Injuries Taking Their Toll

Bills Leodis McKelvin on IR

It is early in the NFL season to sustain serous injuries, but that's what happens in a violent sport like the NFL. Some big names are already among the list of those who will sit out the rest of the year.

Less than a quarter of the way into the regular-season schedule, and teams are already scrambling to compensate for injuries at significant positions. Count rookies, players returning from injuries and those who aren't typically on the active game-day rosters among those thrust into prominent roles before the calendar even reached October.

--The Dolphins became the first team this season to lose its starting quarterback for the year. Chad Pennington was placed on Injured Reserve, leaving Chad Henne, a veteran of 31 career passes, as the starter. With rookie Pat White not close to being ready to contribute, Tyler Thigpen was acquired from Kansas City. Acquiring the third-string quarterback from a fellow 0-3 team can't be moving in the right direction.

--The 49ers drafted rookie Glen Coffee to help ease the workload on Frank Gore. Now with Gore out 2-3 weeks, it will be Coffee carrying to brunt of the chores with veteran Michael Robinson backing him up.

"It is football," 49ers coach Mike Singletary said. "You don't know who is going to get hurt. You hope that everybody stays healthy, but it happened. I have every bit of confidence in Glen Coffee going into the game. I did not blink."

--Atlanta looked like a Super Bowl contender after rolling out to a 2-0 start. But a young defense was exploited by the Patriots, and the run defense is of particular concern. Defensive tackles Thomas Johnson and Trey Lewis struggled to help replace injured rookie Peria Jerry, and the Falcons are allowing 136 rushing yards per game.

"Trey can play better than he did, we know that," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "Just because we had Trey and not Peria Jerry, believe me that was not the reason that we did not defend the run. We do not even want to insinuate that at this point."

But the fact remains Atlanta is ranked 24th in total defense, and it can't dedicate too many resources to stopping the run because the secondary is giving up 245.3 yards per game.

--The Bills could be without both starting safeties and cornerback Leodis McKelvin in Miami on Sunday. If that's the case, rookie Jairus Byrd would start at free safety in place of Donte Whitner.

"I like Jairus. Jairus is a good football player, obviously. And he'll just get better," Bills coach Dick Jauron said. "He missed a lot of time for us in the offseason and in the training camp (with a sports hernia). He's catching up and he's catching on."

--In Washington, the Redskins' once-vaunted ground game is producing a meager average of 91.7 yards. That's in part due to a young right side of the line, which featured Stephon Heyer at tackle last Sunday playing next to guard Chad Rinehart, who saw his first regular-season action.


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