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World’s most dangerous job: Defensive tackle, Carolina Panthers
The reality television landscape is filled with programs highlighting the perils of the most dangerous occupations in the world - crab fishing in the Bering Sea, ice road trucking, alligator wrestling, wild boar hunting, and sitting next to Steven Tyler while judging singing competitions. But as a loyal Carolina Panthers fan I am far too familiar with another dangerous job that dwarfs them all:
Defensive tackle, Carolina Panthers.
Injuries are going to happen in the NFL. This is inevitable when men who are heavier and accelerate faster than an AMC Gremlin repeatedly smash into one another. But while injuries are a part of football, the number of injuries suffered by Panthers DT's over the past few seasons has been remarkable. As a Panthers fan I normally view the defensive line as a strength going into training camp every year, only to then see bizarre injuries occur as if the Mayhem Guy from the Allstate commercials were running team practices.
A Curse is Born
The curse of the Panthers DT began in 2004 when Kris Jenkins(notes), fresh off two straight First-Team All-Pro selections, injured his shoulder four games into the season and spent the rest of the year on the sidelines. After rehabbing his shoulder, Jenkins started the 2005 season optimistic he would return to his Pro Bowl ways. But the DT curse had been born and Kris Jenkins tore his ACL in the second game of the 2005 season, ending the year with just two tackles.
To help fill the void created by Jenkins' 2005 injury the Panthers promoted second-year DT Jordan Carstens into the starting lineup for the remaining 15 games, and Carstens played relatively well. But just as Carstens' career seemed to be going in the right direction, the young DT was diagnosed in 2006 with a kidney disorder called membranous nephropathy and later developed a serious blood clot on his lung as a result of the condition. Jordan Carstens never played professional football again.
Starting DT Ma'ake Kemoeatu fell victim to the curse by tearing his Achilles in the first practice of the 2009 training camp, ending his season before even breaking a sweat. Just a few weeks later, DT Corvey Irvin(notes) tore his MCL in the last pre-season game and was placed on the IR, forcing him to miss the entire regular season as well.
Desperate for healthy DT's, the Panthers made a pre-season trade for Louis Leonard(notes), and he subsequently fractured his ankle in the second game of the year. After the season-ending injuries to Kemoeatu, Irvin, and Lewis, the Panthers made a mid-season trade for Kansas City's DT Tank Tyler(notes). The Tank played six games for Carolina before breaking down, spraining his right knee in December and also taking a spot on the IR.
The curse seemingly took pity on the Panthers defensive linemen last year. While back-up DT Ed Johnson(notes) battled a knee injury for most of the season, the rest of the defensive line remained relatively healthy. But the performance from the DT position was sub-par, forcing the Panthers to make major upgrades heading into 2011.
To address the productivity issues at the DT position the Panthers began 2011 by signing veteran free agent Ron Edwards(notes) and spending two third-round draft picks on DT's Terrell McClain(notes) and Sione Fua(notes). Edwards was penciled in as a starting DT and was expected to anchor the defensive line. So what happened to Ron Edwards in his very first practice as a Carolina Panther? He tore his triceps muscle and will miss the entire 2011 season. The curse is once again rearing its ugly head.
Some day in the future the many victims of the curse of the Panthers DT will all retire from the NFL. Most of them will still be relatively young men with plenty of time to pursue a second career if they choose to do so. After playing DT for the Carolina Panthers, each of these men would be well advised to pursue a less-dangerous second career.
You know, something safer.
Like crab fishing on the Bering Sea.
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