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Comcast Presents: Will Ben Tate Be Starting At RB Come Week One Of The 2010 Season?

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Steve Slaton is coming off neck surgery. Arian Foster showed flashes over the last few weeks of the 2009 season. Ryan Moats can't seem to stay out of Kubes' doghouse long enough to become a legitimate contender for carries. And now, after the draft, we've got another candidate for the throne. I ask you, BRB: Who do you think will be starting when the Colts come to town in September?

Me? I'm guessing Arian Foster or, if he can pick up the scheme--and more importantly, the blocking assignments--quick enough, Ben Tate. I know Slaton says the procedure he underwent is "...probably one of the most simple neck surgeries that you can have." And while I respect the opinion of Dr. Slaton, here's a slightly more thorough explanation, excerpted in relevant part:

Neck movement (vertebral motion) causes the chronic pain. This neurosurgical procedure is performed to relieve the pressure on one or more nerve roots, or on the spinal cord. It involves the stabilization of two or more vertebrae by locking them together (fusing them). The fusion stops the vertebral motion and as a result, the pain is also stopped.

Anterior refers to the front; meaning that the surgeon reaches the cervical spine through a small incision in the front of the neck, usually within a skin fold line under the chin. After retracting neck muscles, the neurosurgeon uses an operating microscope and removes the affected intervertebral disk, which takes the pressure off the nerves or spinal cord. This is called decompression. He then replaces it with a bone graft that will fuse the vertebrae together over time.

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.

If Slaton isn't healthy (and that's not even taking into account whether the issues that bubbled to the surface in 2009 are resolved), who's the starting running back for the Texans? Rookie or not, Ben Tate could well be the best option right out of the gate.

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