NFL: The Worst Defensive Injuries of the 2018 Season

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Earl Thomas

Many horrific NFL injuries occurred to defensive players during the 2018 season. Which were the worst? Opinions might differ, but those detailed below were certainly all serious. Football players are a breed apart. They take no holidays, not even Thanksgiving. And the game is like no other.

Football is disciplined battle with a ball. And the players are warriors. They go out every week knowing there’s the possibility of getting hurt badly. Cynics might even say that’s why we watch the game. Others disagree wholeheartedly. They point to the unparalleled athleticism, the teamwork, the strategic and tactical aspects of the sport. And, of course, there are the cheerleaders.

Is Football getting safer?

Is the NFL getting safer or not? There have been plenty of dangerous injuries over the years. As a result, safety rules have been tightened.

There’s also been a spotlight on concussions and other head injuries for a while. Many retired players suffer physical or mental problems that are related to devastating hits they took during their playing days. But the most obvious, horrific accidents this year seemed to be concentrated in knee and ankle areas.

William Hayes — DE, Miami Dolphins

William Hayes tore his ACL in an apparent attempt to avoid a penalty during his sack of Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. The rule concerns landing on the opposing quarterback after the sack. The irony is that a rule designed to make play safer may have actually achieved the opposite effect, at least for Hayes.

Keanu Neal — S, Atlanta Falcons

Keanu Neal experienced a knee injury during a non-contact play in the first half of the Atlanta Falcons’ 18-12 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. He actually returned to play during the 3rd quarter, but left the game again, this time for the remainder of the season.

Ricardo Allen — S, Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons defense received another blow when Ricardo Allen tore his Achilles in their 43-37 overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints. Not only had the other safety Keanu Neal been hurt against the Eagles, the beleaguered Falcons defense suffered numerous other injuries this season.

Muhammad Wilkerson — DT, Green Bay Packers

Muhammad Wilkerson was taken from the field after a particularly horrific ankle injury that occurred during the Packers’ loss to Washington. A teammate landed on his left leg. Wilkerson could not put weight on the leg and was carted off. It was one of the worst NFL injuries on the defensive side of the ball and hurt the Packers’ playoff chances.

Earl Thomas — S, Seattle Seahawks

Earl Thomas, a 6-time Pro Bowl safety, broke his left leg tibia against the Arizona Cardinals early in the season. Thomas had held out for most of the preseason attempting to negotiate a new contract. Incidents like these show how important those guaranteed contracts can be to players.

All in the game?

The 2018 football season certainly had its share of serious, season-ending injuries. Looking at a typical NFL season raises some interesting questions. Can the NFL be made safer without ruining the game? Or is the very risk of injury a vital part of its appeal?

By at least one ranking, only mixed martial arts and boxing are more dangerous.  And those are the direct gladiatorial combat sports, where the actual goal is to inflict harm to win.

In football, even though contact is an integral part of the game, injury is not the goal. On the other hand, players often recall the competition, camaraderie, and teamwork as among the most memorable and important experiences of their lives. Perhaps opportunity and risk are two sides of the same coin.