I would like to start by saying this: Derek Sherrod is a world class athlete and I am a media hack. Actually, check that, I aspire to one day be a media hack. I can’t stand when members of the media that did not compete at the highest level compare themselves to professional athletes (see Skip Bayless and his 1.7 ppg for Northwest Classen HS). It’s a way of establishing credibility that really doesn’t exist. With that said I’m going to do the exact same thing to share my unique perspective on the case of Derek Sherrod (LOLZ).
When examining the Packer offense, the one thing that can be pointed to now as a major weakness is the offensive line. You could say running back, but you’d most likely be incorrect. Between Eddie Lacy, Jonathan Franklin, and DuJuan Harris there is going to be an above average NFL RB coming out of that crew, if not more than one. Tailback is a young man’s game and the Packers have 3 of the most promising RB prospects under the age of 25. What they’re missing, and what would really make this team go would be a stud left tackle. That way Bulaga could play right tackle, where he has the potential to be an all pro (I love Bulaga, but he will never be one of the best 3 or 4 LT in football) and Aaron Rodgers would still be protected.
The thing is, the Packers should have one. They drafted one in the 1st round! They drafted a 6’6” 305 pound SEC athlete. Sherrod allowed only one sack as a senior and was credited with 32 pancake blocks in the toughest conference in the country. If you hired a police sketch artist to come in and draw you the perfect left tackle, he would look a lot like Derek Sherrod. Don’t get me wrong, Derek Sherrod struggled a little as a rookie. He was played at guard (terrible idea) to compete with TJ Lang for a starting spot on the line and never quite got acclimated to the NFL game in the NFL’s lockout shortened offseason. I attended the opening game against the Saints that season and to my dismay Sherrod walked out of the tunnel in shorts and T shirt as a healthy scratch, benched in favor or 2nd year man Marshall Newhouse.
Sherrod would make enough progress throughout the season to be activated on game days (although that could have had to do with the injury to Chad Clifton) and saw limited time until he was thrust into the only regular season loss of 2011 against Kansas City. In that game Sherrod suffered one of the worst injuries I can remember seeing as a Packers fan. Sherrod had a compound fracture of the tibia and fibula. This means that both of the bones in his lower leg were broken to the point that they both exited the skin. Sherrod’s leg was put in an air cast and he was required to stay in Kansas City for emergency surgery. It’s now been over 18 calendar months since that surgery and Sherrod still isn’t being cleared to practice. This frustrates members of the media and fan base.
Between my senior year of high school and freshman year of college in June of 2006 I suffered the exact same injury. I shattered my lower leg, incurring a compound fracture (outside the skin) of both the tibia and fibula. I spent the next 6 weeks immobile on the couch. 3 months in physical therapy and was on crutches for 6 months total. Rehab was slow and painful and I developed plantar fasciitis under my left foot.
I played golf in college and my rehab goal was to be ready to play in the spring to be ready for the fall season of my sophomore year. I was unable to swing a club until January of 2007. I continued my rehabilitation but even during fall season I was told I would limp noticeably towards the end and after 18 hole rounds. In high school I could dunk smaller objects that I could palm (like a volleyball or women’s basketball) and I haven’t been able to do any more than graze the rim at any time since that injury. There’s still a part on the bottom of my foot that has no feeling from nerve damage (think the black foot in Mr. Deeds, I could step on anything and it wouldn’t hurt).
My point is this: Derek Sherrod is a world class athlete with one of the best training staffs in the world helping him along the way. What concerns me is that if I was around 170 pounds in college and all I was trying to do after a year and a half was hit a little white ball around a field less than a hundred times can I really ask Derek Sherrod to carry 310 pounds and block Julius Peppers after 18 months? I’m not sure I can. Mike Flanagan is an excellent example of a player that was given the time to heal after a catastrophic injury and became a really good player for the Packers, and I would ask for the same kind of patience with Derek Sherrod.
The kind of player that Sherrod can be is exactly what this team needs, and I would hate to see the Packers have to use a 1st round pick investment on a player at the same position as Sherrod just 3 years after they thought they had their guy. Reports are coming in that McCarthy thinks he’s close to being able to practice in pads. Derek Sherrod isn’t a bust. He isn’t soft. He just got hurt really, really bad. Give him time.
Ross Uglem is a writer at PackersTalk.com.
You can follow Ross on twitter at rug_PhD12