Injuries plague football team

As Syracuse prepares to start conference play against Rutgers Saturday, the program needs to deal with a laundry list of injuries.

Chandler Jones is known as a playmaker, a leader and the best player on the defense side for the Syracuse football team. This year was supposed to be the year the defensive end solidified his draft status, and helped lead a younger defense that lost two of its linebackers to the NFL.

Photo: Sterling Boin
While the injuries have taken their toll on SU, freshman linebacker Cameron Lynch (38) is one bright spot of the recent injury bug.

Shamarko Thomas is a feared player in the secondary, someone who’s known for having a knack for collisions. The safety was supposed to be a major part of the defensive backfield, combining with Phillip Thomas to bring down ball carriers all across the field.

Olando Fisher is a senior member of the special teams unit, a player who usually goes unnoticed throughout the game.  Yet last year, he finised 15th in tackles on his team with 18.

Jones hasn’t appeared since the first game of the season, neither has Fisher. Thomas lasted until the Southern California game, when he went down with an injury. Three key contributors from the previous season. Three players who have experience with head coach Doug Marrone’s system. Three players whose statuses, as of Wednesday night, are still unknown as the team heads toward its Big East opener, Saturday, against the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers.

But such is life for the Orange, who head into the contest with a 3-1 record. That’s not to say the myriad of injuries hasn’t affected the team. Even Marrone, who has been involved with football in some capacity since 1995, has only seen one circumstance that could top SU’s current injury bug.

“The only time it happened where it could be worse is when I was with the New York Jets and we lost both our quarterbacks in a span of eight plays,” Marrone said in a press conference Wednesday. 

There’s a major difference, though, between that Jets team and the current Orange squad. NFL players may have some exposure to injuries, but college players likely don’t, given their age and experience level. 

As Marrone explained, a different method of coaching is needed for injured college players as opposed to injured professionals. 

“I think what’s more difficult in college, than at the next level, is that when these young players become injured, you have to kind of coach them through the injury,” Marrone said.  “Not that they ever jeopardize themself, but a lot of these players have never been truly injured before, or playing at this high level.”

In some cases, though, coaching players through the injury hasn’t been enough.  Some players, like Thomas, Jones and Fisher, have been forced to sit out games. For the coach, watching a player sit out is one of the tougher parts of the game.

“What gets you upset as a coach, is that these kids have put so much time and effort into training all summer and being ready to play,” Marrone said.  “It’s very difficult as a coach to sit there and watch these players that are trying to play, but their ability can’t.”

He also announced that the status of some players remains unresolved, but he would not specify which players. 

The loss of key players has already made life difficult for the Orange. The injury bug forced the team to change the original system. Plays and schemes that were designed during training camp were scrapped to help adjust a team that’s seeing true freshman hit the field.

“Obviously were not adding on to some things,” Marrone explained of his system. “But the players that are going in there and playing, we want to do things to make sure that they’re successful.”

One such freshman is Cameron Lynch, an outside linebacker who has seen an increase in playing time due to the injuries. Last week, Lynch had an eight-tackle game, including the first sack of his career. 

The performance impressed Marrone, who was excited about the play of the youngster.

“I think he’s really come along well,” Marrone said. “Everything has positives and negatives, so when the young players get in there, and they’re able to step up, Cam Lynch, for example, has gotten better each week.”

Outside of the play of Lynch, there’s another positive for the Orange.  Time is healing the wounds, or at least making sure the players with those wounds are close to returning.  

For Marrone, getting players close to healthy is a step in the right direction. 

“If we want to sit here and not talk about the ‘woe is me, here we go,’ the good part of it is we have some players that are getting ready to come back and that’s exciting,” Marrone said. 

“Not back as fast as maybe the coach would want them back or the people or the players, but they’re coming back, and that’s an exciting thing for our football team.”


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