Chargers GM Tom Telesco: Injury issues more perception than reality

SAN DIEGO -- The Chargers have the most players on injured reserve than any team through Week 4 of the NFL season, with 15.

San Diego already has lost five impact players for the year in running back Danny Woodhead (knee), receiver Keenan Allen (knee), running back Branden Oliver (Achilles), linebacker Manti Te’o (Achilles) and receiver Stevie Johnson (knee).

And going back to the start of general manager Tom Telesco's and Mike McCoy’s tenure with the Chargers, those injuries issues seem to persist dating back to the 2013 season.

However, Telesco begs to differ, stating that San Diego’s injury woes are not as bad as they seem.

“Since 2009 there has been an increase just overall across the league on injuries,” Telesco told XTRA 1360 Fox Sports Radio. “I’ll say from our standpoint, there’s perception and reality. The perception sometimes here is that we have more injuries than other teams, but the reality of that is it’s just not the case.

“We go through and do injury studies every year. And when you do those injury trends, you really have to measure it over years, not just months. And as we went through, three out of the last four years we’ve actually been below the average of player games lost due to injury. Even last year, we had lost 135 games due to injury, which was well below the average -- there were at least four teams that had lost 200 games.

“But obviously when you look at this year, we’ve had some crucial injuries early, some guys that are going to miss the entire season. That’s probably going to increase our numbers for this year. But I know for how we look at it, we’ll look at for the entire 16 games and see how everybody adds up.”

Telesco went on to say that injuries are part of the NFL, and not an excuse for his team’s performance on the field.

Now, according to Football Outsiders' adjusted games lost (AGL) metric -- an attempt to quantify how much teams were affected by injuries during the season, the Chargers have been ravaged by injuries during Telesco's and McCoy’s tenure.

The AGL metric attempts to quantify how much teams were affected by injuries based on two principles: (1) Injuries to starters -- injury replacements and important situational reserves matter more than injuries to back end of roster players; and (2) Injured players who do take the field are usually playing with reduced ability, so Adjusted Games Lost is based not strictly on whether the player is active for the game or not, but instead is based on the player's listed status that week (IR/PUP, out, doubtful or questionable).

According to Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders, who analyzes the data, San Diego’s AGL from 2013-15 is the second-highest in the NFL, only trailing the Giants.

Chargers nose tackle Brandon Mebane has been on the injured reserve list just once in his 10-year NFL career, missing a total of 12 games.

In his first year with the Chargers, Mebane acknowledged that what his team is going through this season is unique, and that recovery and sleep are critical in staying healthy over the grind of an NFL season.

“It’s kind of different,” Mebane said. “I’ve never really seen the injury bug happen like that in my 10-year career. But I know we have a great coaching staff, training staff and strength coaches to where they’re going to figure it out.

“I’m not saying that guys that got hurt didn’t recover, but some of the things that can help with recovery is just taking care of your body.”

Linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu had to develop a routine over time to help him stay on the field. Attaochu missed five games his rookie season due to a lingering hamstring issue. Since then, the Georgia Tech product has missed just one game due to injury.

Attachou said his overall awareness improved in terms of preventative measures, including what his weight is so he has enough fuel to get through a game.

“You have to find what works for you,” Attaochu said. “It’s figuring out your body, first of all, figuring your time of when you should go to sleep and when you should wake up, and kind of programming your body.”

Mark Drakos, MD a foot and ankle surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, spoke about Achilles tendon injuries this season.

Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said he had never had a player with an Achilles tendon tear dating back to the start of his NFL coaching career in 2000. This year, the Chargers have lost three players to Achilles tendon injuries.

Drakos said there were 12 to 15 Achilles tears across the NFL in training camps last year.

“We don’t have a crystal ball to figure out who it’s going to happen to and who it’s not going to happen to because more than 50 percent of people who tear their Achilles never have symptoms there before,” Drakos said. “Some people maybe had tendonitis or some tightness that they were being treated for in college or at the pro level. But most people that pop it have never had pain there before.

“To a certain extent, it’s kind of an occupational hazard. When you play a high-impact, high-intensity, high de-acceleration sport like football, these injuries are just common.”