CINCINNATI -- As we mentioned at the beginning of this injury report from Monday, Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Sean Porter has gone through a truly puzzling experience his first 17 months in the NFL.
Throughout his entire football-playing life to that point, Porter had been healthy.
According to the outside linebacker, he never missed a game in Pop Warner. He didn't miss a game in high school, either, he said. A quick review of his stats from Texas A&M show that he was part of all 52 games the Aggies played in the four years he played college football for them.
So why has he been unhealthy now? Why did he have to have that season-ending shoulder injury prior to last season? Why did his knee act up this training camp? Why did his hamstring have to give out just six plays into last Thursday's preseason finale?
Those are questions Porter continues to ask. And until he gets beyond them and starts appearing on the field regularly, he knows it'll be hard to convince his teammates that they can trust him; that they can depend on him.
In Porter's eyes, a healthy player is the kind of player others want to be around.
"You've got to have a body of work," Porter said, admitting that he feels he has played well when he hasn't been injured. "You've got to keep it going. You've got to play a bunch of games and get a lot under your belt. So those little spots, those little flashes, they're cool for the moment. But that's not what's going to make you stick around. You play one game or you do well, that's not what's important. You have to have durability. You have to have longevity."
So far, Porter hasn't been able to prove he has, either.
Like Porter, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has been troubled by that, too.
"It looked like he was really progressing until he got hurt in this last game," Guenther said.
Porter's comparative inactivity this preseason didn't deter Guenther and the rest of the Bengals' defensive staff to retain him over the weekend when cuts to the 53-man roster were made. Even after the little that Porter showed in the preseason, coaches believed he could help the team win games. They also know they have to kill the injury bug that's suddenly jumped on Porter's back.
"He's a good cover guy, he's really starting to understand our scheme and how we do things," Guenther said. "Obviously he can't hang around here much longer if there continue to be injuries. So that's a major concern. But he understands that and hopefully he can stay healthy."
Porter understands how serious those concerns are, and that's why he was so frustrated last Thursday that he slammed his helmet into the ground when he realized he had gotten hurt once again. The impact of health can't be overstated, in his eyes.
"You can't be around top-notch athletes 24 hours a day and not contribute," Porter said. "The biggest deal in an NFL locker room is to be able to contribute and to help the team win. If you can't help the team win, you don't need to be around. That was my goal and my plan, was to show everybody that I can play and that I can help this team win, get to playoff games and win playoff games."
As a quick aside, as you may have read in Monday's injury update, Porter said he felt his hamstring was "getting there." He didn't practice Monday and didn't give any indication that he would be good to go Sunday when the Bengals visit Baltimore in the season opener.