Ladarius Green was a good football player.
Unfortunately, he was rarely a healthy, good football player. You, just like I, are reeling in the news over his release. One year into his four year contract, free agent deals the Pittsburgh Steelers are careful to hand out, making Green – through no fault of his own – arguably the biggest flop in franchise free agent history. Even more than Sean Mahan.
Unlike Mahan, or most of the other names in the conversation, it wasn’t the team missing on his talent or not fitting within the scheme. It was strictly a medical whiff, another in a line of questionable decisions.
When on the field, there’s no doubt Green proved his worth. He was the big playmaker downfield, even highlighted in his final catch as a Steeler, a clutch 28 yard reception on 3rd and 8 to preserve a win over the Cincinnati Bengals. He averaged nearly 17 yards per reception and found the end zone once, running down the seam against the New York Giants.
It was all the things evident on tape during his time with the San Diego Chargers. What was not on tape, however, was the issue. Ultimately, Green’s concussion history will likely end his career. And the Steelers knew that risk when they signed him. Or at least they should have. This tweet from Ed Bouchette suggests the Steelers ignored that risk in favor of the on-field talent he brought to the table.
I was told last summer that the Steelers did not investigate Green's concussion history enough before they signed him
— Ed Bouchette (@EdBouchette) May 18, 2017
Bouchette, to his credit, has been – maybe not loudly ringing – but humming the alarm bells about Green’s situation for a long time.
Green began 2016 on the PUP list. The team still is adamant it was solely because of offseason ankle injury, even as the media suggested otherwise. It led to a bizarre saga we still haven’t gotten a clear answer of and probably never will. Green returned and played well, before suffering another concussion against the Bengals and missing the rest of the year.
That part, to be fair, is out of the Steelers’ control. But it was in the equation of known risks the team had when they signed him to his four year deal. It’s impossible to know what homework they did, what they knew, and how the conversation went, but the organization clearly was burned by rolling the dice on Green’s medical history.
A history that was lengthy before the team signed him. We know he suffered three concussions before the team signed him, including two in an 11 day span in 2015. I – the random blogger in the Internet world – was privately told some scary stuff about his concussion history and how bad things got for him at its worst. The Steelers proceeded with the hope it’d all be ok. It is not.
They screwed up. Plain and simple.
Green is another name of weird and close-to-the vest injuries. Last year, Carnell Lake admitted at a Steelers’ fantasy camp that team doctors failed to realize Brandon Boykin had a degenerative hip condition, so bad that in Lake’s words, there was a point where Boykin couldn’t even run. He didn’t get on the field until late in the 2015 season, the team made no attempt to re-sign him, and he quickly fell out of the league.
There are more minor, but still frustrating, moments. Bud Dupree pushing himself too hard through his hernia injury, failing, and requiring surgery that caused him to miss a large chunk of last season, stunting his development and harming the Steelers’ pass rush.
It’s a misdiagnose the team has fell prey to twice over the past year. Clearly, the Steelers’ team doctors are infinitely more qualified to speak to and evaluate these issues than I could ever be. And no one gets it right all the time. Injury evaluation is a varying shade of grey; not black and white.
Not black and white. Just like how Boykin – and now Green – are no longer in black and gold.