“I didn’t see it at all. All I heard was him screaming”, said veteran offensive lineman Ramon Foster about yesterday’s injury suffered by third-year tackle Jerald Hawkins, who was the early favorite to take over the swing tackle role for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season.
Hawkins reportedly suffered a torn quad muscle and is expected to miss the 2018 season, a very rough turn of events for a young player who had already missed his rookie season because of a shoulder injury that set him back in year two.
The Steelers drafted him out of LSU as an underclassman in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, believing that they could potentially develop him into a starting-caliber player. He flashed well as a rookie but had his ups and downs last season.
The team wasn’t relying on him then, at least not initially. Chris Hubbard was the veteran backup. But then Hubbard ended up being needed to start most of the season. And it was Matt Feiler, who spent all summer working at guard, who was called up next for the swing tackle role.
Hawkins made progress during the year and was able to claim the backup swing tackle role behind Hubbard in the second half of the season, serving in that role for the four games that Marcus Gilbert was suspended for, and they got him on the field as an extra blocker during the past five or six weeks of the year as well.
This was supposed to be his year. And now it’s gone already, or so it appears. Foster hasn’t ever experienced that himself, but he sympathizes. “He’s worked so hard to this point, and we’re not too far from camp”, he lamented yesterday speaking to reporters about Hawkins’ injury, before the severity was known. “I’m sure it’ll be a journey one way or the other”.
With Hubbard having left in free agency, Hawkins was expected to take over the swing tackle role, and perhaps even audition for a future starting spot a year or two down the line. Now he’ll have to wait, if he even gets that opportunity again.
“I thought yesterday he had one of his best days in his entire career”, Foster said. “So for whatever happened there to have happened, I’m sure he was hurt by it. So we’ll surround him, we’ll make sure we support him in an appropriate manner, and we’ll be there for him. He’s gonna need it”.
Unfortunately, Hawkins already knows what it’s like to go through a season rehabbing an injury. He sat on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. Now he’ll be working his way back from a lower body injury. The line propped him up then, and they’ll continue to be there for him now. It’s just a shame that now he won’t be there for them. Hopefully they won’t need him.