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Shortly after the draft, a couple of months ago, I opined that Arian Foster seemed to be the favorite to start at RB come Week One of the 2010 NFL season, though Ben Tate could well win the job. A hefty portion of my logic was based upon the idea that Steve Slaton, Version 2008, was gone and not coming back:
So, in summary, to my untrained medical eye, Steve Slaton had someone cut into his neck, insert (a) a piece of bone from a cadaver or (b) a metal plate, and then had the surgeon fuse two vertebrae together around the bone or plate, with the goal of the bone/plate fusing the vertebrae in such a fashion so as to eliminate the pressure on the nerve.
Pardon my skepticism, but I do not think getting a cervical fusion is conducive to a career in which the patient is repeatedly hit about the body, including but not limited to the neck, at great force. In other words, this isn't you or me getting a cervical fusion. It's not even an athlete who plays a non-contact (e.g., baseball) or a contact (e.g., basketball) sport; it's an athlete who plays a collision sport. Do you think it's feasible for Slaton to come back and reclaim his 2008 glory? I hope I'm as wrong as I've ever been, but I don't. That's not a knock on Slaton; I fear it's simply a reality of the medical treatment he's had and the resulting physical condition and/or toll it's taken.
Nothing that's happened in the last two months has changed my opinion on that. When training camp starts in a few weeks, Arian Foster will be lining up with the first team. Steve Slaton, however, appears to be awfully close to getting full medical clearance:
Slaton entered last season as the starter, and head coach Gary Kubiak was impressed by his work this offseason.
"He and Foster have had probably been as good in the OTAs as any player we've had," Kubiak said. "With Steve, he goes and gets checked out in two weeks. Everything from our standpoint we're told should be okay, and just get him back and used to contact again will be the key for Steve."
Kubiak said that if the medical reports on Slaton are good, the third-year back will be able to participate fully in training camp.
"If they cut him loose, we'll go to work," Kubiak said. "We need to get his confidence back about getting hit and stuff."
While it's great to see that Slaton, barring any mishaps, should be full-go for training camp, I remain unconvinced that someone who underwent the kind of surgical procedure he did will be able to withstand the rigors of an NFL season. And as good as he's looked in OTAs, I'm even more skeptical that Steve Slaton is the starting RB for your Houston Texans on September 12th.
What do you think? There's a poll and the wide open spaces of the Comments below for you to weigh in.
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