The single most important thing for a young player dealing with an injury to have while with a team is a provision of feeling included in the process of going about planning and executing a gameplan. Young players who end up spending the season on injured reserve can easily go into a shell and drift away from the team.
We have heard this story before from a number of different players and how they have forced themselves to battle against that isolation. From the likes of Sean Spence, Eli Rogers, and Senquez Golson, they have all spoken about finding themselves in a dark place at one point during their injury.
The Pittsburgh Steelers third-round cornerback found himself in a similar position, but Cameron Sutton was fortunate to have had the opportunity to come back from injured reserve, and even ended up playing and starting a game during his rookie year.
He even ultimately managed to use his time on the injured reserve list wisely, hitting the books and the film and learning in greater detail the many mental aspects that come to play in the game. As I wrote about recently, he took the time to try to learn about the tendencies that offenses exhibiting in attempting to attack their defense, among many other things.
But while he certainly appears to be a self-motivator and a driven individual, one wonders how things might have gone differently for him had his teammates and coaches not actively strived to keep him engaged. He credited the team with making him feel as though he was still involved even while he was unable to contribute physically.
“The guys did a good job of keeping me uplifted, keeping me around, and that helped as well”, he told the team’s website, adding that “seeing the people in the building every day, being around the team every day” also provided that needed psychological boost. “That kept me uplifted and motivated to keep going”.
We have talked about how he stayed engaged and involved, but it was the support structure around him that enabled that to happen. “I wanted to be involved with everything, whether it was in the locker room passing out our play cards, going to home or away games, being in all the meetings”, he said.
It is important to note that it is a two-way street. A young player who is committed to a miserly approach to an injury will likely not be able to be engaged much in the process. But I do believe that the Steelers do an above-average job in this realm, and that includes keeping even the practice squad players involved.
It’s not uncommon at all watching the games last season to catch a glimpse of rookies off the 53-man roster participating on the sidelines. Seventh-round pick Keion Adams got a good amount of facetime for somebody on injured reserve. Practice squad wide receiver Marcus Tucker was seen as well. These early experiences reap rewards heading into the next season.