Against the current landscape, teams seem more cautious than ever in regard to the well-being of their players, and it's hard to imagine that the Colts would jeopardize Collie in any appreciable way. At least, I hope that's the case, because a full-force Collie could make this team a lot more palatable than they might otherwise be, but only if he can stay on the field.
Adam Hughes was raised, and still lives, in rural Indiana. He has been a Colts fans since the team arrived in Indianapolis on a snowy morning in 1984. The Blue and White eventually replaced the Chicago Bears as his #1 team, and Super Bowl XLI was a dream come true.