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When You Can't Seperate the Injury from the Decline

Here's a short one for a lazy, beautiful Sunday. Recently cut star tight end Alge Crumpler has garnered a good bit of attention from fans thinking their team now has a shot at a perennial Pro Bowler. Arguments excusing his significant drop in production in 2007 have generally fallen into two categories:

1. His quarterbacks sucked.

Both Joey Harrington and Chris Redman were more effective passers than Vick ever was in any other season but 2002. Plus, he only played 35 pass attempts with Byron Leftwich.

2. He was hurt.

The problem with this is that injury and decline are often linked. Sometimes a player declines simply because of eroding skills, but as often as not, a player declines because he becomes more injury prone, and once injured, less effective. Injury can also be the source of eroding skills. Sometimes players have an off season due to injury and rebound the following season, but when a player is clearly in the decline phase of his position's career arc, suffers injury and a loss of production, it is much more logical to conclude that the injury is indicative of decline and possibly how it is manifesting itself. In Crumpler's case, an injured foot is a textbook wear and tear injury. Unlike a busted knee on a freak play, this is a chronic injury that won't likely get better until Crumpler retires. So, do you want to sign a league average tight end with a better chance of breaking down than busting out?