The NFL preseason is the scariest time of year for pro football fans. Yes, we’re all excited to see live football once again, but it also means there’s a greater chance that we’ll see one of our favorite players go down with an injury. Well, 2021 just took its first victim.
Travis Etienne, Jacksonville’s rookie halfback and first-round pick in April’s draft, is likely to miss the entire 2021 season with a Lisfranc (mid-foot) sprain. He suffered the injury in yesterday’s preseason game against New Orleans.
This just sucks. Etienne was one of the most promising offensive players from the 2021 draft class, and was set to play a major role in Jacksonville’s offense. First-year head coach Urban Meyer had made it clear he wanted to use Etienne as both a receiver and halfback, thus making him one of the most versatile players on Jacksonville’s roster. Now, the brunt of the backfield work will once again fall on James Robinson.
For Jaguars fans, that’s not the worst thing. Robinson proved himself to be a more than capable feature back in 2020 — recording the most yards from scrimmage by an undrafted rookie in NFL history. However, Etienne’s presence would’ve given Robinson not only someone to compete with for carries, but also would’ve given the team more opportunities to swap out Robinson and keep his legs fresh for when they needed him. With how quickly NFL running backs seem to lose steam after their rookie contracts, being able to use a committee early in a halfback’s career should keep him at the top of his game for longer. The NFL already seems to be making a move toward committees anyway. There hasn’t been a legitimate feature back on any Super Bowl-winning roster since Marshawn Lynch on the Seahawks in 2014. Etienne’s absence costs Robinson a year of being able to relax a little more and not having to tote the pigskin 240 times again.
For those of you thinking that Etienne could still manage to see the field toward the end of the season, don’t hold your breath. A typical Lisfranc injury requires anywhere from 22 to 33 weeks to recover. It’s a serious ailment. If the Jaguars somehow manage to reach the postseason, maybe we’ll see Etienne hit the field, but I doubt anyone in the Jaguars’ organization would want to risk another setback to a first-round pick for anything less than a Super Bowl. So, no, we won’t be seeing him this year.
Despite how devastating this injury is, it should not be used as an argument for why the preseason is an unnecessary NFL tradition. We saw all too often in 2020 what can happen when teams are not given proper time to train their soft-tissue ligaments. We don’t want to see another rash of injuries in Weeks 2 and 3 to star players who never get to see the field again. Injuries are part of the game. It’s a shame that we won’t get to see Etienne play this year, but as long as his recovery goes well, he should be ready for 2022.